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Alex and the Globe

In the autumn of 2007 I met Alex. He was three and was living in London. Alex did not know much about the world. His parents were from far away - as far away as New Zealand - but he hardly knew these places. He only knew he was from north London and identified himself as "a lot of Scottish" - he could not explain why.

I like testing the limits of children. And I love travelling. Therefore I started telling Alex stories about countries and continents: Britain, China, Europe, America. I was showing him countries on Google Earth on my laptop and he was showing them back to me. He seemed to be learning really quickly. I loved his interest in geography and I felt my efforts were being appreciated.

In one thing I underestimated Alex. I thought he was too young to rotate the globe on Google Earth - press the click button with one finger, move the other across the touch-pad of my laptop. But he insisted on doing it and indeed learnt it in five minutes. I played with him for two hours and then he had to go to bed. 

I stayed the night at Alex's house. Early the next morning, when I was still lying on the living room sofa, Alex entered the room with a wide smile and said: "Let's talk about countries!" He might have been interested in turning the globe, or he might have just wanted to play with someone, but for two more hours, the world was again at the centre of our interaction.

I saw Alex a month later. He remembered the names of most of the countries. And more importantly, he had asked his parents to download Google Earth for him, so now he could practice on his own.

I was glad I spent those two days talking about countries with Alex. I told him interesting things about faraway places. However, much more importantly, I passed on to him a spark and gave him a key to getting to know the world. He was only three but had a vision of the entire world. I can imagine what a world-turning future lies ahead of him.

Themes in story:
  • London
  • China
  • touch-pad
  • the living room
  • saw
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