Fellow Okie Questionnaire
Let me start by telling the story of how I met John Baldridge. While in college, years ago, I worked in the food court. I spent many weekends cooped up in that dingy bland food court (this was before they remodeled it lol). Besides working with some fun people nothing about that job was interesting. I don’t remember how or where I’ve met a lot of people I know but I won’t forget loyal food court customer, John Baldridge. He would order food from the food court often. He was always polite and never inconsiderate. Basically you never were in a bad mood taking John’s order. One night after a long day at work, me and friend/coworker Amber were “working” in the computer lab (and by working I mean scrolling through Facebook) when we both got a Facebook friend request from someone named John Baldridge. “Who’s John Baldridge!?” We both had no clue until we looked closer at the picture and realized it was our loyal food court customer …who also was sitting a few rows behind us laughing. John has since moved on and has become a teacher and world traveler. He recently returned from visiting Russia. I knew I had to see if he would give me the honor of being one of my blog’s Fellow Okies.
- What’s your name?
- John Baldridge
- What is your profession?
- High School Teacher: AP U.S. Government, Economics, World Geography, and Oklahoma History
- What city in Oklahoma do you call home?
- I currently call Oklahoma City home, but Okmulgee is my hometown. I was born there and lived there for my entire childhood.
- What cities in Oklahoma have you lived in?
- Okmulgee, Tahlequah, Norman, Edmond, Oklahoma City
- What’s your favorite thing about Oklahoma?
- The people—Oklahomans are so wonderful, generous, loving, and kind.
- Where does your desire to travel come from?
- My yearning to travel and dream of traveling the world originates from my sheltered and isolated childhood in a really rural and parochial environment. When I was in 1st grade, my grandparents took me on my first trip out of Oklahoma, to New Mexico and Colorado. I was mesmerized by the enchanting deserts, endless, wide-open skies, and majestic snow-capped mountains. While in Santa Fe, I encountered, for the first time in my life, people who spoke a different language than I (Spanish). I was amazed that this was still the United States and fell in love with travel. My dream of traveling this world and experiencing all of the amazing cultures and environments was born at this time and has continued to strengthen into the present.
- Compared to other places you’ve traveled, what stands out most about Oklahoma?
- The people
- Where have you traveled outside of the United States?
- 19 countries: Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, and Russia
- What has been the funniest thing you have experienced while traveling?
- Hard to say—either the time I was participating in a formal, traditional Japanese tea ceremony live on television and started gagging on the candy while dressed in a kimono, or the time I was interrogated by the Russians because they thought I was a spy (not funny at the time, but laugh about it now). Or the time I was backpacking Europe and had been wearing the same shoes and socks for quite some time, and while in 1st class on a high-speed train in Germany, some guy sitting in the seat in front of me chewed me out in German (didn’t understand a word he was saying, but the message was implied)! Or the time I was eating lunch with middle school kids in Japan and noticed that little fishes—with heads, eyes, and fins—were mixed in with the rice. As I proceeded to pick one of the fish up with my chopsticks, the little Japanese kids—who up to that point were really quiet and respectful—started snickering, which then proceeded into laughter. Or the time I was in Mexico City with a female friend who was searing a really short red skirt, and she caused a multi-vehicle accident on a major highway because all of the male drivers were gawking at her instead of watching the road! Or the time I was eating dinner with my German friends at a biergarten, and I picked up what I thought to be a bread roll, only to quickly observe that it was really gooey and sticky. I instantly remarked, “WHAT IS THAT?!” in what my friends called the sweetest Southern accent they’d ever heard. Come to find out, it was a potato dumpling! I had never eaten or seen one before in my life—until then! My friends were rolling in laughter, and I think the entire city of Regensburg had a big laugh at my expense! Or the time I avoided taking a shower in a communal male shower in Japan by taking a private shower in an unoccupied communal female shower room. I had locked the door, and soon several young Japanese women started banging and yelling at the door to let them in. When I opened the door after my nice, relaxing, warm shower, the looks on their faces were priceless. They proceeded to tell me in broken English “You not supposed to be here.” I pretended to not know English and replied: “Lo siento mucho.” I had the biggest laugh in my life. And I have many other stories…
- Where have you traveled in the United States? Which place was your favorite?
- I have traveled to 39 states within the U.S. It is very difficult to choose a favorite. I have lived in Washington, DC, and have spent a great deal of time on the East Coast, especially Virginia, so that is one of my favorite states. I absolutely love Colorado and New Mexico, and visit those states every year. Utah and Montana are two of my favorite states as well. I have no top favorite state, but the states that have the most meaning and significance to me are New Mexico and Colorado because they started my life journey.
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to travel and explore the world but doesn’t know where to begin?
- Just do it! Nothing is stopping you. Don’t let fear hold you back. I am always nervous before embarking on a new journey, especially in a new country, especially if I am traveling alone. I have backpacked alone in 10 countries, including in places where English was not spoken at all, and in Russia, in the middle of winter! But every trip has been an incredible experience and so worth it. Step out of your comfort zone like I have, and you will have the experiences of a lifetime!
I hope this Fellow Okie feature ignites the little travel bug inside of you!
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