What's the Same?

It had been a busy week for Doctor Steve. Many members of the orchestra had come down with the flu. Now Miss Cynthia had it, too. She coughed and shivered underneath the covers. Merri, William and I sat on the side of Miss Cynthia's bed. Merri leaned close to me. "Will Miss Cynthia be all right?" she whispered.

"Of course, Merri!" I said. "Miss Cynthia is sick, but Doctor Steve is taking good care of her. She just needs a few days to rest."

Miss Cynthia put out a hand to give Merri Bear a little pat. "Don't worry, Merri," she croaked. "I'll be better soon. I just need to rest! You and William and Perry are being such good friends. Thank you for keeping me company!"

Miss Cynthia rolled over and shut her eyes. Soon, she was asleep again.

In the past few days, we had traveled from Toulouse to Paris, and from Paris to Amsterdam. Miss Cynthia and many members of our tour group had been sick the whole time.

It's not easy to be sick when you are traveling. Just when you want to go to bed and rest, you have to get dressed and get on an airplane. For the Symphony musicians, things were even worse. They had to play their instruments when they would rather rest. Having the flu was very hard on everyone on the Symphony tour.

"Perry!" whispered William. "When do we get to go outside and see things?"

"Not until Miss Cynthia is better, William," I said. "We have to stay inside where it is warm, so Miss Cynthia can get well."

"But I'm bored!" said William. "I want to do something!" He made a little bounce on the blankets. Merri leaned over. "Shhh, William!" she said.

I knew I had to entertain the little bears. "Let's talk! I think if we speak quietly, we won't wake Miss Cynthia. Why don't we talk about our travels?"

"Okay, Perry Bear!" said Merri. "What should we talk about?"

"Well, how about all the things that are the same? What do children in Europe do the same as children in the United States?"

"Oh, I know one!" said William. "Toys! Toys are the same!"

William was right. In every country we'd visited, Miss Cynthia and I looked in all the toy stores. We wanted to know what European children liked to play with. Most of the time, the toys were the same as those found in American toy stores.

"Let's see," I said. "What toys have we seen that are the same?"

"Legos!" said William. "Barbie!" said Merri. "Power Rangers!" I added.

Children in Europe and in the United States enjoy Legos and Barbies and Power Rangers. What other favorite toys had we seen? Sega and Nintendo video games. Teletubbies and Playmobile people. Fisher Price toys for little children. Hot Wheels race cars. Tamagotchi and Gigapet virtual pets. We'd seen toys from "It's a Bug's Life", a popular Disney movie, in Ireland, England, Spain and France. Of course, children everywhere love teddy bears!

"I know one," said Merri. "Kids like to dress the same!"

"You're right, Merri!" I said. Children in Europe wear the same kinds of clothes as children in the United States.

In Spain, schoolchildren like to wear athletic clothing. Spanish kids wear a T-shirt and long, loose sweatpants with stripes down the side. Stylish French kids like narrow dark blue jeans with a bell-bottom. You're cool if your pants are just a little bit too long! Cargo pants with big pockets on the side are popular everywhere. Girls pair them with a baby-tee that fits nicely. On their feet? European kids, like American kids, wear Nike sneakers.

"What about movies?" William said. American movies are everywhere! "You've Got Mail" and "It's A Bug's Life" were playing all over Europe-in foreign languages, of course!

I thought hard. What was a favorite with kids that was the same everywhere? "I've got it!" I said. "William, Merri, I'm thinking of something that is the same all over the world. It is a place you go. Sometimes you find toys there, but mostly you find things to eat. Can you guess?"

William and Merri looked at each other, puzzled. "Okay," I said, "here's another hint. It's red and yellow and has a clown . . .."

"McDonalds!" said the little bears.

William and Merri were right! Even though the menu is in another language, you can always get hamburgers, french fries and soft drinks at a McDonalds.

McDonalds' restaurants are popular with kids all over the world. They are also popular with teddy bears!

Your bear friend,

Perry Bear Ewer

Perry's Travels: