Opportunity, they say, meets preparedness. It’s no wonder Adenle Oloruntoba made it to one of the Ten selected in the The Wole Soyinka Study Abroad in Lebanon project, (SAIL) in 2017 when he least expected it. The budding writer and artiste, who studied Creative arts at the University of Lagos, had gone to see Professor Wole Soyinka, and saw an offer before him. He accepted instantly, “No test, interview, or sentiments. All I had to do was cover the study textbook, Silk Roads, and prepare mentally”, he recalls.
The exchange programme was scheduled for writers not only to have impact on their careers but to also broaden their intellectual and cultural scope. This, Adenle has achieved, even though his expectations before leaving for Lebanon was thin for lack of time. Part of the discovery made was the sightseeing visit paid to World Heritage sites, the practical approach to augment the courses studied in the classroom. In the ten days spent with the Cedars Institute, Notre Dame University, he was able to visit Baalbeck, Tyr, Byblos, The National Museum, Tripoli, Saint Anthony Monastery. His notes read: “Baalbeck: plains of the Temples of Baalbeck [1st century A.D.]. At this temple, I believed in the might and romanticism of the roman architect. They had the temple of Jupiter and Bacchus built in a way it will last forever. Built as a place of worship where seaborne travellers, or natives, captives, merchants, can gather to worship and contact more than religion, but trade. Strategically and gigantically built by the sea.
“Byblos: The Crusader Castle [12th century A.D.] perfectly built also by the Mediterranean Sea. There I saw the temple of the disciples of Jesus Christ, and learned about the different eras of civilisation and how villages and worship places were built upon each other, era by era. From the excavations, one will notice this somewhat rare way of conquest. I also saw the way their graves were built, saw the graves and two temples of worship. Byblos is a rich city I must confess, and how the old and new merged is fantastic….”
The writer told The Sun Literary Review, “Lebanon is a museum the size of a country.” indeed, he got a lot more than imagined from the trip, meeting people, trying out local meals rather than the “just study and get exposed to world sites” mindset he carried with him . According to him, the reception wasn’t stiff for a foreigner that he was. “It was like the whole country was expecting us, or pranking us –the visiting students. But day after day I personally realised that it’s the way the people there are. Their level of hospitality is world class. So, I say, it is welcoming.”
On the whole, the experience was worth his while. The certificate awarded thrilled him and, in equal measure, made him marvel at his name carved on the famed “Cedar tree-like wooden plague”. It was nothing short of lifetime recognition from a start to finish sponsored programme. With this cultural integration, this young Nigerian has returned home filled with dreams and aspirations of becoming a better person “a supporter of national dialogue on cultural differences and historic sites preservation”, because that is the bulk of what will make Nigeria unique and a world class heritage place to visit, and one who must accept other people for who they are and as part of the beautiful world he has seen.