Was not so boring, because I presented a talk to a group of senior citizens (read grown folks over sixty) along with Reham in an event called Dialogue With Seniors. It was titled “Life in two of Africa’s biggest cities: Ibadan and Cairo.”
I enjoyed it because, contrary to my early apprehensions, they were quite amiable and relaxed. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience of speaking about everything from food to dressing to greeting to customs to religion and to malaria and HIV/AIDS. I showed them a picture of real Nigerian yams, as well as cocoa, both of which they were seeing for the very first time. They had seen Hershey’s, M&Ms and Snickers before, but this was the first time of seeing what cocoa really looked like. They asked questions and I responded. When Reham spoke, I learnt a few new things about Egypt and Arabic as well. It’s funny how much of what we had to say bounced off each other, as well as off the Americans. Cairo is Africa’s largest city while Ibadan is the second largest – by geography. The Nile in Egypt is the longest river in Africa while the Mississippi just close by is the second longest river in the world. (This fact about the Nile has amazed me since I grew up to realize that – contrary to the song we were taught in primary school – the Mississippi was NOT the longest river in the world. I wonder who came up with the song then.)
Yesterday, I participated in a similar seminar, this time for a class of students of English language teaching. Along with visiting scholars from Iran and Azerbaijan, we sat and answered questions about the difference in the University and learning environments in our countries and the United States, where they diverged, and where they were similar, and what we thought each could learn from each other. That was fun too. There were no “high tables”, just chairs. One thing I learnt from that event was that in Iran, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, boys and girls were separated into same-sex high schools and don’t have any form of social interactions until they gain admissions into the University. According to the Iranian speakers, this causes a lot of frustrations when they eventually get into the University and have to engage in social interactions, it becomes awkward. I could almost say the same for Nigeria of a few generations back as well, but not as a result of a government decision or anything. Most parental restrictions on their children (derived from a claimed divine injunction to “train the child in the way he should go”) often result in poorly sociable human beings unleashed on the society.
In all, it has been a wonderful week so far, except for the ugly news of the loss of my files and all my student’s data and academic scores in my now unrecoverable hard drive. Well, the week is just half gone. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.