Child's play

Updated : 2014-01-17

By ( chinadaily.com.cn )

Later we walked back "the long way" to the big store for some fruit drinks, and I learned that William's father caught fish for a living and Angie's mom ran the general store. Half of them knew Russian words, including some they didn't learn in any classroom. They had all been on airplanes - that's how you get out of a remote Arctic village for supplies - but only Joe had been on "a big one with no propellers". He was a year older than the others, and he had also killed some kind of deer - an elk, he's pretty sure - and he re-enacted this drama with gusto.

Most of his chums were rolling their eyes and teasing. They had heard the mighty hunter's tale before.

Later, he drew me a little away from the girls in the group and asked if I have "made pee-pee outside" here yet. "You have to walk backward into the wind," he said seriously, "and it will freeze before it hits the ground."

This is not information you get from even the most well-informed adults.

I met an equally lively group of youngsters in Istanbul back in 2006. After daring each other for a few minutes to approach me outside the Topkapi Palace, the bravest shouted the inevitable "Where are you from?" and we were all immediately best friends. There was nothing to see in the palace but old clothes and jewels, they assured me, though the swords were cool.

After a good chat, a teacher that I'd seen hovering in the background called them away, and we said our goodbyes. I asked their names, and the most outspoken boy shouted something I didn't quite understand.

"Brock?" I asked, puzzled.

He gave me that look that means, Why are grown-ups so dumb?, and repeated his name slowly enough for an idiot to grasp.

I quickly apologized and thanked him for teaching me something.

"I'm sorry," I said back on that summer day in 2006. "But 'Barack' is not a name that is very familiar to Americans."