Category Archives: Different Worlds

Bogged Down in Blog

Bogged Down in Blog

It’s hard to write while traveling–
your half-knit thoughts unravelling
as they call you in to talk
or have a meal or take a walk.

You sleep in other people’s houses,
wrinkles in your unpacked blouses,
possessions jumbled in your cases,
move at unfamiliar paces.

You live a life that’s not your own–
daily walking, driven, flown
while trying to remember faces,
confused by all these different places.

In the past I adored going–
miles passing, airwaves flowing.
I loved to move like a rolling log,
but that was when I didn’t blog!!!

Now I find I’m scurrying.
Wake up already hurrying.
I’m confused and frankly dumb,
forgetting where I’m coming from

as well as where I’m going to.
I’ve lost a sock and lost one shoe.
Still, I find time to write each day,
here in some room, hidden away.

This daily writing’s an addiction
that makes real life a dereliction!
I short my hosts to do my writing.
I’ve given up my life for citing!

The Prompt: State of Your Year–How is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.


 The Prompt: IMHO–Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.


I gave up reading the news years ago. I just got too depressed when I did so. Certainly, stories filter through and then I hear the pertinent details or look them up online, but gone for me are days spent listening to and watching repetition after repetition of the same facts, many later found to be untrue or exaggerated.

So, this prompt is one that sent me out into the news Internet, looking for a story. The first one that came up was of the French pilot who it seems deliberately sent his plane careening into the Alps, killing everyone on board. Then I found a story about Korean twins, separated at birth, who never even knew of each other’s existence but who found each other over Facebook. Then a story about a woman who transforms abandoned Bratz dolls that look like hookers back into dolls that look like little girls.

Then back to President Obama’s Iran negotiations, a small girl born with two heads, The Voice finals in Australia, a letter of thanks gone viral, written by the mother of an autistic child to a businessman who had put away his papers and played with his seatmate for the 2 ½ hour flight. I flipped through dozens of other stories on the way: about the royal family, dogs, cats, a cow furnished with prosthetic legs and saved from slaughter. This hodgepodge was heartwarming, heartshattering, overwhelming, and two hours later, I had still not chosen a news report to write an op ed piece on.

I guess, instead, I will write it on how the internet seems to be substituting for our lives. This flood of information furnishes the vicarious existence once limited to The Soaps: The Edge of Night, Another World, General Hospital. I still remember the day Joan Lenzi came running into our room in college, tears streaming, shouting “Laura died, Laura died!” My heart flipped over in dread as my mind searched madly for a mutual friend named Laura, only to discover, once Joan had collected herself a bit, that a character on our favorite Soap had just departed our after-lunch afternoon.

No more skipping Astronomy to experience the next vicarious thrill. Without Laura, who was Luke? With no further excuses to skip, I dropped Astronomy, insuring the necessity to attend summer school to catch up.

Now it is harder to avoid excuses. When one internet heroine or villain passes from sight, there are ten thousand others to take their place. Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, OkCupid, Match.Com, Christian Singles, Pinterest, Blogster—ad infinitum. There is so much to fill our lives and furnish excuses for what we don’t want to do that it is no longer really necessary for us to assemble a life around ourselves at all. So long as we can somehow manage to feed, clothe and house ourselves, the rest is available online.

When I suffered a debilitating migraine lately, the first to know it were internet friends. My Skype near-romance phoned my oldest friend, now rarely communicated to other than through Skype or online Scrabble games. She talked me down from a near-panic attack and I eventually fell asleep. The next morning I wrote about it (Here) and had a flood of sympathetic comments from blogging friends. Another friend who lives in the town where I live Facebooked me the name of a medication that might forestall future headaches. No neighbor arrived on my doorstep with chicken soup or offered to feed the dogs, but cyber friends gathered round, giving me that warm feeling formerly reserved for a down comforter.

I had to look up IMHO before I wrote my response to this prompt. It’s a term often used in the past by my Skype near-romance. But every time, I forget this initial-speak. It’s as though life has been shortened enough. Emails have become Tweets and emoticons have replaced phrases of opinion, affection, disgust or frustration. Hyperlinks replace restatements and hashtags replace the social organizations where we used to gather for coffee or a coke and a good old-fashioned in-person gab session.

In my humble opinion, everything is finally short enough. If we become any smaller, we are going to implode. Computers now fit in the palm of one’s hand and I’ve heard of technology where one day they will be implanted into our eyeballs and transmitted to our brains. At that point, what do we become other than human robots? Perhaps it is all a plot by the machines of the world to be the next step of our evolution. Perhaps what the most far-out science fiction writer once imagined has become our world. In my humble opinion, we have gone far enough. We are able to know too much by doing too little. Experience too much by doing nothing at all. The time has come where observing life is more interesting than making it happen. Time to stop!!! But that is just “my humble opinion,” expressed as a full statement—railing out against this too-short world.

Note: Once more, my NaPoWriMo and Daily Prompt subjects seems to have intersected, so to read my other short post today, go HERE.

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

I lie in bed, flat on my back, head raised by pillows,
computer raised to eye level
by a wadded comforter over bent knees.
I listen to raised voices in the village down below,
the staccato of an inadequately mufflered car revving up,
a hammer falling on wood, birds in the coco  palms.
A pianissimo chorus of dogs spread
over the surrounding hills swells to a frenzied crescendo,
then falls silent but will swell again.

I have dropped obligations
like clothes shed for a lover.
My Saturday morning pool aerobics and zumba,
I slipped out of years ago.
Group luncheons hang from doorknobs and chair backs.
Committee meetings lie sloppily abandoned in the hall.

I have retired from the running of the world
to run my own small universe on paper.
Saturday morning is my brainstorm session
with “Me,” “Myself” and “I.”
“I” suggested feeding the dogs,
but they are quiet now, so
“Me” suggested we let them lie.
“Myself” laid out some words to dry
in the heat of the fire of our communal
inspiration, laying them smoothly on the page,
rumpling up others in her fist to send them sailing
to join the crumpled singles event invitations in the corner.

This slow Saturday morning dressing of pages
and stripping them bare
is a sort of ceremony celebrating seizing time
and making it my own.
Pages  fill up with passion, angst, anger,
irritation, joy, laughter, camaraderie.
There is more than one word for each.

Imagine such control over your world–
not having to live the world of any other.
If you could have any life you wish?
Imagine a Saturday morning  building it.


The Prompt:  Me Time–What do you like to do on Saturday morning?  Are you doing it now?

Something Wicked This Way Comes

(This is a follow-up to Judy’s computer is kaput for awhile.)

I finally got on as an administrator of my site but it is slow going on a Kindle which won’t charge as I type and when it gets low on battery, starts substituting random letters for what I type. The truth is that I tipped a full glass of Diet Coke on my Mac Air and after 4 hours of watching a young Mexican man removing 222 microscopic screws and then disemboweling my most treasured nonhuman essential element in my life, I was given the sad news that by my careless action, I had slain my motherboard!  Somehow, in spite of not being able to post, I had the second highest number of viewings ever, so I am hoping folks will still view me—either randomly choosing a past posting, or perhaps Duckie would assume a roll of blog jockey and post a link to a past post each day. Can it be that this is nature’s way of telling me to get a life? I must admit I was utterly traumatized by this all day yesterday. Today I have chosen to wax philosophic. Let us see what happens, but please, please continue to visit. Keep Duckie busy and away from the bottle and if they ever publish another prompt,  will someone send it to me?  In alternate states of shock and mourning. —Judy

DUCKIE, please edit and add tags? Kindle instructed people to rabidly choose to read. You didn’t catch that, ed. I Changed to randomly.

(Edited by Duckie)

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

The Prompt: Never Too Late—Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

Thanks Be to Pure Hearts

 Thanks be to that creator of the universe—
the one I can no longer pray to in a church
because of those powers who take truth prisoner
and lead the masses to wherever they can be most safely trusted
to surrender reason to them.

Thanks be to that man who turned water into wine.
Not a teetotaler. Not even abstinent, or so some say.
That man who loved all and who would not strike anyone
except for merchants making a living from the church.
Two thousand years ago,
he saw that merchants and moneylenders
would lead the world wrong—
using the little minds of frightened men
to turn faith into a weapon.

Praise be to those at the beginning of it all
who tried to set a true course but made the mistake
of leaving the compass in the hands of human fools
who saw over all, how to use it for their own glory,
making power their god and oiling their way upward
not toward salvation
but toward ever higher places in this world.

Those who are not fools might speak our enemies’ names
yet be shouted down by those
Dunning and Kruger have named as their adjutants—
the countless mindless who speed the world toward ruin.

Yet for this day, I want to turn my back on those I’d rather curse
to thank pure hearts who still can see the way.
There is still, I know, a part of them in all of us,
evident in everyday things: a mother’s sheltering arms
or in as simple an act as taking the smallest piece of pie.

So when we give thanks today,
thank those who remain kind within the world,
carrying along the spirit
of those first beneficent acts
that started with the dust of stars
and from it created consciousness
and then implanted some good turn of will
so as to give hope in a world
that feels divided in the blackness of the universe,
lonely in this night
but steering by those pinpricks in its cover
through which light shows, even in the darkest dark.


Today’s prompt: Verbal Confirmation—To be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?


We gather a new world
as we collect marks
in straight black lines
on white paper.

And yes, it is a new world
every time
and we have the power
of each world
we pull around us.

I may have called this poem
“Utter Sovereignty,”
but I did not, for rulers are
sad folks, and lonely.

We are the gatherers and so
we draw to us what we need
and are never alone.
There is nothing we lack for
in this storehouse where
the shelves hold words
the bins ideas
and the walls are covered
by imagination.

We gather to set free again.
This is the pattern of the world
that no one has ever broken.

Everything flying apart,
every moment of the day,
and all of us
it back together

Autumn Schmautumn

The Prompt: Autumn Leaves—Changing colors, dropping temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes: do these mainstays of Fall fill your heart with warmth — or with dread?

Autumn Schmautumn

The only colored leaves I see are going to be faux,
for autumn never visits in my part of Mexico.
In fact, those piles of autumn leaves are far back in my past.
Green on the leaves in Mexico just lasts and lasts and lasts.
It’s true that each leaf everywhere must one day be defeated,
but down here where I live, the only way leaves are unseated
is not by frigid temperatures. There’s no cold to unglue them.
Our only leaf-removal means is cutter ants that chew them!
The ones who cut them down are all the bravest and the best.
Their comrades wait below to carry them all to their nest.
Their robberies completed without the slightest peep,
their piles of leaves depleted in the nighttime while we sleep.
Our guard dogs doze on soundly as ants pass by in the dark,
letting all these thieveries go on without one bark.
And so I fear that this far south no autumn colors are viewed.
Our trees create no spectacle. They go from green to nude!
And though ants harvest all our leaves—just chew them off and take them,
at least they grant us favors in that we don’t have to rake them!




When my father died forty years ago, it was in Arizona, where my parents had been spending their winters for the past ten years.  They maintained houses in two places, returning to South Dakota for the summers. But after my father died, my mother never again entered that house in the town where I’d grown up.

Our family had scattered like fall leaves by then—my mother to Arizona, one sister to Iowa, another to Wyoming. Both the youngest and the only unmarried one, I had fallen the furthest from the family tree. I had just returned from Africa, and so it fell to me to drive to South Dakota to pack up the house and to decide which pieces of our old life I might choose to build my new life upon and to dispose of the rest.

My father’s accumulations were not ones to fill a house. There were whole barns and fields of him, but none that needed to be dealt with. All had been sold before and so what was to be sorted out was the house. In that house, the drapes and furniture and cushions and cupboards were mainly the remnants of my mother’s life: clothes and nicknacks, pots and pans, spice racks full of those limited flavors known to the family of my youth—salt and pepper and spices necessary for recipes no more exotic than pumpkin pies, sage dressings and beef stews.

Packing up my father was as easy as putting the few work clothes he’d left in South Dakota into boxes and driving them to the dump. It had been years since I had had the pleasure of throwing laden paper bags from the dirt road above over the heaps of garbage below to see how far down they would sail, but I resisted that impulse this one last run to the dump, instead placing the bags full of my father’s work clothes neatly at the top for scavengers to find—the Sioux, or the large families for whom the small-town dump was an open-air Goodwill Store.

It was ten years after my father’s death before my mother ever returned again to South Dakota. By then, that house, rented out for years, had blown away in a tornado. Only the basement, bulldozed over and filled with dirt, contained the leftovers of our lives: the dolls, books, school papers and trophies. I’d left those private things stacked away on shelves—things too valuable to throw away, yet not valuable enough to carry away to our new lives. I’ve been told that people from the town scavenged there, my friend from high school taking my books for her own children, my mother’s friend destroying the private papers. My brother-in-law had taken the safe away years before.

But last year, when I went to clear out my oldest sister’s attic in Minnesota, I found the dolls I thought had been buried long ago–their hair tangled and their dresses torn—as though they had been played with by generations of little girls. Not the neat perfection of how we’d kept them ourselves, lined up on the headboard bookcases of our beds —but hair braided, cheeks streaked with rouge, eyes loose in their sockets, dresses mismatched and torn. Cisette’s bride dress stetched to fit over Jan’s curves. My sister’s doll’s bridesmaid dress on my doll.

It felt a blasphemy to me. First, that my oldest sister would take her younger sisters’ dolls without telling us. Her own dolls neatly preserved on shelves in her attic guest bedroom, ours had been jammed into boxes with their legs sticking out the top. And in her garbage can were the metal sides of my childhood dollhouse, imprinted with curtains and rugs and windows, pried apart like a perfect symbol of my childhood.

Being cast aside as leftovers twice is enough for even inanimate objects. Saved from my sister’s garbage and cut in half, the walls of my childhood fit exactly into an extra suitcase borrowed from a friend for the long trip back to Mexico, where I now live. I’ll figure out a new life for them as room décor or the backgrounds of colossal collages that will include the dolls I’m also taking back with me.

Mexico is the place where lots of us have come to reclaim ourselves and live again. So it is with objects, too. Leftovers and hand-me-downs have a value beyond their price tags. It is all those lives and memories that have soaked up into them. In a way, we are all hand-me-downs. It’s up to us to decide our value, depending upon the meaning that we choose to impart both to our new lives and these old objects. Leftovers make the most delicious meals, sometimes, and in Mexico, we know just how to spice them up.

The prompt: Hand-Me-Downs—Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.



“Flutter” : The Surrogate

Surrogate w pic 6

The Prompt: Sounds Right—This is clearly subjective, but some words really sound like the thing they describe (personal favorites: puffin; bulbous; fidgeting). Do you have an example of such a word (or, alternatively, of a word that sounds like the exact opposite of what it refers to)? What do you think creates this effect?

I’ve always loved the word “’Flutter” as it applies to a butterfly or moth.  What better word could be used to describe the motion of their wings?  The moth described in my poem, however, was noticeable because of its lack of flutter.  It landed upon my computer screen like a magnetized object to metal and remained there for over two hours.  The moth pictured in the poem is the actual moth.  Tiny and green, it became part of my writing experience. Since it had chosen to remain in one position, directly on my screen, I was forced (by choice) to write around it, which could not help but influence the poem that resulted.



Naïve in Africa

The Prompt: Think Again—Tell us about a time you made a false assumption about a person or a place — how did they prove you wrong?

Naïve in Africa

The year was 1973. I was traveling with my friend Deirdre enroute from Australia, where I had emigrated when I graduated from college, to London. Or so I thought! We had set out from Sydney and traveled overland to Darwin, then flew to Timor. After a very adventurous few weeks, the story of which is too long to tell here, we traveled through Bali and other Indonesian islands, by boat up to Tanjung Pinang and to Singapore, to Sri Lanka, then to Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, Deirdre wanted to see Lalibela, an extremely isolated area of 12 stone underground churches carved in the 1100’s from the living rock. After more adventures traveling through the terrible drought areas via local buses and then by plane, we ended up in Lalibela. Another long and romantic story would detail how I met Andu Alem, one of the loves of my life, and how Diane and I became separated, then how I decided the relationship wouldn’t work and boarded a plane to go back to Addis Ababa to rejoin her. (If you haven’t already read that part of the  story and want to read it before you continue, you can read it here.  There is a link at the end of that story that will bring you back here.)

When I got on the plane, I was crying, knowing I was leaving someone I cared about but also knowing a relationship would never work as his father was very prejudiced against Americans and my father, who was very ill at the time, would probably not survive the news of an African son-in-law.

I didn’t notice the man who sat a few aisles behind me, watching every detail of my departure. I didn’t see him watching me sobbing into my last soggy Kleenex. I didn’t see him move to the seat across the aisle. I had no idea of what was about to happen, and how it would change my life. I was as ignorant of the next chapter of this story as you are—caught up in the sad ending of my love story, with no idea that there were much worse endings than unrequited love.

I watched Andu Alem below as the small plane lifted off the grass landing field.

For the next 15 minutes I sobbed as quietly as I could. I must add here that I am not a pretty crier. My eyes swell and turn red, as does my drippy nose. Eventually, I regained some composure and then noticed that the young African man who had spoken to me before was now sitting across the aisle from me. Since I was in a window seat, there was an empty seat between us. After a few moments, he asked if I was all right and if he could help me. I said no, that I’d rather just be alone, and he left me alone for a few more minutes.

Eventually, he started talking again and asking if there was something wrong. I said no, that I had just left a good friend and was very sad. He said that he was a student and asked if I would mind talking to him for a few minutes so he could practice his English. This was a common request as we traveled from country to country and as usual, I felt it was the least I could do; so we fell into a conversation and he eventually moved into the seat next to me.

He was extremely good-looking and looked a bit old for a student, but he showed me an identification that did in fact identify him as a student named Solomon Kidane. I knew that often students from the country could not afford to go to high school until they were in their twenties, so I was not too surprised that although he looked older that he was still in his last year of secondary school. He was pleasant and his English was good so we talked most of the way to Addis.

When we were about 15 minutes from landing, he asked a favor of me. He explained that he had been offered a scholarship to attend college in the U.S. but that his mother was unwilling to have him accept it as she feared racial prejudice in the U.S. and that she was afraid he would be mistreated or even killed. He asked if I would be willing to meet his mother to show her that all Americans were not prejudiced and unfriendly. I told him I was sorry, but that I really didn’t have the time as we were leaving the next day to fly to Khartoum.

He pleaded with me, saying that this was something that could change his entire life if I would just do this one kind act. He said that if I would come for dinner at his mother’s house, that I could meet his family. He would send a taxi for me and we would be with his mother and sisters and nieces and nephews the entire time. Then I could take a taxi home to the motel where I knew Deirdre was staying, awaiting my arrival.

Feeling selfish and the usual embarrassment that American travelers oftentimes experience regarding  the imagined rudeness of many of their fellow countrymen, I eventually agreed. What could happen? And it could be a turning point in his life.

When we landed, Deirdre was at the airport waiting and we took a taxi home together. When I told her about my arrangement for that night and asked her to accompany me, she refused, saying it was just too dangerous. I didn’t know him. Anything could happen. With my usual small town naïveté, I insisted that I couldn’t be safer. We’d be in a taxi, then with his family, then I’d take a taxi alone back to the motel. What could go wrong? Little did I know.

At almost exactly the prescribed time that night, Solomon Kidane showed up at my door. Deirdre was still disapproving as we left and got into the waiting taxi. We rode for about 15 or 20 minutes to a part of town I’d never been in before. We drew up to a large gate and when he knocked, the sabanya (watchman) opened the gate and admitted us. Most homes in Addis were in enclaves around an open courtyard and the houses within the walls shared one guard.

Just inside the gate was a set of steps that led up to the second story of a house. We entered into one large room with doors leading off to the right. Inside were a number of women and children, one of whom was introduced to me as his mother. The other women and children were said to be his sisters and nieces and nephews. There were probably about 12 people in the room. He drew up low stools and produced beer. Three of his male friends had been invited and I realized rather quickly that they all looked familiar. They had all been on the plane!

We had a meal of injera and wat, all eating with our fingers from the same large plate, as was the local custom. Prior to and after the meal, one of his sisters leaned down in front of each of us with a pitcher of water and bowl with a bar of soap on its bottom. As she poured the water over our hands, we used the soap to lather up, then rinsed them in another stream of water and dried them with the towel hanging over her arm.

As the evening progressed, the men drank quite a bit of beer. I noticed that some of the women and children had left and told them it was perhaps time for me to leave. I’d talked to his mother and Solomon had said he thought she liked me and that it had helped, but he said to stay for just a little while more. By now, he especially was quite affected by drink.

One of his friends leaned forward to reach for a new beer and his suit coat fell open to reveal a shoulder holster and gun. I looked around and realized that they all had slight bulges under their suit jackets. I grew alarmed and seeing that I had noticed, he admitted that they were all security agents on Air Ethiopia. Earlier that year, the first air hijacking had occurred, of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Kenya to Addis. Since then, they had had undercover security agents on all planes.

I asked him about his student ID and he showed me four different sets of identity papers. He said they used various “disguises” so no one knew they were on the plane and that they were all armed at all times. As members of the special forces, they were skilled in martial arts, combat techniques and gunmanship. During the progress of the conversation, their tongues grew loose and I realized that they were all Tigrian or Eritrean—two northern areas, formerly countries in their own right, that had been agitating for their freedom from Ethiopia ever since the British had unified the three countries at the time of their draw-out. I also grew to understand that they were in fact all double agents who had infiltrated the Ethiopian security forces but who were really sympathetic to the rebels.

At this point I looked up and realized there were no women left in the room! I got up and headed for the door, saying that I had to leave, but Solomon stood and gripped my arm, saying that he couldn’t let me leave. At this, the three other men left the room. I begged them to let me leave with them, but they said nothing—just left. When they opened the door, I screamed out, hoping someone else in the compound would hear me, but to no avail.

He was talking crazier and crazier. He pulled me into the bedroom and threw me on the bed. When I screamed and started to get up again, he hit me and started strangling me. I stopped struggling and said to him, “You know, if you hurt me, I am a very good friend of George McGovern, who comes from my state, and I will tell him and he will tell Haile Selassie, and he will punish you!”

He replied, “No you will not, for since I love you, I had to take you and afterwards I will have to kill you.”

At this point, I knew I had to use my brains as I was not accomplishing much with brawn, so I quieted down and let him kiss me and then said, “Okay. I can see that you love me, but this will be better if I comply, so I want to get ready for you. Would you please leave the room for a moment so I can get ready.”

Dear God, thank God! He left the room! Immediately, infused with the energy and strength of panic, I shoved a very heavy freestanding closet in front of the door, which didn’t lock, ran to the window and threw open the shutters. Again, thanks to a God whom I didn’t completely believe in, there was no glass! I could hear him beating at the door and the chest was moving, so I just jumped out the second story window, hurting my ankle and skinning my leg but not even noticing as I ran to the front gate screaming for help.

I beat on the gate, but the sabanya (watchman) did not leave his enclosure. No one in any of the small houses surrounding the courtyard came to my aid. I saw one old woman peek out of her door and I screamed, “Help me! Help me, please!” Of course, no one spoke English. She immediately slammed her door shut and pulled the bolt. At this point, Solomon came down the stairs and said, “You have lied to me, and now I will have to punish you!” He grabbed me by my hair, which was very long at the time, and pulled me back up the stairs. I continued screaming for help, but none came.

When we got to the top of the stairs, he pulled me into the house and slammed the door, which bounced on its frame and opened a crack behind us. He was still pulling me by the hair, but as we left the living room, my hand, grabbing out for anything to use as a weapon, struck a heavy ceramic lamp. I grabbed it and gaining a foothold, swung it at him, hitting him over the head and knocking him down. Running again for the front door, I saw it open and a tiny little lady I had never seen before grabbed my arm and pulled me down the stairs. At the gate, she called for the guard to open the gate. I ran out into the street and into the first door I found open…back through a large room and into a back bedroom, screaming “Help me, please help me!” A woman came and I kept saying “Police, Please call the police!”

At this point, the man I knew only as Solomon Kidane came into the room and charmingly tried to convince the crowd of women who had now gathered to let me go with him, but they folded around me and the police soon arrived. ( I eventually learned that it was a brothel that I’d run into and that the women who had helped me were all prostitutes, as were the women Kitane had hired to pose as his family in the house he had set up as his family house in the compound. All had been a ruse—mother, children and sisters!)

I told the police my story, although they had no English and I had very little Amharic, but eventually they put me in the back of a police car, and feeling safe again, I felt a huge surge of relief, at least until I turned around and saw that Solomon Kidane was in the back seat with me! He had convinced them that this was a lovers’ spat and that if he could just talk to me, that all would be well.

I screamed bloody murder, kicked and hit at the door and window glass, and eventually the police told him to leave the car and took me to the police station where I was examined by a doctor who took pictures of my scrapes and bruises. When they finally took me back to the motel, it was very late and of course, Deirdre got to say her “I told you so’s” which were well deserved.

The next morning I called the American Embassy and they sent a car for me. It turns out that this was not the first time an American woman had been abducted, but any of the others who had survived had always been so frightened that they had left Ethiopia as soon as possible without pressing charges. The embassy was very interested in bringing the matter to the court and said they would pay for legal counsel, translators, and provide protection for me if I would stay to testify; but I needed to understand that the Ethiopian legal procedure was very different from the American system and that most cases dragged on for years. Usually, a case was assigned a few hours a day once a week. Any prominent businessman just set aside a day or two a week to sit in court and wait for his part of any legal proceedings he was involved in to come up. Was I willing to stay in Ethiopia for a year, maybe two, to see that this man was brought to justice? I was fighting mad. I said yes!

Deirdre, of course, said I was crazy and that she was unwilling to spend any more time in Ethiopia. I could understand this, so I waved her off as she caught a plane for Khartoum. Another traveler we’d met, who was named Sue, got intrigued by my story and decided she would stick around to see what happened, so she spread her sleeping bag out on the floor of my motel room, as did Richard, another young backpacker we had met.

The embassy had said they’d find me another safer hotel, but in fact, the Organization of African Unity was meeting in Addis during that month, and so there was not a free room in town. In lieu of moving me, they provided an armed guard who stood outside the wall of my motel. When I left the compound, however, I was on my own. The police had not arrested the man, so he knew where I was and I knew he knew!

The first time I left the compound and crossed the street, his three friends were standing at the corner, as though waiting for the light to change. I was standing behind them before I realized who they were and when I tried to leave to go back to the motel, they formed a circle around me.

They said, “Do you know who is the father of the man you are accusing?” I said no, and they said, “He is a very important and a very dangerous man—the head of a revolutionary group that will one day change things in this country. If you do not drop the charges against our friend, he will have you killed, and if he cannot reach you, he will kill all your friends. No one will help you. You need to drop these charges.”

I pulled away and ran back into my compound. The next day I went with my attorney and we started making the rounds of government leaders, eventually making it up to the equivalent of the national Attorney General. He finally granted special dispensation for my case to be heard in one or two long sessions…or for as long as it would take…so I could be free to leave the country. A court date was set for the following week.

One very interesting twist to the story is that I was in sympathy with the cause that the men had mentioned and felt it justified, and so I never did reveal to police, my attorney, the embassy or the judges that these men were all members. If Solomon Kidane was to go to jail, I wanted it to be for his personal actions, not his political ones. I believe to this day that the men didn’t realize that I could understand their political ravings as they got drunker and by the time the night was over, they had given away a secret that I was wise not to reveal I understood.

The many frustrations and coincidences of the trial are another story, and since this part of the tale has already run on for too long, I will just say that the man responsible for my kidnapping was finally put into jail. Yes, his friends harassed me for a short time but no, no retaliatory measures were taken, at least at that time. I did not in fact leave Ethiopia for another year. During that time I taught in a local secondary school at a time when students were starting the revolution that the military would later take over, leading to the arrest of Haile Selassie and a series of revolutions that would lead to the eventual takeover of government by the group that Solomon Kidane claimed to be a member of.

My love story would resume—but would result in a tragic ending—one I will never be sure was not a result of the trial and arrest of Kidane. But that is another story in this tale of a traveler who moved through worlds not her own, never quite sure of the whole story, just traveling in that way that we all travel when we are young—centered on our own story, sure that it is our story alone and of no consequence to anyone but ourselves.

(If you haven’t already read that part of the  story, you can read it here.)