When you're trying to get the bread out the bread-pan without breaking it, you may clean forget about strawberry jam. It's the best way I can explain why a storyteller, or at least someone who makes storytelling happen, not telling, sharing or eliciting a single story in the first few months of her stay in a new country.
But I'm very grateful to say the stories eventually came along anyway, in several wonderful ways.
The very first story that was told to me, as a proper story, came out of the blue. K, the boy in my class who has cerebral palsy, was coming up for his turn to do a book report. I asked whether he'd like me to read him a book, which he could then do an oral report on. No, said K, I want to tell a story.
So, we got his wheelchair to the front of the class. And suddenly he transformed from the generally fairly quiet, soft-spoken, reserved child he is most of the time, and exclaimed with great flair: "Once upon a time!" He looked around. The audience was not up to his expectations. So he called to one of the kids: "Come, come sit here!" D came to sit by his chair. Again we start. "Once upon a time, spider.... No. You, J, you come here!" We start again...
So it went on until he at last had the whole class sitting and crouching around his chair. And then he launched into his 'spider story' with great gusto and animation. I think some of the story may have been missing, and I myself was at a disadvantage, knowing less of the spider stories than K's classmates. So I can't retell it here. But everyone really just revelled in seeing him come so alive, and responded with a great cheer at the end of the performance.
That's the story of my first Liberian story, I hope I'll never forget it. Since then, more did come, told by K, his classmates, and others - see next post with a 'stories' label.