Growing up in the 1960’s, one generation removed, World War II deeply informed my sense of both past and present. My father and almost all the men of his generation had signed up or were drafted. It was just the thing to do, whether it was to go and fight Nazis or because they realized the neighborhood corner was empty so they might as well go off to where their buddies were. They were spread out from England to France to Burma to New Guinea. Some guarded prisoners, some worked on intelligence, some were on aircraft carriers, and some stormed the beaches of northern France on D-Day.Read the rest of this entry »
Random Thoughts on Travel, Education, Health, and the World in General
Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport is typical of many airports in the “developing” world—one terminal and one carousel for our bags (AND the bags of another two flights coming in right after us). After an hour of chaos, we found our last piece of luggage and boarded our bus into Havana.
The first thing I noticed were the old American cars. I recalled these from my previous trip to Cuba, in 1989. Surely, I thought, they could not still be on the road–at least not in the same numbers.
But there they were, by the dozens, clogging the traffic flow, held together with spare parts and Cuban ingenuity: Chevys, Cadillacs and Buicks, spewing diesel smoke in all of their boxy, 1950’s glory.
And there was something else striking about the cityscape: it was completely devoid of billboards. No public promotion of soft drinks, beauty products and/or the services of personal injury lawyers.
Instead, I saw large political signs proclaiming “Socialism O Muerte” (Socialism or Death) or “Con Cuba Siempre” (With Cuba Always); most with images of Fidel Castro and/or Che Guevara, along with an assortment of other revolutionary “heroes.”Read the rest of this entry »
On the beaches and in the hip cafes of Tel Aviv, it is easy to escape the feeling of life at the edge of a precipice. Israelis refer to this modern Mediterranean city as “the bubble”: a place where one can imagine an Israel of secularism and safety.Read the rest of this entry »
As she scanned my passport, the teenage Israeli soldier stared through the bulletproof glass that separated us. Looking down at my photo and then up again, she finally waved me through.
On the other side of “The Wall,” taxis waited. I picked one out of a clump and haggled over the fare. (“It’s fucking hard here man” my driver said, as he demanded an exorbitant price. I bargained it down, all the while assuring him that I could see it was “fucking hard” here). He drove me to my hotel, the Paradise.Read the rest of this entry »
I first traveled to Burma in 1996, co-leading an educational tour with a group of eighteen students from New College of California. Burma had just opened to the west after thirty years and Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected president, who had been under house arrest by the military regime since her election in 1988, had just been released.Read the rest of this entry »
Flying out of San Francisco, I imagined that all of my worries would simply disappear when I took off for the “mystical” land of Peru. I had recently been through a few travails, including an emotional business divorce and looked forward to some relief. But instead, I became aware that they traveled with me, like close friends who would not say goodbye. With this distressing realization, coupled with the frustration of having my plane ticket canceled for the flight out of Lima, I finally arrived in Cusco, irritated and exhausted.Read the rest of this entry »
The small Pugeot, gears grinding, wound its way into the high desert mountains. Leaving Shiraz, the City of Poets, of Sadi and Hafez, we were headed to Yasuj, the half way mark to Isfahan. The scenery had changed dramatically, from dry rolling hills to snow capped peaks and as Ali, my new guide and driver, sped along the narrow roads, sheer vertical drops only inches away, I looked across the landscape and imagined the armies of Alexander and Genghis Khan passing through these narrow valleys, camped along the powerful rivers below, then perched above, on the high ridges, waiting in ambush. I sensed the ancient footsteps of a million men and women.Read the rest of this entry »