Welcome to the first edition of “Jim’s Corner” where Jim writes about travel, speech therapy, and being a dad. His posts will be published every Friday.
Some of the best things about traveling, besides the food, are the cultural aspects. If you stay long enough somewhere in Fiji like I did (a month I think), you’ll probably get invited by the locals to a Kava Ceremony.
In the U.S. the Kava-Kava is considered an herb that calms you during the day (Valerian is better if you want to sleep). In Fiji, Kava is sort of like an alcohol substitute to be drunk in a coconut cup with 20+ people in a long-house. It goes something like this: If you stay in a guest house or hostel in the same town (or a beach campground like I did) and aren’t too annoying a chief or other important person will invite you to attend. I went to several.
A lot of foreigners are a bit apprehensive of Kava ceremonies because Kava looks like dirty dish water and is drunk out of a communal cup. Someone will usually ask you if you are sick and then it’s courtesy to abstain. The cup is passed around by request for around a dime each time; you call out someone’s name or (or point), pay equivalent of a dime in Fiji money (I can’t remember what it is called), and then the person of your choice drinks up. It gets pretty loud in the long-house because Kava is a mild stimulant that makes people very social.
The best thing is there is no side effects (like hangovers) and you usually get used to the tangy taste.
I am waiting on a few more submissions for “A Fish Out of Water” and thought this would be a good time for Jim to tell one of his travel stories. He has been all over the world and has many stories to tell. This may become a regular series! Without further introduction, here is my husband Jim, contributing his story about being a fish out of water.
The train ride from Taipei to Taiwan was only a few hours, but I was a little tired as I arrived. As I exited the station I saw a sign that said, “Glory English School” under Chinese characters. I thought, “Maybe I should go work there.”
The owner of the school met me at the door, “You have English degree?” he said. I showed him my B.A. from California State-Chico, but he wasn’t impressed. “No, degree from Harvard or Yale?”
“That okay – I pay you $20 an hour.”
I glanced over to a classroom to see a middle-aged American, with a scruffy beard, wearing jeans come out. He looked sort of homeless.
“He has a degree from Harvard?” I asked.
I found out after working there for a few weeks that no one had real degrees at all. You can go to Bangkok, Hong Kong, or Manilla and get any degree you want on the street for five or six U.S. dollars. Bangkok is especially popular for this.
My students absolutely hated the “Yale” teacher.
They asked me, “Sha way yi (My Chinese name “Hawaii”) can you teach us tonight? That guy is crazy. He talks about the KGB chasing him and always hears explosions.”
It turns out the “Yale Guy” was actually a deserter from the Vietnam War who had been in Bangkok for years before he came to Taiwan. He told me that he had done so much LSD that he had flashbacks a lot when he was teaching. He hated Taiwan – he said if Bangkok paid teachers better he never would have left.
I had an awesome time in Taiwan; I never worked more than 20 to 25 hours per week, but managed to save $1500 before I left. I was there about seven months. My schedule was great; 6 or 6:30 pm to 12 or 1 am four days a week. I worked for five or six different schools while I was there; but there always seemed to be a delicious noodle shop near by to have a late night, post-work meal for a dollar or two.
Did I ever get culture shock while I was there? Of course, but I never screamed, “I hate this place!” with my fist in the air, in the middle of the street, like an American teacher/friend of mine did. That was a little embarrassing. Trying to learn Chinese helped, because if people at your school were talking badly about you, you could at least defend yourself.
Jim is a Speech and Language Pathologist living in a dome in New Mexico with his wife, daughter, three dogs, two cats, and two chickens. He can speak in English, Spanish, German and a little Chinese. He’s been on every continent except Antarctica. He makes pottery in his spare time.
I have been running around in a panic because, for the first time ever, I am setting up a booth to sell my art. I’m a little nervous. Also, Tiny-Small and I have been sick. The being sick has tempered my anxiety about facing the world with my art on display behind me. I mean, lets face it, when you feel lousy you’re more likely to just shrug your shoulders and not really care that much. Just give me a warm blanket and a soft, quiet place to rest my head, right? Anyway, after witnessing me fret over unwritten blog posts and whether or not we have duct tape my husband graciously offered to guest post today!
*Disclaimer: I did not pay him to say nice things about me even though I totally should have. That is all.
14 Things I Am Grateful For (including my ADHD)
1. My gorgeous and talented wife and daughter and all of the joy and love they bring me.
2. Being surrounded by animals. The dogs get a little noisy sometimes, the cats always need their litter boxes changed; but I love them all, even the chickens.
3. Our dome house with the great views and all the land to hike in. The awesome Desert Spiny Lizards to show Tiny-Small.
4. My amazing parents – still going strong in their 80’s with all the house boating and bowling. It’s awesome they adopted me. I can’t imagine having different parents.
5. My incredible Sister and Brother-in-law who run an amazing nonprofit The Network of Carethat provides meals to grief-stricken parents of ill and injured children in hospitals. Oh, and Jim runs for the California State Assembly in his spare time. AND builds playgrounds for special needs children. My niece, Lindsey, just got her PhD in psychology, which means she is super smart, of course. She’s also travelled all over the world and just recently climbed half dome in Yosemite. Keep up the good work, Linds! Love ya!
6. My career and the satisfaction it brings. I get to help people and get paid too – what a deal!
7. My friends – especially my army buddies who I can always call or visit and are always there for me.
8. My awesome Mother-in-law (is that an oxymoron?). She always cues me in on great wine deals at the supermarket she works her ass off in.
9. My 1996 Toyota Tacoma with 300,000 miles on and it’s still going strong!
10. Oh, did I mention my wife? Not only gorgeous and talented, but funny too.
11. Working at a wil life rescue/ Jr. museum as a kid. I learned everything from canoeing/canoe rescue to reintroducing animals back into the wild, back-packing and wilderness first aid. Plus I had a great peer group to grow up with.
12. My cousins – they live everywhere from Japan to Turkey to California to Las Vegas and have interesting careers: English teacher, truck-driver, CEO, immigration lawyer, doctor, veterinarian, river-rafter.
13. My ADHD – I probably would not have traveled to 6 of 7 continents without it (Antarctica is too cold for me).
14. My niece Stephanie – even though you were only in my life for 20 years you left a huge footprint. I still feel your presence – love ya!
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