My story comes from Bolahun, Liberia days, when I was needed to teach a 9th grade class. The class was mostly boys, who teased the few girls every time they tried to get a word into the class discussion. I worked on that from the start, but it had been the way of the culture. The boys were smart, mischievous, and ebullient. In American English, the students would have been called “bright”, but in Liberia “bright” only referred to skin color, as in “light skinned”.
The Fathers and the Sisters insisted that the students speak English as a way to help keep down tribal cliques from forming among four main ethnic groups: Bandi, Kisi, Loma, and Kpelle. However, it was clear from the start that their vocabularies did not consist of many descriptive words. So I came up with a class assignment that could either be written or presented as an oral report. There was only one restriction: the student must NOT use the word “interesting”, which they pronounced “inTRESTing.” It was the most overused word, so it was forbidden.
Dunstan volunteered first to deliver a report about a field trip: the science teachers had planned for a class to travel to the Kaiha River, a rare treat for the students to have some time away from the mission and school.
Dunstan enthusiastically took his place in front of the class to face the challenge presented by Teacha. He shifted into position and spoke boldly:
“AHEM. The Junior Class recently went on field trip to Kaiha River.” (Cheers.) “We carry a picnic. Ih wa’ vereh intres…” (Shouts stop him.)
“Ahem. Le’ me star’ ovah. Ahem. The Junior Class went with our teachas to Kaiha River. They show us intresting t’ing’. Oh.” (Fidgeting. ) “Gimme one mo’ chance.”
This time Dunstan spoke slowly, every word. “The Junior Class travel’ to the Kaiha River with our teacha’ an’ we have a picnic….” He stopped to think, searching his mind. Then, his face and eyes brightened; he had thought of a word! He took a big breath and pronounced slowly: “Ih wa’ ….SOMEHOW!”
The rest of the Dunstan story is that “de Fadas” obtained a scholarship for him to attend St. Andrew’s School in Sewanee TN, USA. I never saw him again, but his story often pops up in my head, when I find myself about to describe something as “somehow.”