This autobiography is divided into five sections that include this introduction, my family background, fifth ward and professor days. The approach is basically chronological but I do believe that each stage in my life has had a central theme. The focus of each section will be on what I learned from that particular stage in my life.
Both my parents were professors. The house was always filled with books and intellectuals. They both had extremely successful careers at Michigan State University. My father is Hugh Fox Jr. and had a Ph.D. in American Thought and Language. My grandfather was an MD and was Hugh Fox senior. I am Hugh Fox III. I think from my earliest years it was expected that I would get a doctorate and continue the family tradition. I suppose if I had a son then he would be Hugh B. Fox IV and would also be expected to get a doctorate.
I spent several summers in Sun City, California with my grandparents. My grandfather Hugh Fox senior was very different from my father and humble about his education. I would like to think I learned some life lessons from my grandfather in this regard but probably not!
My most vivid memories summers of that time were swimming at the community pool in Sun City.
Some of my father’s friends include the famous American beatnik authors Allen Gingsberg, and Charles Bukowski. I talked with Allen Gingsberg and Charles Bukowski and got a lot of interesting ideas about life from them and other similar friends of my fathers. I also met James T. Farrell, Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Diane de Prima, Richard Brautigan and countless other poets and novelists while growing up. I really didn’t appreciate how lucky I was to meet some of the great writers of the US while growing up.
My mother is Lucia Fox Lockert and is from Peru originally but got her Doctorate at Illinois State University and spent the next 30 plus years of her life doing research and teaching in the area of Spanish Literature. The fact that my mother is from Peru means that I basically grew up in a bilingual/bicultural household. I was very aware of both US and Latin American intellectual traditions. My mother had very different friends than my father including Luis Borges. Below is a picture of me as a teenager with Borges. I am the one with a beard.
Borges viewed the world in a totally different way than someone like Gingsberg or Bukowski and he would often ask very enigmatic questions in the middle of a conversation. Years later I realized how lucky I was to have an opportunity to talk with some of the great thinkers of our generation as a teenager.
My mother did make sure that I went to Latin American schools for three years. I did realize at an early age that there was big world beyond the borders of the US. My mother was determined that I learn Spanish. I spent fourth grade studying at Colegio Schönthal in Caracas, Venezuela. I studied at Colegio Claret a Venezuelan school for fifth grade. I studied at a public school (Escuela Emilio Lamarca) in Buenos Aires, Argentina for seventh grade. I also spent a year in the Sierra Madre of Mexico when I was three. I spent summers in Peru with my mother’s family. I do speak, read and write Spanish fluently thanks to my mother’s efforts.
My mother and father were connected to very different intellectual traditions but from both of them I gained an enduring belief and love in the intellectual method for figuring out problems both cosmic and mundane. I was lucky enough to graduate from an excellent high school, East Lansing High School. One of the alumni of East Lansing High School is Larry Page: CEO and co-founder of Google Inc.
I got my bachelor’s and teaching certification from Michigan State University in East Lansing Michigan but did not go straight on to get a Masters and Doctorate and then become a professor as my parents expected. I felt that I needed some life experience above and beyond going to school. I taught English as a Second Language to refugees from SE Asia including the Vietnamese boat people and Cuban Mariel boatlift for one year at Tri-City/Ser-Jobs For Progress Inc. I saved some money and with my brand new teaching certificate, a brand new wife and a 20-year old car, I drove to Texas from Michigan. At the time the Texas economy was booming and teaching jobs abounded. Michigan was the rust belt and teachers were being laid off. I could justify my move on economic grounds but in truth it was time to hit the open highway like so many young Americans before me. I am sure Bukowski would have approved and asked to have a beer in Texas for him. Borges probably would have asked some question like “Are you looking for a job or yourself?” Both views have their place.
I taught ESL and social studies in Fleming Middle School in the Fifth Ward of Houston for five years. The room next to mine saw ten teachers come and go in that period. Fleming Middle School was a tough inner city school. I learned that courage and calm can get your through just about any experience. I also learned that sometimes you are most needed where you are least expected. Any good karma I have garnered in this lifetime was during those five years teaching at Fleming Middle School.
I went to Texas A&M University for five years from which I received a Master’s (Educational Psychology) and Doctorate (Curriculum and Instruction). My main area of specialization is computer assisted language learning. After I graduated, I was an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas for a year but the desert terrain soon got on my nerves. They have no sewers in Lubbock because it never rains, literally. One of my favorite cities in the world is San Antonio and when I saw a job opening in that city I jumped at it.
I was an Associate Professor at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in San Antonio in the teacher education program for six years. I taught ESL methodology and language acquisition theory. I created and administered a M.Ed. in educational technology at OLLU. I was on the committee which set up a computer-based language lab at OLLU. I was 39 in 1999 and decided to do a sabbatical year in China. I suppose seeing so much of Latin America when I was young created a taste for exploration.
I got a job at Suzhou Railway Teacher College in Suzhou, China as a Visiting Professor. I spent one incredible year there. China was great and I would still be there except for the small problem, money. At the time, a well-paid professor in China made three thousand dollars a year! China is cheap but not that cheap. I liked the Chinese adventure but I also like money. Also you need more than three hundred a month to have adventures in other Asian countries. I started to write a novel while in China. The novel was Half Square and I finished the novel years later in Taiwan. I learned more in one year in China than in ten years in the US. I craved more adventure and did not want to go back to the US.
I applied for a university job in Taiwan. I was an Assistant Professor at Tunghai University for a year in Taichung, Taiwan. I was later an Assistant Professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei for six years. Taiwan offered good pay and a perfect base from which to explore Asia due to its central location. During my years in Taiwan, I visited Australia, Bali, Brunei, Guam, Hong Kong, India, Japan (Hokkaido, Fukuoka), Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines (Angeles City, Cebu and Manila), Singapore, Thailand, Macau, and Vietnam. After seven years in Taiwan, I had finished my novel Half Square and felt I had gotten into a rut.
I opted for more money and more adventure at Chungnam National University in Dajeon, South Korea for a year. I then taught at the Nagoya University of Commerce and Business in Nagoya, Japan for a semester. I decided I had enough of the cold of NE Asia and relocated to the warm climes of Thailand. Ironically, I could make more money as a school teacher than a professor in Thailand unlike NE Asia. I gave the K-12 system one more shot at Sunflower Trilingual School for a semester. Children are fun but exhausting and I then applied to the major one university in Thailand that was next to a beach. I have been teaching at Burapha International College in Bangsaen, Thailand for over seven years. I would say that there are many ways to live life and one should be totally open to new experiences.