Children truly have the power to bring the world closer together and connect hearts regardless of language, culture, or location.
As a female who typically travels solo, it’s often not easy to tell who can be trusted. While some people offering assistance are being helpful and lovely, others have some less than desirable intentions.
I’m Canadian, and my sense is that for the most part if you try to get too involved with random North American kids, especially if you get touchy feely with them, the parents will think you fall somewhere on a spectrum between weird and creepy.
In a lot of countries, though, if you take an interest in people’s kids, you become an honorary family member. This has allowed me to make some amazing connections.
These first two photos are taken in a little popsicle stand of a village in Kazakhstan not far from the Uzbekistan border. I wound up here essentially by accident, and had most of the day to kill before my bus ride onwards.
There was a local family sitting on the next bench over from where I was, and they also ended up being there for most of the day. The kids took an interest in me pretty quickly, and I was soon utterly infatuated with them.
The parents were happy as clams that I was tending to the kids all day. None of them spoke a word of English and I didn’t speak a word of Kazakh, but we had a grand old time. The two boys were enthralled by my backpack, while the girl was fascinated by my guidebook.
For that day, we were family. It turned out to be one of my best days of the trip.
The above picture is taken in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, where I was waiting to take a ferry over to Egypt. I was having fun making faces at the kids while a couple of ladies (mother and auntie?) wearing niqabs sat nearby watching over them. When I got out my camera, the girl turned shy and started to walk back towards her mom. Mom got up and shooed the little girl back towards me so she could have her picture taken, and then cheered the kids on as I was positioning us to snap the picture.
Not exactly the scary niqab-wearing Muslim women some governments act so frightened of — just a lovely human being who appreciated that some random white chick was taking an interest in her kids.
This lovely little lady in the picture above became my friend on a train journey from Mumbai to Goa in India. Her dad spoke a bit of English, but she didn’t, and she was quite insistent that he play translator for her. I don’t think that was necessarily his preferred way to spend the morning, but on the other hand both parents seemed quite thrilled that I was giving her attention.
I don’t have an accompanying photo for this story, but I was in the Vietnamese city of Hue waiting to catch a train to Ho Chi Minh City. I started playing with a cute little boy, and his family was just over the moon with this. The little one started to get either bored or tired, but the family were having none of that; they wanted him to keep playing with me. When my departure time arrived and I wasn’t certain which train and which car to get on, they got me sorted. Through all of this, we didn’t understand a word each other was saying.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But in my experience, the best way to connect a whole bunch of hearts in a whole bunch of different places is through the kids.
Maybe there would be a lot less anger in the world if we could see things the way kids do and focus on how similar we are rather than how different we might think we are. We’re all far more the same than we are different, and connecting through kids makes it easier to see that.
Imagine that, a world where our sameness was the most important thing.