20 posts

Visiting My Childhood Home In Taiwan

taiwan_childhood_home-6From the ages of three to eight (1978-1983), I lived in that gray house in Taipei, Taiwan. It wasn’t until 2006 that I would see this house again. Join me for a tour of the house and my memories.

My maternal grandparents raised me in this house. My grandfather was a legislator, a scholar, and all around raconteur. Born to a well-to-do family, he graduated from Peking University, and was elected to China’s National Assembly in the 1940s. He, my grandmother, and their adopted one year old daughter (my mom) fled to Taiwan along with the rest of Chiang Kai-Shek’s government in 1949. Because the government no longer had control of Mainland China (where the electorate resided), National Assembly members got to hold onto their seats until the Communist rebellion was quashed. Because that quashing never happened, my grandfather became a legislator-for-life. Continue reading

Adventures in Turpan: Grapes, Buddhist Caves and More


The Taklamakan Desert in western China was the Bermuda Triangle of the Silk Road. The word Taklamakan literally means– Once you go in, you don’t come out. It is still a wasteland. The military tests its nuclear weapons there and they just discovered huge deposits of oil underneath. For thousands of years, the oasis towns ringing the desert have witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. They have been influenced by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Indians, and Chinese. We visited one of them. Continue reading

A Stroll Around Karakul Lake

We have arrived! At 12,000 feet, Karakul Lake literally takes your breath away. After a surprisingly delicious meal in a concrete cantina next to the lake, we decide to take an afternoon stroll.

Though the lake is only three miles in circumference, my severe altitude sickness– pounding headache, shortness of breath, inability to concentrate– meant the walk took more than two hours. Miraculously, I was still able to take some decent photos. And to this day, eight years later, I remember the entire experience as if it were yesterday. Continue reading

China – Japan Dispute Over Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Explained

With American embassies all over the Middle East and North Africa under attack, the Western media has for the most part ignored a potentially greater geopolitical flashpoint. Though an outright conventional (or nuclear) war between China and Japan is very unlikely, their fight over some tiny islands will certainly escalate.

The Senkaku Islands (as the Japanese call them; the Chinese call them the Diaoyu Islands) are a group of five small uninhabited islands and three rocks in the East China Sea between China and Japan. The area surrounding the islands may have oil and commercial fishing fleets also ply the waters there. Fundamentally, the dispute is not about oil or fish.  It’s really about power, history, and not losing face. Continue reading