Bread and Ashes
British writer and adventurer Tony Anderson transports his readers through the remote mountain villages of the nearly impenetrable Caucasus Mountains. The families he encounters are rugged survivors of the war in Abkhazia and Ossetia, and of a long history of tribal and civil war. At the time of his journey in 1998, peace in the region lingered in a balance between ongoing Communist collapse and oppression, and youth looking forward to a hopeful future of democracy and opportunity. This is a narrative of people celebrating life amidst uncertainty, and sharing food regardless of their own hunger. It outlines the history, describes the language, and illuminates the local customs from the mysterious and ancient isthmus positioned between the Black and the Caspian Sea.
The Yellow Envelope
When American author Kim Dinan received a divine message to travel, she was seemingly happily married, successful, and ambitious. However, she described a yawning emptiness inside of her that more material wealth could not fulfill. At first, her husband Brian was not interested in walking away from the life they had acquired in Portland, Oregon, to set off into the vast unknown world. Kim was persistent though, and eventually convinced Brian to sell their belongings, including their cars and their house, and to embark on an open-ended journey outside of their comfortable existence in the United States.
A gift from friends prior to leaving Portland shaped the dimension of their travels. They received a yellow envelope with $1000, and were told to give it away to people they met. The yellow envelope included three rules: Don’t overthink it, share your experience, and don’t feel pressured to give it all away. The intentionality of the gift inspired a conscious awareness within Kim and Brian that they might not have experienced otherwise.
The journey ahead of them after departing from the United States was at first difficult. They were both habituated toward comfortable patterns in life and with each other. How they had defined their relationship and their personal values no longer fit within the construct of hardships of travel such as hunger, poor infrastructure, no routine, physical exhaustion, and lack of privacy. They were both forced to reexamine their own identities, as separate individuals and as a couple.
In the early 2000s, Canadian journalist Jill Lawless accepted a correspondent position at a news outlet in the remote and isolated foreign capital of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. At that time, Mongolia’s media was newly privatized from beneath Communist oversight, and her role was as much a consultant for how to run a newspaper under freedom of the press, as she was a journalist with the UB Post. Lawless was in Mongolia during a time of exciting political and cultural transition. Wild East is less of a travel memoir, but rather essays and shorter narratives of creative non-fiction that describe her adventures in reporting. Even so, it provides a compelling narrative into the historical moment when Mongolia dropped it’s isolation and began to connect to China and Europe on its journey toward modernization.