Many of my stories and blog posts for Gourmet remain archived on the site:
Storied landscape LINK
Archaeology, January/February 2015
Through centuries of cultural, political and environmental change, Cambodia’s Phnom Kulen has retained its central role in the spiritual life of a people. New research offers clues on the significance of this mountain in the past, and its meanings today….
How the 2004 tsunami is changing disaster response LINK
SciDev.Net, Dec. 9, 2014
Ten years after history’s most destructive natural disaster, aid and development workers reflect on how this pivotal event has shaped disaster response in developing regions. Scientific and technological innovations have helped the world prepare….
A story of chicken PDF
The Cook’s Cook, October/November 2014
I’m sitting on the bank of the Chao Phraya, digging into a slimy plastic bag of fall-off-the-chopped bone grilled chicken with sticky rice, which I bought at a little street stall just upriver from Bangkok. It’s a one-person feast. I devour the meat, one bite at a time….
War and peace, science and development LINK
SciDev.Net, Sept. 24, 2014
War is a menace to life and livelihoods. So peace would seem to be the opposite: a time of prosperity, health and wellbeing. But it is not always so, because war strikes with finality, and the start of peace is but the first step to recovery….
Henry Kissinger is not telling the truth about his past. Again. LINK
The Washington Post online, Sept. 18, 2014
(Co-authored with Jerry Redfern) As Henry Kissinger promotes his new book, World Order, he is distorting facts about his—and his country’s—entanglements in past wars, particularly in Southeast Asia. Here is a point-by-point rebuttal to the incorrect statements he has made in recent national interviews….
Mobile phone quiz educates Cambodian factory workers LINK
SciDev.Net, Sept. 18, 2014
Cambodia has more mobile phone subscriptions than citizens. And now, mobile technology is at the heart of a project aimed at educating garment workers, promoting labour rights and improving communication within the country’s largest export industry….
Cheap mobiles drive Myanmar’s farming revolution LINK
SciDev.Net, Sept. 15, 2014
(A Redcoates Studios multimedia production) In recent months, the Burmese government has dropped the cost of a SIM card from $2,000 or more to $1.50. For the first time, rural farmers have access to phones, and the shift is changing the way they do business….
Somaly Mam, Nick Kristof, and journalism’s hero problem LINK
Columbia Journalism Review, July 16, 2014
Heroes are complicated and victims aren’t always who we think they are. As journalists, we are storytellers lured by the power of a great narrative. But we are also investigators, and that’s the part of our job we must honor first—especially when heroes fall….
Grandmas Left Lonely PDF
Ms., Summer 2014
In highland Borneo, younger generations are leaving their rural jungle homelands for jobs and education in the cities. But their grandmothers are staying behind. This societal transition leaves many older women alone and lonely….
The global land grab LINK
Slate, April 25, 2014
In Cambodia, the lack of a land title is the biggest impediment to farming and food security for many subsistence growers. This happens amid a worldwide race for agricultural land in developing countries. Often, the family farmer is left with few options….
LBJ’s dark Laotian legacy LINK
Al Jazeera America, April 10, 2014
Lyndon Baines Johnson needs a better legacy, according to the former president’s family, and they are right. The Vietnam War overshadows many of the striking things he accomplished in the White House. It is time history reflects the full breadth of his deeds…..
Letter from Borneo: the landscape of memory LINK
Archaeology, March/April 2014
Each day, Henry Lagang heads into the forest to hunt and forage with a machete slung over one shoulder, a gun over the other, and dogs at his heels. His mother grows rice, and so do his neighbors. For generations, people have lived and worked like this to claim the land….
Dilemma road: pitfalls and possibilities of development LINK
SciDev.Net, Feb. 24, 2014
(A Redcoates Studios multimedia production) Every week, Francis Lo drives a truck through the Borneo interior. It’s a precarious journey through forests disappearing to loggers and remote cultures adapting to an influx of modern goods. Lo’s travels depict the dilemmas of many developing societies….
Back to Borneo, and an Eden at risk LINK
The New York Times, Feb. 21, 2014
Deep in the highlands of Malaysian Borneo, rural villagers struggle to maintain their traditional culture as logging threatens the jungles that have fed and sustained them for generations. Theirs is one of the planet’s most biologically diverse ecosystems—but how long will it last?
Blood on our backs LINK
Al Jazeera America, Jan. 11, 2014
Five Cambodians were shot and killed as military police cracked down on a demonstration of garment workers protesting for higher pay. I clicked on the wrenching photo of a body bathed in blood. I looked at the tag on my shirt: “made in Cambodia”….
Back to Burma LINK
Columbia Journalism Review, November 2013
When I left Yangon in May 2009, escorted onto a Thai Airways plane with a passport stamped “deportee,” the last commanding sight I saw was a smoky sky and a setting sun, round as a ball, red as flames….
Supermarket jungle LINK
SciDev.Net, Oct. 13, 2013
(A Redcoates Studios multimedia production) Borneo’s intact rainforests are among the world’s most biologically diverse environments, providing an abundance of foods that have fed people for thousands of years. But all of that could change amid widespread logging…..
An ambiguous anniversary in Cambodia LINK
Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, May 28, 2013
Whatever happened to the most ambitious peacekeeping operation in history? Twenty years after the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia brought elections to the country, Khmer people still struggle to secure democracy….
Dreams of their fathers LINK
Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, November 2012
President Barack Obama visited Cambodia in November 2012 – the first sitting US President to do so. The people welcomed him enthusiastically, hoping he would press Prime Minister Hun Sen on human rights. But will the visit matter….
The flavor of danger PDF
Gastronomica, December 2011
Does danger have a flavor? It is a hidden ingredient in most Laotian meals. Right below the surface, mixed with chile and spice, peril pervades many baskets of rice, plates of laap, and bowls of or lam stew….
Life after wartime PDF
Sierra, January/February 2011
During the Vietnam War, the United States flew 580,000 bombing runs over Laos—an average of one every eight minutes for nine years. Today, Laotians live and die among 80 million unexploded munitions….
Tea time PDF
Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, November 2010
I wake to a butter-colored sun cast across a green valley. Neat, parallel rows of tea bushes ripple their way across the terrain. The sky spreads wide and clear, with a single cotton-candy cloud, the air sweet with frangipani….
Salad days in Burma PDF
A Moveable Feast: Life-Changing Food Journeys Around the World, Lonely Planet, 2010
It’s November in northern Thailand, right on the brink of seasonal change from sultry to sublime. The rains have ended and the evening brings a wintry nip. We crowd around wooden tables…
Kitchen pharmacy PDF
Fah Thai, September/October 2010
The elderly man wears a white turban and layers of gray robes, defying a stubborn heat. The air hangs heavy and humid in his Malaysian home. I am here to ask Tuanguru Ustaz Haji Hashim questions about a conservative Muslim school he founded….
One man’s bomb is another’s garden hoe
GlobalPost, July 28, 2010
A scorching sun settled across southern Laos, as farmers burned the land to make new fields. A woman hacked at weeds with two young children in tow, the heat of a nearby fire caking her in a sweaty, sooty film. She paused a moment, wiped her neck….
An eternal harvest PDF
Georgetown Review, Summer 2010
One Saturday afternoon in the brittle clinch of the dry season, my husband, Jerry, and I hike through the Laotian countryside with a guide named Manophet. We spot a boy on a barren hillside, his frame silhouetted against blue sky….
Changing seasons on the Thai farm
GlobalPost, April 25, 2010
At 52, Sri Tatui’s identity is etched in his hands. Construction dust cakes his fingers, collected in the cracks and calluses he has earned through a life of farming. He shades his face from the hot Thai sun, gazing toward the foundation of a house those hands are building….
A Burmese salad that means welcome PDF
Afar, December/January 2010
The burmese have a saying: “Among meats, pork is best; among fruits, mango is king; and among leaves, nothing beats tea.” Such reverence explains the country’s affection for laphet thote, or tea leaf salad….
From the heart: traditional Hmong cooking reflects rural culture
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 24, 2010
It’s a nippy night in Wausau with snow crunching beneath boots and cold air prickling skin. Not a hint of green, not this time of year. But I enter Ka Xiong’s home, and suddenly winter ends….
Mystery of the log coffin culture PDF
Archaeology, September/October 2009
Thailand’s far northwestern corner is rippled with mountains, lush at their bases and craggy on top, where the limestone outcrops graze the sky. This landscape stretches for hundreds of miles….
Facing Cambodia’s past. Or not.
GlobalPost, April 25, 2009
The executioner has a new routine. Trailed by guards, he assumes a seat inside the cool, cavernous chambers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. He faces his judges with the public at his back. A thick glass wall separates the frail, aged man from an audience….
Kaziranga National Park: precious homeland of the one-horned rhino
Wildlife Conservation, September/October 2008
Morning jostles Assam, prodding people and animals to a new day. Parakeets shriek from treetops while villagers stoke their breakfast fires. Deer feed silently in the brush…
The red hot chile peppers PDF
Gourmet, August 2008
It was September in New Mexico, when shopkeepers across the state perfume the breeze with the aroma of roasting green chiles and you can feel the mystic allure of great peppers….
Work your children well PDF
The Sun-Herald (Sydney), Dec. 23, 2007
Investigating Cambodia’s culture of child labor: they shovel salt, sell trinkets, plant rice, process fish, pick through garbage, make bricks….
Isaiah in Laos
Orion, November/December 2005
An American bomb detonates on Laotian soil. Thirty years later, a villager exhumes the pieces and delivers them to a scrap metal yard. There they sit in a heap until Lee Moua, a Hmong man, plunks down a little money for a mangled chunk….
Shu’s story PDF
Kyoto Journal, Spring 2002
Winner, Council for Wisconsin Writers Award, short nonfiction
She wears silver bangles in her ears and more around her wrist. She wears a hand-dyed indigo ensemble and leg warmers tied tightly with ribbon she stitched. Her name is Shu, she’s 10 ten years old, she’s Hmong, and together we go walking….