Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six other countries.

Burkina Faso is also my default answer to any question which includes the word ‘Africa’.

For as long as it has existed,  I have been doing the quiz in the back of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend section. Now Robert and I do it together. We can judge how the weekend will go, just by how many questions we get right. Lots of right answers? Cracking weekend coming up. There are always geography questions. I get every single one of them wrong.  Robert gets about 90% right – occasionally he gets them wrong, but it is rare.

I know nothing about the geography of the world. Practically nothing at all. I have to think very hard when trying to imagine which side of the country the west coast of the US is and what cities that represents. I know nothing of the geography of Asia and only have scant understanding of the countries, coast lines and seas that make up Europe.

I managed to avoid geography throughout my entire school career, with the tiny exception of the history and geography of New South Wales. It was taught to a class of year five under-achievers by a very bored and under-achieving teacher, who made Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth boring, which is quite hard to do. I never did any at high school. At all. No history, no geography. It is the case that I don’t know where much of anything is, nor how it came to be how it is in a geo-political sense.

It is a running joke in our household that any sentence that starts ‘of course, as everybody knows, Zaire used be called Congo and run by the Belgians.’ To which my reply is a surprised expression. Really?

Or Nyasa Land which is now Malawi. Or that only two doubly landlocked countries are Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan. Or that the equator does not run through Equatorial Guinea. There are a thousand example of this. Worse is when watching TV and viewing some majestic country-side of other, Robert immediately identifies where it is and in what time period. Oh look! It’s the Dalmatian Coast.  Oh see! There’s Yellowstone Nation Parks’ Old Faithful geyser. Oh that must be the south coast of Borneo. Look there are the Huli from the Southern Highlands of PNG. Not, of course, because he has been to all these places, even though he has traveled widely, the wideness is not nearly the dimension he would like.

The rivers of the world, the seas, the borders, the capitals and the other names for new states which used to be called something else. They are all a mystery to me.

Hence my stock answer to any question about Africa is Burkina Faso. It saves a lot of time, if I just use that and know it will be wrong, rather than trying to pretend I am actually trying to retrieve the information from deep within my hard drive. Which I am not.

However as luck would have it, finally, this weekend Burkina Faso really was the right answer to the question ‘what is the name of the country that used to be known as Upper Volta?’ I practically upended my coffee in my excitement of knowing the answer. BURKINA FASO I shouted. Quite pleased that I had finally found a use for the one fact I know about Africa.