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A Time of Light and Shadow

To Asia, Africa, and the long way home

A Time of Light and Shadow is a travel adventure that explores my quest as a young woman to live life on the front lines. While confronting the harsh realities of conflict zones, chasing adventure, and traveling solo in disparate cultures, I find connection in the unlikeliest of places.


In 1975, a time of new freedom for women, I lived in Paris, worked as a nurse in war-torn Lebanon, and fell in love in Istanbul. Jostled between cultures, between love and loss, I found my way home. A year later, I set off alone for India, a land of unsettling contradictions. A solo trek in the Himalayas completed that Asian journey. 


By 1980, I was working for the International Red Cross, immersed in the heart-wrenching tragedy of a Cambodian refugee camp, and later that same year with the nomadic Issa in the drought-ridden desert of Djibouti, Africa. Faced with the immensity of poverty and suffering, my commitment to service was shaken. 


Four decades later, I return to India, and ask myself “Would I dare do now what I readily did then?” I explore my complicity in privilege, my troubled past with my mother, and reflect on solitude and friendship, youth and aging, longing and belonging. I believe it is in conscious engagement with ‘the other’ that we find our common humanity. 

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Encounters on the Front Line


Encounters on the Front Line is a nurse’s journey that begins in a Cambodian refugee camp after the horrific Khmer Rouge regime. Nearly three decades later Ella returns. She meets the people on the front lines - the human rights activists, the caregivers, and those who needed care, inspiring her to explore the challenges of service.


"Powerful and poignant, intimate and insightful. The careful reader will learn a great deal about Cambodia’s recent history and current culture as the Khmer people struggle to deal with the unfathomable trauma that continues to shape them."
— Bill Herod, Human Rights Worker, Cambodia


"A riveting and enlightening book, brimming with perspective.  Elaine writes with great honesty, passion and clarity." 
— Woody Wheeler, author of Look Up 


Encounters on the Front Line

is available through the following sites






You can't cross the sea
by merely standing and staring at the water.
Rabrindanath  Tagore
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