Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Child of the World

Chris Eboch in Mexico

Today features guest blogger Chris Eboch.

My first clear childhood memories are from Saudi Arabia. We moved there just before my fifth birthday and lived in an American camp for six years while my father worked for the oil company. My classmates were mostly American, but I had friends from Britain, India, and Pakistan. My family camped in the desert and shopped in the nearby Arab town. Santa visited on a camel.

People sometimes tell me I should write about that time, as it must have been fascinating. But to me, it was daily life. It was normal. I remember the laughter when visiting relatives in America and asking where the “sweet” water faucet was – in Saudi Arabia, we only got completely desalinated water through one kitchen faucet; everything else was salty. I didn’t know that was unusual.

Despite taking daily life for granted, I learned early that the whole world was not like my neighborhood. We skied in Austria, went on safari in Africa, slept on a houseboat in Kashmir.

My memories are blurred, fragmented. Gold Buddhas and maimed children in Thailand. Bugs dropping from the ceiling of the outdoor restaurant in Tanzania, and Mom examining one on the end of her spoon. My sole memory from Afghanistan is of bargaining for an embroidered leather purse, which I still have.

I have no memories at all of visiting Greece at age 6, but apparently I hung on every word of our elderly British tour guide. I’ve been fascinated by foreign cultures and ancient history ever since.

We moved back to the United States before I started sixth grade, in large part because my mother wanted my brother and me to grow up American. But in some ways, it was too late. I was solidly a child of the world.

I traveled again in my 20s. After college, my best friend and I spent two months in Mexico and Central America, traveling by bus and train. Though Nicole didn’t have my overseas background, she too was fascinated by both the local culture and the ancient Maya. We visited every archaeological site and museum we could find.

That experience eventually inspired me to write my first novel for young people, The Well of Sacrifice, an adventure set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala. The book is used in some schools in the fourth or fifth grade, when they teach the Maya, and teachers have come up with wonderful projects to help kids understand and appreciate that culture.

I traveled a lot in my 20s, especially once my parents moved back to Saudi Arabia, and our family met in a different foreign country every year over the holidays. Every place was special, but one of my favorites was Egypt, which had fascinated me since learning about King Tut in grade school. That led to extensive research and, eventually, my middle grade mystery, The Eyes of Pharaoh
Making friends at a local outdoor museum in Egypt

Books are a wonderful way to bridge the gap between here and there, now and then, and I’m proud I’ve been able to share my love of other cultures with kids. We're not all so lucky as to travel the world as children, or as adults. But we can open our minds and hearts to other cultures through literature. We can learn that the world is a wide and wonderful place, and that all the differences between people don’t have separate us.

Do you have favorite books that have transported you to another place? Have they changed your view of the world?

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Download lesson plans for each at http://www.chriseboch.com/events.htm. Her book Advanced Plotting helps writers fine-tune their plots. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com.

Interested in guest blogging? Please read the "Guest Blogging" page (click the tab above) to learn more.


  1. I can so relate and loved these reflections by Chris.

    I read Wild Swans just before my first work trip into China in 1989, a month after Tienanmen, and this was a fabulous tunnel into the culture for me.

    1. Me, too. I told Chris I'm stealing the phrase, "A Child of the World." It fits so perfectly!

      I don't know that book, Joanna. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  2. I love reading fiction about a place before I visit, as well as travel books. Fiction (contemporary or historical) gives you such different insights.