Listen to the Trees

My trip to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center in Phnom Phen actually started in 1984. I was a new copy writer working at Leo Burnett wearing flannel and jeans for a creative director draped in hand dyed Indonesian fabric, chunky African beads with a haze of Opium perfume hovering over her desk. She had just seen The Killing Fields. “You […]

Snowflakes in Cambodia

Travel is not about the places. It’s about the landscape of people. Like in Bangkok, the small family owned hotel I stay at because I love the owners and try not to think of the history of the mattress. The wife scrubs the floors in her sari, the husband sleeps behind the desk all night and during the day, smokes […]

Invasion of St. Wàiguórén 外国人

When I first moved to China in 2010, signs of Christmas were about as was as hard to find as a clean toilet. But now? The foreigner or Wàiguórén 外国人 holiday is everywhere. While I haven’t seen the Shelf Elf today, there are Santas galore… Most often, he is playing a saxophone. Go figure. And his top Elf needs to […]

Chúc ngủ ngon, John Boy

  Sapa Vietnam is my Asian version of Door County. Just a six hour train ride from Kunming but light years away from my life. There are fish boils or cheese curds, just a place to write, reflect, and clean out my sinuses with thick vinegary chili sauce. I took a fourteen cent/ten minute bus ride to the Vietnamese border […]

Contestant 18_4

It was as grueling as Beijing-Chicago flight without a beverage cart. I was the Question Master for an English Speaking Competition (not to be confused with an English comprehension competition) sponsored by China Daily News. It’s the third weekend in a row that I’ve sat in a room for nine hours listening to students struggle to put an “l” on […]


It was the thing Steve Jobs dreamed of: first graders in China Skyping a farmer in America. My friend Fran agreed to be my Show and Tell exhibit and answer questions about her farm in Indiana over eight thousand miles away. Thanks to the tech guys, Fran showed up Thursday morning without a VISA yet. The first graders had written […]

What’s Your Marlin?

  My 9th grade language learners started reading Ernest Hemingway’s, “The Old Man and The Sea” for one simple reason: I found a free downloadable bilingual copy online, thanks to China not really caring about America’s copyright rule. Actually, I’m intrigued by Hemingway as many Michiganders are, as he hung out where I do in the summers, near Charlevoix. Plus, […]

The Dress

  Girls dream all of their lives what to wear on their wedding day. But what do you wear on the day or your divorce? My final hearing called was scheduled for November 2nd, one thirty in the afternoon Wisconsin time. But being in China, that would be 2:30 am, thirteen hours into the future. It had been arranged that […]


Does anyone know an exorcist? Yes, it’s that time of year again, even in China. And I am be haunted by a few mysterious problems beyond third graders in monkey masks. First, my electronic grade book got possessed. A supervisor brought it to my attention when she noticed a first grader was receiving a failing grade. Fail a first grader? […]

Bouncy House

Of course, it had to be on my watch. A kid at the school fun fair bounced out of the bouncy house (if you don’t know what a bouncy house is, it’s one of those rentable blow-up houses that are a cesspool of germs that you see at fairs and birthday parties). Anyway, this kid was jumping as if his […]