Familiar Unfamiliarity


From St. George, New Brunswick, on Friday morning, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday night … Funny how fast but slow we travel in the 21st century.

Arrive at Saint John airport one and a half hours before boarding. Fly Saint John to Toronto – two and a half hours. Wait three and a half hours. Fly Toronto to Frankfurt – seven and a half hours. Wait two hours. Fly Frankfurt to Addis Ababa with a stop in Khartoum – eight and a half hours. Passport check at Bole Airport – one a half hours.

So that’s eight and a half hours hanging around time for eighteen and a half hours actual travel time.

But …

What a joy to arrive in a strange city (I can’t claim familiarity with Addis Ababa on the strength of one week here last August) and see a familiar face, Yalew, from CODE-Ethiopia, waiting at Bole with a sign: Robert Rayner.

On the other hand, the grand, old, faded glory Ghion Hotel, beside Meskel Square, does feel strangely familiar on second visit, especially walking in its lovely grounds.

There are more familiar faces from CODE-Ethiopia on Sunday afternoon at a meeting with Tesfaye, Nema and Arefayne, plus a new acquaintance, Luleadey, to go over plans and topics for the week’s writing and editing workshops.

So what do I say, starting tomorrow, about the major features of young adult fiction, and the essential elements of a good YA story, and narrative modes in YA fiction, and creating a setting for a YA novel, and the architecture of a YA novel, and the challenges of writing for YA’s?

Feeling physically and mentally delicate after not enough sleep since Friday, I eat at the hotel, feeling as if I’m in some kind of time warp and continental warp, dining in the faux elegance of the Ghion to wallpaper music from the 50s and 60s, Woman, Yesterday, Going Home (the theme from Local Hero, which I last heard on TV being blasted out at St. James’ Park before Newcastle United -v- Norwich City), Always on My Mind, Sealed with a Kiss …

Sealed with a Kiss! When did I last hear that?

Probably when I was a YA.


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