Looking back at my own Voice

Zelalem's birthday cake (Ethiopia March 2010)

Today I am looking back, admittedly quite fondly, at my my own voice in a piece I wrote over a year ago while in Ethiopia. The problem with looking back at my own voice is that for me it brings back a rich torrent of memories, which makes my observations decidedly biased. I don’t know how it may come across for others; I don’t know what my voice may say to others. Thus, I am asking for peoples honest comments and thoughts about my writer’s voice in the below piece. For those of you just tuning in this is a part of my exploration of voice. To set this question up, I re-cite the following quote by Laura Beckles in her description of writer’s voice:

“One of your most powerful tools as a writer is not your vocabulary, your mastery of grammar or even your fancy computer — it’s your voice. Your unique blend of description, character and style allows you to talk to the reader through the printed word. Without a voice, a manuscript may have an exciting plot, interesting characters and a surprise ending, but it might not get published. The voice is what beckons the reader to curl up with a book and whispers, “Pay attention. I’m going to tell you a story.”” 

How does or doesn’t my voice do that? Please leave your comments!

March 11th 2010

I come out of the café and look for a moment into the darkness. The torrential sound of rain reaches my ears again. I can see a river of muddy water rushing down the road, faintly illuminated in by the café lights. After hesitating for a moment I push my book inside my jacket and push out into the rain.

Most people are waiting it out inside, but the thought of a half finished bar of dark chocolate waiting at home propels me on. It has been a challenging first day of the fast, and for the first time since 4:45 this morning I finally have food in my stomach.

I walk quickly, but it is dark, and the road is a topped with fast moving water. I make feeble attempts at first to avoid plunging my feet into the water and mud, but it is hopeless. My dress shoes soon disappear beneath the murky river. The road is rough, full of potholes, large rocks, rubble and garbage. I know that somewhere in the darkness there are holes that plunge 6 feet down that will be entirely full of water now. I hope my luck continues to hold in avoiding them.

The smell of raw sewage mingled with the wet smell of fresh rain meets my nostrils. The stiffness of my book bumps against my ribs underneath my jacket. It is a long way gone, memoirs of a boy soldier by Ismail Beah. I have been reading it for a good portion of the day. It is an amazing story, although heartbreaking at every moment. I’ve tried to relate to it by imagining one of my grade 4 students carrying an AK-47, firing RPG’s, and slitting men’s throats. However it is just so far out of my world, that I can’t even imagine it.

I thought it would rain, but I still decided not to wear my raincoat. Water is now streaming down my face and my jacket and jeans are quickly becoming soaked. I have only been walking for 3 minutes tops. Jasmin and Kyle went to the Sheratan for all you can eat Sushi. I was tempted to go with them, but $30 is far from my budget, not matter how good the meal is. Instead I enjoyed a large bowl of rice and vegetables, with a glass of blended mango, papaya, and pineapple. It cost me a total of $2.24. My socks are wet.

As I walk down the balcony to my apartment, I am now completely soaked. Lightening flashes to my left, and thunder roles in the distance. Jerking the door and turning my key at the same time the bolt slides open and I push in the door. I pull off my wet clothes and put some water on to boil. I didn’t do much today, but it was a good day. I ironed and hung all of my dress shirts, and by 2:00 my stomach was twisting with hunger. After that I sat down and read, distracting myself. Today was the national holiday of the Victory of Adwa, the day on which the Ethiopian’s defeated the Italians during the first Ethio-Italian war. I drove through Adwa. It is all mountains.

Adding powdered ginger and cinnamon to a mug I pour in water and add a large spoonful of thick honey. Day 1 on the Baha’i fast from food and water between sunrise and sunset, 18 to go. I have become so used to constantly snacking and consuming a perpetual stream of water that it is almost more habitual than need. You never really notice how much of your day you spend eating, until you don’t. The hot, sweet, and spicy liquid pours down my throat. It is delicious and soothing.


Works Cited

Backes, Laura. “Finding Your Voice.” Write4Kids. Write4Kids, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

Humber, Galen. “The Fast Begins.UnitingForChange. Galen Humber, 2 May, 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2011.