Globalization and its discontents

A friend of mine in Tajikistan used to consistently buy prepackaged foods for her children. Anything specifically marketed to kids caught her attention. She’d buy it – all of it, and feed it to them, even when it was more expensive than other options. So, functionally, she was raising her kids on a diet of… Read More »

What we call home

Before I came to Kyrgyzstan, I spent three months in Central New York, within a hundred miles of where I was born.  It was the longest time I’d spent there since 1993 when I left for college, and I left with no intention of ever returning. Syracuse isn’t a bad place to be a kid,… Read More »

The Questions I Ask

Americans are weirdly private people. Nearly every other culture I’ve experienced involved sharing more personal information with strangers than your average American wants to provide. It used to feel really uncomfortable. (Okay, it stills tends to feel uncomfortable.) But I have a technique now – I lean in. I counter intrusive-feeling personal questions with nosy… Read More »

Five fast facts about Bishkek

  I moved to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan a little more than two months ago. It’s always hard to start a new posting in the winter, but I have been coming here on and off since 2001. I am very pleased to have a good long stay. Some notes: 1) It’s been snowing since December. It blows… Read More »

Predicting the Weather

A Russia DJ named Dima   Maybe ten years ago, the project I worked for had a driver named Dima. Dima was a rockstar. He was exceptional in every way. Sure, he could pilot you unscathed through bad traffic and worse roads, but that was the least of his talents. Dima could jumpstart a car… Read More »

Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit – An interview with the author

I have come to terms with the fact that I write terrible book reviews. Instead of a review, I present an interview with J, author of Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit. In case you haven’t heard of it, Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit is a novel about aid. Written by the most famous anonymous aid worker – J – about… Read More »

Starting a Land War in Asia: the Five Classic Aid Worker Blunders

1. Thinking you’re the only one who’s ever tried to do what you’re doing. 2. Brushing your teeth with tap water. 3. Believing all problems have solutions. 4. Mistaking the capital city for the country as a whole. 5. Building a lot of technical capacity without making sure that someone is ready to use that… Read More »