Pals at Bryan HallGoing to College Exposed Me to a Whole New World

In a PBS special, Peace Corps volunteers said going overseas changed their lives. Living in another country gave them a whole new perspective on their own life and culture. This was true for me, although my experience was personal. I grew up on an Ohio farm. A rural community in America was all I knew. I was loved and had a happy childhood, but I knew almost nothing about the world “out there.” I imagined it, but had no experience in it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anita Farm House

Enrolling at Ohio University in 1963, was the beginning of that other world opening to me. The college campus gave me exposure to new ideas and people from all over the world. I took it all in with great interest. I was especially intrigued when I read in the schedule of course offerings, “anthropology – the study of man.” At the last minute, although the class was full, I managed to coax a change order out of the professor. I had no idea “the study of man,” or I should say, the study of one man, would radically change the usual, expected direction of my life.

I Married an African Chief

That anthropology professor opened my world in a way I could never have designed and believe me, I dreamed of all kinds of adventures. His appearance was that of a typical black American, but he had these “twinkle” tribal marks on his cheeks and a totally different identity as a heredity Mende chief in Liberia, West Africa.

As we got to know each other, I asked him, “What are those markings on your cheeks?”

He said, “They were put on my face when I was eight days old to identify me as royalty. I’m descended from a very powerful Mende chief named Ngombu Tejjeh. This process began during the days of slavery to keep Africans of other tribes from capturing leaders of the society. After the cuts were made, ashes were rubbed into them to ensure a lasting scar.”

And so began “The Education of Anita Dennis”                                    Benjamin Dennis Gowned

You might say falling in love with him began the “education of Anita Dennis” more so than any of my college courses. After we married, he took me to his remote village upcountry where he wept over the grave of his ancestor. Those tribal people standing around the gravesite were my family and my life has never been the same since.

Have you had an overseas experience? How did it open your eyes? Change your perspective? I’d love to hear about it….

Read our love story Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.