Portfolio

Cuba: Machismo and Feminism Together at Last?

When I walked out of the airport terminal, the sweet scent of a recent rain shower was in the air, a rainbow stretched across the sky, and I was in Cuba. On the twenty minute taxi ride into the center of Havana, American cars from the fifties chugged along the road: canary yellow Chevys, cherry red Fords, lavender Plymouths, house-painted shades General Motors never dreamed of. Dotting the highway were billboards: “Support the Revolution,” “Believe in Fidel,” “The People Will Triumph.” “Think Soberly and Deeply.”

For about twenty years, I had wanted to visit Cuba. Ever since I heard about “The Family Law,” I was curious to see first hand a society developed by a macho-looking, bearded Latino who calls himself a feminist and pushed such a law through early in the Revolution. The Family Law makes it illegal for a husband, whose wife works outside the home, not to participate in an equal share of the housework. In fact, a wife can perform a citizen’s arrest on such a loafer. “Manuel, you did not take out the garbage; you are under arrest!” I wanted to experience first hand what happens when Latino machismo and socialist feminism cohabitate.

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Dinner in Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Diane LeBow won the 2015 Solas Travelers’ Tales award for Adventure Travel (Bronze award) for this story. The story describes the amazing experience of meeting with several hundred Afghan women exiles on the border of Afghanistan/Tajikistan, in 2000, while the Taliban were still in control, thinking she may be about to be kidnapped, and instead being invited to dinner with an Afghan family with whom she’s still in contact.

“Please, speak out about these crimes. But tell not just about the suffering, but also about the successes, how we are resisting,” said Halida, a math professor from Kabul, who ran secret schools for girls inside Afghanistan all during the Taliban repression. Dressed in a gun-metal grey long dress, her resolute features contrasted with her delicately embroidered white head scarf. She was one of several hundred Afghan women with whom I spent a week in Tajikistan, not far from the Afghan border. Getting to know them and hear their stories taught me a lot about our shared humanity and the human ability, not only to survive, but to continue to savor life.

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“No Penis Gourds Here” Published in Wandering In Bali Anthology

Diane’s story “No Penis Gourds Here,” was just published in the anthology, Wandering in Bali, (Wanderland Writers). Available at Book Passages.

Excerpt:

Actually I’d come to Indonesia in search of the penis gourd people on Papua New Guinea and the matrilineal Minangkabau on Western Sumatra. But through various quirks–the Balinese would call karma— I found myself on Bali.

My own connections to Indonesia go back more than forty years when I was living in Holland, married to a Dutch medical student who had spent his early years on the then-Dutch colony of Indonesia with his parents and older brother. I heard tales of their beautiful lives there. Beautiful, that is, until WW II broke out and they were interned in Japanese concentration camps–his mother with the two boys, his father in a separate camp. His older brother died in the camp and when the war was over, they all returned to the Netherlands. During my own years living in Holland, my connections to Indonesia included friendships with some Indonesians who left Indonesia after the war, my former mother-in-law’s memories, and dinners of nasi goreng and rijsttafel at local restaurants. One day, I thought, Indonesia would be a place I wanted to explore for myself.

Today, the war is mainly a distant memory. Indonesia and its 17,000 island archipelago gained its independence from The Netherlands in 1949. Bali, although one of the smallest islands, is the best known to foreigners and hosts a booming tourist trade. The Balinese have a love-hate view of the bestselling memoir, Eat Pray Love, that has even further inflated this boom.  Australians chug-a-lugging their way through their holidays, Americans seeking bargains to rival Cost Plus and gurus to predict their futures, Bali “cowboys” serving single women on the beaches of Kuta’s resorts are stereotyped images I held of Bali. Since normally in my travels, I seek out the lesser trod paths, Bali was never high on my to-do travel list. So when I ended up here between visits to two other lesser-known islands, I approached my visit with skepticism….

Available at Book Passages.

“The Infelicities of Travel: Gems Among the Ruins” included in BATW Anthology

Diane’s story “The Infelicities of Travel: Gems Among the Ruins” was recently published in the Bay Area Travel Writer’s 2012 Anthology entitled, “Travel Stories from Around the Globe.”

The anthology was juried by Julia Cosgrove, Editor-in-Chief of AFAR magazine; John Flinn, former Travel Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle; and Janet Fullwood, former Travel Editor of the Sacramento Bee. The 23 stories included were selected from some 60 submissions, taking readers through Europe and Great Britain, the Americas, Pacific Rim, Africa, Tibet, and India, capturing the timeless spirit of travel.

Watch her read the story at the book launch event.

Venezuela Photo Gallery

Photos from Diane’s trip to Venezuela

Paris Photo Gallery

Photos from Diane’s trips to Paris.

Libya Photo Gallery

Photos from Diane’s trip to Libya.

Afghanistan Photo Gallery

Diane Lebow’s photos from her most recent trip to Afghanistan.

At Home in Kabul

Winner of Travelers’ Tales Solas Gold Award for Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010

–Diane LeBow

Word count: 3844

“That’s the Hindu Kush Mountains, the killer of Hindus.” An Afghan man sitting next to me on the Ariana Afghan Airlines flight from Dubai to Kabul leaned over and explained. Outside the window, the flat desert lands of Iran and southern Afghanistan suddenly gave way to barren blue and gray ridgebacks, like waves of a stormy sea. I thought about the land I was visiting and wondered how stormy the political situation would be during my upcoming visit to this war weary land. As I was leaving for the San Francisco airport twenty-four plus hours ago, a friend called: “Have you been listening to the news? There’s just been another bombing in central Kabul, many people killed and injured, and an assassination attempt on President Karzai. Do you think you should delay your departure?”

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Festivals, Fun, Maya Culture, and Much More on the Mexican Riviera

You don’t need to go to France to enjoy the Riviera! The beauty and excitement of the Mexican Riviera, the ancient art and music of Maya culture, along with golden beaches and wide variety of hotels and resorts, fine food, and superb snorkeling and diving with whale sharks and dolphins make it understandable that this area has been named one of the Best Destinations of the Year.

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