Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Super Dad, Sunburns and Mosquito Bites

About a week ago I received an envelope from my dad.  He sent me two Halloween themed greeting cards to share with my students.  Botswana does not celebrate Halloween.  I asked my class about it and a select few were familiar with the holiday, but for the most part I had to explain the idea behind it.  I’m surprised the Batswana haven’t embraced this holiday as they have a huge affinity for candy and sweets here.

After explaining the premise behind Halloween I passed the cards around for the students to examine themselves.  One of the Halloween cards was a 3-D pop-up card with a graveyard and haunted house inside.  The other was a musical card which played the song “Monster Mash” each time you opened it.  Fortunately I speak pretty loudly when I teach, which was helpful seeing as that I had to hear “Monster Mash” 126 times during my lecture as each and every student had to test it themselves.

As I was collecting the cards towards the end of class one of the girls said, “Dr. Kelly has a SUPER Dad.”  I have to say, I was struck with pride upon hearing this.  And I don’t feel the least bit ashamed that I responded by saying, “Thank you.  I think so too.” This comment started a domino effect, “Is your Dad coming to visit?” “Do we get to meet him?” “What is your Dad like?” “Does your Dad have red hair too?” “Can I touch YOUR hair?”

The shift from interest in my father to curiosity about the feel of my hair was unexpected, though I suppose it shouldn’t really come as a surprise.  I had a (white) neighbor recently go on a nationwide search for a hair stylist.  Sadly the search was unsuccessful and she ended up in near tears after a less than enjoyable experience.

However, the hair discussion did not mark the end of the inquisition… “Why do white people turn so red all the time? Does that hurt?” “What about those red spots on your legs? What are those? Why do you have them? Do they hurt?”  After a brief explanation of why “white people turn so red all the time” (i.e. sunburns), I had to get over my embarrassment and explain that the red spots on my legs were scabs from mosquito bites which I had scratched to the point of bleeding.

Sadly, these types of interactions are about to cease for a while.  This week marks the end of the semester.  I only have one more class meeting with these students and then their final exam.  I’ve really enjoyed this group and hope my students next semester will be as attentive to what I am teaching and as much fun from a social/cultural learning and exchange aspect.

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