Project Phongsali: We are joined by two talented Americans. Check out their websites to learn more about Laos.

March 22, 2010

Day 49

Two American friends are due to arrive today.  Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern, wife and husband, now live in New Mexico, but Karen is originally from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and Jerry grew up in Montana. They spend as much or more time in Asia than they do in New Mexico, making that state more a legal residence than home.

Jerry is a professional photographer who just had an exhibition of his work in Siem Reap, Cambodia and arrived in Laos this week from Thailand where he had been teaching a photography class for Burmese journalists.

Karen is a freelance writer with two books and numerous articles to her credit: Cambodia Now: Life in the Wake of War, and Pacific Lady: the First Woman to Sail Across the Pacific Ocean. She’s also an avid “foodie” who, once upon a time, was Asia food correspondent for Gourmet Magazine.  Just a couple of months before I left for Laos this winter, Karen, Jerry and I met up in Wausau, Wisconsin, for a tour of Hmong grocery stores, markets and restaurants.  Her food article that resulted from that trip was recently published in the Milwaukee Journal (February 23, 2010).

Karen and Jerry are now collaborating on a book about the impact of UXO on people throughout Southeast Asia.  I’m excited to think that Jerry’s photography and Karen’s insightful writing might help bring deserved world attention to the problems here in Phongsali.

To check out Karen and Jerry’s work, visit their web sites at and

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