On attendance of a funeral

By Christopher Wink | April 14, 2006

I choose my clothes carefully, more carefully than I normally tend to choose my clothes. I am dressed well. I am dressed well in black, all black from my freshly shined shoes to my belt to my neatly ironed shirt and cravat. By cravat I mean a length of fabric I tie around my neck according to a tradition with origins unknown to me. This means I am dressed-up. This means fancy. I am dressed well and fancy in black. I have used a shoeshine kit, an iron, and lint brushes, and toothbrushes, and hairbrushes and other items made to help me look nice enough to convince others that I care how I look. I have run out of things to prepare. I enter and sit inside an automobile. I ride.

There are so many other automobiles. The automobile I am inside situates itself between two other automobiles, all ordered according to white lines on rough, hard ground of the same color as the legs of my pants that don’t fit around my ankles as I feel they should. I stop and fix my black pants, and retuck my black shirt under these black pants. I have run out of things to prepare. I enter a big building made of triangles.

This is a place that many people I know think these events should be held. By tradition and desire I am quiet. There are initial furtive glances particular to my role in this event. Or casual glances that are natural for when people pass other people. I do not know which. I think they are particular to me because I think everyone cares about me so that way if that is true I am not surprised. I am still in the lobby. This is an oversized, tiny room that lets you enter. Like my mouth, where I hold my food before I gobble it down my throat to its destination. I don’t know if my food really knows where it wants to go or if it is only given the appearance of a choice. It always goes to the same place. In the lobby everyone goes to the same place.

I pause by faces that I recognize because I have seen them every day for many days. People say my name in hushed tones. I assume this is to reaffirm that it is me because the hug and repeated back-patting that always follows would not be desired by someone who wasn’t me. I don’t really desire them and I am I. But, I don’t know if I don’t desire them. My belt does not stay centered. By tradition, my belt buckle should line up with my shirt buttons. These are all roughly in the center of my body. I have to retuck my black shirt under my black pants. I have run out of things to prepare. I enter a room with a roof that is too tall to remember.

They look at me or I thought or I wanted or I didn’t want them to look at me. I watch the show. Many women wipe things from their eyes with very white kerchiefs. These are portions of soft material with which women wipe things from their eyes. Men look forward or rest their arms on women who wipe things from their eyes. Other men have red eyes, or normal eyes with red tints. Sometimes people get red eyes for not sleeping. I think how silly that is while I bend my leg at the knee to rest my ankle on my opposite thigh. This is how people traditionally relax or sit comfortably. I wonder if any animals do that when I notice a mark on my recently shined black shoes. I use the fleshy side of my thumb to rub the mark until it disappears. So few imperfections disappear after rubbing and attention and care.

People get up and join the show. They say nice things and remember other nice things. Many people lie, if lying can mean to exclude negative information. People get tired of saying nice things to men who get tired of resting their arms on women who get tired of wiping things from their eyes next to the children who get tired of looking sad.

I loosen my cravat just a little. This is why men wear cravats. So, later they can loosen the cravat a little. This is a very fashionable look, but, by tradition, you have to wear it tightened for many hours first. I loosen my cravat. I can think of many things to prepare. I exit the room with the roof and the building of triangles and I enter the automobile. The automobile carefully reverses and drives on the right side of yellow lines, as everyone traditionally does. I tie my shoelace, which doesn’t seem to stay tightened. I tighten my cravat so later I can loosen it and look tired. I look out the window.

Lakota Reflections from the Rosebud Reservation

By Christopher Wink | May 25, 2006 | Travel Reflection

I have proudly represented Temple University on service immersion trips before. I have had South Dakotan ground beneath my feet before, too. Moreover, I have been with Jason Riley in a rental car and with John Dimino on an airplane before. Still, it is easy to understand that some experiences, no matter the similarities, can never be fully replicated.

Our group of ten administrators and students flew into Rapid City, South Dakota in May 2006, destined to work on the Rosebud Reservation of the Lakota Nation. While nearing the airport from above, below me South Dakota appeared wrinkled and aged. As we further approached, her features took form: trees that survived passed generations of agricultural clearing and beef cattle that survived passed days of agricultural slaughter.

This region of Dakota’s limitless expansion is only interrupted by flurries of elevation change. Once on ground, the pavement of interstate 90 appeared to have tamed the land into a consumable table of gentle slopes and caressing ridges. All of which leads me to offer muddled explanations of the region’s geographical features: endless plains with small, yet punctuated elevation changes interjected regularly.

Continue reading Lakota Reflections from the Rosebud Reservation

Habitat for Humanity in Laredo, Texas Reflections

By Christopher Wink | March 18, 2006

Temple University sent 23 of us to Laredo, Texas to work with Habitat for Humanity. We slept on the ground of vacant classrooms, took less-than-hot showers, and worked a watered-down form of construction from 8am until 4pm daily. For those unfamiliar with what the phrase college spring break generally connotes, this wasn’t your garden-variety week off from American higher education.

Yet, nearly 100 volunteered to pack screwdrivers and hammers in their spring break suitcases. It’s a shame that only 23 of those who applied got to work with the international group that manages to build beautiful homes with volunteer crews and sell them to deserving families with long-term, low interest loans. -The teach-a-man-to-fish type of charity that makes us get mushy inside.

Continue reading Habitat for Humanity in Laredo, Texas Reflections

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