Xue Xia

I am a journalism graduate student at Boston University, with a bachelor's degree in finance, adept at reporting across different mediums (video, photo, podcast, writing, data visualization etc.). Growing up in China and having traveled to many countries over the past few years, I love covering issues beyond borders and bridge the gap of misunderstanding between different cultures. 

1.The Life of An Arabic Calligrapher

Hajj Wafaa, originally from Iraq, is an Islamic calligrapher in Greater Boston Area and teaches at Al-Noor Academy and Worcester Art Museum. His identity is shaped by his past in Iraq, Islamic cultures and faith and the experience of being an immigrant in the U.S. In particular, calligraphy has become a part of his life. 

Hajj Wafaa grew up in Kufa, Iraq. At 18, he was mandatorily conscripted into the Iraqi military during the rule of Saddam Hussein in 1989. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Wafaa rebelled against the Iraqi government and ran away. He was then captured and prisoned, being beaten with wood, metal, and fists and deprived of food, drink, and sleep. He fled the prison and settled in a refugee camp in Rafha, Saudi Arabia where there were hundreds of thousands of refugees like him being placed. Since 1991, he lived there for seven years. 

Although surviving in the refugee camp was difficult, practicing calligraphy became his spiritual support. He made ink from berries and pen from the top of a soda can and taught calligraphy in the camp. 

With the help of the United Nations, Hajj Wafaa was chosen to immigrate to the U.S. He got married with Busha in Nebraska, who also came from Saudi camps. They have been raising four children, three sons, and one daughter, together. 

Making a living in the U.S. was not easy for him as he worked as a motor production line worker, cook, and food delivery driver and had no time to focus on writing calligraphy. 

In 2003, Wafaa volunteer for service in the U.S. military and went to Iraq. The army paid him $165,000 a year, which he couldn’t earn by doing other jobs. Also, by being a part of the army, he was able to learn American culture and be incorporated into society. He almost lost his life during the Iraqi war but he turned out to be fine. 

Wafaa said that Iraqis are connected to their rich cultural heritage and history, but the history can also be baggage for them to move on. 

By following this calligrapher and his family through this photo story, you will get a glimpse of the cultural fabrics of the Muslim community in modern America and their inner spiritual world. 

2. Days in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries. Nepal, flanked by China and India, is home to eight of the world's highest mountains including Mount Everest, and its economy relies heavily on aid and tourism. I travelled to Nepal in 2014 as an international volunteer, teaching Chinese at a local school. 

A yoga guru is showing healing power and meditation to a tourist. She hits the metal bowl with a hammer, saying that the shaking of metal bowl can reduce body stress and cure chronicle diseases. (July, 2014)
Women in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, take buckets to collect clean running water, which is rare in local households. Kathmandu's surface water is polluted and groundwater is also depleted.
The local social workers distribute rice and curry soup to the impoverished in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Boys are playing in the yard of a private school in Kathmandu, Nepal. These kids have mastered basic mathematics, such as addition, deduction, multiplication, and division, and are learning plant cell structure. Nepal's official education budget has more than doubled in the last five years, from 283 million in 2006-2007 to 670 million in 2012-2013. The primary education has covered 90% of school-aged children. Although the illiteracy rate has declined dramatically in the past decades, parents worry about the quality of public education.
A monk is walking around the Boudhanath Stupa, a Buddhist hemispherical structure where relics are stored. He has been a Buddhist since he was young. In 1959, he left his family in Tibet for Kathmandu during China's invasion of Tibet.
At Pashupatinath, one of the Hindu temples in Nepal located near the Bagmati River, cremations and funerals are going on. The cremation facilities are divided by the social hierarchy. When the dead are burned completely, the ashes will be thrown into the Basmati river that connects to the Ganges River in India so that the souls of the dead will be reincarnated.
A Hindu monk is sitting on the bank of the Bagmati River.
In an orphanage in Kathmandu, the kids get cakes from an international volunteer. It is first time in their life to taste a bite of birthday cake. The high mortality rate for mothers during childbirth and the short life expectancy in Nepal lead to thousands of children without parents each year. Most of these kids are deprived of education and find work as child laborers in restaurants, factories, hotels, slaves, and as trash collectors if they are not lucky enough to be in orphanages.
Newari community of Nepal are celebrating the marriage between young girls and the Bel fruit. In their culture, the marriage ensures that the girl becomes fertile.
Kids in Kathmandu, Nepal
A young vendor on the highway connecting Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Looking at the U.S. Through My Eyes

On March 8, crosses are set up along the Saint Monica beach in California for protesting against American military expansion around the world.
On March 8, an old man is setting up along the Saint Monica beach in California for protesting against American military expansion around the world.
On March 8, crosses are set up along the Saint Monica beach in California for protesting against American military expansion around the world.
Alcatraz Island, California.
St. Monica beach
St. Monica beach
San Fransisco
Ladies are waiting for open seats for afternoon tea in Los Angles.
Los Angles
A couple are holding hands at Getty Center, Los Angles
Two high school girls comes out with their father to protest against gun violence during March for Our Lives in Boston.
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Boston's March for Our Lives
Rockport, MA
Newport, RI
Newport, RI
Whale Watch on Boston Harbor Cruise
Whale Watch on Boston Harbor Cruise
Whale Watch on Boston Harbor Cruise
2018 Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival