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. My excitement was sprinkled with some apprehension which even the mojito--that combination of Cuban rum, lime, mint, sugar, and ice, made famous by Hemingway--I had sipped on the flight over hadn’t calmed. I knew the CIA didn’t want me to be there and I wasn’t sure how the Cubans would treat me. I caressed the money belt that was strapped under my blouse. In the States, a friend of a friend who had been to Cuba told me that crime was rampant there. Also, since U.S. banks don’t trade with Cuba, my credit cards and American checkbook would be worthless. So the Yankee dollar is the currency of choice. Approaching immigration control, I thought about the warnings American friends had given me about the trouble I’d be in if I let Cuban authorities stamp my passport. I heard stories about it being necessary to slip dollars into your passport as a bribe, about being taken into small rooms and interrogated, about communist rigidity and dangers. Ready for a full dose of vitriol, I took a deep breath and handed over my passport. The agent grinned at me and said “Welcome to Cuba,” and before I could sputter something about “No stamp, please,” he imprinted only the loose slip of paper that was the visa form I’d received on the short flight over from Cancun. During almost one month in Cuba, I traveled by bus over much of the central and western part of the country, visiting schools and clinics, farms and villages, work projects; talking with people on various levels, trying to get a more balanced picture of this small country that continues to function in spite of the billions the United States government spends every year to annihilate its government and social system. Especially I wanted to see how women were living and working in this unique society. Was it as terrible or as ideal as we heard? My first morning I arranged to visit a community on the outskirts of Havana, la Guinera, which some years before had been one of the worst slums in the country, festering with drugs, prostitution, hunger, and crime. Leaving the center of Havana behind, we passed through narrow streets where tiny houses and shacks leaned upon one another.. A member of the Women’s Federation, who accompanied us, said that about 24,000 people--6, 000 of them children--live in the eight square kilometer area we were about to visit. We climbed off the bus and entered the day care center where four women, in their twenties and thirties, greeted us. “This is a woman-run project,” Fifi, the director, said. “It all started with a communally-run day care center so that women could hold jobs. Their idea grew and soon an experimental project developed, supported by the government. “Materials and training are supplied to people, teaching them to rebuild their houses, schools, stores, and clinics. In turn, they teach and help others to do the same. The crime rate has been cut to a negligible level. Former convicts lead productive lives. We all help each other out.” I learned that professionals can receive leaves from their regular jobs to add their skills to projects like la Guinera, which exist all around the country. Later I wandered around on the streets. Several macho-looking guys were helping some children paint a fence. On another corner, we passed a makeshift meat stand. Several young black men waved at me from behind the counter. Instead of the stereotyped reaction I might have expected based on the men’s rough appearance--flirtation or hostility or worse--their friendly faces were open, expressing optimism and pride. One of the women told me, “They’re very active in this community. They used to be in prison. They were tough guys we call guapos,”. “Now they are rehabilitated and they work along with children, women, and the elderly, painting, building things, and supervising open markets.” As we walked up and down the streets, I noticed a certain type two-story building that appeared every ten blocks or so. “That’s the community doctor’s house. Each section of the community has its own doctor.” I mentioned how clean the streets seemed. “We have a “garbage patrol,” organized through the environmental program in the schools. If children see anyone littering or throwing garbage on the street, they take it to that person’s front door and hand it to them.” Back at the community center, one of Fifi’s colleagues explained that this project has many levels: “For example, in the workers’ dining room, we have a ‘school table,’ where we teach people table manners and conversational skills. Just changing the environment, the buildings, does nothing. You have to change people’s behavior, attitude, and manners. Everyone is encouraged to get as much education as possible. Children are urged to stay in school. There are special schools for, for example, hearing problems or behavior problems. Adults go to evening school. Our community has its Declaration del Arbol; it’s like a tree with many limbs.” She added, “Because the leaders are women, men don’t feel so threatened.” As we said our good-byes, Fifi added with a smile: “You know guapo means bully and tough guy but it also can mean beautiful and handsome. Here in Cuba, some men are guapos, but women can be guapas. And in our community, our guapos become beautiful!” On my way out, I notice on the wall that la Guinera has won an award from the United Nations in the category of a community project that especially helps women and children. One day on the way to Trinidad in south central Cuba, about five hours from Havana, I visited an organic farm. Alice, the director, an agronomist and trade union leader in her thirties, greeted us. “This project is called las Marianas after Castro’s women’s brigade. It is organized through the Federation of Women and run by an all female staff. The goal is to train women to move from low level jobs, like house cleaning, or even prostitution, to better jobs and improve their lives.” There is much experimentation with organic insecticides, like extract of tobacco, which they dab on the plants, and hydroponic methods. Alice grabbed a handful of soil, which she caressed and sniffed. “It’s compost made from leftovers of sugar mills.” Her dark eyes flashed with enthusiasm as she looked out from under the brim of her straw hat. “We sell to the city market directly, eggplant, guavas, tomatoes, garlic. The women here are in their thirties, mostly married, average three children.” A loud speaker played Cuban jazz in the background. “The women find this work more rewarding than cleaning houses and worse because they see that people are waiting for the food they raise. We see the trucks go out full and come back empty. There is good childcare here. We work the land ten hours a day, seven days a week. Each woman has two days off. We must work that much because people eat every day.” As she pushed back a wayward strand of hair, her pink pearl nail polish and hand crafted silver and bead hoop earrings reminded me that Cuban women haven’t sacrificed their legendary sexiness and beauty while developing economic and professional equality with their men. “We have a beauty parlor here, too,” she assured me. Of course, minds and laws don’t always change at the same pace. A divorced female attorney, head of the local branch of the Women’s Federation, reminded me of this. I met her one evening in a small town about one hour from Havana where I attended a meeting of the Committee for a Democratic Revolution, the local representatives of the government. The Cuban government has a complex three-tiered system: municipal, provincial, and national. People are chosen to be representatives based on the quality of their proposals not determined by party or amount of money they have. “It is not true that the laws are made by Castro,” social science faculty members at the University of Havana had told me the day before. “He is a deputy and president of the Council of State but he makes proposals like anyone else. People must represent the people’s wishes or they are removed.” Everyone votes and most people participate actively in their government. Forty percent of elected officials are female The Women’s Federation is one part of the government. It is as if we had a Department for Women’s Affairs in Washington and on all local levels. “Men are still macho,” the Women’s Federation president said to me.” “I practice law, I’m divorced, now I’m free. Men still want women to serve them. They still want to be kings. They haven’t changed very much. But from the beginning, the Revolutionary Committee was concerned with improvement of women’s status in society.” Her stylish appearance, short blond sophisticated hairstyle, trim black and white suit, gold earrings, and carefully applied eye makeup contrasted with the dreary pale blue chipped paint of the Women’s Federation meeting hall. A young black woman, around twenty years old, joined our conversation. She was studying to be an engineer and was a successful athlete. “I also love to play classical piano,” she told me. “What are your dreams? I asked. “To be the best I can: construction engineer, athletics, music. And to travel like you.” As I moved through the Cuban countryside and met with many people, I was especially impressed by the enthusiasm for learning among the young people and the self-confidence of the young women. One afternoon in a homeopathic clinic, an eleven-year-old girl who was part of a health education class, asked us, “Do you know about safe sex?” She went on to tell us that her uterus would not be ready to have babies until she is over twenty and that she must be careful to wait. There is an active education campaign to combat teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. One day, we visited a college preparatory high school out in the country. As we entered a lab, our host and guide greeted us. Her curly red hair and blue eyes matched her openness and self-confidence. A seventeen year old pre-medical student, she showed us around the lab where she and a group of students were conducting research on homeopathic remedies for skin infections, hypertension, anemia, and diarrhea. The students will be pharmacists and doctors. Even though Cuba has only 2% of Latin America’s population, it trains more than 12% of Latin American physicians. During my time in Cuba, I visited a number of medical clinics. Medical care is free and available to everyone, just as everyone can have as much free education as they can benefit from. There is reciprocation required by the government. For example, medical students may not be able to choose their own specialty and they have to give some years of service where the government decides they are needed. However, evenly dispersed throughout every area are medical personnel and facilities. Everywhere I went, doctors and staff, were eager to explain their work to me. “There is nothing I would rather be doing with my life,” a woman physician told me, who had, along with her clinic, received a United Nations’ award for exemplary medical service. Around her, the paint was peeling and equipment old, yet the love and dedication on the faces of the staff and the confidence shown by the patients was impressive. “Our major problems are related to respiratory illnesses and tobacco and alcohol addictions. Rape and child abuse are not at all issues,” she answered in response to my inquiries. Unlike what we in the U.S. might expect, I traveled freely on my own throughout Cuba. I found people open, even eager, to speak with me when they learned I was an American. Never once did I experience any hostility or apprehension. Up on the University of Havana campus, I got in a discussion with some students who were sitting out on the lawn. “Cubans are sophisticated enough to differentiate between the American people and their government.” They continued, “Americans think we are imprisoned but we feel that Americans are imprisoned by their ignorance. We say that the U. S. has so much opportunity but Americans don’t have the tools to take advantage of it. Cubans have the tools but not the opportunities. Cuba is not one man. You know if there were an election tomorrow, Fidel would win. But the U.S. government wouldn’t believe the results anyway.” We all exchanged email addresses. The students I met seemed better read and more aware of world issues than most of my students back home at the college where I teach. Some women students I spoke with studied in the Center for Gender Studies and told me it was well supported and popular. Over coffee on day, a Cuban-American recording studio owner said to me, “I’ve had many Cuban musical groups come to the U.S. Out of one hundred maybe two people defected.” “But, you know,” he added, “There’s a certain greed in human beings. I don’t think socialism can work alongside capitalism. People want what others have.” “Castro had a nice idea, to create an egalitarian society where everyone had their needs met. I’m not sure he’ll be able to carry it off. Probably he shouldn’t have nationalized private individual’s property. He pissed too many people off. A socialist country has to be surrounded by other socialist countries. And they don’t exist anymore. Maybe China but that’s a very different situation. Cuba is not really communist. Castro wasn’t interested in communism or the Soviets. He just wanted to make a social revolution work. The U.S. policy drove him toward the Soviet.” He added, “Cuba is a great place to raise children: the people have good ethics; they are never vulgar; they have real family values.” But these values are being threatened. One day I was driving with an American friend who has lived in Cuba for many years along the Malecon, Havana’s broad ocean-front boulevard. Huge waves crashed over the sea wall. Our cab driver dodged waves breaking across the road and maneuvered his 1957 orchid-colored Chevy around the seawater spouting from the manholes. Outside the high-rise tourist hotels, instead of armed guards, young girls in spandex and sequins stood waiting, I realized, not for a bus. With foreign tourism now replacing sugar as the main crop, prostitution is returning after a forty-year hiatus. Tourist dollars pay for education, health care, sports, and social security. They also bring sex tourists whose dollars offer young girls a more glittery life—at least for one night—than this social experiment of a society provides them. One day I was visiting the San Pascual, a ship that Hemingway once stayed on. My guide, Ana, a twenty-six year old language student, asked me if it was true what they heard about crime, violence, and drugs among American youth and on our streets. “That’s sad to hear,” when I explained about the widespread availability of guns and some situations in our cities. “We say here,” she explained, “that there are many kinds of freedoms. Maybe we in Cuba can’t buy new cars or travel as freely as you do but we have the rights to food, safe streets, housing, clothing, education, and health care.” On my last night in Havana, after a dinner alone in a paradores, a restaurant in a private home, I was wandering around on dark back streets trying to find a taxi. Suddenly a man ran up toward me from behind. Having been mugged twice in the States, I am touchy about such an event. He ran right up to me and chattered away in speedy Cuban Spanish. I said loudly “NO,” having no idea what he was saying to me. He switched to English: “Eeets allright,” he smiled at me, “Women are safe in Cooba!” He apparently was asking if I needed assistance. An American friend, a woman who has lived and worked in Havana as a freelance journalist for 15 years, drove me to the airport. Halfway there, a siren and blinking lights startled us and a uniformed policeman motioned us to the side of the road. Images of life imprisonment and torture flickered through my mind, which wasn’t all that clear after the mojitos and salsa dancing of the previous night in the Old City. The cop walked up to the driver’s side and tipped his cap. He spoke to my friend for a minute or so, then smiled at us and left. “What was that about?” I asked. “He noticed my license plate is hanging loose and he didn’t want me to lose it. But mostly he wanted to wish us a Happy International Women’s Day. All police officers are instructed to pass this greeting on to every woman they meet today. Some police state, eh?” Flying through the clouds, back to the powerful neighbor to the north, I recalled an afternoon I’d spent in the small town of Remedios, one of Cuba’s oldest, dating from 1514. Its labyrinthine streets were created to deter pirates’ attacks. Trying to find my way back to the main plaza and my bus, I asked an elderly woman for directions. Ana, a widow, invited me into her home. Inside her cozy and spotless house, she served me a glass of ice water, the best refreshment she could provide. Since my Spanish is miniscule, we each sat in a rocking chair and rocked together for a while in silence. Finally when it was time to leave, we hugged. “Hermanas,” she said. I repeated, “Hermanas.” “Sisters.” On the plane home, I was reading Christa Garcia’s novel, Dreaming in Cuban, about three generations of Cuban women, a family divided geographically and politically by the Cuban revolution and the United States embargo. How many millions of lives are disrupted by political and economic differences—even on a relatively small bit of land in the middle of the sea. A Cuban-American who had been visiting his mother, leaned over and said to me with tears in his eyes, “Cuba, que es linda, non!” I nodded.

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. Family Tajikistan It was June 2000. The Taliban were still in power in Afghanistan. Their treatment of women seemed to me the ultimate in man’s inhumanity to women--imprisoned in their houses, denied education or ability to work, forced marriages, beaten and even stoned to death-- and I wanted to do something to help. While I was living and teaching college in France, I met a group of Afghan women who were political refugees. One of them said, “We’re organizing a conference for Afghan women in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, just on the Afghan border. Can you assist us?” Paris was in the full glorious bloom of early summer, all around me were color and flowers, women in their summer dresses, leisurely meals at sidewalk cafes. I’d be swapping this for a Soviet style grey cinder block experience. None of us were quite sure what awaited us there. Along with some French women, we worked out the complex details of visas and flight routes, stopping overnight in Moscow en route to Dushanbe. I was apprehensive about entering an area of the world that was very much a war zone but my colleagues assured me that if things seemed to be going awry we would leave quickly. Once there we were to meet with over 300 Afghan women who had escaped across the Afghan-Tajik border. Our goal was to help them write up “A Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women,” based on United Nations’ documents. We hoped that major elements of our work would eventually be incorporated into the soon to be created Afghan Constitution and that our Declaration would be signed by world leaders, including Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton. Upon our arrival from Paris, via Moscow, at the tiny Dushanbe airport, several hundred Afghan school children in red, gold, and purple traditional embroidered clothing, as well as women and men, greeted my friends and me with roses and floods of tears. One woman threw her arms around me. “We are so happy to see you. We thought no one knew this was happening, that no one cared about us.” For the next five days, we met in a large conference room, jammed with hundreds of women and a sprinkling of men, in our simple cement block hotel. “Persecution of women is a method to install terrorism in order to paralyze society, to create a submissive society,” Khalida Messaoudi, Deputy from the Algerian government opened the conference with these words. A charismatic woman, in her early forties, her slight build belied the power of her on-going work for women’s rights. Proceedings moved slowly as all speeches and statements had to be translated from Dari, the North Afghanistan language, to French and vice versa. A tiny air-conditioning unit in one corner of the room made no impression on the more than one hundred degree humid air. I sat steaming in my dark yellow tunic top and long skirt. The Afghan women in patterned grey, black and brown long dresses with contrasting red and gold headscarves didn’t even seem to perspire. These women who were attending the conference were of sufficient education and economic backgrounds that they had been able to escape across the border. We learned later that hundreds of their less fortunate sisters inside Afghanistan had received word of our conference and met secretly to sign the petition, organize, and plan further rebellion. The burqa, the total body and head drape prescribed by the Taliban, makes an excellent covering for transporting secret messages within the women’s community, as well as food and ammunition to their men at the front. After a short speech I gave as an American educator and writer concerned about the Afghan situation, people lined up to speak with me. As one of the three Americans at the conference, people expected that I could work miracles. Their desperation made me wish that I could. “Please, help us; my family in Afghanistan is starving.” “My brother needs eye surgery. Can you help us get him to a hospital in France or the U.S.?” “My sisters and mother have been taken prisoner by the Taliban. Please help me find them.” “ Why can’t America stop Pakistan from continuing to fund the Taliban?” I met almost round the clock with women professors, doctors, engineers and computer scientists. Their stories revealed to me what the civil society of Afghanistan has been and can be once again. Western news coverage of Afghanistan generally presents a picture of illiterate warlords and draped women which makes it easy for us to dismiss their situation as hopeless. However, earlier, into the sixties, Afghanistan was a progressive society. Women’s equal rights were guaranteed by the Afghan constitution. In pre-Taliban Afghanistan, women, at least in the urban centers, were educated and active participants in the society. They comprised fifty percent of the civil administration, seventy percent of the teachers, forty percent of the physicians, and had fifteen percent representation in the highest legislative body in Afghanistan—a larger number than the United States. One afternoon outside the meeting hall, the face of one woman especially intrigued me. As I looked at her on that sweltering day, Sophia formed a slight figure, probably in her twenties, in a black dress and coat, her gaunt face and dark hair peeping out from under her black and tan headscarf. Her large eyes had a tragic, almost hypnotic stare. I introduced myself with simple French and English. As we talked a bit, Sophia explained her situation: “My sister died three months ago. My husband is in southern Tajikistan trying to find work. I am living with my brother-in-law and taking care of his three children.” Before we parted, she invited me to dinner that evening at her family’s home. Not thinking about possible risks, the opportunity to spend time with a family and get away from the hotel where we were staying appealed to me and I accepted. About 8 p.m., her brother-in-law, Mohammed picked me up at my hotel. Dressed in tan slacks and a white shirt, he explained that his business, exporting flour and sugar, enabled him to support his family and escape from Afghanistan over the border into Tajikistan. Making our way along the dimly lit, empty streets, as we neared each intersection, Mohammed flattened the gas pedal to the floor and we flew past the police who were stationed on each of the four corners. “They are out each evening and stop anyone they feel might give them a good bribe.” A breakaway state from the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan’s supposed democracy is at best corrupt and at worst very much a police state. After about ten minutes, we parked beside a Soviet block-style cement apartment house. We walked up three flights of uneven and broken stairs in the pitch black. Sophia, who met us out front, held fast to my hand and guided me up one step at a time. “No, there are no lights,” they apologized. The sweat was running off me in the heat. It occurred to me that I hadn’t told anyone from our group where I was going. We’d been warned not to wander around in the town at night. People were living under desperate conditions here. Was I about to be kidnapped? I thought about turning and running back down the stairs. But where would I go? I had no idea how to get back to the hotel. Instead the door opened to a brightly lit and spacious apartment, clean but sparsely furnished with several pieces of overstuffed black velvet chairs and a couch. A tiny elderly woman, hunched over with osteoporosis but still spry and cheerful, whom they introduced as “Apa,” or Grandma, planted kisses on both my cheeks. They all ushered me in, the children kissing and hugging me. We sat in the living room and talked. For a moment, now and then, a wave of intense grief would cover one face or another. Then that person would rejoin us in the moment, hospitable toward this new friend, eager to enjoy some momentary pleasure. “Apa” brought out platters of her special chicken kebobs, along with the ubiquitous and delicious Afghan rice dish, a mixture of raisins, lamb, nuts, and local spices, accompanied by fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, and watermelon. No one bothered about the flies crawling on the chicken nor the ants on the watermelon. These people have been through so much, as refugees of war, bereft of their sister, wife, and mother, yet they relish moments of love and happiness, perhaps more than many of us remember to do. After our meal, “Apa” settled onto a couch and with strong arms and hands pulled her twelve-year-old grandchild, Leda, into her lap. The grandmother wore a gauzy white head covering and was dressed in a neat black and white patterned dress. Her body was strong and wiry, her skin smooth, her eyes surrounded by dark circles. She seemed ancient, and I was surprised to learn that she was only seventy. For more than twenty years, she had lived under war: first Soviet attacks, then anarchy, now totalitarianism and exile. The children were very bright, cheerful, self-confident and enjoyed showing off their English to me. They wore the typical jeans or pedal pushers and teeshirts like any child in the USA or Europe. Sophia’s dark hair was pulled back in a bun and she wore a simple black dress. The twelve year old, Leda and I seemed to feel comfortable with each other, exchanging little winks and smiles. Our conversation flowed easily, talking about their current life and the lives they left behind as well as some of their pleasures like music and reading. They asked about my life and family. When they learned my family had been dead for some years, that I was single and had no children, their eyes misted over with sadness. “You must be lonely,” they said. After a few minutes, Leda took my hand. “Take me home with you. Please adopt me.” I smiled, thinking she was teasing, but when I looked up at her family’s faces I could see that they all approved of the idea. “Then you won’t be alone,” Sophia said. I told them I was very touched but didn’t know if I could do this. As I was leaving, they pressed various gifts into my hands, including a beautiful woven blue and brown scarf. “To remember us.” "I’ll send you gifts from the States,” I promised. “Sometimes packages get through,” they said. As I flew back to Paris and the following year returned to the United States, I continued to carry with me not only the scarf but a memory of how love and human fortitude exist all over the globe in areas we barely know exist.  

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I am also not guaranteeing you may not be at risk or sometimes feel a bit odd and alone, order Tramadol online c.o.d. When I was chloroformed and robbed on a midnight train in Ferrara, Online Tramadol without a prescription, Italy, maybe it would have been easier to have been traveling with someone. But actually my wonderful and hospitable friends in southern Italy, my next port in the storm, soothed away most of my cares with some good pasta and wine, as well as loaning me some cash and helping me get replacement credit cards, Buy Tramadol Without Prescription. Once at New Year's in Guatemala City, fast shipping Tramadol, an obnoxious small hotel owner gave away my room--in which I was already living--to a drunken, Tramadol canada, mexico, india, nasty friend of hers when there was not another hotel room to be found in the whole city, so I had to swallow my rage and pride and share my room with this chain-smoking harridan. Possibly if I had been with a man there in macho-land this experience would not have befallen me, Tramadol pictures. On the other hand, Tramadol without a prescription, maybe it would have and on top of finding ourselves homeless--because we wouldn't have been able to share the room with another woman--I would possibly have had an enraged or whining male person on my hands.

What am I saying here. Buy Tramadol Without Prescription, I'm not knocking the joys and security of home and hearth. My own nest in San Francisco is very important to me and I cocoon away a good part of every year there. Family, friends, true--even semi-true love--yes, wonderful. But we all pays our money and takes our choice. I'll pay my single supplement, anytime.
© Diane LeBow

Published in Skirt Magazine, May 2005.

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Buy Ultram Without Prescription, 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, order Ultram from United States pharmacy, Ultram australia, uk, us, usa, I quickly made arrangements to go. Intrigued by Greek and Roman history and culture, buying Ultram online over the counter, Ultram overnight, when I heard that Libya had such pristine Greek and Roman archaeological remains, I almost flew over to Tripoli on my own adrenaline, Ultram price. After Ultram, I was not disappointed. First of all, effects of Ultram, Ultram steet value, in spite of what you might read in the American press, Libya is one of the safest countries to visit, order Ultram no prescription. Khadafi is eager to develop a vigorous tourist trade and urges his citizens to welcome all visitors, especially Americans, Buy Ultram Without Prescription. Cheap Ultram no rx, One of the benefits of a rigorous central authority is that streets are usually much safer than back home in the good old USA. There is very little crime and no visible poverty, ordering Ultram online. Ultram forum, Because of Libya's oil wealth, the government gives each citizen a monthly stipend, Ultram recreational, Buy Ultram online cod, as well as universal health care and free education through university for qualified students”including the opportunity to study abroad. Khadafi has actually been described as a feminist and, where can i buy cheapest Ultram online, Is Ultram safe, unlike most other Moslem leaders, maintains a society in which women share almost equal rights with men, Ultram results. Buy Ultram Without Prescription, They work, drive cars, walk around freely, attend schools and universities, and have protection under the law. Online buying Ultram, Although most do wear scarves on their heads, they are not required to remain covered, doses Ultram work. Ultram photos, Before joining my group tour, I spent several days on my own in Tripoli and found the Libyans among the friendliest and most helpful people of anywhere I've visited, Ultram duration. Where can i order Ultram without prescription, Individuals offered to guide me”not for any payment, but simply as my hosts”through the intricacies of the Old City, buy cheap Ultram. Herbal Ultram, Men were polite everywhere I went, eager to meet an American and to show off their few English phrases, about Ultram.

There was so much to see”from Leptis Magna, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world, to Apollonia and Cyrene, which rivaled Athens in size and importance during the height of the Ancient Greece's splendor, Buy Ultram Without Prescription. Effects of Ultram, Sophocles and Aristotle visited frequently and spent time there.

As I wandered through Greek theatres and Roman baths, generic Ultram, Ultram gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, I was alone. Often there were barely a dozen other visitors as I walked through the Calderium, ordering Ultram online, Ultram pics,  sat on Roman toilets for a photo op, and marveled at the sea coast locations of temples to Zeus and Athena, purchase Ultram online no prescription. My Ultram experience, Walking along at Leptis Magna, I noticed a coin lying in the dust, Ultram price, coupon. Buy Ultram Without Prescription, When I picked it up and showed it to my guide, he said, "Oh, Roman coins are all over the place here. Online buying Ultram, They don't have much value." I tossed it back into the soft dust, hoping other tourists would leave it for future visitors to enjoy, doses Ultram work. Ultram recreational, A long day's drive south took us to the ancient trading town of Ghadarmis, with its mysterious granaries carved into the rocky hillsides, rx free Ultram. Buy Ultram from canada, Off we went then, with our four-wheel-drive vehicles out into the desert for several days, buy Ultram online cod, Ultram schedule, accompanied by Tuareg guides”gentle and hospitable nomads sometimes known as the Blue Men. They became my special friends who prepared meals and taught me how to wrap a turban properly. (Not just a fashion statement, that turban protected my entire face when the sand and locusts blew.) When my cranky camel objected to my leaning over to take a photo, he bucked me off and two of the camel drivers caught me in mid-air, Buy Ultram Without Prescription. I got my shot and didn't drop my camera.

I am happy to report that the Libyan desert is perfect if you suffer, as I do, from arthritis. I rode my camel and hiked in the sand for hours with few or no aches. I was also delighted that our Libyan security guard, a handsome 30-year-old man, mooned over me during the entire trip. Buy Ultram Without Prescription, Nice to know some of my old stuff is still intact.

When it came time to leave, our Tuareg friends loaded us up with gifts”including the best gift of all, their email addresses. I am still in touch with them and look forward to a return visit.

Diane LeBow is San Francisco-based travel writer who has published stories in Salon.com, Via Magazine, numerous national newspapers, and several anthologies. A pioneer of college women's studies programs, she received her Ph.D. from the University of California and is currently working on a book. Diane was not traveling with High Country Passage when she visited Libya.

©Diane LeBow, published in High Country Passage Travel.

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Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, 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. Japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal, 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, order Zelnorm online c.o.d, 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, Online Zelnorm without a prescription, 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, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. Familiar symptoms followed: crazy heart rate, a wash of sweat over my body, canada, mexico, india. I did a quick survey of my life, past, Zelnorm brand name, present and future, and found it sadly wanting.

I was high in the Corsican mountains exploring the 1400 B.C. Bronze Age archaeological site of Pianu di Levie and had decided to stop in the sole phone booth to access my messages back in California, about Zelnorm. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, After two months in France and Corsica, I was to be heading home in five days, and then on to a remote area in Hawaii to spend a few weeks with my lover of the last six months, a man I had known for the past three years. I'd been looking forward to this visit, to the love and coziness, Zelnorm without prescription, to being cared for, after what had been a rigorous and lonely two months. I stood in the phone booth with my tickets, reservations and dreams and wondered what to do, buy Zelnorm online cod.

My booth was in the sun, surrounded by the village's barren and dusty tiny plaza. Where can i cheapest Zelnorm online, In order not to suffocate, I held the folding door of the booth open with one hip. I called my 88-year-old writer friend, Dorothy Carrington, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. These days, I seem to be collecting a certain kind of role model: older women writers all over the world, Zelnorm used for, living well and creatively on their own. Dorothy tops my list. Zelnorm steet value, During the next few days, I had been planning to visit her at her home in Ajaccio, Corsica's largest town and Napoleon's birthplace. Without pausing for a breath after hearing my romantic woes, order Zelnorm no prescription, she said: "That's not at all surprising. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, Men are hunters. Only one in four is at all capable of making any kind of emotional commitment. Zelnorm maximum dosage, And in any case, you wouldn't want a man around all the time anyway."

"What about sex?"

"Ah, well, yes, order Zelnorm online overnight delivery no prescription. That is a problem. When I turned 70, Zelnorm coupon, my desire for sex just walked out the door, and I've been much more at peace ever since. So, are we going to get together?"

"What about lunch?"

"That's too much, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. What I really want is a banana split." This stated with an English aristocratic "baanahna." I was already beginning to cheer up.

The next day I found myself on the white sand beach near the fishing village of Campomoro, buying Zelnorm online over the counter, looking out at southwest Corsica's translucent turquoise sea. The blank sentinel eyes of a 14th century Genoese watch tower oversee this area of the Gulf of Valinco. Buy Zelnorm without prescription, A voice interrupted my solitude: "You seem to be quite triste; perhaps I can cheer you up." I looked up. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, The voice was attached to a tall, olive-skinned, hazel-eyed young Corsican. "My name is Christian. May I bring my towel over here?"

As I explained my situation to him, he came to a rapid conclusion, generic Zelnorm. "You must stay on here for two more weeks. There's a phone booth just above by the cafe. I'll help you call the airlines and we'll change your flights, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. Zelnorm reviews, In fact, I'm not even using my apartment these weeks; please feel free to stay there."

I awoke the next day to birds' songs. Below me the sea was blue and calm. The nightmare had passed, Zelnorm price. The wrenching of flesh from flesh. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, On another isle 10,000 miles to the west, 12 hours earlier in time, the volcanoes still bubbled and smoked and exploded. He slept, Order Zelnorm from United States pharmacy, perhaps dreaming guilty dreams of me. Here the volcanoes were calm, mature, covered with green maquis, after Zelnorm, smoothed by the centuries. But still the form of the volcano remained. Purchase Zelnorm online no prescription, The potential was there, of passion, eruption. The bells of Propriano sounded in the distance, below in the town, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. My new lover arrived, Zelnorm dangers, bearing fresh warm croissants.

"How many lovers have you had?" he asked me. Where can i buy Zelnorm online, "I don't know."

"More than me, I'll bet."

Little does he know, I thought.

"Maybe finally you are meeting the right one." He was charming and convincing and a wonderful antidote, about Zelnorm. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, My injection theory of recovering from a broken heart worked once again: Make love with another man, and like swallowing an antihistamine pill, you begin to recover. Replacement juices and hormones do their job.

My Corsican adventure was not the first time a rendezvous in a phone booth had sent me reeling. Order Zelnorm no prescription, My attraction to and fear of phone booths began years ago. In 1961, I was a senior at a women's college on the East Coast and living in dormitory housing. There was a single phone booth for about 30 women, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. When a call came in from a man, Zelnorm from canada, whoever answered the phone would shout up to your room, "A phone call." If it was a woman's voice on the line, Where to buy Zelnorm, they would say, "A call."

One evening the promising words "phone call" summoned me to the phone. I had been dating an Irish Catholic man, Kerry Keegan, purchase Zelnorm online no prescription, who attended an Ivy League men's college in New England. I was in love with Kerry -- and I was going through a pregnancy scare. Zelnorm without a prescription, A few days earlier I had called him to tell him that my period was late. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, My hope was that he was calling me. Instead a strange male voice identified itself: "This is Father Fitzpatrick. Kerry has shared your news with me. I am sure a smart college girl like yourself will know how to take care of this problem and not upset a fine family like the Keegans." Clearly my Jewishness had placed me somewhere in the category of an untouchable in those intense anti-Semitic days, Zelnorm samples. The phone booth was suddenly stifling as I hung up and dragged myself back to my room.

Other times phone booths yield happy surprises, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. When Abdallah Sidi called me in Paris from Tunis to say "Je t'aime, Zelnorm coupon, " I had expected neither his call nor the message but was very pleased. We had met just a few weeks before when I had spent 10 days at a Tunisian coastal resort. During gray rainy Parisian winters when sun becomes an atavistic memory, Tunisia is an inexpensive and sunny getaway for the French, Zelnorm pics.

There in Tunisia, at a Club Med-style resort near Hammamet, Purchase Zelnorm for sale, a creative maitre d' had seated me at the same table with probably the only single man in the dining room. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, Abdallah, an economist with the Tunisian government, was staying at the hotel while conducting government business in the nearby villages. He spoke French well but with a Tunisian accent. His English was another story. He used wonderful literal translations from Tunisian like "I have the nose" to explain that he was getting a cold and had congested sinuses, Zelnorm from canadian pharmacy. We talked during meals, met for after-dinner coffee, Ordering Zelnorm online, became friends and finally something more.

Americans take phone booths for granted, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. In Tunis, the only public phones are in the crowded post office. Waiting in line to call can sometimes take an hour, Zelnorm natural. Then, at least in the days when I knew Abdallah Sidi, Zelnorm price, coupon, you were limited to three minutes per call. So when he phoned me in Paris, recalling the crowds and the heat in that area of Tunis, I appreciated what he was going through, Zelnorm dangers. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, I pictured the old souk, the market place, just behind the post office, the same souk where French friends and I had gotten trapped during a flash flood and had to pay a local boy to lead us out, flood water up to my knees, clutching over my head the maroon and gold woven dress I had just purchased.

"I want you to come spend the summer with me in Tunis," he said. "Friends have made an apartment available. There won't be any furniture but that's not a big problem." I thought about sleeping on the floor in a non-air-conditioned apartment in summertime Tunis. Abdallah was a very nice man, intelligent, handsome, divorced and intense. He had introduced me to what seemed a rather kinky aspect of Muslim lovemaking: silence, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. "You must make no sound because Allah can hear. When you are satisfied, you may say, 'OK.' But only that." Back in Paris, I had been thinking about him a lot and missing him.

"I want us to be married. We have to speak quickly because my three minutes are almost up." My mind whirled. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, "Click, click, buzz," went the dial tone as we were cut off. As I hung up, I sighed a small thank you to the Tunisian phone system and began planning my letter of adieu.

Sometimes phone booths aren't for phone calls. I discovered this while taking a cruise with my mother. She was a traveler; in her last years and failing health, she found cruises a means to keep up her wanderings. As claustrophobic and sedate as I found them, I accompanied her on several, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. One was unmercifully long: three weeks from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal and up to San Francisco. A man who sat at the next table from us and I eyed each other, spoke, danced and finally tried to find a private place. He was sharing his cabin with his young son and I was sharing mine with my mother. After midnight, wandering around the ship, we discovered an odd room off the gambling casino that, strangely enough, had a phone booth in it. Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription, The room appeared to be deserted so we started to hug and kiss. Eventually I ended up on the little seat in the phone booth. Enjoying ourselves immensely, we burst out laughing when a member of the crew started to enter the room, saw us and grew wide-eyed. "Is everything all right here?" he asked.

And now I sat by the Gulf of Valinco, thinking about loves that ended and began in public phone booths. I'm all right now, I thought after reflecting on my current situation, Buy Zelnorm Without Prescription. Laurel blossoms fell on me from the surrounding trees. My head had cleared; Corsican seas are soothing, blue and full of wonder. I was on Prospero's island -- and there wasn't a phone booth around for miles.

salon.com | June 18, 1999

About the writer

Diane LeBow is a freelance writer and community college professor who divides her time between San Francisco, Paris and Corsica -- when not on the road.

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