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Droughts, Diet coke, Kenya, and Cluelessness

November 7, 2011

When I went to Kenya, I was twenty-one years old. I had just graduated from college and I didn’t want to go to graduate school. I didn’t want to get a job and so I went to Africa with my boyfriend on a fellowship to interview African writers. I took Africa on a Shoestring, my running shoes, a skirt, two t shirts, a bathing suit, a sweatshirt and an entire set of Lancome skincare products that I had bought right before departure. By the end of the first week I had thrown them all out because they were way too heavy to carry around and there was not all that much opportunity to use my eye cream when I was camping at Lake Turkana, listening to the lions howl.

There was a drought and everyone, lions included, were starving. And yet, I was stupid enough to ask a man at a party why there was no diet coke. He gave me one of those, are-you-crazy-looks, and said, “Charlotte, we don’t have that much need for diet soda.”

I thought of this today when the students in my genocide seminar told me their friends had never heard of the Cambodian genocide and that some of them even thought Cambodia was in Africa. I was never that clueless, but I was close. This is why I am a good teacher. I have empathy for the clueless.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 8, 2011 6:06 am

    Somebody once asked me( anonymously, lol) what makes me think I was a good teacher( I quit teaching some time ago) and what it meant to be a good teacher. I also said it was about knowing things and still remembering how it felt when you didn’t know them.

    I was just thinking … you know what makes you a good author? Many things do and I’m not the one to judge, but for me the crucial moment is that when I read a story about Africa and skin care products I suddenly see none of them but a young girl and it feels like I already met her personally, although I’ve just read these two paragraphs.

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