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Researcher at the Austrian Economics Center writing about global affairs, history, economics, travel, leisure, and culture. IG: funboatdiplomat

There has been a lot of cheating in this COVID relief program

Photo by Shane on Unsplash

As the COVID-19 crisis established its grip on the world at the end of March 2020, the U.S. government put the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into effect. By April, as part of the intended short-term relief, the CARES Act appropriated a total of $670 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through which businesses affected by the pandemic could apply for a forgivable loan to cover costs and revenue loss that would not otherwise have occurred.

With such a large amount of money put on the table so quickly by lawmakers, the possibilities of getting a…


Travel Writing Prompt

I survived and some vivid memories stuck around

Cao Lau is the local dish that Hoi An is famous for. It’s a dry noodle dish topped with braised pork, herbs, and a special sauce. It was my first meal on the afternoon that I arrived in Hoi An. It is also the dish that gave me my frighteningly uncomfortable bout with food poisoning.

Photo by Author

The ailment that so infamously strikes travelers in Southeast Asia was bound to strike me too. Despite all the discomfort and worry that plagued me in tandem with the illness itself, fate seemed determined to highlight the silver linings of my circumstances. …


China has recently escalated threats of force against Taiwan. Ancient Greek history may provide insights for the scenario.

Photo by Jason Hong on Unsplash

The strife across the Taiwan Strait has gone through a bit of a cycle since the pause in full hostilities in the mid-20th century. From a full-on civil war to warming economic ties starting in the late 1980s, the cross-strait relationship has recently returned to a condition of rising tensions between Mainland China and Taiwan. The diplomatic sparring and physical show of force in the air and at sea involving China, Taiwan, and the U.S. in the context of current geopolitical action have the potential to result in a true confrontation that has been so far avoided. …


TRAVEL. USA. CALIFORNIA.

The mountains of California were both new and familiar

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

As comfortable as it was at home with meals readily available, Netflix at the push of a button, and old friends free to hang out, it was time to get back on the road. I had arranged to volunteer at a hostel in the mountains at Big Bear, California, for August. I also really wanted to see California before I headed back to Europe for school. I believed that the mountain, the woods, and the lake would be great for outdoor activities and help organize my mind and spirit.


It’s actually what Bin Laden was hoping for and more

Photo by Gaspar Uhas on Unsplash

We crowded around the TV in the communal lounge that evening and watched President Obama walk confidently up to the podium. He announced that U.S. forces had captured and killed Osama Bin Laden. There was palpable excitement among us college freshmen. Someone proposed that we drive on down to the White House and join in with a growing crowd that was gathering on the north side across from Lafayette Square.

I felt it in the night air. It was like the college parties that we had gotten so accustomed to on the weekends since the beginning of our time at…


Travel. Sahara. North Africa.

My first sighting of these wise animals early my first morning in the desert of Morocco.

Photo by Mark Kuiper on Unsplash

The overnight bus ride from Fez was a restless one.

I managed to take the seat all the way at the front with the view through the windshield, which is always my preference for any bus ride if the opportunity arises. On night rides, I can generally expect to see the pulsating waves of street lamps passing by on the highway and inducing a sense of ease.

Not on this ride.

This bus quickly departed from civilization and we were immersed in pitch blackness. The only light came from the high beams at the front of the bus that illuminated…


You may soon see the option to pay, transfer, and receive money on an app from the central bank of China

Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

What if money could directly reach the people who use it? No banks, no delays, and no fees. People could send each other money without having to go through Venmo or Cash App, paychecks could clear instantly instead of counting business days, and loans could be approved with no waiting period.

China has already taken the first steps toward this goal of convenience and efficiency with the government’s recent rollout of their digital currency. …


Travel. North Africa. Morocco.

A chance encounter led to an insider tour around Fez

Photo by Author

I found my hostel just on the fringes of the Fez Medina with the help of many kind strangers. Plenty of people offered to help me find the place, which I was grateful for after my long journey from the airport.

Many of the hostels in Morocco are actually repurposed Riads that were considered quite fancy to stay at way back in the day. The Riad, from the Arabic term for ‘garden,’ emphasizes privacy and shelter from the weather. The center of each Riad typically has a garden or fountain in a courtyard under an open-air aperture that provides a…


TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

I did it the long way so that you don’t have to

Photo by Author

Looking out the window of the plane, I saw Europe melt away into the distance and with it my sense of grounding and familiarity.

As land came into view again, I began to prepare myself for my first contact with the African continent. From my vantage point in the sky with the Ryanair logo on the wing providing a spatial point of reference, I could see the magnificent landscape of Morocco. It was far greener than I expected with lakes that reflected calming shades of turquoise and small isolated villages nestled in the mountains.


Travel. Bosnia and Herzegovina.

My Couchsurfing host left me on the highway and forced me to hitchhike to my next destination.

Photo by author
Photo by author
Photo by Author

Dragan lit a cigarette and pulled the ashtray closer to his side of the table. Smoke filled the room and set the relaxing mood that we were in for the long haul. The barkeeper brought two bottles of beer over to us as we both settled into our seats.

The flight earlier that day had been one of those signature quick hopes across national boundaries that are so convenient in Europe. On approach, I looked out the window at the mid-afternoon expanse of bright green farmland covering the surface of the landscape.

Weimin Chen

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