The kids have to wake up at 7.30 to speak to a school class on the other side of the world. It goes like this, ‘Girls, get up we have a Skype call’.
In our household, the kids don’t wake to an alarm; they haven’t done that for over a year and a half. They wake up when they want to wake up.
I try and wake the girls. I hear ‘Grrr, errr, Mum!!!’ and then there is our son, who is up and perky, sits in his dressing gown in front of the computer.
I say ‘Shouldn’t you put a jumper on? They will be in their school uniforms!’ and he says ‘MUM! Why?’ And I say ‘I don’t know…oh yes I guess you don’t need to’… and he is right. Why does he need to pretend he is not what he is, for my sake?
The girls go to the bathroom and do their hair. They come in bleary eyed. A blip goes ‘blip’ on Skype and a message comes through which says ‘I am the Christmas Daddy helper, the show starts in 8 minutes,’ which makes me laugh, as I was expecting a female teacher.
He says, ‘I am the class assistant, so can you call?’
I reply, ‘Yes ok’ and then I call.
I’m met by a huge, smiling man, who is silently waving and messaging me at the same time. His face beams when he sees our son. His big hand waves in front of the Skype webcam. We can see kids in the background, walking around, trying to see us.
He says, ‘They are trying to peek at the camera.’
‘I know,’ I say.
‘They are excited,’ he says.
It is a magical moment. I think, ‘wow here we are in a chilly, just woken up, household in Italy and there they are in their summer gear, looking at us. Amazing.’
We sit by the computer. We have our atlases, Google map, the kids are ready. Our three blondies stare at a class full of darker-skinned, straight-haired children who are all beaming at the camera. A written message comes up from the ‘Christmas Daddy’ ‘Your kids have very blue eyes!!!’ We laugh.They do.
The teacher with whom I had organized the Mystery Skype appears and she introduces the class and then they are off. The game begins.
This is how a Mystery Skype Works.
Through clever questioning, the kids have to guess where the other country is. So they ask about which hemisphere they are in, and question as to whether they are North, South, East, West. They ask what the kids eat, are the summers really hot? etc. They have to find out where the other kids are.
I love this game. I love it because they love it, they never know who they will meet, and how different the kids will be from them. There is always lots of laughter. Our kids watch the way the other kids get frustrated – one kid bangs a table with his fist. They see different cultures express themselves. Some kids seem rather firey and hot-tempered, others reserved and a bit shy. It is magical really.
‘Are you in France?’ they ask.
‘No,’ our kids reply.
‘What time is it?’ we ask.
‘Are you in Paris?’
We see them fingering the maps at their desks.
‘Do you speak more than one language?’
‘Yes’ (Wow, Mum, they speak two languages! Their English is good!)
Our kids look at their maps.
And so it goes on until one of the other kids says:
‘Are you in Eeetallly?’
‘Sorry?’ (did she say Italy?)
‘Did you say Italy?
‘Yes! We are, are you in…’
(‘Mum’ our son asks, ‘what does that word say there?’ Me, ‘It says
‘Are you in…Thailand?’
Then there is general cheering all round.
Then, what often happens is that their time is up and I hear a bell ring, or they say they have another class that they have to go to and the kids put their chairs under their desks and grab their bags and look like they are off on their day.
I feel a bit sad as I want us to climb inside the computer with our three, like entering Narnia through the cupboard. I want us to hang out with the kids from Thailand, or Budapest or where ever they are from. Because crossing continents is so rich and wonderful and I am grateful to be alive in a time in which I can facilitate this for our kids.
It makes me think…the next step could be to pack our bags and visit every school we have ever Skyped…now there is a thought…perhaps we can hatch a plan…
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