This essay appeared in Best American Travel Writing 2004. In much of his writing, Haines is a cross-cultural guide, seeking to take his readers into foreign worlds, to help them experience another culture’s deep difference—and also its humanity.

In this piece, Haines explores an Ethiopian community desperate for water. The movement in the story, the narrative drive, is not so much chronological as emotional and intellectual. The narrator leads us on a journey of understanding, and we arrive in a new place. (There’s also enough action and concrete detail to evoke character and scene.)

The last two poignant scenes, it seemed to us, make the piece.

Read “Facing Famine,” by Tom Haines

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