Category Archives: Education

European Countries

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My Nat Geo map marked with the places top on my "To Travel" list

I have found a new hobby!

And it’s delightfully delightful, and I can’t get enough of it.

First off, who knew the CIA had such an amazing resource!? World Factbook, you are the very best thing on the inter webs at the moment. What is it? Well, I’ll let them explain it ya:

The World Factbook, produced for US policymakers and coordinated throughout the US Intelligence Community, presents the basic realities about the world in which we live. We share these facts with the people of all nations in the belief that knowledge of the truth underpins the functioning of free societies.

-The CIA World Factbook, ‘Did you Know?’

So, my favorite pastime for the past week or so has been to fill a small note card for each country/region with facts about it from the World Factbook, such as the capital, currency, form of government, date of independence, current transnational issues, official languages, economic status, geography description, and popular religion. Then, after studying for a bit, I make tests for myself, eight countries at a time. I know it’s nerdy, but I can’t help think how useful all this information will be.

I’ve already learned so much. A sampling of perhaps obvious facts/issues I didn’t know about?

  • Andorra, the teensy country between France and Spain, actually has no military and relies upon France and Spain to defend it.
  • The capital of Albania is Tirana.
  • In Austria, sixteen-year-olds can vote!
  • Bulgaria was formerly communist.
  • Bosnia & Herzogovina is highly vulnerable to money laundering, due to a cash-based and unregulated economy, weak law enforcement, and corruption.
  • When Cyprus declared independence in 1960, the UK retained ownership of two regions, Akrotiri and Dhekelia. The currency of the two regions is the euro, though, and not the pound.
  • Belarus is a republic in name but in reality has more similarities to a dictatorship.
  • Finland successfully held off the Soviets in the 40s, with little loss of territory. (Go Finland!)
  • The Czech Republic has a very controversial Soviet-style nuclear plant in Temelin, a city that borders Austria.
  • On Cyprus, the Greeks and Turks don’t universally get along too well. The Turks have actually declared a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but it is only recognized by Turkey.
  • France was founded around 486.
  • Germany has Europe’s largest economy.

So, because I’ve had so much fun studying and researching all this, here’s the tests I’ve made for the first sixteen European countries I’ve studied.  I figured someone might enjoy to test their European knowledge! I’ll try to make a key in the next few days. But for now:

Countries Test PDF

Enjoy!

Listening to: Camille-Påle Septembre

Reading: Burn Before Reading by Stansfield Turner: nonfiction about how the relationship between the DCI and the President affects foreign policy. Interesting!

Learning: Well, that’s what this whole post was about, wasn’t it? 🙂

Martha

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Quotes

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If you were to look around my room, you’d be amazed at the amount of words pasted, taped, propped, pinned, and hung up all around it. My bulletin board is covered in quotes, lines of poems, song lyrics, lists, and scripture verses. Anything that strikes my fancy goes up in my room, so that I can see it everyday and be inspired by it.

Last night, I found three quotes I had scribbled onto my Algebra 2 homework that I heard while doing my homework.

The first comes from a TV show, called Legend of the Seeker, kind of a Lord of the Rings-ish type of story. The show itself isn’t that great, but there are some wonderful lines and I love the fact that it’s an allegory for the story of Jesus. There is an old wizard named Zeddicus who is training a young man, Richard, in what it means to be a hero. In one episode, Richard is giving a little boy lessons on tracking animals, while Kahlan, their companion, teaches the boy history. The boy is learning rapidly and reciting everything they teach him. After a little while, though, Zeddicus interjects, saying, “Don’t give him too many lessons, Richard and Kahlan, because he might not have any time for learning.” I love that. It reminds me of Mark Twain’s words, “I’ve never let my school interfere with my education.” and Albert Einstein’s “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” All of these quotes explain why I’ve taken a year off from high school. I’ve edited the quote a bit so that it’s in second person and reads smoother, but I want you to know it’s based off of Legend of the Seeker.

The next quote is inspired from an episode of Chuck. I’ve forgotten who said it, but I know it came from Chuck. “Can I give you a little piece of advice? Just remember to not confuse your job with your life.” This also struck me, but I changed it a bit so that it is more relevant to me: “And a little piece of advice: remember to not confuse your schooling with your life.” Maybe it’s just me, but ever since I’ve entered high school, I’ve felt like keeping my GPA up, scoring well on the SAT, participating in lots of extracurriculars, taking the right classes, and volunteering for community service hours is all that matters. “Preparing for college is what your teenage years are for,” books and articles tell me. Sure, I think it’s important to do all that, but that is not what our teenage years are for. I think we should spend time with our families, make friends, read good books, listen to good music, take walks, write, play sports, play instruments, draw, make things, travel, and cook. Yes, when we get to college, we’ll need to know good study skills, we’ll need to know the history of the United States, and we’ll need to know moderate mathematics, but we’ll also need to know what it means to be independent, deep, and creative human beings. Also, this quote can help me when I get a bad grade, get in trouble, or get hurt in someway at school. I constantly remind myself that I can become so much more than what classmates, teachers, or report cards think of me. It’s a comforting thought! 🙂

The final addition to my collection of quotes comes from a really fun documentary, 180˚ South, which shows the journey of a man whose dream is reaching and climbing patagonia with the founder of Patagonia outdoor apparel, Yvon Chouinard. The movie explores the themes of adventure, travel, and destination. Chouinard said this about adventure: “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” I have this hanging on my door so that when I feel like everything is going all wrong, I’ll be reminded that it could just be the start of a great adventure and later a good story. Again, I’ve paraphrased it:

Hope you’ve enjoyed these quotes!

Listening to: Love isn’t Made: Jon Foreman

Reading: Robinson Crusoe

Learning: the Presidents of the United States

Martha 

Rosetta Stone: Spanish (Latin American)

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my most recent lesson

This year, I have the unique opportunity  to learn Spanish! It’s loads of fun. After much deliberation about which language learning course/software I would use, we finally settled on Rosetta Stone because of its amazing reputation. You’ve probably heard of it before; its ads are all over the internet and magazines like National Geographic and The Smithsonian.

The whole philosophy of the software is that it teaches you the language the way you learned your first language, without grammar rules, translation practices, and cheesy little jingles. And I’m kind of loving it. After eight+ years of taking Classical Latin at CCA, I’m kind of sick of all that craziness (ostmustisnt and sumesestsummusestissunt, anyone?) It was so refreshing to just learn what words mean by pictures and not have any annoying chants to memorize. I learn while I’m doing the exercises, there aren’t any lessons or homework or anything like that. Lazy, you ask? It’s actually pretty challenging, I say.

One of the features that makes it so challenging is that it wants you to master the language not just in reading and hearing, but also in pronunciation. It comes with a fancy little microphone headset and some of the exercises ask you to repeat words/phrases/sentences or label pictures with the correct sentence. It’s quite hard to do actually, but really rewarding when you get it right.

In short, I’m a huge fan. If you’re in any way contemplating Rosetta Stone for whatever language, do it! It’s totally worth it.

Listening to: Sia – Playground

Reading: Robinson Crusoe

Learning: the capitols of the USA. I figured if I’ve learned the capitols of Europe, I should probably know my own capitols, right? 🙂 I’m using this quiz. My highest score is 98% Can you beat me?

Martha