A reader shares "My Journey from Cambodia as a Sweatshop Worker"

The other day I got an amazing email from Sina Li, a Clothing Design student at University of Minnesota who was born in Cambodia.  She read WAIW? and enjoyed it, which thrilled me.  Her sister works at a garment factory and Sina almost did before coming to the United States.

I asked her to tell her story and she did so in the comments of this post, but I thought I would share them here, too.  Thanks for Sharing Sina!

My journey from Cambodia as a sweatshop worker

This is for Kelsey asking me to write on his blog. Well it started when I was about 13 years old when my life was so close to no choice but to work at a sweatshop factory in Cambodia Phnom Penh. Every body…

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Why I'm running the NYC marathon and how you can help

Annie gave me The Look that I’ve become all too familiar with…

You’re doing what?

I saw it after college when I moved to Key West. I saw it when I told her about my plan to go to Bangladesh because my underwear was made there.

She had just returned from a full day of work and was smartly clad in her office attire. I was still in my writer’s uniform: shorts, ratty T-shirt, and barefoot.  I looked like her jobless, thirty-something, live-in mooch.

“I’ve committed to running the NYC marathon and raising $3,000…”

(insert The Look)

“…for cancer.”

The look softened.

Annie knows cancer.  She works at a radiation treatment center.  She takes pride in smiling at patients and their families.  Annie and her co-workers become part of the patients’ daily routine.

The treated are cared for….

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The Yes Men

The Yes Men setup fake corporate websites mimicking companies like Exxon and Dow Chemical.   And Then they wait for an invite to speak at an event.  Shennanigans follow.  I can’t wait to see this movie.

Yes, it’s fraud. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But is it funny and sad at the same time? Yes!

Here’s  a great sample of them dooping folks (the BBC no less!):


These guys are really good at what they do.  They are much smoother than I was impersonating an underwear buyer in Bangladesh.

Yes, I can’t wait to see this movie….

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The Skill is Gone

The other day I was driving through Farmland, Indiana.   It was rush hour somewhere, but not in Farmland that day…or ever.

The town has a population of 1,340 plus one guy who looked a little out of place.  He was doing the strut where one arm swings and the other holds the waist of his pants to keep them from falling below his knees.

“I wonder where his underwear were made,” I thought, because that’s how much of a problem I have.

I’m not against the baggy-pants look, but Farmland is the kind of place where keeping your pants up is such a priority that suspenders are often employed; fashion be damned. So it’s no surprise that my next thought was, “That boy needs a belt.”

I don’t normally wear a belt, but,…

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Notes to Aspiring Writers

Tomorrow the Midwest Writers’ Workshop kicks-off in Muncie. It was there that I met my agent two years ago. (Here’s a recap of the 2007 conference.) This year I’ll be a junior member of the faculty. I don’t think they actually have junior members, but my duties are light.

Here’s my schedule:

Thursday: I’ll be lingering all day, attending sessions and eating cookies, but I’ll officially be schmoozing  at

3:45-4:15 Social Time / Book Signings; coffee


4:15-5:15 pm [1]…

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Faces behind the labels

I’m haunted by garment workers. When I put on a shirt I see faces and families. Today I’m wearing a shirt Made in Honduras, which makes me think of a fella I met outside of a factory near San Pedro Sula.

This week I’d like to step out of the way and let pictures from my global quest to meet the people who made my clothes speak for themselves.

Where are you wearing today? Join the discussion on Twitter….

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I hope someone remembered to pack the baby

I used to travel light…besides my cultural baggage.  I’d throw a pair of underwear in my backpack and hit the road.  I didn’t write the book on Travelin’ Light, but I did used to write the column on it.

But now that we have a baby in tow/in car seat/in jogging stroller/in arms, the packing list has expanded exponentially.  Could someone tell me why a 17-pound baby requires 500-pounds of gear?

Annie, Harper, and I are in Michigan on vacation. It’s supposed to be a beach vacation, but sweatshirt weather has dictated otherwise.  It took half the morning to pack all of our stuff into the four-door car, Pontiac (don’t get me started) G6 that we bought when Harper was on her way.  We bought the car knowing that we would…

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How can I have my midlife crisis if TransAm is dead?

I thought I had my mid-life crisis all figured out.

In 2029 when I turn 50, I’ll start lifting weights, listen to nothing but the Goo Goo Dolls, dust off the ol’ letterman jacket, and – this is the most important party — buy a shiny new TransAm to make me feel 16 again.

But now that Pontiac is no more, how’s a fella supposed to get through his midlife crisis? Surely you don’t expect me to buy a Mustang, do you?

On my 16th birthday my parents chipped in half for the TransAm I had been pining for. Not one of those weenie ones with a V6 in it. It had eight screaming cylinders of raw American muscle. I was proud of how much gas and rubber it…

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A thousand words

I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-William Butler Yeats

IMG_1882 copy

Harper and I – or rather our feet. What lessons will she have learned by the time her feet look like mine? A father can only wonder….

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