Race, class and romance

I’m a little late to the party, but I have no hesitation adding to the mountain of praise for “Americanah,” the lush and captivating novel by Nigerian author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie.

Published in 2013, the novel won the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award and landed on the “best books of the year” lists of NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading publications.

I can see why.

At 588 pages, the novel toggles back and forth between Nigeria, the United States and the United Kingdom in telling the story of a young couple who fall in love as high school students, then fall out of touch as they travel to separate countries for education and work. Years later, Ifemelu and Obinze reconnect in their native Nigeria, drawn to each other once again but facing utterly different life circumstances that stand in the way of their being together. Can they rekindle what they once had, even after they’ve pursued relationships with other people?

It’s a love story, yes. But it is so much more, as so many critics have noted.


The Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Lagos in 2008.

“Americanah” is a book that explores race, culture and class from the African and African-American perspectives, touching on skin color and stereotypes. It’s a book about identity and how it is shaped and tested in ways both obvious and subtle. It’s also a book about family and how those complicated relationships can variously generate feelings of support, frustration, estrangement and belonging.

Adichie writes with such clarity and nuance that you can absorb the meaning of little details at the same time you’re fully cognizant of the book’s overarching themes. Pitch-perfect dialogue and descriptive writing make you feel as if you are right there with her main characters in Lagos, London, New Haven and anywhere else the story goes

On the surface, the novel pivots on the question of what it means to be black in America and Nigeria. It’s not until Ifemelu arrives in the United States to attend college that she realizes she is being judged by the color of her skin, something that was never an issue in her homeland. She struggles to find work and an apartment on account of her race. Later, she takes up with two boyfriends, one white and one black, all the while striving to establish an identity of her own.

Likewise, the book examines the challenges faced by Obinze as an undocumented immigrant in Britain. Where his future seemed bright and limitless in Nigeria, he is forced to live in the shadows in London, dealing with all the fears and indignities that come with the territory. For lack of a passport, he is rendered vulnerable and powerless, forced to conceal his identity and unable to control his destiny.

americanahAdichie, 39, writes with authority, verve and great empathy. She won a McArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 2008 and has written two other books and a short story collection. I’d love to read more of her work but my bookshelf is overflowing with novels waiting their turn.

I close with an excerpt. In this scene, Obinze is at a dinner party at the fashionable north London home of his old classmate, Emenike, and his wife, Georgina, a successful lawyer. Flush with red wine, their guests are discussing whether refugees should be allowed to settle in Britain.

“Alexa, and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty.”

That is powerful prose.

Photograph: George Osodi, Associated Press.

Orcas to Spanaway


A magnificent view of Mount Baker at dawn.

Aahh. Nothing like a getaway week to our island cabin to let the urban stresses melt away.

We traveled up to Orcas Island last week to spend a few days decompressing. We did some work around the house initially and went out one day to play nine holes of golf, but mostly laid low rather than go out hiking or kayaking. And that was just fine.

(Click on images to view captions.)

Except for one dinner with friends and a glass of wine with neighbors, we did no socializing. Nothing wrong with just relaxing, reading, watching a movie and playing some Scrabble. Especially when you’re sitting on the perimeter of pristine Eagle Lake.

This was our first trip to the island since our faithful companion, Otto, died. We scattered some of his ashes in the garden and took comfort in knowing he loved the island as much as we do. In his absence, we spent quality time with Charlotte walking on the roads and trails above our house.

At the end of the visit, we headed down to Spanaway, outside Tacoma, and spent a couple days and nights visiting our youngest son, his wife and their infant daughter. Our grandchild, Emalyn, turned eight weeks old on Sunday and we were glad to be there. The only previous time we’d seen her was right after her birth.

She’s a charmer — a happy, healthy baby who’s growing up incredibly fast.

In Spanaway, it was more down time. We went out to breakfast Saturday morning — a first for Emalyn; Lori went shopping with Jamie; and Jordan and I went to a local theater to see the latest “Star Trek” movie. All in all, a very satisfying week away from home.

Whose baby is it?

Over the Labor Day weekend, Lori and I ventured out to our neighborhood theater for what has become a rare experience — seeing a first-run movie on the big screen.

In this age of streaming, which allows viewing virtually anything anywhere anytime, it’s still a treat to see a motion picture as it’s meant to be seen. Especially when the film is good enough to justify the steep cost of admission.

“The Light Between Oceans” isn’t a perfect movie, or even a great one. But I liked it well enough that I’d recommend it to anyone who’s drawn to a story centered on vulnerable characters and compelling moral choices. Add in lustrous cinematography and a talented, international cast and you’ve got a winner.


The movie is based on a novel by M.L. Stedman, an Australian author. I was unfamiliar with the book, so I walked in with no expectations. I left pretty impressed, though a review in The New Yorker I read a few days later faulted the film for being “nonsensical” and “rather prim.”

Michael Fassbender, the Irish-German actor who played a sadistic slave owner in “12 Years A Slave,” plays the lead role of Tom Sherbourne. Alicia Vikander, the Swedish actress who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “The Danish Girl,” plays his wife, Isabel. Rachel Weisz, the British actress who won in the same category for her work in “The Constant Gardener,” plays Hannah, a young widow. The director is Derek Cianfrance, whose previous films include “Blue Valentine.”

The story takes place just after the First World War. As a veteran of that conflict, Tom has seen too much death, so he welcomes the opportunity to accept a position as a lighthouse keeper off the coast of Australia, a job that would seem to guarantee isolation and ample time for introspection and possible healing.

Before leaving the mainland, however, he meets Isabel. He goes off to work on the fictional island of Janus, but they correspond and when Tom returns to the village where Isabel lives, they quickly fall in love and get married. The couple move to Janus, where they are the only humans, and agree to start a family. Poor Isabel has not one but two miscarriages.

lightoceansSo when a small boat comes ashore one day bearing a dead man and an infant girl, with no sign of who they are or what brought them there, the couple must decide: Do they keep the child and pretend it is theirs? Or do they make an effort to return the child to its mother? That is, if the mother is even alive?

Isabel argues strongly for keeping the child. Tom acquiesces. They name her Lucy.

Four years later, on a visit to the village, Tom figures out that Hannah is the biological mother and that she believes her daughter Grace was lost at sea. His conscience tells him that returning the child is the right thing to do.

But is it? Doing so would crush his wife and thoroughly confuse the little girl they’ve raised as their daughter. Isabel, too, must decide. Can she bear to part with the little girl who came into her life, seemingly as an act of providence?

And what about Hannah? Initially incensed upon learning that Tom and Isabel made no attempt to reach out to her, she now can see how tightly bonded her daughter has become with the couple.

Whose baby is it? With whom does the child truly belong? Is the morally correct action the best option?

These are gut-wrenching questions, and the answers have life-changing consequences for all three adults as well as for little Lucy/Grace. Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz all deliver excellent performances as they convey pain, heartbreak, confusion and sacrifice. Husband and wife are pitted against each other as are the child’s biological and adoptive mothers.

It’s a gripping film. Moral choices are never easy and in this film, you can feel the tug-of-war within each character’s mind and heart. Go see it and consider what you would do in their situations.

Return to Healy Heights

HH keller house

A 1956 Colonial once owned by Portland businessman Ira Keller is a prominent sight in the Hessler Hills neighborhood.

In April, a friend and I set out on an urban hike that was supposed to take us on a 4-mile loop from Hillsdale to Healy Heights, a posh hilltop neighborhood in Southwest Portland.

I screwed up. What should have been a 2-hour hike became 5 miles and 3 hours because I didn’t pay close enough attention to directions in my guide book and we veered off course. Making matters worse, light drizzle turned to steady rain as we plodded along, culminating in a steady downpour at Council Crest Park, where supposedly unrivaled views of Portland were obliterated by cloud cover and a pounding rain.

I scolded myself and vowed to come back on a sunny day.

On the last Thursday in August, I did just that. And I was amply rewarded.

This time, the hike did take just two hours. Although I saw plenty of familiar sights, following the correct route took me into areas of Healy Heights I’d missed before. Plus, I made it to the 1,000-foot summit of Council Crest, trekking to the end of a dead-end street where you come to the locked gatehouse of the Stonehenge radio tower. The antenna rises 607 feet and is easily visible from Portland’s east side.

Enough chatter. Here are the highlights of my second trip:

Keller Woodland: Reached via a dead end on Northwood Avenue, this beautiful greenspace is owned by the Three Rivers Land Conservancy, according to Laura O. Foster, author of my well-worn copy of “Portland Hill Walks.”

Portland businessman Ira Keller originally owned the nearly 40 acres, but sold it to the Nature Conservancy, which later gave it to Three Rivers, Foster says. It’s too bad it’s so secluded. Then again, light foot traffic is what keeps the forested area so lovely.

Hessler Hills: The woodland trail leads into what Foster calls “the isolated and tony” Hessler Hills neighborhood. Except for the forested path, there’s only one way into this area of gaudy homes and panoramic views of the Willamette River, stretching from the Fremont Bridge to Ross Island.

Walking here and along Fairmount Boulevard, another forested route in this hilly area, I spotted a handful of “for sale” signs with asking prices ranging from $1.1 million to $2.2 million.

Not for sale is the spectacular home once owned by the aforementioned Keller. It stands alone across a ravine on Northwood, with a commanding view of the Willamette and the Cascade Range. This is the same Keller who served as chairman of the Portland Planning Commission and for whom a fountain across from Civic Auditorium is named.

Fairmount Boulevard: This 4-mile-long, two-lane road without sidewalks is popular with joggers and cyclists. Sure enough, I saw people on foot, more with and without dogs, and on bicycles.

If anything, the homes along this road are even more ginormous than in Hessler Hills, with three- and four-story homes built on stilts on wooded hillsides.

Healy Heights: Unlike the April hike, when I lost my way and wound up at Council Crest Park, this time I walked up steep residential streets with constantly changing views of the city.

From Foster’s book, I learned that the area was developed in the 1930s by Joseph Healy, who called it “the Switzerland of America.” A bit of an exaggeration. Healy named the streets after various family members: Carl, McDonnell, Patrick and Bernard. A nice gesture, I suppose.

On one street corner, I saw a number of crushed cardboard boxes spilling out of a recycling bin. Hmm, I wondered, does a Nike executive live there?

Further up the bill, a funny coincidence. I had just started up Carl Place, the dead-end street, when I heard a Spanish-language commercial for a local car dealer, Carl Chevrolet, coming from the vicinity of one of these big-ass homes. One Latino laborer was on the ground using a leaf blower while another above him was tossing roof shingles and other materials into a trailer. They were, of course, listening to the radio as they worked.

Descending the summit, I came across more of the same: Latino men cutting tree limbs by hand, mowing lawns and building new homes for even more well-to-do owners. Where would this country be without the myriad skills provided by mi gente?

Healy Heights Park: If anything symbolizes the isolation and exclusivity of this area, it’s the neighborhood park. It’s owned by the city but it has the look and feel of a private playground.

Barely more than an acre, it has climbing equipment, a soccer goal, a baseball backstop, and a basketball court with a surface made from recycled shoes donated by Nike. Sure enough, the trademark swoosh is found at center court. Signs advertising a neighborhood potluck added to the private vibe.

Hillsdale: The trek back down to flat land took me back along a previously traveled route, from Fairmount Boulevard to a series of hidden staircases descending to a range of midcentury homes along SW 19th Drive and Sunset Boulevard.

Even after two visits here, I still have unfinished business. Gotta come back one more time to hike the Marquam Nature Park trail connecting Council Crest with the Oregon Health & Science University campus.


Walking among the dead

MP entrance

Hard to believe you’re in the middle of a city when you’re all alone on this path.

I didn’t know what to think when I leafed through my urban hiking guide and spotted the 4.5-mile route called “Marshall Park Canyon and Cemeteries Loop.”

I’d never heard of Marshall Park. Walking through multiple cemeteries, let alone one, seemed like an odd wrinkle. But after completing the hike in Southwest Portland in mid-August, I’ve got to say it ranks among the most interesting I’ve done this year.

This particular route, outlined in Laura O. Foster’s “Portland Hill Walks,” has a little of everything going for it:

  • A spectacular urban park with giant trees, shaded paths and pristine creeks tumbling over rocks.
  • Quiet streets off the beaten path in neighborhoods with few sidewalks.
  • Cemeteries offering solitude and a space to reflect on the thousands of lives represented by so many graves.

Since January, this gold mine of a book has led me into neighborhoods I never knew before, enriching my appreciation of a city I thought I knew rather well. My recent hike revealed yet another major gap in my knowledge of Portland.

(Click on images to view captions.)

Let’s start with Marshall Park. It’s east of I-5 and south of SW Terwilliger Boulevard as you head east toward Lewis & Clark Law School and Tryon Creek State Park. More specifically, the park lies just east of SW Taylors Ferry Road in the South Burlingame neighborhood. The western entrance to the park is on SW 18th Place in the middle of a residential area.

From the moment I left the parking area and stepped onto the trail, all I could hear was the sound of my own footsteps.

It’s a magnificent space, smaller than but reminiscent of Lower Macleay Park and Balch Creek Canyon. Here in Marshall Park, you have Douglas fir and maple trees, and a tributary of Tryon Creek. There are foot bridges, a children’s play area and trails crisscrossing the park and its 400-foot-wide canyon. It’s hard to believe it was once a quarry.

According to Foster, F.C. and Addie Marshall donated the land to the city in 1951 and additional acreage was later purchased. Good call.

Emerging onto SW Maplecrest Drive, you head east toward Terwilliger Boulevard, crossing at SW 2nd Avenue,  located just west of the law school.

It’s a steep climb into the Collins View neighborhood. Like the homes on Maplecrest, each house up here is decidedly different from the other. No bland sameness at all.

At the top of the hill, turning right onto SW Alice puts you an unpaved stub of a street. And here, to my delight, was the Ahavai Sholom Cemetery, established in 1869. Its name means “lovers of peace.”

It was a toasty afternoon so I made my way to a shaded bench and quietly admired the gumption that Portland’s earliest Jewish immigrants must have had — to settle here, establish businesses and synagogues, raise their families, and acquire a site to bury their loved ones.

One grave marker, with a running water feature, caught my eye with a small plaque bearing these words:

We determine how we are remembered

By the way we live our days.

MP. Ahavai water

A grave marker with a water feature offers a profound thought about our legacies.

I left the cemetery, headed one block north and one block east and found myself at the southern  entrance to Riverview Cemetery. Unlike the modest, crowded Jewish cemetery, this vast, sprawling site offered a park-like setting with rolling green hills of manicured lawns, a huge variety of trees and an eastward-looking view that included a distant Mount Hood.

Except for two bike riders barreling through and the occasional maintenance truck, I was all alone. Hiking through a cemetery on an urban walk might strike some as creepy. But, honestly, it was a calming experience. Surrounded everywhere by silence, I felt respect for the dead and reverence for life.

Where the Jewish cemetery was chock-full of headstones bearing the Star of David, Hebrew characters and names like Kaufman, Sherman and Schwartz, Riverview was filled with names like Smith, Gardner and Stevens.

One particular feature of the cemetery gave me pause. Beneath a massive oak tree there was a section dedicated to babies. Some who died when they were days or weeks old, others a few months, still others the day they were born. Seeing those rows of grave markers set flush with the grass, with dates going back to the ’50s and ’60s, made me keenly aware of the losses endured by so many families. Imagine all those lives cut short and the enduring heartbreak.

In the midst of all this, another thought came to mind: how death truly is the great equalizer. Rich or poor, young or old, accidental death or not, all these people were now in the ground, where status didn’t matter.


Winding through the cemetery, I emerged at the northern exit from the cemetery — within shouting distance of three more cemeteries — and crossed SW Taylors Ferry Road into another cluster of homes largely free of sidewalks and, on this hot summer afternoon, people.

The route took me south toward Terwilliger, where I crossed again and found myself in the South Burlingame neighborhood, a more affluent area of single-family homes. Continuing south, I worked my way down to Taylors Ferry Road and then Taylors Ferry Court and SW 12th Avenue, yet another area of the city short on sidewalks but long on character.

Once again, I felt as if I were taking a walk down a country road. Yet, I was very much in the heart of a city of 600,000 residents. SW 12th led me into the eastern entrance to Marshall Park, where I escaped the heat on trails that led me back to my car.

I literally paused in disbelief. Here I was in the middle of a forest less than a mile from the roaring I-5 freeway. How had I not known about Marshall Park? What a jewel on the city’s west side.


I’ll end with this quote from the naturalist John Muir, displayed in a poetry post on SW 2nd Avenue. Seems to perfectly capture my experience on this hike.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

Mediocre once again


Team selfie in the bowels of the bowling alley. From left: Joel Odom, Mike Slama, George Rede, Brian Wartell.

Our summer bowling season came to a merciful end last month. A blazing start that had us in first place for a week or two was followed by a mid-season meltdown and a tepid comeback.

Add it all up and the Mediaocracies finished with a record of 21 wins, 23 losses — good enough for a 9th-place finish among 16 teams in the Average Joe’s League at AMF Pro 300 Lanes.

We’d come into the season with great momentum, tying for 4th place among 22 teams competing in the spring league. (The proof? “Mediocre no more”) And though we got off to a good start, the wheels fell off while our best bowler was away on an extended vacation.

We hit an ugly patch where we lost 12 games in a row. This is a coed, non-sanctioned league and we know that camaraderie trumps competition in this Monday night league, so we couldn’t get too upset with ourselves. Still, you want to do your best and actually win once in a while.

Joel Odom led the way for us with a 178 average. The rest of us — Mike Slama, Brian Wartell and myself — had our moments but in the end we all finished in the low 140s.

team payout

Strong start + weak finish = 9th place.

On Monday, we came together for the season-ending “fun bowl,” when you play for free and team winnings are distributed according to your finish. Our haul — just short of $75 — covered the cost of a post-bowl happy hour at a nearby brewpub and helped fuel some brainstorming.

Two changes are in store when we come back for the fall season:

  1. A new lineup. We’re changing the order of who bowls first, second, third and fourth.
  2. A new nickname. We’re retiring the “Mediaocracies” and moving on to something more fun.

Stay tuned. We’ll see how we do.

Voices of August 2016: Your faves?

vote in color

And…it’s a wrap.

We’ve just completed Year Six of the guest blog project known as Voices of August.

As the creator and curator of this online literary event, I readily acknowledge that this exercise is an annual highlight for me. What an honor it is to reach out across the city, across the country — even across the ocean — to solicit guest essays from friends, neighbors, relatives and past co-workers.

That so many people from all walks of life are willing to make time in their busy lives for Rough and Rede II warms my heart — and I hope you, as readers, have come across one or more that have really stuck with you.

This year’s guest blog posts were every bit as entertaining, informative and eye-opening as years past.

And now comes the reader participation part. It’s time to vote for your favorites. Just three. Your deadline: Saturday, Sept. 10.

Here are the rules:

  • Who can vote. As with previous years, anyone who has written a guest blog (this year or previously) or who is simply a regular reader of VOA can vote for three favorite pieces.You decide if you’ve read enough of this month’s contributions to cast a ballot.
  • Criteria. There are none other than your own. What grabbed your attention? What resonated with you? What made you laugh or cry? What challenged your assumptions? What made you see things differently?
  • How to vote. Take some time to review the month’s posts here at the VOA 6.0 index page and then send the titles of your three favorites to me at ghfunq@msn.com. (Please do NOT list your favorites on Facebook.)
  • Deadline: Saturday, Sept. 10.

As you revisit this year’s contributions, please take the opportunity to leave a comment on one or more posts. Be generous with your feedback, both on Facebook and especially on the posts themselves. Writers love feedback.

Let the voting begin!

Image: rgbstock.com

Night on the Kahawai

TA shrimp

For three non-native white guys, going out in pursuit of Hawaiian freshwater shrimp meant intruding on the protective nature of the Big Island’s north shore communities.

A short story by Tim Akimoff

We drove the 53 miles from Kona to Hawi in silence with no air conditioning, and it was at 95 degrees out on the lava flats. It was exhausting to do anything but drive or stare out at the Martian landscape.

It was all highway noise. Guys don’t talk just for the sake of talking.

The old GMC truck we were riding in was rusted out on the bottom, so that you could see road running beneath the threadbare floor mats.

The north side of the island was cooler than then sun-baked Kona coast. The clouds were rolling down from the volcano like liquid nitrogen boiling over a beaker.

We stopped for gas at Kawaihae and grabbed two packages of rotting squid for bait, some new Gamakatsu fish hooks and a new rubber for Sam’s spear.

The big local at the station asked where we were going, and Jay, the smartass of the group said, “Know any good spots around here, brah?”

The big guy just smiled at the joke and rolled up a couple bills in change and handed them to Jay.

We had heard about this place at a party a few months before, when a local girl started talking about her ex-boyfriend’s favorite place to catch opaekala’ole, these tasty little freshwater shrimp native to the pristine Hawaiian streams on the north shore.

She made the spot sound like the garden of the gods, at least for fishermen looking for that magical place with a wide channel where you could find the hundred-pound Uluas that seemed to favor that side of the island.

At the base of the stream was a little half-moon beach covered in small boulders with a steep shoreline that seemed to fall into a roiling, ever-present shore break. The ocean rolled heavily toward the shore, but things calmed down the further out you went, because of a deep channel that ran straight out to sea.

The magic, she told us, is that you can swim your bait out through the channel, and there is no second reef.

Uluas, silvermouth trevally, are big fish that like to run when they are hooked. They’re like little marlin, all muscle and razor-sharp fins. They’ll run you up, under or over a reef to cut your line, so a deep channel with no second reef was like Xanadu to serious shore casters like us.

TA trevally

A giant trevally, also known as an ulua in Hawaii.

Haoles never fare well in surf movies, when they invade the locals’ secret surfing spot. Imagine the response when you combine the secrecy and passion of fishing with the protective nature of the north shore communities in Hawaii.

We agreed that there would be no fights over access rights. We respected the land and the people, but we lusted after those big fish.

What we didn’t know was where we could access the stream on public land. Everything was fenced off on that grassy part of the island, and the stream crossed the road through a series of pipes that ran under the roadway.

We arrived in the evening, just before the sun set to the west of us, which seemed to put the shadows of the big volcano over the top of us and sucked all the warmth out of the air.

We grabbed our spears and our 14-foot Ugy Stick shore casters and nets and put tabis, rubber socks on our feet with felt bottoms, on our feet.

Well-laden with gear, we opted to take a side trail for the two miles down to the small beach and leave our shore casters there before hiking back up to join the prawn harvest.

We never saw another soul on our way down to the beach, but we stopped to eat some guavas from a tree that were as yet unmolested by birds.

Daylight lasted us the entire journey down, and we stepped onto the rocky beach with just enough light left to set our rods up in their holders , where we left them up and baited until our prawn hunting journey downstream finished.

Jay and I worked our way back up the trail using headlights when we couldn’t see well and turning them off when the moon provided enough light for us to see our way.

At the top of the stream, Sam informed us that he’d already ran into one local guy in another beat-up truck who said this is all private and that we should stop in and ask permission. But he wouldn’t say which ranch.

“I say we just go for it,” Sam said. “Ask forgiveness later.”

Jay and I worried about that idea, based on the fact that while total haoles, we had spent most of our adolescent years in the islands, and we had come up with survival mechanisms that included not pissing the locals off whenever possible.

It was dark now with the moon setting over the volcano, which would give us good sight for finding prawns by using our headlamps.

Sam wanted at least five pounds of prawns, part of which he planned to sell to some tourists in Kona Town.

TA prawns

Capturing Tahitian prawns, an invasive species introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in 1956.

The fence proved more difficult than we imagined, snagging everything, including our nets and spear rubbers.

It was tight, new wire, obviously designed to keep us out rather than cattle in.

We saw the first no trespassing sign as we approached the place where the stream came out of the tubes that ran under the road.

It was pretty clear.

Trespassers would be shot on sight.

With a little sign of a rifle for emphasis.

Sam didn’t care, but Jay and I knew this could end badly.

Jay found the first group of opaekala’ole a few feet downstream and started spearing them as fast as he could.

He had a half pound in the first quarter-mile of stream.

I had a more difficult time seeing the little eyes that glowed like burnished copper in the water, having always struggled a bit with my eyesight, but I had speared another half pound after the first half-mile of stream.

Sam was moving furiously, probably just stabbing at anything that moved, but he had managed to find his bag full of big prawns, probably a full pound by the time we took a break from the cool water to go find the guava tree up on the trail.

Jay and Sam turned off their head lamps before the small pathway that led from the stream to the side trail gave way to open fields.

Unfortunately, I did not.

I emerged onto the side trail a few yards above the guava bush just a bit later than Jay and Sam, and I swiveled my head around to get my bearings.

That’s when they saw me, two paniolos in the bed of a truck being driven by a big local guy.

They were screaming at us to stop, which we did in spite of Sam’s advice that we go back to the stream.

“Come on, guys, we don’t want to fuck with these yahoos,” Sam said, ducking back into the brush below the guava bush.

Jay instinctively did the same.

I did the old deer-in-the-headlights look and stayed where I was as the truck bore down on me.

The two local guys in the back were certainly carrying rifles slung across their backs as they held on to the roll bars across the top of the truck, which was careening across the grass.

It was at this point that I decided to shut off my headlamp.

By the time I headed back into the bushes myself, the truck’s headlights had framed my position, which made my sudden dive back into the bushes awkward.

The men stopped and jumped down from the truck, and they were yelling at us, no, screaming at us to come out.

My heart was thumping so hard, it felt like a jack hammer as I hugged the ground and closed my eyes.

Sam and Jay were already back to the stream, hiding under one of the embankments together.

But the locals found me first and rather easily too. I wore black clothing,  but I was so close to the field they had driven in on, that my legs were visible just inside the first row of vegetation.

“Bettah come out now,” a surprisingly calm voice said to me. “I no wanna shoot you if I no have to, brah.”

I risked looking up and into the eyes of a smallish local guy in a black tank top with a rifle hanging over his shoulder.

He had his hand outstretched toward me.

“Come out, it’s okay, I only gonna shoot you if you run,” he said, and there was a smile in his eyes that belied his threats.

I rolled over and extricated myself from the bush and sat down on the grass on the other side of the trail.

The gun stayed over his shoulder, and I could hear the other two guys walking along the trail calling out for anyone else.

“How many people you got with you?” he asked.

I didn’t say anything, just sat looking at the ground all guilty like.

“Brah, my name is Kimo, what’s your name?”

“Tim,” I said.

“You from Kona side?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“What, you guys thought you come down and do some fishing, eh?”

“Yeah, and maybe find some opaekala’ole too,” I said.

“Shit, man, I love opaekala’ole from da stream, too. I like fry ’em up in da butter and garlic with some soy sauce. I serve ’em on da eggs too.”

We sat quietly for a few minutes trying to figure out the bearings of the others.

“You know you can no trespass out hea, brah,” he said after a few minutes of listening.

“I know,” I said. “We didn’t think we’d get permission, but we really wanted to experience this place.”

“Dat’s da problem wi choo haoles, brah,” he said. “You feel privileged to do whatever you want to do on someone else’s land. For sure, you maybe no get da permission to fish here, but you no let dat stop you.”

“If I go walk around on the lawn of one of those big Kona houses, ho, brah, da cops gonna come tackle me so fast,” he said.

After a few minutes, one of the other guys from the truck was leading Jay up the trail towards the spot where I was sitting.

“You all right?” Jay asked me.

“I’m fine, man. Sorry about that.”

“No worries, mate,” Jay said. “Didn’t want to leave you here by yourself.”

“How many more out there?” Kimo asked Jay, but Jay shrugged his shoulders.”

Jay’s captor, a taller local guy with a thick mustache and long hair tucked into an Island Pride hat, shoved Jay to the ground about 10 feet away from me.


Atyoida bisulcata, also known as ‘Opae Kala’ole, is a Hawaiian freshwater shrimp.

“Look, guys, make dis easy on yourselves, we jus tryna make sure you no damage nothing wit your trespassing. If no cooperate, we gonna call da cops.”

Jay didn’t say anything, so I didn’t say anything.

“How many opaekala’ole you guys find, before we catch you?

“I don’t know, man, I got like a pound maybe,” I said.

“You gotta stick dem in some water, brah or dey gonna die and no taste so good den,” Kimo said.

“For why you talk this haole?” Jay’s captor said.

“For real, Manni, dey jus fishing,” Kimo said.

Jay’s captor took the butt of his rifle and struck Jay in the back, which caused him to fall forward and get up slowly.

“How many you guys in her?” he asked.

Jay is a serious guy. He’s big, he’s tough, but he’s got a huge heart, and he’s really soft spoken.

“We’re three of us, just doing some fishing, mate,” Jay said, through gritted teeth.

“Where da udder guy den?” Manni asked.

“Man, I don’t know. I came back here to see if my mate was okay,” Jay said.

“Ho, where you from, brah, widat accent and all?” Kimo asked.

“I’m from New Zealand,” Jay said.

“Kimo, I think Jay is hurt bad,” I said.

“For real?” Kimo said.

“Yeah, he’s wincing every time he talks, man. Can you help him?”

Jay asked if he could stand up, which took some of the pressure off his lungs, and he took a big, ragged breath.

“I think he broke my rib,” Jay said.

“Should be glad I no break your skull for trespassing on dis land,” Manni said.

“I’m really sorry about that,” Jay said. “I knew better, and I should have kept my mates out of trouble.”

“For sure,” Kimo said. “You can breathe bettah now, brah?”

“Yeah, it’s sore but I can take a full breath,” Jay said.

A gunshot suddenly rang out from somewhere downstream.

Jay looked horrified, and Kimo and Manni both got up quickly and walked down the trail a ways.

Kimo hollered out into the darkness, “Hey, Keolani, no shoot deze guys, eh.”

I thought he was trying to be funny to deescalate the situation, but Jay was worried.

“Oh, no, mate, don’t shoot Sam, we didn’t mean any harm. We know we made a bad decision,” Jay said.

“I no think Keolani shot him,” Kimo said. “Unless your buddy got da gun, eh.”

Jay and I knew Sam didn’t have a gun.

There was a second gunshot, and this time Kimo went running down the trail.

“Manni, stay hea, I wanna find out what he shooting at,” Kimo said.

Jay had a wild look in his eyes that I couldn’t tell if it was fear or panic.

I moved down the trail to be closer to Jay, because Manni had his back to us looking down the trail towards the sound of the gunshot.

“You okay, bro?” I asked.

“I’ll be fine if I can stand up. Hurts like hell when I sit down,” Jay said,

Every kind of fear ran through my head as we waited for news.

Did they shoot Sam? If so, would they shoot us? I would have rather been stuck with Kimo than Manni who seemed to have a short temper.

I wondered who their third guy was. Was he nice like Kimo or short-tempered like Manni?

Jay was wounded and couldn’t run, so that pretty much screwed any chance we had of making a run for it up the trail to the truck.

And our cell phones didn’t work at all out here in the shadow of the volcano.

“Mate, I’m scared,” Jay said.

And it sounded strange coming from a big guy who descended from some of New Zealand’s fiercest warriors.

But there was something about being in the wrong. We knew it. And there was nothing to do but face the music.

Kimo came running up the trail whooping and hollering, which was really confusing for us.

Manni pulled his gun off his shoulder again and turned around to face us.

He was as confused as we were.

“You two get down on da ground,” he said.

“Please, Manni, Jay can’t breathe when he sits,” I said.

But it was too late, he started advancing on us with the rifle pointed at Jay’s belly.

Kimo’s gibberish suddenly became clear.

“Ho, Keolani shot da pig, brah,” he said, with a huge smile on his face, “Was dat big one he trackin last week. Dis crazy haole sees da pig and tells Keolani he’ll go around and flush it out. Keolani gets da nice shot in da clearing. One shot for bring it down, one shot for make sure no slice him up wit da tusk.”

The pig story completely threw us off our guard. Manni just looked at Kimo and re-slung his rifle and started walking down the trail.

“No, Manni, Keolani want you bring da truck down to da cleaning for hoist da pig up, eh?”

Manni turned around and got in the truck and fired it up and pointed the headlights down the hill. We waited for Kimo to get to us and catch his breath.

The next two hours were surreal. We were covered in dirt and pig blood from hoisting this huge boar on to the truck, where this guy Keolani butchered it right in front of us.

TA stream

A Hawaiian freshwater stream on the north shore of the Big Island.

Then Manni and Kimo and I continued down the stream spearing as many opaekala’ole as we could before we reached the mouth of the stream. When we got there, Kimo damned off a small pool where we put the shrimp. Then he grabbed the nasty squid bait and opened the bail on my Penn Reel and took off into the waves of the shore break.

I could barely see him swimming out into the bay in the dim starlight, but Manni had a one million candlepower flashlight he used as a beacon for Kimo.

It took 20 minutes to swim it out of the small bay into the open ocean, but I could see the line was taut as Kimo crawled back onto the beach.

“Watch dat line closely, brah, some big fish in dis place,” he said.

The bell atop my pole started ringing within a few minutes, and Manni and Kimo coached me through setting the hook, which I did just as they instructed.

I wrapped one leg directly around the rod with my hands holding the rod about two feet apart to give myself some leverage.

Whatever was on the line wasn’t big, but it was way out there.

It was a long, steady pull.

I kept the rod tip up high and reeled until my arms felt like they were going to fall off.

When our quarry was about 15 feet from shore, Manni and Kimo took our spears and waded out into the shore break holding on to the line.

It got really rough for a few minutes in the boisterous shore break, but then my prey came sliding onto the beach as if it was hand-delivered by the gods.

It was a huge puhi uha, otherwise known as a conger eel. It was gray with large stripes, and it writhed around on the beach. I fully intended to try and extricate the hook and let the creature go, but Manni and Kimo had other ideas.

They both stabbed it with our spears at the same time, causing the eel to straighten out to its full length of about four feet.

“Why are you guys killing it?” I asked, in as light a tone as I could muster.

“For real, dis puhi uha, is da kine, brah,” Manni said. “Grill it on da skin, best ting you evah taste.”

They tossed the still squirming eel into the prawn pond, and Kimo rebaited the hook and swam the bait out one more time.

“No get da ulua tonight,” he said when he returned and caught his breath on the beach. “When see da eels, no catch da ulua.”

But the next fish to take the stinking squid was a nice seven- or eight-pound papio, which fought admirably all the way onto the shore break, where Kimo stabbed it in the head with a spear.

“Ho, brah, now we make da feast,” he said, smiling.

Keolani, Jay and Sam had butchered the pig and taken it to the ranch and Sam and Keolani returned to the beach just as we were reeling in for the last time. They brought cold beer and some dried fish, and we sat around drinking and eating for another hour, recounting all of the evening’s adventures.

TA emu

A traditional Hawaiian imu, a type of pit oven used to cook pig.

I couldn’t believe that three hours earlier, I thought these guys were going to shoot us for trespassing.

We offered all the opaekala’ole to Manni, Kimo and Keolani, but they told us to bring it up to dinner at the ranch.

We hiked back out to the truck with sacks full of prawns, a four-foot conger eel and a nice papio.

When we arrived, Jay was sitting on a bench near the house with a large bandage around his mid-section with a pretty local girl attending to him.

“Well, this couldn’t have gone any more differently,” he said with a big smile stretched across his face.

We dropped the night’s bounty on the kitchen table, where three ladies started taking out the prawns and dropping them into a basin full of cold water. One lady picked up the eel and grabbed a filet knife and split that thing faster than I’d ever seen a fish filleted before.

In one corner, the largest rice maker I’d ever seen sat steaming away, infusing the house with the intoxicating scent of jasmine rice.

I walked back outside, where Kimo, Manni and Keolani were hanging up the pig in the barn. Kimo grabbed my arm and dragged me out the back of the barn to show me a spot where the ground looked recently dug up and reburied.

“We cook da whole pig in da ground,” he said. “You evah had da real pig in da imu?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “I went to the luau at the Royal Hawaiian a couple years ago.”

“Dis not real,” Kimo said, indignantly. “That’s for da tourists.”

If they were hanging the pig that Keolani shot tonight, I wondered where they got the pig that was cooking in the ground oven known in Hawaii as an imu.

But I followed Kimo back through the barn.

There was more beer, and then we were introduced to the ranch owner.

This guy was as haole as we were, at least by appearance. He spoke pidgin, and his wife was definitely local.

“You guys no trespass on deze lands,” he said, with no trace of a smile. “Otherwise I’m going to have to start shooting you guys instead of da pigs for my imu.”

We apologized collectively and individually to the ranch owner who was introduced to us just as John.

He looked us each in the eyes and then shook our hands. He was big and seemed gracious enough.

And then he broke into the biggest grin and shotgunned a beer. “Let’s eat dis food,” he said to everyone.

It was now 11 at night, and we sat out beneath the stars watching cars arrive down the long lane that led from the road to the ranch.

People brought all kinds of food and added it to the growing table of food with the rice cooker on it.

Six men, including Manni, Kimo and Keolani unearthed the pig, which had been cooking all afternoon, revealing a steaming pile of bones with succulent meat falling off them.

I saw a bowl of prawns, now bright red and steaming fresh from the boil. My papio was cooked whole with the head on and served with some kind of seaweed. And the eel was now cut up into six-inch pieces, which were grilled on both the skin and meat sides after marinating in soy sauce.

And there were crabs and slipper lobsters, more prawns served in some kind of curried liquid. There was purple poi, which I could just make out from the faint light coming from the house.

I have never seen a feast like this in my life, and to be sitting here, when we probably should be sitting in a jail cell was completely mind blowing to me.

Tim Akimoff Kona

Tim Akimoff on the Kona Coast, 2012.

I’ve met hospitable people all around the world, but sometimes I’m still surprised at how a situation can go from dire to dining together in the space of one evening.

“You guys want to come back and fish on my property, no problem,” John said after he had pushed his plate away finally. “Just come down to da ranch and ask first, so my guys no mistake you guys for da pig and shoot you.”

We promised to always ask permission, and the feast went until well after 3 o’clock in the morning, after which we fell asleep on the couches on John’s lanai.

I woke up to the smell of jasmine rice cooking, and the little kids were up and running around.

We ate prawns and eggs and rice with some Spam, and Manni had the biggest smile on his face.

“I told you is good, brah,” he said. “Best food you evah tasted.”

All photo illustrations: Tim Akimoff


Tim Akimoff says: ” ‘Night on the Kahawai’ ” is a short story that I started writing almost 20 years ago when my wife and I were living on the Big Island of Hawaii. She worked long hours at Kona Coffee Co., while I spent a lot of time fishing for our meals. I still look back at my 20-year-old self and think about the lessons I learned about entitlement, how we treat others and overcoming cultural differences from this experience. Some mistakes have a way of shaping our lives for the better. This is one of those mistakes.”

Editor’s note: I met Tim in 2005 when I recruited him to The Oregonian for a reporting internship. I was astounded by the breadth of his travels and cultural experiences — he had been to about 50 countries by then. I continue to be impressed by his journalistic growth as he has moved from Alaska to Montana to Chicago and back to Oregon, where he is now social media outreach coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. And, by the way, he is a terrific writer and storyteller.

A haven for political junkies

EH gary johnson

Conversations about Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson appear regularly in the author’s online political group, as do debates about health care, GMOs, minorities, countries with bombs and guns.

By Elizabeth Hovde

Like most people who use social media, I started seeing a lot of Facebook posts about politics early this year. At times, they even outweighed posts about cute kids and cats. I knew I would need to take drastic measures.

Not only was I becoming tempted to respond to these posts, I found myself wanting to share news items or opinions I found insightful. This was trouble. I’m usually a political minority among my friends — and in the Northwest. I’ve written an opinion column for a newspaper for 20 years. I usually talk about those columns with zero of my closest friends. That’s best for all of us, and I have readers who indulge me with political discussion.

To continue to preserve my friendships and keep from becoming what I’ve always tried to avoid — the friend or family member you don’t want to bring up politics around — I knew what needed to be done. I joined an online group of political junkies who talk politics all  the time with reckless abandon.

No cute kid pictures or links to pigs walking cats. (Really. See for yourself. I saw this posted at least five times:)

Only pigs walking Trump would have had more staying power in my newsfeed that week.)

Most people in this politically interested circle weren’t friends when they arrived. They might have known one or two other contributors in a past or current life somehow, but they were not well connected, live in different parts of the country or world and wear different political stripes. Best of all, their political discussion was about more than just Hillary, Trump and Bernie. Ahhhh.

At first, I only watched the banter and barbs. I liked what I saw. Most of these people were my people!

I thought they only existed in editorial board meetings or in pre-2010 legislatures. They were the type of people you could debate with for hours and then meet for a beer, without a side of grudge or drama.  They weren’t afraid or sorry to say what they thought. They didn’t shut up when someone told them they should. They took insults, shrugged and came back for more. There isn’t a lot of dwelling, and posts in this group really only have a daily, or hourly, shelf-life. There is always a new issue or candidate to haggle over within the hour.

I’m pleased with the timing of this group in my life. With less column space available to me and newspapers “changing,” I’m having to decide again what to be when I grow up.

It’s much harder this time around than when I was 20. I’m now a 40-something single mom who needs a reliable, living-wage job to keep my kids in their beds at night. (I used to have one of those. That was cool.) And column writing has spoiled me. I love researching and writing about politics and social issues. I’m passionate about furthering discussion and building bridges with others. I’m addicted to learning new things and often learn most from my political opposition.

I met this Facebook group of political nerds (I call them that with admiration) at a good time. They’ve helped show me there can be interesting political debate and discussion for me when my column writing has to end.

DE Hovde

Elizabeth Hovde: political junkie and nachos connoisseur.

The desire to keep doing something I love for work has led me to believe I should be a florist, a recreational therapist or a chef — three professions for which I have absolutely no qualifications. My resume is full of entries about my experience in an industry that is changing in ways that make it unrecognizable to many writers. I’m writing a book and thinking about blogs, but they don’t promise an income I can work with.

Trying to find the next right fit, I have written press releases, grants and website copy. I have taken on emergency substitute teaching in local, public schools. I’ve brainstormed a house-cleaning business I could start when my kids go back to school so I can continue to accommodate the hours in which they need an adult. If I did that, I could at least listen to OPB, play loud music and think of good points to make in my all-political, all-the-time Facebook group when I get home.

I can only offer so many emoticon reactions to pigs walking cats, after all.

Photograph: Katie Frates, The Daily Caller


Elizabeth Hovde writes for The Oregonian and takes other random contract gigs. She’s a mom of two boys. Currently, one likes her and one doesn’t. She believes nachos should be eaten at least weekly.

Editor’s note:  I got to know Elizabeth when I edited her columns as the Sunday Opinion Editor at The Oregonian. Though our politics differ, that doesn’t lessen the friendship that has grown from our professional relationship. Few people I know are as genuine as her.

Tomorrow: Tim Akimoff, Night on the Kahawai


The Lady and the Lotus

LJ lotus

In Asia, the delicate, beautiful lotus is a sacred symbol of transcendence.

By Lakshmi Jagannathan

The flat round leaves, anchored with bulbous stems, float gently in the water like giant saucers. A black-and-white bird steps on a leaf delicately with one leg, walks on water and gently skitters on to another leaf.  Scattered throughout the floating barge of green are ethereal blooms of water lily radiant in the morning light – pale yellow, pink or with a peach colored hue. In Asia, the lotus is a sacred symbol of transcendence – of purity rising from the muddy waters.

I am in a cottage on stilts on Lake Inle in Myanmar. The lotus-filled water stretches out for miles to hills in the distance.  It could easily be the time of the King Anawrahta, who founded a kingdom by developing an irrigation system in a dry land and turning it into the rice granary of the region. In a way, this trip is also a quest for roots. A great uncle lived in Rangoon in the early part of the 20th century. At that time, Burma was a province of British India. An aggressive Burmese king had prompted the conquest, not to mention the need for teak and rubies.

LJ lake inle

A cottage on Inle Lake in Myanmar evokes a feeling of serenity, a world away from urban stresses.

I hear the gentle splish-splash of a boatman who stands on a stick and uses his leg to row the boat. It’s far away from a world of mass shootings and barbaric terrorist attacks. No traffic gridlock, no phone calls or appointments. It is life reduced to the bare elements, water, sunshine, air and lotus. Except for one thing – the 4G here is better than in the U.S. For years the country was undeveloped because of military rule, but now, since there was no slow evolution of technology here, cutting edge mobile connectivity is instantly available. So I post my lotus picture on Instagram – not so much for validation, but in a feeble attempt to freeze the present moment.

I love that the women seem empowered, somehow, in their fitted blouses and stylishly draped longyi skirts. No hiding hair with scarves or hunching behind veils to cover their breasts.  Whether it’s a village woman cleaning fish on the banks of the lake or a smart businesswoman in the capital, they seem confident and are treated with respect. The only restrictions are in pagodas. For some reason, the management is obsessed with “spaghetti straps” and there are warning signs everywhere not to wear them. Or shorts. And women are not allowed in the inner sanctum.

Lotus cloth is a big industry in Lake Inle and designers from Europe pay big money for this cloth more expensive than silk. I can see why as a woman at a weaving house extracts lotus fiber from a stem – the process is very labor intensive. And the end result is cool like cotton – not smooth and fine, but a great alternative if you have ethical concerns about silk.

LJ pagoda

A couple worshipping at the Shwedegon Pagoda sport their longyis, traditional Burmese attire.

The night sky feels primeval as a full moon shines over the lake. This phase of the moon is considered holy, and there is chanting all night in the monastery across the water.

Coincidentally, the next day is also a major national holiday – Martyr’s Day – the day the “Father of the Nation,” General Aung San, was assassinated by a political rival. When we get back to Yangon we discover that admission is free at the Bogyoke Aung San museum (his former home) because of the holiday.

From the crowds that throng the house, it is obvious how much the brilliant statesman is still venerated. There are pictures of him with world leaders.  I read a letter he has written to the British government announcing Burma’s choice for independence. A picture of him playing joyfully with his young kids shows so much hope and promise, that it’s sad to see the following one –  of his wife weeping over him on his last day. The sadness seems to permeate the house even now.

At the doorway, you have to take your shoes off and carry them (this is something you have to do a lot in Burma – in temples and, apparently, sometimes even in offices). The furnishings are stark and simple – a teak bed with a mosquito-net stand, a coat rack and a glass cabinet displaying the leaders uniform. A wedding picture graces the wall.

LJ General Aung San

A wedding portrait of Burmese General Aung San, “the father of the nation” and his wife.

Another bedroom contains Aung San Suu Kyi’s crib. As it is with Burmese names, her name actually consists of her father’s first name, her mother’s (Kyi) and a grandmother’s – Suu. I can relate to this because in South India – we don’t have last names either. It’s hard for me to understand the sacrifices Suu Kyi was willing to make. She refused to leave the country to see her dying husband because she knew the military regime would never allow her back. But her prioritizing country over family can be explained by her spiritual beliefs – the Buddhist concept of embracing suffering as a meditation practice.  It might also explain the patience and gentle demeanor of the people that we encounter everywhere, despite the poverty and the hardship they must have endured.

Even though Suu Kyi’s party won a historic election in 2015, rules concocted by the military did not allow her to become the President.  Instead, she is the “State Counselor” and also has to share power with the military which retains 25% of the seats in parliament. She is poised to implement agricultural and infrastructural reforms so Myanmar can join the global economy, but the path could be difficult since democracy is so new. Another serious issue is the persecution of religious minorities and armed ethnic tension.  I learn that for an American NGO based in Yangon, conflict management education is an important task.

LJ. weaver

Lakshmi Jagannathan with a woman who is a weaver and also teaches the skill to guests.

On the last day of our stay there is a heavy downpour – it’s peak monsoon season. We are in a fancy new pizza place, that serves microgreens, but when it’s time to leave, the compound is flooded. “No problem” says the manager. A taxi is hailed and people place benches on the water so we can step across and sit in the car seat. Burmese hospitality at its best.

Ever since Aung San Suu Kyi came into office, expectations are very high for her, but the challenges are many.  I hope the peace they have now lasts and the country continues on its path of reform and accomplishes its goal of a brighter future for its people.


Lakshmi Jagannathan is a writer, startup cheerleader, reiki healer/counselor and tree-hugger. “Lately,” she says, “I have found that if I call myself a writer I get asked too many questions by immigration officials in different ports, so now my official occupation on application forms is ‘counselor.’ It works — the junta left me alone in Myanmar.” Follow her @BeavertonWriter. Read her Living La Vida Pura blog on WordPress and her Veggie Travel posts on Facebook.

Editor’s note: I met Lakshmi in the fall of 2007, when she was one of a dozen people selected for The Oregonian’s Community Writers program. Then and now, I’ve admired her intelligence and writing ability, her multicultural sensitivity and love of the natural world. Through her VOA posts, I feel as if I’ve traveled to multiple Asian and African countries.

Tomorrow: Elizabeth Hovde, A haven for political junkies