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Welcome to Turning East

This website features recorded interviews which were edited to be read but also to retain the language of the individual storyteller–edited oral history. The writing/telling style of the posts varies from one to another. Sometimes with a name change to protect privacy. The interviews begin in 1985 and continue into the present. Almost all are set in  China, Korea, Japan or the Philippines and center on personal, intercultural experience of life, work and travel. Occasionally I include a story of my own. I’ve now gone to posting once a month.

Years ago I was flooded with spam comments and posts–over … Read More

An Unintended Adventure, Part 2

On December 10, 2016, I posted an interview with Geri Dickinson about the accident, the rehabilitation, their wedding and life together.[ Link] Geri and I have always been pretty open with each other, so it struck me during and after this interview was that not once did I hear a tone of voice or a hesitation suggesting marrying a guy who’d lost both legs might not be such a good idea. That speaks to their love for each other. Not many people are so fortunate.

My first interview with Chris was about his adventure with a mountain tribe in Read More

Being an Expat

 

Recently, I heard an American resident of Ukraine talk about the sympathy expressed by Ukrainians after 9/11. I’d also felt a lot of sympathy even from left-wing university students in South Korea, usually indifferent or hostile to the US. I used it as an opportunity to insert some National Public Radio coverage as listening materials. In Korea, the sympathy ended when the first US bomb hit Afghanistan. On the 9/11 anniversary, I posted on Facebook, and Michele responded that she’d been concerned about what effect the news would have on foreigners in the Middle East, where she was at the Read More

Encore Post: How to Succeed at Languages without Really Trying

I’m reposting this interview with one of my best students, if not the best,  because it offers good advice. It shows how natural learning becomes if you are truly immersed into something, maybe obsessed with it.

From 1966 to 2006, except for the three years I tried to be a studio potter, I taught foreign languages—either German to Americans or English to Chinese and Koreans. During that time there was one student whose language proficiency was a really remarkable achievement. By the time I met Byoung-ok, he’d made himself bilingual and bicultural. I thought at first that he’d gone to Read More

Teaching, Korea and Covid

Laura arrived in Korea several years after I left, but we have quite a few mutual friends and have talked many times online. At the time of this interview, she was at home in Pusan, and I was at home in Antipolo. Thanks to Laura for the photos.

Laura’s story

So, how did you end up teaching in Korea, of all places?

In 2008, I was selling business franchises in Los Angeles when the bottom fell out of the economy. I lost my house, sold my car, put my stuff away and gave my two cats and dog to my … Read More

The Pull Back to Asia

If you met him in person, probably the first impression you’d have of Chris would be of a nice man full of youthful energy who laughs easily and often. Here you see his serious side and his attempt to put into words a feeling that is not easily expressed. 

We did this interview on Skype while he was at home in Tacoma, Washington and I was in the Philippines. Then I sent him the transcript for editing.  Thanks to Chris for the photos.

 Chris’s story

Contemplating this manuscript has been an absolutely terrifying experience, which is why I’ve balked at … Read More