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Old 07-27-2004, 02:46 AM
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Question Mark And Baby Makes 178

The Narsinganna family eats in shifts; there are 178 of them living under two roofs.

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The Narsinganna's annual household budget is about 1.2 million rupees (£150,000) while a further 300,000 rupees (£3,750) is spent on clothing, medicines and farm labour.

Annually they consume about 1,320,000lb of millet and 33,000lb of wheat in addition to vegetables produced from 15 acres of land.
It's an extended family on a scale I have never conceived of and it interests me as much as it makes me highly uncomfortable. The expiring tradition it represents, the collectivist underpinnings, the tightly-knit social network, the near self-sufficiency of production and consumption: I find these appealing on one level or another.

The fate of the women in the family, however, gives me chills. They work - and damn hard - from early childhood on. They are intentionally limited by the demands of their roles.

Quote:
"Cooking and housework is all that we know," Saraswati, the family's oldest woman, said resignedly.

The younger girls, before they graduate to cooking at between 10-12 years old, serve the men, who eat first.
Female subservience is essential to the entire family structure, according to one the men quoted.

Quote:
Other family members indicated that the womenfolk had kept them together and consequently brides of around 15 years of age who had not studied beyond the fifth or sixth grade were preferred.

Keeping the women "under control" ensured harmony in this unique joint family; giving them "undue freedom" could spell ruination, a senior Narsinganna pointed out.
A couple of thoughts I had was that first and foremost, a quick article describing a woman as speaking resignedly is obviously not the whole story. The keeping women "under control" comment could be more proscriptive than descriptive of the way the dynamics actually work.

Also, I'd like to know more about how the oldest members of the family fit into the picture. I'm sure they're taken care of, but is there a retirement threshhold? I mean, do these women cook until they can't anymore? What about the men? What kinds of work do they do?

I find the idea of the extended family fascinating - my own intensely nuclear upbringing might have something to do with that - but the ones I knew in Italy numbered 10 people at most, and that was under 2 roofs.

Anyway, I'm going to look around a little more, but I wanted to post it first to see if anyone else found it as interesting as I do.
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Old 07-27-2004, 02:59 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Gaak! And I thought it was bad growing up sharing a bedroom with my two brothers and two sisters. Sheesh.


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Old 07-27-2004, 07:44 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Give even one of them a Playstation2 and the whole dang collective would come crashing to the ground.

As an only child, I would second Warren's "Gaak!" and only add:

YAAArrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrGH!!!
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Old 07-27-2004, 08:00 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

That is so unspeakably disgusting, that I cannot even conceive of words in any language to describe it.
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Old 07-27-2004, 09:48 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

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Originally Posted by Goliath
That is so unspeakably disgusting, that I cannot even conceive of words in any language to describe it.
Have you tried "Yargh"?

Works for me.

Get in a goodly deep breath aforehand, though.
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Old 07-27-2004, 12:30 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
That is so unspeakably disgusting, that I cannot even conceive of words in any language to describe it.
Hi Goliath,

I was wondering why you found this article to be so abhorrent?
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Old 07-27-2004, 12:32 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronin
Give even one of them a Playstation2 and the whole dang collective would come crashing to the ground.
...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
That is so unspeakably disgusting, that I cannot even conceive of words in any language to describe it.
:wink: This is what happens when someone slips in a reply after the message you're replying to!

[can I not do a horizontal rule
or [hr] on this board?]

The older women probably get retired from cooking duties and some point and do sewing (the article mentions 20 bales of cloth). Additionally I think this kind of overwhelming patriarchal structure requires some matriarchal work too - some of the senior women will keep the younger women in control. Just as older women promote female circumcision in northern African countries.

The men must be responsible for the farming? I'm sure they get to sit on their arses doing nothing more than the women do, but I'm sure they have some work.

Could this kind of communal living work without gender unfairness? Would it be so horrifying then?

Separately, could it work with full education for all?
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Old 07-27-2004, 01:25 PM
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Question Mark Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by peer
Hi Goliath,

I was wondering why you found this article to be so abhorrent?
Me too. (Hi peer! :)) As I said in my OP, it's disconcerting and disturbing in several ways, but I see advantages to such a family structure as well.

Is it picturing yourself in that situation that repulses you so, or the gender inequality, or the plain fact of so many people living together, or all of the above and more?
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Old 07-27-2004, 01:45 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeP
[can I not do a horizontal rule
or [hr] on this board?]
HTML is disabled and I think vm tried to make an hr in BBcode but wasn't able to get it working. I'm sure now that you've asked he'll give it another shot.

Quote:
The older women probably get retired from cooking duties and some point and do sewing (the article mentions 20 bales of cloth).
That makes sense, although I would think with eyesight failure and joint problems sewing could suck pretty hard too. I just wonder if at any point the work is simply done for those who've done it all their lives.

Quote:
Additionally I think this kind of overwhelming patriarchal structure requires some matriarchal work too - some of the senior women will keep the younger women in control. Just as older women promote female circumcision in northern African countries.
Very good point. The men aren't oberseers standing around cracking whips to make the reluctant womenfolk cook faster; the women have to be vested here too.

Quote:
The men must be responsible for the farming? I'm sure they get to sit on their arses doing nothing more than the women do, but I'm sure they have some work.
I figured they must do a great deal of farming since they produce their own (huge amounts of) food. The article mentioned they hire farm hands as well, so clearly there's plenty of work to go around. I was curious if that was the only work they did. How do they make money to buy the 20 bales of cloth or pay the farmhands?

Quote:
Could this kind of communal living work without gender unfairness? ...

Separately, could it work with full education for all?
Good questions. I want to say yes to both. After all, this is only one particularly large example of an extended family structure. There are many different kinds out there. Off to do more research I go. :)
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Old 07-28-2004, 07:36 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by peer
Hi Goliath,

I was wondering why you found this article to be so abhorrent?
Well, for one because, as liv said, female subservience seems to be mandated within this disgustingly large family.

But the main reason is that it's unbelievably irresponsible to have so many children in this day and age. I just wanna pick these people up, shake them and scream "EITHER GET SOME BIRTH CONTROL OR SEW YOUR FUCKING LEGS TOGETHER!!!"

I personally don't understand why anyone would want to have even one child. I mean, they seem to be nothing nothing but crying, vomiting, pissing shit factories. However, to have child after child after child is not only excruciatingly irresponsible, but extremely unhealthy.
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Old 07-28-2004, 08:13 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus
I figured they must do a great deal of farming since they produce their own (huge amounts of) food. The article mentioned they hire farm hands as well, so clearly there's plenty of work to go around. I was curious if that was the only work they did. How do they make money to buy the 20 bales of cloth or pay the farmhands?
They take it out in trade?


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Old 07-28-2004, 04:20 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
Well, for one because, as liv said, female subservience seems to be mandated within this disgustingly large family.
The subjugation of the women and girls is disturbing as hell, but I don't think the size of the family is something to be despised in and of itself.

Quote:
But the main reason is that it's unbelievably irresponsible to have so many children in this day and age. I just wanna pick these people up, shake them and scream "EITHER GET SOME BIRTH CONTROL OR SEW YOUR FUCKING LEGS TOGETHER!!!"
I don't think that's what's going on here though, Goliath. It's an extended family living arrangement: more like a perpetual family reunion than a giant baby factory. How many people do you think are in your extended family? If you were to count everyone related to the nucleus of you, your mom, your dad, your siblings, I bet you'd get up into the hundreds right quick.

The difference here is that all the uncles, grandparents, second cousins, first cousins thrice removed, etc. all live under the same two roofs.

Quote:
I personally don't understand why anyone would want to have even one child. I mean, they seem to be nothing nothing but crying, vomiting, pissing shit factories.
I'm sure you can understand that parents don't see it that way.

Quote:
However, to have child after child after child is not only excruciatingly irresponsible, but extremely unhealthy.
As I said above, I don't think that's an accurate depiction of the Narsinganna family. It's not two people cranking out 176 babies; it's a vast network of nuclear families forming a self-sustaining community.

Last edited by livius drusus; 07-28-2004 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 07-28-2004, 05:07 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

If you are interested in this sort of family arrangement you might want to check out the Hmong in the US. These are refugees the US brings here mainly from Laos. They only have a significant population in a few states, one of them being my own in Wisconsin.

You can read a bit about them here although it doesn't mention the extended family living arrangements many of them have.

Their extended family arrangements are more the result of poverty that first generation immigrants experience coming here without being able to speak English and having no skills in the US market beyond manual labor than any cultural preference. Not all of them stay this way, in many respects they are a very industrious people, but they almost all start off in poverty because of the situations they come from in their "home" countries where they are persecuted and despised.

Examples of them that I have witnessed are while fishing along a river in SE Wisconsin a "family" of 10 to 20 will be fishing and putting every single fish they catch, legal or otherwise into 5 gallon buckets. Largely their illegal fishing habits are ignored here as it is understood that 1. They don't understand the law, the law isn't written in Hmong and my understanding is the Hmong don't actually have a written language at this point. 2. They need the fish to feed their families, they aren't fishing for sport. 3. They tend to eat a lot of trash fish like carp and suckers that nobody cares about and aren't regulated anyway.

They tend to work in manual labor positions where they are misunderstood by their coworkers and generally ignored due to communication difficulties, but almost universally they are workhorses who don't complain about the job, they just do it.

As far as living arrangements, they are often found in medium to large sized groupings where they can pool their economic resources.

Frankly if the rest of America's poor had their ethics and willingness to live semi communally while bettering their marketable skills we wouldn't have any ghettos in the US.

They are a completely respectable people who are mistreated and misunderstood in pretty much every place they exist. To top it all off, they don't complain about it, they just work their way out of it taking care of each other along the way and enduring persecution with dignity.
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Old 07-28-2004, 07:15 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Great post, dantonac; thank you. I learned a small amount of Hmong history in college, but I know virtually nothing at all about their lives here. Your link was very informative: I particularly enjoyed the letter from the police officer and the letter to the editor from the veteran.

I found a fascinating description of Hmong family structures on the Lao Family Community of Minnesota site; there seem to be more than a few parallels between the Hmong tradition and that of the OP family.

Quote:
Being part of a family has always been important to the Hmong people. The larger the family, the better. Large families testify to their success and prosperity. Traditionally, many people lived together as a family. One house people or ib tsev neeg refers to the extended family which lives under one roof. This group includes multi-generational members of the father’s clan as well as those who have joined the clan through marriage. Most often, a husband would bring his wife home to live with his parents, at least at first. As a result, a household may include a man’s sons, wives, and children as well as his own parents, brothers, and sisters-in-law.
These Hmong extended family communities can be polygamous; women are again in a subservient position, but it seems to me they have social currency of their own, both among the women and by virtue of their age among the entire family.

The last parapgraph I think speaks to the OP family as well:

Quote:
In many parts of Southeast Asia, culture is more important than money. There is reward and a great sense of pride in being self-sufficient, in providing for one’s family as tradition dictates. All is shared within the family, often the extended family. [..]
Success is measured in numbers of family members and the satisfaction of living freely and working and participating in traditional celebrations together.
It looks like a system that would be of enormous social value in an agrarian community in particular, where you can always use another hand at the tiller and self-sufficiency is a point of great pride.

You noted that this translates into a remarkable communal work ethic in Hmong communities in Wisconsin, dantonac. A strong, multi-generational social network has to be an enormous advantage in a country where daycare and health care costs are prohibitive.
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Old 07-28-2004, 07:18 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by warrenly
They take it out in trade?
They might at that. The article mentioned a budget that included farm labour wages, so I think they mean actual monies. Still, those figures could indicate value, not currency, so who knows?
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Old 07-28-2004, 08:33 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by livius drusus
I don't think that's what's going on here though, Goliath.
Reading over the article a second time, I see that you're right. I apologize for the knee-jerk reaction.


Quote:
How many people do you think are in your extended family? If you were to count everyone related to the nucleus of you, your mom, your dad, your siblings, I bet you'd get up into the hundreds right quick.
First of all, I have no siblings. Secondly, if you count only my mom and biological dad (as opposed to my mom and stepfather), then I doubt that I have more than 50 people in my extended family.

Now if you include my stepfather, then yes, the total number of my extended family is probably between 100 and 150.

Quote:
The difference here is that all the uncles, grandparents, second cousins, first cousins thrice removed, etc. all live under the same two roofs.
That seems like such a cramped and depressing way to live.

Quote:
I'm sure you can understand that parents don't see it that way.
Oh of course. I just don't understand why they don't see it that way.
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Old 07-28-2004, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
Oh of course. I just don't understand why they don't see it that way.
And we don't understand why you don't see it the way we do :P
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:37 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
Reading over the article a second time, I see that you're right. I apologize for the knee-jerk reaction.
Not at all, Goliath. If I had thought some poor woman had given birth to 176 children I assure you both my knees would have been jerking spasmodically. :)

Quote:
First of all, I have no siblings.
I'm an only child too. Hi fellow recluse with sharing paranoia! :D

Quote:
Secondly, if you count only my mom and biological dad (as opposed to my mom and stepfather), then I doubt that I have more than 50 people in my extended family.

Now if you include my stepfather, then yes, the total number of my extended family is probably between 100 and 150.
It's hard to say what would count in this scenario, because of course the extended fams we've seen in this thread don't have to sort our where divorced people fit. The Hmong have the clan system underpinning things, so I could see divorced women returning to their parents. But then again, who needs divorce when you've got polygamy (not to mention female subjugation)?

Okay, I'm just babbling now. Sorry about that. It's just such an intricate and labyrinthine structure I can't help but want to explore it.

Quote:
That seems like such a cramped and depressing way to live.
That's my default impression, as well, but I can't help but wonder if that's our own handicap talking. Sure, no room of one's own - no nothing of one's own, really; it's hard for me to even grasp what that life could be like. I don't know if it would depress me, though (there's no way I'm finding out either), and I'm sure if you're raised in it it's not a depressing way to live at all.

Quote:
Oh of course. I just don't understand why they don't see it that way.
I'll tell ya... I have a tendency to avoid children myself, but I've found myself in the middle of enough truly great conversations with young children that I can fully understand what their parents see in them beyond the shitting and puking. Not that I'm cleaning any of it up, mind you. ;)
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Old 07-29-2004, 01:58 AM
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Default Re: Taking it out in trade.

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Originally Posted by livius drusus
They might at that. The article mentioned a budget that included farm labour wages, so I think they mean actual monies. Still, those figures could indicate value, not currency, so who knows?
Actually, I was being facetious. "Taking it out in trade" is a euphemism for sex being used to pay a bill owed. I was just thinking about something they might posess that others might be willing to pay for. You'll have to excuse me now, I'll be looking for my mind, I seemed to have lost it in the gutter. :wink:


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Old 07-29-2004, 02:26 AM
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Default Re: Taking it out in trade.

Man, I'm so gullible it's pathetic. I blame my father. And Warren, of course. Most of all I blame you, Warren. :hmph:
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Old 07-29-2004, 02:35 AM
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Originally Posted by livius drusus
Man, I'm so gullible it's pathetic. I blame my father. And Warren, of course. Most of all I blame you, Warren. :hmph:
Cool. I'm a good target for blame. I get that all the time.


From myself more than anyone else.


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Old 07-29-2004, 04:01 AM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

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Originally Posted by livius drusus
I'm an only child too. Hi fellow recluse with sharing paranoia! :D
LOL..

Quote:

It's hard to say what would count in this scenario, because of course the extended fams we've seen in this thread don't have to sort our where divorced people fit.
Very true. However, my mom isn't remarried because of divorce (my father died when I was 18).

Quote:

Okay, I'm just babbling now. Sorry about that. It's just such an intricate and labyrinthine structure I can't help but want to explore it.
I guess I can see how such a family structure would be interesting to explore in an academic sense.

Quote:

I'll tell ya... I have a tendency to avoid children myself, but I've found myself in the middle of enough truly great conversations with young children that I can fully understand what their parents see in them beyond the shitting and puking. Not that I'm cleaning any of it up, mind you. ;)
Actually, now that I think about it, I stopped at an Arby's in Fargo on my way to SD, and I encountered two very talkative, but very respectful young girls (they couldn't have been older than 12). Their parents clearly have done their job right.
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Old 07-29-2004, 02:33 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
Well, for one because, as liv said, female subservience seems to be mandated within this disgustingly large family.

But the main reason is that it's unbelievably irresponsible to have so many children in this day and age. I just wanna pick these people up, shake them and scream "EITHER GET SOME BIRTH CONTROL OR SEW YOUR FUCKING LEGS TOGETHER!!!"

I personally don't understand why anyone would want to have even one child. I mean, they seem to be nothing nothing but crying, vomiting, pissing shit factories. However, to have child after child after child is not only excruciatingly irresponsible, but extremely unhealthy.
Hey Goliath,

livius has already discussed what I wanted to (Hiya livius :wave: ), apart from one small point. The article mentions that there are five generations residing within the household, but doesnt say if the oldest of the five generations were the progenitor family, or if five generations ago, a similiar situation existed.

P.S. the same argument could be made about grown humans as well :D.
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Old 07-29-2004, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: Taking it out in trade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by warrenly
Cool. I'm a good target for blame. I get that all the time.


From myself more than anyone else.

Aw crap, Warren... I don't really blame you, you know. I was just trying some misdirection so as to retain my tattered cool. Sorry. :hug:
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Old 07-29-2004, 03:03 PM
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Default Re: And Baby Makes 178

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goliath
Very true. However, my mom isn't remarried because of divorce (my father died when I was 18).
It's amazing, really, how accustomed I am to assuming divorce. I'm sorry, Goliath.

Quote:
I guess I can see how such a family structure would be interesting to explore in an academic sense.
How about the mathematics involved? It's like a mini-economy all unto itself. Surely there's some fractionalization to be studied there. ;) (See how badly we need that article? I'm liable to keep talking crap like this forever until you explain it to me as to a child.)

Quote:
Actually, now that I think about it, I stopped at an Arby's in Fargo on my way to SD, and I encountered two very talkative, but very respectful young girls (they couldn't have been older than 12). Their parents clearly have done their job right.
I had a great conversation with a girl of 5 or 6 once. I was in a small town in Italy and she approached me tentatively asking if it was true that I was American. I said yes; she replied that her uncle lived in American and did I know him? I gave some half-assed explanation about America being really big and having a bunch of states and asked if she knew where in America her uncle lived. She trotted off to her mom, whispered for a sec and announced victoriously on her return: South America!

I was charmed, not in a kids say the dardnest things way, but because it really hadn't occurred to me that kids don't know how cities fit into counties that fit into states that fit in countries that fit into continents. And because she was so sincere and curious. It was a genuine pleasure talking to her.
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