Part 3: A Puzzle Solved!

*Warning, while some parts of the following blog are completely true, others might be considered farcical. Please read at your own risk!

Last December, while exploring off the tourist path, in Lalibela, an ancient complex of underground churches in northern Ethiopia, I came across a deep chasm in the side of a mountain. I managed to find a way down into the crack, and followed it as it wound through the earth. Suddenly, around a corner, I came face to face with a group of people. With no chance of an unnoticed retreat, I made a flash decision to advance and attempt to befriend the strangely-appareled natives. This approach paid off, and they invited me to have tea and chat with them, before pressing a small, wrinkled piece of paper into my hand. I thanked them and made good my escape, up the chasm.

Once safely away, secreted in an abandoned tunnel in another part of the complex, I paused and took a moment to examine the paper. To my surprise, it appeared to be an ancient map! "Hmm," I pondered, "those people must have been archaeologists, (that would explain the funny hats) and perhaps they discovered this paper, but needed to hide it from their unscrupulous overseers (the ones who secretly snapped the shot posted above!)" I knew that there was a well-known legend that the Ark of the Covenant was hidden somewhere in Ethiopia. I had to keep that paper safe!

Fortunately, I managed to hide the scrap of paper in my belongings well enough to elude said searchers' scrutiny, and escaped with the map. Unfortunately, with all the commotion of the next few days, I completely forgot where I had hidden the map! "Oh well," I mused, "perhaps it was all for the best."

I moved on to other things, and it wasn't until recently that the map came back into prominence. The other day, as I was sorting through some of my memorabilia from Ethiopia, I happened upon an unused tube of toothpaste. While applying some of the contents to my toothbrush, I suddenly remembered where I'd hidden the map! I'd stuffed it into an empty jar of Marmite, knowing that no self-respecting thief would attempt to steal Marmite!

I dug it out, and wonder upon wonders, it WAS a map. But as I studied its contours closely, in conjunction with perusing Google Maps, I couldn't find any similarities between the map and the Ethiopian landscape. Finally, giving it up for a lost cause, I sat back in my chair and began eating a peach, hoping somehow to assuage my lack of progress.

Perhaps due to an fugacious anomaly in the Earth's gravitational field, my peach suddenly tumbled out of my hand, bounced off my keyboard, and landed on the scrap of paper. This caused the Google Maps viewing window to oscillate wildly before coming to rest with the Northeastern portion of the United States in focus. I quickly cleaned up the mess on the keyboard and threw the crazy peach away. I would have thought nothing more of the matter, except that while cleaning off the the map, I noticed that some hitherto invisible words were scrawled on the paper. "T..yer Ho... near Was..acc...ond in S.....ancas... The peach juice must have been the catalyst to bring out the invisible ink!

I puzzled over this cryptic phrase for a while longer, and again, ran headlong into complete failure. I looked back to my computer screen and happened to see that the browser window was directly over a little place called Washaccum Pond, near South Lancaster, Massachusetts. "Weird name," I thought.

Thinking nothing of it, I proceeded to read the news on my iGoogle page, which included a story from the Adventist News Network (an RSS feed I follow) about a commemoration of some historic building, the Thayer House, also in Massachusetts. The article mentioned something about how Norman Wendth, the president of Atlantic Union College was trying to trace the descendents of the Thayer family. "We've gotten as far as the MacDonald family, before losing the trail," he was quoted as saying. "Please contact me if you have any more information about this. There's a possibility that their descendants might have some claim to the Thayer Mansion, and we're willing to arrange a settlement to ensure that this historic building stays in the hands of the College." "That's interesting, my grandmother was a MacDonald before she got married," I pondered, before continuing my browsing.

A few weeks later, I received an official-looking envelope in the mail, with a surprising offer. Apparently the physics teacher at AUC had been in contact with Dr. Kuhlman, a physics professor at Southern who I've worked for in the past. He, remembering that I lived "somewhere up there," had recommended my name to help teach the physics labs at AUC during the summer!

I already have a job for the summer (Camp Cherokee), so I wrote him an email explaining that I couldn't accept the position. Undeterred, he replied with an eloquent argument for me to come work with him--culminating, in a mad flight of fancy, with the ridiculous notion that I might just find the love of my life while at Atlantic Union College. "Poppycock," I exclaimed. "This guy's even more eccentric than Dr. Kuhlman! Besides, I'd be teaching physics, not chemistry!"

Well, to make a long story longer, the next day, Dad informed the family that he had accepted a position at AUC, as Comptroller, and that we were going to be moving there sometime this summer. "Hmm," I mused, "this AUC stuff is starting to get a little over the top! I wonder what I'll find when we get there... "

??? _

Excelsior! :)


  1. Marvelous! Simply marvelous! Three cheers from your adoring sister!

    Hmm, I'm rather looking forward to this Massachusetts move. Maybe we can find a small log cabin in a sugar maple wood like the one on my beloved mug :)

  2. Interesting... so let us know if your map proves useful in helping the college to retain Thayer mansion... :)

  3. A clever, though whimsical, tale :) I like the way you wove in everyone's puzzle answers.

  4. Fantastic! I enjoyed reading this tremendously. I like your sense of continuity and suspense woven with hitherto impossibly disparate threads. I especially enjoyed archaeological beginning and the mysterious reference to Thayer connections in your family tree.

  5. LOL. Amazing Joel. You remind me, I have yet to write a balderdash blog.

    (And I deserve the eminently desultory award?)

  6. Very, very, very. Good.

    In reference to physics: I just learned about Newton's Universal law of gravitation. Upon reading your blog, I realized that the connection between physics and love really ought to be explored a little further. Hence:

    The force of attraction between two objects (their gravity) increases with the mass of one or each object under examination. Hence, the greater the mass of that personage of the opposite gender...

    ? ? ?

  7. My dear John, you speak with too much levity on a subject of great gravity.

    Based on your theory, however, would I grow so light and airy as to be swept off my feet if I experience less gravity when less mass is involved in the force?

  8. Very good John, I can see you're learning a lot in your physics class. :)

  9. Very interesting; just a question though, if you were to rate the veracity of this tale on a scale of 0-10 where 0 is a lie, fib or otherwise implausible falsehood, and ten is giving birth to a baby elephant, what would your rating expunge? I would also like to commend you on your august use of such a worthy fructine in your benign tale.

  10. I almost forgot, I also wanted to divulge to you that the picture of the tunnel at first reminded me very much of something I saw during an EGD!

  11. lol, thanks timothy. I'm not sure what exactly, my rating would expunge, although I'd probably give it a 5 or so. There are many true elements, including receiving a paper from Ethiopian archaeologists in Lalibela!

    That's an interesting association--nursing students really are from a different planet it seems :P

  12. No way! AUC? Yowsers. After having spent two years there, I can promise you that you will not be short of adventures...

  13. Ok, Clarification please. Are you attending AUC or Southern in the fall? SIdenote: digging into your families past can yield disaster as well as treasure. However, it's still totally worth it.

  14. :) I'm going to AUC--to live, but Southern for school.

  15. Joel, two things I particularly noticed about this blog.

    1) I remember when you were down in the chasm with the Ethiopians sharing tea in Lalibella, but I always wondered why you were so secretive afterward and kept sneaking about as if you had something to hide...

    2) I resent that joke about Marmite.

    Otherwise it was a very good blog :-)