Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bon Appetit Mes Enfants

We raised our glasses to travel.

The planning began last week. The girls created a menu and made lists. They consulted cookbooks to help organize their thoughts and then prepared, with no help from me and little from their father, a French meal complete with printed menus, a wine list and creatively delicious food. The significance of this, one day after the Paris attacks, is not lost.  That they started this process long before the attacks happened is perhaps most relevant to me: a meal created not to honor France and the tragedy of Friday but one that reflects the girls' appreciation and understanding of other cultures.

Three years ago we spent two weeks in France, visiting dear friends, traveling to the Normandy coast and baking in the August heat of Paris. The girls were seven and thrown into life in France with a limited net. First they learned to order milk in a restaurant, "lait s'il vous plait". They asked directions and found their way on the Metro. We handed them menus in French and suggested they find a word they understood and go from there.

They ordered their own food, in French (ish), and discovered new things to love (mussels) and things they expected to love and did not (croque monsieur). We did not seek out American restaurants and in fact left one when handed the American menu for children: hot dogs, chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. We did not travel across the ocean to be immersed in American culture.

Traveling opens their minds to places and people beyond what they find in the neighborhood or down the street. Living briefly in another country forces them to the outside and teaches them to adjust to the changes inherent in international travel: new language, culture, currency, customs. And traveling makes places that might be far away seem much closer, especially when one beautiful place is attacked in the most cruel and horrible way.

We will continue to travel, continue to show our children that there is a world outside of Chicago, a world that is almost always good. It is a world that they should see and experience and enjoy; one that will send them back with memories and photographs and not just an appreciation for what they find but also what it means to be home. No terrorists can take that freedom away.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. St. Augustine

1 comment:

Nellie said...

What a special project for your daughters! How fortunate that they have learned at a young age about different cultures!


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