Harmattan: A Journey across the Sahara

Harmattan: A Journey across the Sahara

by Geraldine Kennedy
     
 

In the first months of 1964, four fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I- all teachers in Liberia-went on a journey. We moved a step at a time, from the last place to the next, 4,000 miles across a continent and the great Sahara Desert. This book is the story of the somewhat random intrusion of our transient selves upon each other and upon the people among whom we

Overview

In the first months of 1964, four fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and I- all teachers in Liberia-went on a journey. We moved a step at a time, from the last place to the next, 4,000 miles across a continent and the great Sahara Desert. This book is the story of the somewhat random intrusion of our transient selves upon each other and upon the people among whom we passed. Like the Harmattan winds that accompanied us, we moved through each place, stirring it a little , taking a part of it, and leaving a part of ourselves behind.

It was a period of hopefulness for us and for the young African nations we visitied. Colonialism was passing, everything was possible. We lived in the present, intensely, learning, testing, improvising our way. In the crucible of Africa we faced the unknown and met ourselves. It was a wonderful time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This affecting travel and spiritual adventure concerns five Peace Corps volunteer women teachers in Liberia who in 1964 undertook a seven-week, 4000-mile journey through West Africa, crossing the Sahara from Nigeria to Algiers by train, bus, car and trans-Saharan truck. Writing with a sense of immediacy, Kennedy, who was one of the party and is now a principal planner at UCLA, evokes the magic and awesomeness of the alternatingly hot and frigid desert lashed by the Harmattan wind and sand. The unpredictable, rugged, often dangerous conditions (the group was abducted by lecherous French gendarmes ) served both to forge and strain bonds among the temperamentally diverse travelers, who were isolated by the language barrier and traditional Arab treatment of women. Kennedy judges the adventure well worth the hazards because those the group encountered largely responded generously to ``their curiosity . . . respect . . . and terrible vulnerability.'' Author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Kennedy recounts her journey with four other Peace Corps volunteers across the Sahara from Liberia to Algiers. As the journey progresses, we are acquainted with a variety of intriguing individuals and experiences that were part of the realization of this group's goal. Kennedy matter-of-factly describes the wrath of the desert elements, the search for lodging and transportation, the strain on relationships, language challenges, and the logistics of such a journey. She excels at describing what happens and making observations throughout but fails to generate or relay the excitement one expects from such autobiographical travel accounts. Though the concept has great literary potential, the book itself misses the mark, leaving readers with a feeling of dissatisfaction. A possible candidate for general collections.-- Jo-Anne Mary Benson, Osgoode, Ontario
Mary Ellen Sullivan
It was 1964. "The" Sixties hadn't really started yet, JFK had just been shot, and Vietnam was just another Asian country. The Peace Corps was in its infancy, full of adventurous youngsters, five of whom became briefly famous for doing the unthinkable--crossing the Sahara during the period of relentless winds called harmattans. Making it even more remarkable, the five were young women who had never done anything remotely like that before. Kennedy, one of the five, chronicles the journey, which started not out of feminist beliefs or lofty ideals but because one of the group had recently seen "Lawrence of Arabia" and thought crossing the desert would be fun. Their story is truly amazing, as, thanks to both naivete and determination, they accomplish what few men even dare to try. Although we know from the outset they will make it, this a page-turner, for we wonder how they are going to manage each leg of the journey. Kennedy transports us back to a time when America was still innocent and five young women could rely on the kindness of strangers in making their way.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780962863219
Publisher:
Clover Park Press
Publication date:
04/01/1994
Pages:
289
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Zinder was that place on the edge of the Sahara where they kept and told the desert stories. They knew of he men lost-sixteen Arabls in three trucks swallowed last spring-and those spared, praise Allah, to return to Zinder. A strange sort of anticipation permeated life there, a foreboding of misfortune inevitable as the wind swirling dust through the alleys, against the ancient ageless mesquite, under skirts , and over piles of peppers and yams.

The Harmattan blew. Resignation replaced hope. Endurance meant survival.

Despite the wind, winter was the preferred time for travel in the desert. Death, the people said, accompanied the summer trips of fools.

"Home is foreign. Here, nights smell.

Something oozes.

From my interior. Not the garlic or the giardiasis burps.

Fear.

Listen to darkness. It arrives as comfort

or evil.

How long until I mildew?

Breathe deep, breathe deep, hold for four, release. Breathe deep, hold, release. Breathe.

Sunrise. I leave my house for the chanting and bargaining; once other people's stories."

Meet the Author

Geraldine Kennedy served with the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Liberia during the heady time of independence for many African nations. She returned to the United States to raise a family, serve in local government, earn a masters degree, and found a publishing company. She lives happily in sunny Southern California.

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