Essays

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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Why I Don’t Stay Home

Straight out of graduate school, in my twenties I married a European and lived, taught, and traveled throughout Europe for several years. My love of traveling outlasted my marriage. I was hooked. However, meeting someone to do this adventuring with was difficult. Just finding someone with whom to go to my choice of movie who likes to sit as close up to the screen as myopic me does is hard enough. Finding a travel buddy compatible in time, money, wanderlust, choices of destination, and personality is one of life’s greater challenges.

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Sophocles Slept Here

I had long been fascinated by Khadafi and his band of female security guards. When I learned that our government was easing restrictions on American citizens visiting Libya, I quickly made arrangements to go. Intrigued by Greek and Roman history and culture, when I heard that Libya had such pristine Greek and Roman archaeological remains, I almost flew over to Tripoli on my own adrenaline.

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Love on the Line (Salon.com)

ON THE ROAD, THE REST OF THE WORLD CAN BEGIN AND END IN A STUFFY PHONE BOOTH.

June 18, 1999 | I travel a lot and mostly I travel alone. When I enter a public phone booth to check in with friends back home, sometimes I feel like I’m opening a mystery novel. I never know what news awaits me, and more than once, love has rung its way into my life — or disconnected from it — in these places.

Love on the Line

“I hate to tell you this way, but your visit to stay with me in Hawaii just won’t work out now,” his voice said on my answering machine. It was at least 100 degrees. Familiar symptoms followed: crazy heart rate, a wash of sweat over my body. I did a quick survey of my life, past, present and future, and found it sadly wanting.

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