My interest in the Asia and Pacific region began while processing salmon at a factory outside of Anchorage. I had traveled to Alaska as a student while on summer break and found work at Great Pacific Seafoods Company. I was immediately thrown on the “slime line.” At first my technique was sloppy, but I quickly learned how scoop several pounds of fish guts in one clean stroke—forty-four times a minute. The factory was a mishmash of characters from around the globe, and the only other students were a cohort of Koreans on a “cultural exchange” project. I immediately noticed that I had a knack for understanding their broken English and assumed an unofficial role as liaison between the management and the Korean cohort, as neither could understand the other. Through this experience I became aware of opportunities to teach English in South Korea, which provided me not only a foundation in teaching, but also a cultural underpinning to inform my world perspectives in my academic development.
More than ten years later, the Alaskan town of Whittier is coping with the closing of the plant. The town is a modern company-town, with all inhabitants living in a single building, most of whom worked at the fish factory. The Seattle Times describes the town here.