Greetings! I’m Tessah and I moved to Portland in April of 2010. I grew up just North of the California border in Ashland, a small, artsy town my parents finally decided upon after a few trips across the country in a moving van with an old Toyota in tow and our cat in my lap. I went to the University of Oregon to study photography, and then changed my mind a few times and finally settled on International Studies and Journalism, with a minor in French. During my third year of school, I studied abroad in Senegal, West Africa. As my first solo trip out of the country, it was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I lived with a family of nine, and I am an only child. My siblings’ ages ran from 5 to 28, and we all lived under the same roof, ate with our hands out of the same dish, and showered from the same bucket (not at the same time). As ready as I was to come home after four months, my time in Senegal definitely gave me the travel bug and heightened my curiosity about other corners of the world I knew little about.
After graduation from University, I, like so many others, had no job and no job prospects. I decided to cash in on one very fortunate asset—my native English tongue—and went abroad to teach in South Korea. The first weekend was like being at Disneyland, but instead of cotton candy and french fries there was Hello Kitty popsicles and fried squid. Bright lights and pop music energized the streets, and everything from backpacks to garbage cans were cute and shaped like animals. I taught elementary school kids who called me Teacher Tessah and giggled at everything I said, especially when I tried to speak Korean. They tried hard in class, and I tried hard to make the lessons fun (I forced them all to do the Thriller Dance on Halloween) but sometimes it flopped and someone would end up crying or calling me mean names in Korean that they knew I didn’t understand. Overall, I loved it, and have recommended teaching there to many friends back home.
I decided to move to Portland after returning from Korea for a few reasons. I had visited many times and always loved it, and many of my friends from school lived here. Most of all, I love a city that revolves around good food, good beer, and good music. Plus, with the ocean an hour West and Mt. Hood an hour East, you can’t ask to be in a better spot on the map. I hope you leave Portland with only great memories, and come back to visit again. Or just move here, everyone else is!
What was your first major travel experience? Why did you choose that place?
Senegal, West Africa. I wanted to study abroad in a place where I probably wouldn’t travel alone, and I wanted to use my French.
What is one of your most memorable moments from a travel experience?
There was a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school where I worked in South Korea who took me under her wing as my Korean mother. She would take me on family outings to visit temples, go shopping, see movies, and eat at traditional Korean restaurants. Her 18-year-old daughter was about to leave for the U.S., and she and I became good friends as I tried to prepare her for high school in Virginia.
What is your next travel destination and why?
Greece, Croatia and Turkey–for the food! Or to South America, because I have never seen that continent and would love to learn Spanish.
What countries have you traveled to? Where do you want to travel next?
With my parents, I visited Mexico, France, Italy and Germany, and with friends I have been to Senegal, South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Do you have any stories to share about food which you tried on your travels?
On my first day in Seoul, some friends and I were wandering around a market in the middle of the day, starving, but didn’t know what to order from any of the tiny vendor stands. We finally chose one at random, sat down, and just agreed to the first thing the woman offered us. After choking down a few bites of the unknown, grey, gelatinous substance, we asked a man at the next table what we were eating. He told us, “pig intestine”, and I almost vomited all over the plate.
Do you have a Hostel Highlight (a memorable hostel moment in one of your travels)?
Som, the manager of our hostel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is an amazing, hilarious man. He was in his late 20s, and spoke English almost fluently without every having studied it. He just picked it up from English-speaking travelers. One night, he took my friends and I to this little Khmer restaurant that was owned by his friend. I still don’t know what was in most of the dishes we ate, but it was delicious. At the end of the meal, he said, “Home jam?” and all of us looked at each other confused. He said some Australians had taught him that saying “home jam” means “let’s go home”. We started adding “jam” the the end of every place we went. Beach jam, store jam, hostel jam… it all worked. Eventually, months later, we realized it came from “Home, James”, but we all like “jam” a lot more, and still say it to this day.
What are the best ways to embrace a rainy day in Portland?
Own a pair of rain boots that go with every outfit.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Portland which you won’t find in a travel guide?
What’s your favorite coffee shop in Portland?
Dragonfly Coffee House at 2387 NW Thurman St. Just walk down 23rd avenue and make a left on Thurman. It’s on the right between 23rd and 24th.
What’s your favorite brew pub in Portland?
is amazing, and the environment of the restaurant is great. It’s in the heart of the Pearl district on NW 11th and NW Davis.
What is your favorite food cart?
Whiffies Fried Pies on SE 12th and SE Hawthorne, or Wolf & Bear’s on SE 20th and SE Morrison
What’s your favorite thing to say in another language?
“ce degg degg?” in Wolof (one of the major languages in Senegal) means “really???” Pronouced “chuh dugguh dugguh”