Thursday, October 8, 2015

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 this idea. I've always been fascinated with maps and globes and the places they represent.

  2. I love this idea and it reminds me to get our map placemats back out, because they do the same thing!

    1. Lisa, We were just in the Bahamas and the apartment we stayed in had a map placemat of the Bahamas and another of the island we were on. My husband and I looked at them at almost every meal to figure out where we'd been. It was fun.

  3. I like this idea! We've been a lot of places and I have often wanted to pull out a map and explain some geography to a friend!

    1. I have added an offline map app to my tablet so when we travel overseas I can show people where we live, but I find I often refer to it when people talk about a place that I don't know where it is.



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