J.W. Mitchell Farms in Franklin, North Carolina (Author Credit)

Off an unassuming winding road cutting through the thick hardwoods against the panoramic mountains of North Carolina near Franklin, there lies a picturesque farm teeming with rows and rows of peach trees, tomato, corn, and pea crops, flowers, beehives and smatterings of delectable edibles in an Appalachian Eden.

“U-Pick” says the rustic sign along the roadside, and with the intent to follow through on that prompt, we pulled over to stretch our legs.

After the awe of the initial majesty, we shuffled into the inviting open air shed that housed various offerings, all at reasonable prices:

And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak. And I seem to find the happiness that I seek. When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.


I’m in Heaven.

Her voice reverberated throughout the house. It was seven a.m.

My mom, she’s a morning person. And likes to sing.

She’s terrible at it. Off-key, a crack here and there, lyrics jumbled.

And that morning, it was Fred Astaire.

She stopped mid-wail, saw me shuffling in, hazy fog in my eyes.

“How’s my binky-baby-boy this morning?”

I’m 48.

This is where Rey slept for two weeks.

“It’s an oven, sir,” Rey said. “Almost two weeks I’ve been here, and the heat makes you weak. I want to do nothing.”

A pause in his words. I remembered the long brownouts here at home in Ormoc. No air conditioning. The heat oppressive. Stifling.

Poor kid.

“I’m writing to you from outside,” he said. “There’s no signal in the room. How do I spend the days? I know I must be productive. I drink lemon ginger tea, exercise, and pray. I think of my family constantly. …

Annie won’t touch beef.

Our island of Leyte has some righteous mussels, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“I don’t like the smell,” she said, handing me a plate of breakfast. Two eggs, always perfectly cooked, rice (hell yes, rice, every meal), and, at least twice a week, a half dozen fried, dried fish. The odor is evident long before the meal is served; as soon as those puppies begin to sizzle, the entire apartment oozes thick with a long-dead, decaying stench of rotting aquatic creatures. It’s a level of nasty that’ll curl paint on a wall, that’ll bring a man to tears.

But beef? Nah, that stuff is gross.

“I don’t think you’ve…

A 24 kilo bag of rice, delivered by a barangay representative to each home.

What is this now? Day fourteen? Day fifteen? I’ve stopped counting. The official extension is April 30th, the deadlines for unrestricted movement seeming arbitrary at this point. The streets of Ormoc City in Leyte are a whisper of what they were weeks ago; hailing a pedicab is an exercise in patience, the calamity of midday traffic all but gone. It’s as if though the people have boarded a ferry and left.

But they haven’t.

One thing that’s remained is an internet connection, and thus I maintain contact with family and friends back home, or at least what home used to…

A longtime motorcycle buff, Richard here in the Austrian Alps.

You all know those instructors. Most of you can boast having learned from them.

The popular teachers.

They are the ones that inspire, not only in their passion for the subject, but in the extraordinary lives they lead. Ever-curious, ever-plotting some new way to learn, some new idea, some unseen land yet to explore.

They’re interested, involved. And you know they genuinely care. About your life, your failures and successes, your tragedies, your aspirations.

Richard has taught geography his entire career, but what’s key is that he isn’t just a teacher. He is an explorer, an Indiana Jones prone to…

What you are about to see are the faces of my students, all of them now in their respective hometowns, reasonably safe.

I hope.

I’m a professor at Huaihua University in the Hunan province, just southwest of Wuhan, the name of which we’re all familiar. As of January, the college has closed its doors, and my return has been left up in the air, and as I wait in exile in the Philippines, all I have are pictures in my mind.


And those, my American and European friends, are the images I want to share. Often, we think of…

The author, right, with Toby, his sorrel guide horse, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, 1997.

Beginning in the fall of 1997, I began a seven-year chapter of my life that forever altered the way I thought, my interactions with others, and my take on the relationship we have with the natural world. Throughout the late spring, all summer and fall, my home was a tent, my transportation a horse. I guided campers, mountain climbers, hikers, hunters, and fishermen in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Along the way, I learned a few things that I’ve used extensively since in my teaching career, but they are also very applicable to other endeavors, business or personal.

If you peek around the crannies and crevices of South Texas, you’ll find some fare that one might deem…unconventional, influenced by the stones-throw country to the south. The venerable menudo is a common dish, delicious tripas and sesos tacos, the beloved barbacoa. Just need a snack? Dive into a bag of chicharonnes.

“Try this,” I’d say to a visitor.

“What’s in it?”

“Just give it a shot.”

Head meat, intestines, brains, skin. Freaking delicious.

But then, later, back home, they get this: “You ate what?”

So, the transition to Leyte, a province in the southern portion of the Philippines, was…

In today’s world, global mobility is becoming more accessible for millions of people. Online careers, remotely operated businesses, and the demand for specialized skill sets in foreign nations open up the possibility that you’re not confined to a single area of the globe on which to live.

If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “Man, I gotta get out of here”, or “This can’t be all there is,’’ well, you can, and no, it’s not.

In my case, it was the Philippines. So, I packed a bag, hopped a flight leaving Brownsville, Texas, and discovered some things in two months living…

Mike Hancock

Author, Educator, occasional Journalist

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