Dear Reader, I’m not sure why my blog titles lately have been exclamatory or rhetorical–I must be asking a lot of questions. Actually, I’ve had a habit lately of finding instant answers to questions that pop into my head. For example, today I wondered what the suffix "-stan" means. I don’t mean the name "Stan," ala the dude featured in the tragic Eminem song. I mean the suffix attached to scores of countries and provinces ranging from Pakistan to Kurdistan. I went online tonight and found out that "-stan" is an old Persian root referring to "the place where one stays." Interestingly, modern Persia is named Iran, not Iranstan or Irstan or Perstan. How many "stans" can you name? How about Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan? Or Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan (of Borat fame), Hindustan, Kurdistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Dagestan, or Waziristan? Yes, those are real places. Can you find all of them on a map? If you know a "-stan" I missed, please feel free to post a comment. It would be fun to be feature the ultimate collection of "-stans" from around the world.
I digress. Yes, the Internet is a wonderful information resource, but it doesn’t have the answer to everything. Today I found a map in a musty book on Paraguay (what else?) that depicts what I’ve heard time and again–that Paraguay is about the size of California. The book has a map showing Paraguay superimposed over California. Sure enough, it is about 1/8th smaller than California by land mass. Paraguay, with a population of about 5.7 million, has a far smaller population than California, but it is by no means small. It just seems small because it is wedged between Brazil and Argentina, two countries that are far larger in both size and population. Some call Paraguay a "buffer" state between those rival nations. Perhaps. Imagine if Texas were still independent (Texas was an independent nation during 1836-1845, a fact Texans will proudly tell you). If it were, Texas would surely be a buffer state between the United States of America and the United States of Mexico (some would argue that it in fact a buffer state). Calling Texas a buffer state though would diminish its stature as an large country. The same goes for Paraguay.
I posted the map of Paraguay superimposed over California for your viewing pleasure. Now it’s available on the Internet. Just one more trivial fact that you might enjoy.