In the past, I have been fortunate to travel to many countries around the world. On these trips, I am always looking for new story ideas and usually take some of my own children's books in English to give to local schools and families. My trip to Africa resulted in several books about African wild animals and two stories about local culture. After returning from Japan, I wrote one children's story about a little Japanese boy's visit to his grandmother and produced a picture book with accompanying haiku for adults. I've given my own children's books to a school in Fiji and to families living in New Zealand, France, Chile, Japan and Tunisia.
I just returned from a trip to Burma and Cambodia full of new ideas for stories. On this three-week trip, I had plenty of opportunity to meet and visit with local people on farms, in cities and small villages. We met people in their homes, fishing on lakes, out in the peanut fields, or along country lanes. Some spoke English, and with others, we conversed through our guide. There were several interesting highlights:
In Rangoon we visited a local family in a small area of the city full of old, traditional wooden houses. Alighting from our bus, we were followed down narrow streets by an excited group of local children and adults to the family's home. We saw their modest house, learned more about their lifestyle and enjoyed tea and sticky rice treats. Out of this experience, I hope to write a story about a child living in such a family.
Further north, we visited a local elementary school and watched children doing their English lesson, listened as they performed a song for us and answered questions about America. I left several of my children's books with various classes, including two of my OTP books, "The Mysterious Case of the Missing Birthday Cake" and "Camouflage." Perhaps this experience will prompt me to write a story about life in a small village.
At another location, I found children selling their own drawings in small packets and purchased several to use as possible illustrations in a book about Burmese folk tales.
As I usually do on such trips, I bought several books in English written for Cambodian children to give to my own grandchildren, so they can learn more about other cultures and places. In reading these books, I learned that while there are obvious differences in culture and life style, many of the stories have some of the same themes and plot lines as those written for American children.
I also learned that Burmese and Cambodian children love to blow kisses.