A Teacher Grows in Brooklyn – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
‘At the village we were greeted by our hosts and tribe members. My girls were again paired with one family and I was to be hosted that night by Susan. Her home was a block building with “outside plumbing.” A hand pump brought rain water into a small kitchenette. There were two rooms in the building. Susan was young, pretty, and blonde. She was given a guard at night to discourage the tribe’s young men. The Kalenjin were more advanced than the Luo, but the Peace Corps did not want any incidents with their volunteers. My new host, Edward, was slightly older than I was. He had fourteen children ranging in age from five to twenty-three years. His family occupied more than four buildings: sleeping quarters for the younger children, a larger building with a bedroom for him and his wife, and a living/dining room with a television set. I hardly saw his wife, who spoke only Swahili. Much of her time was taken up shopping and cooking in a typical cooking hut that had a chimney and an overworked fireplace that seemed to turn out food twenty-four hours a day. Edward told me that all his children will go to college. His eldest son was already married and a teacher. He was very proud to be a grandfather. Edward was also proud that he was a wealthy man with a healthy wife, many children, and a very productive tea plantation.’
Al Mazza grew up in Brooklyn and later went into the field of education serving many roles but with his most important one, in my opinion, as a creator of a student exchange program. He and his students traveled throughout the world learning the cultures as well as some of the languages, but most importantly earning the friendship of those within their travels. The experiences learned by teacher and students are priceless and could never be learned, taught nor ‘felt’ without this program. Teacher and student traveled to Japan where they took a trip to Mt. Fuji on the “Bullet Train.” They visited Belfort, which is famous for the Statue of Liberty design. They viewed the beauty of the Pyramids at Giza. And these were just a few of the trips allowed over the years for those students lucky enough to qualify for the exchange program. During their stay in the different countries, the students actually lived with their host family and attended the schools. In exchange, students from the host countries were treated to the same experiences within the United States.
What I can really express about my feelings while reading A Teacher Grows in Brooklyn is that I envy those who were treated to these experiences. The knowledge and memories can be nothing but grand. I would have loved to be a part of this program but since I wasn’t I do appreciate being able to read the memories and stories shared with us by Albert Mazza.