My sister Sally took me to visit her good friend Susan Bexton in 1969. Susan had returned from two years volunteering with Cuso as a nurse in Nigeria. She was living at the top of McTavish Street by McGill and I was in my second year. I recall thinking Susan had been ‘politicized’ by her experience. Before leaving for Tanzania, I spoke with her from her home in Portland. She said she thought she hadn’t accomplished anything, that the needles for the children were still barbed at the end of her stay. One can all too easily hunt for positive things surely left behind, like manner, and professionalism and friendships but I didn’t say these things. I left.
Susan’s comments on ‘Hurry, Wait and Miss it’:
I laughed at your arriving 7 hours ahead of time [for the Field Day]. Tanzanian time, like
Nigerian time, is quite different. That happened to me once. And as far as
ceremony goes, the British colonial influence persists, I see.
The Nigerians really loved the formality of meetings of any kind. One time
there was a harvest festival and I was asked to be the “lady chairman”.
There was also a chairman and speakers etc. The person who introduced me
was confused by the X in my name as there is no X in Yoruba. I was
introduced as Mrs. Sessie Bestox, a name that persists to this day in certain circles.
I might be beginning to understand Susan’s perspective as viewed from the dentist’s chair. I needed a tooth pulled. There were several letters behind the dentist’s name and his hands were gentle and he was kind so he had acquired Susan’s manner, but where was the professionalism Susan left behind? He was careful to show me the sealed needle and the use by date of the pain killer but the floor was dirty and the cabinets too; there was no running water except cold from a sink in the corner and the instruments got mixed up with the bloody swipes all placed together on the table. Same conditions when at another clinic to get a preventative rabies shot. All the same, I sure appreciated him.