Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra.
My fingers typed in rhythm.
Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia.
My high school history class was winding down for winter break. Sitting within the warm walls of my classroom, I realized I had nothing to do. Nothing to study for, nothing to look forward to, nothing to calm the itch in the back of my mind. Defeated, I let my gaze fall on the digital map in front of me; it was a Mercator Projection of all the world’s landmasses. The map was vast, dotted with pastel colors marking the extent of governance that each country held. I tried to see what I could name, and with this little experiment my heart sank even further. That afternoon, I realized how unfamiliar this world was.
Settling down into my beaten navy chair, I could feel something under my skin crawling and gnawing at the surface layer. That night I couldn’t be bothered with my pre-calc homework; I had to relieve that itch. I poured through online atlases and peddled through world news archives.
Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados.
I was keeping perfect pace.
Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin.
As I fell deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, I became more and more infatuated with this new world I had uncovered. How could it be that countries are drowning due to rising sea levels? How could it be that sovereign entities are still fighting for statehood? How could it be that there are fifteen active genocides?
I began to feel helpless in my search for answers. I only found myself mired in a purgatory of more questions. Earlier, I had been blown away at how unfamiliar this world was; now, I was blown away at how naïve I was.
I yearned to carry the burden of all the world’s problems, but the realist in me soothed my conscience. However, he did not soothe my curiosity. I learned more and more about the turmoil this world has undergone. As if reading a book, I flipped page after page, read sentence after sentence. But this book did not have an end. There was no conclusion. No last chapter. No last page. The wholly satisfied feeling I get after finishing a book was non-existent in my quest for answers.
Nonetheless, I continued on and came to school the next day, but I no longer saw a map of the modern world. I started to notice the misrepresentations presented by this Eurocentric map before me.
I logged onto my countries of the world quiz and started to type. I hopped from continent to continent, filling up the progress bar as I went. My mind was completely indulged in this ritualistic activity.
Canada: Hosting different cultures.
Columbia: Welcoming Venezuelan refugees.
Croatia: Budding tourism hotspot in a Post-Soviet world.
Cyprus: Dividing itself by foreign flags.
I was determined, a new feeling for me. The progress bar was filling up faster and faster. I had found a way to make my learning exhilarating and rewarding, I could connect real-world issues with things I was learning. These weren’t just names of places; these weren’t just useless facts; these were peoples, histories, and cultures with which I share an earth.
My eyes were drawn again to the mosaic of oceans and landmasses. From the night of exploring my restless curiosity, I no longer felt restricted by my naivety; rather, I felt liberated by my knowledge. I could now articulate what I admired about the world, and I could now express my objections; this quest, though it has left me more knowledgeable, it is far from over. Because there is no last chapter, and definitely no last page.