By Yves Stranger

I have a farm in Ethiopia, not far from the foot of the Entoto hills. The farm lies close to 2600 meters high. In the daytime the air shimmies in the light of the equatorial sun, but mornings and evenings are crisp and clear and the nights full of frost.

A sentence, like a musical sing song, can fill your head and take possession of your heart. Karen Blixen’s opening sentence for her opus Out of Africa, “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills is just such a sentence, which once heard, rests in the pit of your stomach, to never again fully take its leave.

Such a sentence can become a leitmotiv, an embodiment of a place, a country, a mood. And it is so with “I had a farm in Africa, that is forever a banner gaily flapping in a morning highland breeze: through thick flying goggles one sees champagne picnics on emerald lawns and two winged flying apparatuses dancing in cerulean skies. And come what may, history realities or another day political certainties, this gay banner never quite ceases to flutter in the currents of our mind eye.

The same can be said of the negative undertones a name can take on and pull miserably after it, forever coupled, like a poor man’s horse and cart. Ethiopia. When I first came to Ethiopia, the country’s flag hung listless as in mourning and in the world’s imagination had become a byword for hungry scorched lands. And yet the world’s most populated mountain contains nearly all of Africa’s highlands, the fountainheads of many a great river, endemic grass grazing monkeys and forests of giant juniper wood. On mount Amhara, did not an Abyssinian maid on her dulcimer play? That was the soft song Coleridge had left us, in his Kubla Khan. Read full story on Ethiopians in America.

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