If you want to REALLY see a country, how do you do that? It’s not easy to see what a place or its people or life is like from a hotel balcony. How do you do it then? Here’s one way that worked for us.
In our family, magic has done a few very special things.
1. A few years ago, it turned our shy 13 year old eldest into a confident, funny young man.
2. It travelled with us through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Thailand, allowing us access in a small but very privileged way into the lives of the people who lived there.
3. It’s gotten our eldest his first job.
Adam is now 16. He became interested in card magic a few years ago. We didn’t see him for a very long time. I thought he’d maybe moved house. But he’d shut himself away in his room practising movements and sleight of hand tricks….. and then practising some more. He started to play the piano to strengthen his fingers. No lessons, just playing. Better than me who had years of lessons. It was serious stuff.
He got pretty good at the magic. Mum’s bias I thought. And then that magic came with us in the campervan as we set off on a year of family travelling. It’s probably one of the best things we took with us.
We wanted to see as much of the real Greece or Morocco or Spain or Austria as we could. We wanted to get to know people in a country as much as the country itself. What they ate, how they cooked, how they viewed the world, their religion, things that made them happy or sad.
I teach English as a foreign language so am very lucky to have friends in lots of unusual places. Like Serbia and rural Italy and Thailand and the desert of Abu Dhabi. Lovely friends, who by virtue of living there, have already made inroads into local life, or who had lived there all their lives themselves. To them all we are eternally grateful.
That was the start. And then it was over to card tricks and magic to skirt round language barriers and cultural differences. Within an hour of sharing a meal with strangers, say middle aged Berber ladies in the south of Morocco, Adam had them covering their faces with their veils to stop the “signals” getting through and offering their daughters in marriage.
The same happened with kids in the desert, or friends of friends in Austria, or restaurant owners in Spain.
It’s not just a mum thing any more. He really is very good. We came home a couple of months ago and Adam got in touch with a local English language newspaper.
In return for placing an advert about magic shows every month he writes an article about what’s on in the local area. He’s become the font of all things happening in our house. If it’s happening in the area he knows about it.
Sometimes you want to thank people for having you. For a teenager with no money (for now) magic was also the perfect way to do so.
And then we added in a Rubik’s cube challenge. I am the slowest in the family. But I have progressed, from 2 months to 2 minutes. Adam is the fastest at 32 seconds. Like the piano, it made his fingers faster for the magic. It’s a bit addictive and the family rankings changed as the journey progressed. I remain the slowest but competition is tough in our house.
It was a great way for our kids to get to know local kids. Or for us to strike up a conversation with the person on the train next to us. Or shepherds who came up full of curiosity to the van in rural Morocco. No words required.
Magic and Rubik’s cubes. The perfect icebreakers. Anywhere.