On Ignorance

I have been in Nanjing almost a week now, teaching English composition in the mornings and, until today, sleeping in the afternoons because my body could not wrap its little brain around the idea of being 12 hours off its normal schedule. I would get back from class by hook or by crook (Southeast University’s … More On Ignorance


Riding the speeding bullet

Speeding out of Shanghai at 187 mph on a spotless, incredibly fast smooth train, hurtling past apartment buildings, some old and ramshackle, some massive and undistinguished, and some with architectural details that make them intriguing, like little Chinese roofs perched on top of multi-story buildings. Some look almost Italianate, with yellow walls and terracotta tiles … More Riding the speeding bullet


Some days are meant for waiting. There seems to be very little other point to them. But if you’re lucky, somewhere in the endless minutes stretching formlessly into each other, you stumble across something that truly startles you. Today was one of those hurry-up-and-wait days. I got up at 3:30 to hurry to the Knoxville … More Waiting

Living in the village

My cousin raised an interesting question yesterday, as he so often does. After I described my encounter with an out-of-control teen neighbor who threatened violence and spat on me (in the context of his having cursed and abused another neighbor, perfectly nice guy), he asked, “Where is it written that you should intervene?” I’ve been … More Living in the village

Outside the Comfort Zone

I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville is one of Southern Appalachia’s three  “capitals,” the others being Asheville, NC and Roanoke, VA. The three are very different cities for historical reasons. Knoxville is actually not in the Appalachian Mountains. Instead, it is in the valley carved by the junction of the Holston and French Broad rivers … More Outside the Comfort Zone