Dear Aunt Jean,
I’m looking forward to retracing your steps around this beautiful globe of ours. I may not have the exact same experiences as you, but I think it will be fun to see through your eyes for a bit. I wonder, will I have the same excitement about the mountains and vegetation in Newcastle? Or perhaps the same dissatisfaction you found with St. Croix? I’m pretty sure these places are much more built up by now, everything has grown and developed so quickly in the 100 year span between us. Means of travel have certainly changed. Would you have liked to jet off to the Caribbean in a matter of hours instead of spending days of anticipation at sea? I know a plane is my preference, but perhaps the hours with nothing but blue were meditative, something that’s lacking in this fast-paced life?
One thing that hasn’t gotten better, I’m sad to report, is the fact that saying “no” to fend off men is still very much a thing. As a solo female traveler, you were not unfamiliar with this. Understandably, you didn’t go into too much detail in your journals, yet I wonder what emotions you felt when these instances occurred? Were you fearful for your body or life? Did the men anger you? Did it ever get more physical than you let on? I don’t understand their conquest. Are we seemingly easy prey, maybe? Are they hoping we’re loose and willing to submit? Although it doesn’t stop me from traveling by myself, it’s still a frustrating reality.
Having to clutch my purse to my body in case someone gets too close. Going up a dark stairwell at night and having my heart race, wondering if there is someone lurking, waiting around the bend. Going out for an evening of fun, maybe dancing or to a bar, and constantly watching my back and brushing away hands, negating the carefree feeling I’m after. Luckily this isn’t a frequent occurrence when I travel, hell it happens more at home, but nonetheless, I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring, giving death stares, and saying “no” in different languages. They don’t call me Monster for nothing.
Explore on, we must,
– – –
May 16, 1925
Arrived in Chicago at 5 P.M. Walked about a bit. Couldn’t see the department stores because they were closed, as was Woolworth’s much to Anne’s regret. As our train didn’t leave until midnight, we had a leisurely dinner and then proceeded to the station on foot. After we got there, Anne told me we had been followed by a man for quite a few blocks.
August 16, 1929
Dr. Kent asked me to stop off in his room for some Bacardi, which he assured me would do me good. On Anne’s invitation he came to see our room but he became affectionate with me and my discouragement finally chased him.
August 17, 1929
Can’t seem to shake the doctor. He is making plans to accompany us in Havana and Mexico City.
August 19, 1929
When he got back to the ship, the Dr. tried to persuade me to go back to town with him but I refused saying I was too tired. He went with the young Mexicans and I saw him come back with a bunch of roses. I immediately rushed away but as luck would have it he met me near my room and presented the flowers. I was dreadfully annoyed but had to walk out on deck with them in his company as I was afraid he might follow me if I took them to my room. I couldn’t seem to get rid of him and finally had to tell him I could put the flowers in water. He asked me to come to his room for aspirins to put in the water and after getting them he would have accompanied me except that one of the crew wanted to see him. So I snuck away to get a vase. No steward, so I asked the second steward who was acting slightly stewed (a usual thing I guess when they go ashore) for a vase but he requested me instead to come to his loving arms, suiting the action to the words. The assistant purser suggested that I ask the room steward for one. As ours wasn’t around I got another steward to do the trick and as the assistant purser was by this time knocking at the doctor’s door, I managed to put the flowers and aspirin in water without his undesirable help. I begged Anne to stick with me when I saw the Dr. approaching on deck, which she did, not too gladly. We finally left him at 10 P.M. saying we intended to go to bed. As it was too warm to do that we dodged from place to place to avoid him. As some of our Mexican people were dancing we were persuaded to do likewise for a while. Then the dodging began again. We finally joined Al on the deck below where the passengers rarely visit and stayed with him while we sailed out of Havana harbor, watching Havana all lit up. So far Al has proven to be a good scout.
December 20, 1930
After breakfast indulged in bullboard starting with Cappy, Anne and myself. Cappy was quite playful, pulling open my blouse tie at every opportunity and squeezing my fingers when he picked up and handed me the rings.
July 27, 1933
Capt. B. and I started walking. He got quite friendly, even inviting me to visit the ship after she gets to port.
About 10 o’clock Elinor disappeared below, suspected she was in the purser’s office so stopped to say goodnight. Found Sellar, Dahlgard, Elinor and Miss Lister partaking of Elinor’s liqueur. Mr. Sellar dragged me in, put me into a chair and begged me to stay. Refused to drink bearing in mind the danger of mixing drinks.
July 28, 1933
I wanted to buy some Honduran stamps; D said they didn’t have any at the commissary. We were scheduled to sail at 4 P.M. so I started out for stamps alone. After inquiring at a couple of places (in Spanish) I finally found the place and made my purchase. By this time I was wringing wet and afraid of being late in getting to the ship. Was stopped on my way out of the building by a young fellow who seemed to understand a bit of English. He asked me if I was married, was surprised when I said no, and asked if he might be my companion to the ship. Sounded as if he was a suitor for my hand. Refused his companionship and hurried over railroad tracks, box cars and what not.
Walked the deck with Miss L. that evening and Mr. S., seated in front of the smoke room, got hold of me and wanted to dandle me on his knees, but with all the crew seated on the hatch cover in plain sight I pleaded for my sunburn and got away. Not to be denied, he seized Miss L. who submitted gracefully.
August 23, 2010
Not sure how I feel about New Orleans yet. It’s a broken, deserted city, even five years after the hurricane, with plenty of kitschiness thrown in. It’s odd… Well this is the impression I got of the French Quarter, anyway, where my hotel was. The rest I have yet to see. Bourbon St. I can skip. It’s just bar after bar after bar with creepy men walking up and down it. Why do they feel the need to spit in your path or say vulgar things? The least of which being something akin to, “Smile, sweetheart. You’re too beautiful not to.” Ugh.
February 16, 2017
After breakfast we walked down to Souq Waqif in the heart of Doha. The souq was rebuilt in the 90s to replicate what it had looked like originally. There were tons of vendors, selling everything from spices to fabric to hardware. It was mainly a touristy area with a few token fair skinned individuals, ourselves included, the rest, I assumed, were from neighboring countries as far as I could tell by their dress. The men were in their thawbs, or robes, and women in abayas, which have full head and face coverings with only a slit for the eyes. Some went a bit further and had a veil covering said slit. Trying to be as respectful as I could, I donned a floor-length black dress, a sweater to cover my arms, and had a shawl concealing my hair. Despite being in black from head to toe, much as the other females around me, I sensed that I was being eyed up and down by some of the men. I could feel their eyes piercing through mine and noted some head turns as I passed, along with deep, guttural moans. J confirmed my suspicion.