I have discovered Mark on Internet some months ago. He is a fantastic person and personality. I have sent to him some questions for an interview and I’d like to offer to him this interview as a Christmas present. Who is Mark Dorr? He has written an introduction about himself : “I was born and raised at the edge of the mountains, growing up running around mountain trails in the Rocky Mountains. We were a typical family, not rich, but rich in life and interest in the world.
Although he had worked as a cowboy and carpenter earlier, my father ended up also leading treasure expeditions and writing articles. So, from the age of five, I found myself going on occasional expeditions with him.
Such a thing to be able to learn of old stories, track them down, and pursue old civilizations, treasures, and legends.
This is unusual now, and it was extremely unusual then. When I would return to school, the teachers would ask me where I’d gone. I’d say, „Mexico,” for instance, and they would correct me with, „No, you mean the state of New Mexico.” If I tried mentioning archeological expeditions, those stories were dismissed as a child’s active imagination!
During my childhood, I enjoyed the conversations at the dinner table. They were often lively and humorous with a wide range of topics. My parents both loved reading and learning about other cultures. That, combined with the trips we made, had a big impact on my interest in the world.
Years later, after earning a degree in psychology, I wanted desperately to work in other countries and decided that the most effective way for me to do that was to teach English. I felt obligated to know more about what I was doing and earned a graduate degree in it. Although my degree says it’s in English, it’s actually a combined study of Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language and Applied Linguistics. Very difficult. Most of the people in my program left before completing. Somehow, though, I made it through!
Eastern and Central Europe were just opening to the West then, so there were opportunities. I accepted a position as a teacher training fellow in Szczecin, Poland and enjoyed working with Solidarity members at the WOM (district methodology teaching center) as well as being Assistant Professor of English at the university. I ended up creating a nationwide English teaching language summer camp that, last I heard, is still in use and has received a lot of attention internationally. Because of my work in Poland, I was asked to go to Bucharest and teach something that was very new at that time: English for Law and Diplomacy. I taught English for Law at the Senate and House of Deputies and English for Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was a fascinating time with much going on in Romania then, and I was glad to work with many interesting people including not only national leaders and diplomats but also amazing common people. I have fond memories. Aside from the good work we did daily, one of my best remembrances of my time there was bringing the Senate, House of Deputies, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs together for, what I was told, was the first time for such an event. It was an evening of people mixing and talking. It was very good to see people eye each other at first then realize they had subjects about which they could talk.
A funny story from that time: I knew a young man in the Peace Corps who was working with a small business development office. Like all of us, he was learning Romanian as he worked and, like all of us, made errors in speaking. One day, he told me about his embarrassment when he needed a photocopy and asked the secretary to “ajută-mă să copii!” During that time, I was accepted into a position that is fairly difficult to get called an EL Specialist. With that, the U.S. Department of State contacts people like me with issues with which it needs help, and people like me go to other countries for anywhere from two weeks to two months. We are contracted, not regular employees with the government. My first assignment was in Albania, and I was asked back again to help bring together MOPO and the Office of the Prosecutor, help them learn English to be able to work with other countries, and assist them in countering human trafficking. Out of that, we produced a small booklet, designed to fit into the sleeve pocket of all forces, with Albanian/English phrases necessary to do this work. I kept doing that for years and, in fact, still do. If another country’s government (Romania, for instance) requests my help with education program consulting, teacher education, materials development, speeches, or other needs, I am often asked to go there for at least two weeks. I’ve been to Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, many places doing this. I returned to Romania and lived and worked in Craiova, Brasov, Galati, and Constanta. I worked with judges and other legal professionals, helping them learn legal English and setting up computer centers so that it would be easier for them to talk to each other and learn more as well as talking with the rest of the world. I ended up becoming a Fulbright Lecturer in teacher education in Pakistan, Senior EL Fellow for the U.S. Department of State in Guatemala, key speaker at events, a director of U.S. programs, and having several books and many articles published. I’ve had difficulties, but I’ve also been fortunate. I have been glad that so many Romanians have chosen to stay in touch with me as well as people from other countries. Every country in the world is filled with talent, and much of it remains untapped and underdeveloped. I hope that more ways can be found to do that, and I am glad to still be able to do my small part to help people and organizations. In addition to these things, I became a high performance pilot (and was also lucky to fly an Antonov AN-2 near Constanta) and have written on subjects like aviation/aerospace, international, intercultural, history, and self-reliance.
My previous books mostly have been boring academic works, but my new one that is about to come out is about self-reliance tips I’ve learned from a life of travel, work in many situations, and living in everything from an African hut to a cabin in the Rocky Mountains to a European palace. I have other books in the making about history and cultures. Sometimes I am asked about a family treasure by my uncle known as the “treasure of Kokoweef” and I write about it sometimes.”
Ioan Iacob : – Mark, I have discovered you by Linkedin and then I have talked to you by Skype; your first words to me were into Romanian. When and how have you learned to speak Romanian? When have you visited Romania for the first time? What have you known about Romania before to come here?
– I learned Romanian when I arrived in Bucharest in 1995 to teach English for Law and Diplomacy at the Romanian Senate, House of Deputies, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and continued when I returned in 1999 to set up computer centers, teach English for Law, and help universities train teachers. It was a case of me stumbling through the language on my own, pointing to what I wanted to buy at the piata and learning the word, and reading. Of course, any time someone takes the time to learn a language and culture, there is a huge benefit. I was never a perfect speaker, and I have lost much since my time there. Still, I benefit on occasion. Also, I chose to go with my strength. I was told that I sounded like a Transylvanian, so I tried to learn more about those parts and dialects and even answered the phone „Servus,” etc. I read Romanian news, history, and poetry espectially Eminescu. This ended up paying off for me. Once, in a class I was teaching, some of my adult „students” were saying bad things about me and making jokes. So, I calmly responded with a part of Criticilor Mei I’d read and remembered: „Critici voi, cu flori desarte, Care roade n-ati adus, E usor a scrie versuri, Cand nimic nu ai de spus.” This was met with a moment of silence then thunderous applause. I lost those few students in the back but gained many more after that. In fact, there were so many sometimes that there was not enough room.
– You have told to me a fascinating story about you and your father. Can you make a handout for the readers of this interview? How do you comment the parents’ role in ‘showing / presenting / discovering’ the world for a child?
– Parent’s role in showing/discovering the world. It’s critical. In my case, I was lucky to have parents who could show me the „regular” everyday world as well as a world filled with history, treasures, cultures, and possibilities.
– How do you comment that: a ‘mirage’ for a lot of young Romanian people is the U.S.A. ; the ‘mirage’ for a lot of U.S.A. businessmen is the outsourcing. What’s the role of ‘mirage’ within a man’s life?
– Perhaps your use of the word „mirage” here is similar to an expression we have in the U.S.: „The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” In other words, it is typical for people to think that something is better somewhere else. Rather than complain and hate your current situation, work for something better because the other side of the fence might be an illusion that you have created for yourself unconsciously.
– I’d like to ask you something about EDUCATION. There is a Romanian proverb about…’cei şapte ani de acasă’ /’those seven years from home’…this is a mot a mot translation; it means that for a man the basic education is offered by those ‘seven years’ spent at home, within his family; they say a rude person doesn’t have ‘cei şapte ani de acasă’ ! This Romanian proverb is based on the millennia experience of common people. I have read some years ago that the American scientific researchers have discovered that the education offered to a child during his first…seven years of his life …is fundamental. How do you comment that?
– The first years of a child’s life are crucial. It is during that time that the child learns basic concepts such as trust vs mistrust, love, positive feelings, and more that will have an effect on how he/she relates to everything else in life. Plus, it is known that growing healthy patterns, learning languages, and other things are best set in the first years.
– Because I have begun a doctorate about Mihai Eminescu and Egdar Allan Poe, I’d like to know your opinion about Poe. Baudelaire worked about fourteen years to translate Poe into French (in the XIXth century, when French prevailed in Europe) so Poe became the exponential poet of America. This is the European point of view. ‘The American point of view’ is that Whitman is the exponential poet of America. What’s your opinion about Poe?
– I’m sure that you are more of an expert on Poe than I, so all that I have is a personal opinion. From my viewpoint, Poe is an important U.S. writer who grew the short story and expressed a darker side. However, in America, there are so many different people and cultures that affect our lives and future that it is difficult to pick one. There is Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, Emerson, Thoreau, Fuentes, Bedi, Yep, and more.
– ‘The HESPERUS Days’ means cultural events organized by a small cultural foundation (‘The HESPERUS Foundation’ was set up by me and some Radio Bucharest colleagues / among them Ioan Ion Diaconu/ in 1991) in co-operation with important cultural and media partners. So far we had guests from Italy (1993, 2005), Switzerland (1995), the Ambassadors of India, Portugal and Brazil (1999), the Ambassadors of Japan, Brazil and the general Consul of Australia (2001), the Ambassadors of Finland, Bulgaria, diplomats from the Republic of Korea, the cultural attache of Spain and the British Council representatives (2003), the Czech Republic Ambassador, the Germany Embassy Press Attache and a gust from the U.S.A. (2007), guests from Canada (2009) so on. We plan to organize the Xth edition of ‘The HESPERUS Days’ in 2014. As you know Romania, you speak Romanian, would you like to participate as a special guest to the X th edition of ‘The HESPERUS Days’? To speak about ‘bridges over the Atlantic Ocean’ ?
– Your Hesperus days sound wonderful! I’d love to take you up on your offer to be special guest speaker. At this point, however, I do not know my schedule well enough to commit. When is it?
– The last question is yours; if you’d be the reporter, what question would you like to ask Mark Dorr? Of course, the answer must include a message for ‘the both sides of the Atlantic Ocean’…
– I suppose I would ask Mark how it is that he was able to do so many different things, and my answer would be that I believe-and it’s been my observation-that humans can do much, much more than they believe they are capable of achieving. This is the same on either side of the Atlantic as well as across the world.
Thank you for your time, Ioan. I do have a question for you. I have been interviewed by a variety of people from a variety of cultures and not encountered an interview such as yours that extended over such time and seems to roam between many subjects. I’m not familiar with this and hope that you have what you need.
All the best, Mark.
ALL THE BEST, MARK, AND M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S !
Interview made by Ioan Iacob