Kiuyu Mbuyuni

27 September 2009
On Friday I made my last trip to Kiuyu Mbuyuni (at least for now), stopping by to talk with the Micheweni District Commissioner and the District Planning Officer on the way. I was escorted by Adi F., who works on the JP5 program for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA).

I was happy to see that after all the discussions and tension about per diem payments, Adi and I were on good terms. I had asked him to help me give updates to everyone – district leadership and the people in Kiuyu Mbuyuni – about where things stand with the project and what would happen next.

We drove to the District Commissioner’s office in Micheweni and met with his second in command along with the district planning officer. I told them we had hired a team leader from the mainland but that we were also hoping to hire a woman from Ziwani to serve as his deputy.

The second in command, whose name I don’t remember, asked how many jobs would come from Micheweni. I told him that there were still several other jobs open, all of which we hoped to fill locally, if at all possible.

I asked about ongoing communication and how they wanted to interact with the project. They answered, as I had hoped, that the Team Leader should attend the quarterly District Planning Meeting.

Adi and I then went to the village, stopping on the way so I could photograph the schools which serve both Kiuyu Mbuyuni and its neighboring village, Maziwa Ng’ombe (which means literally milk cow). Aside from the fact that I hadn’t been inside the school, I wanted to be more conscious of the distance from school to the village. Way too far for a 7-year old to walk comfortably (at least by my American standards). Especially when the payoff for the 2-3 km walk is a filthy, crowded classroom with overtly wrong information on the blackboard (see above center) and at least 100 other students vying for one under-trained teacher’s attention.

We drove on to the village market where the men convene in the afternoons. I had brought the photographs from previous visits and the men had a good time passing them around. Women aren’t normally allowed to enter the market (at least in the afternoon when the men sit around in the shade and gab), so I asked for permission to enter. A stern-faced old man in a plaid work shirt, kikoi and kofia shook his, so I stayed outside while Adi started to explain in Swahili why we were there. He motioned for me to join him, but I was reluctant to transgress.

Finally, when several of the men assured me that I was welcome, I went and stood in the middle with Adi. I explained that even though they hadn’t seen me for a while, I wanted to assure them that we had been working to set up the Millennium Village project and that the next step, which would start within the next month, was community discussions and planning. That we would start a process of engaging people in conversations about what they wanted to see for Kiuyu Mbuyuni in the future and how they would prioritize the projects.

Almost immediately they started arguing with each other about what needed to get done and whose fault it was that there were problems. Someone started yelling at Kivaga, the “village vice president” about illegal fishing and soon everyone was yelling at each other. Then someone came up to Adi and me to tell us that a new road should be the first priority. I explained that we weren’t going to make decisions right then and that the process of engagement would involve listening not only to those who spoke the loudest but those whose voices were often unheard.

The men kept arguing and I finally walked out to play with the children who had gathered just outside the market to watch the ongoing mzungu TV show that I seem to have become for them.

I asked Adi if we could go talk to the women, and so we walked over to the dispensary. But on the way the children were following me, singing and running after each other. At one point, I turned to run after some them but instead I slipped in the sand, falling flat on my ass. It made me laugh. There I was in my baibui looking every bit the good Muslim lady, on a crazy hot day, lying in the sand.

The children thought it was hysterical although some of the parents got mad at them for laughing at my mishap. But of course I was laughing too. I got up, dusted myself off and continued toward the dispensary. The children started singing an antiphonal song having something to do with Pemba ng’ombe. I didn’t completely understand it, but I repeated what they sang and we went on like that dancing and singing right up to the doorway.

A few of the women we had met before soon showed up and I gave them essentially the same update I had given the men. I said I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be back after my trip home, but that regardless the project was going forward and they would be heavily involved in planning. I ended by saying that whether or not I was present, my heart was in Kiuyu Mbuyuni, whereupon Kivaga, who had come with us for the meeting with the women, said (and Adi translated) that if my heart was in KM, I should marry this guy.

He patted an older man on the shoulder (second from the left in top left photo). They all laughed. I said, “OK, badai…” (Badai, meaning “later” is a normal parting phrase, as in “see you later.” They all laughed even harder.

We drove back toward Chake, dropping Adi at his house on the way. I still had a last meeting at the PHL to talk about a possible implementing agreement between the Ivo di Carneri Foundation, the PHL, KPMG and Millennium Villages Project – a complicated but potentially fruitful partnership. They had several very good concerns to talk about – mostly about ensuring that the work was good, that they had the ability to monitor the team leader and a few other management, organizational and financial issues.

I suggested that they write a letter to Jeff outlining what they offer in terms of expertise and experience and what they require to take on the project. We agreed, and with that my work was finished. And I was completely wiped out, having spent too much time trying to answer questions for which I didn’t have answers. Basic stuff – am I coming back soon? Is my plan approved? Is anyone waiting for something else from me?

Here I have absolutely no power to make executive decisions, the stakeholders have high expectations, and I’m hot, exhausted and worried about the challenges that await me in New York. So when the wonderful Giovanna from IdC, who just arrived along with a whole group of Italians, asked, “Sei stanca?”(are you tired?), I started to cry. She said, “Pole sana,” the Swahili answer to tears. That phrase is so ubiquitous here that it has entered the lexicon of expats from all countries.

In fact, my work is done here for now. I did what I was asked to do: built relationships, hired a team leader and wrote a project plan and budget.

So yesterday was a day at the beach. Literally. Misali Island. Marco and the people from the IdC had arranged for a couple of boats to take us to Misali, a protected island of extraordinary coral reefs, mangroves and white sand beaches (above right).

We went snorkeling (my first time), ate fresh fish soup prepared by local fishermen and hiked around the island. I had my video camera with me and climbed only a little way up a tree to try to get a good shot of something and perhaps spot some monkeys. But a branch gave way a bit and I lost my footing. My left foot hit a sharp piece of coral. At first I thought I might have broken a bone, but it seems to be just bruised and a little bloody. So now I’m limping a tiny bit. Back at home Stefano, the surgeon, cleaned it off, put a bandage on and suggested that I skip running for a day.

And so, with a bit of a limp and a ton of luggage, I head for the airport for two days of meetings in Unguja: tonight I will give a talk on the MVP to a group of students from Lewis & Clark University who are visiting Zanzibar with a professor who teaches in Nairobi and is heavily involved with the Aga Khan Foundation; tomorrow I have breakfast with someone we’d like to hire for the project then attend the annual planning meeting for the Ministry of Health; Tuesday I meet with the Ministry of Finance and then off I go for a day in Dar and the flight home.

29 August 2009
The electricity is on right now. Second morning in a row. For more than a week the power has been heavily rationed so we sometimes get a couple of hours in the evening and maybe a few hours between midnight and early morning.

But I had heard that the big power crisis had been handled and then I was lulled into complacency when a couple of days ago we got more than 24 hours straight.

Yesterday evening I came home from my office at the PHL (Public Health Laboratory) and immediately headed out for a run, figuring I would get in at least six miles well before dark. When I got back home my housekeeper, Hasina, was outside. No power, she said. I thought that was over, I replied.

But as our language skills only overlap by a few dozen words, she merely replied, badai. Later.

She asked if I was going to shower – and seemed concerned that I do so immediately. Perhaps the waning light or the fact that we don’t get much water when the power goes off. Yes, I said and headed immediately for a quick shower, then donned my kangas (over shorts and a tank top) – one around the waist, one covering the head and shoulders.

Hasina asked if I was ready for dinner. OK, I said, figuring I might as well get it over with inasmuch as there isn’t much to do except hide from mosquitos once the power goes off.

But Hasina had a different plan. She had laid out a colored straw mat on the porch and set three places. I had wondered about the red car – her husband’s – parked outside the house. I hadn’t seen him but thought perhaps she had been waiting until I returned from my run to leave with him to break fast together.

But instead the three of us had dinner. Hasina’s husband only shows up from time to time. He has three other wives, he explained, and he alternates days.

Hasina wouldn’t let me help, but instead kept going back and forth to the kitchen until she had laid out a feast: rice with coconut, a kettle full of broth with some kind of gristly but flavorful meat, tea with ginger and cardoman, chapati and a delicious juice of passion fruit, lemon and pineapple. We ate with our hands, as is customary here, a messy way of eating that I can understand in the absence of accoutrements, but here we have them and, in fact, Hasina had brought out a spoon for me.

But I figured if I was going to have a traditional dinner in traditional dress, I could also eat the traditional way. Very messy for me – especially with the broth from the meat mixed in with the rice.

After dinner I did what I always do when there’s no power – hide under the mossy net and fall into a fitful sleep fueled by fumes from the kerosene lantern until the power comes back on again.

I always leave the fan switched on so the breeze wakes me and I can take advantage of those few precious hours of recharge time. No matter what the hour, I get up, plug in devices and do whatever errand I had planned to do – uploading photos, recharging cell phones, logging my run. And eventually I fall asleep again.

But always with the computer and my array of electronic devices – iPhone, local cell phone, Kindle and even my Garmin running watch – in the bed with me. I suppose those bits of technology are my lifelines, the precious links to life at home and the talismen to prevent me from falling off this far end of the earth.

The opportunities to give in are immense. I could so easily disappear into this strange other life here. Ever since I started wearing the traditional clothes in public I have been getting marriage proposals – on the street and through channels. People come to Hasina and tell her they like the American in the baibui. He likes you too much, she tells me, describing one shop keeper or another – the men who have seen me walking to work day after day.

What an alien world it is here: We are held captive to the mosques. There is no place in Pemba where you can miss the call to prayers. They blare from megaphones in the towers of every mosque. Now for Ramadan there seems to be an extra call to prayers at 4:30 am. I believe that signals the resumption of fasting and, for some, the start of their work day during Ramadan.

I ask my Muslim friends how they do it – fasting for 30 days. And not just no food: no water, no coffee.

Said explained that people generally eat a huge dinner (which he calls breakfast) and then wake again to eat a large meal before the cut-off time. It’s not that we eat any less during Ramadan, he said, we just switch the hours around.

Whether people actually work at 4:30 is debatable. Said may, and certainly the women who routinely gather wood, fetch water, feed animals and children and tend to crops do. But I doubt that the people at government ministries are nearly so energetic. Regardless, most businesses close at 2:30 during Ramadan as everyone’s energy wanes. When I go running in the late afternoon, I see hundreds of people sitting around outside, just waiting for sunset so they can eat again.

21 July 2009
I have just gone through the arduous check-in process at the Tabora airport, where there is no x-ray machine, no technology at all, in fact. Two women check you in, hand writing every boarding pass.

Meanwhile, another official weighs your luggage, including your hand luggage – and you aren’t allowed to take more than 5 kilos of hand luggage. So my normal bag had to be checked. Once you get through the checking bags negotiation, you go to the security check, which involved taking my checked bags off the scale and opening them up for hand/eye inspection.

Every zipper opened – makeup, toiletries, manicure kit, camera, computer. My retractable ethernet cable caused some confusion. I showed them how it worked. They were extremely nice, just slow. And if I were a terrorist, I seriously doubt that I would have had any problem bringing C4 onto the plane.

Mosquitoes are dangerous here and most likely to carry the worst form of malaria.

The visit to Tabora was short and most likely very useful for the commissioners. I have already seen most of this before. And the most interesting meetings were conducted in Swahili. After a while, I didn’t want to slow things down or draw attention to myself by asking for translations. Although at one point, having heard the word “lakini” – which means “but” so many times, I explained to the head teacher and the rest of our group – we were in a village called Mbama – the change exercise but versus and, or lakini versus na. They laughed.

Tabora is actually a beautiful location. It is in central western Tanzania, about 400 km south of Kigoma and Lake Tanganyika, where many more tourists are drawn. The air is clear and dry and you see rolling hills in the distance. Night is punctuated with all kinds of bird sounds, including wild parrots, and the screams of monkeys.

The area produces 50% of all the tobacco from Tanzania and the best honey in the world – or certainly the best honey I’ve ever had. It’s dark golden and tastes of herbs, without the overly sweet processed taste of the honey you buy in American grocery stores.

The town is notable for how few cars I saw there. Bicycles and scooters are far more common. This morning I went for a run on a main road and saw fewer than a dozen cars, whereas hundreds of school children were riding bikes to school. Often a boy would be riding with a girl – his sister, I assumed – riding side saddle. You see that all the time: the old three-speed bikes we had as kids, with one person pedaling and another sitting side saddle. Almost never a helmet. Not even with scooters.

Only a few roads are paved – and even those are not paved well. Most of the town and its surrounding villages are only accessible on rutted, sandy roads, often no more than the grooves of SUVs past. In some cases the road crumbles into fissures, deep potholes and sand pits, and the driver would do his best to navigate around them.

Almost invariably, when we came upon a person on a bike or even walking, we would virtually knock them off the road – something that got my cyclist passions simmering. According to my doctrine, cyclists win over cars, and local people going about their business definitely win over mzungu ladies in UNDP jeeps.

9 July 2009

I am sitting in George Sempeho’s office at the UN, and we are going through hell just to make a phone call – land line to land line. I had to take a cab here because no one in Tanzania can make a conference call; the technology doesn’t exist here! (Or so I’ve been told.)

And now, even to do something as simple as dialing to Nairobi has taken 15 minutes including two calls to a UNDP help desk. And then the speaker didn’t work so George and I had to put ear to ear to listen to Glenn Denning and Belay so we could discuss the organizational structure of the development team – whether it will be better to create a separate NFP or use an existing structure. TBD soon.

I feel like I need a bit of time to digest what’s going on. Things do take longer than one might expect here. Having to take a taxi several miles across town in sometimes brutal traffic just to make a conference call can really cut into your day. Then there’s UN security. It’s RIDICULOUS!

First you go to the checkpoint at the main gate. You show your ID, sign in, they scan you with a body metal/explosives detector, and inspect your purse. Then they pull out another separate book and ask you to register you laptop – signing your name, all the same information from before plus your laptop serial number. That means either booting up my computer or taking out the battery to find the number in impossibly tiny text beneath it.Then you go to the building that houses your particular agency (UNDP in my case) where you go through the same process.

This time, you give them an ID, which they hold, sign in with the same information in another book, go through a metal detector, have your purse and laptop bag examined and then go in. Two checks? 20 minutes to get in the door with no one else ahead of me and half a dozen security officers hanging out.

But there’s so much more about my daily life in Dar that I haven’t captured yet – like the crow I saw rapping on the glass pane of a shop door in City Centre, the legless man I saw yesterday walking nonchalantly across the street on the palms of his hands, or the smell of open fires on most side streets, fueled by fallen leaves and garbage adding a thick smoky stench to the humid city air.

7 July
Today is Saba Saba, the seventh day of the seventh month – a national holiday. I’ve heard different stories about its origin: that It began as a market day, when all the farmers would bring their harvest to the city; or that it celebrates the founding of the TANU party (Tanganyika African National Union). But now there’s a huge national exposition at some kind of conference and exposition center on the way to the airport.

So offices and shops are closed. Nonetheless we are having a meeting at DonorCo because the day worked for GS, who is coming back from a trip to Mbola with Klaus Leisinger and the CEO of Novartis. I’m glad we’re not waiting any longer – because I’m anxious to get going on this project.Funny how fast perspective changes.

When I first came to Dar, my hotel, the Palm Beach, seemed so shabby for $100 a night. Yes it has cockroaches, which creep me out completely. And yes, the restaurant is outside (except for breakfast) so at dinner you get eaten alive by sand flies and mosquitos. But the staff is wonderful – really hard working, nice people. Tomorrow I am coaching one of the supervisors here (one of the other guests more or less volunteered me), so that he can achieve his dream to own his own restaurant and hotel someday.

And the other guests are all interesting. A crew filming a feature-length documentary on a floating hospital that’s just being planned on Lake Tanganyika; a crew mostly from Stanford, working on a water engineering and sanitation project (the professor, who just got tenure this year at Stanford, is also a runner and I’m introducing her to people at EI because she is looking for partners for the project and I think she could learn a lot from the MV approach and might have something to offer as well); a woman I met this morning, Kate Ramsey, from Mailman, who is working on a maternal health project and said she would pass along the job description to help me find candidates for the project manager role; and a kind of dotty older woman from the UK who grew up here, moved back to the UK, became a senior government official in education and started a charity to get books to schools and libraries here.

So it’s really beginning to be fun. The sun is very strong so it’s hard to run unless you get up way earlier than I’ve been getting up so far. But I’ll get there eventually. Today I went at 10 am and only made half my quota before I was so hot and dehydrated I headed back to the hotel.

3 July 2009
The air in Dar is hot and humid, thick with smoke from open fires. It’s a smell you might like on a brisk autumn night, but here it seems relentless and oppressive. Body odors enfold you wherever people congregate. And of course there’s nothing like the smell of a packed airplane at the end of a 20 hour journey.

My room at the Palm Beach Hotel was a bit of a shock for $100 a night. Not even a set of drawers for unpacking your clothes. What makes mine an executive single is the big desk which is the only space for anything, so it is piled with my toiletries, jewelry, notebooks, Buddhist prayer beads, sutra book, omomori gohonzon, and all my gadgets. My love of gadgets is embarrassing in a place where two electrical outlets make an executive room.

I slept off and on and woke up with a start at about 4 am local time, completely confused about where I was. Very strange to be in a new place without a social network (yet). I got up and went online but then finally crashed properly and woke up when the alarm went off on my cell phone. (No clock or radio in the room. But there is a fridge and an old Hitachi TV set on an articulating mount – like a hospital TV. I couldn’t figure out how to get a picture on it and anyway I need to unplug the fridge to charge up my Kindle.)

My phone doesn’t work here – even after all that running around to convert to an international business account. Worked fine in Amsterdam but I couldn’t text or call once I landed in Africa. Never had that problem with my blackberry – not in Kenya or in South Africa. So I can’t imagine what’s going on here unless it was a very unwise switch to AT&T and the iPhone.

Because I was unsuccessful calling KPMG – even when I dialed on the hotel landline – I decided to go over there, figuring I could always work someplace until MW, my primary contact there, was free. I asked the hotel where the business area was and they pointed me in the right direction but said it was a long walk. I didn’t mind – I was keen to get out and see something. Not that the walk took me through anything interesting at all.

It was a long walk down a hot, dusty busy street. The buildings on each side were behind big fences. Most of the buildings seemed to belong to either development organizations or church organizations. And I walked a long time (especially given that I was wearing high heels and a nice dress).

Finally I came to a business-like area: there was a Citibank office and a DHL location. I walked into Citibank, partly to see if they had ATM machines there. No, it’s just investment banking. But they were very nice about giving me directions.

The hardest thing about my walk there was crossing the street: there aren’t any traffic lights – none; not at any of the corners, so you have to just venture out when the traffic seems slowest, which at that corner is not very slow at all. In getting there I had already crossed busy streets a few times, usually by waiting for someone else to venture into the traffic and jumping in after them.

I took the elevator up to the 11th floor of the PPF Tower (kumi na moja!). A receptionist showed me into a conference room with a gorgeous view of the Indian Ocean. She asked if I wanted anything to drink and I jumped at the mention of coffee because the coffee in the hotel had been almost undrinkable. I think I’ll be switching to tea soon.

Then MW came in. I didn’t realize he was white and I expected he’d be older. He’s a kind-looking, soft-spoken man and I immediately liked him. We talked about the project and I told him what JS had said – that no one wants me here and that I would be walking a tightrope. I asked about his own concerns and he shared with me his experience thus far – which was that he had heard a bit of buzz about the project months ago, then nothing, then what sounded like no clear direction and a lack of understanding about how I fit in. Apparently, when he asked about me, the answer was that the people in New York didn’t really know how or why I was involved.

But enough about me. He told me a lot I didn’t know about what DonorCo does here beyond the typical audit, tax and advisory work. They offer a service, similar to what Grants Plus does for NFPs in the US: they control the funds – they handle all the money, ensure that it goes where it’s supposed to go – for example, restricted donations are spent as they were meant to be spent and money is not siphoned off or wasted; they do all the accounting and auditing and will even go so far as to put an NGO’s staff on the DonorCo payroll to provide benefits – all for a negotiated fee. It’s very much like the kind of service Exchange4Good will want to get. So that made complete sense to me.

Also, MW began his career working in development in Brisbane – so he comes with a very different perspective than that of an accountant. I think he like most of the people at DonorCo is keen on making sure that all the money is used effectively (as are most donors). But unlike most donor organizations, he has the skillset to make sure that happens. And frankly, that’s great. Because it means there will be more documentary proof that these Millennium Village Projects work.

Now the electric outlets have just stopped working in my hotel room. It’s almost 8 pm and I’ve been puttering, trying to figure out my phone problems and calling Dad on Skype. But now I should find food and go to bed early so I can go running tomorrow. I want to do 14 miles but that will take a bit of planning – especially in terms of bathrooms. At least I know how to say choo – toilet. And chumba cha bafu – bathroom.

1 July 2009
KLM flight to Amsterdam. I am off. Gone. The trek has started. It would seem so grandiose to say I have begun a hero’s journey, but it feels as if I am on a mythical quest. A transformation from one stage of my life to another. And that everything I ever thought, studied, aspired to, questioned, explored is culminating in this moment to lead me very far from home. My garden. My people. My neighborhood.

Monday afternoon, when I was sneaking a mani-pedi as a last bit of pampering and foot saving marathon preventive care, my new client, JS, called me to say he wanted to talk to me before he left for China the next day. We met Tuesday morning at 8 am. I ambled over, face unwashed, with my cup of coffee and a note pad. JS said, more or less: “I need to give you some context. No one wants you to go to Tanzania;

KPMG doesn’t want you to go – as you know; My team doesn’t want you to go because you’re not a development professional and – you know, they say ‘she can’t even make a hotel reservation by herself”; Millennium Promise doesn’t want you to go because they don’t want to manage another village without adequate resources. And the UN is not happy about the village project because they have their own program for Micheweni District.”

I bristled about the hotel room. I would have no trouble at all getting a hotel room or an apartment, if that’s what was on a clear agenda. But I didn’t have a budget; I wasn’t going to presume. I would have booked myself with points and gone business class, and found a perfectly lovely business-class hotel and been done with it. That would have been the easy way. But…

JS continued, “But I know exactly why you are the person for this job. I have no doubt about that.” He warned that I would hear lots of criticism of him – things people would never dream of saying to his face because he’s a “big shot” as he put it with utter humility. Just matter of fact.

We were sitting at the great round kitchen table and his wife, SES, padded down the stairs, nodding in agreement with everything he was saying. The air conditioning was already turned off and the house was warm, closed – but I was animated by what he was saying. It explained so much – the sense that people weren’t getting back to me, the miscommunication, and the extreme resistance to any of the changes I suggested to the Memorandum of Understanding about which entity would be responsible for implementation.

Of course I had been particularly hurt by KPMG’s attitude toward me. I worked hard to sell that relationship and they wouldn’t have known about the villages if it hadn’t been for me. But from their perspective, they want to own this project and get their people involved. So they were snippy, patronizing and hostile to me.

As Sonia walked me out of their house, she explained she handles people: “It’s all about stroking their egos,” she said. “I tell them Jeff speaks so incredibly highly of them and his so happy to have them involved, etc.” But you’re a coach, she said. You’ll know what to do. Just be humble and deferential.

Of course it all makes sense. Humility, especially. I can be extremely deferential at times. But then, almost like turning a switch, I have that outspoken, sarcastic, dismissive side too. Like a character I learned to play really well back in those Studio 54 “everything-is-a-statement-everyone-is-a-prop” days too. But those days and that persona are just an old costume I sometimes wear.

The car service couldn’t get through my block, so I had to wheel my two suitcases and ridiculously heavy overnight bag down to Columbus. Then realized I still had Sonia and Jeff’s key in my pocket (I had done my laundry at their house earlier. It was so hot and humid I ended up wearing my low-cut Marni black tunic over my jeans. Not exactly development wear. Just couldn’t put more clothes on because I was still sweaty from a 6.25 mile run.

And then the airport. They took my second bag away and made me check it. I thought I could count my small wheelie and my Harman bag (stuffed with computer, purse, all manner of electronics and cosmetics and running shoes). But only one carry-on, they said. Not two.

So I checked the wheelie with cameras and nice business clothes – all the things I’d need immediately – and lugged my overstuffed shoulder bag to the gate. I was calling Roberto when suddenly the alarm sounded – some woman had opened an emergency exit. I started yelling at her because I was on the phone, trying to leave a message: “Why did you do that?” I asked her and she shrugged.

Of course she didn’t know. A cute, eccentrically dressed guy looked at me and said. “Let’s get her for this.” “We have all the way to Amsterdam to make her pay,” I said. “But I’ll get her off,” he said. “Six months in jail; that’s it.”

Seemed fair. Then I went to buy some chocolate – the only condiment missing from my luggage.

The two men sitting in my row (fully booked flight, middle seats fill) are Dutch, both art professors at an academy. One has short grey hair and is very thin; the other one is taller, broader, with a lot of light brown curly hair and more of a bearish mien. Stubble covered face.

I asked if they were father and son. Stupid because I might have looked closer and seen that his hair was tinged with gray. But they laughed about it. Then we were looking out the window and there was Greenland as we ate our early dinner – 6 pm NY time. Greenland is a strange, heavily green, forested mass of land with lakes and rivers – nothing man-made.

The lakes made great shapes – testes, a sea horse, dragon, scorpion – glinting fiercely in the sun. Massive. Everything that happens now seems like an omen. Or maybe I’m just seeing things more fully, more vividly.

Author: Beth Browde

Runner. Fiction writer. Explorer. Free range thinker. Management Consultant. And many other things.

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