Tijuana Reflections from January 2005

Our group of Temple volunteers and some of community leaders with whom we worked
Our group of Temple volunteers and some of community leaders with whom we worked

By Christopher Wink | January 28, 2005

On a recent trip to poverty ravaged Tijuana, I could not help but see the irony, clichéd as it may be, of a border wall – that divides with great tumult the U.S. and Mexico – extending into the serenity of the Pacific Ocean. It is unreal to brace oneself against the rusted wall and watch it snake its way into the greens and blues of the water below as it divides San Diego and Tijuana. Here, lines drawn on maps are far from imaginary and they carry emotional meaning that no fence should.

But for me, when I travel, the first things I notice are the similarities between where I am and where I live. Mysterious or not, the smiles of children are the same in Mexico: where south not only describes its geographic relationship to the U.S. but also its location below the poverty line. Of course American business spills over the fortified walls, so the border region oozes the products of Sam Walton and Ronald McDonald with a Mexican touch.

Continue reading Tijuana Reflections from January 2005

Grieving, angry and determined (Philadelphia Inquirer: 1/22/06)

My first byline in a professional newspaper came with a Pulitzer Prize winner, someone who would become something of a mentor. Not too bad, eh?

By Michael Vitez and Christopher Wink | Jan. 22, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Leslie Willis Lowry organized yesterday’s panel to stop gun violence because her son was killed in 2000.

Imtisar Shah sat on the panel to stop gun violence because her son was killed in 2003.
Angela Riley sat in the audience yesterday and rose to speak out against gun violence because her son was just killed in August – three months after graduating from prep school.

“My son had a 95.5 GPA,” said Riley, a Southwest Philadelphia mother. “I came for my own therapy because my wound is really, really fresh.”

These three women, along with nearly 100 mothers, fathers, siblings, community leaders and public officials determined to combat what they call an epidemic in gun violence, came to the African American Museum in Center City yesterday to express their grief and outrage, but, more important, to seek solutions.

Lowry, director of education and community programs at the museum, organized yesterday’s panel in conjunction with an exhibit at the museum: “Bearing Witness: Murder’s Wake.” This is a collection of photographs of friends and family taken by her nephew after they learned of her son’s death.

About 80 people attended a similar forum – Take Action Against Gun Violence Town Meeting – at First United Methodist Church of Germantown, held at the same time yesterday afternoon.

The facts of gun violence are startling: 380 people were slain in Philadelphia last year – 80 percent by bullet wounds. Eighty percent of the victims were African Americans males, 40 percent age 22 or younger. Forty-five victims were 18 or younger.

Already this year, at least 19 people in the city have been killed.

Why is gun violence rising? “Too many guns,” said Dorothy Johnson-Speight, whose son was killed in 2001. He was gunned down in a dispute over a parking space. Johnson-Speight went on to found Mothers in Charge, one of many groups in attendance yesterday devoted to stopping gun violence.

At both forums, many solutions were offered – most notably support of legislation that would limit the sale of handguns in Pennsylvania to one a month a person.

“Why would anyone have to buy more than one gun a month, unless you’re planning to start a revolution,” said Inspector Steve Johnson, a Philadelphia police officer attending the session at the museum. “I don’t see any need for people to walk around armed. It creates a dire situation.”

He said people go through a period of outrage after killings but become complacent again. “We have to maintain that outrage,” he said, for change to occur.

“We must show the violent, hopeless youth in our streets we really do care about them,” said Qamar Rasheed of Camden, whose brother was killed. She said youths are so violent because society has given up on them and they’ve given up on themselves.

“They don’t feel there’s any value to who they are,” she said. “We must show them we will protect them at all costs.”

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) called the epidemic of gun violence a public health problem. He said he would like to see a national policy to combat the problem.

Karen Warrington, communications officer for U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (D., Pa.), said young people had nothing to do. “The schools spit them out on the street,” she said, adding that people “can’t allow a school system to continue to fail 70 percent of the children. At some point, a child will give up.”

Until the public demands accountability, Warrington said, “we will keep coming together at funerals.”

Speaking at First United Methodist Church, Malik Aziz stressed a point made repeatedly at both forums:

“This is something in our community that is erasing our young people,” said Aziz, the co-founder and co-chair of Men for a United Philadelphia, an antiviolence group. “We have to work together to end that.

“Violence affects everyone, from grandmas who are scared to go outside to the youth getting killed.”

Text as it appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 22, 2006.

A Generation of Change (New York Times Magazine: 8/3/07)


By Christopher Wink | Aug 3, 2007 | New York Times Magazine submission

There has been a great loss in the level of activism among college students since the turbulent 1960s. Complacency reigns over the people. Today’s twenty-something, anarchist-punk, bicycle-messenger population is dwindling. Those that have survived are crestfallen.

The man with the thin gray goatee – and a framed photograph of himself looking hairier and suspiciously uninhibited in 1972 – laments, if only half seriously, that the ire of this young generation cannot seem to be adequately risen.

It was different when he was young, he’ll tell you.

Continue reading A Generation of Change (New York Times Magazine: 8/3/07)

My future in a manila envelope


I just got off the subway, braving the wind to turn in the last of eight applications for post-graduation editorial internships I sent. Clips, a resume and cover letter sent to a stranger to decide whether they want my services for a summer.

They’re all paid internships, they all could lead to becoming a part of their distinguished editorial staffs. The first two I sent off were to the Atlanta Journal-Constition (on Nov. 13) and the Birmingham News (on Nov. 14). I sent one to the Times Picayune (on Nov. 25) and one to the Newark Star Ledger (on Dec. 1).

This week, I mailed off to The Commercial Appeal (on Dec. 13), the Memphis Daily News (on Dec. 13) and The Tennessean (on Dec. 13).

Today, I handed my final one in to the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Dec. 14). I should find out about most early in 2008.

Archived Blog – Tokyo Never Happened

By Christopher Wink | Dec. 19, 2006 | Final JYA blog post

UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011: All my NBCU JYA writing, video and photo work has been transferred to subdomain japan.christopherwink.com.

Things are easier on this side. I realized that when I woke up and, in my persistently active manner, decided I had to go the bank and settle some business. I spent at least a full minute worrying about how I would say what I needed to say in Japanese. Once I realized that wasn’t much necessary, it occurred to me that I have begun a nice grace period where everything I do is going to be awfully simple in comparison to my maneuvering and studying and eating and buying and banking in Tokyo.

The question I am almost always asked is if it is “strange” to be back in the United States. Of course, mostly it isn’t. I am a man of limited means so, while I most certainly have done a lot for what I have been offered, I have spent a great deal of my life wherever my family considered home. It is not strange to return to what I have known for two decades. I may have to readjust and rediscover, but strange is unknown and different. To be sure, in a grand sense, there is nothing different about the America I have found.

Continue reading Archived Blog – Tokyo Never Happened

Japan dean candidates have surprise ties to university (The Temple News: 11/27/07)

By Christopher Wink | Nov. 27, 2007 | The Temple News

Matthew J. Wilson thought it was strange that Ann Weaver Hart was born and raised in Salt Lake City when he first heard nearly two years ago that she was a top candidate to become Temple University’s ninth president.

Wilson, 37, the associate dean of and chief legal counsel for Temple University Japan, was finishing Asian studies and political science degrees from the University of Utah in 1995, while Hart was the dean of the school’s graduate program in education.

“It made me look twice,” Wilson said.

Hart was elected Temple’s first female president on May 4, 2006, and Wilson, who was in Philadelphia to interview to replace the retiring dean of the Japan Campus recently, is bringing the coincidence to light. Those involved are careful to mention that it is just that: coincidence.

“I didn’t know this until I first met him not long ago,” Hart said last week.

Still, the happenstance continues.

While the two didn’t know each other then, Hart explained her husband Randy met Wilson’s father, Jim, while they were studying law at Utah.

Hart’s ties to Wilson, who is one of two finalists to become the next dean of TUJ, go even further.

“My mother went to the same high school as President Hart and her husband,” said Wilson, who first visited Japan as a teenager during a yearlong mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “But she was two years younger.”

Wilson’s competition for the TUJ dean position also has coincidental ties to high-level Temple staff.

Bruce Stronach, 57, current president of Yokohama City University, attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, the very same as Dr. Kirk R. Patterson, the man Stronach is jockeying to replace as dean of TUJ.

Patterson announced his impending retirement Aug. 27, effective at the end of this calendar year. During his tenure, TUJ has seen sizable enrollment increases and a stabilization of longtime budget concerns.

Christopher Wink can be reached at cwink@temple.edu

Text as it appeared in the 11/27/07 edition of The Temple News. See it here. This is part of an ongoing series, see the original story here.

Archived Blog – For Starters

Christopher Wink | Aug. 28, 2006 | First JYA blog post

UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011: All my NBCU JYA writing, video and photo work has been transferred to subdomain japan.christopherwink.com.

Everyone who is in Japan raise your hand.

Note: I am typing with one hand. Clever, I know.

I am writing to you in my small – but expensive – two hundred thirty square foot apartment which I share with another here in the quiet residential Meguro-ku ward of Tokyo (one of 23 such municipalities). It has been quite a little adventure already, but let’s get ourselves orientated, no?

In the realm of self-evaluation, I love to consider myself the elder statesman of travel – at least for an independently traveling twenty-year-old. While most of my extended absences from my northwest New Jersey home have been wanderings throughout the continental United States, I spent the summer of 2005 in Ghana, West Africa. That was my first attempt at using education as a façade for international travel. Here in Tokyo I am keeping up that very pretext, though the time before I fall asleep is spent dreaming of travel and language, not books and tests.

Continue reading Archived Blog – For Starters

TUJ dean retires for the sea (The Temple News: 12/4/08)

By Christopher Wink | Dec. 4, 2007 | The Temple News

Kirk Patterson wants to sail the world.

The current dean of Temple University Japan, who announced his retirement at a campus-wide meeting on Aug. 27, is looking beyond his departure at the end of this month.

It was a dream of his from a very early age, but it wasn’t until 15 years ago that he realized he might be blessed with the opportunity to make it a reality.

“I’ll spend two years in Victoria preparing,” said the native Canadian over the telephone from Tokyo. “Getting the boat ready, getting my body ready.”

Perhaps, it won’t be unlike his five-year career as the top man for Temple in Japan

TUJ was in fiscal ruin 2001, prior to Patterson’s appointment as dean in January 2002. The branch campus had lost money for 10 consecutive years.

“TUJ’s reputation was very bad when I came,” Patterson, 54, said. “A lot of foreign universities were closing, so no one would trust them.”

So Patterson was brought from the corporate world, having held leadership positions in large communications and public relations firms before being chosen to fill the campus’s top position. After reorganizing the school’s mission and welcoming encouraged commitment from Main Campus, Patterson has overseen TUJ’s transition to a successful, profitable part of a growing Temple community.

After years of swirling rumors about the impending closure of TUJ, attitudes have largely changed.

Temple President Ann Weaver Hart’s trip to East Asia last month, which prominently featured TUJ’s 25th anniversary celebration, was an important reminder of that.

“When you’ve been in office for a long, long time and – I would hope – are happy with what you see as the future of the institution you’ve devoted so much of your life to,” Hart said, “you can feel comfortable stepping down knowing that you feel like the institution is in good hands.”

“President Hart is wonderful in her commitment to global education,” said Patterson, who speaks and reads Japanese.

The field of candidates to replace him as head of a growing campus has been narrowed to two.

Bruce Stronach, 57, is a career academic from Massachusetts and current president of Yokohama City University. Matthew J. Wilson, 37, originally from Utah, is chief legal counsel and current Associate Dean at TUJ. The final decision is expected to be announced before the end of January.

Despite an impressive turnaround, Patterson has not been without criticism. Some TUJ administrators and academic personnel have suggested that he has remained too closely involved in the daily decisions of what is still a small, albeit flourishing, university setting.

During a public presentation on Main Campus, Wilson, who would be the youngest dean in TUJ history if chosen, promised to improve something Patterson has cited as one of his earliest successes: campus unity.

“TUJ is a growing institution,” said Wilson while in Philadelphia Nov. 20. “But an important first stand is to reconnect with staff, to improve faculty morale.”

While Temple is not required to release by-campus fiscal results, after a decade of budget shortfalls, the past four years have been profitable, according to Patterson. Enrollment at TUJ has doubled to nearly 3,000 students since Patterson came, including 20 percent increases in each of the past two academic years.

“My successor will inherit an institution that is very optimistic,” said Patterson, who is not involved in the process to select his replacement. “TUJ is becoming a first in the world model for international education.”

Patterson is not shy about what the position has meant to him.

“If I hadn’t taken the Temple job, my life wouldn’t have been complete,” he said. “My decision was to leave Japan, not TUJ.”

After the announcement of his retirement, Hart said she would recommend to the Board of Trustees that Patterson become a Dean Emeritus after his departure, so he would be available to help with any transition period, if necessary.

But Patterson is certainly moving on. He has an ailing father in Spain and a dream of his own calling from the horizon, seeing the world by sea all alone.

Still, he not is without plans to return to what has been his home for 25 years.

“The first leg of my trip will be to sail back here,” he said with confidence in his voice. “No foreigner has ever completed a solo circumnavigation of Japan.”

“I just don’t have a boat, yet,” he said.

Christopher Wink can be reached at cgw@temple.edu.

Text as it appeared for the 12/4/08 edition of The Temple News. See it here. This is one part of an ongoing series about Patterson’s replacement. See the original here.

Junior Year Abroad: an online-only NBC pilot travel podcast

UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011: All my NBCU JYA writing, video and photo work has been transferred to subdomain japan.christopherwink.com.

I sent in a two minute video to NBC’s Manhattan headquarters in June 2006. It was an altogether last minute decision. I saw the promotion of the pilot season of an NBC show called ‘Junior Year Abroad’ in an email that came from the communications department of Temple University. I decided there wasn’t anything to be lost.

Not a month later I heard back. After a brief interview and legal semantics, I was offered a spot on the show. I was driven to New York City for an introduction and training, given several hundred dollars worth of equipment and had my semester studying in Japan essentially paid for by a corporation. During my five month stay, I filmed 10 hours video, took more than 1,300 photographs and wrote nearly 60,000 words on my experience in Asia. It offered me a world of knowledge, the only cost being a more passionate desire to see and explore more while I was abroad.

Ten, in all, young college students from across the country, traveling to different parts of the world were selected, as seen above, the only time we met.

The NBC crew used my footage to produce five show-specific pieces, which you can see below, in addition to another seven podcasted videos while I was living in Tokyo, which you can see here.

Continue reading Junior Year Abroad: an online-only NBC pilot travel podcast

Tokyo, Japan Study Abroad Reflection

By Christopher Wink | Nov. 29, 2006 | Tokyo, Japan

UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011: All my NBCU JYA writing, video and photo work has been transferred to subdomain japan.christopherwink.com.

I will go home on December 8, 2006. There is a ticket that asserts I will be traveling to a place unknown to the part of me who has lived in Tokyo for the last half year. As thin as paper is, some of it carries a great deal of weight. Some of the most important and powerful things of this world are just paper. My ticket will not change much, nor will it be remembered by anyone in just a few short months. Importance is relative.

I will be happy to find my native America again, but how remarkable my time here in Japan has been. I have seen a 50-foot Buddha and 500 miles on an $85 bicycle. I saw a sunrise from the head of a dormant volcano. I watched an auction of bids for 500 pound tuna. I ate octopus and herring eggs and river shrimp and pickled beets and nearly 60 pounds of rice. I will remember it all.

Continue reading Tokyo, Japan Study Abroad Reflection