aside from my 9 1/2 hour shift at work, today was awesome. my friend ife* invited me and my friend galo** over for dinner. we’ve been on rotation for these dinners. galo is from ecuador and started us off a month ago with a traditional ecuadorian meal. so authentic his mother probably talked him through the recipe from skype. tonight ife and his wife shanxi*** cooked a nigerian dish. the dish was a colorful plate of pounded yams that looked closer to mashed potatoes—the yams in nigeria are white apparently. the yams were topped with an okra soup with little shrimps and then on top of that was a spicy red tomato sauce which had been tamed down for our ecuadorian friends sensitive taste to any hint of spice. the meal was wonderful. we ate with our hands and washed it down with apple cider and chocolate ice cream. for this we used a spoon. afterwards, shanxi pulled out her accordion and gave us a recital fit for a stage rather than a guest bedroom with an air mattress and folding chairs. i was blown away. her control over each hand playing completely different things left my mouth on the ground and a self deprecating response of how i had just recently mastered rubbing my belly and patting my head at the same time. i was blown away.

we went around talking about our individual short-lived music careers. ife explained the abrupt end of his music career as being the result of a mean music teacher back in nigeria. galo’s mother had signed him up to take a violin class at the conservatory in their hometown in ecuador, but a broken arm from soccer kept him from reaching his full potential and his also-mean music teacher made him play through the pain. my mother had signed me up for violin lessons starting at age 4. at age 8 i told her to quit trying to live her life through me, because i didn’t want to go to practice (and because i watched way too much television, obviously)

ife went on to explain that his music teacher was the reason for everyone in his 8th grade class quitting the music program. the teacher had warned them that if they didn’t pass the big test at the end of the program then they would be flogged. 7 students passed out of all the kids taking music that semester. luckily ife was one of them. apparently flogging was not out of the norm in nigeria. ife further explained girls would typically get hit on their hands. boys on their bum or their calves. galo told stories about how his school had a giant pile of rocks in the schoolyard and when a student got in trouble they had to go outside and count out one thousand rocks before they could come back in.

i come from a family that does belt spankings and mouth washes with soap. none of which i ever got because i was perfect, but also because my dad just told me to cry and pretend when we walked out of my room together after my apparent spanking. oh, yelling was a big one, too.

little did i know that around the world kids were being forced to get caned on the legs, count giant piles of rock, stand in front of the classroom holding their ears and jumping up and down, cutting the long grass in a giant unused field behind the school with a machete, stand with arms out knees bent and tiptoes until their legs feel like jello. and not just for doing bad things, but also for not getting a good enough grade.

if this is still how things are i’m going to have to get creative when i start teaching in africa..

pronunciation guide: