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Saving Face: How One Pioneering Surgeon is Pushing the Limits of Facial Transplants

[Read full story in Smithsonian.com] His reconstructed faces have tongues that taste and eyelids that blink. But will they withstand the test of time? [Dec. 9, 2016] There have been 38 facial transplants worldwide to date. Not all have survived. (Elnur / iStock) By Arielle Emmett SMITHSONIAN.COM DECEMBER 9, 2016   On September 5, 2001,…

Inhuman Atrocities

The Asian Bucket List II. Harbin in Sun, Ice and Blood

Harbin, Manchuria:  Officials here seem reluctant to spotlight the Japanese germ warfare scientists and what they did to thousands of local inhabitants here in 1932 and beyond. Perhaps that’s the reason Harbin has built China’s greatest contemporary war museum, known formally as “The Museum of Evidence of War Crimes by Japanese Army Unit 731,”  in…

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The Asian Bucket List

I realize I never finished the story of Harbin, which I visited nearly a year ago. It began with my need to research this icy Russian-Jewish-Chinese enclave in Manchuria, home of the international ice festival, seat of the frigid Songhua River, intending to flesh out the frigid landscape for the novel I’m working on (interminably)…

Freedom on Lake Davidson

Just two blocks from my Charleston-style home on Bridges Farm Rd., I plunge almost every day into Lake Davidson, the horseshoe-shaped lake with the gooey clay bottom. On sunny days, when the water turns a pellucid blue-green, I swim as freely as the sparrows and Great Blue Herons swooping down from the trees. Immersed in…

A Memory on the Occasion of Putting Animals to Sleep

You think about the pit mix who was young once along with your children. They were all of a piece. The dog with the pointy ears and pink and black snout. The child with the pointy ears and the sudden way she darted across the room followed by the puppy. Now the puppy has rheumatism.…

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In Charlotte, Putting an End to Police Killings

Charlotte, September 22, 2016. More murder, more anger, more confrontation between police in riot gear and protesters in the Queen City, the place my daughter and I call home.  This is the city my neighbors have cherished for its easygoing manners, its kindness and conviviality. Now we have the death of another black man, 43-year-old Keith…

An illuminated ice palace at Ice & Snow World, Harbin, China

Harbin through Blue Eyes

January 11, 2016.  As I stepped off the train at Harbin West station after an eight hour train ride across the Manchurian flatlands from Beijing, the station was moist and frigid with the Siberian wind and the night which had fallen hours before. It was -29 degrees Celsius as I dragged my two suitcases and…

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Sunrise at Borobudur

  Yogyakarta in Central Java, Indonesia is a hidden jewel, the seat of Borobudur, the oldest Buddhist temple in the world. I was there two weeks ago at 5 AM, part of my end-stage tour of Indonesia after completing a Fulbright at Universitas Padjadjaran in West Java. The stupas of the 9th century temple are…

The Russian delegation in Indonesia breaks into loud applause for songs, dances, and poetry - in near perfect Russian -- by the Indonesian students

A Great Russian-Ukrainian-Indonesian Debate!

Great Cold War debates happen in the most unlikely of places.  West Java, Indonesia, March 26.  Today I’m invited to a very dressy event.  A Russian Ambassador to Indonesia along with a Vice Minister of Telecom and Mass Communication arrive at the university to attend a big do  — a celebration of Russian language, media, and…

Young undergrads on a first photoshoot.  Cynthia (in Hijab) wears jeans and boy's sneakers; Lisa, from North Sumatra (the tall girl to Cynthia's left) is a Christian.  They're all eager to become journalists and write about Indonesia's future.

To be a Fashion Plate, Wear the Hijab

It’s been three weeks so chock full of Indonesian experience.  Each day new lectures, close encounters with medical and comm students, children, security guards, cooks, geophysicists, random athletes and mop-haired photojournalists and artists.   It’s as though I’m being flooded with torrents of images, data, and experiences and I can’t stop the flow. Surprisingly, at…