Re-reading the interview done ten years ago at the end of a wonderful year at Leiden, I am struck by the ways personal encounters with people and places add enormously to the insights of the student of history. Notice the early cups of coffee with Om Prakash, later to be the doyen of the Delhi school of Asian maritime history, and with Kwame Daaku and John Fynn, my first guides into African views of African history. Some of us think we’re pretty good at opening the heritage of a great people to outsiders, but what a difference it makes to be listening to a friend who embodies that heritage! And what a difference it makes to have poked into Elmina Castle in Ghana or the old cemetery in Macao! The concreteness of lived experience of persons and places remains one of the main sources of the humane power of the study of history.