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Middle Kingdom Podcasts (2005-2017)

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The Language Company
Timothy M. Leonard's books on Goodreads
A Century Is Nothing A Century Is Nothing
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The Language Company The Language Company
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Subject to Change Subject to Change
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Ice girl in Banlung Ice girl in Banlung
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Finch's Cage Finch's Cage
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Suicidal Clare

A cell phone played. Omar rummaged in his robes. A depressed suicidal woman named Clare in Washington State was on the Suicide Hot Line. It may as well have been shit out of luck S.O.L. He switched from Arabic to English.


“I am trying to save my insecure relationship from jealousy.”

“Jealousy’s a disease. It eats people alive. What are you looking for?”

“I am looking for love and meaning. Can you help me?” She had all the questions.

“I am only an emissary between people. Between you and your dream.”

“It’s a nightmare. What’s going to happen to me?” 

“You’d best be prepared for armies of touts, hustlers, beggars, thieves and economically loveless destitute men. They will want to escort, guide, lead, and administer their opportunity,” he said.

“Will they be gracious or benevolent with their tricks, traps, deviations and detours offering fake potential to save me? Will their well formed greed based on my desire, an illness of imaginary needs plead for my attention deficit disorder?”

“Yes. Eight hours on the ground in Morocco will seem like twenty-four. You’ll become a character in your own low budget film. It will open in small art theaters. You’ll be all the characters in the comic tragedy.”

Listening to Omar, I imagined everything as the suicidal woman’s voice assaulted the blind man.

Clare was too poor to pay attention.

She was beat. Omar knew Clare would be an expendable extra in an independent film. If she didn’t get real smart real fast she’d be lost in the drama. She needed a new identity theory. She’d change her name to Clarification.

The story was complicated with many jump cuts.

I remembered Ann, a New York literary agent’s advice. “Keep the big themes in mind and give us strong narrative structure.”

“Why? It’s not linear or logical.”

“I can only represent you if your work has these ingredients. Publishers want books for a general readership. It’s a tough market now. 175,000 books were published in this country last year.”

“I’ve survived markets in many countries Ann. It’s a miracle I’m alive to tell the tale. Traditional publishing is all about marketing, branding, product, price and placement with a hook.”

“True. It’s too disjointed and sporadic as it stands. You need you to express more artistic and emotional beauty. I expected more from your time in Vietnam. I want to feel what you felt. I want you to expose your vulnerability. I want to detect patterns and opportunities.”

“Vietnam was FUBAR, Ann. like Iraq, like any conflict.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.”

“Oh, I see.”

“This is honest work Ann. Memoirs and stories are about hunger. Some are even about food. This is edgy gonzo shit. It blends creative nonfiction with memoir, travel writing, personal essay, literary journalism, social commentary, magical realism, and ethnology. I’ve asked myself, who or what has come alive? I’ve let it speak. I’m a conduit.”

“Tighten it up and send me your revisions. You can’t be a one-trick pony in this business. I need to make 15% off your genius because I’m the expert. What else are you working on?”

“At the moment I’m traveling with Omar, a blind Touareg Berber from Morocco who lives in a Spanish cave with a tribe of survivors after 9/11. He’s one hell of a storyteller and we’re sharing tales. He’s given me a stack of paper higher than Everest to read and revise. His daughter is a word-weaver of serious renown working on a new narrative structure in an isolated Spanish pueblo. Together we’ve weaved 180,000 words so far. It’s about levels of personal and spiritual awareness, emotional growth, 9/11 repercussions, terrorism, religion, cultural prejudice, and healing.”

“What’s your hook in fifty words?”

“How oral traditions, myths, and truths are passed in verbal form from generation to generation in a highly metaphorical way. Stories are primarily a comic vehicle for moral instruction or spiritual guidance. Tragic narratives have been overused since the Greeks and Europeans. A tribe’s customs and structure...healing, authenticity, awareness, alienation, loneliness,’s just a fucking book for God’s sake ...sheets of paper inside two pieces of cardboard...we’re breaking up Ann. I can’t live with him and I can’t live without him, this blind muse of a seer. I’ll call you when I get back to the states of conspicuous consumption. To the states of amnesia.”

Meanwhile, Clare changed long distance carriers to get a better plan. She failed to plan and planned to fail. She whispered to Omar on a tenuous connection, “I played a willing manipulative victim. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted people who loved me to feel guilty and responsible for my suffering. My life is fear and ignorance. I collapsed inside my chaos, fear and grasping. I had to ask for help.”

“I see,” said Omar in a clear clairvoyant voice.

“I tried a walking meditation. It was really hard. I crawled. I walked. I tried to run. I collapsed into the quicksand of my neurosis. I wanted to fly like an eagle. My monkey mind went nuts. I slowed down sensing a new beginning inside me, inside my life. I walked on the curvature of the earth.”

“Marvelous. You have to break down before you break through.”

“I need to see you,” she said. “Where can I find you?”

“At Paleolithic caves south of Ronda.”

Before their connection died Clare related a quick story.

“There was a horrific accident.”

“What happened?”  Omar knew what he didn’t know.

God and Allah and the devil are in the details.

“Crazy men took planes and crashed them into city sky scrapers. The big apple.”

“I see.” He paused to hear more. It was a learning tool he picked up moving through the world’s worst nightmare manifesting historical fairy tales where Poverty and Wealth raised children named Expectations.

“Yes,” she said, “it was shocking.”

“Has the healing started?”

“Healers are working overtime. It’s going to take forever,” she stammered.

“Yes,” he said, “17,000 children in the world starve to death every day. Poverty is the real terrorism.”

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know that.”

“It’s just a thought.”

She couldn’t believe he didn’t know. Media masters in her right wing country had assembled their militant word/image arsenal and persuaded, cajoled, sold, exchanged, blasted, admonished, punished, harangued and scared them shitless, informing them how it affected their little world.

They ate fear like there was no tomorrow.

She was one weak sister. Being depressed and suicidal didn’t help. Friends, family and media convinced her the world was one huge scary place and she was a small expendable organism. Her habitat was on a well-exploited fault line. They sold her fear, healthy doubt and compassionate uncertainty in a nice neat little package. She consumed the whole enchilada.

“Omar and his friends knew many would remain in their complacent darkness,” said a veiled woman in the compartment.

They turned to her.

“It was very comfortable there. They would always live in shadows, oblivious to historical truths blinded by five senses, colors, sights, sounds, vibrations and frequencies. They were transparent h-saps. It went right through them. Clear through.”

“How do you know this?” said Omar.

“Their world is made of glass, their vision obscured by ignorance and compliant stupidity. They needed a large dose of painkillers and glass cleaner for their belief windows. Tears softened their pain. They wiped down the days of their demise,” she said looking out windows flashing their reflections. She had old deep wise eyes.

“How do you see this prophecy?” said Omar.

“My name is Rose. I am a seer. I was born in the dark of the moon. I remember the future.”

“Where do you come from and where are going?”

“I’m like you and your companion here. Passing through.”

 The three of us were very comfortable with the dark arts, shifts, universal frequencies and manifestations.

The Heart Sutra said, ‘emptiness was form and form was emptiness.’

A Century is Nothing


Yin & Yang in China

I have paintings, poems, stories, translations of oral traditions to finish that I haven’t even started yet.

If I had more time I’d make them shorter.

I stepped outside of myself and saw a blind man going down life’s street. Neither of us had seen each other before.

Dressed in rags, he stooped under the weight of a torn shouldered bag. He had no left hand. His right hand stabbed cracked cement with a crooked staff. In the middle of the sidewalk he stumbled into a parked motorcycle, adjusting his way around it. Chinese schoolgirls eating sweet junk food on sharp sticks whispering silent secrets about his stupidity passed me with empty black wide eyes.

I remembered...if a man wants to be sure of his road he must close his eyes and walk in the dark, and a blind man crossing a bridge at night is a perfect example how we should live our lives...the enlightened mind.

I followed him. I sensed a lesson in existence.

He continued scraping his staff against steps leading to shops and worked his way along a long concrete wall.

At the far end sat a beggar in rags made from boiled books. His skeleton supported a battered dirty greasy cap, threadbare jacket, no socks, broken shoes. He struggled to light a fractured cigarette. His cracked begging bowl was empty.

The blind man ran into him.

“Go around” screamed the beggar. “Can’t you see I’m here you idiot!”

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

“This is my space. Pay attention. Keep moving you fool.”

“Sorry to bother you. Maybe you’re a little sad, angry or lonely? Maybe I can help you.”

“What! Are you completely crazy as well as blind? I have no wife, no children, no parents, no friends, no home and no job. I live here hoping people will take pity on me.”

“I see. I know the feeling. I’m on my own. Maybe we could work together, be a team.”

The beggar rubbed his stubble. “Hmm. Let me think about it.”

“Take your time. Knowing our destiny means there’s no hurry.”

“Really? How can you be so sure?”

“Call it a hunch. Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.”

The beggar laughed. School kids passed them. One dropped a coin into the bowl.

“Thanks kid. Good luck on your exams next week.”

“I hate school. Too much homework. It’s so boring and tedious. I’d rather be home playing computer games or chatting online with my friends. I am an only child. I am a little Titan in my universe of want, want, want.”

“Your attitude sucks. Only 5% of the Chinese population has a university degree. Did you know that every June, six million students graduate from a university and 60% will not find work. They will wander the street like us. Your society faces hard cruel lessons, a reality outside your textbooks. Your people have fucked up your environment. Do you sleep where you shit? Sixteen of the most twenty polluted cities in the world are in this beautiful country. You sound like one of those single pampered little emperor kids I see every day. Busy, busy, busy. Get used to it or you’ll be out here with us.”

“A fate worse than death,” said the kid walking away. “My father owns a factory. He is rich man making huge profits off the sweat of poor illiterate fools and idiots like you, you bum. My future is filled with lots of money, a big house and a new car. Thank God for the one-child policy. I will buy a trophy wife. I will give her blood diamonds imported from mines in Africa or Burmese rubies. My country is investing huge amounts of capital all around the world to export raw materials. We feed our machines of consumption 24/7. As you know our country was squeezed, manipulated and exploited for years by big nose foreigners. Now it’s our turn to cash in billions of T-bills and let them dance to our sweet tune. And my family has a multiple-entry visa for Macau so we can leave whenever we feel like it. So, fuck off beggar man.”

“Yeah, begging isn’t a job, it’s an adventure.”

He looked back at the blind man.

“A team, eh? What’s your name?”

“My friends call me Yin. And you?”

“I don’t know my name. What’s a good name for a beggar?”

“How about Yang.”

“Does it mean anything? I’d like my name to mean something.”

“Why does it have to mean anything?”

“Well doesn’t a person’s name mean they have an identity, you know, like it defines their character, personality or something in the abstract?”

“Well, Yang symbolizes many things. For example, it stands for original integrated knowledge that has become buried by mundane conditioning.”

“You don’t say.”

“Real knowledge tends to become submerged in the unconscious.”

“Well, all I know is that my real knowledge says I’m hungry. If I don’t eat soon I’ll be unconscious. So, let’s say I take this Yang name. How will it help me realize my true nature?”

“It will give you dignity. Self-respect. Everything has already happened. We just need to experience it. Experience is the greatest teacher. A name like Yang will give you strength.”

“I need some of that. Ok. From now on you can call me Yang. Shake on it.” He reached out taking Yin’s dirty right hand. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. Let’s get some money and buy some food.”

“I’ve been here all morning,” said Yang, “and all I have to show for it are a couple of Yuan. How about you? Any luck today?”

“I’ve been collecting old plastic bottles from trash containers,” said Yin shaking his bag. “I know a man who’ll give us some money for them. He’s not far from here.”

“Ok,” said Yang, “let’s go. Maybe we can get some spare change along the way.” He struggled to his feet and took Yin’s stub.

“What’s across the street?” asked Yin.

“A bunch of cheap restaurants for the high school kids,” said Yang. “Let’s beg there. People are happy to share their change when they have a full belly.”

“Good idea. Life is change. Can you help me get across?”

“Sure. We have to be careful, it’s busy - lots of pedicabs, trucks, buses, bikes. Let’s go.” Yang guided him across the river of traffic dodging bells.

“What fine music!” yelled Yin.

“It’s incomprehensible to me,” hollered Yang.

“It sounds like an angelic orchestra rehearsing for a play.”

“You are one strange animal.”

Yang stationed Yin outside a place filled with tongues and food smells. “This is a good spot. Do you have a begging bowl?”

“Sure. Doesn’t everybody?” He fished it out of his bag. It reflected 10,000 things.

“Wow! It’s beautiful. Where’d you get it?”

“From a kind stranger in Tibet.”

“I’m impressed. Never been there. I wonder how beggars survive at high altitude. May I see it?”

“They practice compassion and meditate on the process of death. Here,” said Yin. “Take it. See if it brings you good fortune.”

Yang accepted the gift and gave Yin his wooden bowl.

“Good magic. You stay here and face this way. I’ll go next door and beg in the kitchen where they sell mutton. See if they’ll give me some scraps.”

“Ok,” said Yin. “Good luck. See you later.”

He stood silent inside the swirling chaos of humanity and took three deep breaths. He meditated on a single breath, a point of awareness. In-out, in-out. The emotional monkey mind loving the circus of sensory entertainment fell asleep.

He felt still, calm, quiet, focused concentration. He returned to The Temple of Complete Reality at Qinchengshan.

It was a clear above the mountain as wisps of white clouds circled the temple. Autumn colors exploded red, orange, and green near turtle and dragon gate guardians. Streams of life danced around rocks.

Feeling balance and harmony he meditated on the root below the surface of appearances.

A coin played in the bowl.

“Thank you very much.” 


Give Blood

Experience, a wonderful little teacher nowadays said, giving blood helps someone who needs it more than you. Survival luck. Giving blood gifts life.

Living safely is dangerous.

Lucky had rare A-. He donated after receiving permission from Ankara medical authorities. Yes you may, blood is no argument.

The blood bus sat near a busy downtown intersection. He walked past pretzel sellers, cascading water fountains and shit covered statues of hero soldiers firing rusty guns into cobalt skies.

Paying attention he heard imprisoned Turkish journalists crying, begging, and pleading for free speech in a totalitarian Deep State of Fear.

A voice in the wilderness cried out, “The application of Articles 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terror Law in combination with Articles 220 and 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code leads to abuses. In short, writing an article or making a speech can lead to a court case and a long prison sentence for membership or leadership in a terrorist organization. Together with possible pressure on the press by state officials and possible firing of critical journalists, this situation can lead to a widespread self-censorship.”

Dissent is terrorism, said the angry frightened Prime Minister, slapping a Soma miner for booing him in public. Oh the shame.

Lucky climbed on the bloodmobile express.

A smiling Bulgarian nurse asked health questions in broken English. Another nurse took blood pressure. She attached a tourniquet to his left arm. “You have excellent veins.”

She swabbed one and slid a needle in. “Open and close your left hand.” Blood river flowed.

Outside tinted windows in blinding sun Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and Syrian parents gripped children’s wrists. Fingers never touched. Scraggly half-starved men unloaded boxes of tomatoes from a truck. Light reflected off cheerless sunglasses. Savage salivating salvage teams folded and loaded crushed cardboard boxes into metal carts.

Sad affective-disordered businessmen spilled black market Iranian nuclear fission material and Syrian VX chemical liquids into Ankara’s water supply. Sharing is caring.

Suchness, a heavy responsibility weighted lives.

Nurses waved goodbye, “You brought someone luck by donating life.”

“It’s a small powerful gift. One stranger helps another stranger.”

101 people lined up to donate platelets. “This should be fun,” said a girl to her mother, “I love needles.”

Tears flowed into The Dream Sweeper.

The Language Company


Ice Girl In Banlung - Chapter 9

Overtime, a historical bandit with a reputation for laughter, magic, fear, superstition, and an insatiable appetite for diverse languages, customs and cultures lived in jungles and forests. Others preferred living in remote mountains. 

  Jingle, jangle, jungle. Using natural materials they created musical instruments, simple weapons, homes, fish traps, snares and tools like looms. The women had babies, wove cloth and prepared food while the men fished, planted crops, domesticated animals. Children played in extended families learning life lessons. 

  One day a boat filled with white men sailed down the river of darkness to a village deep in the jungle. They wore shiny clothing, spoke a language the people didn't understand and carried weapons that made a lot of noise and scared the people. They pretended to be friendly by offering gifts. The leader of the village welcomed them. They had a party.

  Every day more white people came down the river on boats named Destiny. They were on a quest for gold and slaves. Owning, using and discarding slaves had proven to be an essential part of their historical evolution on other continents.

  Their mantra was, cheap people, cheap labor, cheap raw material, cheap goods, cheap markets and much Profit.

  We are civilized and you are savages, said the white men. We have religion. It is called Greed & Wealth. We are on a mission from the great chief. We control fire. We control time. We control people. We control nature. We have machines. We take what we want. The village gave them hospitality and shelter and friendship. The white men were greedy. They took control of the village, the people and the jungle. 

  Every day the white men marched slaves deep into the jungle singing, we control nature. We shall overcome. They spread diseases. They planted fear. They planted envy and jealousy. They manipulated villages against villages. They divided and conquered, one against the other. History had taught them well. They harvested wealth in the form of people, precious stones, rubber and every useful raw material. They were never satisfied. Their appetite grew and grew.

  One night a village shaman said, to survive we walk to a new jungle.

  We are here to go.

  Eighty applauded. They cried, Tell us another.

  Ok, I said. Maybe you will see a connection. In Turkey divorce is seen as a failure. It’s a schizophrenic country where women know their role and stay in it. A place where mothers control and manipulate their daughter’s behavior, attitudes and imaginary freedom with a heavy dictatorial hand called love. Chains of love are heavier than the gravity of thinking.

  One woman I knew was different. She confided in me. I listened. After seven months of marriage she’d decided to leave her husband and filed divorce papers.

  “I feel so much better,” she said. She had a lot to say. She’d believed her husband in the beginning.

  “He lied to me. He courted me with sweet words and I thought, or believed I thought or thought I believed he had an open mind but I was disappointed because he wasn’t after some time measured in weeks then months I saw his, how do you say, irresponsibility, how he wouldn't contribute his heart to me, to our relationship and then, when I tried to talk to him he was closed to me, he shut down emotionally and I was working and trying to keep the flat up and work on our relationship but I saw it was difficult, then really, really impossible to live with everything in my brain and heart. Now, when he saw my action to end the marriage he was filled with remorse and regret and apologies. But it’s too late. I told him to move out. He returned to his mama. He tries to bother me every day in his childlike whining way but it’s over. I can handle it. I am strong and know what I want in my life. My family is very supportive of my decision.”

  “In China it’s always about saving face,” I said. “Appearances. In Anatolia, it’s about your self-respect, growth and personal dignity. Some grow, some die day by day.”

  “Yes,” she said, “I am not living the lie anymore.”

  “Now your heart is calm. You’re taking responsible for your life. I am happy for you.”

  “It’s tough,” she said, “living here where women are beautiful and sad with synchronicity. They’ve fashioned these well-defined skin-tight PERSONA masks out of loss, hopelessness, confusion, and serious misguided misunderstood maligned relationship blues using tears wrapped in self-pity, shame, guilt and silence.

Millions of us wait for an arranged marriage at a fake bus stop to deter male Alzheimer patients from wandering off."

  “Here,” ordered the Byzantium Great Father Authority Figure disguised as a religious or political fundamentalist zealot, “accept this man, this stranger into your heart of hearts and give us many poor deprived children. He bought you. Produce more.”

  A gravedigger blessed their union. Dearly beloved, an unpleasant global fact is unregulated population, no medicine or education and lack of job opportunities.

  That could never happen here, said a Chinese female student. I was born to pay for my parent’s sins.

  Yeah, yeah, said another. My mother was appointed to have me. Eighty applauded.

  Yes, and one more thing ladies, said Leo. After graduating, while living at home and trying to find a job along with six million recent college graduates, if you consider marriage you can forget the A men; the ones with cash, car, career, credit cards and condo. They are taken. You’ll have to settle for B or C quality.

  A feminine sigh ran through the room and jumped out a 10th floor window. Goodbye cruel world.

  I’ll kill myself first, said one girl. It’s an honorable alternative to facing family shame and humiliation.


In the Under Story, fire from burning bamboo, coconut leaves and plastic garbage in world jungles circled its veins through a heart’s four clamoring chambers. Smoky love echoed from the Forest Floor to the Understory, rising to the Canopy emerging through the Emergent. Bird of Paradise, Eagles and Macaws took wing.


  Monsoons arrived. Ice Girl played her unpublished symphony for children under 100.

Shaman: Monsoon’s intention is to clean air, turn dusty red rutted ragged roads into quagmires and provide essential moisture to roots below the surface of appearances.

What you don’t see is fascinating.

Unpleasant facts on life’s road of eternal suffering are more plentiful than 14.7 million forced abortions in China, universal health care, education or clean drinking water. Twelve million stateless humans live on Earth. 17,000 children die of starvation every day.



Sewing in Kampot

A sewing woman returned to her Kampot guesthouse. She splashed water on her face, changed clothes and spit into red roses. She kick started her cycle and rode to the local market inside a dirt labyrinth.

At her corner stall she keyed multiple locks. She stacked numbered wooden shutters. She dragged out her Butterfly sewing machine, ironing board and manikins.

Dummies wore exquisite yellow, purple, blue, white shimmering silks decorated with sparkling silver stars, moons and small reflecting balls. Her skill designed fabrics for women needing elaborate sartorial refinement attiring engagements, weddings and cremations.

She stayed busy with serious fittings and adjustments. Her universal process was selecting fabric; measurement, ironing backing, a ruler, white chalk to mark pleats, cutting, pushing her machine treadle, pins, threads, trimming edges, hand sewing clasps, shiny connections and ironing.

Threads inside a slow prism flashed light and shadow as needles danced through cloth in endless conversations.

Needles talked about traditional conservative behaviors, attitudes and opportunity-value cost.

Thread followed their conversations. Together they measured precise calculations establishing a stop-loss number.

All explanations have to end somewhere.

Sky darkened

Ceremonial tribal drum thunder sang

Vocal intensity

Lonely lost suffering

Foreign faces

In Cambodia

Shuddered with fear

What if I die here?

How will my family and friends realize my intention to witness 1200 years of dancing Angkor laterite stoned history in gnarling jungles revealed by natural strobes? 

Lightning flashed skies

Giant flashbulbs

Illuminated petrified children

Buried inside cement caverns

Floating bamboo homes


Eating cartoon images

On plasma screams

Skies opened

Rain lashed human crops

Rice blossomed green

Cloud tears cleaned earth

Sweet dreams baby

Rita, Ice Girl in Banlung smashing blocks of ice inside a blue plastic bag with a blunt instrument created a symphony outside unspoken words as a homeless man with a pair of brown pants thrown over a thin shoulder sat down to rest.

Shy women waiting for Freedom averted black eyes.

Aggressive market women manipulated stacks of government issued denominations trusting an implied value in exchange for meat, fruit, vegetables, gold, cotton and silk.

Counting and arranging denominations inside broken beams above fractured cement and mislaid wooden planks covering sewage channels with debris, feathers, jungles and jangled light particles, financial dealers surveyed commercial landscapes with dispatched dialects near rivers revealing stories with fine stitched embroidery.  

Lucky and Zeynep played a musical interlude in Bursa, Turkey.

“I know the music but forgot the words,” said an adult swallowing Xanax.

“Music is the fuel,” said Zeynep spinning her Sufi dervish trance dance.

An Anatolian mother intent on cleaning disorder - afraid of losing control of chaos because nature loves a beautiful mess - on her apartment balcony after shaking out wet underwear, dish towels and frayed family threads, hung them in shameful angry regret and slammed her door on dervish music, It's the devil's music. She loved sitting in dark rapacious self-pity waiting for a jingle jangle phony tone.

“Are you alive?” she said to her cellular daughter.

“I survived,” said a disembodied voice.

“Where are you? When are you coming home?”

“I’m with a tribe of women. We’re breaking down and breaking through old conservative values. They are so narrow we’ll need a crowbar or acetylene torch or C-4. We’re developing personal empowerment and dignity. I’ll be home someday mother. I’m doing my healing work.”

Her voice died. Swallowing ignorance mother lapsed into healthy doubt’s quicksand.

At sunset an imam’s recorded voice twittered from a mosque near Achebadem, “Allah is great and merciful. Buy a ticket.”

Push Play.