Kalash: ever heard of them? I know I hadn't! Thanks to this fantastic postcard from Salman in Pakistan, my mind is a little more enlightened now. The Kalashi people, with a population of no more than 6,000, live in the district of Chitral in the North-West Frontier province of Pakistan, in the Hindu Kush mountains. Popular legend claims that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great's entourage in the region, and some genetic research has supported this. Hypotheses exist that link the Kalash to South Asia (their legends and folklore talk of a homeland called 'Tsiyam') or to the Middle East. Although not particularly common, blue eyes and blonde hair are not out of the ordinary.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Ever since I heard about it - and I never had, ever, before Postcrossing, and that only because there are so many Finnish postcrossers - I have been very curious about this place. Åland (pronounced Oh-lahnd) is definitely an unusual place. It is a group of islands and big rocks (80 inhabited islands, over 6000 total in the island group) located at a strategic position in the Baltic Sea, at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. To get to Stockholm, Sweden or Turku and Oulu, Finland, you have to pass by Åland. In the past, Sweden and Finland have fought over who gets the rights to this important little place, and in 1921 the now-defunct League of Nations decided that Finland gets it technically, but for all intents and purposes, Åland is an autonomous entity. Åland has its own national flag, its own police force, prints its own stamps, issues its own Åland Euro, and is exempt from Finnish military service. And most importantly, people of Åland do not consider themselves Finns, at all. In fact, travel websites encourage you not to mention their connection with Finland at all. They are very nationalistic. And in fact, why wouldn't they be? They are geographically isolated, they speak exclusively Swedish, and they govern themselves.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I remember, when I was a child, I thought that every single one of my toys was made in Taiwan. And up until just a few years ago, that was all I knew about Taiwan - they manufactured A LOT of stuff. And indeed, they do - there is a phenomenon in recent history that is referred to as no less than the Taiwan Miracle. The economy of Taiwan grew so rapidly following World War II that it's almost unfathomable. It has risen to prominence and is now one of the Four Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan), four nations in Southeast Asia with a particularly skilled workforce and exceptional economic success. In addition to Taiwan's manufacturing prowess, it is also a leader in technology - it is well-known for its developments in biotechnology, laptops and Smartphones, and semiconductor devices.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I'm always surprised at how fun it is to write a post about my own country. I thought today I would write about the American Southwest, which has its own very unique culture and mindset, because I wanted to learn more about why that region is the way it is. The Southwestern US is generally thought to comprise Arizona and New Mexico as the core states, with parts of California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma also containing elements of the Southwest culture, depending upon their proximity to the core. There are four factors, I think, that have had the largest role in shaping the Southwest culture of the United States: Native American influences, Spanish immigrant/Mexican influences, Anglo American influences, and the unusual climate of the region.