John Ford works as a narrator and interpreter for the Hot Glass Show, utilizing his knowledge of Mandarin Chinese to translate the show for the Museum’s growing Chinese audience. After 12 years with the Museum, he will soon be retiring.
John’s journey to learning Chinese was a fast one that started with a mission organization in Taiwan. “We were in Taiwan for 25 years,” said John. “My wife, myself, and three kids went there, and started and worked an orphanage. We started out with our three kids who were then six, three, and seven months, and arrived in Taiwan without a word of Chinese, which was a challenge.”
The Fords only studied for ten months in Taipei before moving to the southern part of the island to start their own children’s home, where they learned the language “basically from total immersion, and necessity,” John said.
After 25 years in Taiwan and another five years traveling back and forth from Guatemala, John decided that it was time to settle down from all of the traveling. John initially applied for a different job at the Museum, but when Ellen Corradini, director of human resources, saw his experience in Taiwan on his resume, she knew there was a better role for him.
“My antennae went up,” she said. “Even back then, the need for someone who spoke Mandarin was becoming very apparent.”
When John first came to the Museum, his job wasn’t exactly simple.
“I arrived the first day at 9:30 a.m. and at 11, the Chinese group came in and John Cowden, who was the supervisor there, said, ‘Well, are you ready?’ Those first couple days, I had to improvise because I didn’t know all the terms in Chinese,” John said.
From that day on, John has never failed to impress. “It’s been magical ever since, Ellen said. “It was so fun to see the faces of our Mandarin-speaking guests light up when they heard him speak Chinese. Once they realize that they’re going to have a richer experience by hearing about what’s happening on stage in Chinese, they break out in wild applause!”
And John has enjoyed interacting with the Museum’s Chinese visitors just as much.
“I had no idea that I would have the opportunity, living in this area, to still use my Chinese and to bump into Chinese people every day and interact with them,” said John. “That’s what I really have enjoyed about the job.”
Jack Lok, founder and consultant of L&L Travel Enterprises, Inc., the biggest Chinese travel group that comes to the Museum, appreciates John’s passion for the Museum’s Chinese visitors. “He always tries to help other people,” said Jack. “In fact, it’s kind of an inspiration for us all, not only just about ourselves but also about other people.”
In his retirement, John hopes to do a little traveling. He may even travel to see his sons who are both currently in China, but only “if I think I can stand the fifteen-hour, non-stop plane ride,” he jokes.
“John has been a ray of sunshine for the Museum” said Ellen. “He’ll truly be missed.”