Friday, September 12, 2014

Reduced Price Globe Trotting

Liza & Amelia mix up a batch of Holland jodenkoeken cookies
Let's face it--chances are most of us will never be able to send our children around the globe to see the seven wonders of the world found in history books.  One or two countries?  Maybe...hopefully.  A whole European vacation?  Not unless they become nomadic gypsies in their twenties.

The good news is our precious darlings will never become monument-destroying vacationers like the Grizwold family in the epic National Lampoon sagas.  The problem, however, is that an all-American-all-the-time life tends to make our families myopic to the point where we can't see beyond our front doorstep. 

Our family's dilemma with a purely American-centric lifestyle was two-fold, one educational and one spiritual.  First, how can you stretch your children's imaginations when they don't have a framework for imagining different--I mean really different, as in something you've never been introduced to before and could never dream upon your own, not different like "The kid sitting next to me in class is weird."  Secondly, how can you pray for those people in anything more than generic terms if you know nothing about them?

With these goals in mind, five months ago,our family began a tour of the globe, all without the expense of five passports.  The only thing it cost this mother is time.

Thirteen countries later, my children's imaginations have exploded. 

Australia, Mexico, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Madagascar, Canada, India, Holland, and China.

Each week, I raze our local library, always leaving with a heavy bag full of books (and sometimes a video). The librarians behind the help desk know me by name now, a few of them not even asking before they look to see which books I've requested to be sent over from the other branches.

Some are fictional stories from the particular country we're studying or are written by an author who lives there.  Others are stories all children in that country would know from birth. Then, there are those nonfiction tomes we use as picture books, giving us a glimpse into their cities, houses, and places of worship.  My children like best those fiction stories written about an actual event, always asking, "Is that real?" when I finish the last page.

 Books & old VBS dragon decoration from China week

Through many a glossy page, we have learned about the lemurs of Madagascar and the crazed "tulip mania" in 1600s Holland.  We've read about an Indian Cinderella who looked nothing like the Disney version (and who had a talking cobra as a fairy godmother), a trio of brothers who created the first kite company in China, animals who live on each "floor" of the dense Brazilian rainforests, and migrant workers who come to America on visas from Mexico.

With weekly trips to the library, that great big world out there has grown much smaller.

My kitchen has also changed dramatically over the past five months, especially my spice cabinet.  Trips to the grocery store have proven the most difficult part of this project, as I make loops around the store scouring the rows for ingredients not even the stock boys know where are located.

Usually, only Thursday night is international cooking night, although some weeks, we eat two different meals from a particular country.  The children are responsible for cooking the dessert because honestly, what's more fun than cooking with sugar?
Emerson and Wyatt poke almonds into Chinese almond cakes
Amelia tastes German pretzel

 Wyatt rolls out naan bread from India

As you might expect (especially since my children are ages 6 and 8), some weeks are a success and others are a Great. BIG. Flop.  Except for the tandoori chicken, India is the number one flop so far.  Hong Kong is a close second.  Germany, Canada, and Italy, however, ended with not one uneaten crumb in my fridge.  The one rule of international night is that every family member must taste everything, even if it's just one bite.  Amelia has "fixed" several foods with an unhealthy dose of ketchup and turned her nose up at dozens more.  But overall, the whole family's palate has expanded, and we've even found some new loves.

Sausage and applesauce will forevermore be served together in the Dorhauer household thanks to Germany week.  Madagascar's bonbon voanjo (peanut candy), India's naan bread, Sweden's lingonberry jelly, and Holland's erwtensoep (pea & potato soup) will gladly grace our table again. 

The end result of all this fun is that the children (and their mother) have become more conscious of their place in this world and when they pray, they now have an image in their mind of people from around the world. Plus, they know exactly what to pray for.

Their prayer requests often mention a specific thing we learned such as when Emerson said, "Pray for the people of India to not worship the river and to drink the same water they take a bath in" or when one child asked for us to pray for the people of China to not worship the statue of Buddha.

There have been so many small blessings to show me the impact this project has had on their thinking.  The children's imaginary play now includes traveling to other countries.  Amelia has taken to reading labels to see where things are made.  ("It's made in China!" she happily shrieked of one toy.)  Then, there was the day Amelia came running so excitedly off the school bus to tell me there was a new girl, Eileen, in her class FROM CHINA and that the teacher sat the girl by her so Amelia could help teach her to speak English!!! 

But perhaps the most telling statement came when I made an offhand comment about something being weird.  My oldest, Wyatt, was quick to correct me.  "It's not weird, mommy.  Just different."

I ruffled his hair and knew all the hours I'd put into this project thus far were all worth it.

Yes.  Not weird.  Just different.
Amelia makes Scripture-stuffed fortune cookies 
(yeah, not technically Chinese but a trend started by a 
Chinese or Japanese immigrant to America)