Friday, May 31, 2013

Highway 371, New Mexico: Road Lovelies


Highway 371, Navajo Land, New Mexico

Highway 371, Navajo Land, New Mexico

Highway 371, Navajo Land, New Mexico

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Geography Lesson: Americans' Map of the World

To follow up on yesterday's geography lesson, I love these maps of the world as purportedly seen through the eyes of Americans. .... if we can't laugh at ourselves sometimes, then we're in trouble, right?

And note that I say laugh at ourselves - I don't support the sneering, condescending tone that some Americans adopt toward fellow citizens.

American map of the world. Credit: Cruise Critic forum

American map of the world. Credit: Intercultural Meanderings

Reagan's map of the world. Credit: Intercultural  Meanderings

Truthfully, it's kind of hard for me to laugh at the Reagan map of the world. Under his administration, we did (or enabled) some vile, despicable things in Central and South America. We denied desperate pleas for asylum from terrified Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S. from death and torture because granting them asylum would have acknowledged that the governments we supported with financial and military resources were the perpetrators of said death and torture. It sickened me when George W. brought back players from that dark time to his administration, such as John Negroponte and Elliot Abrams.  Jesus, looking back on this is depressing. Not that I'm thrilled with Obama's apparent disinterest in restoring some civil freedoms we used to have in the U.S., before the so-called Patriot Act. 

OK, getting a grip .... 

American map of Asia. Credit: e-junkie info

There are also maps of the world according to other countries. Here's a view of the world by the British:

British map of the world. Credit: e-junkie info

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Geography Lesson

My fantastic job of teaching English online has connected me to students in (so far):
  • China
  • Argentina
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Brazil
  • Mexico
  • Spain

It have come to realize that I don't know shit about a lot of stuff in these countries. Like these countries' states or provinces. Often, my students - all adults - know the U.S. states.

An Ethiopian friend told me that when he was a child, all the kids learned about the U.S. states. In fact, there was a common phrase for when something got lost, "Where it'd go, Arkansas?" ... (if it was believed something was stolen, the question was, "it must have gone to Baghdad.") 

So I'm undertaking a project to learn the provinces of my students' countries.


Here's China in a reader-friendly visual:

Credit: SACU

Once I found a provincial map of China, my mind turned to land mass as compared to the U.S. Below is a nice graphic - note that it shows the comparison and also minds the latitudinal information. Note also that neither Hawaii nor Alaska appear.

Credit: Flora of China

One of my students told me that the area around Chengdu is particularly beautiful. Home of the pandas, too. And the five-color lakes.  It's in Sichuan province. Famous for its cuisine.


Argentina has several states known for their regional wines.

Credit: La Vida Es Hermosa

If I compare China's size to the U.S., I guess I should do the same for Argentina.

Credit: Rand McNally


Since I'll relocating to Mexico next year, I definitely need to get a handle on its states. Do you see the state of Michoacán? Yeah, that's where I was thinking of going, but maybe I've got to rethink that.

And the comparison between Mexico and U.S. land area:

Credit: Rand McNally

Below is a graph of expats who live in Mexico. I'm surprised the Canadian number is so low. Where do they go?
Place Country 2010 2000 1990
1  United States 738,103 343,591 194,619
2  Guatemala 35,322 23,597 46,005
3  Spain 18,873 21,024 24,783
4  Colombia 13,922 6,465 4,635
5  Argentina 13,696 6,215 4,964
6  Cuba 12,108 5,537 5,217
7  Honduras 10,991 3,722 1,997
8  Venezuela 10,063 2,823 1,533
9  El Salvador 8,088 6,647 2,979
10  Canada 7,943 5,768 3,011
11  France 7,163 5,723 4,195
12  China 6,655 2,100 1,161
13  Germany 6,214 5,595 4,499
14  Peru 5,886 3,749 1,633
15  Chile 5,267 3,848 2,501
16  Italy 4,964 3,904 2,397
17  Brazil 4,532 2,320 1,293
18  South Korea 3,960 2,079 1,161
19  Nicaragua 3,572 2,522 1,521

Other countries 43,799 37,126 32,487
TOTAL 961,121 492,617 340,246
Source: INEGI (2000),[20] CONAPO (1990)[21][22] and INEGI (2010)[23]


Back in the day, the first words that would come to my mind about Italy would be beautiful scenery, wine, good eating, rich history, and a people with a joie-de-vivre world view. Based on reports from recent travelers, the images that stick out most for me about Italy are crowds, heat, and high prices.

If you agree, then may I recommend a fine country for you to visit - Caucasus Georgia.

I'm kind of bored with the size comparison thing, so I'm going to stop on that.


One of my former (Caucausus) Georgian students is visiting Germany right now with a friend - they look to be having a fantastic time!

German provinces. Credit: Maps of Germany.

Do you see that pointy area in France below Saarland and to the left of Baden-Wirttemberg? That's Alsace-Lorraine.

Alsace-Lorraine. Credit: Travels in Europe With a VW Camper

My matrilineal and patrilineal ancestors passed through this area in centuries past, the maternal line being French Catholic, and the other Swiss Mennonite, aka Anabaptist (German-speaking), before their descendants, in different immigrant streams, in different centuries, ended up in North America. 

My maternal grandfather saw battle in Alsace-Lorraine during World War I.

Gee, what a detour I made.

So back to Germany. Because of my economic stratum, I tend not to think much about Western Europe as a travel destination - I can't afford to go, so it's just not on my radar.


Spain. Credit: Property net.

Jeez louise, the time it took to find a decent provincial map that also showed the almost-adjoining countries of Morocco and Algeria to the south of Spain (in English). Oh, you see they aren't there. Right. So anyway, see that land with the little airplane on it, south of Cadiz, practically touching? That's Morocco. If you look to the right along Morocco's coastline til you see the other little airplane? And then the yellow squiggly line? To the right of the squiggly line is Algeria.

The economic crisis in Spain right now is crushing. Recently, a British man bought an entire Spanish village (abandoned) for 60k euros. (There are villages like this in Caucasus Georgia, too.)


Brazil provinces. Credit: emaps world

I always think of Brazil as being very big. Let's compare it with the U.S.

Brazil - US size comparison. Credit: Rand McNally

 Woo, yeah, it's big.
Although Brazil can boast tremendous advances in many areas economically, technologically, etc. it's also  suffering now in many areas. People don't feel safe. The government is perceived to be corrupt and ineffectual. There are some who believe the public school system is in awful shape, as there is no investment in bringing along new teachers for the public system, i.e. low pay and miserable working conditions. (Sounds like Caucasus Georgia, although there is ongoing reform.)

According to the World Atlas, Brazil's Sao Paolo is the ninth most populous city in the world at 20 million (just under NYC's 21.4 million and just over Mexico City's 19.4 million).


Monday, May 27, 2013

A Bug's Tail Tale

Beetle in a sotol, Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Beetle in a sotol. Butt out.

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, Alamogordo, New Mexico. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gathering of Nations 2013, Part 4: Veterans

Native American Women Warriors, Gathering of Nations 2013, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In both of the powwows I've attended - Red Paint and the Gathering of Nations - veterans featured prominently.

You can see this as well at the grand entry of the Denver March Powwow earlier this year:

The Native American Women Warriors served as this year's color guard at the Gathering of Nations.

The Marines had a large presence among the outdoor exhibitors.

Marines, Gathering of Nations 2013, New Mexico

From Wacipi Powwow:

Native American people who served in the United States armed services are greatly honored in the American Indian community. The translation for soldier, warrior, protector and helper are all the same word. In Dakota that word is Akicita and in Ojibwe it is Ogichida.
As Ed Godfrey, a Dakota/Lakota veteran explains, "It was always the warrior who was first in defending Mother Earth. It was his duty to be first. It is a part of traditional values, a part of protecting against any outside invasion that would endanger the people, our people and the land."
It is a remarkable fact that Indian people served the United States long before they were even given United States citizenship. In fact, between 1917 and 1918, over 10,000 American Indian people enlisted into the armed services to serve in World War I. Although this was the greatest number of enlisted peoples from any one non-anglo culture, citizenship (with the right to vote) for Native Americans was not granted until 1924.
The warrior is seen as having an important and ongoing role. As Chief Ernest Wabasha, hereditary chief of the Dakota people, explains. "Sometime in the future we believe that we will be back to protect the environment and everything else."
Gathering of Nations 2013, New Mexico

Rio Grande Nature Center State Park: Steps

Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Friday, May 24, 2013

Relocation Mexico, Part 2: A Change in Plans?

Mmm. I'd settled on relocating to Mexico's central highlands at the end of this year. The plan was to base myself in Morelia for a month and investigate the nearby cities and towns before deciding where I'd make my home for the year.

However, a few days ago, the national military sent an occupying force to Morelia in order to provide better security for the people who live in Michoacan state, of which Morelia is the capital. They are in the grip of a cartel

So I'm going to wait and see how things go there.

I feel grateful that I have some luxury of choice about my residence.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Albuquerque: The Aquarium - A Customer Service Tale

Albuquerque Aquarium, New Mexico

Albuquerque's aquarium's not bad.

But what I remember about my recent visit to the aquarium has nothing to do with the aquarium, per se.

It has to do with that great little customer service video called Give 'Em the Pickle, by Bob Ferrell. One of the stories he tells in his video is about when he went to his bank and he had to fill out a deposit slip, but didn't have his pen. The bank had a pen - it was chained to the table. If I recall correctly, Mr. Ferrell ripped the pen off the desk, took it to a bank employee and asked why the bank kept the pen chained to the table. The employee responded that it was to prevent folks from taking the pen. Which infuriated Mr. Ferrell because the message was that his bank presumed all of its customers to be thieves. His premise was, if the customer wants the pen, give 'em the damn pen! It costs virtually nothing. 

How does this relate to the aquarium? Well, you can buy a pass to visit all of the Bio Park sites: the aquarium, the zoo, and the botanical garden. The pass includes the train rides. If you're not a New Mexican resident, the cost is $20. If you're a New Mexican resident, the cost is $15.

Albuquerque Aquarium, New Mexico

Before I went to the Bio Park, I looked at the website for any proof of residency criteria. Finding none, I walked from my motel over to the closest of the three venues - the aquarium - and asked for a resident pass. I was asked for proof of residency. I showed:
  • Alamogordo library card (for which I'd had to show my apartment rental agreement)
  • NMSU-A library card (for which I'd also had to show my apartment rental agreement or a bill sent to my Alamogordo address), and
  • Two additional cards that implied Alamogordo residency 

All were dismissed out of hand. "We don't accept library cards."

So I paid the 20 bucks instead of the 15 bucks and began my looking around, but this was so annoying an experience that I walked over to the administrative offices and said to a woman - I'll call her the manager's assistant - that I'd like to share my feedback:

1. That its practice implies that the Bio Park's patrons are presumed to be liars unless they have proof to the contrary, as neither my word nor my documentation was sufficient. (Proof, by the way, that is not described on the website.)

2. It's also an example of front-line staff not being given the authority to evaluate the data themselves to come to a logical conclusion that someone is a resident, and to issue the discount. Or given guidance that - if there's a doubt, fall on the side of presuming the visitor's honesty.

3. Even if there are people who have documentation that turns out to be false - how many people can this be per year? The park would rather insult residents as presumed liars than let a handful of hucksters have a five-dollar discount?  

I'd like to be able to say that the matter was dealt with in a sparkly manner, but it wasn't. It was minimally OK. There was a lackluster attempt to reduce the price (after getting permission from a higher-up on the phone), and when it looked like it was going to be complicated, I explained I was less interested in a partial refund than I was in management considering a change of approach for the future. In response, the woman suggested I complete a customer feedback card that I could find right outside the door, with assurances that the manager "reads every single one."

I allowed as how I'd already taken the time and trouble to share my feedback face to face, and that, thanks, I didn't think I'd take the additional time to repeat everything. 

My experience is that if front-line staff behave like the ticket takers and the manager's assistant, it's a sign of trouble in the organization's or the department's overall culture. So I don't put too much blame on the front line.

(No charge for this consulting session.)