Category: travel

what i know about paris

I’m on my way to Paris.

When you land in France you see French flags flying; they are red, white, and blue, the same colors as our own flag, but their flags have only three stripes and the stripes are up and down, not from side to side, and the colors are backward — blue, white, red, instead of red, white, blue. The street signs and the signs on the buildings are in a different language, the people are talking a different language, and of course the money is different too. It is called “francs.”

You have probably heard some one say, “You look like your father or mother,” but they don’t say that your father or mother looks like you. Well, up the River Seine is the capital and largest city of France, spelled “Paris,” but called “Paree” by the French people. Some call it the most beautiful city i.t.w.W. [in the whole World — tew] People often say some other very beautiful city looks “like Paris,” but they never say Paris looks like any other city.

From A Child’s Geography of the World, by V. M. Hillyer (1929).

what i know about argentina

I’m on my way to Argentina.

We give babies names when they are born, but sometimes when the babies grow up the names do not fit them. “Charles” means “strong” and “Ruth” means “beautiful,” but when Charles grows up he may not be strong, and Ruth may not be beautiful. You never can tell. When white people came to South America to the land south of Brazil they saw Indians there wearing silver bracelets and silver necklaces, and they supposed there must be a great deal of silver in the land, so they names the country “Silver Land,” which in their language is “Argentina.” But Argentina turned out to have very litter silver, yet we still call it Silver Land just the same.

Although Argentina has little silver, the people there have a great deal of money; in fact, they have more money than any other country in South America. They do not get the money out of the ground, but they make it by selling wheat and meat, so it would have been a more fitting name if they had called Argentina “Wheat Land” or “Meat Land” instead of “Silver Land,” but not nearly so pretty. In Argentina there are enormous farms where they grow wheat and corn, and enormous fields called pampas where they raise cattle and sheep. The men that look after these cattle and sheep we should call “cowboys,” but there they are call “gauchos.” Gauchos wear ponchos. A poncho is a kind of square blanket with a hole in the center through which the gaucho sticks his head. He uses it as a coat by day and as a blanket at night. A gaucho always carries a big knife, which he uses as a sword, as a hatchet, or as a table knife.

Corn feeds the cattle. Cattle makes meat and meat makes money. From the skin of the cattle leather is made, and from the wool of sheep cloth is made, and from both money is made.

Argentina is so much like the United States in a great many ways that it is often called the United States of South America. Both countries are alike in this — that they have hot weather part of the time and cold weather part of the time. But there is this big difference: in Argentina they have winter when the United States is having summer, and summer when the United States is having winter. In Argentina Christmas comes in hot weather and snow and ice in July and August. They have flowers and vegetables and vacations in January and February, and snow and ice and sledding and skating in July.

The capital of Argentina is often called the New York of South America, as it is the largest city of South America, as New York is the largest city of North America. Its name, however, is not New York, but “Good Airs,” or, in Spanish, “Buenos Aires.” It is on the Plata River, which is another name that means silver. So we have the city of Good Airs on the Silver River in Silver Land.

In most of the other countries of South America there are many more Indians and Indians mixed with white men than there are white people, but in Argentina most of the people are white. That’s another reason why it is like the United States; but Argentina was settled by people from Spain, not from England, so the people speak Spanish and not English.

From A Child’s Geography of the World, by V. M. Hillyer (1929).

news from the north

You may have read today that Canada passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. The ‘final bill’ passed by a margin of 158 to 133. The stories I read about the process seemed to consider the bill’s final approval a done deal, but an aside at the end of the CBC news clip mentioned needing both approval from the Canadian Senate and “Royal Assent”.

Thus follows an interesting foray into the Wikipedia. It turns out that the Canadian Senate, the upper house of the Canadian parliament, is an appointed body of 105 members. I guess it rarely fails to approve lower-house legislation, deferring to the more democratic body. It’s been since 1991 that they failed to approve a lower-house bill. Apparently, the thing is regarded as something of a boondoggle, and indeed, two of the major political parties up there are calling for its abolition.

I’m generally a fan of upper houses, and their strange customs. The “sober second thought” function of an upper house is great, when properly exercised in a manner I agree with at the time.

When I heard the words “Royal Assent” I got all excited, because I thought that part of the job of the United Kingdom’s Queen was signing bills from Canada. It’s disappointing to learn, instead, that Canada’s got a Governor General who does the bill-signings. Right now, it’s a woman, and guess what her spouse is called? The Canadian Vice Regal Consort, which is possibly the most awesome title you could get by marrying someone appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister.

So not only do Canadian gays get to have a governmental system that’s way more interesting than ours, they also will get to marry each other, assuming the rubber-stamp Senate and the rubber-stamp Governor General rubber-stamp the bill. Way to go, Canada!

floridian notes

My sojurn in Citrus County, Florida is coming to an end.

sun set over king's bay

I’ve seen about a dozen manatees, a 8-foot alligator, and more retirees than you can shake a fist at. One of my favorite things down here is the “Eternity in hell is a long time!” billboard, which never fails to inspire a silent reverie in me, in the context of a holiday visit to my parents.

I’ll be returning to Chicago tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. From a balmy to me, but chilly for Florida, 56 today, it’s supposed to drop down into the 40s here tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll have to declare martial law here, as sweater riots are certain to break out among the snowbirds.

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