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Ten Cool Experiences to Have in Central America

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Central America, the isthmus connecting North and South America, consists of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El  Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. It is both culturally and geographically rich and diverse. Cloud-shrouded volcanoes, Mayan ruins, exciting wildlife and colorful colonial towns are some of the delights waiting to be discovered by the adventurous traveler.

1)   Take a hike in Cahuita National Park, Costa Rica  – This is a sublimely beautiful National Park close to the small Caribbean town of Cahuita. So close, in fact, that you can walk directly into the park from town. The park covers over 57,500 acres of land and sea, including 600 acres of living coral reef. The 5.6-mile trail hugs the beach, with lush rainforest on one side and lovely views of the ocean on the other. Giant electric blue morpho butterflies flutter past, monkeys swing overhead and if your luck is in, you may spot a sloth hanging about in a tree. It’s a wildlife wonderland and the trail is flat and easy. There are plenty of opportunities to take a refreshing dip in the ocean too.

The beach at Cahuita National Park

2)    Swim in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey, Guatemala – This destination is off the beaten track, but worth the long and bone-shaking journey to experience the unique cascading pools. The color of the water has to be seen to be believed. You can swim, go tubing or explore the nearby caves (a guide is required to visit the caves). Don’t miss the challenging hike up to Mirador, from which there are spectacular views. Situated high in the mountains, Semuc Champey is probably the most stunning natural wonder in Guatemala.

The pools at Semuc Champey

3)   Meet an ex-guerrilla at the Museum of Revolution, Leon, Nicaragua – It isn’t every day that you get to chat with an ex-revolutionary, but this ramshackle, yet compelling museum provides the opportunity to do just that. The guides at the museum were teenage soldiers when they fought in the revolution. Now in their fifties and sixties, they are happy to share their experiences with visitors. The building was the scene of many battles, as the bullet holes on the walls testify. It is clearly in need of funding, but nevertheless, a visit is a fascinating and moving experience and an example of a nation standing up for their rights against an evil regime.                                   

4)   Live in the shadow of a smoking volcano in Antigua, Guatemala –  Antigua is Central America’s most charming city. Guatemala’s popular tourist destination is a blend of crumbling ruins, bustling plazas, churches, handicraft markets, international restaurants and Spanish schools. The city has successfully managed to balance tourism with traditionalism. Nestled between three volcanoes, you never quite get over the wonder of glimpsing up to see puffs of smoke emerging from Volcano Pacaya. Every now and again, there is a minor eruption or you can hear rumbles coming from deep within the earth’s core. What with dramatic natural phenomena and a delightful city center, Antigua really does have it all. https://www.aroundantigua.com

The colonial city of Antigua

5)   Chill out in Caye Caulker, Belize – If you are in need of total relaxation, look no further than the tiny island of Caye Caulker. Spend your days swinging in a hammock, drinking cocktails at the Lazy Lizard Bar and snorkelling the coral reefs, where you can spot nurse sharks, stingrays and an array of vibrantly colored fish. The laid back Creole and Rasta presence gives the island an undoubtedly Caribbean ambience. The pastel painted wooden buildings, superb seafood, and absence of cars all contribute to making Caye Caulker a very special place.

6)   Explore the ancient ruins of Copan, Honduras – These Mayan ruins are over 2000 years old and comprise of pyramids, tombs, and temples, many displaying intricate carvings. The ruins are an easy walk from the nearby town of Copan Ruinas. The town is probably the prettiest in Honduras.  With its cobblestone streets, cute white houses and excellent range of lodgings, bars, and restaurants, it makes a great base for a visit to the ruins. Check out the tequila shrimp and enjoy the rooftop view at Twisted Tanyas, the best restaurant in town.

7)   Surf at Punta Roca, El Salvador –  Whether you are an experienced surfer or a beginner, this surfing mecca offers perfect waves, warm water, and miles of unspoilt beaches. Board hire and lessons are available and most of the local businesses are surf-orientated. It’s less commercialized and more low-key than nearby La Libertad and a perfect place to commune with the waves and kick back. Punta Roca plays host to several annual surf tournaments.

8)   Venture into the heart of the jungle to explore the ancient Mayan city of Tikal – If you fancy yourself as Indiana Jones, this is the place to head for. It’s the largest and most important Mayan site in Central America. The fact that the ancient city is hidden in the heart of the jungle only adds to the appeal.  From the tallest pyramid, you can enjoy panoramic views over the treetops and see other temples peeking through the canopy. Toucans, howler and spider monkeys populate the park and are easily spotted, but the elusive jaguar keeps a low profile.

Head into the heart of the jungle at Tikal

9)    Connect with nature at Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica – Monteverde lies 4,000 feet above sea level and comprises of coffee plantations and misty trails through eerie, but beautiful cloud forests.  There are two small towns in the area, Monteverde and Santa Elena. They each have a sprinkling of restaurants, bars, and shops catering to tourists. Zip-lining, mountain biking, and hiking are all popular pursuits. There are numerous wildlife sanctuaries and gardens exhibiting the flowers and fauna of the area. http://www.monteverdeinfo.com

10)  Take a stroll through the historic area of Panama City  – Wandering the atmospheric streets of Casco Viejo is a highlight of a visit to the city. The crumbling colonial architecture, plazas and narrow streets are a world away from the downtown skyscrapers. The area combines old-world elegance with a touch of edginess. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and some vibrant street art hidden away in the side streets. With restaurants, cafes and bars aplenty, it would be easy to spend a day enjoying the delights of Casco Viejo.

Street art in Casco Viejo

Originally posted 2017-08-13 19:05:39.

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Tell It Like A Lesbian

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My mother refuses to refer to my partner as anything other than a friend. We’ve been dating for three years and my mother still won’t acknowledge our relationship. Am I crazy for being angry about this and wanting to confront her? I feel insulted and it really upsets my partner. –Clarke

Dear Clarke, You’re not crazy for being upset at your mother. It sounds like you have every right to be angry, especially if after three years your mother can’t even acknowledge your relationship. If talking to her gently about it hasn’t worked after all this time, it may indeed be time to confront her more forcefully, as your partner’s feelings are also being hurt by this behavior. If you decide to confront her and her attitude remains unchanged, it may be time to cut ties. After all, your happiness is what matters most in this situation, regardless of whatever is causing such denial from your mother. You must put the health of you and your partner’s relationship first, and eventually, your mother may come to realize what she is losing because of her denial.

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Dear Tell It, Do you have any suggestions for handling depression? I’ve been really struggling with loneliness and I have no energy for anything, even stuff I usually enjoy. I feel like I have no one to turn to. –Otto

Dear Otto, Depression often causes the loneliness and sense of isolation that you are feeling. It’s important that you recognize this as a symptom of your depression and do your best not to isolate yourself as a result. Because depression can take a lot of energy, remember that your brain and body need time to recover. And remember that focusing on self-care is not selfish. Depression is an illness just like the flu and other diseases and should be treated with the same care.

On bad days, make a warm drink that you enjoy, read your favorite book or watch a show or movie you love. Spend some time by yourself to recharge, and then contact a friend or family member to let them know what you’ve been feeling. Make a plan to spend time with them, even if it’s only for an hour or two, preferably away from your house. Getting outside and into a new environment is an excellent way of resetting your brain. While I wish I could tell you otherwise, depression doesn’t just go away. You will likely go through phases of good and bad, and it’s important to learn the symptoms that are specific to you. If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there, and remember that there are people who care.

__________

Have questions for Tell It Like A Lesbian? Let me answer them! Submit your questions below (you don’t have to use your real name unless you want to), and see your question answered on our website!

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Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:10:06.


Also published on Medium.

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In December, This Round-The-World Cruise Visits 35 Countries

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Imagine being able to visit 66 ports in 35 countries over 141 days.  Such a trip has never been offered in the past, but now Viking Cruises, based in Los Angeles, is planning one.  

The Viking Sun will set sail on 15 December 2017. Furthermore, Cruise Critic has named Viking Cruises as one of the top 10 cruise lines for gay and lesbian travelers because it frequently partners with LGBT travel agencies and past travelers have reported good experiences.  In fact, the 2017 CRUIZIE Awards for LGBT Cruise Travel awarded Viking River Cruises the ‘Best River Cruise Line for LGBTQ Passengers.’  

So what is this journey going to look like?  Let’s have a look:  

Day 1: Depart From Miami

Miami

On 15 December 2017, the Viking Sun will leave Miami, the international city in Florida.  If you are embarking on this trip and are here in Miami, appreciate the barrier islands and Miami beach.  Here, find colorful buildings, surfside hotels and white sand.  If this sounds good, then spend a few days here, before making your way to the Viking Sun. 

Days 2 to 20: The Caribbean, Central America and Los Angeles

The Caribbean

On day 2, cruise the Caribbean Sea,  which covers an area of approximately 1,063,000 square miles. The deepest area in this sea is the Cayman Trench between Cuba and Jamaica.  Between day 3 and day 5, explore the city of Cienfuegos in Cuba, where a walking tour is offered.  This traveler explored gorgeous flamingoes, boat houses and more attractions.  

Between days 6 to 17, visit other countries lying in the Caribbean and South and Central America: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Then briefly visit  Mexico and Los Angeles, before cruising the Pacific Ocean.   

Days 30 to 43: French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji

Nuka Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia

French Polynesia, an overseas French possession, consists of more than 100 stunning islands, stretching across more than 2,000 kilometers. Start cruising the South Pacific and visit Taiohae, the main town of Nuka Hiva (pictured above) in French Polynesia.  You will also visit Tahiti and Bora Bora, known for its scuba diving.  

The 15 gorgeous islands that make up the Cook Islands could provide a hint of paradise.  Warm tropical waters, crystal clear waters and aquatic life are just a few of the treasures that can be found here. Then in Tonga, discover white beaches, coral reefs and tropical rainforest.  Continue this tropical holiday in Fiji, which also has beaches and coral reefs.  

Days 44 to 113: New Zealand, Australia and Asia

New Zealand

In New Zealand, go on an extensive tour that includes the Bay of Islands, an enclave of more than 140 islands with beaches and water activities. Find an abundance of wildlife, including penguins, dolphins, marlin, whales, and gannets.  There’s even a camping ground here.

Go on to cruise the Tasman Sea, and discover several attractions in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeastern Australia, consists of golden beaches, thousands of reefs, and hundreds of Islands with dolphins, sharks, and colorful fish.     

Then cruise the Timor Sea and start exploring the culture and beauty of Asia. See Indonesia, and then go on to visit Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Hong Kong , Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore and India.  During this journey explore Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, which has beautiful islands topped with rainforests.  

Days 114 to 131: The Middle East, North Africa and the Central Mediterranean

Malta in the Central Mediterranean

Cruise across the Arabian Sea, and tour several countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia. There is also a stop at Malta, located in the Central Mediterranean.  See wildflowers, plants, prehistoric sites, and walk to discover Malta’s natural beauty.  

Days 132 to 141: Europe

Murcia (Cartagena), Spain

See Portugal, England, and explore the beaches and hiking trails of Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. In Spain, Murcia is a university city with beaches, water sports, wine, and historical sites.    

Want to explore these countries, and Interested in this cruise? Call Viking at 888-850-6260 or find out more here.

Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:08:07.

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Same-Sex Marriage in the US: A Decade of Change

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On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court announced the decision to make same-sex marriage a right in all 50 states. People all over the country celebrated, pride flags were flown, and for the first time, the White House was lit with rainbow lights. The decision was a landmark victory for the gay-rights movement, but behind it all was decades of litigation, activism, and advocacy.

In 1996, a law called the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” in the United States constitution. Individual states were able to recognize same-sex unions, but on a federal level, the words wife, husband, and spouse, were reserved specifically for heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples were also denied social security survivor’s benefits and were unable to jointly file taxes. For almost a decade, the DOMA remained.

After 40 years of being together, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer traveled to Toronto to get legally married in 2007. A year later, their union was officially recognized by their home state of New York . In 2009, Spyer passed away at the age of 77. She left her entire estate to her wife, Windsor. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their union as a marriage and Windsor was required to pay over $300,000 in taxes on her inheritance. Windsor decided to challenge this because she was legally married and should have therefore qualified for an unlimited tax deduction on the inherited estate. After approaching several gay-rights advocacy groups, she was repeatedly denied and was unable to find representation.

Finally, Roberta Kaplan of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP agreed to take on the case. In 2010, her case was filed and made its way through the circuits and in 2013 it had reached the United States Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Windsor and announced that DOMA had been unconstitutional. By the same margin, the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage three years later.

In September of 2017, Windsor passed away at the age of 88. She left behind a legacy of activism and change, and hope. At her funeral, Hillary Rodham read a eulogy. “Because of her, people came out, marched in their first pride parade, married the love of their life. Thank you, Edie,” reported the New York Daily News.“Thank you for being a beacon of hope, for proving that love is more powerful than hate.”

Edith Windsor has helped to change the lives of thousands of LGBTQ couples and her legacy will continue to live on. Do you have a story of how legalizing same-sex marriage changed your life? Tell us in the comments!

Originally posted 2017-10-25 13:58:13.

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