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Nostalgia

Wild Rides in the Philippine Cordilleras

The rains come early to the Cordilleras this year and we watch as the waters rise from the river below. Slowly, inexorably, a few bushes disappear each day. Our food supplies dwindle. We’ve eaten more than half our sardines and two-thirds of our rice. The tempting coconuts are stuck up in their trees, the slick palm trunks…

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Yes, You Can Get Lost in the Amazon

I didn’t think I’d ever find my way out. The two children spoke a language I had never heard before. I tried Portuguese, and then used my hands in a clumsy version of charades. I even attempted to imitate a car on a road but their raised eyebrows hinted that they might have never seen either.…

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Of Discos and Serenos in Madrid

It started with the keys. Clanking, jiggling, each heavy skeleton banging against a clutch of loose weighty metal. Then clap, clap clap. We clapped our hands, at first lightly, then with the growing impatience of youth. We could hear the keys in the distance. He couldn’t be far. It was somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday…

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Lost in a Minefield in Mozambique

Roberto slammed on the brakes, pushing the Land Rover into a skid. I grabbed the safety bar and my thoughts drifted to the bright orange shoes I had begged my mother to buy me when I turned seven. My mother, so worried about my Africa trip, my mother, so clearly right about its dangers. “We’re lost,” the park ranger whispered, hysteria edging into…

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Great Zimbabwe: An Accidental Sunrise

I’m notorious for missing the sights. I’m the kind of traveler who manages to visit Niagara without seeing the Falls or Paris without climbing the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes it’s on purpose, because popular attractions can be excessively packaged, reduced to their lowest common denominator and devoid of discovery or excitement. At other times I simply get…

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The Bullet Ring: Asmara, Eritrea

I couldn’t take my eyes off her fingers. They were draped in bands of metal, dirty, gritty and dull, with scratches and bumps, uneven on the sides. Some were thin bands, others majestic constructs jutting into the air, ready to poke out an eye with the slightest gesture. She was northern European, her pale hair…

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Congo Lime Green

Not too long ago I was invited to run a one-week journalism workshop in Brazzaville, the ‘other’ Congo, the one Mobutu didn’t run into the ground. I remember a sea of expectant faces, everyone utterly dressed up as is often the case in more formal settings across Africa. “It’s a sign of respect,” my Nigerian friend…

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The Cuban Embargo: Memories of the Mouse that Roared

It was 1999 when I arrived on a two-month assignment to cover Cuba and my first thought as I left the airport was: “This country is a survivor.” Already into its fifth or sixth metamorphosis since the revolution overthrew a corrupt dictator, Cuba had become friends with the Soviet Union, survived the Eastern Bloc’s demise, crawled through the lean…

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Travel Nostalgia: The Way We Went

Be honest. If you’re over 50 you’ve said these words to yourself. “Travel was so much better/nicer/fun back then.” Back then before low-cost airlines scrunched us on one another’s laps or the online world revealed every destination’s secrets before we arrived. You know, back then when the No Smoking section was smaller than a folded handkerchief (all…

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