Doesn’t it always seem to be the case that you learn to appreciate something once it’s gone? With my kids in school now, I find myself reminiscing about my early childhood, much of which was spent in South Korea. It was an experience that years later I’ve come to realize I took totally for granted. As an elementary student I remember going to Korean culture class was part of the curriculum. Back then I thought nothing of it. In middle school I had to take gym but had the option also of learning hapkido or tae kwon do. Field trips were always a real adventure too. Little did I know that bus trip to the DMZ meant visiting one of the most dangerous and militarized borders in the world. (Talk about a teachable moment.) The feeling of having a North Korean soldier stare right through you is something you never forget.
Looking back I think how fortunate I was to learn about different people and places by living it. I would love to afford my children the same opportunity but know moving to another country isn’t in the cards. Luckily, we live in Northern Virginia, a place rich in diversity. This has made exposing my kids to other faraway places possible without having to pack up.
Here are some ways I’ve been able to use where we live and resources at home to bring other worlds to them.
• Local Events: From the annual Lunar New Year events at Fair Oaks Mall to the Heritage India Festival in Chantilly, Northern Virginia plays host to many cultural events throughout the year. We constantly check local calendars to see what celebrations are coming up.
• International Dining: Did you know that Herndon is home to 200 restaurants representing 27 countries? Herndoncuisine.com has a world map that shows you where in the city to get the ethnic food you’re craving or wanting to try.
• Cooking: My daughter recently took a class at Cookology at Dulles Town Center and learned how to make potato leek soup. The comfort dish from Ireland was perfect to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Irish tradition. Cookology has several classes throughout the month, which include learning to cook international foods.
• Reading: There are so many wonderful books that teach young ones about different cultures in a fun and engaging way. One of our favorites is At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin. The book takes you on an adventure to different time zones to see what is happening at the same time around the world. Reading Is Fundamental (rif.org) has list of dozens of books that focus on multiculturalism and diversity.
• Little Passports: We subscribe to Little Passports ($11.95/month). Every month the kids get letters, stickers, activities and a recipe from a different country to put in their Little Passports suitcase. It sparks conversation about the country, and it’s fun marking it on our big map with our push-pin stickers.