Recovering Foreign Correspondent is written by Mary Kay Magistad, a semi-nomadic Minnesotan who went to grad school in England in 1984 and just kept traveling and living abroad until she moved to San Francisco in September 2013.

Mary Kay has reported from some 40 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, and mostly for public radio.  She has lived in London, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Hong Kong and Beijing, and has traveled to and reported from every province in China.

In her early forays as a freelance foreign correspondent, Mary Kay reported from Polisario refugee camps in the Western Sahara, Ethiopian villages recovering from famine, and Bangladesh at a time of general strikes, before being drawn in by Vietnam and Cambodia, and deciding to base herself in Bangkok.  She became a stringer (regular contributor) for The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, Canada’s CBC and NPR, traveling to and reporting from Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and, of course, Thailand  In 1993, NPR made her its full-time Southeast Asia correspondent, moved her to Hong Kong and then to Beijing to open NPR’s first bureau in China.

After four years as NPR’s China correspondent, Mary Kay did a Nieman fellowship and a Radcliffe fellowship at Harvard, realized she missed China, and headed back to Beijing in December 2002 for another decade or so, as East Asia correspondent for PRI/BBC’s “The World.”  Her reporting for “The World” won several awards, including a duPont-Columbia Silver Baton, and an Overseas Press Club award.  Mary Kay also served a term as president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of China.

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  1. I spent this morning on the Taipei MRT riding to school listening to your farewell appearance on the Sinica podcast and thought I would pass on something I wrote in my capacity as an occasional essayist for NewsChina magazine just before I left. I hope it will evoke some fond memories of Beijing!

    Three men sit beneath a flyover practicing brass instruments. Grating sounds of iron and steel, crunching gears, out-of-town accents. Hawkers sing their wares, voices ping down corridors of concrete. Others squawk into streets where money talks, often about itself.

    A speaker blares sales speak on repeat, another plays music for couples to swirl and dance. The slap of Chinese chess piece, the tap of cards tossed casually. The clickety-clack of the mahjong rack, straight-backed soldiers’ verbal hack.

    The accelerating hum of electric trikes, curses muttered as taxis ease a turn. Eerie creaks as big winds pass through. Thunder cracks and rain buckets, eking down a grimy pane. Pocket-sized dogs growl and yap. The sizzle of barbeque and bubble of vat.

    Cackles of laughter peal off baijiu bottles. Gaudy ringtones herald louder fashions. Lovemaking and blind-eyed domestics seep through the walls. Subways snore, buses hiss. Traffic crawls.

    A wizened cyclist enlightens with a song. Ayi lightly scolds a gaggle of young despite their wrongs. Whispered love vows. Shouted remonstrations invite the crowd. The traffic report, the nightly news, the morning exercises, the unspoken views.

    Looking forward to reading the book!


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