125 Faces of MSUM

Name: John Hall
Profession: Professor of Spanish
No. of years at MSUM: 23

Q: Why did you choose to teach Spanish as a profession?
A: When I was 9 years old, my dad, who was a Spanish professor, applied with the government to be the director of a Binational Center, which is like a small embassy in South America. He was accepted, and he had a position in Chile, so I spent five of my early years of life down there. My dad was really smart. Most of the kids who were down there from the U.S. were going to the American school, and he would have none of that. He put me in a Chilean school and said, “I want my children to learn the language and culture.” After a year, I considered myself a little Chilean boy. Four years later, I did not want to come back. I wanted to stay in Chile, and that started my love for Spanish and Latin American culture. I have lived in Columbia two years, since then, as a missionary. I’ve traveled through all of Central America and South America.

Q: What is one of the strangest foods you’ve ever eaten?
A: I’ve eaten so many. I was in Columbia, and I had been in this little town. I was stationed there for about five months, but I got to come back and visit some of my old friends. They sat me down while the mother busily got into the kitchen because in Latin America, you cannot enter someone’s home without being offered something to eat or drink, and I was kind of an old friend, so they wanted to make me an actual meal. We talked for a couple hours and the meal was ready. It was a chicken soup, and in my bowl – because I was the guest of honor – was the chicken head. I said, “Oh, surely the father of the family should have this,” and he said, “Oh, no, no!” They thought it was the best part of the chicken. So, I ate it down.

You can get used to just about anything, like fried plantains when I first got to Columbia. When I first tasted a sliced, fried plantain, I didn’t care for it. By the time I left Columbia two years later, I was addicted to them. They are so good. That’s one of the things I encourage my students to do. Experience the culture. Don’t look at something that you’ve never experienced before and go ehhh. Try it! Who knows? You may learn to love it. Experience the food. Experience the culture – everything you can – even things that don’t look appealing to you at first.