only port. Media images of the burning flesh of screaming Vietnamesechildren stalked me.
In 1972, after I turned twenty-five, I found a way out. I didn’t flee toCanada like so many war resisters. After all, my life wasn’t threatened bythe draft or the war, only my sense of identity. I fled to North Africa, anunlikely place. Algeria chose me, not the other way around. The countrywas recruiting English teachers for its three universities. I had a newlyminted MA in teaching English as a foreign language, pursued as a passport out of the US, not a career choice.
Algeria had waged an iconic struggle for independence from 132years of French colonization. The revolution was held up as the world’sblueprint by other countries fighting for self-determination, from SouthAfrica to Palestine. One million Algerians had died in the war. TheFrench, in their final coup de grâce, burned the library at the Universityof Algiers before abandoning their colony. The country began buildingits own institutions, educating a new generation of skilled leaders andworkers.
I happily accepted a job offer. Algeria had severed diplomatic ties withthe US after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. I was glad to be in a “nonaligned”country since it mirrored my own desire to be nonaligned.
Algeria became a refuge for Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaverand other global revolutionaries who flocked to Algiers at the invitationof the country’s leader, Houari Boumédiène. I wasn’t a revolutionary. Iwas just an ambivalent American who needed to flee a homeland thatwas committing atrocities in my name.
I signed up at the last minute for the trip to the Tassili, draining mybank account of savings from eighteen months working in Algeria. I wasill-prepared for a six-day trek in the high, rocky desert. I had no warmjacket or hiking boots or even sunglasses. Western clothes, especiallysize-ten shoes, were hard to come by in Algeria, but I found a cheap,ill-fitting pair of sneakers in a shop during my stopover in Algiers. I hadto make do with my ankle-length brown wool coat for the cold Saharanights.
After leaving the plane, I was relieved to see a Land Rover and driverfrom the Algerian tourist agency waiting for me and, apparently, another traveler, a man who had been on the plane. The driver, dressed inWestern clothing with a cheche on his head, ushered us into the vehicleand drove on a sandy, unpaved road to the center of Djanet. A cluster