In Anticipation of the Arrival of Our Guest

Joseph Tambo is coming on Saturday for a three week visit.  He was my most focused and attentive student when I was a Peace Corps teacher in Carnot, Central African Republic.  He was 12 in 1996 when I gave all the students my address and told them, if they wrote to me, I would write them back.

And Joseph Tambo sent me a letter and he made sure to never lose contact, over twenty years, emailing and facebooking.  He taught himself English and got a job at the American Embassy in Bangui.  And now he has a visa and a plane ticket, and he will be here in two days.

I feel ashamed of our culture already, thinking of how striking it will be to Joseph Tambo, how wasteful we are.  I am ashamed of our culture because I am already worried about how different it is for a black man here than in Africa.

I am excited to take him to the library, to Imagine City Park, to Madison, to Lake Michigan.  I am excited to take him to the high school to share with the students his story.

I try to explain to the kids.  It's not like us going to Paris.  This was not easy for this guy.  This took some rare powers of visioning and determination.  He has lived through some terrible things, and somehow always finds the strength to keep working towards his goals no matter how many obstacles he encounters.

There are so many questions I have for him.  One thing I know for sure: Joseph Tambo is going to be cold.

Carnot's elementary school

Carnot's market near the school

Carnot's middle school where I taught Joseph Tambo

Neighborhood near the school

On my way to school after grading exams.


  1. Joanna - Thanks for your sensitivity to what culture shock Joseph Tambo will experience. You will be great hosts. He will love your kids!

    1. Wish we could make it to Chippewa Falls!

  2. Such compassionate insight, Joanna. I loved reading about Joseph. Thank you.