Humans of MESA
(1/4) “When I was 23 I decided that I liked school, but not enough to keep studying and I needed a break. I had a friend in South Korea and he said: “Come on over! Take some time off, maybe travel a bit, make some money, pay back your student debt and just start to figure out what you wanna do.”. I look back at it and think: “Did that all happen in one year?” Because it feels like a lifetime. It was a really rich year. And some years they kind of go by like: “Oh, there went 2006. What happened to it? I’m pretty much doing the same thing.” But some years they feel like lifetimes and others feel like days.That year felt like an entire life. I went in one person and then I came out another person. So, that was a really defining year. It was more of a happy year. The lows became highs after you look back on it and put them in context. What seems like a low at the moment is really a great learning experience.”
(2/4) “I felt the urge to travel most when I went back to Canada and actually the last few years in Vancouver I felt really restless. I knew Vancouver and it was getting to the point where my environment wasn’t impacting me at all. I didn’t smell the air, I didn’t feel the change in temperature, I didn’t notice the noises around me, because it was all familiar so I could block it out. You’re in your head more. When you go somewhere new, it forces you out of your head. It forces you to feel like: “I don’t understand what these people are saying and all.”. So, in that sense I’m much happier here, because even when it’s a hard day, I find out what a hard day is like in some place new. I’m doing something different. And it’s very superficial in a way, because it doesn’t mean that my life is actually moving forward. But when you’re somewhere else you can feel like you’re somehow doing something even if you’re doing the same thing as before. You can justify it. Maybe some people don’t think that way, and I have lots of friends who would never want to leave home. They’re totally happy with where they’re from. My parents are both immigrants to Canada, so I never felt quite comfortable in Canada. It was the place I was born, but I didn’t have any relatives there, so it wasn’t the place where I had deep roots or anything. This is partially why I was attracted to Academia at first, because I saw everyone around me wasn’t getting permanent jobs. When you’re young it sounds attractive and then when you get older you’re like: “Two years in one spot, two years in the next spot, that’s terrible! That’s a horrible way to live.”.And it really is, but when you’re younger it sounds good. If you get a little bit older you start to feel like you want a nest.”
(Part 3/4) “My Mom and Dad met in the early 1970s in the Canadian city of London, about 2 hours south of Toronto. My mother had come to Canada from the Netherlands to work as a nanny. My German father ended up in the region after traveling around the world looking for land. Ever since he was a kid my Dad knew he wanted to be a farmer. He loved growing things but his family didn’t have any land. So, in the late 1960s he took a ship from northern Germany to the US. He first worked in orchards, picking apples. I have an old photo of him from this time. He was the only white guy in the picture. Everyone else was Jamaican. I think that’s how he learned how to speak English. From there he moved north into Canada and spent a frozen winter laying oil pipelines in northern Alberta. I think that paid far better than apple picking. With his savings he bought an old car and traveled down to British Columbia and then further down the coast to San Francisco. It was the infamous summer of 1967. But for some reason he doesn’t have many stories to share about this time. All I know is that he bought a gun from some guy in San Fran and then boarded a ship to Australia. He was living in the outback, hunting rabbits when he shot himself in the knee with that gun a few months later. After recovering he continued his mission to find farmland. But Australia was too harsh a climate to farm in, so he got on a ship heading to Central America. The ship stopped in Tahiti where my dad apparently sold his gun to some guy in a bar. I guess he really needed a beer. He was in Mexico when the Summer Olympics were hosted there in 1968. But he was totally out of money by this time and of course it wasn’t as easy to send cash overseas back then. So he spent several hungry weeks waiting for money to be sent from Germany to the German embassy in Mexico City so that he could resume his journey. Eventually he ended up back in Canada, working for a German farmer just outside of London, Ontario, where he met my mother a few years later.”
(Part 4/4) “On our first date my wife carefully explained to me how to make a molotov cocktail. Right then and there I pretty much knew she was the one. Like me, she had spent her 20s being active in various political and social movements, so we had a lot to talk and to argue about. We still do.
When we met, she was an activist for migrant workers in South Korea but she had been part of more radical groups when she was younger. In her early 20s she was part of a student movement to reunify North and South Korea. The group was banned by the South Korean government and for a few months she went into hiding, moving from safe house to safe house in Seoul, trying to avoid being captured by the police. You can’t live like this forever. Eventually some of her friends were caught and went to jail and some turned themselves in to the police. She was okay because she was not that important. The lesson she learned from this is never be too important, whatever you do.”