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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Married to the Military

by Jessica Lynn

 

Last month I took one of the best trips of my life. It wasn’t to the Amazon or Asia, and I didn’t travel around Europe or Australia. Instead, one arm grasped around my dad’s arm and the other held tight to a fragrant bouquet of light pink carnations and roses as I took my last steps as a single lady.

My journey to wedded bliss began more than four years ago when, thanks to the military, my then boyfriend/now husband and I were living across the country from each other. He was stationed in Georgia and I was living in New Mexico. Not only did people tell me how hard it was to date someone in the military, but they also said a long-distance relationship would never last. After using our hard-earned vacation time to see each other, making sure communication and trust were number one priorities in our relationship, and racking up thousands of frequent flier miles, we made it work.

He proposed on Valentine’s Day in 2009 while I was visiting him, and after a short celebratory weekend, I flew home with an engagement ring sparkling on my left hand and started planning our wedding.

Luckily, my husband didn’t deploy over the course of our engagement, but the military still played a hand in influencing the specifics for the wedding. The date of the wedding was determined by when his best man and groomsman returned from their deployments.

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