I am standing on a terrace looking across a valley at a small madrasah just about to begin its school day. The children line up begrudgingly, boys pushing one another as boys seem to do everywhere around the world. The girls too act like girls do everywhere, talking in huddled circles, glancing outward, and then talking again.

The dishes from breakfast clink in the kitchen behind me. The remnants of the local breakfast staples—cucumbers, tomatoes, black olives, hard-boiled eggs, and bread—are scraped into a trashcan or kept for later depending on their condition.

I am enjoying my breakfast staple, a café Americano (thanks to my wife for the hand-press espresso contraption in my luggage). For my body it is 1 a.m., but the Mediterranean sun and morning birds beg to differ. Jetlag always leaves me reflective and slow, as one affected with unearned wisdom, ponderous by necessity not choice. The coffee does its work, and my lagging brain begins to put together the opening lines ...

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