I got home yesterday to see a map of the USA sprawled on my bed. The map was part of an old edition of the National Geographic magazine. The last copy of the magazine was received over 2 years ago. I could not renew my annual subscription after the last one ended. The reason, upon inquiring from National Geographic Society was that they no longer mail their National Geographic and other magazines to Nigeria directly. I was advised to direct my subscription to a USA address from where the monthly magazine can then be re-mailed to me. As we Nigerians will respond to these type of issues, I said to my self, “These American people self. …, is it a given that everybody must have a friend, relation or an acquaintance in the USA?” And so, I no longer receive my monthly brown envelope containing the treasure throve of the National Geographic. The skies did not fall, neither did the earth stop rotating when National Geographic stopped sending me their magazines. Not that we (my kids and I) expect or want our terrestrial globe to suffer such unimaginable catastrophe anyway. But Oh, how we (the kids, I and the entire household) love that magazine.
And so, our touring the world and places with the ever enchanting and unrivalled hardcopy pictures from National Geographic was sent into limbo. And so, “the difussion of geographic knowledge … ” to this lowly family in the Niger Delta using the medium of the National Geographic magazine will be checkmated for a while (or so it seems). The children all love the National Geographic magazine and they all implored me to keep on buying it. I had to explain the reason why they couldn’t get hold of their much loved National Geographic again. Back when I was a child, I recall seeing old copies of the National Geographic used as wallpapers in my grandfather’s rustic old building. Back here in Port Harcourt, I used to patronize the old books sellers, specifically scouting for old copies of National Geographic. Back in my university and later in my early working days, on the few occasions, when I travel to Lagos, I always have a rendezvous with the old books sellers at CMS in Lagos, hunting for old National Geographic magazines. In the early 90s I used to get them from my expatriate co-workers who frequently travel in out of the country. So it was a great setback and more of a loss when National Geographic Society failed to renew my subscription.
And so I had to console myself and the kids. “Well, let’s just wait. May be another day, another time …” I had wanted to write to the NGS about this dilemma, but has never got to doing it until now. Needless to say that my interest began to wane because of this glaring snobbery (or so it seems) from them.
I got back home earlier from work this afternoon having got permission for me to leave the office earlier and prepare for my trip to USA the following day. The boys were driven in shortly afterwards, Just back from schol, indefatigable Willy walked into the bedroom. “Daddy did you see the map of the US? It is very big.” To which I replied, “Yes, I saw it. It came from one of our old copies of the National Geographic magazine.” Relentless, the young chap continued, oblivious of his making a “mess” of his dad’s much needed afternoon reverie. “I know the name of the largest state in USA, the state is Texas.” To which I, his seemingly “knowing-it-all” dad replied, “I think the largest state in the USA is California. Now let’s locate the two states on the map.” Pouring over the map with him, I retorted, “Son, you are right, Texas is actually bigger than California. That is obvious now as we can see from the space, it occupies on the map. Boy you are really smart. Now , I will show you the name of the US state I am travelling to. I will also tell you the name of the city I am travelling to.” Now, you try and fish out the city on the crowded map and show it to me.”
Not long afterwards, an exhilarated voice rang out from the sitting-room. “Daddy, I’ve found it! See it. Duncan! Here is Duncan. Duncan city is not far from Marlowe and Lawton.” To which I replied. Yes. Lawton is a bigger city and I learnt that the Goodyear Tyre company has a big factory there. Marlowe is a town between Duncan and the capital city of the state of Oklahoma – Oklahoma City.
Willy among other things love to read and draw and draw maps. He draw maps of Nigeria (+ the states) and Africa (including the countries). The other time, he came to me and said, “Daddy, I know the name of the largest country in Africa. The country is Sudan.” To which I replied, “I don’t think that Sudan is the largest country now. The country has splitted and there is now another country called Southern Sudan. The map you are looking at is an old one.”
Of course he does as well all the antics and stuffs you will expect from a 10 years old chap.
And so, here I am, keenly watching and waiting for other serendipitous moments with my adventurous kids, before they all fly away. Nay, rather, before we all fly away. Shouldn’t you my friends and I anticipate and watch out for these moments of discovery with our kids before we all fly away?
Talking about serendipity. I was putting finishing touches to this post while waiting to board the flight at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos when the Director of the Nigerian Centre for Space Transport and Propulsion research walked in on me. The cerebral Dr. C A Osheku and I both schooled together at Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife in the 90s. The last time we met was over 18 years ago in Port Harcourt. The world is smaller than you thought. We will meet again. Serendipity.