MMA in Malaysia, The Sport of a New Generation

MMA in Malaysia, The Sport of a New Generation

The bell rings, and Malaysian national san da team member Raymond Tiew flies out of his corner, ready to do battle. His opponent, Kong Ravy, is a Khmer Bokator fighter, probably the first Cambodian to ever fight in Malaysia. Ravy throws a flying knee technique, better than any Tony Jaa movie, because it was real. […]

Vo Thai Lan in Saigon

Vo Thai Lan in Saigon

My first experience training with a Vietnamese boxing and Muay Thai team didn’t work out very well. A bigger boy picked on me, and smashed my innards into jelly. After it didn’t hurt to pee or think anymore, I began looking for a new place to train. Luckily, my Vietnamese teacher found me a Muay […]

Shan Refugees in Malaysia

Shan Refugees in Malaysia

For seven days, they were locked in a container, traveling in the back of a truck. With no idea where they were going, they may just as well have been sold into slavery or prostitution at the end. But their situation in Burma was so dire that even taking such a risk seemed worthwhile. In […]

Now I’m Talkin’ Vietnamese, Part 2

Two older American guys, hanging out in the alley next to my house, introduced me to their Vietnamese friend. When I said my name, one of the Americans asked me, “Es usted Espanol?” I answered, “No, sono Italiano.” The two Americans laughed knowingly and asked me if I knew how to cook. The Vietnamese friend […]

Now I’m Talkin’ Vietnamese

After an exceptionally long and frustrating “silent period”, I am finally speaking real Vietnamese. Many people who have been following my blog posts told me that I should already have been speaking or mixing more with native speakers, rather than continuing my intensive book learning. As hard as it was to resist the temptation to […]

Burmese Intellect in Exile

Burmese Intellect in Exile

“In Burma, the uprising could happen any time, and form anywhere.  All of the people are angry. Now, we are afraid. But like a volcano, it could explode at any time.” — Burmese intellect in exile. I recently had the opportunity to interviewing a Burmese intellectual in self-imposed exile, working for exile media. Although far […]

The Chinese Calculator and the Coupons of Death

I was living in a Chinese neighborhood outside of Kuala Lumpur while doing some martial arts and filming work with my master. Mornings, I would normally take my breakfast at the Mamak, a 24-hour cafeteria, run by Muslim Indians. But the previous day, I got myself into a shouting match with a waiter and was […]

Hmong Searching for a Home

Hmong Searching for a Home

More than thirty-five years after the end of America’s War in Indochina, America’s greatest allies are hunted like animals. I was recently approached by a Hmong representative, asking me to get the word out to the world. There are over 300 Hmong families hiding in the jungle of Laos, hunted by the Lao and Vietnamese […]

Using a Foreign Language

Using a Foreign Language

Back in Vietnamese classes again and meeting the age-old problems. The Asian teachers and students seem to be mired in a single dictionary definition for each English word, and they can’t seem to accept that, in this situation, the translation is one thing, but in another situation, the same word needs to be translated differently. […]

Shan Migrant Workers in Thailand

Stateless, undocumented, exploited and fearful, they say it’s still better than going back to Burma. Down a dirt road outside of the city, I find myself in a makeshift camp, a small clearing in the jungle, containing a handful of bamboo huts. This is the unofficial home to a collective of Shan migrant workers. Fleeing […]

Development East and West (Part 1)

Development East and West (Part 1)

Burma ethnics never wanted to be Thai citizens. They never wanted to own land in Thailand. These desires were forced on them by a terrible situation, which forced them to become refugees, something else they never wanted. Given their choice, most would return to a democratic Burma and work as farmers in their traditional way […]

Dictionary Culture and Anti-Fluency

Doing my translation homework, I looked up the Vietnamese word, “buc,” and found it had three meanings: picture, face, or sultry. That’s not confusing. While face and picture could sort of be related, sultry was definitely the odd man out. What’s worse, I tried substituting each of these words into the sentence, but none of […]

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