Super-Strange Mini-Encyclopedia of Countries on Earth


Recently, there are 193 countries registered as members of United Nations. From the edge of North to South Pole, from A to Z, and from Greenland to the outermost islands below Argentine and Chile, time has witnessed countries rose and fell, history has produced myriad number of hegemonies, in forms of empires, kingdoms, republics, regimes, and so forth. Each every nation has been ‘destined’ by history itself together to inherit all the amounts and the omnipotence of natural resources buried deep within. Every country presents its own ‘uniqueness’, irrespective of its positive or negative side. Some countries were considered as ‘failing’, and others were rewarded for their ‘irrational, hard-to-imagine’ success they had achieved. Some countries may as well be considered by the rest of the world ‘imperialistic’, but others might be thought on the contrary perspective, too. Truly speaking, all the pros and cons of all these countries are what that make the world functions today, until this second. Some may conceive by simply saying, ‘what a wonderful world.’ Yes, but always remember, that all the bright and dark histories of our past have brought us into what is called ‘today’. Let us begin our own ‘reconciliation’ by recognizing further each of all these countries now currently standing on this fragile, billions-year-old planet.

Welcome to the super-strange mini-encyclopedia of countries on Earth!

PART 1

SOUTH AFRICA

Apartheid has for – exactly, four dozen of years – deprived the Blacks of their basic rights, with Whites and other certain nationalities – for example, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese expatriates – were granted excessive specialties. Imagine a Third-World situation made a perfect fusion with a First-World situation. Highways, skyscrapers, those eye-catching mansions or houses like those in Beverly Hills, European-influenced buildings, and all-White security forces, were those you could meet in the city center of the metropolises.

Yes, only the metropolises. What about the suburbs?

There was no sufficient water, electricity, and even transport system. Apartheid has been designed to convert South Africa into a ‘White-majority Black-minority’ country, with most of the Whites situated on the big cities, while the Blacks were forcibly relocated into poor suburbs, agricultural areas, and shantytowns as well. But few never lost hope. Get inspired by Nelson Mandela, who, despite 27 years in imprisonment, in the long run forgave all the sins the White authorities had done against him and his people. Without the help of F.W. de Klerk, Mandela would not have led this country, and this country may perhaps fall to ruin.

Things got better, but some things also got worse 16 years after apartheid was ‘evaporated’ out of the grandiose chapter of history

In the coming of 21st century, South Africa has achieved a lot, but still fails to realize a lot, too. 3 million houses have been built to provide housing for the homeless majority, but unemployment remains high (equivalent to 25% of the country’s total population) until today. Every year, the entire police stations would receive a ground-breaking report on crimes: 500,000 reports on rape and 100,000 homicides. That’s for every single year. More attacks also have recently been launched on large commercial farms owned by Whites, irrespective of which race they come from, be it Afrikaner, or British, or French, whatsoever. The total cases amount to 40,000, every year.

Although this country has been hailed as ‘Africa’s most vibrant economy’, the country faces another new threat: brain drain. It is estimated that between 1 to 1.6 million well-educated intellects have migrated out of the country, therefore increasing chances of deteriorating this country’s economic prospects in the future.

Oops, we forgot about the AIDS. It has been very pandemic, that one out of 9 (app. 5.5 million out of its 50 million citizens) is positively infected HIV and develops severe AIDS symptoms. Nevertheless, despite all the ‘shortfalls’ regarding to The Rainbow Nation, we should not neglect some other positive aspects this country has brought. More tourists are coming to visit, especially after the successful World Cup 2010, and more investors are showing interest in getting involved with this country’s economy.

But, for you all who feel that you are South Africans, please watch out. There are still myriad challenges your people need to accomplish.

IRAN

Other popular words and phrases, when linked with ‘Iran’, are ‘Ahmadinejad’, ‘nuclear program’, ‘wipe Israel off the map’, and ‘Persia’. For almost three hundred decades, Iran has witnessed dozens of hegemonies rose and fell to ruins. From the rise of Zoroasterianism until the end of Shah’s rule, Iran, just like its geographical situation, remains tempestuous and volatile.

The country is blessed with abundant reserves of oil and gas, amounting to over 110 billion barrels. Economy is still mainly driven by oil & gas production, but recently the government has intensified on developing alternative resources other than depending on hydrocarbon reserves. Which is why ‘nuclear program’ becomes popular until now.

Do not ever underestimate this country. In terms of stem cell research, this country ranks on ‘The Global Top 10’ according to surveys by many magazines, and so does nanotechnology. The country performs greatly on technological advancement that the country ranks ‘the world’s top 15’ in terms of research on nanotechnology.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is sometimes either admired as ‘a daring hero’ or hated as ‘a devil’, always encourages the entire world leaders to revolt up against Israel. But, do not immediately assume that the entire Iranians do hate the Jews, as well. The main fact is that a lot of Persian Jews have got assimilated with local culture, which is why there remains a strong, intimate relationship between the Muslims and the Jews, in the country (remember, total population of Jews in Iran is estimated between 200,000 to 300,000). Do not judge the book by its cover. Isn’t that called ‘democracy’, although sometimes democracy itself is poorly executed in this country?

Doesn’t United States itself restrict any forms of stem cell research? What a pity.

SINGAPORE

“Economically, there will be a shift to the Pacific from the Atlantic Ocean and you can already see that in the shipping volumes of Chinese ports.” – Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore, perhaps, serves the only country which can alter its fate from an already-destined Third World nation into a First-World, globe-admired country, standing in an island approximately as big as Jakarta, and getting surrounded by 63 islands within.

What we should admire is that Singapore’s population is equivalent to half of Jakarta’s population nowadays (remember, 5 million vs. 10 million). The country boasts one of the world’s most excellent transport system, one of the world’s most vibrant and active economy, and one of the greatest countries to either invest your money or your education or your health. But we should be even more amazed to find out that all these achievements were accomplished within a generation.

But we tend to hail this country, based on the ‘materialism’ perspective. </span>

One Singaporean author (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten this person’s name and this author is a woman) once wrote down an article, stating that ‘80% of Singaporeans, despite high incomes and overwhelming money, remain stressful and depressed on their daily lives. One weak point this country presents, in my own opinion, is that the entire nation has a bit ‘forgotten’ about what ‘real happiness’ actually means. Or a bit misinterpretation, perhaps. Everybody harshly competes to live in this country, which keeps on growing fast day by day, and therefore, ‘real happiness’ is abandoned. Everybody pursues on ‘materialistic happiness’.

And this contributes as a main factor for ‘increasing stress load’ in developed countries.

Not all Singaporeans do fully ‘own’ houses. 80% (that’s 4 million, exactly) of the population lives on government-owned apartments, and the installment period is optional – you may choose either 25, 35, or 99 years to pay your money bit by bit. The rest?

Just find them on Orchard Road, Bukit Timah, or several districts surrounding the the city center. And more surprisingly, most of the elite residential houses, apartments, mansions, or condominiums are owned by the super-rich Chinese Indonesians, who hand in on millions of dollars in cash inside the Singaporean banks.

Singaporeans, I think, should redefine on the true meaning of ‘happiness’ itself, although I am primarily concerned that this may, in the future – assume they do it -, worsen the economy.

ISRAEL

More or less, Israel is overall very ‘unique’, isn’t it?

One hundred years prior, British authorities previously offered Theodor Herzl – the architect behind the establishment of Israel – Uganda as the promising land as ‘a sole Jewish state’. However, most of the members of the Zionist movement led by Herzl opposed this idea, and in the long run, it was the Palestinians who had to be forcibly removed from their centuries-old motherland.

Israel is the only democratic state in Middle East – according to American government. What do you think? In Israel, same-sex marriages are legalized. However, any inter-ethnic, or inter-religious, or inter-race marriages are strictly prohibited, even considered by many, especially conservative Jews, as ‘taboo’.

Many of the Chinese immigrants -as they confessed – had been forced to sign on contracts that they would not have sex with any Jewish women, or visiting any bawdyhouses, or dating any streetwalkers. This is just one example of how racial prejudice works in this state.

Military service is strictly compulsory -for men and women, with no doubt, for approximately three years. That is equivalent to almost 1000 days spent on the deserts, being ‘grilled’ under the hot sun, and holding up Kalashnikov rifles for hours and hours. Maybe one day you might conceive a well-muscled woman, and immediately assume, “that’s what Israeli women are gonna be!” Sorry, don’t get offended.

Don’t you know that most of the products we are using have been precisely researched in Israel’s R&D centers? Most of the current Microsoft products we are using, be it Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc, are researched in Microsoft R&D Center in Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, based in Haifa. So are the consumer products, like the ‘Pantene’ shampoo.

Do not underestimate this little country: Israel ranks as ‘the top 5 countries’ in the world which has produced dozens of Nobel Prize winners, be it Physics, Physiology, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Economics.

NORTH KOREA

You won’t find people worshipping Jesus Christ, or Buddha, or Allah, whatsoever.

You instead find out that everyone worships Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, four times a day. The climax is on 12th December, the date Kim Il-Sung was born to the world.

North Korea remains the most isolated country in the world, in the 21st century. Telecommunication in all forms, be it telephone, or Internet, or even messaging in forms of formal letters, is not allowed throughout the country. Because the authorities fear that ‘Americans’ would spy on them by making chances on eavesdropping their conversations.

They are instead only allowed to read all the books written by Kim Il-Sung.

Ever imagine a country, which keeps on making nukes, while the hospitals have got no electricity, and need generators like those we use during the blackout in order to keep functioning?

This is the reality. This is North Korea. While the military forces are strengthening up, the civilians are getting thinner and shorter than the others. Famine frequently takes place, especially on the isolated villages. Whereas North Korea, I don’t know which experts told that, is gifted with much more fertile land compared to their counterpart in the South. But fact is always strange, because during 1994-1995 famine, 2.5 million North Koreans, more or less one tenth of the total population, perished. The problem, however, seemed to be a solvable challenge: the farmers lacked of knowledge on how harvesting the crops, and slowly let them die off.

North Korean government also wasted much money on unnecessary, so-called ‘lighthouse projects’ if this term applies in this country. 10% of the country’s GDP was once spent on building a 102-storey triangular-shaped superstructure scheduled to be named ‘Ryugyong Hotel’. Construction began in 1986, but was on-hold a few years later, under the reason ‘no more funds’. If you happen to visit Pyongyang, don’t forget to take picture on the picturesque skyscraper.

Until now, it remains an abandoned tower, with a tower crane stuck on top of the building. Even you have to be extremely careful in taking pictures, because government-assigned tour guides have always been there to watch you out. Besides, you are not allowed to bring magazines into the country.

What a funny country, especially when less than 1000 foreign tourists visit North Korea every year.

Seeking refuge may be a staking job, even death-defying: assume you are a North Korean, and that you escape to China, and getting captured there, undoubtedly, they may possibly kick your butt back into North Korea, and be mentally prepared to face death sentence. South Korea is less strict, however, many failed during the journey.

Thanks to God you are not born in North Korea!

KAZAKHSTAN

Within two decades, Kazakhstan soon ended up the richest country in Central Asia, the richest upon its ex-Soviet ‘comrades’ as follows: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The main source which drives the fluorishing economy growth basically comes out from the oil & gas production.

However, one thing about Kazakhstan you should know is that once this country – which is almost 800 thousand square kilometers larger than our country, but hosts only equivalent to 6.5% of Indonesia’s population – had the percentage of immigrants exceeding the indigenous population more than two times fold.

The government of Germany – only more than 10 years after the census was conducted – was extremely surprised to find out that the number of Germans living in Kazakhstan by the year of 1980 peaked to nearly 1 million, excluding the number of Germans in Siberia as well (that’s 850 thousand). Nowadays, the community’s population has shrunk to 150 thousand – a dramatic 85% decrease within less than two decades. The overwhelming population of Germans in the past was mainly contributed by Stalin’s policy – to expel the Germans out of their homeland after the World War II, as a form of retaliation after NAZI troops invaded Soviet Union and caused severe casualties in the country. The Poles and the Ukrainians were expelled as well, but the main reason was not for retaliation – because Poland and Ukrainia were under Soviet’s control, and Stalin had his own steel-handed rights in policymaking, despite the terrible consequences they had to pay for decades.

However, it is the Russians who are currently the most dominant minority compared with the others. Representing a quarter of the population nowadays (at least 4 million, in this second), the population still remains nearly stable, and so is the overall population of the country, as well. But the recent ‘Kazakhization’ policy introduced by Nursultan Nazarbayev (a policy in which every citizen must be fluent in Kazakh language, with no doubt) – the first and the current president of Kazakhstan, and the father of the nation as well – increases risks of minorities performing more protests in the future.

However, prospect remains good for this country, as people there are overall moderate-thinking.

BOTSWANA

Today, Botswana remains as one of Africa’s economically most advanced countries. However, given the fact that 25% of the population (there are currently 1.5 million people residing in Botswana today) contacts HIV/AIDS, making this country even more vulnerable in the future, and hence, increasing the chances of deteriorating the country from all aspects in decades to come. Age expectancy has decreased sharply into merely 37, or 40 years, and population is gradually shrinking.

However, Botswana is still a popular destination for foreign tourists, especially if you want to have a safari trip.

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