“Dad, you are a nerd”
“Oh! Yeah? I have been called worse. So, there!”
She shook her head and went on to the kitchen to warm her milk.
What earned me that sobriquet this early morning at the breakfast table was the fact I was trying to put a jigsaw puzzle of African countries together. You can be forgiven if you are equally confused about why on God’s green earth would I wake up early in the morning to do jigsaw puzzles.
Well, it happened the other day. Natasha was on her way from Paris to Accra, Ghana to start her fall semester. The flight was half way done, time wise. Nikita had asked me how far had she reached. I started to answer her “She will be roughly above….”. And I never managed to finish that sentence. I actually had very poor understanding of the geographical location of the different countries in Africa. Most other continents, given two countries, I can name – with reasonable accuracy the likely countries she will be flying over. But when it came to Africa, all I could think about was the the big Sahara desert!
Coming to think of it, while I had a vague idea of where Ghana is (I remember Mrs. Bhowmic teaching us about cocoa production n Ghana), I could not name a single country that borders the country my daughter was headed to!! I remember in school we had learnt a lot about the countries in other continents. But do not seem to remember studying a lot about Africa. Of course, it does not help that Africa has way too many countries!!
Curious how many countries I could name in Africa, I started jotting them down. And challenged Nikita to the same. After a lot of effort, I could remember about 35 of them. I thought I would have completely trounced Nikita. She beat me by about 10 countries! And then when we Googled, we learnt that even she had missed 10 countries!!!
If that was bad, try this. She asked me if I could tell locate the various countries are. I got about half a dozen right. And about half a dozen more if you allow “rough vicinity” to be the pass mark. The rest, I had no idea where they were (other than vague North, South, East, West etc.).
That is what triggered that realization that I need to do something about my ridiculous ignorance of the second largest continent of the world. What I did was, unlike most sane people, ordered a jigsaw puzzle of Africa (countries as individual jigsaw pieces) from Amazon. This morning, armed with a cup of coffee and pen and paper, I sat down to study the map.
“You just watch. In 3 months I will master Africa. I will learn about each country, their capital and some cool facts about each country”, I told my incredulous younger daughter.
“Yeah. You might want to do that faster”
“Why?”, I asked.
“They keep having rebellions and split into different countries”, she said as she took her cup of milk out of the microwave.
You know, maybe that is why I never learnt anything about Africa in childhood. They kept changing the count on me 🙂