"Describe a place where the scenery took your breath away."
An ancient city that once cradled modern civilization, Asmara, Eritrea shocks me, a 16-year old from New Jersey. It is teeming with tall, slender people. Men in long, pale robes run down sidewalks balancing baskets heaped with cactus fruits at both ends of long poles. The women wear gauzy white dresses and head shawls edged with colorful borders.
It is a third-world place with beggars and people sleeping on the sidewalk. The streets are crowded with small cars whose drivers honk incessantly and gesture their chronic displeasure with one hand. The merchants are Italian, leftover from Italian occupation in the late 1930’s.
My parents’ house is surrounded by a wall with broken glass cemented along its top. We have a day guard and a night guard. Both nod and smile and repeat, ‘Yes, mister,’ ‘Good day,’ and ‘Thank you very much.’ My dad works at the American consulate. His job is to monitor the simmering Eritrean rebellion against Emperor Haile Selassie, ensconced to the south in Addis Ababa. He shows me a radio and tells me if I ever hear it turn on, it means a war has started and we’ll need to evacuate right away.