Dina Horwedel

Dina Horwedel
Colorado, USA
October 23
I spent the first 20 or so years of my life spelling my last name for teachers. I always knew that it was my turn for the roll-call when a teacher’s face would contort. My last name was not difficult to pronounce because it is a German moniker that I inherited from my father. My first and middle names came from my mother, who named me after a World War II Italian resistance fighter. I always felt like a square peg growing up in Ohio: huggy in a place where the staid German and English descendants didn’t show much affection; effervescent where most people were quiet; and loving a good party. My Italian family gatherings could be heard several miles away. I always thought I was weird because I was nothing like the people in my town who said Eyetalian instead of Italian; where they made grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta. My grandfather was teased as a boy for eating pizza, which was called “Dago food,” and we were outsiders in a town with no Catholic Church. I spent a summer in high school living in northern Europe. It seemed so familiar… threads of the Germanic culture that were woven into that of my hometown. But I never visited Italy. After I went to college, where for the first time I was exposed to many Eyetalian-Americans outside of my family. Later at a job as a journalist, I was surrounded by Eyetalian-Americans: laughter filled our offices, we lunched, invented, wrote, and dreamed together. After law school, I moved West, then overseas, working in Afghanistan, Africa, and Armenia, in communications and law. I used my overseas work as a launch pad for visiting other countries, and found myself in Italy. I wish I could say it was love at first sight. I fought it at first. I never saw the point of stiletto heels on cobblestones. The echoes of Vespas bounced off of ancient stone buildings like swarms of wasps. But over time Italy seduced me with its fecund culture and the simple mindfulness I felt as I sipped cappuccino or ate and ate and ate some more. For the first time I wasn’t mindlessly scurrying from task to task, but was seeing and tasting and living. I understand why my great-grandfather came to America. There was opportunity for his family during poor times. But after visiting Italy I realized I didn’t have to leave la dolce vita back in Italy. I am learning how to live the sweet life right here in the land of Velveeta.


JULY 1, 2012 6:25PM

Lunchtime with a Warlord at the Intercontinental Hotel

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Our driver Abdul

Creeps along

Jockeying for a favorable inch

In the mayhem


Smoke from cooking fires

Fueled by plastic bags and garbage

Mixes with the dust spewed

By so many centuries


Finally, a gap appears

Abdul takes aim and launches us

Forward through an intersection

Lanes marked by empty shell casings


Traffic cops

Dressed like Stalin

Gesticulate wildly, unheeded

Commanders of no one  


Abdul delivers us to the foot of a mountain

Where a guard emerges from his wooden post house

Rumpled, wizened from the Himalayan sun

And sleepy from his afternoon hashish


We trudge up the path to the citadel on the hill,

The beacon of Westernization,

The Intercontinental Hotel

Why do we seek vestiges of home when we travel?  


The crumpled façade that comes into view

The juxtaposition of faded empire

In an untamable place

Akin to a grandmother in hot pants


Undeterred, I quicken my step

I had heard rumors

That this place has a salad bar

I’d eaten nothing green for months


We meet our fellow diner in the lobby

Well-dressed in his pressed shawar chemise

His eyes creased at the corners

From years of easy laughter  


We sit, then struggle to find meaning

Speaking tongues without common ancestor

But the smiles, sighs, and sips say it all

As I help myself to more tea and coleslaw  


After our meal, he takes his leave

Bowing and placing his hand over his heart,

Then taking my hand in the western way

And placing it to his lips before wishing me good health  


Months later I learn he was a warlord

Things are not always as they appear to be.

Coleslaw, after all, is not a salad bar

And the real terrorists are microbes  


They lie in wait in uncooked vegetables

Like unexploded ordnance

While the so-called warlords

Behave like gentlemen   






Author tags:

poetry, travel, afghanistan, war

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