After a two-month hiatus, this blog is back up and running. I've been in Ethiopia and Somaliland for work and what with slow Internet connections and the distractions of seeing two fascinating countries I haven't had time to post here. I'll be posting regularly from now on.
I was in Ethiopia to research a book on the Battle of Adowa for Osprey Publishing. This decisive victory over the Italians was one of the greatest defeats of a European force at the hands of an African army and made Ethiopia the only African country never to be colonized. I met a lot of historical experts, including Dr. Hiluf Berhe of Axum University, who wrote his thesis on the battlefield. He and I spent a long, enjoyable, and exhausting day walking the battlefield and climbing up mountains. I also found some books on the period that are unavailable outside of Ethiopia and did some research at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, housed in Haile Selassie's old palace. I've never worked in a palace before! This book is going to be a good one, and would have been impossible to do properly if I hadn't gone to the country.
I'm also doing a series for Gadling. My travel articles on Ethiopia are already going online, and when that series is done in about a month I'll be doing another series on Somaliland, a breakaway republic in northern Somalia that has created a haven of peace and commerce while the rest of former Somalia continues to suffer chaos and bloodshed.
Writing on the road is something I've always loved, since it combines my two great passions. I left my laptop behind and wrote longhand. This kept me stress-free about losing my computer and allowed me to get reacquainted with good old-fashioned paper.
As tired as I was, I still wrote every day. This is an important thing for writers to do, not only to keep in practice and accrue a large body of work, but to stay in tune with your muse. Of course, staying in tune with your muse isn't exactly difficult when you're meeting nomads, exploring ancient cave art (like I'm doing in the photo), and visiting medieval walled cities. Sharing my travel stories is what got me into writing in the first place back in my zine publishing days.
Sometimes I think that writers never get vacations. Even so, it's a hell of a fun job!
This photo shows me at the cave art site of Lass Geel, Somaliland, and was taken by Swedish photojournalist Leo Stolpe. Thanks Leo!