E ku ile o!
(Greetings to you at home) E ku ise o! (Greetings to you who are working) I pray that you are all very well and that you are feeling bright. I am very excited to be writing to you from Ile-Ife, the cradle of Yorùbá civilization. I’ve been here at Obafemi Awolowo University studying Yorùbá language and culture for the last two weeks and I’m blessed to be here for the remainder of the summer enjoying all that Yorùbáland has to offer with my friends and colleagues. I won’t be able to post as often here or on facebook, but rest assured that I’m collecting a lot of great information and making wonderful contacts to share with all of you in the fall.

Last week, my host mother took me to a mo mi mo (traditional engagement ceremony). I was eager to meet with the families and to practice my spoken Yorùbá. I prepared myself to answer many questions and to engage in conversation but, as it turns out, I wasn’t prepared when I was asked the most difficult question of all: I was asked to recite the Yorùbá alphabet.

I had been so busy with my more advanced conversation practice that I had completely let the alphabet slip out of my mind. Of course, when I stumbled during my recitation, the families were convinced that I couldn’t speak very well and so our conversation was cut short. This experience reminded me that as we learn new things, we can’t forget or falter on the basics. No matter how much we know, if we are not able to aptly demonstrate the most basic levels of knowledge, we may not have the opportunity to delve any deeper. If we don’t know 1+1, we probably won’t be asked to speak on calculus. If we don’t know how to recognize the basic signatures of Ifá, we probably won’t be asked to chant odù.

Needless to say, I went home and practiced the alphabet and all the other beginning basics so that I am always ready to demonstrate what I know, from the most basic level to the most complex. Today and every day, let us re initiate ourselves in our basic knowledge building always upon firm foundation such that we avoid sinking into the depths of missed opportunity. Ase!