|When the Right Hand Washes the Left (page 2)|
| The longer I was there the more I became involved with a nucleus of students, and the weaker became the impulse to disappear over the weekend on my motor cycle in search of external adventure. My social and professional lives slowly fused into one and the same thing. I shared an office with another Volunteer, and we were there almost every evening from supper until late at night, preparing classes and talking to students, who learned that we were always available for help on their work or just bulling around. We sponsored poetry and short story contests and founded a literary club which was the liveliest and most enjoyable organization Ive ever belonged to, joyfully subject to the imperative of which all remote areas have the advantage: if you want to see a Chekhov play, you have to put it on yourself.
|In November 1992 the newsletter RPCV Writers & Readers published "A West African Postcard" by Tom Hebert (Nigeria 196264) that tells of Tom's taking Shakespeare on the road in Nigeria.|| In some ways I was more alive intellectually at Nsukka than I was at Swarthmore, due in part to the fact that I worked much harder at Nsukka, Im afraid, than I did at Swarthmore; and to the fact that one learns more from teaching than from studying. But principally it had to do with the kind of perspective necessary in the teaching of Western Literature to a people of a different tradition, and the empathy and curiosity necessary in teaching African literature to Africans. It is always an intellectual experience to cross cultural boundaries.
At the most elementary level, it is a challenge to separate thought from mechanics in the work of students who are not writing in their native language. Take, for example, the following paragraph, written, I would emphasize, not by a university student but by a cleaning man at the university in a special course:
I regard this passage with joy, not to say a little awe, but beneath its exotic and largely unconscious poetic appeal there is a man trying to say something important, blown about in the wilderness of an unfamiliar language by the influences of the King James Version and the vernacular proverb. Where writing like this is concerned, it is impossible to be a Guardian of Good Grammar; one must try to confront the roots of language the relationship between thought and word, with all the problems of extraneous influences and in many cases translation from a native tongue.
They spoke what was in their heads