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My 5 | Bonjwing Lee

five objects (Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)
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2 minute read

My 5 is a series wherein Flatland asks someone to show us five items from their life that help them do their job or tell their story. It’s a chance to learn more about the people in our community by getting a peek at what’s in their drawers, kitchens, briefcases, or desks. In the latest edition, Bonjwing Lee , a writer (the voice behind the Ulterior Epicure food blog) and photographer based in Kansas City, let us see what he takes with him on his travels around the globe. 


(Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)

1. Passports. My parents gifted me the world as a classroom. My mother worked for TWA for 22 years, and she and my father took my siblings and me everywhere we could afford to go. Travel remains an important part of my life. I’ve traveled extensively as a photographer for the past seven years, logging well over 100,000 miles each year. The five passports I’ve had in my life are well-worn. The latest stamps in my current passport (pictured here open) include Cambodia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. By the end of 2018, I hope to make it to my 50th country and my 50th U.S. state (Alaska remains the only state I have not visited).

running shoes

(Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)

2. Running Shoes. Awkward and tragically uncoordinated as a child, team sports were not for me. And because childhood centers on team sports, I came to athleticism later than most. As an adult, I’ve found joy and confidence in swimming (because I love it), and running (because it’s efficient). You’ll always find a pair of running shoes in my suitcase. I can run almost anywhere in the world, and I’ve found that it’s a great way to see a place.

(Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)

3. “Peter the Great: His Life and His World.” My obsession with history dovetails well with my love of reading. While I used to read voraciously and omnivorously, I lost my appetite for fiction after law school. In the decade since, I’ve read only nonfiction, almost exclusively biographies. I’ve recently marched through Robert K. Massie’s anthology of books on the Romanov dynasty (1613-1917), finishing his collective writings on the Russian imperial family with “Peter the Great: His Life and His World.” The more history I read, the more I believe that fact is stranger than fiction, and that history repeats, especially when history is forgotten.


(Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)

4. Bible. This Bible represents two essential things about me: my first language was Chinese (I was brought up in a Mandarin-speaking church); and the faith and belief system to which I anchor.


(Bonjwing Lee | Flatland)

5. Canon AE-1. This Canon AE-1 was a gift from my grandmother to my father when he left Shanghai, China, in the late 1960s to immigrate to the United States to attend graduate school. My father gave this camera to me when I was in middle school. I taught myself how to use it, and it started a lifelong love of photography. I used it throughout high school, college, and the years after college, before I migrated to digital cameras. Occasionally, I still take this camera with me on trips.

Bonjwing Lee traveled to Paarl, South Africa

As part of a whirlwind world tour, Bonjwing Lee traveled to Paarl, South Africa, last fall. (Courtesy of Tobias Mørkeberg Nilsson)

Bonjwing Lee is a freelance photographer and writer.  You can follow him at @bonjwing (photography) and @ulteriorepicure (blog).

Like the series? Check out the rest here. Got an idea for our next My 5? Drop us a suggestion on Twitter: @FlatlandKC

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