Peace Corps
Thai 27
1969
 

Steve Tripp

I spent three happy years teaching pretty girls at Chiengmai University. It was a tough job but someone has to stand on the "cutting edge of freedom."

The university was taking "extra" students and we were paid under the table a little extra for teaching those students. I bought a motorcycle with that money and explored every road in Northern Thailand.
Hugh Leong and I and others met often and ate in open-air restaurants in town (the university is located out of town, at the base of a mountain).

Between the second and third year I went home to Boston traveling with Hugh by way of Katmandu, New Delhi, Rome, and London. Returning the other way, I visited Bart and Alina Butler and Skip Myner. Skip's cabin in the mountains was not in range of mass communications and I forgot about Daylight savings. When I arrived at the airport I had two minutes to get on the airplane (whew!). On the way back across the Pacific I stopped in Tokyo for 24 hours.

After that, not wanting to go home, I went to Laos (JFK pronounced Laos to rhyme with Chaos---rightly so, perhaps) where I got a job teaching English with IVS (International Volunteer Services) in Vientiane. My high school French did not get me very far at the College Technique, but fortunately Lao resembles Northern Thai and I was able to pick up the language quickly. Two years of good times followed. Laos was a strange place in the 70's. Both Noam Chomsky and David Duke were there---at different times. It was officially a neutral country because of some Geneva Agreement in the 50's so there were oodles of embassies with officers with nothing to do but eat in restaurants, so there were lots of good, cheap restaurants. I ate every meal out for two years. One restaurant was run by Air America (didn't Mel Gibson appear in a movie by that name?), which was the CIAs airline. It supplied most of Laos with rice at that time and ran "milk runs" between Lao cities and US bases in Thailand.
Because I had a DoD ID card (why, I don't know---IVS was a contract agency of the State Department), I could fly on Air America for free. One day I needed tennis balls, so I went to airport, listed for the flight to Udorn, got on the plane without a passport or passing thru immigration, flew to Thailand, went to the base supermarket, bought my tennis balls, had lunch, got back on the plane, and flew back to Laos. Such was life in that part of the world. I could tell you more stories but not in writing.

After leaving Laos (about 1974), I went to the University of Hawaii and did an MA in TESL. As part of that degree I had to study a language I had not studied before, so I chose Chinese, thinking I might go to China. At that time, however, China was in political turmoil so it was impossible. I was sort of in limbo and the bar was getting lower (like that mixed metaphor?), and when an offer of a job in Japan came thru the grapevine, I took it. I sold my car, rented my apartment, dumped most of my property and was on a plane in two weeks.
Arriving in Japan, I really knew nothing about where I was going, but I lucked into a comfortable position in Nagoya. It paid well and included a condo. I lost a lot of sleep the first couple years researching the kinds of beer sold in Japan. Eventually, I got married to a Japanese woman, had a son, and bought a house.


My wife, Kazuko

Then I got nervous about my future and my son's, so I quit the job, sold my house, and enrolled in a Ph.D. at Penn State in Instructional Systems (Computer-Based Education). I finished the degree in 1985 and took a job at an American university, but did not like the working conditions. Basically, the demographics were wrong. There are zillions of people with PhDs and the number of students is not increasing. When a position is advertised, there are typically 100 applicants, so from the university's point of view young professors are not valuable assets.


Son Benjamin Tripp attends Georgia Tech

As soon as my son was old enough, I started looking for a job in Japan again. In 1993 I moved back to Japan taking a job at a new university totally devoted to computer science. It was well-funded and offered lots of support for research and travel. I am now Director of the Center for Language Research and (this year only) Director of the Center for Cultural


My Office at the University of Aizu

My hobby is sailing and I do a lot of it on a lake nearby, but recently I've been going to the Philippines to do some ocean sailing too.


My sailboat

The Philippines is a lot like Thailand, except that English is the lingua franca. It's easy to live there. There are maybe 500,000 or more foreigners retired in the Philippines because of the low cost of living and the laid back attitudes of the Filipinos. I think I¹ll join them in a couple years.