Monday, April 29, 2013

Where In The World?

"Where is Kyrgyzstan?" we asked our friend.

She stood up and took a step to the framed NatGeo map we had hanging on the wall above our table and studied Asia for a moment. Then she pointed to a country just south of Russian, also bordering on China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. We all focused on that part of the world for a moment to get our bearings.

As she sat down, we peppered her with more questions. What was it like? Were there lots of people? Was it mountainous? Was it desert? What language did they speak? What was their religion? When she didn't know the answers, together we discovered them by referring again to the map and some of the other information it offered, then later to the Internet for more answers.

When my husband began his world wide ministry with the ECS Bible Courses (thanks to praying 'The Prayer of Jabez' one too many times!), I finally found the perfect birthday gift for him. This map. With it we could find out where the people he was writing to lived and follow his travels from our dinner table.

What I didn't realize was that we would refer to the map nearly every meal. Living in South America at the time, our children already had a larger than normal world view because many of their classmates came from countries other than Colombia (where we were) and the U.S. (where we were from). 

We learned how far apart Austria and Australia are when two teachers each hailed from one of those countries. My younger daughter's best friend moved to the United Arab Emirates. My other daughter's best friend moved to Venezuela. One son had a friend go back to Texas and another classmate was from Sweden. 

Some conversations arose from opportunities to travel with our family as well. I remember when my 5 year old daughter, taking an interest in maps, placed her hand on an island and said, "'B' What country is that?" 

I answered, "That's the Bahamas." 

"Oh, I've been there," she said as she carefully wrote a "B" on her paper. And she had been there. Our family was flown there by a supporting church for a missionary conference. We would never forget the effects of hurricane Floyd or being served all the lobster we wanted!

The news sent us looking at our map as well--where had that earthquake taken place? What city just had another car bomb go off? Which country was having disputed elections? How were the borders in Europe changing again?

I love to read and I really have a hard time understanding people who say they "hate geography." It's all about people and places and how they intertwine.  So I read books like "Peter the Great: His Life and World" and learned so much about Russia, it's history, geography, and climate that I wrote my husband a nine-page single spaced summary of the book before his trip to St. Petersburg! Of course I told my family about it over many dinner times and we stared at the map open mouthed as we realized how far north he would be.

When we moved back to the states, the people who bought our house, asked us to leave the map for them, so one of our first purchases when we got a house was another map for our eating area wall. We've been privileged to have many visitors from all over the world around our table and they are always delighted to point out where they live. 

I could tell you many more stories of our enhanced family dinner times and exotic and stimulating conversations encouraged simply by putting a map on the wall. Am I saying you should have a map above your table? Not necessarily. I'm just saying that having a flat map on our wall has definitely helped us connect more as a family at mealtimes than a flat screen TV ever could!

What kind of chart or poster would get your family talking?

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If you'd like to get a Conversation Starter question each week night, *like* the Around the Table Facebook page! If you have an idea for a great conversation starting question, you can let me know there, too! I'd love to hear your questions and might even use them in the future!

Linking with these great blogs.


  1. I love looking places up on maps, especially unknown corners of the earth. Now, we even have satellite views on sites like Google maps. It's amazing what you can see, from snow on mountaintops to forests and lakes and even roads and buildings. We supported a boy from Uganada through Compassion International for 10 years. When we learned about his culture and where he lived it became more personal for us.
    Ann @ Christ in the Clouds

    1. Ann, I think maps are great fun, too. How great to support a needy child and care enough to look up his country and culture! Next you'll be visiting!!

  2. How neat. My son has a burden for a country around that country and he plans to do some mission work there. The Lord spoke to him at a very young age. I love this post and it so refreshing to see your hospitality and read about your dinner.

  3. I love when company comes for events!
    New Friend from Friendship Friday.

  4. I miss our map. We had it on a wall before sw

  5. I miss our map!! We had it on a wall before we moved, 5 years ago. We have no wall space in our kitchen where our table is. That is a very good idea. I don't know where some of these countries are...the names are all different. I should study a map!!

    Thanks for linking up over at WholeHearted Home this week. I love the topics on your blog.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Judith. I pray my blog is an encouragement and inspiration to families.

  6. Love this idea. We have an old, out-dated globe in the family room. I love having a map right next to the dining room table. My grandson and I just went through the exercise of finding out the size in area and population of all the states. Great fun.

  7. We have a map next to our kitchen table as well :-) What stories your maps must hold... Thank you for linking up to Mom's Library. I'll be featuring you this week at

    1. Thank you, Crystal! I appreciate the feature. And yes, our map could tell stories. I'm sure yours can too!

  8. We have maps, too! And we spend a lot of time showing Amara where different places are in relationship to us. She found it amazing to find out how far away from southern California New Zealand is. It is fun to see it through her eyes.

  9. Great post! I believe a map will always be a source of conversation.



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