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IN THE SPOTLIGHT  (SCROLL DOWN TO READ OUR LATEST BLOG POSTS)

 

Tuesday
Apr222014

Bride in the Attic

by Maureen Elizabeth Magee

 

Hamer woman, Ethiopia. Photo by Michael Lorentz/Safarious.com

We pull up the Land Cruiser next to a petite man walking along the road. He is wearing a sarong-type skirt; his hair is coiffed in mud and feathers. He is distinguished.

“It is Wolle!” cries Mageru as he gets out from behind the wheel. “He is the Chief of Chiefs for the Hamer people.” 

They greet each other in the traditional way for Ethiopian men – clasping each other’s backs with the left hand, shaking right hands while butting right shoulders three times. Wolle’s head feathers stroked Mageru’s mustache.

In the Hamer language, Mageru introduces me as his wife. Wolle looks me over and absent-mindedly undoes and reties his sarong. He wears nothing underneath.

“We should invite him to camp with us,” suggests Mageru. “It is a long way back to his village.”

Wolle is happy to do that but insists on supplying dinner and so we swing the car off the road and bump our way across the scrubby, dry savannah.  A landscape so formless, I cannot gauge how many miles we have travelled before reaching Wolle’s family enclave, a few cone-shaped huts made of sticks and grass and encircled by thorn bushes.

As I get out of the car, I am immediately surrounded by dozens of naked children and, standing back, shy semi-naked women. The women and I smile uncertainly – not knowing what is expected of us.

Meanwhile, under Wolle’s direction, Mageru and a few other men are playing chase with a small goat.  The goat loses, and is manipulated safely - but not quietly - into the back of the Land Cruiser. He is wedged in tight and I pray that he will not pee, poo or upchuck on our gear.

It surely is the goat’s first car ride and it will definitely be his last. And by the time he bleats all the way back to our campsite, I am not feeling even a smidge remorseful. Our cook hustles him off (out of sight of my tender ferenj sensitivities) and disposes of him quickly; within a few hours he has become a tasty stew called figel wot. It is a pleasant camping evening; the men’s Amharic/Hamer murmurings around the fire are like soft ambient music to ears that don’t understand.

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Tuesday
Apr152014

Confessions of a Traveling Author

by Nancy King

 

Author, Nancy King. Photo by Linda Dickson.

I’m an author, Nancy King—no relation to Stephen King—but if I were, this story might be different.  As it is, I travel to independent bookstores in nearby cities, each time hoping I will find a room full of people waiting to hear what I have to say about my new novel, Changing Spaces, and wanting to buy my books. 

In one bookstore, a few people wander up to the display, pick up copies of my books and thumb through the pages. This is promising, I think. There aren't many people, but at least looking and thumbing are a prelude to buying.  I grin broadly when a petite, well-dressed woman approaches me.  “Are you the author?”

“Yes," I reply expectantly.

“I don’t read,” she announces. 

Stunned, I say the first thing that comes to mind. “What do you do?”

“I write novels,” she says, looking pleased with herself. 

“What do you write about?” I ask, not really interested, but grateful that someone is talking with me.

“Well, I don’t really know.” She looks at me, as if expecting me to tell her what she writes.

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Tuesday
Apr082014

Caught in a Mudslide

story and photos by Lori Marquardson

 

So many reasons for going to Ecuador, but being stuck on a bus full of local Evangelical Christians in a mudslide was not one of them. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. 

I had been backpacking alone through Ecuador and, deciding that a few days exploring the Amazon jungle was in order, made arrangements to meet up with a small group in the dusty oil frontier town of Lago Agrio.  From there we would go to the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve for a few days of roughing it with iguanas, howler monkeys, piranhas and blue morpho butterflies. 

River reflections, Cuyabeno Nature Reserve, Ecuador.

A cool drizzle fell as I boarded the overnight bus in Quito. The driver’s personal touches of green fringe and dangling images of saints above the steering wheel couldn’t mask that the bus was more contraption than road-worthy vehicle. My fellow passengers were mostly short and dark, with a number of women wearing the typical Andean dress of black bowler hats, full skirts and rubber sandals while I, the obvious foreigner on board, sported beige zip-off pants and a purple windbreaker. We headed northeast, following the twisting mountainous roads leading out of the city, and despite the jolting motion, I drifted off.

At some point, I came to: the bus was not moving, no engine running, nada. I could see the driver had relaxed into what was definitely a non-driving position:  head tilted back, mouth agape, arms crossed over his chest, and legs spread-eagled. Strange, but having been in South America for quite some time, I had experienced unexplained delays before and generally they weren’t show-stoppers, so I tried to fall back asleep. Then came a huge rumble outside, followed immediately by murmuring voices inside.

“What the hell is that?”  I said to no one in particular and, being in the front row, I leaned over to the driver, and asked “¿Qué está pasando? “ 

“Hay un derrumbe.”  A landslide.  Hmmm, that did not sound good. 

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