Tag: Kindness of strangers

Free Fiction

Free Fiction

Brambles and Black Horses

By Karen L. Abrahamson

Gayle lost everything in the long ago accident that killed her family’s champion race horse and left her a ruined wreck of flesh and broken bones. Now, as bulldozers destroy the old farm where her love of racing was born, the appearance of a strange barefoot boy threatens to bring ruin upon her again.

 

To read the story, click here.

Powell’s Books: A glimpse inside the cartographer’s mind

Powell’s Books: A glimpse inside the cartographer’s mind

Gondolas, Venice (2004) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

The other day at Powell’s Books (Portland), I came across a wonderful little book called “The Mapmaker’s Dream” by James Cowan. The book is the translation of the diary of Fra Mauro, a sixteenth century Venetian monk and cartographer who set out to make a perfect mappamundi (map of the world) though he had never stepped outside the confines of his cloisters. Instead he gathered travelers’ tales through exchanges of letters or interviews of missionaries, merchants and soldiers travelling through Venice. His task became well known and he received envoys from as far afield as the court of the Chinese Emperor. Not only was this book astounding for the fact that word of his venture travelled so far in the 16th century, but the information he collected and the workings of his mind fascinated me.

Yes, his travelers brought stories of the Cyclopedes, beings in the southern hemisphere with only one huge foot that they used for hopping and also for shade when the sun in the antipodes became too fierce, but envoys also brought other tales that caused good Fra Mauro much reflection. This was what captured my attention for they showed a keenness of mind and a shifting view of the world much like new age philosophers. This seemed strange for his time; given Fra Mauro was a devout Catholic.

His encounters left him pondering whether the soul could possibly transmigrate into another person upon the death of the body and whether we are ‘all drifting towards a more complete life in someone else’. The visit of an old Jewish merchant from Rhodes left him contemplating how the loss of place (in the holy land) ‘condemned the man to inhabit his loss forever’ and how the rootless person came to inhabit a region of his own mind instead.

Schwedigon pagoda
Holy Schwedigon pagoda at sunset, Yangon, Myanmar (Photo (C) Karen Abrahamson)

Visits from others left him considering how venerated holy relics become something more because of that veneration, and how those objects take on their own life because they unite an idea that men aspire to. They left him wondering at cultures that worshiped Satan and yet were not evil, and others that determined their actions and their future through the calls of seven forest birds.

But most of all he wrote of the minds of travelers. He was struck by the notion that travelers not only travelled with their bodies, but also that they travelled in their minds and were transformed by that travel or, alternatively, transformed the place they had been. He wrote of the journeys of envoys sent to find the mythic kingdom of Prestor John and looked at the evidence of such a kingdom – the long letter still held in the Vatican archives that describes a kingdom so perfect it could not possibly exist. Fra Mauro concluded that the reason the search for Prestor John’s kingdom became all consuming, was not just the desire for aid against the Moslem hordes, but the desire to know that it was possible for paradise to exist on earth. Travelers longed to become ‘slaves’ to Prestor John’s perfection and bounty. But the country of Prestor John would never be found because it was only built on dreams.

Buddha face, Sukhothai
Buddha face, ruins of the ancient capital of Sukhothai (1997) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Ultimately, Fra Mauro realized the challenge of creating a perfect map arose because each man’s perceptions of place were different and any ‘perfect’ map must capture not only the land forms, but also the forms of the world created by men’s minds.

The lowly monk of Venice completed his life’s work, but today no trace of his perfect mappamundi exists, except in references in the pages of his journal. Perhaps, like the worlds he described, it faded away to become the world as we know it today, but more importantly what his journal shows is a man of deep thought who’s Sixteenth Century perspectives still resonate with readers today.

Thank you, Powell’s, for this gift.

Free Fiction

Free Fiction

This week will be the start of something new : For the rest of the year I’ll be publishing my urban fantasy novel Mutable Things as a serial novel with 1-2 chapters a week. I hope you enjoy this novel of an empath who must conduct a murder investigation while her face and form change to meet the desires of the men around her.

To read the first two chapters, click HERE.

Laid back in Ollantaytambo

Laid back in Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo sits in the Sacred Valley, northwest of Cuzco and is known for its ruins and its train station. You see this is the place most travelers to Machu Picchu go through, climbing on the train that will take them to Aguas Calientes and the bus to the famous ruins. It’s the place that the Camino Inca treks often stop for breakfast before hitting the trails into the mountains. I came here because it was (supposed to be) a quiet little town and because I am determined to go back to Machu Picchu and see the place as I didn’t see it before.

The town of Ollanta (as it is known to the locals) is apparently the best surviving example of Inca town planning available today.

Women at Ollantaytambo market (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Women at Ollantaytambo market (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Leave the Plaza de Armas and turn towards the ruins on the mountain, and the streets are narrow, cobbled and have irrigation channels running down the sides. Stone walls are crowned with cactus in a traditional alternative to barbed wire and broken glass and each house sports twin bulls on their ridgepole – the result of the Spanish saying a bull was more appropriate than the Inca symbol of the ‘puma’.

You can tell this town wasn’t built in this century by the way the traffic congests every time more than two cars get on the road together. Now picture a town converged on by tour busses, taxis, moto-taxis and the occasional semi, all trying to squeeze across a single-lane bridge and I swear entertainment in Ollanta is sitting under the lone tree in the Plaza and watching the mess reconfigure itself again and again in a kaleidoscope of vehicles.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see as much of the town as I would have liked, because both my ankles are still crippled from the Machu Picchu hike, but I did try to get out daily and finagled my way along (between naps – hey, recovering here) as the lone tourist with a local association devoted to preserving the weaving arts in small villages up in the mountains.

Irrigation waterfall along the mountain road, Ollantatambo, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Irrigation waterfall along the mountain road, Ollantatambo, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

We drove out in the morning, heading up a dirt road that stretched back into the mountains. The road rose, switching back and forth across the mountain sides following a small rushing river, the Patacancha, that was joined by innumerable glacier-fed torrents that foamed down the mountainsides. Green Inca terraces, some the longest in Peru, an old stucco church with thatch roof that I was told is one of the oldest in South America. There were donkeys and pigs and sheep and trains of pack horses headed up the mountain and views of people harvesting their papa (potatoes) laboriously by hand.

Off to the fields, Pumamarka (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Off to the fields, Pumamarka (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

But best of all are the people. Not only are the people of Ollanta and environs friendly (they always have a smile, especially if you have one first), but this is a town where tradition has not yet been erased by globalization. Men and women both proudly wear their traditional clothing.

Nowhere was this more clear than in the small weaving town of Patacancha and the towns around it. As we drove in we could see the men in the school yard, bright orange and red clothing against the green.

Woman near Pumamarka (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Woman near Pumamarka (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

At the weaver’s cooperative, there were 36 women dressed proudly in their heavy skirts, hand-woven button-embellished jackets, and small hats held on by beaded chin straps. According to my informant, these villagers are not seeing their young men and women leave the village and that seemed the case looking at the ages of the women in the group.

So the coop bought the women’s weavings and I took photos while we sat on a hill side under thatched huts and blue skies with the sound of the wind in the eucalyptus and the river running. Taking it all in, I didn’t feel bad that I couldn’t walk much.

At the Weaving Coop (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
At the Weaving Coop (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Here in Ollanta, the culture and the past still lives and breathes and, if you sit quietly in the Plaza de Armas, both will pass you by – along with the traffic.

One of my new friends, waving goodbye (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
One of my new friends, waving goodbye (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Puno: Leaving Things Unfinished

Puno: Leaving Things Unfinished

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write this blog about because I saw so little of the Lake Titicaca area, but perhaps that’s the point. Sometimes things get in the way of best intentions and we either can’t or just don’t get the job finished for whatever reason. This certainly happens in writing, when health or other life issues get in the way. So I guess this is my turn. Just in case anyone was worried, I seem to be fine. The high blood pressure meds seem to have done the trick and I am going to get checked out before the Machu Picchu climb. But that’s all fodder for a next post.

A village of the Isla Uros, Puno, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
A village of the Isla Uros, Puno, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Let me tell you about Puno.

Puno sits on the shore of Lake Titicaca, running up the sides of a number of hills that roll down to the great northwestern bay of the lake. My bus arrived in the night, so we crammed three of us (from the bus) into a shared taxi to get to our various hotels. All well and good, until we left the bus terminal and headed into the streets. Think narrow enough two cars can’t pass. Think congested with cars, trucks, motorcycle-taxis that they call ‘chilos’, as well as bicycle rickshaws. And pedestrians. Don’t forget the pedestrians. Masses of them, blithely passing between the vehicles. In the night everything smelled like car exhaust , and the air was glossy with mist off the lake. And pollution. OK, I thought: this seems rather Dante-esque, but it was night and I was tired and so I let it pass, because I’d seen worse in other countries.

The next day, the day I finally saw the doctor, I went out for a walk. Grotty was about the best I could describe it. Now maybe it was me – I was unstable enough on my feet I actually got lost twice – and I rarely get lost, but the city seemed in a perpetual state of being unfinished. Everywhere you looked there were brick buildings with iron poles sticking out of the roof awaiting the next story. Even my guest house, which was up-scale on the scale of guest houses I’ve been staying in, had its courtyard dug up and the front entrance perpetually stuck in a heap of dirt-cum-mud.

FishingSailboat on Lake Titicaca, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
FishingSailboat on Lake Titicaca, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Not impressive, to say the least. Not a place you’d want to spend any more time than you had to, even though the streets were filled with delightful ladies in traditional bowler hats and absolutely everyone I had contact with was wonderful. My plans for Puno had been to use it as a base to do research farther afield. I had planned to go out to one of the islands in the lake and live there a few days, but given how I was feeling it seemed like a particularly stupid idea to put myself that far from a doctor.

One of the knitting old men of Isla Tranquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
One of the knitting old men of Isla Tranquile, Lake Titicaca, Peru (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

So instead I did what I never do: I booked into a – dare I say it – a tour. A one day tour out to Isla Tranquile. I figured there was no way they were going to stress me out, and I could at least see something of the lake.

Of course I was wrong.

A wonderful day – brisk wind, blue skies and the scent of wet mud you get from a marsh as we first visited the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. These are islands built of a layer of matted root and then heaped on top with reeds. Whole towns exist on these islands. And if you don’t like your neighbor, you just pull up your ten anchors and float away to Bolivia. Think about how easy ending a marriage would be!

From there we headed to Tranquile. I’m picturing a landing, a light walk and lunch. The real picture relates to the fact that Tranquile is basically a mountain. So we land, and I’m looking at an uphill climb. Way uphill. We have to reach the top for our lunch. And of course I’m carrying about 35 pounds of camera equipment that I will not leave unchaperoned on the boat.

Looking back own the flank of Isla Tanquile (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Looking back own the flank of Isla Tanquile (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

At 14,000 feet this was not an easy hike, but the panting was worth it. Isla Tranquile sits in glacier-blue waters, its steep sides terraced with green, and laced with gold flowers. The sounds of birds and the call of children fill the air. The old men sit knitting (Tranquile is a UNESCO site for its fine fabric weaving and knitting) and its women constantly spin a weaving bobbin. You see them everywhere and they produce absolutely beautiful knit wear. The island is also famous for its gender roles. Men gain their worth by having a wife gift them with many handmade purses. The women cut their hair and weave it into a belt for their future husband. They also cut their hair to produce long falls that the men wear in ancient, Andean ceremonies. When you look at these faces, they have the same high cheek bones and hawk nose of the Incans and some say that Lake Titicaca is where The Inca – the first Inca – came from.

Which brings me back to Puno. I felt bad to leave the city without exploring it better. I climbed on the bus this morning feeling something of a failure, because I don’t like to leave things unfinished. Which is perhaps why Puno’s appearance that the whole place was under construction or reconstruction left me so unsettled.

But I learned from the guide on the bus that my perception was correct. Apparently the government of this department (state) only requires citizens to pay taxes on a finished house….

So I’m holding to that: Like the homeowners of Puno, sometimes in writing and travel it pays to leave things undone.

On the rooftop on the way to Isla Tanquile (2011)
On the rooftop on the way to Isla Tanquile (2011)
Altitude

Altitude

In Peru everyone calls me the ‘Alto Mujer’, the tall woman. I sort of stand out in crowd around here, which is probably why I was picked to be robbed. But Alto, as in ‘Altiplano’, or the high flat plains between the mountains, are one of the reasons why I wanted to come here and so I headed from Arequipa to the Canon del Colca, the second deepest canyon the world by a bare 150 meters (and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon).

Vicunas in lake with El Misti in the background. As I looked closer I realized the anmal on the right is dying. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Vicunas in lake with El Misti in the background. As I looked closer I realized the anmal on the right is dying. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

To get there you must go to the high places where the windswept mountainsides are constantly repainted by clouds and as far as the eye can see are rocks and more rocks and stunted clumps of ichu grass that are the primary fodder for camalids like domesticated llama, and alpaca, and the dainty vicuna that lives wild in a huge natural reserve created for them. Picture windswept plains and tiny flowers and the mighty volcanic peaks of El Misti (5822 m), Picchu Picchu (5571 m) and Chachani (6075 m) looming above everything. The air is clear and smells only of dust and grass and sometimes animal manure, and aside from the wind, there is only silence until a truck or tour bus passes.

I was fortunate. I paid for a car and driver for two days and Edgard was the perfect person. He spoke no English and I speak very little Spanish, but we got along sharing my Spanish/English Dictionary and he told me things about the places we went. The road went up and up through this staggering landscape until we reached the viewpoint of the volcanoes which stands at 4,900 Meters. Yes, meters.

Karen, trying hard to breathe at 4,900 meters. (2011)
Karen, trying hard to breathe at 4,900 meters. (2011)

 On all sides are these huge peaks and in the foreground small traveler’s cairns too numerous to be counted that give praise for having made it that far and to pray for good luck with the rest of their voyage. This was so similar to practices in India and Tibetan, China, that it made me realize how right the Inca were when they thought the huge mountains were inhabited by Apus, or gods.

From there we headed down towards the canyon and the small town of Chivay that sits at its head. Unfortunately I was struggling a bit with the altitude as we were still at 3,630 meters. It is a small town, but the capital of its District, and everywhere you went there were signs about the upcoming elections that occur April 10. The main square (Plaza des Armas) has a lovely fountain and tree-shaded benches and I spent a few hours relaxing in this slower paced life and watching he women in their traditional clothing.

Market Scene, Chivay. Note the Inca rock that shows terracing and irrigation techniques. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Market Scene, Chivay. Note the Inca rock that shows terracing and irrigation techniques. (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Edgard and I drove out the next day to see the valley. Actually, I almost called the whole thing off because I was feeling so ill, whether from Altitude sickness or the flu, I wasn’t sure. But at the last minute I thought I’ve come so far to see these birds and this valley, so I had to go.

So we went, through a valley that was filled with incredible Inca terracing up the mountainsides, each with their own microclimate so while one might be perfect for potatoes, others are perfect for Maize, or Quinua. We saw ancient tombs from pre-Inca times, and Inca-age rocks carved to keep track of the terracing. And then there was Cruz Del Condor.

Like entering a passport hall at a major airport, there was every language being spoken around you from the crowd that had made it this far to see. We were all perched in this high point of the cliff wall, waiting for the word the Condor had taken off and was rising up the cliff wall. I was there for one hour and saw one bird, but breathtaking isn’t the word. The swoop and soar on the wind. Everyone drew a breath so all you could hear was the swoop of huge wings and the frantic clicking of camera power-winds. And then he was gone. Magnificent and ephemeral as he swept away upwards and over the cliffs behind.

Colca Canyon, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Colca Canyon, (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

So Edgard left me with best wishes for my journey and went back to his lovely family in Arequipa. Apparently, his wife is an obstetrician and his children are studying medicine and engineering. Yesterday I climbed aboard a bus to Puno and drove 6 hours through the high altiplano again, but this time southeastward toward Lake Titicaca, that sits at 3,830 meters above sea level.

The countryside seemed filled with curves of hillsides that cloud shadows made seem to fold in on each other. A few lakes filled deep valleys, but mostly they are shallow affairs that overwinter flamingos. We arrived in Puno at 7:30 pm, coming down out of hills to see great arcs of darkness surrounded by lights. The darkness? Lake Titicaca.

So today I am in Puno, but unfortunately I’ve not seen much other than what I saw last night. You see, there is a price to be paid for being Alto in the altiplano world. The people here are built short and barrel-chested for a reason. Me, I’m about the antithesis of that physiognomy, and given I’d been sick from the moment I left Arequipa, I finally called a doctor. It seems the altitude has given me high blood pressure.

Which has made this Alto Mujer, a little more Plano at this moment.

 But it was so worth it.

Condor, Condor del Cruz (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Condor, Condor del Cruz (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Zen and the Art of Travel

Zen and the Art of Travel

This topic came to mind as I was running around through the frantic holiday seasons. Too many people, packed too close together and all of them trying to get too much done too fast under too much pressure. No wonder there were so many unhappy faces. I’ve seen the same look of tension on my face when I’m in the midst of a novel and things don’t feel like they’re working well. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called writing colleagues and gained their help to talk me through days of angst and despondency.

The same sort of tension can be experienced when you travel.

Ranakpur - old temple worker and the Zen of repetitive work (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Ranakpur - old temple worker and the Zen of repetitive work (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

You’re in a strange place, with a strange language so you can’t express yourself and as a writer that’s something you need to do. You don’t understand the logic or the cultural norms of the place and the people and that alone is frustrating. The fact you don’t necessarily know where you are, or how to get to the place you want to go, all add to the tension and vulnerability a traveler feels. This not knowing how to get from point A to point B (or even what point B should be) are both anxieties a writer feels, too.

So how do you react?

I know that both at home and abroad, when I’ve felt vulnerable and tense I’ve barked at people—and usually felt bad about it afterwards. The trouble is, we North Americans feel quite comfortable showing our displeasure at something. Often it’s a matter of blaming someone else for how we are feeling, but that’s not the way it is in most parts of the world. In many parts of the world just showing such negative emotion is considered rude—or worse.

My lesson in this came travelling in Burma. There I was, all 6 foot 1+ of me about to travel by local bus from Yangon to fabled Mandalay. I was careful. I did the right things. I made sure I was on an air-conditioned vehicle, had a seat by the window, and that I wasn’t at the rear of the bus. Well the best laid plans oft go awry, they say, and so it was for me. The first clue was when I arrived at the bus. Sure I had a window seat and I wasn’t at the rear. Nope. I was seated over the left front wheel well which meant that all the foot room in the seat was gone.

Okay, tension there.

Then it turned out my seat partner was a stout little man who was wide enough (or I was – it’s all a matter of perspective) that it was impossible for us both to lean back in our seat at the same time.

Okay, frosted now.

So we leave Yangon with me fuming and travel north into the dry lands south of Pagan and the air conditioning broke down. (Did I mention that NOTHING works in Burma?) And then the bus overheated so we had to keep stopping to cool the engine. And on. And on. And on. For hours.

I was furious. I was fuming.

Until I noticed something.

That stout little man never once leaned back and he never once stopped smiling.

 He shared his foot space with me and every time we came to a stop, he made sure I got off the bus, got food and found my way around. The entire group of passengers took me under their wing, laughing when I doused my head under a water tap, being gracious when I shared my snacks (Good old M and Ms travel exceedingly well) and making sure I got back on the bus in time.  What I learned from those people was patience. When my legs cramped up from their position or the heat became unbearable, I just had to look at my Buddha-shaped travel companion to remind myself that the Buddhist philosophy is that all things pass away, and so, too, would this bus ride.

Offering bowl and flame, Wat Phra Keaw, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok (1997) Photo (c) Karen AbrahamsonAnd really, in the whole scheme of things, how bad was a twelve hour bus ride anyway? I made friends, I saw the country and I learned a vital skill that helps me to this day in my writing and travel.

Patience.

For every bad day, for every time that the words have to be pulled like hot coals from my brain or my wrists burn with pain, or I’m lost in another country, this too will pass. And when it’s over I’ll have learned so much along the way.

Sustenance

Sustenance

My two cats have very different eating habits. Ben (or Big Boy, as I call him) weighs fifteen pounds and will eat just about anything I put in front of him. Shiva (aka Little Man) weighs all of 11 pounds soaking wet and after a good meal. I worry about his weight because when you pick him up and he feels like he’s all bones and skin.

Kashgar morning, before market (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Kashgar morning, before market (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

For Shiva it has to be the right food, at the right temperature, at the right age out of the tin, and (I swear) out of the right part of tin, or he won’t eat it. These days it’s venison – yes, venison. Nothing but the best for Shiva, dear. He’s the one who, when given a bowl of kibble with a mixture of the kind he really likes and the kind he tolerates but needs to eat, will, of course, fish the favored kibble out of the bowl and then turn up his nose at the rest. Blasted cats.

Now, while this illustration is indicative of the types of personalities of these boys, it is also a wonderful metaphor for something important in writing, which is feeding ourselves. No, I’m not talking about how some writers can plough through a mountain of food, or how some writers who shall remain nameless will not eat anything green, or anything that has passed within ten miles of a vegetable. No, I am talking about feeding our souls.

The writer’s soul (aka the wily muse) is a creature that requires constant feeding of the kinds of things that make you want to write. For some it’s the anger at some injustice in the world. For some it’s the inspiration of music. For me, the inspiration is travel and other cultures.

I was just reminded by a friend that people might want to know more about my travels in other places, like western China or Northern India. Let me tell you about one such event. It involves food, or at least tea, and is the type of experience that feeds my writing.

Apothecary, Kashgar (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Apothecary, Kashgar (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

When, in 1998, I visited Kashgar, the westernmost city of China and an ancient Silk Road caravanserai, the railway from eastern China had not yet been completed and so ancient Kashgar still remained relatively untouched, though the Chinese were moving in, in droves. At the time I befriended a Uigher gentleman (the local, Muslim, Turkic people) and my travelling companion and I spent time with him talking. One evening, after he had learned that I might be interested in a Uigher carpet, he invited my travelling companion and I back to his rooftop home.

When I say rooftop, I mean rooftop. He had a small mud shack at the side of the roof on the top of a flat-topped mud-daub house, and his ‘house’ had interior furnishings that were only bits of cardboard. The rooftop itself was pink adobe that apparently you could fall through during the infrequent rains the oasis town experienced. So there we were, the three of us sitting on his rooftop in the ancient town of Kashgar under a pink evening sky with the distant aspen golden on the hills leading up to the Karakoram pass of the Himalaya Mountains and the smell of bread baking and roasting goat’s heads wafting up from the street. So we sipped bitter tea and talked of the Uigher ‘situation’ (see my travel page on China) and I looked at his rugs. None were outstanding, but one charmed me and my Uigher friend told me how he was trying to earn enough money so that he could get married.

So I bought the rug. I handed over cold hard American cash and my address and the next morning I climbed on the bus to leave town with the foolish realization that I’d probably never see my cash or the rug again.

Imagine my surprise when six weeks later I arrived home and the rug had beaten me there.

The experience left me with a very soft spot for this Muslim man who proved so honest. It also fueled the feelings that led to the writing of Ashes and Light when I read about how the Chinese government used the 911 ‘Muslim crisis’ to round up and execute Uigher men when they rioted over the destructions of their homes.

So just as with Ben and Shiva there are different ways of feeding our souls and so, when the rest of life can suck us dry, we need to undertake those things that fill us up.

The memory of sitting on that rooftop, of my Uigher friend’s utter lack of anything the west would consider household belongings, but his total honesty in the face of being handed a fist-full of American dollars, touched me far more than music or other forms of inspiration ever will. It’s those cross cultural encounters that feed my soul and my muse.

And the fact that my friend may no longer be alive.

Uigher men, Kashgar, (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Uigher men, Kashgar, (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Recent Romance


Available HERE, $3.99

Available HERE,
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Available HERE, $3.99