PK and the Summer of 2017 travel blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The hardest part of teaching an intensive class like the one I have been doing here in Africa is getting started. Well, that and getting finished. It takes me a little time--maybe the first day--to feel like I am "with" the students. And, there is always so much more I want to teach that it is hard to know where to end. One of the paradigm-shifting concepts I try to leave students with--wherever I am teaching--is that teaching is not simply telling. That teaching is a much richer discipline than merely passing along information. Teaching actually supposes learning. And learning is not as simple as hearing information. Would have been a good thing to keep in mind as I was leading the class on the last day. Ugh.

Class has flown by. I have had so much fun with the students here: considering concepts of Christian education and how they might apply in an African setting, laughing about the strange cultural issues that seem to crop up in churches in Africa AND America, exploring approaches to teaching that create curiosity and invite learning. It has truly been fun.

Tuesday was crazy. After the Monday holiday, EVERYONE had someplace to be on Tuesday which pretty much meant no one was going anywhere. OK, imagine a traffic circle. Cars enter from four streets entering the circle every 90 degrees. So, lots of cars from four directions trying to get onto the traffic circle at once. OK, now imagine that cars coming from the North see traffic backed up if they follow the traffic circle around to the right. And since what they really want is to go left from the traffic circle, they simply start heading the wrong way on the traffic circle. OK, now add cars doing the same thing from the South. Then, the East and West. What you end up with are cars all facing each other down as they try to get the other way round the circle. OK, now imagine that cars coming up to the circle are jamming in on both sides of the road to try to get TO the traffic circle. Pastor Lee and I were right in the middle and were going no where, presumably forever.

Eventually, some well-wishers showed up and begin trying to unplug the traffic circle by directing one car then another to move, while trying to keep everyone else from not moving into a tiny space they had created. It was entertaining to watch, but they just couldn't get enough cooperation to actually accomplish anything. Finally, a traffic cop showed up. it took him a good 30 minutes, but somehow he managed to dislodge the traffic and get everyone moving again.

So, the class was supposed to start at 9 a.m. I arrived at 10 a.m. I left for lunch planning to begin again at 2 p.m. I showed up at 3:15 p.m. Students assured me that they fully understood, but we lost a lot of teaching time.

After class, Pastor Steven told me that his church was so grateful to me for coming to preach that they wanted to buy me an African suit of clothes. I told him I was grateful, but they didn't have to do anything for me. I knew they were struggling to pay the rent this month. But, Pastor Steven would not be dissuaded. Can you go with me to the market, because I am afraid I won't be able to find something that will fit if you do not go. So, I agreed. We hopped a taxi and headed off to the market.

I'm not sure I can describe for you what this market was like. Pastor Steven told me it was a wholesale market and many people came here to buy things for their shops all over town. But, it was mostly an outdoor market with tiny shops about the size of a closet loaded with goods. Pastor Steven had a specific shop in mind, but when he stopped to ask another shop-keep where he could find it, the shop-keep got so excited about helping him that Pastor Steven just agreed to shop with him. Imagine three of us in a closet and me trying on shirts. A lot of other shop-keepers started gathering around the outside showing us what they had to offer in the way of men's clothing. We looked at a couple of different styles, but when Pastor Steven caught site of a black and white check with some simple but refined trim, I knew which one I was supposed to choose. We looked at a few other things. He said he might come back and get something, then he paid the shop-keep and we left the closet.

He grabbed my hand and led me a little ways away from the furor to ask, "So, would you like to look around here a bit or are you ready to go home?" I told him I would be happy to look around a bit if he had time. So, he grabbed my hand again and led me back through the crowd.

OK, I am aware that in different cultures touch is handled differently. And, I remember that in India men often walk down the street hand in hand in order to have uninterrupted conversation. I am ok with a kiss on the cheek in Armenia. So, I didn't exactly mind being led by the hand, but it did pose a problem for me. How exactly was I supposed to respond to being led by the hand? I mean, do I take his hand, too? Or do I sort of allow him to drag my hand along? What is the manly way to be led by the hand by another man in Africa? I still don't know.

We went into a tailor shop. I guess Pastor Steven wanted to see about getting something made. I waited for him at the entrance. This fellow came up to me and started talking. His English was good, so I asked him where he had learned it. He didn't really answer, but was impressed I thought he spoke well. A friend of his showed up, but he laughed and said, "He can't speak English." From the sound of him, I wasn't sure he spoke French much either. They were very curious about me and I fell into conversation with them while I waited for Pastor Steven. I think they had approached me to try to sell me something, but we were having so much fun, they sort of forgot to give me the pitch. Pastor Steven laughed at me for making friends while he was inside. It is really not hard to make friends in Africa. I also developed a friendship with Poppinguy, the owner of a ply-wood convenience store near the Korean church where I was staying.

Pastor Steven and I decided to get some coffee, grabbed a taxi for what turned out to be the cushy part of the city. Who even knew there was one? We entered a posh mall and found an ocean view table in the food court. It was a little warm and I thought juice might be better than coffee. That gave Pastor Steven the idea of having me try some local juices. He ordered a green one, a white one, and an empty class. The idea was that I would try both in the empty glass then I could pick which one I wanted to finish. The green juice is the national fruit of Senegal. It was thick and sweet with a reminiscent taste of green tea. Not bad. The other was the juice of the fruit of the bao bao tree. I had seen Pastor Lee drink it at Rose Lake. It was sweet and milky. You will probably think I am strange, but, when asked to make a choice like this while I'm traveling abroad, I seldom just choose what I like best. I almost always choose what I think will please the host most. Receiving a gift is nearly as much of a blessing as giving a gift if you receive it well. At least, that is what I think. I chose the national fruit of Senegal.

We chatted about Pastor Steven's church, theological issues, and family. I found out Pastor Steven is actually a native of Togo. I asked about his family there. He told me, "My fadder had three women." Really. I tried not to seem morbidly curious, but I felt like a person driving past a bad accident. You tell yourself not to look, but you just can't help it. Pastor Steven didn't seem bothered by my questions about his experience growing up. His mother had 9 children. There were 16 altogether. I assumed his father was Muslim, but he was actually an animist, and Pastor Steven was actually impressed with the grace of his father in dealing with the rather awkward family configuration. Each wife had a little apartment in the house. They would take turns for two days caring for his father. The kids slept where they could find a space on a bed and ate at whatever table had food. Before her death, his mother came to Christ and so have all of her children but one. One is even a pastor in Togo.

Back at the guest house, Fear Love had cooked some spring rolls she called Korean/Vietnamese fusion food. She gave me 8 of them and I made dinner out of it. They were so good, I probably would have eaten more.

For the last day of class, we decided to meet straight through from 9 to 2 without a lunch break. I wanted to get as much time as I could to wrap up. There was so much I wanted to cover with them and I needed to give a final exam. I wore the students out with all the information I was trying to give them. It was like the Forced March to Bataan, except it was me talking endlessly about Malcolm Knowles, Erik Erikson, and the skin elasticity of Median Adults and the students being drug along helplessly. Someone should have reminded me, "Professor, we need to remind you that telling is not teaching."

After the final, I was going to say a prayer and end class, but one of the students interrupted me. "Professor," he said as Pastor Steven translated, "you have meant so much to us and this class has been a wonderful gift. The class wanted to give you something to remember us so we took up an offering." They brought out a beautifully wrapped box. I started to open it, but people objected that we needed to take pictures first. When I finally opened the box, it was a beautiful set of African clothes. I think it was very meaningful to them to see me in their style of wardrobe. I had worn the gift from Pastor Steven's church on the last day of class and almost every student commented on how nice I looked. It didn't occur to me until later that Pastor Steven had probably been arranging this at the tailor shop.

I was starving by the time we got home. Between pictures with the class and more traffic of Ramadan, we didn't get in until after 4 p.m. and the one piece of bread with chocolate I ate for breakfast had long since worn off. Fear Love had made something special, a spicy pork bourgogee with rice and more of the fusion spring roles. I laughed as Pastor Lee talked about how hot the food was. Tasted perfect to me.

I packed my bags and the Lee family took me to the airport. Joon and I joked and laughed the whole way and I think his older brother, Suen, was a little sad he hadn't found time to get to know me. We said our goodbyes at the airport with promises to do it again. Headed home for a few days before beginning the Asian part of my summer travel.



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