Jonathan Daube (Northampton, MA) speaks with Selena DeCosta (Easton/Amherst, MA) about his time spent teaching in Malawi and how it shaped his view of the world for the rest of his life.
I spent two years in Malawi. I think for me it was more valuable than graduate school. I learned an enormous amount. About the world, about myself, and when we got back, it was 1970. This country, the United States, was in considerable turmoil. And I found that my experience in Malawi helped me in ways I wasn’t even aware of. Helped me work with all kinds of students, especially African american. Because for two years I had been, my bosses had been, african american, well not american, african. It just came naturally to me to work with people of very different backgrounds. That was extraordinarily, extraordinarily helpful. So that's, that's how we got there and we went with one child and came back with two. Our daughter, the middle child, was born there.
Do you look at the world differently now than you did at that age? I think I do. I understood, perhaps still understand, what real poverty is like. Beyond anything you could see, well I could see, in this country. I understood, and understand now, now that I am much older, what it is like to be in a situation where there just aren’t medical services the way we are accustomed to them. A town like Northampton with a population of about 30,000 would have in Malawi, would have less than one doctor for the whole town. So there would be all kinds of people who would have no access to medical help at all. I am more comfortable in situations that I have never been in before. I would now say, and I say it to my own children, that to be fully educated and you know somewhat understand the world we live in, you have to spend some time, and I don’t mean just a week or two, you have to spend some time in a different culture. Now the different culture could be a very different kind of family or set up down the road, it doesn’t have to be overseas, but normally it would be.