Family time with my father and brother in Setif Algeria

My brother, dad and I near Setif, Algeria 1984

The power of a photograph is immense. I remember so much about the moment captured in this photograph.  The flower crown and bracelet my mum made for me, the stories my dad was making up about a goat in the distance that made me laugh, the back seat we are leaning on that my dad would take out of the car and drag into the field on our weekly weekend excursions to a nearby łączka (meadow in Polish).  The way that ghastly zebra-patterned seat cover felt as I brushed my hand back and forth and the fact that my mum made this seat cover so our bottoms would not burn on the hot vinyl seats.  The mix of fresh warm air and wind mixed in with goat droppings and car grease from the car seat. So many memories tied into this one photograph.

Every weekend, which was Thursday and Friday in Algeria, we went on excursions close and far.  The meadow was the closest so we spent a lot of time there.  It had a small stream and some fields and hills, snakes and goats and the odd scorpion, which my father collected! Yes, odd and with no specific purpose as I recall.


Power of a photograph -My early childhood travels to the Mediterranean beach in Algeria

Road trips to Jijel, a beach on the Mediterranean

On warm weekends we would make the 3.5-hour trek to Jijel.  I recall the windy narrow roads (which terrified me), the many traffic jams and no air conditioning. As I think of it I didn’t know air conditioning existed! The overheated car that would require my dad to pull over and add water to the radiator to cool down the engine, this gave way to feeding the macaques with the bread we brought for just this occasion.  These monkeys would appear from the ravines and mountainsides as soon as the bread was presented.  I, of course, was terrified of these creatures (which I would study at university in my later years…Anthropology degree) but I remember the ritual clearly.

We would eventually make our way to the beach where we would spend the day running the waves, which I was terrified of so I mainly watched, collecting shells, eating chicken from glass jars (no Tupperware in Algeria thank you very much!) on fresh baguettes.  Drying off the Mediterranean Sea in the sun as it left sticky salty patches on your skin.  Avoiding the sun by laying on blow-up mattresses (also used for floating) under a makeshift shelter of a blanket tied to 4 bamboo posts found near the beach. My dad developed a liking for snorkeling and harpooning, although I don’t recall him EVER harpooning a fish, but he tried!  I do not recall the drive home.


Power of a Photograph - My early childhood in Setif Algeria -Djemila Ruins

Posing on a 3rd century Roman columns, Djemila Algeria 1984

On other days when my dad was working and my mum was bored with giving us our history and Polish lessons, we were homeschooled, she would take us to Djemila.  This is a UNESCO site, but I know as an eight-year-old in 1984 I did not respect the roman ruins.  Not that I wanted to destroy them but I used them as my playground.  As you can see from the photos I had a penchant for home-made plaid skirts and columns.  I am appalled at my mum for allowing me to stand on 3rd-century columns and alters!

I want to insert a note here.  From the paragraphs above I should point our I was terrified of many things, heights, puppies, kittens, and monkeys….but not breaking national treasures?? Hmmm

Power of a photograph - My early childhood in Setif Algeria

A turn on a 3rd Century alter? I cringe at my mum’s parenting at this moment!

The souvenirs are flooding back and I have to stop for two reasons, I don’t want you, the reader, to get bored and I need to get some editing done.  But this trip down memory lane inspired by a single photograph on my desk has been a wonderful break. As I write this I realize a photograph has an immense power not only to bring you back to a moment but to many moments as one memory leads to another.

I treasure the power of these happily blurry photographs.

P.S. Please leave a comment below if you are interested in hearing more about my Adventures in Algeria.

The Power of a Photograph

November 22, 2019

  1. Shelley Ayres says:

    I found you through Christy Lee Homes IG account. I love old pictures and the memories they evoke. Bring on the stories…so very interesting!

    • Eliza Porter says:

      Hello Shelley! Glad you made it over here through my talented friend Christy. I will be sharing more of my Algerian Adventures, hopefully, you won’t be sorry you said Yes!

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