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Honorary Mentions -- Women Write Stories to Inspire Other Women


No Laughing Matter

Written by Journeywoman:
Mary Smith
Ottawa, Canada

I was traveling in South East Asia and spending a couple of days in Ho Chí Minh City, Vietnam. I had just arrived and hadn’t yet adjusted to the stifling heat. As I walked around the city soaked with perspiration I spotted a pub set in a small traditional alleyway.

Deciding to quench my thirst I took a seat on the outdoor patio and gulped down a beer. As I sat on the patio I took in the impressive traditional house across from me, with its blue tiled roof curved towards the sky at four points.

Many people began to gather outside the house, each one dressed in formal clothes. They set up quite a celebration, with several large tables filled with food and drink.

From my time living in Korea years earlier, I knew all too well that the formal flower decorations they had placed outside the home were used to officially welcome someone to their new home.

As I continued quenching my thirst on the pub patio, joyful traditional music was played by a group of musicians to welcome the family. As a powerful drum beat could be heard with an electric guitar thrown into the mix, I started to bob my head to the music.

Between my dehydration and enjoying the rhythmic music, I quickly polished off two very large glasses of beer. Suddenly overcome with feelings of vacation freedom, and wanting to immerse myself in the culture, I began swaying to the music and then dancing.

After fifteen minutes of vigorous dancing in full view of the family, I turned to the woman working at the pub to remark what a great house-warming party the family was throwing. She looked at me in horror - and told me it was a funeral, and informed me that the place I had thought was an impressive home was actually a holy temple for the dead.

As I rushed out of the pub I passed the temple door and spotted the corpse lying in state - who I was sure was smirking at me.



A Women-Only Rolling Disco in Iran

Written by Journeywoman:
Helga Boom
Asse, Belgium

One of the most memorable impressions of my six weeks’ stay in Iran was my visit to the village of Abyaneh. Abyaneh is serenely situated up a hillside at the foot of 3899m high Mount Karkas. This village is recognized by Unesco for its antiquity and uniqueness. There are few motorized vehicles on its twisting climbing lanes of mud and stone. The ochre-coloured houses with lattice windows and wooden balconies are more than fascinating. The daily traditional dress of the local women is very different from the black tent-like chadors I encountered everywhere else in Iran.

However, for a low budget, single female backpacker such as me, this idyllic place was not easy to reach. Eighty-two kilometers to the north is the tourist town of Kashan. It was here that I was approached by a tourist guide offering me a shared taxi ride to Abyaneh. I took the offer but let the taxi return to Kashan without me as I wanted to stay longer in Abyaneh. The driver was worried and he emphasized that there would be no other transport leaving the village. At 3 pm I made a last stroll through the deserted lanes. At 4 pm I decided reluctantly that I really had to go. But how? I had been observing the access road earlier and cars were few and far between. Maybe my guide had been right.

Behind the parking lot I spotted a noisy bunch of black chador clad students standing beside a coach. I tried my luck. At first they looked at me suspiciously -- this western woman in a brown grandma dress and a bright orange headscarf. I approached the driver – the only male in the group because I thought he was the authority. He spoke no English and he ignored me. Still I was ushered into the bus and 'yes', they were going all the way to Kashan. Of the 30 passengers one miraculously spoke English (she was born in the Philippines and married to an Iranian man). These women were not students, but employees on a field trip from a hospital near the Caspian Sea. There were even a few retired midwives in the group. Some of the younger employees revealed as much hair as possible from under their headscarves and their faces were heavily painted.

As soon as the bus was moving they turned the Iranian music up to full volume and started dancing in the aisles. Headscarves and chadors were removed, revealing tight jeans and sexy T-shirts. One woman even showed off her bare belly. I was offered water, Coca-Cola, grapes, walnuts and oranges. No refusing! Out came their photo cameras and mobile phones: I was their subject and I was famous at last. When the dancers started to get tired, they also wanted 'me' to stand up and remove my headscarf. And again, no refusing. This was some kind of a fun party in a rolling disco, which I will never forget.

As soon as the coach reached Kashan, the chadors and headscarves came out again and the loud music was switched off. Back to reality -- as if nothing had ever happened. But it did. I know. I remember and I smile.


Woman's words on writing...

'I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.'
(Joan Didion, The Writer and Her Work)

'Writing has been a way of explaining to myself the things I do not understand.'
(Rosario Castellanos, A Guide to Mexican Poetry)

'All writers are exiles wherever they live and their work is a lifelong journey towards the lost land.'
(Janet Frame, The Envoy From Mirror City)

'It is for this, partly, that I write. How can I know what I think unless I see what I write?'
(Erica Jong, Fear of Flying)

'I write about my journeys so that by example I will inspire other women around the world to travel safely and well.'
(Evelyn Hannon, Editor, from her speeches to womens' groups)


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