The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

All the embarrassing things I didn’t know…

When I travel, I learn.  How did I not know that the Philippines was a colony of Spain, for a while, and thus has all kinds of cultural connections in that direction?  Spain pops up in the food, the language, the dancing.  At the opening of the teacher conference where I’ve been speaking, I also saw bits of what I think of as Chinese acrobatics in the dancing–and echoes of what we saw in Indonesia, too. 

In Ethiopia, we used to visit a bat cave and walk over the piles of bat scat, while my dad shined a flashlight on the furry blobs.  I thought bats only came out at dusk.  But in the Philippines, we saw giant bats mimicing seed pods that hang from trees.  (Seed pods on left, bats on right.) 

From time to time, as if taking turns–“you go…no, you go”…one left the tree and floated and flapped with its papery, huge wings.

Although I’d heard about the “boat people,” for years, I didn’t know that thousands of people from Vietnam and Cambodia managed to cross a tumble of water and land in the Philippines, where they stayed in a camp and got ready for the next leg of their journey.

I did know that here, as with so many other places I visit, I would find kids learning about the things Lanie cares about–including turning off the lights last night for Earth Hour.  I also knew I would find kids not realizing that they can write about the details of the country where they are growing up.  Not their home country?  As the Icelandic proverb says, keen is the eye of the visitor.

Oh what thrilldom to learn as I wrote with these kids who’ve come from many different countries to use their keen eyes in the Philippines.

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