Monday, December 31, 2018

Worldly Rise Year End Stats -- 2018 Edition

I always look forward to doing these posts. I like to see how far I’ve come and what I actually did this year. This is such a long project, so it’s nice to reflect. And… 2019 will be my last full year of this project. I’m slated to end halfway through 2020 (and that’s including the three non-UN countries that I added at the end). Here’s what I did this year and where we are in this thing:

— In 2018, I started with St. Kitts & Nevis and ended with South Korea (there are TON of countries that start with S!).

— At the end of 2018, I completed the 160th country for this blog. This now makes me 81.6% finished with this project.

— Of all the countries I have completed so far,

46 (28.75%) have been in Africa

43 (26.88%) have been in Europe

21 (13.13%) have been in Asia

12 (7.5%) have been in the Middle East

12 (7.5%) have been in the Caribbean

11 (7.04%) have been in Oceania

9 (6.88%) have been in South America

7 (4.38%) have been in Central America

2 (1.25%) has been in North America


— Of the 160 countries I have completed so far, 382 languages are represented in some capacity, either as an official language or at some kind of national/regional/vernacular level. Here are the ones who hold some level of status in three or more countries.  

English: 57

French: 36

Arabic: 22

Spanish: 19

German: 13

Russian: 10

Croatian: 9

Romany/Romani: 9

Italian: 8

Portuguese: 8

Albanian: 7

Armenian: 7

Hungarian: 7

Serbian: 7

Ukrainian: 7

Bulgarian: 6

Greek: 5

Rusyn: 5

Slovak: 5

Swahili: 5

Garifuna: 4

Romanian: 4

Slovene/Slovenian: 4

Turkish: 4

Azerbaijani: 3

Belarusian: 3

Berber (Tamazight): 3

Bosnian: 3

Chinese (Mandarin): 3

Danish: 3

Fula: 3

Malay (Bahasa Malaya): 3

Mandinka: 3

Occitan: 3

Polish: 3

Somali: 3

Tatar: 3

Urdu: 3

Wolof: 3

— As of December 31, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. EST, I have had a total of pageviews 661,691 (an increase of 132,721 from this time last year) and have been read by at least one person in 181 countries (an increase of 11 countries). I have posted 710 blog posts (an increase of 74 posts) since I started in February 2012 and now have 28 followers (I gained 1 more follower this year).

— Here are the top ten countries based on the number of pageviews (of all time):

            1. United States

            2. Philippines (number 3 last year)

3. Russia (number 2 last year)

            4. Canada (number 5 last year)

5. United Kingdom (number 4 last year)

            6. Germany

            7. France

            8. Australia (number 9 last year)

9. Ukraine (number 8 last year)

            10. India

— If everything goes as planned for 2019 (which may or may not happen), I will start with South Sudan and end with the United Kingdom. 

Have a happy new year!


When I started this blog in 2012, I used an existing list I made of the countries that were UN members. And about a year into it, I realized I had missed one. The country of South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, and somehow I didn’t realize this happened until I saw a news report about its civil war. I checked, and I realized it definitely needed to be added to my list. I was just thankful that it fell in line before I got to that letter in the alphabet.

South Sudan is named after its previous relation with Sudan. Sudan itself means “land of the blacks,” possibly referring to the Sahel region in general.

This central African country is surrounded by Sudan to the north; Ethiopia to the east; Kenya and Uganda to the south; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic to the west. There are still some disputed borders between Sudan and South Sudan, namely in the area through Radom National Park and around the little town of Abyei. There’s also a disputed border with Kenya. Lying only a few degrees north of the equator, South Sudan has a tropical savanna climate for most of the country. It also has a rainy season that peaks in May.

Around the 10th century, the Nilotic tribes began to move into this area and began setting up villages and communities. Other tribes kept moving into this region well up until the 19th century, including the Dinka, Nuer, Azande, and Bari. Slavery has been a part of Sudanese history for a long time but peaked during the 19th century. The 19th century in Sudan was not good times in Sudan. The Azande were fighting with the French, the Belgians, and the Mahdists (followers of the Nubian [Sudanese] religious leader, Mahdi). In 1899, an agreement between the British and Egypt handed over control of Sudan over to Egypt. As the British and French carved up most of Africa, they almost went to war over this area, too. The British wanted to join South Sudan with Uganda that they already controlled. This lasted roughly about a half-century when Sudan gained it own independence from the Anglo-Egyptian stronghold. The first Sudanese Civil War lasted nearly 20 years, from 1955 to 1972. After a brief time of non-fighting (I wouldn’t call it peace), a second civil war lasted from 1983 to 2005. Toward the end of this second civil war South Sudan split apart and became its own country in 2011. Even after they gained independence, the fighting didn’t stop. Nearly 400,000 people have lost their lives, and 2 ½ million people have fled to neighboring countries. I think since the 1950s, they’ve spent more times at war than in peace.

The southern city of Juba serves as the capital city. It was originally the site of a Bari village. At the time it was established, this area was considered part of Egypt, and British Christian missionaries arrived and set up a school. The city is situated on the White Nile River, making it convenient as a port city. However, through years of war and neglect, its infrastructure is in critical need for repair. Some neighboring countries and other organizations have offered to chip in to at least maintain some roads to move goods in and out. It’s been proposed to set up the remote village of Ramciel as a planned city and move the capital city there. If it happens, it’ll be in the same class of capitals as Brasilia and Canberra.

Although South Sudan is rich in natural resources, civil war has left their infrastructure wrecked and underdeveloped. Many people rely on agriculture, and poverty is a huge problem as well as having access to proper healthcare, sanitation, and dealing with high inflation. Some of the resources and raw materials they do have include hardwoods, petroleum, copper, iron ore, tungsten, silver, gold, diamonds, limestone, and others. They also have quite a few oil fields, but they’re having difficulty in figuring out how to split up all the money. And the country has a lot of external debt to contend with, too.

The British established Christianity in South Sudan, which remains to be the dominant religion. Of the Christians who are there, the largest denomination seems to be Catholics, followed by the Episcopals, Anglicans, and the Presbyterians. However, there are a smaller number of Muslims there as well, most likely left over from when they were part of Sudan (which is a Muslim-majority country). Like many other African countries, many people simultaneously follows either Christianity or Islam as well as their indigenous belief systems.

The official language of South Sudan is English, which serves as a lingua franca for its nearly 60 indigenous languages, most of which are part of the Nilo-Saharan language family. The most widely spoken ones that are considered national languages include Bari, Dinka, Luo, Murle, Nuer, and Zande. These languages along with Juba Arabic are also used as lingua francas. Arabic used to be an official language in its early years of independence, but probably only because it’s used in Sudan. However, they scratched Arabic from the official language list. Last year, they just made the recommendation to add Swahili as an official language in its place.

I find it interesting the stories of how national anthems came to be. The melody of the US national anthem was originally a drinking song (more or less). The South Sudanese anthem was the result of a competition. It was composed by students and teachers in the music department of Juba University. This particular song beat out 48 other entries to make their song “South Sudan Oyee” the new national anthem of a new country. While the country may be new in its political sense, its traditions and culture are very old. Let’s see what this newest country in the world is all about.

Up next: art and literature

Sunday, December 23, 2018


This is the last country of 2018. I can’t believe there’s only about a year and a half left of this blog project. Clearly, I’ve run this blog longer than I’ve ever held a job (which is probably sad to say, but I really like my job now). I’ve learned a lot and ate a lot, which is truly my only goal in life. And probably make some money along the way because I’ve kind of gotten used to electricity, running water, and WiFi.

Amaaaazing! This was just the best.
And I’m ending my 2018 on this Christmas Eve-Eve with some South Korean food. The first thing I made was Gyeran-Bbang, or Korean Egg Bread. I started by mixing together ¾ c of whole milk with 2 Tbsp of white vinegar and set it off to the side (this is actually making a quick version of buttermilk, which I had no idea this was generally how it’s done). In a different bowl, I added in 1 c flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 3 Tbsp sugar, and ½ tsp salt and mixed it a bit. Then I added in 2 Tbsp of melted butter, 1 egg, and the milk mixture, stirring until the batter was smooth, and there were no lumps. In a muffin pan that I sprayed down with cooking spray, I spooned a little batter in the bottom of the muffin pan and then cracked an egg on top of it before spooning more batter on top of the egg. This was the point where I realized I was not using jumbo muffin pans, but the regular ones. I actually had to use mostly the yolks and less egg whites in order to have enough room to pour the second layer of batter. It worked though. I forgot to sprinkle a little salt on top of each on, but I did top it with a bit of grated cheddar cheese and some chopped chives. I baked these at 400ºF for about 18 minutes, and it was pretty much perfect. I really liked these, but the kids were leery about the egg yolk in the middle. I think these would make great breakfast muffins.

I thought this was amazing. I'd like to try it for real to see how it's meant to be made.

The main dish I made today was Bibimbap. I started this by thinly slicing a seedless cucumber and mixing it with some gochujang sauce and setting it off to the side. Then I brought about 2 c of water to a boil and blanched some spinach for a couple of minutes until it was a bright green color. I drained off all the water and tried to squeeze out as much excess water as I could; I put this in a bowl and stirred in some soy sauce, setting it off to the side as well. In a skillet, I heated a little oil up and sautéed my shredded carrots until they were soft before adding in some minced garlic and added in the cucumbers (I intentionally left out the additional red pepper flakes because my family is sadly full of wimps). I put all of this in a bowl and set everything off to the side. (Are you seeing a pattern?) I started steaming my rice at this point. Now, I thinly sliced my beef top round steak and sautéed it until it was well done and removed it to a separate bowl. And now it was time to fry the eggs. The actual recipe calls to fry the eggs on one side only so that the yolk is still runny (over easy), but no one in my family likes eggs like that, so I fried them hard. Finally to put this all together, I put some of the cooked rice in a bowl, then topped it with the spinach mixture, added in a few pieces of the beef, and then topped with the cucumber-carrot mixture before topping with a fried egg. Then I drizzled a little sesame oil on top of it and sprinkled it with some sesame seeds (all I had was the black sesame seed, which always look like fleas). My beef tasted good but got tough for some reason. And I had to reheat everything once I was ready to dip up. Otherwise, it was really good. I think there were too many ingredients for my son to really like it. But my daughter and I ate it up. 

Not quite what I thought, maybe it just needs a little salt.

Finally, to go with this I made Sigeumchi-namul, or Korean spinach. Again, I blanched the spinach by adding it to some boiling water for a few minutes until it turned a bright green color and removing it. I tried to squeeze out as much water as I could and put it in a bowl. I mixed in some minced garlic, green onion, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. It almost seems like the spinach part of the bibimbap, but just by itself. I think it’ll make a good side dish recipe for those times when you’re in a hurry. [NOTE: I was also going to make a fried kimchi patty, but I had a hard time finding kimchi. And as I learned not all Asian stores are the same, and not all kimchi is the same. I stopped by what turned out to be a Burmese store, and Burmese kimchi is NOT the same as Korean kimchi. So, I passed on this dish for now.]

This was fantastic. I'll definitely order this again. I'm such a fan of noodles in general, and this met my expectations. Well done!
One of the big changes I made this year was leaving my corporate advertising sales job for a smaller software company that works with nonprofits. It was the best move I’ve ever made. I finally feel that I’m using my skills and strengths, and the people I work with are fantastic. One of the traditions they apparently have is going to eat Korean food on the work day before Christmas Eve, which was Friday. I realized I’ve had Korean friends make food for me (it was when I first learned that Korean chopsticks are flat and not round like Japanese ones), but I’ve never been to a Korean restaurant. I ordered Chop-chae, a dish similar to bibimbap but with what’s called glass noodles. It was absolutely wonderful. I’m not sure why I’ve never been there before. But I think it’s the best Christmas tradition I’ve ever heard of. I’m glad I’ve found my people.

Up next: South Sudan

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Evidence of music in Korea dates back nearly a thousand years. A historical text dating around 1145AD mentioned two different stringed instruments. And like many cultures, their traditional music was generally divided between court music (also known as Jeongak, "orthodox music") and the people's music (or, Minsokak). The court music was for the people at the top: government officials, top generals of the military, other important and/or wealthy people and performed at banquets, official functions, or military processions. Whereas, the people's music was for the merchants, people who made things, and farmers -- the regular people. This is also the category that included folk songs (minyo). One of the most famous folk songs for both North and South Korea is called "Arirang." Pansori is a type of storytelling, performed by a soloist accompanied by a drummer; this art was recognized as one of the UNESCO's Intangible Heritage of Humanity back in 2003.  

When the Japanese took control over Korea during the early part of the 20th century, they did not really impose their own music (called gagaku in Japanese). However, they pushed for more European classical art music, which was a favorite of both the Japanese and Korean elite class. Although Kugak (Korean traditional music) was not particularly pushed or encouraged as a cultural art form, it wasn't necessarily discouraged either. Instead of dying off, it merely merged with Western music styles and adapted itself to it. Music did remain fairly divided between Western-style for the elites and traditional for the common class.


Dance has been a part of Korean culture since its earliest times. Although people from all walks of life participated in traditional dancing, there are a few dances that were designated as holding a higher status and generally performed in the courts. These include the famous Fan Dance (“Buchae Chum”), Entertainer Dance (“Oudong”), Monk Dance (“Seung Mu”), the Ghost Dance, and the Hermit Dance. Traditional dance fell to the wayside a bit during the Japanese occupation when they suppressed many parts of Korean culture. However, cultural dances have made a comeback in popularity and appreciation.


I found quite a few bands to listen through this past week. To my 13-year-old daughter’s delight, there were quite a few K-pop bands in my list. K-pop has somehow become quite popular among American teenagers. I think it has more of an American appeal with its borrowings from hip-hop and EDM in comparison to J-pop from Japan. I think there are many of these bands that sound kind of similar (like how I thought of all the boy band of the 1990s) – and for some reason (probably marketing), they like to capitalize their band names. BTS is probably the most internationally well known band, but I also listened to SUPER JUNIOR, SHINee, INFINITE, TWICE, EXO, BIGBANG, and TVXG!.

The Geeks

I listened to a few rock bands as well. I found some that range from kind of alt/hard rock like Sinawe to more punk bands like Crying Nut, No Brain, and The Geeks. The Geeks seem to be more hardcore punk and sometimes remind me of Guitar Wolf or Misfits at times. I anticipate listening to more of them this week.

I also found a couple of Korean hip-hop artists. The first one I listened to was Seotaiji and Boys, which reminds me a little of a Korean version of Cypress Hill in one song, but other songs seem to borrow from some old school punk. I kind of like them. The other one I listened to was Rain. His style leans more toward R&B, but he also made it internationally as well. I remember hearing his name pop up about ten years ago or so. It’s pretty catchy stuff.

Up next: the food

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


For the most part, the art of both North Korea and South Korea share a common history. Granted, different kingdoms throughout its history had their own identity and styles, but generally speaking, it was pretty similar between them.


The earliest form of art was in clay pottery. A number of different techniques were used to create a variety of effects. One notable technique was called Juelman-style pottery, where the pots formed a rounded cone at the bottom and was decorated with a comb pattern.


Bronze was the first metal Koreans began to work with. Although it was originally imported into Korea, it didn’t take long for them to learn how to do it themselves. Soon they were using bronze to make daggers, swords, and other weapons as well as bells, rattles, and beads that were used in rituals and ceremonies.


Although the Chinese created celadon pottery, the Koreans perfected it. The unique greenish hue was created from using a special glaze over the pottery and lowering the oxygen levels during the firing process in the kiln. (There’s a trucking company in Indianapolis called Celadon, and I think they really missed out on using that green color in its logo.)

Like China and Japan, Korean calligraphy was also a highly skilled art. It’s thought that the brushstrokes and the subject matter gave insight into the artist’s personality. Likewise, Korean artists also created art from the paper itself, including papermaking (my sister did papermaking when she studied in Japan), but paper was also used and decorated as wall coverings, screens, and even floor coverings. Paper was also used for making fans, folded figures, and for printing. Paper arts are still a thing today.

By the time the 20th century rolled around, painting was probably the most popular style of art. And following Western art movements, Korean artists began experimenting with abstract art during the 1930s. By the 1960s, artists were using a number of mediums, from oil and ink painting to creating different textures with paint, pencils, and paper. Some of the more prominent painters include Park Seo-Bo (abstract artist, founded Seo-Bo Art and Cultural Foundation), Lee Ufan (minimalist painter and sculptor), Lee Dong-youb (abstract painter in post-modernism), Suh Yongsun (painter and sculptor), Junggeun Oh (minimalism, abstract mixed with realism), and Tschoon Su Kim (painter and professor).

by Suh Yongsun

South Korean literature is primarily written in Korean. Like Japanese, modern Korean literature also uses many borrowed words from English, and probably a few other languages as well.


Early Korean literature was mainly in the form of poetry. Four main types of poems dominated during this time: native songs (“hyangga”), special songs/long poems (“pyolgok/changga”), current melodies (“sijo”), and verses (“kasa”). Early fiction began around the 1100s and 1200s, mostly relegated to historical fiction, myths, legends, and folktales. It flourished again during the 1600s and 1700s. The Koreans also carried a tradition of oral literature and drama.


During the 20th century, some Western literature (including the Bible) began being translated into Korean. During the time of Japanese occupation, Japanese literature helped to cultivate modern Korean literary movements. Just after the war and the division of the Koreas, many writers and poets began to go back to more traditional roots of poetry. But by the 1960s, a number of writers began to change their style: modern Western influences shifted their focus to more anti-establishment and addressed concerns regarding the accelerated changes they were seeing in the nation’s modern development.


Some modern authors include Jim Lee (comic book artist/writer), Lee Cheong-jun (wrote over 100 short stories and 13 novels), Miri Yu (novelist, essayist, playwright, writes in her native Japanese), Ku Sang (considered a respected poet), Gong Ji-young (novelist, one of the more well known female writers to emerge in the 1980s), among many more. 


Up next: music and dance

Sunday, December 16, 2018


After college, I was exploring what I would do. I ended up graduating with a non-teaching music degree, so I was limited on choices. But a bachelor’s degree is a bachelor’s degree, right? As a longtime student of Japanese, I naturally started looking at teaching English in Japan but couldn’t find a program right for me at the time. So, I also started looking at South Korea, which was also supposed to also pay well. I did find a school in Busan that I was interested in and almost applied to, but I didn’t have any money to get me there. And then life got in the way.


The term Korea comes from the name Goryeo, a shortened form of Goguryeo, referring to the 5th century kingdom. When the Persians arrived, they pronounced it as Korea, and its spelling was generally accepted as Corea or Korea throughout much of the 19th century. There are actually some who blame Japanese influence for the now-accepted spelling of Korea, claiming they did it so it’ll show up higher in alphabetical order. (You know, if we called it by its Korean name, Han’guk, it’ll show up higher, too.)


South Korea is located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula and one of the few countries that only share a land border with one country. It’s surrounded by Yellow Sea to the west and the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea). South Korea also has several islands, mainly Jeju Island, Ulleung Island, and a number of smaller islands dotted around the mainland. It borders North Korea with the infamous DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). There are actually quite a few DMZs throughout the world, but the Korean one is one of the most militarized on. (Side note: I once dated a Korean guy briefly, and he told me that guys are supposed to serve in the military for two years, either before or after college. While on patrol there, he stepped on a landmine and had to stand perfectly still for eight hours while members of his squad went to get help and come back to defuse the mine. … I once had to wait in a long line at Walmart with a hungry toddler and a baby. I imagine it’s fairly close.) Most of South Korea lies on the same parallel as Nashville, Tennessee, so its climate has four seasons that are similar to most of the Midwestern part of the US.    
An example of the seonbi traditional attire.

Of the three kingdoms that controlled what became the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo was the largest and most militarized. They spent many centuries combating against each other and various Chinese dynasties. However, after the three kingdoms united, it was a generally peaceful time in the region, and trade among several East Asian kingdoms flourished. The time between the 10th and 14th centuries brought along quite a few changes and advancements: invention of the printing press, the expansion of Buddhism, a push for more education (literature, science, philosophy), followed by a Mongol invasion. During the 1500s, the creation of the Hangul writing system spread among the people with the help of the seonbi (ex-noblemen who encouraged learning). The Japanese invaded Korea during the 1600s and with help from the Chinese, they were able to push the Japanese forces back. (This wouldn’t be the last time the Japanese tries to take over Korea, though.) Korea went through a period of isolation during the 1800s but wasn’t able to stay out of global politics when Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945. A few years after the end of WWII, Korea divided itself into North and South because of growing Cold War aggressions from Russia. North Korea was heavily supported by Russia and China, while generally the UN (along with the US on certain matters) supported the South. The conflict ended as a stalemate with 1.2 million fatalities and many families separated. Although initially, South Korea’s economy was wrecked after the conflict, they made significant developments in their infrastructure such as building expressways and subway systems. Their economy grew and stepped onto the international stage when they hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics (this was the one where diver Greg Louganis hit is head on the springboard – it was scary to watch). They also hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this year in Pyeongchang, most notable for the apparent civility between North Korean and South Korean heads of state.


Located in the northwestern part of the country, the capital city of Seoul is officially known as Seoul Special City. Literally meaning “capital,” Seoul has around 25.6 million people in the metro region (which also includes the large suburb of Incheon and surrounding Gyeonggi province). It’s the home of roughly half of the country’s population and headquarters of many global businesses. In fact, it’s one of the largest metro areas in the world, and its mix of ancient and modern makes it an attractive hotspot for tourism. Although it’s the center of government, education, transportation, media, and commerce/finance, there are many issues the city faces because of its population, namely air pollution and an extreme population density.


South Korea has a high-income economy and is a developed country, with internationally known companies like Kia, Hyundai, LG, and Samsung contributing to this. They’re one of the fastest growing economies and considered one of the Asian Tiger countries (along with Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong). Tourism and transportation (like Korean Air) are high economic drivers as are electronics, energy, and science and engineering (including space exploration, robotics, and biotechnology).

More than half of Koreans don’t identify with any particular religious following. However, that number may also include people who follow indigenous Korean shamanistic beliefs, and some may actually be atheists. Of the theists who are left, most follow Christianity (with more Protestant [mostly Presbyterian] than Catholic), and a smaller number follow Korean Buddhism.


Korean is the official language and is not considered a part of any language family. However, when I started studying Korean as I was preparing to teach there, I found several similarities between it and Japanese, including a few similar words and similar sentence structure. English is the most common foreign language studied in school along with Japanese and Mandarin. 


TIME magazine just released its Person of the Year. But before they make their final decision, they poll their readers for their input. Oddly enough, the readers picked the Korean K-pop group BTS (TIME editors actually picked journalists who were killed for reporting the truth). I first heard of this group from my daughter, whose friends listen to it. I have to admit, they’re kind of catchy, and I see why they’re pretty popular. It’ll be interesting to delve into more of what parts of Korean culture they have exported to the world and what we still don’t know about.


Up next: art and literature