Wednesday’s Wafers: weekly series in which I share some of my own recent writing

I’ll write the next chapter in my short story for an upcoming post.

algeria  Today, I’m sharing a newly revised and expanded version of a poem that I wrote six years ago, after returning from two weeks spent in Algeria (North Africa). Amazing how few details remain as fresh as the day they happened, yet those are the important ones. More photos below.

Journey  by Karolyn H


Airports and airplanes
uncomfortable, lonely.
Restless legs, restless heart.

First meal in Algiers
Fries, salad, bread, and juice.
Smiles and sallams.
City sidewalks, cracked and pitted.
Treacherous traffic, always alert.

Long drive through the city
ice cream surprise!
First kiss, first touch

Mountains change to desert
our bus drives on.
Repairs in the night
send us stargazing.

Heavy, metal door opens wide.
Wooden sofa for American guest.
Winding staircase cut in stone up to the roof.

Eating with the family
Bismallah, koli koli! alhamdulillah.
Sharing, laughing
new foods, new words, new friends.

We climb the old castle
all around is El Golea!
Palms, palms, desert, wonders.

So much to see,
Photos and more photos.
Shopping for scarves, trinkets, lantern.
Strong coffee in little cups, surrounded by men.
Museum showcasing artifacts, intricate desert rose sand formations.
Single peach and white church.
Call to prayers and the mosque.

Yamina prepares wonderful food,
Shares in mutual halting conversation.
Meals together, shared by all.

Omi, always with a song, a laugh
Nacer, persistantly playing soccer
Shiek, humble and serious.
My Hachemi, generous, happy, responsible.

Omama, my little teacher.
Ahmed’s beaming ibtisama.
Fatima, Meriem, Fatiha, Karim,
forever joking, talking.
Hamida, Soumia, Jakout, my dance partners.

Children, lovely children everywhere!
Little creature underfoot…is that a hedgehog?
Moad inexplicably carries around a hairdryer.
Merimuuu! beautiful as her mother, Fadia.
Yasine, thoughtful, reminds me so much of my own son.

Tibo, Maouad, like family.
Women shopping, talking,
heading to school to teach and to learn.

Prepare yourself! I am instructed.
It’s time for Ghardaia.
Crazy driving, good music.
and many gifts to find.

Wrap me in blue!
Cousins gather around,
Henna is applied.
I sit and I wait for it to set and listen to the ladies speaking Arabic and French.
A little mascara,…and a hijab?

Riding out in a white jeep,
Up and over, down and hang on!
Tea, three cups, sugar and mint.
Crackling fire, first taste of lamb.
Setting sun
as four men perform Salat
at the top of the dune.
My dream is reality.

El Golea is in my heart.
the places
the food
the unforgettable people.
Shokran, shokran!
Insha’allah, I will return.


sallams – short for asalamalakim greeting
Bismallah – said before eating meals
koli koli! – eat, eat!
alhamdulillah – said after meals (praise be to God)
ibtisama – smile
hijab – head scarf
jemels – camels
Salat – prayer
shokran – thank you
Insha’allah – God willing

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