Travel Advice Dr. J Wishes Someone Had Given Her

As I slide closer to my 60th birthday on January 24th, 2013 there are a few travel-type things I wish I had known when I was the age of the M.L.T.S. readers. That said, it is still likely that you will have to figure it out the finer details as you develop your own travel style.

Passport

Dr. J: Guard your passport with your life!

Guard your passport with your life. Watching my friend go through the hassle of having her passport replaced in Nairobi after she had her handbag snatched was a very long and very dull experience. The best option is an over-the-body document pouch that you wear under your clothes. The round-the-neck ones are okay, but the pouch is sturdier and makes it harder for thieves to rob you. Stash a photocopy of your passport in your suitcase. And, as a further back-up, scan a copy to an email address you can download from anywhere. Continue reading

Miranda Kerr’s Got the Rx for Your Relationship Problems

Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom

Read on for Miranda Kerr’s advice on keeping your man interested. (Barf bags are not included.)

Dunno how I missed this earlier, but apparently, Miranda Kerr — she of the Victoria’s Secret fame who married Orlando Bloom and refused to let him leave the room while delivering his spawn — shared her relationship advice on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson earlier this month.

“My grandma said, ‘Men are very visual, so don’t forget that,'” Miranda said. “She said, ‘Every day, put a little makeup on, put on some nice underwear, and you’ll keep your husband.'”

I know you’ve heard the argument against such sexist notions before. It’s insanely ridiculous to tell an audience that you can “keep” your man if you look good enough, as if to say that should he cheat on you or break up with/divorce you, it’s your own damn fault. Yeah, you lazy good-for-nothing opposite-of-a-hottie.

Well, the quote kind of got Cosmopolitan’s Korin Miller wondering. In her blog post on December 5, she posed the question: “[W]hat do guys do for us to bring the sexy?”

She continued, writing, “We mean, most try to seduce us in grotty old boxers and have zero qualms about downing garlic bread before a makeout session, while we repeatedly whip out matching lingerie and avoid stinky foods to keep things hot.”

Honestly, I don’t even make that much of an effort. Sure, I dress up for work, and I take pride in having beautiful hair, but I also love garlic more than any other spice on this green earth. And he of the “grotty old boxers” doesn’t get super fancy lingerie because, guess what? I don’t get freebies from my day job as a super model. I can’t afford $6-a-pop lace panties. Sorry.
So yeah, he’s just got to love me the way I am. If he’s not turned on by the sight of my tight, plump butt in a light blue cotton panty, then it’s not on me. So please, Miranda Kerr, you who probably wake up looking like a goddess, shut up about how we mere mortals can keep our men. Ugh.
-Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Why These 4 Arguments Against Increased Gun Regulation Make No Sense

Image

My intelligent cousin, trained as a social worker, shared the above meme on Facebook today. Normally I agree with her views and the things she shares. Today, I disagree. At least with the statement that “Guns are not the problem.”

Unless you just came back to sea level from an underwater mission, you’ve heard about the massacre Friday in Newtown, Conn., where a seriously disturbed 20-year-old murdered 26 people and then himself. After a lot of shock, people started talking about how this should be the impetus for changes in gun regulation and safety laws. Of course, those who feverishly cherish their guns and their precious right to bear arms got all up in arms about the argument. “This isn’t a time for politics,” we were told.

But it most certainly is the time to talk politics. And gun control. And mental health. And parenting. And social responsibility. Here are the reasons given by those who do not want increased gun regulation and safety laws: Continue reading

We Want Birth Control for All Without a Prescription

Birth Control

We’re arguing that birth control SHOULD be available over the counter.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended that birth control should be available over the counter. This professional organization, which is comprised of doctors specializing in reproductive health, argues that this policy change would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. Approximately half of all births in the United States are unintended, as it has been for the last 20 years, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Such a move would, as I see it, benefit lots of people. First, it would benefit teenage girls who want to be on birth control but have trouble getting access to it without parental approval and young women in their 20s who experience gaps in birth control because of its unaffordability. (This puts them at particular risk of unintended pregnancy.) And it would benefit women of all other ages who are subject to human error on their gynecologist’s end.

It would also benefit taxpayers who foot the $11-12 million bill racked up by all of those unintentional births.

Providing low- or no-cost birth control has been proven to significantly reduce the number of births. As was shown in a recent study published by the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, the birth rate among 9,000 girls and women who were given free access to birth control was found to be 6.3 per 1,000 rather than the national rate of 34.1 per 1,000.

As a teen, I wanted birth control to control my periods, which came at an unbearable two weeks apart. For whatever reason, my mother didn’t seem to want me on the pill, even though she’d always said that if I wanted to have sex I should come to her. And this wasn’t even so I could have an awkward, sweaty three minutes in “heaven.” I just wanted four weeks without seeing red.

So a friend and I went to the clinic at nearby Einstein Hospital after school, where they told us we’d have to come back at 8 a.m. on a Friday to get in the queue for a walk-in appointment. There was no way I could do that. The school had an automated call system to notify your parents if you were late or absent. I would have been found out!

And so I didn’t get on the pill until I was in college. Thank goodness I hadn’t had sex before that. But for those who are also afraid of their parents finding out their actually having sex, making birth control available over the counter is a really smart move. 

Even after you’re out of your parents’ house, it can be hard to afford birth control, which can run as much as $60 for a month’s supply. And despite every uninformed man’s humble opinion that a $5 version of the pill works the same as a $60 version, it’s not that simple. For whatever complicated chemical reason, a woman can react poorly to different brands.

This can be a problem when there’s a mix-up at her gynecologist’s office and the wrong pill is ordered and the pharmacist can’t reach anyone to fix the problem because it’s a Saturday. Making the pill available over the counter would eliminate all of this and would allow our menfolk to rest easy that their wives won’t turn into a raging, horny mess with whom a conversation requires something much “like navigating through a minefield” and whose aches can be soothed “with a couple pelvic shakes.”

And let’s consider how making birth control easily accessible, which reduces the birth rate, would allow more American women to find financially stable jobs before they find themselves with child.

As the ACOG reports, “Access and cost issues are common reasons why women either do not use contraception use or have gaps in use.” And of course, making birth control accessible over the counter will not eliminate human error on the part of the sexually active person – indeed, we’ve all heard that abstinence is the only surefire birth control – but it is reprehensible not to make birth control as easy to obtain as possible. It’s really just plain good sense.

- Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Learning to Travel as “Other”

JODY HANSON, PhD
M.L.T.S. Contributing Editor – Travel

Forget being kidnapped in Pakistan, almost dying from cerebral malaria in Nigeria or crossing the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The most terrifying experience of my life involved walking into the Grade 9 classroom in Watrous — a small town of two thousand people — in central Canada. It happened in January 1968, when the second term began, a few days short of my 14th birthday. The chilly reception rivaled the outside temperatures of minus 30C.

In this conservative, provincial town, strangers rated in the same league as door-to-door salespeople  — dodgy. And anyone who hadn’t started kindergarten with the class didn’t really count. My initial reaction included temper tantrums and screaming fits that I wanted to go back to the even smaller town where my family lived before the move. Eventually, I settled in and started to carve out a niche of friends. Some had been born there and others, like me, moved to town later. By the time I graduated three and a half years later, a pattern of living as “other” — the outsider who never quite fits — developed and it served me well in my live of travels.

Those of us who suffered the new-kids-on-the-block syndrome  — and there will be M.L.T.S. readers who fit into this group  — shared memories of difficulty, battle-fatigue and isolation. It shaped our lives and characters, forever, for better or worse, as do so many early experiences. For some, like me, it proved the best thing that ever happened; for others it bordered on soul-destroying. Rather than chose the path less travelled, it became my nature to grab a machete and hack my way through the jungle. Ordained perhaps, but the move at 14 sealed my fate.

The introspective experience of the acceptance-by-peers struggle turned into a determination to play by my own rules. To coordinate my own game plan and to control my hedonistic destiny.  Consequently, I often quip that I “forgot” to get married, have children or save any money. But it wasn’t until I started to reflect on my life that I realized how pivotal a point the move played. According to my mother, I was the only one affected by the relocation. My younger siblings adjusted.

In my early 20s I bumped into some of my classmates who expressed concern about my choices. I taught on Indian reserves in northern Canada and took university classes during the summer. By their estimation, the only thing that counted was to get married and have children. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to the reserve. Then, when I got tired of the cold, set out for West Africa for two years. The next time I became bored with life in northern Canada, I did a stint in China. It was in 1986-87 when people still wore blue Mao suits. In 1992-93 I headed out on a round-the-world trip through 29 countries, a present to myself for finishing my PhD.

When visiting my parents 20 years after the encounter with my classmates, I ran into the same women and they asked for an update. I told them I planned to stop in Tahiti to do a bit of scuba diving on my way back to teach at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. The looks they shot me sent a clear messages: Bitch!

It started on the reserve, where I’d quickly discovered that if you lived and worked in other cultures it cut you a wide swath – such a lovely prairie expression – as you aren’t judged by the same values and standards. So, with the Cree nobody said much about my iconoclastic behavior. In Nigeria  —after being socially reconstructed as the daughter of the Chief of Qua to help explain why I fit into a bush village  — I roared around on my motorcycle and frequented the village bar. A local woman would have been totally ostracized for even considering it. In China, the wei goren (foreigners) attracted attention for their expert status. Traipsing through Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe on the global jaunt further enhanced the perks of living outside the culture into which I’d been born.

The closest I ever came to leading the “white middle-class lifestyle” happened when teaching at the university in New Zealand. I hated it. I gagged and got claustrophobia. But I escaped  — conveniently timed with when I got my New Zealand passport  — to head off to pursue creative self-employment. Subsequently, I ended up in Australia. My loudly declared objective in life involves never having a “real” job again.

At the end of 2008, during the financial meltdown, I decided to liquidate and move from Sydney to Casablanca, Morocco, with two suitcases and a carry-on. People questioned my sanity. How could I consider landing in a country I’d never visited, didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language and hadn’t have a job lined up? I snorted and said that if I could move to Watrous and survive at 14, it would be easy. And, by comparison, the move to Morocco was a cake-walk.

Meet Dr. J, M.L.T.S.’s New Contributing Travel Editor

I’m Dr. J (I actually have a PhD in adult education) — as I’m known to my advice-seeking friends — and I grew up to be one insufferable travel junkie. To date I’ve visited 102 countries, lived in eight — Canada, Nigeria, China, New Zealand, Australia, Morocco, Chile and Argentina — and hold passports in three.

My usual formula is to hunker down in a spot, use it as a base and get to know the locals. This embracing let’s-see-what-happens-next approach led to my becoming a princess in Nigeria, a godmother in China and a full-time writer/editor in Chile.

As I get older, however, my attention span for any one place is atrophying. It could be that I am becoming increasingly eccentric and want to see as many places as possible. Then again, it could be some sort of neurotic disorder. Either way, I really don’t care as the only things I collect is passport stamp after passport stamp. Space is a major consideration for me and I make sure everything I own fits into one suitcase, a carry-on and a diaper bag (more on that in another post). Nothing in storage for this bag-lady.

Returning to the topic of age, I turned 30 in Nigeria, 40 in Ethiopia and 50 in Mali. Although I invited over 500 people to my 50th in Timbuktu, only one showed up. What does that say about my social network?  Wimps!

I’m about to celebrate my 60th birthday at Victoria Falls, Zambia on January 24th, 2013. And, of course, you are all invited. After the sparse attendance at my 50th, the list of attendees has already sky-rocketed to five at this natural-wonder-of-the-world, so you will be in good company.

When I head out to southern Africa at the end of December, my plan is not to spend more than 90 days in a single country. That way, I don’t have to renew my tourist visa. And let’s face it, since I don’t need a trolley when I arrive at the airport, to move on is not a major undertaking. In fact, I require less luggage to live than the average person takes to go on holiday for two weeks.

So stay tuned to this regular blog spot. I promise to regale M.L.T.S. readers with stories of my travels, accounts of interesting people and tips on how to be a traveler, as opposed to a tourist.

Obama Gets Re-Elected, Our Vaginas Smile

In case you haven’t been following the election coverage – this just in: Women won. Last night we voted against “Mittens” Mitt Romney, the idea that rape is God’s plan and that we silly women shouldn’t be able to control our own bodies, including things like abortion and birth control. Just like the 55 percent of women (and 52 percent of men) who stood in 4 hour line-ups last night to vote for Obama, I agree that our reproductive rights are not negotiable – and I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow gender for the outcome of this election. Not only did we exercise our right to suffrage last night, but we banded together and stood up to patriarchy in a way that we never have before.

It’s true that I am not American – I am Canadian. But living close to the most powerful country in the world, I endured constant anxiety like the rest of my friends last night through Twitter feeds, Facebook statuses and news shows, just like for the many months leading up to the election. The whole day could be compared to being on too many energy drinks and sitting in a shopping cart while your friend pushed you through a parking lot. There were obstacles to be sure, such as the infamous voting machine that turned an Obama vote into a Romney vote. However, there were also moments that brought peace of mind: Much to my and seemingly everyone’s pleasure, Claire McCaskill legitimately shut down Todd Akin, putting him out of the senate.

And after Fox News loses its shit over Ohio and Romney took 87458 million years to concede after Ohio was called for Obama (@Aminatou tweeted: I just beat you and this is crazy but the election is over, so call me maybe? Mitt is on some real Pete Campbell shit right now #concede) he finally came out of his hole to give his concession speech, confirming our belief that Obama was clearly the better choice. “Besides Ann,” he told the world, “Paul was the best decision I ever made.” Romney also reiterated over and over the importance of prayer and that he would pray for Obama and the rest of America (because, you know, we clearly need more Mormon hate-filled-love). Oh, Mittens.

Of course, Obama completely rocked the podium:

Meghan McCain said today while co-hosting Anderson Live that she “cried a little in bed” after Obama was re-elected, but was happy that issues regarding equality were passed. Meghan may be a Republican, but she’s a 26-year-old Republican who is known for her support of controversial topics such as sex education, birth control and gay marriage (which was passed in 3 states: Maine, Maryland and Minnesota). Meghan also noted on Anderson Live that she was happy about the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts. “If I want to smoke weed, it’s nobody’s business.”

More news from last night:

  • We voted in the first disabled female veteran (Tammy Duckworth), the first Asian woman (Mazie Hirono), and the first open lesbian (Tammy Baldwin).
  • At least a record breaking number of 18 women will serve in the senate starting in 2013.
  • A woman sitting behind the president became famous for her hair style and may have started a new trend. #Flaghairlady

Lady Gaga even took time to post this Facebook status after her show in Columbia last night:

Lady Gaga: I JUST GOT OFF STAGE IN COLUMBIA!! CONGRATULATIONS MR. PRESIDENT Barack Obama We are so proud to be American tonight! YES!!! YES! YES!! we just couldn’t be happier my goodness, the joy when freedom prevails

And conragulations DENVER on your cannabis legislation. shante YOU STAY. And to Tammy Baldwin for being elected the first openly gay senator in the HISTORY of The United States.

But Gaga wasn’t the only one overseas to react to Obama’s victory. In a Huff Post slideshow, you can see people around the world celebrating, such as in China, Kenya and Russia.

How did you celebrate Obama’s victory last night? Let us know in the comments below.