October 10, 2007

What do you know?

Today, this young woman came into the clinic and said she needed some more clothes for her baby. She’s 18-years old and gave birth in January. I offered to take her to our store-room and help her find some clothes.

“Help” might be too strong of a word because when it comes to child-rearing I am worse than useless. I kept picking out clothes and showing them to her and she would dismiss them, saying either “too big,” “too small,” or “girl.” The last one was fairly emphatic as her child is, apparently, male. I was thankful she knew at least this much English. Of the six or seven pieces of clothing she ultimately took, I think I had found one.

It got me thinking that by most standards, I would be considered better educated than her. I have been in school longer, have more degrees, and can at the drop of a hat, if need be, lecture on the reasons North Korea is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. At the age of 18, I could tell you all about the history of Europe, translate parts of Virgil’s Aeneid, or perform differential calculus. (Incidentally, none of that knowledge is directly useful to my current occupation.) Yet, despite (or because of) all that education, I can’t even tell a male baby from a female baby. And I’m apparently worthless when it comes to picking out clothes.

The people of Itipini would not be considered book-smart by anyone but I still have so much to learn from them.

There's the baby - androgynous wouldn't you agree?


Michelle said...

I'm in grad school right now - and I worked for a few years between high school and getting my undergraduate degree and became a teacher; I'm spending time on campus tutoring writing as part of an assistantship that I got this year. And the more I tutor the more I realize that there's so much I don't know, that I learn from students who just know more than I do when it comes to other things - science, or, like, how to survive on the streets in the bad parts of the Bronx or Brooklyn. It's humbling. I don't have that background.