Sunday, December 28, 2014

My "Africans and Americans" Book in Hard Cover

On December 26, I received the first ever hard cover copy of my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. The week before, I had gone back to the lulu website and created the hard cover edition of the book which is now available from my online bookstore.

From time to time, over the years, I have thought about books in hard cover. My assumption has always been that such is the book format preferred by libraries. I was, nevertheless, aware that some people buy hard cover editions of books, even if paperback editions are available, which are cheaper.

I myself have many hard cover books. I cherish them on account of their durability, but also because I feel they have an aura of specialness. I cannot explain this, it being just my subjective feeling. I guess every person has a reason for buying hard cover books. Sometimes, of course, we have no other option.

I am happy to have the hard cover edition of my book, happy that it is available to the world, alongside the kindle edition, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Africans and Americans" Book Now in Kindle

Two days ago, following a process of trial and error, I managed to upload my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences to Kindle. Yesterday, after some correspondence regarding ownership of the rights to the book, Amazon notified me that the book was available in the Kindle store. I checked the store and saw my book there.

For many months, I thought about a Kindle edition of the book, but never got down to really working on it. I kept procrastinating and postponing the task. I remember having tried, several times, but half-heartedly, unsure if I was capable of navigating what I thought was a daunting technological universe.

I am glad I did it, finally. I could say that now I can rest, but technology is changing so fast that one cannot know what tomorrow will bring. I must, therefore, be on the look-out for new challenges, new opportunities.

I have been rather busy this week; for just before I produced the Kindle edition of Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, I created and published a hard cover version of it which is available, together with my other books, from my online bookstore.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The South Asian Literature Final Exam

This afternoon, my South Asian Literature students did the final examination. I drafted the questions last night, after a two day struggle as I noted in my previous blog post. Looking at these questions, neither I nor anyone else, I suppose, can believe that it took me a rather long time to create them. For two days, my mind was simply unable to do what I desired.

Eventually, I created three questions, from which the students were required to answer two. I am willing to present the questions here, for whatever they are worth:

1) Discuss the situation of the Parsees in Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters and how they deal with it.

2) Discuss one of the characters in Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters.

3) Discuss the relationship between any two characters in Romesh Gunesekera's Reef.

Certainly, I could have created a question dealing with narrative techniques or artistry in general. However, considering that the class comprises students of different disciplines, spanning the spectrum from mathematics to exercise science, I decided to ask questions that would be fair to everyone. If this was a class of only English majors, I would create at least one question on the artistic dimension of the literary works.

With the teaching and the final examination over, I am bracing myself for grading the answer scripts, a task that can be full of surprises but is always interesting and refreshing. One of the surprises is simply that a student majoring in, say, biology or economics might be the one with the best performance in an examination like this one, which, according to conventional wisdom, is outside that student's field. In a liberal arts college such St. Olaf, however, such surprises are not uncommon. That, at least, has been my experience.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My South Asian Literature Course Just Ended

My South Asian Literature course ended yesterday, if I can frame things that way. In any case, yesterday we had our last class of the semester. We still have to prepare for the final examination, scheduled for Monday, barely two days away.

I don't know about other professors, but creating examination questions is rather challenging for me. Every time I teach a course, it is a different experience from any previous offerings of the course. My thoughts about any literary work change, influenced by various factors, such as the books and other writings I read all the time.

There is also the fact that rereading a literary work yields new insights. Then, each class of students is different in many ways from any previous class, resulting in different discussions of any given literary work. Nor is the sequencing of the readings constant from year to year. I also complicate matters more because I like to include, in the course, a text or texts I have never read.

In view of all this, I cannot simply give the students questions from past examinations. I have to think hard in efforts to capture the uniqueness of each iteration of the course. Since we did not manage to get to the end of Gunesekera's Reef, our last text for this semester, I have also to figure out how to incorporate this text in the examination., or how to give students the opportunity to use or invoke it. I cannot omit it entirely, since we have spent considerable time and effort on it.

That is the challenge I am facing this weekend. However, I am not overly concerned. I have always encountered such challenges and produced what I consider suitable examination questions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Are Reading Gunesekera's "Reef"

This is the last week of classes for this semester here at St Olaf College. We are reading, in my South Asian Literature course, Romesh Gunesekera's Reef, a novel I had taught before. We are a little more than half way through it, going at a comfortable pace. Everybody is tired at this time of the semester, and I have told my students that I do not believe the reading of any work of literature should be rushed or done under pressure.

Rereading Reef, I am enjoying the discovery of aspects of it that I might have missed the first time around. For example, I am gaining a better understanding of Mister Salgado, one of the main characters. I have shared with my students my sense that he is eccentric, what with his obsession with lists, for example, which the narrator, his servant, describes thus:

Early on I learned the value of making lists from watching Mister Salgado. He was a great one for lists. He would listen to The Mikado and write page after page of lists: shopping lists, laundry lists, book lists, betting lists, things-to-do lists, diary lists, repair lists, packing lists, record lists, larder lists, letter's to write lists (p. 33)

No less peculiar is his habit of using the same tooth brush, never replacing it, according to the narrator, "until there was practically nothing left but the plastic handle. I would watch the bristles get shorter and more squashed day after day, until sometimes I myself would go and buy him a new one and place it in his mug" (p. 19-20)

In class today, I waxed profusely about Gunesekera's narrative skill. To illustrate this, I read the following passage, which invites much comment on account of its use of language and figures of speech:

We drove for hours; whistling over a ribbon of tarmac measuring the perpetual embrace of the shore and he sea, bounded by a fretwork of undulating coconut trees, pure unadorned forms framing the seascape into a kaleidoscope of bluish jewels. Above us a tracery of green and yellow leaves arrowed to a vanishing-point we could never reach. At times the road curved as though it were the edge of a wave itself rushing in and then retreating into the ocean. We skittered over these moving surfaces at a speed I had never experienced before. Through the back window I watched the road pour out from under us and settle into a silvery picture of serene timelessness. We overtook the occasional bus belching smoke or a lorry lisping with billowing hay; we blasted through bustling towns and torpid villages. We passed churches and temples, crosses and statues, grey shacks and lattice-work mansions.

This description of the Sri Lankan countryside, I find not only vivid, but very pleasant to read, and I shared my thoughts about it with the class.

There is, of course, much to say about Reef, as is the case with any work of literature worth the name. There is no way we can grasp and express the plethora of meanings it can generate. A literary text signifies ceaselessly, as Roland Barthes would say. Someday, hopefully, I will write more about this remarkable novel.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Book Reviewed in "The Zumbro Current"

My book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, has just been reviewed in the "The Zumbro Current," the newsletter of the Zumbro Lutheran Church, located in Zumbrota, south eastern Minnesota:

Book Review: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences

The Abner Haugen Library at Zumbro Lutheran Church has a copy of this extremely helpful book on cultural differences between Americans and Africans. It is written by Joseph L. Mbele, a Tanzanian scholar who currently is a professor of English at St. Olaf College. Anyone traveling to another country or continent would find this short book well worth reading. A few of the topics covered are: eye contact, personal space, gender issues, gifts, how “time flies, but not in Africa.” Both my wife Ann and I recommend this 98-page book.
-Duane Charles Hoven. "The Zumbro Current," October 2014, p. 7

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reading Bapsi Sidhwa's "The Crow Eaters" in Context

A few days ago. I wrote an update on my South Asian Literature course. As I noted, we are working our way through Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters.

Students--two on each day--are taking turns making presentations, with the rest of us joining in, any time, with comments and questions, which help to augment or critique the presentations.

I have told the class that we are trying to decode the text, thereby generating meanings. I have told them that this helps us to understand how a text means, an idea prominent in contemporary literary theory. L have cited, in particular, Roland Barthes's S/Z: An Essay, a stimulating, book-length study of Sarrasine, a short story by Honore Balzac.

The Crow Eaters presents the life of the Parsees, a small minority group in India that came there centuries ago from what is today Persia, pushed out by Arab expansion.

The Parsees retain their traditional Zoroastrian religion, which largely distinguishes them from the Hindus and Moslems. I wanted my students to gain some knowledge of this religion, to complement what they learned about Hinduism and Islam through reading Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable and Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi respectively.

The Crow Eaters depicts the struggles and triumphs of Freddy, an entrepreneur, who, while trying to improve the condition of his family, has to contend with a troublesome mother in law who lives with them. At the same time, we observe how he copes with the British who are the colonizing power. He tries his best to thrive under those circumstances.

Before the Thanksgiving Break, which ends this weekend, I gave the class an examination consisting of two questions. Each student was required to answer one question.

One of the questions was "Discuss the image of women in the works we have read in the South Asian literature course." I also noted that they could include the film "Salaam Bombay," which we had watched. The second question was "Discuss the Western influence or presence in the works we have read. I explained that "Western" in this context means British and American.

The students tackled these questions quite well and some of their answers were outstanding. Whether they dwelt on Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi, Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters, or the film "Salaam Bombay," they displayed a good, nuanced understanding of the issues.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Update on my South Asian Literature Course

My plan for the South Asian Literature course this semester has undergone some changes. After teaching Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, we moved on to Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi. However, hardly had we gone beyond the half-way point than my health, which has been uncertain for many months, deteriorated, and I had to be hospitalized again, at the Abbot Northwest Hospital in Minneapolis.

Fortunately, after slightly over a week, I was released. During my absence, an English Department colleague graciously stepped in and taught Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost. When I heard that she was teaching this novel, I was delighted, having taught it myself several years ago, as part of the South Asian Literature course.

Upon resuming my teaching of the course, a week ago, we started reading Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters. When I was choosing texts to use this semester, I made a point of including Sidhwa, largely because I wanted some example of writing from a Pakistani writer. Having taught The Crow Eaters before, as well as Sidhwa's other novel, Cracking India, I knew that Sidhwa's writing is accessible to undergraduate students.

We are approaching the midway point of this novel now. Then, we will read Romesh Gunesekera's Reef, another novel I have taught before. Like Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, Reef affords memorable insights, from a fictional point of view, into the Sri Lankan experience.

Time seems to have gone by very fast, and I know we will not be able to read Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown. What a pity. In the future, I plan to change my strategy: I will use Rushdie's novel early in the semester, to ensure that my students have some experience of reading and reflecting on this very gifted, albeit controversial writer. I also doubt if I will be able to introduce any poetry, although I prepared myself to teach some poems from that part of the world, such as Michael Ondaatje's.

Though I have some regrets, I take solace from the fact that by the end of the semester, my students will have a fairly good idea of South Asian Literature, a tradition that, rich and vibrant as it is, appears rather remote to many people.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reverend Al Sharpton Speaks at St. Olaf College

The Reverent Al Sharpton spoke at St. Olaf College this evening. The event drew a large crowd from far and near. After being introduced, Al Sharpton went on stage. Having offered his thanks, he declared, at the outset, that though Americans tend to shy away from talking openly about race, he was going to talk about it.

He did, offering a memorable account of how the racial situation has evolved in America during his lifetime. When he was a young man, he said, nobody, in their wildest dreams, had the idea that a black person would ever become president of the USA. The election of Barack Obama, he said,  and particularly his re-election, is a sign of progress. He also gave the example of BeyoncĂ©, an artist who  is embraced by Americans of all races, whereas in his youth, the situation was very different.

While acknowledging progress, he dwelt at length on enduring problem, giving incisive accounts of events such as the recent police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and several such cases from the east to the west coasts.

Reverend Al Sharpton urged the young generation to believe in their ability to effect positive change. Instead of taking on many issues, each one should strive to define specific goals and work diligently to achieve those goals.

He offered a unique perspective on various issues, saying, for example, that when he tells Black people that they are sometimes accountable for the problems they face, he gets some negative reactions. He also said that his idea of civil rights embraces the rights of all groups of people who are in any way discriminated against or disenfranchised--blacks, Latinos, women, gay and lesbian people, Muslims, and so forth. He brought into his talk references to places beyond the USA, such as Palestine and South Africa.

Al Sharpton spoke about the issue of race without alienating anybody. Instead, he won applause and standing ovations with his insights, fairness, eloquence, and sense of humour. He charmed the audience with his jokes. He noted, for example, that people think he just pops up wherever there are problems around the USA. The truth, he said, is that people call him to those places.

After his talk, he was taken to a reception room where he interacted with people informally. He gracefully took photos with anybody who wanted to take a photo with him. My two daughters and I stepped forward to take a photo, and then my eldest daughter brought out Al Sharpton's book, Al On America. Reverend Al Sharpton right away offered to sign it, while reaching for a pen. It was a most touching, unforgettable experience.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Afrifest Foundation Board Meeting, September 13

This afternoon, I went to the Center for Families in Minneapolis to attend the Afrifest Foundation Board meeting. Four Board members participated in the meeting: Nathan White, Pablo Whaley, David Wilson, and Joseph Mbele.

We heard a report about Afrifest 2014 from Nathan White, Board Executive Secretary, noting that publicity for the event was perhaps better this year than in all previous years. The event itself went well, except that around 6pm it started to rain, prompting vendors to wrap up their activities. Even though many attendees left because of the rain, some remained for almost three hours more.

Nathan also noted that Kenyans, perhaps more than any other nationality, played a key role in the festival this year. The DJ was Kenyan, the Kenyans had a table displaying various artifacts and many festival attendees were Kenyans. They also made up the soccer team. The City of Brooklyn Park lent its support, and we noted that even the mayor came to the festival.

Nathan asserted that in terms of event planning and production, the Afrifest Foundation now has much experience and expertise. Other organizations are already seeking out the Foundation for advice on how to produce their own events. We are excited to be in a position to assume this new role.

The Afrifest Foundation has been in contact with Liberation Clothing and Gifts, a regular vendor at Afrifest, exploring the idea of the Foundation's participation in the Black History Expo, Liberation Clothing and Gift's signature annual event, which is scheduled for February 2015. The Afrifest Foundation is thinking about hosting a "Taste of Africa" event at the Expo.

Nathan shared the view that in the future, we should make sure to invite a major performing artistic group, recalling that at the first Festival we had the late Lucky Dube performing, and, naturally, he drew a large crowd. His show was reported in the Twin Cities Daily Planet and Mshale.

We noted that there are other organizations we can work with, including religious groups which share our vision and mission to bring about greater connections within the African and African Diaspora communities and between them and people of non-African descent, by fostering social, cultural and other programs.

We will also collaborate with groups which work in the field of global health. There is, for example, an event in December, on the ebola epidemic.

We will continue to keep in mind the other dimensions of the Foundation's mission, notably, cultural and educational programming. Although these are to some extent, a part of what we have been doing during the Festival, we want to be more active in creating or exploiting opportunities focused on programs such as cultural education.

We will focus, as well, on grant writing, to enhance our activities. Also, since we have 501(c)3 status, we look forward to being the fiscal agent for other organizations. Finally, people can now donate to the Afrifest Foundation directly, with a credit card, online.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Teaching South Asian Literature Again

The St. Olaf College Fall semester started a week ago, on September 4. I am teaching two courses: Writing and South Asian Literature. I wish to say a few things about the South Asian Literature course, which I taught for the first time in the Spring of 2011, as I reported on this blog.

I am using Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, Ahmed Ali's Twilight in Delhi, Bapsi Sidhwa's The Crow Eaters, and Romesh Gunesekera's Reef. For the first time, I am using Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown, a work I had not read before but am reading now, in preparation for teaching it later in the semester.

I was eager to include a Rushdie work after teaching his Midnight's Children and finding it both intriguing and interesting, on account of its narrative techniques--which are somewhat complex and confusing--its historical, cultural and religious references and allusions, as well as its style of presenting characters.

I wanted to teach this novel, prompted by, and regretting, the fact that I had not read it. I felt ashamed of myself for not having read this famous literary work, even though I know there are dozens of other famous works I will not be able to read. Sadly, one can only do so much in a lifetime.

One thing I would really like to do is include some poetry, as I told my students today. I hope we will have a few days at the end of the semester to read some poems. Currently, I am reading The Cinnamon Peeler, a collection of poems by Michael Ondaatje, both for my own education and also in order to prepare a selection of poems I can use when or if the opportunity arises. I plan to complement any poems I might choose from this collection with poems from other sources.

Overall, the semester has started well, and I am looking forward to a rich learning experience for my students and me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

More Reflections on the International Faribault Festival

Although the International Faribault Festival took place more than a week ago, memories of it are still fresh in my mind. I have been thinking about it, and have dwelt, in particular, on two or three aspects that I wish to share here.

Though taking place in a small town in south eastern Minnesota, the Festival bore the label "International," which signifies something on a world scale. Yet, the label was not far-fetched.

The Festival did attract people from different countries who live in Faribault and surrounding areas. There were not millions of them, but they represented many countries. I met with individuals from Ireland, Nigeria, Peru, Somalia, Sudan, and, of course, the U.S.A. If every participant were to tell us the people they met, we would surely discover that many other countries were represented. There were, for example, many people originally  from Central or Latin American countries. That was obvious from the language they were speaking--Spanish--and from their appearance. Among the entertainers was an Aztec dance group.

That, for me, is the clearest proof of the "International" nature of the Festival. However, I like to think of other dimensions of that label. I think of the fact that all of us who attended the Festival have family members and friends, some of whom live in different parts of the world. It is fair to assume that we involved them in the Festival through messages, photos, phone conversations, and other ways. We shared, and continue to share, stories with the rest of the world.

The Festival was featured in Facebook messages sent out, especially, by Peter Van Sluis, chair of the Festival organizing committee. It was mentioned in the Faribault Daily News, which is available online and accessible to people around the world. I wrote blog posts, in English and in Swahili, which are read around the world.

Several years ago, during the Faribault International Market Day--the precursor of the International Faribault Festival--I told my friend Milo Larson, who was chairman of the Faribault Diversity Coalition and main organizer of the Market Day, that I saw the Faribault International Market Day not as a small town event, but as a truly global one, because the people who attended it were sure to tell other people--far and near-- about it, and the story might spread around the world. What appears to be a local, small town event, works like a pebble that you throw into a pond, or a lake, sending ever-widening ripples far and wide.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The International Faribault Festival, August 23

The International Faribault Festival took place on August 23, as planned, and I was there. As soon as I arrived at the festival venue, the city of Faribault's Central Park, I was moved by the display of flags on the main stage. Festival participants from various nations were on hand to say a few words about their national flags and their countries.

Afterwards, these people walked down from the stage, in single file, bearing their flags. They placed these flags in the middle of the open space, where they stood for the duration of the festival.

As they fluttered in the wind, displaying their many colors, these flags were a veritable feast for the eyes.

There were many booths and tables, where vendors sold food, soft drinks, jewelry, perfumes, clothes and other items.

There were music and dance groups from different cultures offering entertainment.

As always happens on these occasions, I saw people I know, but I also met  and had conversations with people I did not know before, such as the ones in the photo on the left. The lady on the right is originally from Ireland, the gentleman in a white shirt is from Somalia, and the lady on the left is from the U.S.A. You can imagine the diversity of experiences and perspectives we brought into our conversation. We took this photo after all three had bought the books they wanted.
I have noted, over the years, that a table or a booth  at events such as the International Faribault Festival is a kind of magnet which attracts people, creating opportunities for conversations. People gather at my table and have discussions with me or among themselves. Since the focus of my work is education and issues concerning the impact and implications of cultural differences, most of the conversations around my table deal with these issues. In the photo on the left, we see the two ladies that featured in the photo above, with a gentleman from Nigeria.

One of the touching moments during these encounters is the signing of books. It is, for me, both an honour and a humbling experience when a customer asks to have her or his book signed.

Equally touching is the moment when a customer poses for a photo with me, proudly displaying the book or books she or he has just bought. Like any writer, I am happy and gratified that my ideas reach an ever growing audience.

I wish to conclude with a word of gratitude to the organizers of the International Faribault Festival, as well as the volunteers, for all the work they did to make this valuable and memorable event possible.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Memories of Afrifest, Minnesota, 2014

Afrifest 2014 took place on August 2, in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, as planned, and I was there. As has been the case in the past, this was an occasion to interact with different people. There was a steady stream of people coming and going. They talked with vendors, saw products on display, and learned about various services.

One of these people was Jeffrey Lunde, the mayor of Brooklyn Park. I was happy to chat with him for a few minutes. I told him I was quite sure I had heard him speak, some years back, at an African event.

Mayor Lunde has a particular interest in Liberia, a country he has visited. It is interesting that he is mayor of a city which hosts the largest number of Liberians in the U.S.A.

As a vendor, I displayed my books and got to interact with different people who came to my table. They asked questions, shared their perspectives, and picked up copies of free publications. Some bought books.

I enjoyed the questions people asked. One question that stands out in my mind was whether
African Americans are Americans. I have been asked this question again and again by African Americans, when they looked at the title of my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. My answer has always been that African Americans are Americans, and this is the position I take in my book. I plan to deal with this issue in a future blog post.

As is the case year after year, I met old acquaintances as well as new people. I shared my knowledge, experience, and vision with them and at the same time learned a great deal from them. This alone makes my participation in Afrifest worth all the time and effort.

In the late afternoon, around 5 p.m., the stream of visitors grew noticeably, attracted by an impending soccer match between East Africans and West Africans. I did not stay to watch the match. Still recovering from a long illness, I felt tired and embarked on the journey back to Northfield.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Meet the Author" at Afrifest, August 2

Afrifest is an annual Minnesota summer festival which aims to foster awareness of the experience of people of African descent in Africa and the African Diaspora across the ages.

There are always vendors of different products and providers of various services. It is always a delight to be around them. As In the past, I will be there in my capacity as an educator, cultural consultant and author, and here are the books I will have on display.

This is a collection of ten tales from the oral tradition of the Matengo of Southern Tanzania. I recorded them in the mid-seventies, tranlated them into English, and wrote commentaries on them.

This is a study guide to Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe's famous novel.

I wrote this book to foster mutual understanding between Africans and Americans, with a focus on cultural differences which hinder or complicate relations between the two sides.

This is a collection of short essays in Swahili, on economic, political, social, cultural, and educational issues, with a particular focus on the experience of Tanzania, but relevant to the rest of Africa as well.

This pamphlet is a miniature version of ten posters I created for the first Afrifest, 2007. It highlights the African experience from the origins of the human race in Africa to the present, touching on such topics as the ancient African civilizations, slavery and the slave trade, colonialism, the struggle for independence, the arts, and pan Africanism.

For more information on the festival, check the Afrifest website.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Afrifest 2014 is Coming, August 2

Afrifest, now an established annual festival, is coming again, August 2. The venue is North View Junior High School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

As in previous years, this is a great opportunity to meet Africans from Africa and the Diaspora, as well as friends of Africa. People who might just be curious about Africa show up as well. and the Afrifest Festival affords them a uniqe opportunity to meet people and learn many things, through conversations and the exhibits. Some people come having travelled or lived in Africa, and they see the Festival as a good opportunity to reconnect with the continent.

There are, every year, vendors, music and plenty of great food. There are children's activities and games, soccer matches, and other forms of entertainment.

The Afrifest Foundation board has already started planning for the festival. It invites vendors and volunteers, as in the past. Vendors showcase their products and services, and volunteers gain valuable experience in social and cultural programming.

For young people, in particular, volunteering for, and participating in, the Afrifest Festival is a valuable learning opportunity. I value especially the fact that this festival fosters a pan-African consciousness in the future generation as opposed to the ethnic chauvinism, narrow nationalist, and other sectarian tendencies that fuel many of the problems confronting Africa and the African Diaspora.

The Afrifest Festival is a family event. For more information, visit: the Afrifest Foundation site

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Chance Encounter at Mto wa Mbu, Tanzania, With "Oswego Going Global"

In mid January, 2013, I was at Mto wa Mbu, a small town in northern Tanzania. I was with 29 students from St. Olaf College, on an interim course titled "Hemingway in East Africa."

We spent several days at Mto wa Mbu, which Hemingway describes in his Green Hills of Africa.

On one of those days, I came across Protus Mayunga, a man I had not known before. We had a great conversation. It turned out that we had significant common interests, in fields such as cultural tourism.

He was there with a group of students from the State University of New York, Oswego, and their professor, Dr. Mehran Nojan. Protus who founded and runs a small tour company called The Roof of Africa Adventures, was in charge of the logistics of the group's travel, helping with cultural and other forms of orientation for them. You can see Protus at the far right in the photo.

In the morning, I went and met them at their hotel. I learned that they were in a program called Oswego Going Global. It is a program of travel and learning, which takes students to various parts of the world. In Tanzania, their experiences included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, visiting the national parks, such as the fabled Serengeti, and getting acquainted with the local people.

I thought it was a great program and was impressed by the enthusiasm and resilience of the participants as they went through diferent places, some quite challenging. When we first met, Protus learned that I had written a book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. He obtained the several copies that I had with me and that evening he shared them with his group. Apparently, they enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Word on my "Africans and Americans" book from Wisconsin Travellers to Tanzania

I appreciate readers' comments on my writings, keeping in mind that they have spent valuable time reading what I wrote, but also sharing their views. They thus create a dialogue which I find enriching.

From time to time, I see such responses to my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. Several days ago, I saw, online, a report written by a member of a team that visited Tanzania recently, under the auspices of the Leadership Wisconsin:

In the United States we are accustomed to running from place to place, chasing time and cramming all we can into a day. In Tanzania we found a slower pace--we experienced "African Time." The day is not driven by the clock but rather shaped by people's relationships. It is accepted practice to be "late" as a result of lending a helping hand, catching up with an old friend, or extending hospitality to a stranger. This is something we learned prior to landing at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, having read "Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences" by Joseph L. Mbele as part of our seminar prework.

The report, available online, is titled "Safari of a Lifetime Part 1."

Friday, May 9, 2014

I Did Not Teach the Ama Ata Aidoo Seminar

Unfortunately, I could not teach the Ama Ata Aidoo seminar I had planned to teach. I had health problems which led me to apply for six months of medical leave. After spending six weeks in hospital, I am still recovering at home. I hope to return to teaching in the fall.

As in previous years, I had big plans for the summer, but I have had to shelve them. I trust in God and   look forward to better days.