Even though my family lived in Enugu, Nigeria, for a few months before evacuating during the Biafran Civil War, we established our daily rhythm right away. Living as nomads, what kept us tethered to normalcy was structure. My all-Nigerian school had walls four feet high, red clay in the courtyard; sewing classes for the girls, gardening for the boys; scripture in the mornings with a teacher wielding a long ruler, ready to whack you on the head or hand if your pronunciation of Old Testament names was off. That’s when I learned my fainting trick. I could pass out before I got called on. I almost broke my two front teeth using this ruse one too many times.
After school I did as the school boys, tending to my own vegetable patch in our huge backyard, or else I visited the zoo with no cages down the road. Night times were for walking down the road, skipping over snakes, drinking with the neighbors who had naughty monkeys that finished everyone's half-empty cocktails. Sometimes, after dinner, my father and I sat in his library listening to the Voice of America radio. But it was evenings on an upstairs terrace, listening to the sounds of Africa that I liked best -- the frogs, the animals, the night times sounds, the symphony of nature. Once the blackness of night descended, always at 6 p.m. sharp (no Daylight Savings Time) the stars danced across the sky and my father taught me about the constellations.
Remembering the stars and sounds makes me think of the Cole Porter song Night and Day: like the beat beat beat of the tom tom drum when the jungle shadows fall... I recall wondering where I belonged in the world, and, of course, the taste of shoe string potatoes. The only thing our cook made that was actually delicious were shoe string potatoes. To this day, I prefer those tasty fries to the plain old American French fry. They are crisper, quicker, and even good when cold. For slightly healthier version that is equally delicious, try Fried Zucchini, the Academy way.
XO, the Dean