Amina sits idle in the shade of her makeshift restaurant. A pot of boiling kidney beans near her toes and a cardboard case of fifteen brown eggs remind her of the work to be done, the work she can’t do yet. She counts the eggs again, tapping her henna-orange fingernail on the shit-and-feather encrusted shells, one by one. She arrived in the upper-class Hara Mus neighborhood of Djibouti City in the gray dawn haze before the construction workers appeared, before the first call to prayer, before the sun slinked through low clouds over the Gulf of Tadjourah.

Rachel Pieh Jones is a writer raised in the Christian west who now lives in the Muslim east. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post among others. Find out more at her website here.

More…

You can tell a lot about a person by the relationship she has with time — what she values, how she works, and often where she came from. I have often wondered if my own anxiety about the wide expanse of the day goes back to my rural Kansas upbringing. Barred from watching television and encouraged (pushed) to explore the outdoors, the way I view the hours of the day correlates with the view of the horizon: flat, never ending, bichromal. I wake in the morning to wonder how in the world I will ever find a way to break that expanse into manageable chunks without falling into boredom or uselessness.

Time by Eva Hoffman. 224 pages. Picador. $14.00

Whether it’s the American motto “time is money,” or the Eastern European saying “When man is in a hurry,… More…

My boss is standing on the other side of my desk credenza at 9:30 in the morning and saying in a rather animated way, “E to the D to the ER. You are the Eeee-derrrr.” And I know he believes this name — E to the D to the ER — mitigates the fact that he’s an absolute bastard to me in e-mails and when he is having a bad day, but it doesn’t. Unmoved by our shared moment, I lean further toward my computer screen as if I need to concentrate on something important and have not just Googled my own name again only to learn the results are no different today than they were yesterday. “Joseph, I put some mail on your desk,” I tell him. I hope my tone sounds beat down and disinterested because that’s exactly how I feel.

I have a nickname for him, too,… More…

As the ship sank I smirked. At the time I thought it wasn’t appreciated by the panicked crew members and passengers I was assisting onto rescue boats, but I couldn’t help it. Each addition to the drama — the arrival of a Coast Guard chopper overhead, the slight tilt of the ship toward Alaskan glacial melt, and, especially, the donning of the orange mobility-retarding life preservers — confirmed a suspicion that I was, in fact, the butt of some sort of cosmic joke.

That summer I landed a job as a steward on a small ship called the Wilderness Adventurer that carried sea kayaks for seven-night, soft-adventure cruises in Alaska’s Inside Passage. I turned out to be a pretty bad waitress and a slow cleaner of rooms.

The sky was never totally dark in June, and at night I would talk to Kelly, my roommate from Kansas who called passengers… More…

On the empty surface of the East Antarctic ice cap, about 680 miles from the South Pole, I kneeled inside a fluttering tent to fiddle with the HF radio dial. It was mid-December of 2000, peak summer in the heart of the Earth’s austral region. Our thermometer stretched toward a balmy 15°F as the sun spun elliptically overhead like a child’s flashlight.

After several days in camp, I was finally starting to relax. I’d been out in the middle of this bright white nowhere before, but I’d never been in charge. This time I’d taken on the responsibility to build and maintain an Antarctic field camp, a line of work that punishes even small mistakes. While we were unlikely to fall into crevasses, develop scurvy, or freeze to death, I had no desire to radio the authorities at McMurdo Station and request a special flight to bring out a forgotten… More…