Thursday, November 28, 2013

A very traditional Thanksgiving

Left to right: cole slaw, cranberry sauce, some bird,
apple pie I mistook for meat pie, carrots, wait-that's-not-chocolate-
it's-a-cinnamon-brownie!, rice that's hotter than the hot sauce,
and some kind of crumble that was too hot for me.
The last two years, I think I've done better at celebrating Nostalgia Day than Thanksgiving Day. While still being thankful overall, I thought a lot about what was missing, what was unusual, what was uncanny, and especially what was just Wrong about Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Much of it isn't even Nigeria's fault - I mean, in order to be a Traditional Thanksgiving, it has to be at my aunt's house, the one they sold more than 20 years ago. Some crowning foods just don't exist here.

I wondered what traditions and nostalgias my little boy was picking up, celebrating American Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Would I some day read his blog post titled "It's just not Thanksgiving without jollof rice and bleached cabbage"?

Ah well. We do the best we can. We are grateful for what we have, not for what we don't, right? Of course right. AUN is a wonderful institution for even planning a big celebration.

Today though I realized I am actually celebrating a Very Traditional Thanksgiving. In some ways, you can't get more traditional than to celebrate Thanksgiving as an expat.

My four pilgrim forefathers who were there on the Mayflower were wanderers in a strange land, a tiny and very opinionated minority in a land of people who looked and spoke differently and who ate strange foods. The first two years were very hard. They watched as friends left one by one - in their case to death and in mine to other jobs in other lands. Finally they threw off their socialist ideals, embraced private property, and enjoyed the bounties of the land with new friends. As far as Hallmark versions of the holiday go, I think I've done this just about right!

I leave for home in two weeks. 14 days. I am thankful for the number 14.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Passive-Aggressive Professor

On Thursday one of my classes was decidedly empty - only 2 students showed up, and both of them were more than 10 minutes late. I was ready to leave.

Today there was no one there at 8-10 minutes late and I was getting mighty frustrated. Finally most of the class showed up. There was a quiz today and they did not have much time left to solve it.

Because most of the class was not there on Thursday, I decided to be a very nice guy and hold some extra class time after our normal class to review what they missed. When normal class ended, I told them they were free to go and, if anyone wanted, I would quickly review what we did last time.

When someone grumbled about not wanting to stay for an extra hour and a half, I told them I needed to catch my bus too; this would be mighty fast. And then I said something in all sincerity:

"I'm just doing something nice to be of service and help. Don't feel that you have a responsibility to stay."

I meant that. I was not providing a burden of guilt.
I wanted them to feel that I was being helpful, and if it wasn't helpful, they should go do something else.

But as soon as the words were out of mouth, I heard a different prof with a different voice use those exact same words to mean the exact opposite. "How dare you be so ungrateful! Here I am busting my chops, taking all this extra time so you lazy ...." ouch.

So if any of you are my students, just know that I meant what I said sincerely and please don't take it the wrong way.