Before each Toastmasters meeting, I offer to help the speakers by either reviewing their speeches or listening to them. A few people have taken me up on this. (I have to give my own first speech tomorrow and drafted Ted to be my first audience. Since the 4-6 minute speech took me 11 minutes, it’s a good thing I practiced!)

Reviewing the speeches has been an experience; these are what Toastmasters calls C1 speeches; people are supposed to introduce themselves. As expected, there are a bunch of mistakes in the English, mostly of the sort that can only be fixed with experience. But their life stories…. there’s the one whose father is an experienced carpenter but illiterate, who had him doing estimates from third grade on, the one who grew up in a village where many children have to drop out before high school to help support the family, the one who talked about serving in the military and having to waylay (possibly-armed) people trying to come over from China (back before relations were eased between the countries)…

These are all guys who now have advanced degrees and professional jobs. The closest thing to it I ever encountered in the US was the wife of a colleague, one of 11-12 children, whose family traveled up from the Rio Grande Valley to do migrant farm labor every summer, and managed somehow to send all of those children through college.

On another topic entirely, I am pleased to note that our upcoming trip to the US actually has shorter travel time than I expected. I was figuring on 24 hours in transit, but we’ll probably leave our apartment at 7 (one hour to the airport, arrive two hours before an international flight) and arrive at our hotel at around 16:30 the same day, which is 04:30 the next morning Taiwan time (allowing an hour for customs, luggage, and rental car pick-up, which is probably optimistic – but our hotel is right by the airport).