One of the more humbling experiences I’ve had when it has come to working had to have been the time I worked at a Del Monte canning/processing plant in Mendota, Illinois prior to coming to Korea in 1990. 

It was mid August 1990 and I had just finished teaching an adult education class (ESL) for Illinois Valley Community College. I had been back in the states since February when things didn’t work out for me with the teaching job I had in Japan. Fortunately, this part-time teaching position had opened up for me, but now I was out of work again. 

I was hoping to get back to Asia—either Japan or Korea—to teach again and had applied at ELS International. At the beginning of August, ELS contacted me and informed me that they were looking for instructors for a new school in Malaysia and wanted to know if I would be interested. Of course I said I would and a few days later, I had a telephone interview with the recruiter. I did okay on the interview and was told that I needed to go to an ELS institute at Concordia College (if my memory serves me correct) for another interview. Looking pretty good, I thought.  

So on August 16 I was up at Concordia having my second interview. I thought it went well. Although I didn’t have much experience teaching (just one semester at the WESL Institute at Western Illinois University, nine months at the Four Seasons Language Institute and Cultural Center in Hamamatsu, Japan and the summer course at IVCC) and that I lacked a lot of EFL methodology, I thought that I had a pretty good chance of getting the job. (I was much more optimistic about things back then.) 

In fact, thinking that my chances were quite good for getting hired, I knew that I needed to come up with some money to tide me over until the job started. It just so happened that a day or two before I had come across an ad in the News Tribune (published in LaSalle, Illinois) for seasonal workers at the Del Monte canning and processing plant. Perfect. The job would only be for 10-12 weeks and the money was not that bad. 

I went to Del Monte the next day, filled out an application and went back home. The next day they called me and told me that I had a job. 

Perfect. Everything was coming together. 

I had no idea though just how much the next ten weeks I worked at Del Monte would change my life forever and how it really opened my eyes up a lot. I had felt sorry for myself after things had not worked out for me in Japan and felt a little bad after I had missed out on another teaching job in Japan (I really felt I had a good chance with that one) so even though I knew that it was only going to be a matter of time before I was on my way to bigger and better things, for the moment it appeared that I was going to have to swallow a little pride. After all, there I was an out of work college graduate with an MA in English who had taught in Japan and at a community college. Now I was going to be working in a factory. 

Like I said, it was to be a very humbling experience and open up my eyes a lot.