"Every man has within himself the entire human condition."
- Michel de Montaigne
Tonight we're lounge lizards. We're in the mood for that liquid-jazz-and-low-light feel. So we take on Ankeny's downtown: top floor, brass banisters, a view to fly for -- windows overlooking long streets of city lights, bright urban runways narrowing into the night.
A few friends and I sit flanking two sides of a table. One guy prowls in his wallet and then stares out the window. The other two are talking about this and that: pop culture, mundane America, the quotidian scape. I am somewhere in the midst feeling young and free, staring down at my Belgian beer and glancing out the window. But on the fringe of my mind is not the view from a lounge but a Land Rover sitting angled in a dry riverbed in southern Sudan, my younger brother asleep on the seat.
In 1979, my father stood in polyester pants and a bush beard. My mother bent down between two long braids as she leaned over a barrel and the swell in her belly. They were packing to be missionaries, which by then was politically incorrect. Even now, people shuffle their feet under the table when they hear the word, like there's a Pentecostal preacher handing out red-font pamphlets at their disco-theme party.
But my parents were just hippies in paisley, part of a group that blended orthodox Christianity with '70s activist ideology and wound up with a bunch of barefoot radicals wearing overalls, guitars and babies. They championed social justice on Earth and pursued the just spirit of heaven. Five days after my younger brother Nathan was born, when I was 15 months old and my brother Ben was four, my parents left Tucson, Arizona with three kids in tow and their posture tilted toward rural eastern Africa.
From 1979 to 1985, my father was a doctor for a Quaker organization and my mother a social worker in Kenya. The years they spent there followed on the heels of Idi Amin's genocidal dictatorship in neighboring Uganda. They were also the so-called formative years of my childhood -- the time in any life when you learn to pee appropriately, walk enough to trip, and see enough to understand how everything alive is somehow bent, somehow yielding to collapse.
ANDREA PALPANT, graduated from Whitworth College with a degree in English and Spanish. She works now as a producer and writer for a film and television production company in Spokane, Washington, where she edited off-hours to complete a documentary entitled, Sudan: The Path to Peace. In her free time, Andrea enjoys running, reading, writing and spending time with family and friends.