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 »
The air blew thick and steamy through the mini-van window. As we climbed steep mountain roads veiled in tropical fog, the exhaustion of the long journey from California to Bali weighed heavily upon me, the rice paddies passing before my eyes as distant as San Francisco cable cars. Flying into Denpassar Airport the night before, I had been quickly reminded that I was back in South Asia, in the so called “developing world”, as I waited for two hours to have my passport stamped, part of a chaotic herd moving imperceptively forward, the Indonesian officials as indifferent to the suffering, overheated tourists as those tourists were anxious to begin their beach holidays. So when I finally arrived at my hotel, tired but relieved to have a bed to fall into, I barely noticed the gentle waves brushing the shore just beyond my hotel window.
Read the rest of this entry »