Little did I know that an airline announcement would have such an impact on me. I took eight flights on Turkish Airlines during “Sheila’s Excellent Adventure” last month. Each time the pilot began a mundane English announcement with “Ladies and gentlemen and dear children,” my heart melted.
What American airline or political policy addresses children? It got me thinking.
America, America. We’re so rich, so advanced? It’s surely backward for our public policy to not focus on the happiness of children.
The children I saw in Kyrgyzstan were so beautiful, especially those in the village of Barskoon near Lake Issyk-Kul, where we stayed for three days. Plus, they looked happy and healthy.
Sure, Kyrgyz children don’t have the benefits of most children who grow up in America. But how many in our country are poverty-stricken and unhappy?
In Barskoon, even little kids seemed free to roam safely, to play outdoors without fear (although I feared the fast cars periodically racing down the one paved street).
From our tiny guest house balcony, I watched a toddler rambling down a dirt road behind a cow. By himself. Humming a tune. His parents weren’t chasing after him, weren’t petrified about some hateful person doing him harm.
“It takes a village” to raise all the children felt true.
Sure, Barskoon felt backward. It’s an old-world place with a subsistence economy.
Our guest house had a modern bathroom, but the toilet would only flush from 7 a.m. till noon, after which water was reserved for agricultural purposes.
Cows and horses meandered everywhere. Early one morning, I wandered down a dirt road with old wooden houses, each with a garden, one after the other on both sides. This was the closest I would ever come to the shtetl where my mother was born in pre-revolutionary Russia, which later became part of the Soviet Union, as Kyrgyzstan also did. The “Soviet time,” as locals refer to it, ended in 1991.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the Kyrgyz children, who look more Asian than European. These two beautiful girls stood shyly on the side of the road where we were walking one afternoon.
Giggling, they came over to Steph and me and handed us each a bouquet of lilacs. One girl smiled, saying “America,” and flashed the peace sign.
This brief encounter was a highlight of my trip to the other side of the world. And the lilacs…they always make me happy.