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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In Africa, she hoped to find both - In the Belly of the Elephant: A Memoir of Africa by Susan Corbett

Everybody needs to run away from home at least once. Susan Corbett told people she was out to save the world, but really she was running — running from her home as much as to anywhere. Like many women, she was searching for meaning to her life or for a good man to share it with. In Africa, she hoped to find both.

Description:

Everybody needs to run away from home at least once. Susan Corbett told people she was out to save the world, but really she was running — running from her home as much as to anywhere. Like many women, she was searching for meaning to her life or for a good man to share it with. In Africa, she hoped to find both.

Compelling and compassionate, In the Belly of the Elephant is Susan's transformative story of what happens when you decide to try to achieve world peace while searching for a good man. More than a fish-out-of-water story, it's a surprising and heart-rending account of her time in Africa trying to change the world as she battles heat, sandstorms, drought, riots, intestinal bugs, burnout, love affairs and more than one meeting with death.

Against a backdrop of vivid beauty and culture, in a narrative interwoven with a rich tapestry of African myths and fables, Susan learns the true simplicity of life, and discovers people full of kindness, wisdom and resilience, and shares with us lessons we, too, can learn from her experiences.

GUEST POST
African Myth Helps Tell the Story 

There is a story the Zulu people tell in the far south lands of Africa about a woman called Unanana-Bosele, who willfully built her house in the middle of the road, trusting to ubungqotsho. Anything a person does to gain self-confidence, power, strength, or passion, all of this is ubungqotsho. 

From 1976 until 1984, in my early to mid twenties, I worked with the Peace Corps and Save the children in the West African countries of Liberia and Burkina Faso. In the Belly of the Elephant: A Memoir of Africa is the story of my time there. 

Myth and legend are woven throughout the many different cultures of Africa. These stories reflect the philosophy and attitudes of the thousands of tribes scattered across that enormous continent. 

When I came back to the states in 1984, after five years of living and working in Africa, I wanted to share my experiences, to try to explain the extraordinary (and the un-extraordinary) events that shaped me as a person and re-honed the very facets of my soul. In order to do that, I had to include the myths and legends of Africa. Without them, telling my story would have been like trying to describe a complicated and delicious meal without including the basic ingredients. 

I chose stories that helped paint a more colorful picture of my own experiences. The story of Unanana-Bosele's journey through the belly of an elephant with one tusk describes my own coming of age journey through countries and cultures so completely different from my Idaho up-bringing. The creation story of Doondari and the legend of How Tortoise Got His Shell gives perspective to the challenges of being an American working overseas. The on-going antics of Squirrel and Elephant symbolize the struggles of aid work in developing countries. The dark tale of Toad and Frog and When the Moon Died mirrors the despair of witnessing and learning to live with death. When Nzalan Destroyed the Earth helps explain the destruction of drought and floods and gives hope for renewal. 

And in my on-going search for love and a good man, Abena and the Python Prince provides comic relief and a good lesson about men who are snakes. A love affair with an African Captain begins and ends with adventure of Sia Jatta Bari and the Bida Dragon. 

The use of myth in Belly of the Elephant provides color and perspective to the story of my life over five years in West Africa. At the same time, you, the reader, get to share in the wonderful imagination, oral history, and gathered wisdom of a rich and diverse people and culture. 

They made Unanana-Bosele many fine gifts of cattle, goats, and sheep. She returned to her village and her house in the middle of the road, rich with many treasures and her two fine children.

About the author:
A writer, community organizer, and consultant in program management, micro-enterprise development, family planning, and HIV/AIDS education, Susan Corbett began her community development career in 1976 as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in a health clinic in Liberia, West Africa. In 1979, she joined Save the Children Federation as a program coordinator for cooperative and small business projects in Burkina Faso. In 1982, Susan returned to the States where she has worked with local non-profits in drug and alcohol prevention for runaway youth, family planning, homelessness prevention, and immigrant issues. 

Susan has traveled to over 40 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean, and Central and North America and has lived and worked in ten African countries over the past thirty years (Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, The Gambia, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mauritius, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Liberia). She lives in Colorado with her husband, Steve, her sons, Mitch & Sam, and her dog, Molly.


1 comment:

fee roberts said...

This sounds very interesting. I love learning of other people's customs, beliefs, and folklore.