GVSU prof to discuss travels to Middle East in gallery conversation

By Tasman Mattox | 9/10/17 10:11pm


Grand Valley State University students are invited to join professor James Goode and his wife, Virginia Goode, at the first gallery conversation in a series of four this week. 

The event, titled “Travel in the Middle East: Highs & Lows,” is set to be held Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the GVSU Art Gallery in the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts. Students who would like to attend can RSVP beforehand, although an RSVP is not required.

“We are talking about the good times and the bad times in traveling to different countries,” Jim Goode said. 

Goode has taught at GVSU for 32 years and is retiring after this year. He is a professor of history, and he has run many trips to the Middle East. 

“I was in the Peace Corps, and I was assigned to a small town in Western Iran to teach English,” he said of his first encounter with the region. 

Virginia Good also visited the Middle East at a young age.

“All Australians grow up wanting to travel," she said. "I got shipped to Bombay and joined up with a group that was going overland to London. Europe never quite did it for me, and I absolutely fell in love with the Middle East.”

The Middle East also happens to be the location where the two were introduced to one another, fell in love and were married.

“We met in 1971 in Tehran (the capital of Iran), and we were married in Tehran and lived in the east of the country for two years or so,” Jim Goode said. 

The Goodes will be sharing some of their best and worst travel experiences in the Middle East in the hopes of encouraging others to travel. There will be three more gallery conversations on different topics in the upcoming months, all led by the Goodes. 

“I think for students, and really for anyone who travels, if you get deeply into the places you’re traveling to, you get to appreciate different cultures," Good said. "People have their traditions, and they do things in certain ways. They may not be your ways, but they’re their ways, and they’re just as valid as your ways are.”

The gallery conversation comes in tandem with the Goodes' exhibition of artifacts they’ve collected, “Afghanistan to Morocco: Journeys of Jim and Virginia Goode."

“The objects are very humble objects,” Virginia Goode said. “When you think back to where they came off the street, it’s quite amazing.” 

Jim Goode said they bought the objects because they liked them, not to create a collection.

“We never set out to collect these materials as a collection,” Jim Goode said. “We always bought things that we thought were attractive to the eye, but they weren’t necessarily art, but you can see the patterns of Islamic art in them.” 

When asked to share an experience they considered a high point of their travels, they decided on one together. 

“We went to this site; it was an ancient religious site," Virginia Goode said. "In the distance, we saw shepherds and their flocks of sheep. Next thing was, the shepherds appeared with their sheep and their donkey and these great huge dogs to keep the wolves away, and they wanted us to have morning tea with them.” 

Virginia Goode said this happy memory was not pre-planned or even expected.

“They were going to boil the water on the fire and everything, and we had a few things, dates and cookies,” she said. “We spread our things out, they spread their things out and we just had this lovely time.

I think that was one of the most wonderful experiences, one of those completely unexpected things that really touch you.” 

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