Fifteen: Locally International


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”  – Marcus Garvey

I made a last-minute shuffle to chaperone my daughter’s field trip today. Her school puts a heavy emphasis on learning on the scene, so it was hardly the first class exploration for them but only the second trip for me. The first trip was to a radio station, so parents and kids were squashed together in confined space. Today, my group of three adventurers would be free to look, smell, taste, touch, and….bolt, if the impulse was there. I was slightly terrified with taking on the responsibility for two other children; yet, somehow I was given the ultimate kid group.

My daughter “I” would stick close to me. I knew she was tickled to have me at a school event, and was well used to pounding the pavement with me on urban adventures. “E” has a French mother and had just visited there over the winter break, so she was a savvy traveler. “C” is also from a multicultural family with a familial connection to China which would prove to be helpful and interesting. We were to travel to the International District/Chinatown in our city and do some shopping.

The bus parked and groups scattered. We set up on a bench and started with a snack. I asked my mini-explorers to find evidence that we were in Chinatown. In between carrot chomping, they pointed to statues and public art. Inside the large Asian market, we did a scavenger hunt for rice, fish, and tea. We bought some nori and I took their photo in front of a Chinese dragon. I found that as long as I kept them asking questions, the kids would surprise me with amazing answers. C told me that when he came to a Chinese gate or an alter, he would bow – to his grandfather who passed away from smoking too many cigarettes, or to someone who passed away that he didn’t know. This five-year-old had a greater ease of the life-death transition than many adults I know. The girls noticed a pig head in a butcher counter and the roasted ducks in a BBQ restaurant. They questioned what someone would actually do with a big old pig head. I realized that they were leading the expedition, and I was but a crossing guard at street intersections. If I stopped my urge to be the tour guide, I would learn a whole lot more from them.

So it should be, right?  Too often, I feel the need to lead or instruct children (especially mine) but the younger set need opportunities to share their knowledge and perspective of the world too.

What have you learned from a child lately?




Altered photo from Flickr Creative Commons, “Dragons” by Ken Bosma

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