Lone man on the bus

June 2005. “De donde eres (Where are you from)? Guatemala?” asked the cab driver. “De los Estados Unidos (From the United States)," I replied. “No hablo español muy bien (I don’t speak Spanish very well).” “Ah!” he said in a knowing tone. “It’s very hard to go north,” he continued in halting English. He grinned …

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Shock and awe in West Texas

August 1988. I had just stepped out of the academic department chair’s office with things to ponder. “You'd be a good doctoral candidate,” he said. I was flattered but was also taken aback. I never considered getting a Ph.D. after earning my master’s degree. Doing so meant more than following a different career path. I’d …

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Past perfect, present imperfect

December 2015. I awoke to a bright but freezing Greek morning at the Centrotel on Peoniou, ready to explore the city. My mind was crammed with images of the Parthenon on the Acropolis. I had been relishing the thought since I arrived in Athens the night before, while I searched for the hotel around the …

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On leaving the islands

June 1987. Sitting on a bamboo bench on the beach in Bauang, I watched the sun begin its slow descent into the South China Sea. A couple of young kids worked on their stumpy sand castle near the surf. Otherwise, the beach was practically deserted now that the school year had begun. I didn’t plan …

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