Thursday, September 21, 2006

Achebe and Loyola students

In general I thought the physical descriptions of Lagos that Achebe presents are somewhat lacking and vague, but his writing makes up for this in developing the spirit of Lagos through character development. I could not picture the actual city of Lagos in my mind, but I could deeply comprehend the people, and their beliefs and expectations of themselves and each other. One expectation we discussed in class was that Obi was expected to return to Lagos, to contribute to his community what he had learned abroad. The pressure for Obi to do this was at a heightened extreme, but as a Jesuit institute I think Loyola, at least through its service elements, call us students to do this to a degree. When we are doing service learning we are sharing our abilities and knowledge with the rest of Baltimore. To be a community we must all be able to work together, and I think that Lagos believes in the essence of this statement, but to a more extreme level. Through our service we are in a way representing Loyola College, just as Obi was representative of Lagos in Europe. In our classrooms, particularly in Literature of the City, we are expected to share with others our experiences in service, and what we have learned.I was particularly interested in the character Mr. Green. On pg 96, Achebe writes, "Yes, a very interesting character. It was clear he loved Africa, but only Africa of a kind: the Africa of Charles, the messenger, the Africa of his garden-boy and steward-boy. He must have come originally with an ideal- to bring light to the heart of darkness, to tribal head-hunters performing weird ceremonies and unspeakable rites. But when he arrived, Africa played him false". Mr. Green is a man of prejudices and of stereotypes. This is not inhuman, what makes Mr. Green racist, is his inability to let these false ideas go in the face of opposing evidence and truth. Before I volunteered I had certain stereotypes that the poor people would be so helpless, and how I would have to assist them at my service site, but when I first arrived I realized how wrong that idea was. At Beans and Bread, you are serving the poor of Baltimore a meal, but they are serving you with information about 'their' Baltimore and their stories. I learned things about Baltimore that I would never learn in a classroom at Loyola. I experienced first hand the people who live on Baltimore's streets, spending their days and nights with the city. I was intrigued by their views of the city, and how different they were from mine. I was also impressed that while some people have some limited resources in Baltimore their love and pride for the city remains.