Unknown Tourist, I have Sinned.

Sometimes I think I’m a solo traveler and other times I’m convinced I’m a roaming confessional. When people see me slurping noodles by myself, they are attracted to me like a guilty soul to a curtained booth. They spill their guts then board their next train with a clean conscious. Take for instance, Travis the Fake ID courier. (It’s a […]

My favorite animal is vegetables and Jesus

It’s that time of year again. The China Daily English Speaking Competition .  In 八 (eight) hours, I break or make the day of over 150 六 (six) – 十二 (ttwelve)-year-olds, many whom are dressed to the 久s (nines), and have memorized speeches that they have no clue of what they are saying.   Take for instance, this princess who’s […]


He was the only person I knew who was still fat after gastric bypass surgery but managed to hide it in his profile photo. He was from a different chapter in my life, from my years in urban youth ministry in Chicago, chapters before dealing with kids who can’t tell a mouth from a mouse in China, but kids who’d […]

When Spice Isn’t

After living in Kunming China for eight years, I have built up a tolerance for what’s spicy. Not just the far-side foods, either, but the spice of life. The nine-year-old selling liquor in his parent’s store? At least he can see over the counter. Old women recylcers with huge bundles strapped to their backs? Walk faster! Freshly slaughtered carcasses hanging […]


In any Ma and Pa shop in Hanoi, you’ll find a shrine with tangles of incense and offerings of cigarettes, beer and moon pies. It’s the Vietnamese way of taking care of their loved ones in the after life.   I hope Anthony Bordain is one of those spirits as he loved this town. I say a prayer hoping he’ll […]

No pictures allowed

It’s a scene out of a Microsoft commercial. Divorced woman in the jungles of Vietnam approving a rental applicant for her condo in Wrigleyville, Chicago. Nice kid. Right out of school. Job at some tech firm. No credit record yet as he hasn’t used his credit cards. No record of him anywhere, not even on Facebook, which has sadly become […]

Chinese Hooterville

I didn’t think a town could get much smaller than where I grew up in Southwestern Michigan, a town nicknamed Hooterville. I especially didn’t think I could find one in a country known for big.   Chinese Hooterville is about two hours outside of Kunming, just past the Stone Forest of Shilin in Yunnan. No Shady Rest Hotel or Eddie […]