Note: Just before Natalie and I embarked on our 119-day “virtual” world cruise during 7th grade (see “What We Did” on the cover page of this website) we put together this jigsaw puzzle, which found a permanent home under a plexiglass cover on our kitchen table. Now we can’t imagine the table without our map! Learning world geography continues. We keep discovering new countries and I get quizzed regularly, with helpful and sometimes hilarious hints, on the capitals of the world.
Natalie: Tomorrow’s the geography bee. I’m so excited to play the game that we play at our kitchen table at school. I think it will be lots of fun as long as we aren’t asked about the countries in western Africa. (Pointing at the map) Let’s see: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
Pamela: I’ll try to come up with another mnemonic device. Is the other one sticking?
Natalie: “Gonna go” – Ghana and Togo.
Pamela: How about the one for the three Central American countries?
Natalie: I nicked my elbow and need some salve on my humerus – Nicaragua, El Salvador, & Honduras.
William passes through the kitchen (laughing): I don’t think I’d remember that.
Pamela: What book was it where you read about the huge yams?
Natalie: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
Pamela: What country is the story set in?
Pamela: While you were reading it, you told me that the yams we usually eat aren’t true yams. But the day you saw this one at the farmer’s market, you said, “Now that’s a yam!”
Natalie (laughing): Yes, and I took the yam to school today after a week of your insistent encouragement — :-). When I pulled it out people gasped and wanted to hold it to see how heavy it was. One girl asked if we ordered it from Africa! No one had ever seen a yam so big. Like you say, now they have a story to tell.
Pamela: It’s always nice to give someone a story to tell, right? And now we can finally cook the yam! I think we’ll slice it up and grill it. By the way, would you recommend Things Fall Apart?
Natalie: No. It’s about a self-absorbed, cruel, unpleasant man who will do anything to keep his status in his village. But I would recommend another book set in Zimbabwe titled Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. It’s about a teenaged girl in 1960 who struggles to find her identity, somewhere between her native village and the mission school she attends.
Descriptions for two books mentioned above:
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
In Nervous Conditions, Dangaremba’s acclaimed first novel, she tells of the coming-of-age of Tambu, and through her, also offers a profound portrait of African society. In awarding Nervous Conditions the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Africa in 1989, the judges described the book as a beautiful and sensitive exploration of the plight and struggle of an African people…. A distinguishing feature of this work is its courageous honesty and devastating understatement.