Where I Am From

"The soul of Africa, its integrity, the slow inexorible pulse of its life, is its own and of such singular rhythm that no outsider, unless steeped from childhood in its endless, even beat, can ever come to experience it, except only as a bystander might experience a Masai war dance knowing nothing of its music nor the meaning of its steps." ~Beryl Markham, West with the Night

I was directed to the
template for the following piece by my lovely friend Dori. The original poem is by George Ella Lyon and I have probably taken a bit more liberty than the creator intended… but, isn’t that what art is all about?


I am from equatorial highlands drenched in morning fog and Kilimanjaro rising out of the horizon on a crystal clear day, from rolling hills blanketed in a green sea of Lipton tea fields, plains of Dole pineapple plantations, coffee grown on “a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills” and Tusker.

    I am from remnants of British Colonialism… afternoon tea, football, proper speech, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, shillings, fish and chips, colour, and knowing which fork to use first.

I am from the shadeless branches of the upside-down Baobab, the Jacaranda that paves my steps in purple royalty, wild Poinsettia too majestic for tacky gold foiled wrapped holiday d├ęcor, Bottlebrush, Frangipani, Flame Tree and the mighty Muna.

    I am from Sunday night pancake suppers, cookie baking wars, chameleon collecting and December 25th morning readings of Luke 2:1-20. I am from 'My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean' and 'Sam’s Song' and 'Jim Dandy.' Lyrics optional.

I am the place of the winds, a president’s cornerstone, spaghetti casserole on metal dining trays, curfews, crater hikes, sports tournaments, ugali & sukuma wiki from the duka, quarry runs, digging stumps for detention and 101 ways to sneak out of a dorm.

    From “Stay out of the sun from 12 until 2!” and “Here, read this book. See where it takes you.”

I am from faith deeply fostered on rough hewn wooden benches during three hours of celebration in a building with mud walls… or no walls… or in the dirt under the flat umbrella of the Acacia. A place where testimonies are shouted proudly with joyous abandon, music is the soul of worship, sermons come in three languages, sugar cane & eggs a good offering make and honored guests eat what they are served without question… lest they offend.

    I'm from a Texas American-Mutt birth with a lot of German Shepherd, a bit of Scottish Terrier, plenty of English Bulldog and a dash of French Poodle thrown in just for flavor. I am chicken curry, sauerkraut with dumplings, southern-style biscuits & gravy and warm Coke in glass bottles.

From overnight Tsavo train rides sans rogue lions, filling up crab holes in the sands of the Indian Ocean and racing from reef to shore at the turn of the tide, I am the explorer under the waves.

    I am animal print photo boxes, scrapbook supplies spread to and fro on table and floor, framed wall collages, painted portraits, missionary slide sentimentality and memories imbedded in a multi-continental consciousness.

This is me.

And you? Where are you from?

Photo from DHD Multimedia Gallery


  1. Speechless...

    and I *heart* the graphic!

  2. This is beautifully done. And I'm stealing it!

  3. Dori: Thank you, luv. I heart the graphic too. I stole it from a TCK site and added some of my own creativity. It is not what it once was. =)

    Finn: STEAL! STEAL! I look forward to reading it.

    LOUDnPROUD: Many thanks.

  4. This took a lot of effort, beth.

    And it turned out extraordinary. I feel like I know you a lot better now, even better than I did after reading the 200 "factoids."

  5. Jake: In truth, I think it was waiting for me. The words came pouring out. Wait! You read all 200 random facts? Brave... brave, man!

  6. Were you a TCK? I just came across this from Brett Johnson who like you went to school in Kenya. Have you come across this blogger? (Forgive me, there is a faint possibility I may have discovered his blog through yours!)

  7. A very fine piece of writing by the way.

  8. Vincent: Thank you! Indeed, I am. MK/TCK to be specific. I have not read Brett's blog nor do I know him. I'll have to jaunt over for a visit.

  9. Greetings, Beth, and glad I was able to offer another's poem that had been "teachified" by another to allow the kind of "make it your own" exercise you have done so well. The original is as you note by George Ella Lyon, who I spent a week with at a KY workshop a couple of years after putting the WIF form on my blog. She's a fine lady, a children's writer primarily.

    Seems to me the liberties we take with language make it our own, and it is all, in the end, to some degree, derivative--and part of the Greater Voice of our times and kind.

    And on my About page you asked if I would complete it the same way now. Interesting question, I'll give it some thought.

  10. What a beautiful piece, Beth. Something about it has really touched me. Thanks for sharing your words.

  11. fred: Thank you for the visit. I'm glad you enjoyed it and that the exercise continues to have life.

    Amy B: Thank you so much!

  12. Good post, Beth. While I didn't grow up where you're from, I certainly have lived there (here) for a long time. You've described it well.

  13. Shlingi-Moja: Indeed, you have. Thank you for the stopping by. =)

  14. Wonderful. May I repost this over at the group site?
    Waving at you wildly from NYC

  15. Frances: Thanks. ABSOLUTELY! Urge all the ladies from She Who Blogs to do their own as well. It was a very gratifying exercise.

  16. Wow...this is the first thing that has stirred my heart about my past in years. I have become numb to it. I think this might come up in therapy.

    Beautiful, amazing, lovely!!


  17. Thank you and I'm honored that it was my words to help you feel. Embrace it.

  18. Holy shit! That took my breath away and gave me goosebumps.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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