Jordan waxed genki on his hectic life as a professor, translator, poet, rapper, husband and daddy in Tokyo – and laid down one of his very own creations on a busy Tokyo alley one crisp autumn day last year.
He will probably cringe at my ignorant wordplay (waka (和歌) is a genre of Japanese poetry – I think) but there is no denying that Jordan A. Y. Smith is a wandering wordsmith who can toy with Japanese words in just about any form. I was honored that Mr. Smith, my old multilingual buddy from back in our early English teaching days in Seoul, agreed to one of the very first Rootabaga interviews. I caught up with Jordan in a French crêperie
in très chic Omotesando – Tokyo’s so called Champs-Élysées – where he waxed genki on his hectic life as a professor, translator, poet, rapper, husband and dad in Tokyo, recalled being “off the rails” in Korea in an earlier incarnation – and laid down one of his very own raps on a busy Tokyo alley one crisp autumn day last year. Have a listen and stay tuned for the full episode in a few weeks.
Update April 5, 2018: About to leave California after interviewing Dave Sperling of Dave’s ESL Cafe (.com) fame, Paul Johnson, the bassist from my old band We need Surgery and Elaine Chou, a Taiwanese hypnotherapist plying her trade in China via Skype from Los Angeles! A couple of weeks of intense editing with my fearless partner Wendy in Atlanta and we should have some episodes for you. Stay tuned for teasers and other content till then!
Update Feb, 2018: No episodes of Rootabaga are ready just yet but we still want to share our journey with you as I travel the globe to collect interviews and get ready for launch. It will take some time but the adventure is a blast so far and we’re confident the end product will be worth sticking around for. Until the final interview episodes are ready please do stay tuned for some teaser episodes, photos and blogposts about the journey.
Rootabaga is a podcast in production. Join me as I travel the globe to bring you interviews with some of the amazing expats I’ve been lucky to meet in my 23 years as an English teacher, drummer and financial editor in Asia and Canada. You’ll hear from two fellow Alabama boys who decided to show a country famed worldwide for its own barbecue how to do BBQ southern style. If I can track her down – you may find out why one vivacious young Ukrainian has chosen to live her life out of a backpack for almost three years now as she hitchhikes from Eastern Europe to who knows where. Then there’s my dear Korean friend who also happens to be a political dissident and spiritual guru who lives off the grid in Hawaii, South America and a remote mountain cabin near the North Korean border. In short, people like me who couldn’t resist the urge to put down roots in a place far away from home.
One of the cool things about doing this podcast about interesting expats is that it brought me to home turf for the first time in years and connected me to some old friends I haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years. One being @fyicary, who invited me to contribute to the mural in his amazing Buckhead, Atlanta loft. @rootabagapodcast logo, hand chalked by me. 😁 And great IPA-fueled hang.
Elaine Chou was working in finance in Beijing when she decided that her true calling was helping people resolve their personal problems. She now practices hypnotherapy for mainland Chinese clients from her home in LA via Skype.
In Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago to interview Dave Sperling of Dave’s ESL Cafe and my old bandmate Paul I was treated to an impromptu interview opportunity when I discovered that my host’s girlfriend was herself an expat and digital nomad with a pretty unordinary job. Originally from Taiwan, Elaine Chou was working in finance in Beijing when she decided that her true calling was helping people resolve their personal problems. After earning her masters degree in psychology in China and training in counseling and hypnotherapy in California she created a niche career for herself counseling clients in mainland China via Skype and using hypnosis as one of her main tools – all from, well, wherever she can access the internet.
Stay tuned here for our really cool chat with Elaine about escaping an unsatisfying job, the Chinese people’s openness to therapy and hypnosis, and living the laptop job dream.
Shout out to Mario for the couch in LA! And just for fun a little theme music for the post.
What a crazy trip to Korea. So much jammed packed in I haven’t had time to share any proper photos, videos, stories. Will have to do it from the US. But in 16 days I interviewed several old friends and acquaintances for Rootabaga, I met up with tons of old friends, hung out with an actress, a model (impressed yet? 😎), an old rock star I was a fan of in the 90s, ate amazing meals, drank more than I should have and saw remote places I’d never been. Can’t wait to share more soon…
When you’re tracking down interesting expats you get to stay in some awesome homes. Case in point, my old friend and colleague John Jackson’s photography and book-filled home in a farming village outside Gwangju, South Korea.
Our “interview” was more of beer-fueled reminiscence of how we left our home countries and what’s going on with mutual friends but did eventually get around to how Brad’s passion for music turned into an award-winning career producing hit songs in Korea
I wasn’t in Korea more than half a day when the window opened for an interview with old music-circle buddy BA Wheeler – a big-hearted Newfie with an amazing and inspiring expat success story. (Brad will hate this because he doesn’t seem to have any trace of an ego or much like being in the spotlight). Our “interview” was more of beer-fueled reminiscence of how we left our home countries and what’s going on with mutual friends but did eventually get around to how Brad’s passion for music turned into an award-winning career producing hit songs in Korea and what it’s like playing drums and working with his wife’s world-touring doo-wop trio the Barbarettes.
I promise this will be a fun episode when it drops. Check out a little of the interview here:
No podcast episodes planned from Cambodia but it is a stop along the way – and I did run into an old colleague who, like myself and a couple of upcoming Rootabaga guests, hails from Alabama. He’s a long-term expat – a small-town Alabama lawyer who ended up teaching in Asia and eastern Europe and resides part of the year in Cambodia with his wife. Had a few too many Angkor beers and forgot to take a photo together but did manage to take a few shots of Phnom Penh the last few days.