Leslie de Vries

Oct 14, 12:20 PM
My guest this week is Leslie de Vries, who is Lecturer in East Asian Traditions at the University of Kent. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, we learn why Les doesn’t really look back to his childhood. He has a sister who was very sporty while his parents lived quite different lives. He explains why he didn’t perceive his family situation as normal. Les’ father was involved in managing bands and football players and Les recalls once shaking hands with Lionel Richie.

Les explains why he wanted to be a ‘normal kid’ and how he was a bit of a dreamer in school. He later became involved in playing music and we discover how he became interested in East Asia through martial arts.

We talk about the band Won Ton Ton and how we end up following unexpected paths. We find out why Les was kicked out of his band as a bass player and why it wasn’t quite the right path for him. He practiced Chinese martial arts and was fascinated by the philosophy behind it which led to Les’ Chinese adventure and his PhD.

Les talks about the difficulty with sticking to one thing and about how his personal interests fit well with his research. He has a long list of projects he needs to do and he explains why one life time doesn’t seem enough. He refers to his PhD viva taking the form of a public defence and how this kick started his academic career.

Les lived in East Asia for about 7 years in total and he talks about how it drives his teaching. Living in a completely different environment has shaped him and he can advise his students accordingly. He remembers travelling through Canterbury when in his early teens – and now he is living here, and Les recalls his job interview experience in 2017.

Then, towards the end of the interview Les talks about why he wants to see his memories as positive, even the negative ones, and why he doesn’t regret them. You carry your past with you, but he’s not nostalgic as such for those past experiences. Les talks about what his younger self would think about what he is doing now. We learn about his dream for the future and wanting some stability and we learn why he wants to look forward rather than back.

Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Les de Vries and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.