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177 Nations of Tasmania - Looking back at 2021, and forward to new horizons in 2022

The change of year is often a time for reflection and taking stock, of reflecting back on the year that was and making plans and resolutions for the New Year. Maybe this is a bit arbitrary in some ways, but I thought it would be a good moment to do this for the 177 Nations of Tasmania podcast.

I started 2021 with a certain degree of cautious optimism about a number of things, and I guess one of those was the amount of progress I would make with the podcast. In terms of finding people to interview, I was definitely overoptimistic, imagining that I would have done 100 by the end of the year ! Although there were perhaps ways I could have been more aggressive or more proactive, I think in hindsight 100 was definitely unrealistic with the resources I had at my disposal.

At times I felt a bit despairing with all the energy and time I was expending and not getting results with people. You can spend weeks chasing up multiple leads which end up falling through or just coming to nothing. But you can't get frustrated or upset about these things, I've realised you just have to keep plugging away, and from time to time you get a bit of luck and gain some momentum. I just think that finding 177 people from such diverse nationalities is never going to be easy or straightforward but it's still worth plugging away.

Although in terms of quantity of interviews, the podcast hasn't progressed as much as I would have liked, in other respects there have been some pleasing achievements which give me reason for optimism about better things in 2022.

First of all, I think I've become more efficient in my process of creating the podcast episodes, although there are still many things to work on, and the quality is better and more consistent I hope. Second, although perhaps this is the most satisfying aspect for me, I've met many interesting and diverse people who I would probably have never encountered if I was doing this project. In the process, I've been able to share their stories and something of their culture, and every time I found I've learnt some interesting fact about each place that I wanted to research further, whether it was Finnish baseball, Hungarian history, Venezuelan cuisine or the Italian influence on Libya. Perhaps wonder I will be able to put all these interesting information into some other format like a book or something.

Despite talking to all these people from such different places and culture influences, I've found I've felt some connection with all of them, and I hope that the listeners do too. I find once you scratch below the surface, you start to see the individual personalities of the people and see them as people, as friends rather than "an Aussie" or "an Asian". Most importantly for me personally has been the direct feedback I've received from my participants after they've heard their episodes. It is a bit nerve-wracking for me sometimes as I'm obviously editing peoples' stories somewhat, but without distorting or altering the meaning of what they've said, and it's always important to me that I'm faithful and respectful of peoples' stories given the trust they've assigned to me. Many people also just don't like the sound of their own voice, so I'm always fearing people won't like the job I've done and sometimes I even feel I didn't do a great job in the interview or I forgot to ask certain things. So, when I get some really nice feedback it's often surprising and very heartening and reminds me that what I'm doing is worth pursuing with. People often share the episodes with friends and family, some of who may not have heard their stories told in this way and put into a somewhat cohesive narrative.

Another positive development has been the increased publicity and audience that has built during the year. I've had some really nice affirming feedback from listeners and organisations who have given me some assistance in finding more nationalities. I also did an interview a few weeks ago with a journalist from SBS, along with Eri and Melika, two of my podcast interviewees, and the story should be online and broadcast on SBS radio in January, with the possibility of a TV story as well. I really hope that this publicity can lead to more engagement with the podcast, and it would be great if I get more people wanting to participate contacting me directly rather than me chasing around so much !

So what are the plans and goals for 2022 ? The first is the same as last year - find more people than the last year ! I'm hoping it gets easier, but I don't think that can be counted on and so I think it's just about plugging away and not getting discouraged. As well as getting a lot more participants from the 133 countries I haven't covered yet, I'd also like to continue tob build on the gradually growing listenership and maybe finding new ways to get the audio stories out there, maybe through some kind of public audio-visual exhibitions.

I'd also really like to organise some kind of event or get-together, perhaps when I hit some particular target ( maybe 50 episodes ? ), bringing as many of the podcast participants together as possible. Of course, it would probably be better once the covid-19 situation is a bit clearer and more settled, as there are a few very old people involved and certainly a few cancer survivors still on medication. But I think it's a nice idea and goal for this year and I'm sure some would be curious to meet some of the other participants. Quite a few have artistic, musical or cooking talents and I'm trying to think how this could be incorporated into a nice event of cultural sharing.

I also have some other ideas I'd like to explore such as maybe using animation to tell some shorter extracts of the storie, but this is just an idea at the moment, along with a book, which I think is probably furrther way. Of course, these things also require money.

Of course, the final thing I'd like to do, and maybe this is a bit of pipe dream, is to either find a way to earn some money from this to make it more sustainable or just to get some funding to cover some costs. I've realised that this is a bit of a barrier to having time to spare to put into doing this podcast, which is a big investment of time, and I have to make money through other means to keep that going.

And finally, too all those supporters who have made it it to the end of this - may you have a a safe and fruitful 2022 !

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