John Fanselow (Nigeria 1961-63) In a Cooking Pot

John Fanselow (Nigeria 1961-63) in a cooking pot

There was a Catholic secondary school for women a mile and a half or so from the Government teacher training college where Fanselow was teaching in 1962. Young Catholic women taught at the secondary school not as Peace Corps Volunteers, but as volunteers for a Catholic organization.

John and the women would often get together on weekends after mass at the secondary school and sometimes went on walks later in the day.

One afternoon they came upon the large pot used to cook stew for events in the village. John and the women teachers had food with them as well as forks, knives and spoons for their picnic, and they  thought it would be a good joke to give forks, etc. to the people in the village and hop into the pot. (John had remembered seeing an old Abbot and Costello movie with a similar scene.)

Of course as soon as he saw the slides of the photos he realized how insulting and insensitive their joke was.

The villagers, however, had thought it was a funny thing what John had done, but they had not seen any Abbot and Costello movies, and had no experience of putting people in pots.

The photo was taken in 1962 after Fanselow had been in Uyo, the town where both institutions were located, for only a few months.

Rather than destroy the outrageous photo John, throughout his long teaching career, has used the photo when discussing how we often do things without thinking of what we supposedly have learned. That is one reason, John says today, “why trying to teach cross cultural understanding is so tough.”

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  • John Faneslow was the TESL instructor for several Somali PC programs. I knew him when he held that post for Somali IV in training at Columbia Teachers College. John is one of the most decent, thoughtful human beings I have ever met. His self-deprecating manner, his wry sense of humor and his low key approach to what we thought were crises helped to get us through many “situations,” in a country which had the reputation as being the toughest assignment for PCVs.

    John served not only as teacher but mentor to many of us both in Somalia and in our subsequent lives. I felt compelled to write a comment so that those who have not met him do not judge him on the insensitive action depicted in the photo.

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