Afghanistan: The Friendliest Country

The cover on an Afghan tourism brochure from the 1970’s that I found in a bookstore in Kabul states: Afghanistan, The Friendliest Country. Believe it or not, that’s what I’ve found during my visits there and with the continuing friendships I have made with Afghan people…

…Even though I travel extensively, I was never in a war zone before. There were a few things to get used to. As we left the Kabul Airport, my driver said, “Don’t worry that there is no seat belt,” as he saw me searching along the side of the seat. “I drive slowly.” With that, he floored it, and we raced up the wrong side of the divided street against the oncoming traffic. There are no traffic rules or stop lights in Afghanistan. Traffic when it moves, like spilled milk, goes anywhere there is a space. My driver Nabil’s technique suits the general sense of lawlessness in the air.

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In Colette’s Boudoir: At Home in a French Chateau

Article and images available about various Relais Chateaux luxury hotels.

“Love: the food of my life, and of my pen.” “Colette

On my way back to Paris after visiting friends in the Dordogne, someone mentioned to me that I’d be passing by Castel-Novel, the thirteenth-century castle where French writer Colette had lived with her second husband, the Baron Henri de Jouvenel des Ursins. Just east of Perigueux, near the town of Brive, I turned off the main highway, hoping to spend the night at Colette’s chateau.

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Diving Deep and Letting Go in Egypt

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”  T.S. Eliot

It was shark breeding season. On my first dive in the Red Sea off of the Sinai Peninsula near Sharm el Sheik, we watched fifteen 10-foot black-tip male sharks circle one black-tip female. She seemed to ignore them and go about her business, which appeared to be the shark equivalent of running errands–poking in and out of crevices. Being a single female from San Francisco, I was amazed at the sight of fifteen males devoting their total attention to one female.

I was giving myself this Christmas/winter solstice gift of two weeks’ rest and diving aboard the Lady Jenny IV, an English owned and operated dive boat. It was part of a month-long trip to Egypt, a break from an unusually icy winter in Paris where I was living the ex-patriot American life and teaching.

Relaxing on the deck between dives, I was lulled by the Sinai, the islands of the Red Sea, the sea itself. Most predominant was the simplicity of the colors. In the near and far distance was the land–barren, gradations of camel tan from the palest off-white cream to a darker caramel-colored cafe-au-lait. Yet this same land seen from a distance becomes layered with grey-blue haze. All resembles the straight and curved lines of Arabic script. One saying goes that Arabic is so difficult to interpret that out of three people, one will say its meaning is one thing, another person interprets the same serpentine scrawl differently, and a third will say it is only the picture of the humps on a camel’s back. ………

Dancing on the Wine Dark Sea

dlb_036_440x600.jpgBATW Best Bronze, Essay in an anthology

My darling Aphrodite, I love you. Will you marry me? The handsome Greek restaurant owner on Santorini pleaded with my eighty-year-old mother as they line-danced to bouzouki music in a late-night bacchanal on a terrace overlooking the Aegean. My mother loved dancing, charming men, and living in general. After being widowed for the second time in her late seventies, she kicked up her heels and, in many ways, relished life to its fullest. During those years we traveled together frequently and had our own high-spirited odyssey around Greece.Dancing on the Wine Dark Sea

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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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The Trout Baron

*originally published as “The Fisher Baron’s Secret,” in France: A Love Story, (ed. Camille Cusumano, Seal Press)

I found Paris especially difficult to leave that morning. Familiar buildings and monuments glistened with fresh snow that had fallen during the night. Teary-eyed, I almost fell as I skidded over the medieval cobblestones of my Marais apartment courtyard for the last time. The cabby studied me in his rearview mirror.
“Why are you leaving Paris?”
“Because I must return to my job and home in San Francisco.”
“Tsk tsk”–the ultimate French negation–and a slow-motion shake of his head registered the cab driver’s displeasure.
“What matters in life is that you make love with someone you care about on Sunday morning and walk out with them on Sunday afternoon,” he counseled me. “It’s not good to live your life alone.”
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