the end of the day we're Americans and we need our things."
-- Melissa Wyers.
"Some countries are lucky in their leaders; others are not."
-- Germai Tesmichael.
En route from Frankfurt to Asmara
As I write this, the plane is rising up out of Cairo on the last
leg of the journey to Asmara. I'd had a good look at the Nile and
the cityscape as our Lufthansa jet came in low over the city and
landed around 7:30; the sun was setting then over the dry, dusty
city at the edge of the desert. Cairo now has a population of something
like 15 million. I wanted to get off there, explore the city, and
see how it had changed in the 34 years since I was there as a bushy-tailed
19-year-old Know Nothing during that far-off summer of 1966. (The
population having nearly triplled in thirty-odd years, I can't imagine
it's changed for the better, but I still had the urge to find out.
Not on this trip though).
At night - it got dark as we waited in the plane on the ground for
an hour - the city is not blindingly bright. Power is too expensive,
so they live differently, and night is solidly night. That this
is the desert and that without the Nile it would be nothing, is
also obvious. You see small plots of farmIand, the green near the
Nile not lasting too long against the enormity of the desert. I'd
forgotten how exciting it is to be seeing new places, and how different
the Third - or, more properly perhaps, Fourth - World would look
to my western eyes. It's ineluctably, indescribably different, even
from the artificial distance of a plane's window, looking down into
the inky night, the plane ascending rapidly into seemingly infinite
black space. Night, Africa! I'm finally here!
The flight from Frankfurt to Cairo took somewhere around four or
five hours, in a two-thirds full plane; hard to figure duration
without a watch and with the disorientation of time zone changes
and jet lag. Ate an air meal, drank a gin, and watched a scary American
action film about a crazy ex-marine who wants to steal some destructive
chemical and sell it to the Pakistanis. Or something. Started Keneally's
To Asmara - A Novel, which I'm enjoying. Listened to euro
rock on the earphones. Arabic music too on the sound system, and
on the map on the screen showing the plane's progress as it crossed
down southerly over the Red Sea, closing in on Eritrea's capital
city of Asmara, a city of 400,000, and the capital of one of Africa's
newest nation-states. No one got on the plane in Cairo, and we proceeded
less than a third full, landing around 11 on a warm, dark night.
I was met at the Asmara airport by a woman (name of Esta, surname
I didn't get) in her mid- or early 40s, an official from the Foreign
Ministry, whose husband is the Governor of the province of Eritrea,
and who - I learned talking to her on the drive into the city -
had been the Eritrean Ambassador to the US for three years in the
mid-nineties. So she had lived in the US and her English was completely
fluent. After a wait for my bag, we walked to the car and I was
soon graciously deposited at our hotel, a four or five story affair
called the Savana International, around midnight - which proved
quite satisfactory, the second floor room being quite clean and
having a private bathroom with a hot water shower. A window opened
out into a courtyard garden and offered a decent view of the city.
I fell into bed and thought that the trip, door to door from Boston
- including the 4-hour stopover in Frankfurt - only had taken about
18 hours. The miracle of modem air travel! You can go from one world
to an entirely different one in less than a day. I don't know if
it's good, but it certainly is reality. I slept like a baby, only
occasionally waking up to whack a mosquito (Let's hope the malaria
Tuesday, May 2nd 6:30 PM, Asmara
I don't dare lie down although the bed looks soft, inviting. This
jet lag had me dozing through meetings today. We had five of them,
with the head of the US/AID (Agency for International Development;
this is a major source of funding for humanitarian relief in the
camps, as well as the architect and operator of several health,
banking training and other "foreign aid" programs in Eritrea) mission;
with the US Ambassador to Eritrea, William Clarke; with the head
of the Eritrean Refugee Relief Commission - Ms. Worku Rasmichael;
with the Eritrean Deputy Foreign Minister, and with a quite knowledgeable
US AID employee, Katharine. From these folks, I learned quite a
lot about what is going on here with refugees and displaced people,
as well in Eritrea generally, and so now have a much better feel
for Eritrea and its challenges. I say this notwithstanding my series
of catnaps - some better disguised than others, and some interrupted
by kicks in the shin by Joyce Bernstein, one of the eight of us
who make up the USCR/IRSA (US Committee for Refugees/ Immigration
and Refugee Services of America) delegation of which I am a part
- during the course of the long day of meetings (We didn't even
break for lunch; Roger is work-driven, I begin to understand, and
completely dedicated to our purpose of fact-finding and information-gathering;
in this, he reminds me of Hiram Ruiz, when I was with him in 1994
in Vietnam interviewing voluntary repartees; nothing would divert
him from the purpose of the mission. This I admire, but it is quite
different than my own impressionistic, unfocused style, my tendency
to assimilate whatever I am going to assimilate via immersion, via
indirection and intuition).
Notes on the delegation, other than myself:
--Roger Winter, the USCR/IRSA executive director, and seasoned Africa
hand and refugee advocate, is our team leader. Widely known and
respected for his work in the refugee field and his tireless willingness
to monitor little-known refugee situations world-wide, Roger is
an expert on the Sudan in particular, but he knows Affica well,
and has been in and out of the areas we propose to visit many times
over the last twenty years. He has worked at USCR/lRSA for almost
twenty years, and has been its director since the early 90s.
--Melissa Wyers, USCR/IRSA's other staff person, its development
director in fact, organized the trip and handled the myriad of details
related to it both before and during the trip. She had served in
the Peace Corps in Morocco in the 80s, and she has knowledge of
Arabic as well as a lot of experience living and traveling in Africa.
--Lawrence (Larry) Rosenthal, an independent businessman and consultant
based in New York City and western Massachusetts, serves as the
President of the USCR/IRSA Board of Directors; he has traveled extensively,
and has participated in a number of refugee-oriented trips such
as this one.
--Joyce Bernstein, another business consultant and Board member
of USCR/IRSA, also lives and works in New York and the Berkshires.
Last year she was in Uganda and Rwanda on a USCR site visit.
--Musafir Chisti, legal counsel for the International Ladies Garment
Worker's Union (now known as UNITO), is also a USCR/IRSA Board member
(its Treasurer) and well-known immigrant and refugee advocate. A
naturalized US citizen and native of Kashmir, Muz lives in New York
City and is married to my former colleague and friend Helene Lauffer,
who used to work at Victims Services, an IRSA affiliate.
--Elisabeth Hubbard, an actress working in New York City, is a USCR/IRSA
Board member who has also been on at least one other of these site
visits to Africa.
--Joanne Oplustil is the executive director of an IRSA/USCR affiliate
in Brooklyn, CAMBA, which is a large (with an annual budget of over
$20 million) non-profit that resettles refugees and provides a wide
range of services to immigrants and low-income residents of New
York City, Brooklyn in particular. Joanne spent seven years in Tanzania
working with refugees in the 70s, and has spent time in Kosovo and
at Fort Dix with Albanian refugees.
This is the group I'll be spending a lot of time with going forward,
and in fact, we all were out to dinner together this evening at
the Castelo, a very good Italian-influenced [Eritrea was an Italian
colony from 1890 through World War II; one result of this is that
the spaghetti and coffee are excellent, and that Italian is still
used; in fact, the following Sunday, stopping in at the city's main
cathedral, I witnessed a Mass in Italian] restaurant, only a few
minutes' walk from the Savanna, turning in early in order to leave
early tomorrow for a three day, two night swing through southern
and western Eritrean displaced person and expellee camps via several
four-wheel-drive vehicles. The plan is to leave by 8 AM; we will
be accompanied by an interpreter/guide provided by ERREC.
And so to bed around 11, as an antidote to jet lag in my case, though
not for the others, most of whom arrived on the 29th and have had
time to adjust (They even went on a field trip Sunday to Massawa,
a port town on the Red Sea, two and a half hours by car from Asmara).
Wednesday, May 2nd, 10 PM
About to call it a night. We spent the day on the road from
Asmara as far south as Senafa, thence to this hotel in Mendefera,
certainly a presentable hotel. We stopped at two large displaced
persons camps, and got a taste of what war does to rural civilians.
It's cruel to say the least. As Germai - our excellent guide and
interpreter from ERREC, with whom I was traveling in one of the
vehicles - said: "Some countries are lucky with their leaders and
some are not." His own timing in getting back to Eritrea from Ethiopia
was very good - he came back in 1989 after three decades of being
educated, working and living abroad, largely in Ethiopia. He's a
very perceptive guy and I'm learning a lot from him. He kind of
reminds me of Ato (Mr) Michael, the USIS Librarian I hung out with
in Addis in the summer of '66; he was also an articulate, intelligent
Eritrean who'd come to Addis to be educated.
1 AM (May 3rd)
Woke up about 12, and have been lying here in problematic wait for
the numerous mosquitoes and occasionally nailing one, dozing, thinking
about everything and nothing. What was that film I saw at the French
film festival a couple of months ago? "Life on Earth" it was called;
set in a small town in Mali, and made by an African, it gave a real
feel for the continent. What else? 1) the cast of characters, including
Germai; 2) last night's dinner at the Castelo; 3) yesterday and
the day before yesterday - my life so far, here in Aftica in particular.
Melissa's definitive line (She was out last night with Joyce, buying
supplies for this trip - bottled water, crackers, canned cheeses
and meats for lunches on the road, etc; she's our quartermaster,
basically.) said in precisely what context I can't recall: " At
the end of the day we're Americans and we need our things." That
will I suspect become the mantra for this trip; it just may be the
line of the trip in fact.
The sounds of roosters crowing and of people ... this room, on the
second floor overlooking a (if not the) main street of the town,
has been filled with voices since 6.
Schoolkids by the boatload are walking by, chatting; hard to believe
this is a country at war, but it is. Just breakfasted with Roger
and Melissa; apparently we are planning to be back in Asmara by
early in the evening tomorrow.
R. says that yesterday's displaced persons camps - which seemed
pretty Spartan and minimal to me - were the best displaced persons
camps he's ever seen! I asked why and he said simply "because
they're Eritrean." There is still, here in Eritrea, he says, a commitment
to doing things right, "by the book." And in talking to Gennai,
I can see that officials are highly principled and incorruptible.
R. says that the camps in Kenya will be very different. Everything
is for sale and everyone is on the hustle. Eritrea is definitely
a different kind of Africa.
Thursday, May 4th, 11 PM
Barentu (in western Eritrea toward the Sudanese border)
This is the end of my third full day in Eritrea; I'm beginning to
get acclimatized, and am liking the place a lot. Amazingly arid
and treeless for the most part, yet people somehow survive. They
are herdsman, farmers ... Children are everywhere; it's really quite
a wonderful place, in spirit if not materially.
We're in Barentu, and will visit one more camp tomorrow, before
heading back to Asmara. Nary a paved street in the town. The hotel
- which we didn't check into until after 8 - seems to have electricity,
a working fan in the room, and running water down the hall. Presentable
plate of spaghetti for dinner last night, downstairs in the hotel
restaurant. People ordering enj era and wat (the local stew and
flatbread) fared not so well; the meat was leathery from the taste
I got of it.
Roger is apparently leaving for the Sudan with some rebels tonight,
to visit rebel-held territory that he hasn't been to in some time,
an 18-hour drive apparently. God bless him.
Friday, May 5th, 6 AM
My room - again, on the second floor - offers a great view of the
town's bus station, as well as the front doorstep of the hotel.
This location accounts for the persistent noise since about 4, which
woke me up - it wasn't just the crowing of the roosters and the
braying of the donkeys.
A nice, crunchy layer of dust out here on the balcony, where I've
come to be cooler. Inside the room it was extremely hot, especially
after midnight, when the electricity - and hence the fan, went out.
Opening the window wasn't especially helpful for cooling; happily,
however, no mosquitoes manifested themselves - probably too dry
for them. This is the desert; the Sudan is just to the west, and
the people are predominantly tribal and Nilotic (tall and extremely
black), not fine-featured and relatively light skinned like the
Tigrinya speakers of Asmara and the East. It's only 6, and it's
already hot, so today will be the hottest day yet.
Watching some human drama being played out at the bus station. A
couple and their four kids missed a bus and the father was pretty
upset. He actually threw a stone at the kids; then the unhappy group
slunk over to be nearer to the buses. Then I watched a woman with
two kids trying to hitchhike on to one of the buses, to no avail.
When a couple of soldiers in an army pickup truck stopped and she
was able to jump in with her meager possessions and two youngsters
I practically burst into applause.
Flies omnipresent. Donkeys wandering around looking for a blade
of grass where virtually none exists. If donkeys could eat rocks
or dust, they'd be fat. But here you can forget grass. It's true
that there are some flowers and signs of greenery in the hotel garden
- which, incredibly, given the fact that the electricity and water
are off here, show signs of having just been watered - but any donkey
trying to get in the front gate here would be chased off, doubt
Roger just appeared below, drinking some sort of yogurt concoction
(it looks too risky for me). Apparently he didn't leave for the
Sudan last night, as I thought he was going to.
Germai is now also down there, looking quite frustrated by the 'no
water' situation. Fortunately I grabbed a quick shower last night
just before dinner, and so am less desperate right at this moment.
Germai, Muz and I took a short walk last night after dinner. Rain,
incredibly, looked imminent, but of course all it did was blow and
bluster, with only a miniscule trace of actual precipitation occurring.
We were looking for bottled water, but could only get carbonated
mineral water from one of the bars along the dusty road. The bar
girls looked available, dancing desultorily with some soldiers,
but a bottle of water you couldn't get. So Muz settled for the carbonated
stuff for tooth brushing. The presence of streetlights was a surprise,
given the infrastructure situation in this town.
After midnight, Friday, May 5th (Saturday the 6th technically)
Savanna Hotel, Asmara
What a day! We got back from Barentu fairly late yesterday, like
at 6:30 or so. We'd got a fairly late start, breakfasting at the
hotel we couldn't get a room at last night. I bet they had
water! Part of the problem was the shape the tires were in on one
of our vehicles. Dealing with that took some time.
R. left for the Sudan around 9, and the rest of us headed out to
a displaced persons camp west of Barentu; it was a rugged ride on
a lousy road, hardly a unique situation. The IDP (Internally Displaced
Persons) camp we visited also contained a significant number of
rural expellees - "Eritreans" expelled by Ethiopia during the last
two years for being "Eritrean." Classic ethnic cleansing. Their
property, animals, etc. all confiscated; they're expelled on the
spot, from the fields, sometimes without their children even able
to join them. Pretty horrific, and it speaks very poorly for the
government now ruling Ethiopia - apparently dominated by the Tigre
and excluding all other ethnic groups for the most part.
Anyhow, I found this particular camp almost inspiring. For example,
there was a fullfledged school in session, staffed for the most
part by young people (mostly young women) doing their "national
service." The furniture was modest, rocks sometimes serving as seats,
but there were chalkboards and eager young faces chirruping along,
rote memory being the order of the day. Another big positive was
the conversation we had with a sweet woman living in a round hut
- standard for the region - that her husband had built himself with
some minimal assistance from ERREC. Her five or six (or seven) kids
looked pretty content and cheerful, happy to watch the strange white
people chatting with their mother. At this same camp we also visited
the wells and watched people fetching water, taking showers in the
half dozen or so shower rooms, and generally horsing around (What
is it about water that is joyous, liberating, playful?). We were
soon surrounded by children. Our final stop was up on a hill, where
we could see the blue plastic-sheeted tents of this camp of some
35,000 people spread out all around us. The human race, in dire
conditions, can make do with extraordinarily little. Americans may
"need their things," but millions make do with hardly any things
The 200-kilometer trip from Barentu back to Asmara was largely tarmac.
We stopped at Keren, a hill town known for its silver, around 3:15,
took a coffee/shopping break for an hour, and then watched our drivers
push hard for the next two and a half hours; they deposited us back
at the Savanna around 6:45. Not a bad trip and only a couple of
near accidents, most almost involving herds of goats or cattle,
or a lone recalcitrant donkey. As the sun sets, animals are on the
move all over Africa and this fact does affect traffic flow on any
and all roads.
Our group had a previously scheduled dinner date at 7:30, hosted
by Ms. Worku, the ERREC director; it took place fairly close to
the hotel, and we got there around 8 - there was actually a rainstorm
in progress as we pulled up to the restaurant! (I guess rain does
occasionally happen in Eritrea, although I do know that there
is only one year-round river in the whole country.) The meal was
quite authentic and featured injera and wat as well
as mead wine, or tej (the Amharic word, not the Tigrinya
one, which I can't summon up). A number of ERREC staff joined us
and we had some great conversations with these folks. The guy I
mainly talked to was a 45-year-old veteran of the "Armed Struggle"
(as they call the 15-year-long war of independence from Ethiopia,
which lasted from 1974 to 1991). He'd lost an eye at some point,
and he also told me that two of his sisters had died, one by the
Ethiopians in a massacre and one by her own hand in despair and
guilt at having survived that massacre. He had one other anecdote
that got my attention. He said he left the farm - his parents were
poor rural people - to join the resistance at age 17 and didn't
see his family for another 16 years. His family farm was in the
occupied zone and he couldn't get to them for all that time. He
said that when he finally was able to visit his mother she didn't
recognize him, and said: "You aren't my son."
We got back to the hotel around 10 and several of us sat around
the hotel lobby - which also serves as a bar - and jawed until midnight
Saturday, May 6th, 3:30 AM
A characteristic chorus of dogs barking. One imagines packs of them,
a la Erzurum. Maybe another side of this wonderful place,
but I hope not. The people are absolutely appealing.
Barking seems to have subsided, or receded at least. Whew . . Some
mosquito annoyance. Only last night - in Barentu - have there been
no mosquitoes. There's a connection: no water, no mosquitoes.
Sunday, May 7th , 12 noon
We were to leave at noon today for Ethiopia, but plans have
changed. Roger just got back from the Sudan and he needs some recovery
time. So it's apparently to be early tomorrow in a plane chartered
out of Nairobi; the pilot is an enormous, drawling Texan named Dale
Ruark. He turned up this morning - or last night - with a three
man Kenyan crew and a former priest, an Irishman named Dan Eiffey
(I think that's the surname), who works for Norwegian People's Aid,
knows the Sudan very well apparently, and speaks with a heavy brogue.
The Texan also has a heavy-duty accent, but not an Irish one. -
more like deep Texas Americana, exaggeratedly so. Plus, he (the
Texan) has plenty of opinions verging on a sort of Libertarian populism.
Loves to bad mouth the UN, for example, as well as the World Bank,
etc. In any case, both these characters are quite an addition to
I was out until something like 3 in the morning, at a "disco"
called Warsa. The scene there was pretty amazing, featuring incredibly
loud music and two different dance floors - one with live local
(I reckon) Eritrean overlay rock and roll, one with recorded Western
stuff, hip hop and disco and Marvin Gaye and you name it. A young
crowd, heavily local; apparently it's the place to be. I only knew
about it because this German Food Aid worker with whom our group
had dined earlier in the evening had said he was going. So I thought,
"what the heck," and it proved to be one of the more interesting
cross-cultural experiences of the trip so far. Obscene (and you
can bet, not understood) hip hop lyrics in the African night, a
marvelously - and wonderfully talented in my white man's judgment
- dancing crowd pulsating to some great rhythms. An almost innocent
feel to the whole thing, with girls dancing with girls and boys
with boys - indeed, the girl-boy partners dancing were the exception.
Magnificent hairdos of all sorts on the women, some fairly outlandish
outfits, European style, but a la africain. These folks can
dance! And there was a complete lack of hostility; the vibes were
absolutely lovely and I detected no menacing druggie hustle or anti-white
subtext - one or both elements which could have easily been present
in a comparable US context I suspect. (Actually it would have
been tough to get anything illegal or dangerous into the place;
there were a couple of guys with rifles at the entrance and
I suspect they were frisking anyone who looked half suspicious,
armed, or hemp-laden).
One vignette comes up from the memory bank: In the midst of this
dancing chaos and noise at Warsa, a traditionally dressed (in the
white shama, or cotton dress) woman was sweeping,using a
broom - the kind Isaw all over Asmara, folks using them to sweep
sidewalks especially - made of brush or sticks. What was going through
her mind, as she tried to maintain order and minimum "broom clean"
standards in the midst of hundreds of beer drinking, dancing fools?
I will say that she was one of the very few women in the place wearing
the traditional hair style of 95% of the Eritrean women, the hair
on the head itself corn-rowed, with what is left clumped behind
the ears; she was probably also one of the few people - and certainly
the only woman - anywhere near my age in the place! It was an unforgettable
Our group had been out to dinner at the Blue Nile, a good restaurant
quite near the hotel; we were joined by the German food worker earlier
mentioned, a Swedish guy working at the university, and a Dutch
reporter (for Reuters) and his lovely, quite young Eritrean girlfriend
- she'd lived most of her life in Europe apparently, and barely
spoke Tigrinya as I recall. I didn't eat much as I had earlier attended
a barbeque hosted by the US Ambassador at his official residence
(We were all invited to this barbeque, but it turned out to be at
4 instead of 7, which is when everyone had it down for; I happened
to be at the hotel around 3:30 when Bill from A-ED called and reminded
me it was at 4; everyone else in our group was out shopping and
thus missed this unique event - it turned out to be a touch of Americana
in the midst of Africa. Happily there were plenty of people there
- many of the US government (AID, Embassy staff, the USIS librarian,
military attaches, etc.) employees were on hand, so at least
our group's absence wasn't all that noticeable. I had the feeling
that the Ambassador often had these gatherings. Many of these folks
had worked overseas for years; indeed Ambassador Clarke himself
has worked for State for more than 30 years, primarily in charge
of security in assorted embassies. There was extensive discussion
of fishing in the Red Sea, living in Asmara, tennis, etc. It was
a classic American-style barbeque and we could have been in the
DC suburbs, except for the very tasty and different Red Sea fish.
The Ambassador and his wife oversaw the cooking of the beef
and fish, although there were a couple of uniformed helpers serving
drinks and passing hors d'oeuvres.
This morning our delegation met for about three hours with a large
(30 or so) group of Eritreans who had been expelled from Ethiopian
cities, primarily Addis Ababa, beginning in 1998, which is when
the Ethiopians began to seriously persecute their citizens of Eritrean
origin, often confiscating their property summarily and forcing
them and their families to go to Eritrea. We had earlier in the
week of course spoken with a number of rural expellees, but these
urbanites were a more sophisticated lot. Many - both urban and rural
expellees - were very assimilated and in more than a few cases spoke
better Amharic than Tigrinya! In short, these folks described in
depressing detail classic ethnic cleansing, but without the actual
murder that would make it genocide. The other heartbreaking factor
was that in several cases the children had remained in Ethiopia,
and thus families were separated. Often in such cases accurate information
on the whereabouts and condition of their children was not available
to these expellees.
Sunday, May 7th, 11 PM
I managed to reach Frances on the phone for the first time since
I left a week ago. It was Sunday afternoon, and I'd guessed she'd
be on the Cape, and sure enough she was. Lil and had been there
overnight with F., and Jessica was also on hand. Apparently the
two grandsons were also there for part of the weekend, so Lil had
had a chance to bond with Nicholas and Benjamin.
I spent much of the afternoon with Musafir Chisti, a guy I like
a lot. We (or rather, he) did some shopping for some artifact-type
stuff near the hotel; then, after a break, we walked downtown, in
search of the Mercado, or market area. We found it closed down for
the Sunday afternoon, but we did get inside - after some negotiation
with a man who appeared to be the majordomo of the place - a large
mosque. We also stopped at a Catholic church - where there was a
Mass in progress in Italian - and I bought a couple of tapes of
what I hope is authentic local music at a shop that was open.
We all - Roger was now back from his Sudanese foray - went out to
dinner around 8. While gathering for dinner, Esta - the woman from
the Foreign Ministry who met me when I arrived and who lived in
DC when her husband was ambassador - and her very pretty and smart
16 year old daughter showed up at the hotel (The young woman wanted
to meet Elisabeth, our soap opera star; since they'd lived in the
States they actually had seen her on the tube!) We couldn't persuade
them to join us for dinner, so after a brief chat about Esta's daughter's
educational aspirations and options, we headed out to a place called
"Milano;" it proved to be quite good. Joining us were several NGO
types and a Reuters reporter. One guy, an American whose name escapes
me, was a Californian about my age and he and his wife (who was
not present) had been in the Peace Corps in Eritrea in the late
60s; they were living and working in Asmara, and he had some good
photos and written materials on the IDP camps. I think he was connected
with a Norwegian aid group of some sort.
Joanne and I left the dinner around 10 and took a cab out to the
newest - and most bizarre in the context of Eritrea - of the tourist
hotels, the Intercontinental, only up and running in the last year,
apparently. There, at the "Irish pub" we bought two of the most
expensive drinks in Asmara, but we couldn't get a Guinness! It was
a weird scene altogether, this marble palace with fancy shops and
US prices! A little went a long way and we left after only three
quarters of an hour we went back to the Savanna.
Monday, May 8th, 5:30 AM
We're scheduled to leave Asmara this, morning, so this has been
my last night in Eritrea. Sigh. I kind of hate to leave. I think
I'll have a final hot water shower. Gambella, where we're headed
to in Ethiopia, is reportedly pretty rough with respect to the amenities.
We shall see.