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Zonkeys, rice ATMs, and presidential workouts

Every now and then, I like to brush up on my geography skills just for fun. And since I’ve had some extra free time on my hands lately, I decided to refresh my memory on the countries of the world. Imagine my surprise when I realized, however, one of them had changed its name since the last time I was reviewing countries!

Swaziland, a landlocked country located inside South Africa, apparently changed its name back in 2018, and I completely missed that news. The king of the small nation switched the name to “eSwatini” which still just means “land of the Swazis” so it’s not that different. He said people kept confusing them for Switzerland.

I can only imagine the headache-inducing paperwork involved in changing a country name.

But since I missed that bit of news and since I’ve been very focused on following local and state news lately, I figured it’s time to check in again to see how the rest of the world is doing these days. My search led me to the “world news” section of WRAL’s website, and these are a few interesting things I uncovered:

In Ukraine, wildfires blazing near Chernobyl are finally under control. There was some concern that the fires raging in the “exclusion zone” would get close to the old nuclear power plant and interact with radioactive waste stored there. Reportedly, the first one got as close as a mile away, but more than 400 firefighters worked to reduce the forest fire back down to a smolder.

Over at a national park in Kenya, an animal rescue group reported the birth of a rare baby “zonkey.” The mama zebra, which wasn’t part of a zebra pack, had apparently taken up with a group of cattle for a while and met a very friendly donkey along the way. The zonkey has the body of a donkey and the striped legs of a zebra, though the colors are lighter. The rescue group reported the mama and baby are doing just fine.

Of course, I wasn’t able to find many stories that didn’t relate in some way to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there were a few “feel-good” stories about people persevering in the wake of these strange circumstances we find ourselves in all around the world.

Citizens of Vietnam find themselves, like those in many other countries, facing hardship following the shut down of businesses. But many have donated to set up “rice ATMs” in order to distribute the food to people who are out of work and need it. You just bring your bag, wait in a socially distanced line, and then fill it up. Cool idea!

A Facebook page in Australia, which began as a joke, sparked a trend not only in that country, but around the world. The “Bin Isolation Outing” Facebook page encourages people to post pictures or videos of themselves taking their trash cans to the road in fun or funny outfits. It’s just a way to feel like you’re leaving the house without actually leaving the house. One lady even reported she wore her swimsuit just so she could “take it out for a spin” after her vacation was canceled.

The 75-year-old president of Uganda decided to encourage the citizens of his country to follow stay-at-home orders by releasing his own home workout video. The video shows him running in his office and doing several pushups. He said he wanted to demonstrate how people can still exercise and remain safe at the same time.

Lastly, a very sweet story out of a garden in Yorkshire, England that will put a smile on anyone’s face. Tom Moore, a British veteran who will turn 100 later this month, raised $6 million for the country’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps around his garden (10 laps per day), using his walker as he recovers from a partial hip replacement. His original goal was just 1,000 Euros (or roughly $1,200), but he exceeded that amount just in the first day.

Even in the midst of crisis, the world keeps turning.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.