How Kids See the World

My childhood memories of Yemen and Egypt are probably not that different from most other Americans’ childhood memories. From Yemen, I remember the sand box. Popcorn for a snack. My baby sister before she could walk.

Me in an Ethiopian dress.

I do vaguely remember a vacation to Kenya and Egypt. I refused to get on a camel in Egypt. I remember monkeys on the roof of the hotel in Kenya, and searching for hours on safari hoping to see a crocodile–only to be confused when one was apparently spotted, and I lied and said I could see it (was it too far away? Maybe it was a different color than I’d expected?).

My sister got on the camel, but I was having none of that.
I hate mosquito netting now, but as a kid I must have thought it was pretty awesome.

When we moved to Cairo, I was in the second grade, so I remember a lot more. On our first morning there, the light was much brighter than the light in Michigan. The air was dry and a little dusty. My dad and I walked around the neighborhood and he showed me where we would go to church. I was excited to learn that they allowed girls to be altar servers there, and I couldn’t wait to ring those little bells during Mass. (My feelings about religion are so much more complicated now!) On weekends we’d sometimes drive to the Red Sea and go camping and snorkeling, instead of going to Lake Michigan. At school, we had bomb threat drills instead of fire drills. We had khamseen (dust storms) instead of blizzards. I sort of missed the whole New Kids on the Block phenomenon, but I attended an American school and learned all about American culture during our long visits to Michigan every summer.

Sometimes I wonder what Charlotte (and eventually, Willa) will think of all our travels. Will she remember anything about Rome? She will probably remember bits and pieces of Ethiopia, but which parts?

A few days ago, we were driving to the Embassy and there was a herd of goats right in the middle of the busy street up ahead. I heard Charlotte gasp and I turned around to explain it to her. But she was pointing just beyond the goats: “Mama! Look! A PLAYGROUND!”

Last night at dinner, we were discussing a friend’s upcoming trip to Rome and what advice we should give about going there with kids. I asked Charlotte, “Which park in Rome was your favorite?” I expected her to say Villa Borghese or Villa Ada, the two parks where we spent most of our time.

We exploded into laughter when Charlotte responded: “MY favorite part was watching Grandma Karen’s iPad!”

Who knows what memories she’ll have of this time? I think the important thing is that we stay positive so that she will follow our lead. Hopefully, one day she will appreciate this grand adventure and maybe even want the same kind of life as an adult. Or perhaps she will return to America and never want to leave (I mean, have you been there? It’s fantastic). Either way, having kids is an adventure all on its own. I’m not sure it matters where in the world you experience it.

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