The waka world of a wandering wordsmith – a sneak preview of Rootabaga’s interview with Jordan A. Y. Smith

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.

 

Have Skype, can hypnotise

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.

elaine pic updated best woot.png

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.

How to become a hit producer in Korea – a sneak preview of my interview with BA Wheeler

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:

 

再見 Hong Kong, ជំរាបសួរ Cambodia

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.

 

 

 

 

Recording at Knowmium

Recording our teaser episode at a friend’s cool Hong Kong office.

My good friends at Knowmium allowed me to record in their funky office space in the hip Sheung Wan hood of Hong Kong. Many thanks guys!

Was a little challenging to stay out of their bottle of Buffalo Trace, however.

A digital nomad legend (teaser)

SWEEET…

Just a couple of hours after our post yesterday kind of semi-officially announcing the no-turning-back point for the Rootabaga podcast, fate would have it that an absolute internet legend (in at least one very wide international circle) gave an enthusiastic “yes” to my invitation to be a guest. Can’t tell you how stoked I am. He’s a great guy and his “idea” has helped thousands, probably tens of thousands of people, since the very very early days of the internet. As probably one of the very first and most successful digital nomads ever, he’s been a huge inspiration to me and even this podcast. I’m not going to give away more just yet but at least half of you will know who it is and I find it amazing that he has not been the subject of a podcast if not documentary. If you guess who it is, don’t say. If you recognize that this is about you, thanks again and can’t wait to meet you in person in Los Angeles this spring! (and don’t accept any other invites before that!) 😎

 

bkk skytrain edit

No turning back now…

This post is a week after the fact but it really just sunk in today when I got an email from HR confirming my resignation on January 8 from a very comfy salary (at a soul-sucking job) and overinflated job title (assistant vice president/research division at an investment bank!!??) to pursue one crazy idea – a podcast about a bunch of expats who pursued their own crazy dreams to start unusual careers in foreign countries.

20180108_110921375055613.jpg

I could just wait till the whole thing is finished and drop ten episodes on the world all at once but I thought it would be much more fun to share the whole experience as I ramble and tumble through it. So it starts here.

Shout-out: I would not be to this point at all without the encouragement and ideas of two amazing people that this page won’t let me tag (??) – Murashka at Thumb it up / Hitchhiking around the world , who was with me when the idea sprouted and was an inspiration, sounding board and motivator in the early days and Wendy, whom I’ve known since middle or elementary school and who has not only been a sounding board and motivator but also become a creative and technical contributor and full time partner in the whole damn crazy thing. Thanks y’all!

If you’re interested in this project please follow here or head over to our Facebook page to see the podcast in the making.

Wait for it…..

 

Tokyo calls…

One of the best things about working on this podcast (coming soon) is that it is taking me to some of the coolest places in the world. A week in Seoul in October kicked things off and five days in Tokyo last week was epic. Two interviews in the bag. One with my former bandmate in We Need Surgery who not only runs an English/guitar school on the outskirts of Tokyo but who also has his own line of Tokyo hipster e-cigarette liquids…

And then it was off to Omotesando to see professor, poet, PhD, pal Jordan Smith who, well, does all those things right before his name.

Sounds are in the works.. and future trips include the US, Sweden, Canada, (maybe Nepal) and who knows where.. stay tuned.