As a child, there was one book on the shelf that I returned to more frequently than the others. Yet, I could not give the name of it if asked, until now. Children's Guide to Knowledge, printed in 1971, turned forty this year. I thought of it as the book where I learned a house was also called casa. There was a drawing of the Tower of Pisa in some place called Italy . Other than this though, as much as I had made it mine, my memory seemed to hold nothing more of it. So I thought...until this week when I picked it up for the first time in twenty five years. I could not believe what I found.
Well, to start with there were beautiful pictures of things I love: cats, birds, lightning bugs, flowers, trees, languages, and far away places...
Poplar (Pioppo in Italian - I learned while in Pisa) and Sycamore
What I didn't know as a child is that Persian would mean anything to me. One of my best friends, I met ten years ago, is Persian, and besides forgotten French classes in Middle School and High School, my first real life language experience came with him and his family. All the time I was asking and learning words. Oh and the Persian food, I love it.
I never would have imagined I would be standing right here as shown in this sketch , taking my own picture of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The book continues in this way, showing me all of these places that I have stepped foot in the last couple of years. Did I really not remember all of these pages or did I just turn them into my own dreams all of these years? I don't know, but it is strange and startling.
The one image I did recall for whatever reason that is, the Leaning Tower. I would later visit with little interest initially except that I was staying at an apartment just blocks away, why not drop by? This book notes Galileo dropped two objects of different weight from the highest story to prove that both fall with the same speed.
There it is the second thing I remember from this book, Spanish. Six words, one that left an impression, Casa.
This one was a special surprise, as I only spent one night there. Still, I recognized it immediately as Budapest.
Here is Prague listed as the capital of Czechoslovakia. Of course, there is no Czechoslovakia now. The year I graduated High School it became the Czech Republic.
The Eiffel Tower, how did I ever make it to Paris? It all feels like a dream by now. Although in this moment I feel a confidence in myself that I did not have then. I could get a flight, take the train, and stroll again along the Seine like visiting an old friend. Ah but if I did it again, it would be with friends.
OH and I can not even believe how much this drawing matches my photo where I stood to capture my view of the Moulin Rouge!
Oh my gosh and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, I even recognize the trees that match my photographs so many years after this sketch.
Amsterdam! I went to see the channels for myself after missing Venice in Italy. Here I had already seen my first image by the age of five. Is the Children's Guide to Knowledge like my first travel guide? :)
Edinburgh, I now recognize this castle! Apparently I did know about the capital of Scotland way before the spread of Harry Potter.
Some words I actually got to speak while in Krakow!
Some words I spoke in Portugal!
I lost count of how many times I passed this elevator, but could never get a good picture. I seemed to live around it, walked down the stairs on each side, but never went up.
There are more places in this book that I traveled to and there are still more that I have not. I would say there is no way that I would make it to the rest, but I did not think I would see what I have. So, let me list what is left for me to visit according to this old fantastic book:
The Great Pyramid, The Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Palace in Lhasa, Tibet
Bogota, Caracas, Havana, Quito, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro
Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm
Brussels, Zurich, Warsaw, Vienna
Istanbul, Athens, Tirana
Calcutta, Rangoon, Manila, Bangkok, Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong,
It's something to aim for, this list! I am happy with how far I've come, so happy. It will be exciting to look back in ten more years and see where else life took me and what more I experienced. All of my dreams started in a little country town in Iowa, hardly a dot on a map.