Why you should never leave home without an inflatable globe

For many visitors to a country their interactions with local people form the highlight of their stay, and create their most vivid memories. And of these encounters the ones with children inevitably tug at the heart strings and foster feelings of joy and, too often, sadness and helplessness. It was no different for us in Laos.

In preparation for the trip, I invested in a gimmick that I thought might create some interest with children and adults alike, and might serve as an antidote to feeling the pressure to give to begging kids. I bought an inflatable globe from Amazon. It cost me the grand sum of £5 ($8) including postage and took up no space at all in my pack. As someone who will stare at any world map as if in a trance, I wanted to share my passion with anyone who might be likewise inclined.

Taking the globe had some successes and one spectacular frustration. We stopped at several tribal villages at different parts of our trip. At one stop along the Mekong, we had a crowd of children around us, just staring curiously at these funny looking strangers. This was my first use of the globe. Inflating it created a great deal of interest, and other kids came running to see what the commotion was. For them the sight of this small flat colourful piece of material slowly turning into a big ball was fascinating enough. It was the adults who were then keen to find where Laos was, and then find China and their neighbouring countries. The children were probably not so worried about geography, but were just happy to be in the middle of all the action.

A couple of other encounters followed a similar pattern, with children just curious to see what we were up to, and the adults more interested in seeing their whereabouts on the globe. For those encounters with children who were set on trying to extract a dollar or two from our pockets, this attempt at a decoy was a miserable failure and served as no more than an unwelcome distraction in their quest.

The spectacular frustration? The one time we went for a walk in Luang Prabang and left the globe in the hotel room. We crossed the rickety wooden bridge at the northern end of the town, and a group of five young girls greeted us on the other side. They backoned us to follow them, and as we made our way behind them along narrow paths and through thick vegetation, a couple of them even exchanged a few words of English with us. After about 10 minutes we arrived at a large two-story building, and they proudly announced that this was their school.

Calling us to a doorway, they presented us to a middle-aged man who greeted us with a big smile and welcomed us into his classroom. He was teaching English to a large class of around 40, and invited us to sit on the front row. For the next 10 minutes or so we tried to speak a few words with his class, who ranged from the chatty to the very shy, and I also spoke a little to the teacher. This was not actually a formal class, but he knew a little English and spent his lunchtime with these children sharing that knoweldge with them.

Although it was a lovely experience to sit in the class and see these eager children, we were both frustrated that we could not bring out our inflatable globe for what would surely have been its most successful performance! We left the classroom thanking the teacher for his hospitality and as the children waved us off, we vowed never to leave the globe in the hotel again.

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Freelance travel writer

6 Responses to “Why you should never leave home without an inflatable globe”

  1. Excellent post Andy! That’s a fab idea for travel not only in developing countries but also in places like the US of A. 😉

    January 16, 2010 at 1:05 pm
  2. Shasha #

    I love this post (: I must remember to bring my globe on my travels..

    Thanks for sharing..

    January 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm
  3. Thanks Keith and Shasha. I think the biggest curiosity for the kids was seeing my face get redder and redder as I struggled to inflate the globe. They must have wondered if I was about to pass out!

    January 17, 2010 at 10:08 am
  4. Smita #

    What a fab idea Andy… and great pics. Thanks a lot for sharing this .:)

    January 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm
  5. Great idea!
    I brought photos of NYC with me to Morocco to share with the kids at the orphanage what life is like for me, it proved to be an interesting experiment as well.

    July 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm
  6. Photos are a great tool to engage with kids – never fail to get their interest, esp. if you’re showing other children from other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing the tip Laurie.

    July 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm