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Photographer's Note

Here's another photo from Eritrea. This is from the day of the referendum in 1993 about independence from Ethiopia.

I had visited a few polling stations in Asmara, the capital, but decided I also needed to go outside the city. mainly to see a different environment. So I made e deal with a taxi driver to take me to a village of his choice, and to wait for me there.

I have already described years ago what happened in the village, but most of you have not read that story, so I'll tell it again. When I got out of the car outside a tent that was erected as a polling station I was immediately approached by a group of men, looking like the village elders. I was warmly greeted and a small girl was brought forward to give me a large bunch of flowers. A man on a white horse rode up to me and gave me a piece of bread. Then a group of ululating women threw popcorn at me, obviously a way of greeting an honored guest. After these ceremonies, which left me totally bewildered, I was invited to the nearby monastery, where the monks performed a dance just for me.

On the way to the monastery, seen behind the wall, I took this photo. When I scanned it last week, and looked more closely at it for the first time in more than 20 years, I was puzzled to see everyone applauding. I tried to remember this moment and gradually, to my embarrassment, I realized they were applauding...me.

Looking at another photo from outside the monastery, I noticed that a group of women waiting to cast their votes, were also applauding me. You can see it as a workshop.

When I finally left the village after all these strange events, I met a caravan of cars belonging to the United Nations. I immediately realized that everyone had been waiting for the UN representative and thought that I was the VIP who they hoped would promote Eritrea's membership of the world body.

No harm done really, and the girls in the hotel reception were happy to receive the flowers. But I have always wondered how the villagers reacted when they realized they had been welcoming a con man. The UN staff, in case they found out, probably just had a good laugh.

All these photos were scanned from Kodachromes slides. The quality of those two I have shown here before is terrible, and the new ones are just acceptable, but I like the story so I show them anyway.

Here is a larger version of the main photo.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6714 W: 406 N: 13336] (63780)
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