Thursday, September 1, 2011

Maltese Condor

Dad Wearing Tie on Burro
I drew my first breaths in the rarefied air of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, a couple of miles high in the Andes Mountains in a copper-mining camp run by Anaconda Copper. Both of my parents were from the United States but I was a Coya by virtue of my birth. That was what anyone born up in the altitudes was called.  My father was from New York City and my mother was from Montana originally. The story was that my father met her after he ran into her father's car while riding a burro.

Seeing grass, flowers or trees was a rare thing but sunsets were so beautiful they provided all the color one could ever want. The surrounding mountains prevented anything but some radio waves from getting to us, so while we appreciated the Voice of America, which broadcast such excitement as the World Series, for the most part we provided our own entertainment and we read.

An enterprising woman began a lending library to which everyone donated books as a starter. Before long there were a few thousand volumes. These were kept in the basement of the schoolhouse. This was our library for years. We had quite a children's section as well as a great preponderance of mystery books. At the beginning all kinds of donations were welcome from comic books to paperbacks.

We children started reading young and I recall reading my first mystery to this day. It was Caroline Keene's The Hidden Staircase, a Nancy Drew story, and I have been a mystery reader ever since. By the time I was eleven I was opening and closing the library as well as manning the desk. I even did a good bit of recommending of books since I read most everything new that came in the door.

As was the custom I left home and my eighth-grade class of two to go to school in the USA from September to the end of June for high school, university and finally medical school. It was during these last few years that the copper companies were nationalized and my trips back to the Andes were over.  I had begun my medical training in earnest and it appeared that my reading for fun was over for quite a few years as well.

Currently I practice medicine in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast along with my husband. My three children are grown and I am blessed with three grandchildren who live close enough to me that I spend plenty of time with them every week. Three pets take up a bit of time as well.

Andes Mountains
One of the best features of the computer age for me has been the ability to connect with other mystery readers who have similar interests so that we can have forums such as this to bring people together for mind-opening discussions. I read all kinds of books. My definition of a good book is one that makes me want to turn the page to see what comes next. I am one of those people who read the writing on the wall. These days I look for books that tell stories about unusual places and people who appear to be a little out of the ordinary. Sometimes, though, that could be almost anybody, anyplace.
This year one of my most interesting undertakings has been to join the Global Reading Challenge in which a book lover promises to read several books from all seven continents over the course of twelve months. In place of Antarctica one can choose an interesting subject or other geographic entity such as the seven seas, for instance. Aside from the personal enjoyment, seeing what other participants are reading has doubled the fun.

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