Greetings from Abroad: a first e-mail from study abroad

By Christopher Wink | Jul 12, 2005 | First email from Ghana

Date: Tue 12 Jul 12:27:32 EDT 2005
From: Christopher Wink | Add To Address Book | This is Spam
Subject: Greetings from Abroad
To: Family


Sound the trumpeters for I have come to announce my arrival. I am here at the University of Ghana in Legon outside of Accra, and all is well.  I am sorry for not writing earlier, however international calling is somewhat sketchy and internet access is inconvenient, time consuming, and altogether nauseating.

That being said, I don’t know how often I will write, so I better do things real swell now.

The airplane ride was … long.  But it did get me a stamp from Germany and a visa and stamp from Ghana in my passport, the first such signs of an experienced travel I have encountered.

Continue reading Greetings from Abroad: a first e-mail from study abroad

Backpacking in Eastern China December 2006

Monday, November 27 to December 7, 2006

Before returning back to the United States after living and studying in Tokyo, Japan, I took a couple weeks to visit the two largest and best known metropolises of eastern China: capital city Beijing and cultural hub Shanghai.

I hope to include more details of my experiences in the future, but for now, please enjoy some photos.

Continue reading Backpacking in Eastern China December 2006

Dispute ends with one dead, one hurt (Philadelphia Inquirer: 4/26/06)

By Barbara Boyer and Christopher Wink | Apr 26, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

One teen is dead, another is charged with murder, and police are looking for a third after an Olney playground turned into a bloody crime scene.

Yagouba Bah, 17, of the 100 block of West Champlost Street, was shot twice and stabbed so brutally Thursday night that one police official said the wound looked as though the victim had been eviscerated on the playground.
And, police said, it all happened in front of the teen’s brother.

Maurice Harmon, 17, of the 5800 block of Howard Street, was shot in the thigh accidentally by a friend during the slaying of Bah, police said. Harmon was treated for injuries – and charged yesterday with murder. He is a junior at a school run by Community Education Partners at 12th Street and Allegheny Avenue.

At a vigil and antiviolence rally last night in the playground where the teenager was attacked, more than 50 people, many of them children, gathered around a tree decorated with teddy bears, cards and a poster board that read: “We love you, Gouba.”

Many were in tears. Some stared with blank expressions at candles placed at the base of the tree. Others cried out: “You didn’t have to kill him!”

Tondalea Wiggins, the boy’s stepmother, was the only member of the teen’s family who was able to speak to the crowd about the tragedy that had visited them.

“Let Gouba rest,” she said. “God has a plan for everybody. He don’t have to suffer no more.”

She also pleaded with the young people in attendance to stop the violence and to resolve conflicts amicably.

“You don’t fight somebody just because they came from another country,” Wiggins said. The family emigrated from the African nation of Guinea, she said later.

Then she had words for her stepson’s attackers:

“Whoever did this is going to pay. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you’re going to pay for what you did,” Wiggins said.

This year, there have been 115 homicides, the same as for the comparable period last year, when the total for the year was 380. That was the highest since 1997, when more than 400 homicides were recorded.

Police said they responded to the Olney Recreation Center in the 6000 block of North A Street at 8:22 p.m. Thursday. There they found Bah, who had gunshot wounds to the back and side and a deep stab wound to the abdomen.

Bah, a ninth grader at Excel Academy at 6600 Bustleton Ave., one of four district schools for over-age students, was rushed to Albert Einstein Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9 p.m.

Harmon was shot in the left thigh and taken to Einstein by a private vehicle, police said. Police yesterday were still looking for the friend who accidentally shot him.

As police surveyed the playground, they said, they discovered casings from a .45-caliber gun as well as a 9mm gun, a white metal rod, and a bloodied knife.

Police said the teens had a running argument earlier in the evening. Witnesses told police the fights flared and calmed, and then, before one teen starting swinging a stick, another pulled a knife and two pulled guns.

Capt. Benjamin Naish, a police spokesman, said Bah had been getting the better of the other teens before it escalated with weapons. Police said Bah had not been armed.

Police said the nature of the argument was unclear. They also had not determined who took Harmon to the hospital for his leg injury.

Yesterday afternoon, teens returned to the playground, where chalk marks and crime-scene tape remained.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334.

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 215-854-2641 or

Inquirer staff writer Stephanie L. Arnold contributed to this article.

Text as it appeared in the April 26, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B01.

Road-rage case ends in a guilty verdict (Philadelphia Inquirer: 4/1/06)

By Christopher Wink | Apr 1, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Friends of a newlywed father who was shot to death last May during a traffic flare-up with another motorist pumped their fists as his alleged killer was found guilty yesterday of first-degree murder.

Frank Jeffs, 52, of Southwest Philadelphia, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison in the death of Robert Kerwood, 28, a South Philadelphia construction worker. Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina scheduled sentencing for May 15.

“I’m absolutely very happy with the verdict,” said Kerwood’s widow, Julie, whom he married 11 days before he died. “It’s comforting to know he will never be able to do something like this again.”

In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutor Carmen Lineberger called Jeffs a “wannabe military” type who “wanted to kill something that day.”

The trouble started on the Schuylkill Expressway and escalated when the men exited, honking and cutting each other off on 61st Street near Eastwick Avenue.

Jeffs, who worked in heating and air-conditioning at the University of Pennsylvania, fired three shots from a licensed .22-caliber revolver. Kerwood died the next day, May 6.

Jeffs’ godfather and uncle, Al Pellecchia, called his nephew “the kind of guy who wouldn’t step on an ant walking by.”

“It’s obvious that somewhere along the line, [the jurors] weren’t paying attention,” Pellecchia said.

Defense lawyer C. Scott Shields said Jeffs was acting in self-defense.

“This a scary, terrifying guy screaming out of his big SUV,” Shields said in his closing remarks. “What was Frank Jeffs supposed to do?”

Kerwood had waved “a black, shiny object” at Jeffs – investigators believe it was a cell phone – and yelled for him to pull over.

“He thought it was a gun, and acted to defend his life,” Shields said.

Kerwood’s family yesterday remembered him as a thoughtful and loving father of three.

“I don’t think a day would go by that he wouldn’t call and say, ‘I love you, Ma,’ ” said Kerwood’s mother, Julia. She said that after her son died, “I wanted to give up, but now I think I’m going to get my life together.”

Contact Christopher Wink at

Text as it appeared in the April 1, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B04.

Study Abroad in Tokyo, Japan Fall 2006

Wednesday, Aug. 23 to Dec. 13, 2006

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

During the fall semester of my junior year in 2006, I studied in Tokyo, Japan, using photographs, video and a blog to chronicle my nearly six months there. I was prompted to take 1,300 photos, capture almost 10 hours of video and write nearly 60,000 words because I was a cast member on the pilot season of an online-only show produced by NBC. Since the show was never picked up or continued and its Web site has since been taken offline, follow my exploits here, below.

Read the first post I wrote for NBC after arriving in Tokyo here, and my final reflections I wrote while in Tokyo, days before I returned to the United States, here. I also wrote a reflection about study abroad experience in Japan.

Watch the strictly NBC episode specific videos here, or watch the ones produced while I was traveling below.

Continue reading Study Abroad in Tokyo, Japan Fall 2006

Airline-flight harassment case is heard (Philadelphia Inquirer: 3/18/06)

By Christopher Wink | Mar 18, 2006 | Philadelphia Inquirer

Local radio personality E. Steven Collins was settling into his first-class seat next to his wife on a flight to Philadelphia from Los Angeles when he noticed Robert Baldwin.

“He was muttering something,” Collins said.

From there, his July 31 flight got worse – a whole lot worse, he told a Philadelphia judge yesterday as he pressed charges of harassment and ethnic intimidation against Baldwin.

Collins contends that Baldwin, who sat behind him and his wife, used racial epithets, kicked his wife’s seat, and put his bare feet on her headrest throughout the five-hour ride.

Collins is large – more than 6 feet tall and more than 200 pounds – and has a booming voice. He could have responded to Baldwin’s affronts in many ways, he said.

He chose to notify the flight staff and ultimately the police, including a personal call to Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

“African American men need to know that they don’t need to be violent to get justice in this system,” said Collins, host of E. Steven Live on WPHI-FM (100.3) and national sales director for Radio One Philadelphia.

He said justice began yesterday with the first day of Baldwin’s criminal trial.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Khan frequently pointed to the role of alcohol. One flight attendant testified that she had served Baldwin, of Blue Bell, two double vodka tonics. Another said she had thought Baldwin, who was accompanied by his son and wife, was intoxicated before he got on the plane.

In response, Baldwin’s attorney, Mark Cedrone, called several of Baldwin’s former coworkers from Rohm & Haas as character witnesses. Baldwin left the Philadelphia chemical company after the harassment charges were filed.

Colleagues labeled his reputation “excellent” and his history of racial tolerance “sterling.”

Cedrone also questioned whether Municipal Court had jurisdiction, because the dispute started in the air and ended at Philadelphia International Airport, part of which is in Delaware County.

Judge Marsha Neifield directed both sides to file briefs on the jurisdiction question by May 15 and said she would resume the trial May 23.

“Baldwin has to know that you can’t say things and do things without consequences,” Collins said. “We’ll pursue this every which way and in every direction possible.”

Contact Christopher Wink at

Text as it appeared in the March 18, 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer on B01.

Travel Well (Newsweek submission: 3/18/07)

By Christopher Wink | Mar 18, 2007 | Newsweek submission

I have an excessive devotion to my nationality. I like to think there is something distinctly American in that pride of being American. I have saved money and made friends all to answer my desperation to travel, desperate to learn and explore and represent this nation.

I carry a four foot by six foot American flag that was once my grandfather’s whenever I’m abroad, whenever I’m representing this nation. So, that faded flag has gone from his attic, to the wall of my row home in Philadelphia, to a migrant workers’ station in Mexico, to a slave castle in Ghana, to a great wall in China.

I take very seriously my representing the United States. I speak with the polite “vous” in southern Quebec and drink slowly my wine in central Tuscany. Yes, I have an excessive devotion to my nationality. But, sadly, perhaps it is my expressiveness that is distinctly American. I have seen hundreds of Italian club-goers glaring at a group of American girls who were having too much fun–pocketbooks over their shoulders, shoes in one hand, drinks in the other–as they tripped through a break-dancing competition.

Continue reading Travel Well (Newsweek submission: 3/18/07)

My Cross-Country Adventure Summer 2007

San Diego to Philly |  Thurs., Aug. 9 to Aug. 24, 2007 | Michael Butler and Matt Sheehan

There is something distinctly American about the cross-country trip, so, while I had my fair share of road trips — going as far as driving from the New Jersey coast to Idaho and returning — I had never driven across this fine country of ours, until summer 2007.

With two friends, I flew to San Diego, rented a vehicle, drove north along the California coast and then hopped from national parks and cities of interest all the way to the East Coast.

I hope to add more details and information in the future, but, for now, enjoy some photos of general interest from the trip below.

Continue reading My Cross-Country Adventure Summer 2007

Studying Abroad in Ghana, West Africa Summer 2005

Study Abroad in Ghana | July 06 to August 16, 2005

In summer 2005, I studied at the University of Ghana in West Africa. It was, unsurprisingly, a startling experience. I was moved enough to film and write and photograph. Here is a small collection of it all.

Read the first email I sent to family and friends in the first few days of my West African summer here.

Lift Every Voice preview

“Lift Every Voice” is an hour-long film that chronicles that summer 2005, during which I studied at the University of Ghana in West Africa. This is a 30-second preview of it.

Continue reading Studying Abroad in Ghana, West Africa Summer 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer Internship Reflection (5/23/06)

By Christopher Wink | May 23, 2006

It was January 16, 2006 that I was offered and I accepted an internship with the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was that very Monday that I accepted a position I hadn’t expected to get, a position with the city desk of a large, historical, urban daily.

I think about the semester I spent walking the streets of Philadelphia with an Inquirer ID around my neck and a steno pad stuck in my back pocket, those felt-tip black pens, Hermes, and DocCenter. I made mistakes, mistakes as inexplicable as your palms sweating when you go to shake some silly celebrity’s hand. I went to court without a pen, to a press conference without a pad, and an interview without both. I called detectives without remembering why and had quotes without remembering from whom.

I covered the courts on Fridays. Allow me to demystify that. Most weeks that meant I sat in the Criminal Justice Center on Filbert Street waiting for jury deliberations to end or chasing down grieving widows to get a quotation on how the verdict made her feel.

Continue reading Philadelphia Inquirer Internship Reflection (5/23/06)