Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks, Week Eight: Falkland Island

Hey folks! Happy Friday. Here we are with the eighth week of our fictional story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. “Visiting” the Falkland Islands was fun and eye-opening for me (and Annie) and I hope you enjoy it as well. Looking forward to see where we go next! 

Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks 
Week Eight: Falkland Island 
I was officially homesick. Except for Guatemala (which hardly even counts because it’s in Central America) I hadn’t even been on my home continent for seven weeks. And, despite the many emails and Skype calls, I was feeling very distanced from my family. 
The moment I landed on the Falkland Islands and saw the delightfully picturesque landscape I would be thriving in for the next six days I burst into tears. That turned out to be extremely ill-timed because there was a newspaper reporter waiting to get my first reaction (apparently my year of adventure was beginning to pick up speed in the media arena), and I’m pretty sure tears weren’t what he was expecting. 
After my tears turned to mortified laughter, I agreed to answer some questions for an interview after settling into the seaside cottage Sophie had set up for me to stay in. Apparently the reporter already knew about my accommodations and offered to take me there along with Kara, an Exploration Airport personal who had been assigned the role of my tour guide for the week. That was my first indication that this country was a pretty small piece of real-estate. (Actually, I had learned as much while studying in the airplane, but it hadn’t really hit me until I arrived.) 
“Why did you burst into tears?” Jimmy, the reporter, asked after I had changed into fresh clothes and the three of us were sitting around the sitting room drinking tea. He had explained on the drive over that it was actually his day off, but he had wanted to cover my story so had decided to work anyway, although it wasn’t official. The weekly newspaper he worked for was called “The Penguin News” and was the only newspaper on the island. 
I smiled, relieved to have a diplomatic and very honest answer, “I miss my family a lot and when I saw how gorgeous this island is I wished they could be here with me.” I pulled out my notebook and pen. “Would you be alright with this being a joint interview? You can ask me about my adventures and I can ask you about your island?” 
“That sounds dandy.” Jimmy gave a nod. 
I pulled my phone out and clicked on the voice recorder and set it down on the end table. 
“Let’s play a game.” Kara stood in front of us. “I’ll ask a question and the first person to answer it gets a point. Jimmy’s answer needs to be true to the Falkland Islands, and Annie can answer from any country she’s visited this year.” 
Jimmy and I looked at each other. 
“Why not?” Jimmy shrugged. “This could be fun.” 
I laughed, amazed at the easy going and fun attitude. “Okay. Let me set my camera up real quickly. We can use some of the footage on my blog.” 
As soon as I was set up, Kara began asking her questions. “Question number one, What’s the population?” 
“Less than 3,000.” Jimmy and I answered the question in unison. 
“Hey, what country are you answering for?” Jimmy asked. 
“These islands.” I sat up a bit straighter in my chair. “Kara said I could answer for any country I’ve been to this year.” 
Jimmy sat up straighter, too. “We’re ready for the next question, Kara.” 
Seeing Jimmy’s determined pose I suddenly wished I had spent the whole flight over studying instead of breaking it up with a long nap.
“How many sheep are there?” 
That took a moment. “Fourteen million.”
“Five hundred thousand.” 
“What country has fourteen million sheep?” Kara pointed her pencil at me then hovered it above the score sheet she had started. 
“Well, you get the point.” Kara looked impressed. 
Jimmy scowled. 
“How many digits long are the telephone numbers?”
“Five.” Jimmy answered the question before I even had time to begin counting my cell number. 
I ducked my head slightly, conceding. 
“How many different types of penguins breed on the island?” 
“None!” I was so into it I shouted the answer instead of saying it. 
“Five.” Jimmy looked over at me victoriously. 
“Wait a second.” I held up my finger. “Kara said I could answer from any of the countries I’d been to this year. I’m answering for Guatemala, so, therefore, I think I get the point.”
“What about zoos?” Jimmy narrowed his eyes at me. 
I laughed. Jimmy reminded me so much of my younger brother that I couldn’t help but feel like an older and somewhat annoying sister while hanging out with him. “That wasn’t the context of the question and you know it.” 
“Annie wins the point.” Kara sided with me. “Alright, next question, what is one unique feature about the island?”
“There are no chain stores here.” Jimmy’s answer was so prompt there was no doubt that he won. 
“The Falkland Islands are still littered with mines from the last war 1982.” Even though I couldn’t win the point I could still show that I knew something about the islands. Besides, it was an interesting piece of information. 
We continued playing the game for about ten more minutes and by the time we were done we were all laughing and I even had tears in my eyes, good tears this time. Jimmy won, but I had learned an impressive amount of facts, so that was pretty cool. That night I re-watched the video footage and scribbled down some of the facts:
*The islands are about 4,700 square miles big.
*90% of the island claims British birth or descent.
*There are no ATMs on the island, and just one bank.
*There are few trees on the island, and the only trees that do exist have been imported.
*English is the official language, though there is a small number of Spanish speakers. Many people on the island learn Spanish as their second language.
The Falkland Islands are claimed by both Argentina (which they are only 250 miles away from), and the British. Almost 99% of the population consider themselves to be British though, and that fact was pretty evident as I explored the island. The islanders laughed when I asked them about being British and told me if I stopped and thought about it they were more British-y than the British people who lived in England. As strange as that sounded, it made sense. 
Each day we had what they called “smoko” which is a midmorning tea or coffee break, and the the diet reminded me so much of England I could hardly believe we were so far away from Europe and so close to South Amercia. Mutton was part of the staple diet (unsurprising, seeing how many sheep the island hosts) and eggplant, tomatoes, lettuce and other salad greens are popular too. At the snack bars in Stanley I chowed down on fish and chips, mutton burger, sausage rods, pizza and pastries. Plus tea, lots of tea. So very British in every way.
I was excited. Kara and I were going to go see penguins! It took us about two hours Thursday morning to travel to the part of the island where we would get the best experience with them. Then we took four-wheelers over some rough terrain that jolted me enough to make me feel as if I were back in Mongolia or Guatemala. The weather was slightly gray and quite windy, but I enjoyed it an immense amount, snuggled down in the warm clothing I had brought along. 
The strong wind brought the salty smell of the ocean rushing toward me, and I breathed in deeply, each inhale stinging slightly and making me feel quite like an island dweller. 
The islands have a climate and landscape similar to that of the Scottish Shetland Islands with a subArctic climate that hovers around 51 Fahrenheit in the winter months.
The islands have a high humidity rate, and suffer from permanent high winds, keeping the islands relatively frost free and with little or no snow and making me happy for how non-windy it is in the parts of the USA where I grew up. 
The islands coastline is jagged and rocky made up of hundreds of small fjords. I could hardly wait to get to see the fjords. For years I’d wanted to see them because the word sounded so cool, but in reality I wasn’t even sure what they were. I knew they were some kind of natural waterway, but after Kara explained them to me I liked them even better. 
“A fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs that are created by glacial erosion.”
Imagine that. The fjords were beautiful indeed, and I enjoyed standing there, gazing at them, the wind whipping around me, making me feel quite at home and like I could fly away on the wings of my imagination. 
Then I saw the penguins. There were hundreds of them. Cute, waddling, darling little creatures who exhibited a complete lack of fear for Kara and I. I’m nearly sure we could have gone up to them and actually petted them, but we observed the requested distance and gazed at their adorable features from off to the side. 
All in all it was a wonderful week and by the time I left I still missed my family, but between Jimmy and Kara and a host of other thoughtful islanders I felt as if I was leaving some new family behind. 

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