May 13

Eric Baker (Fukuoka-ken, 2006-08) hopes he is approaching the end of a year of travel and reconnecting. He’ll be writing about his thoughts and experiences as he transitions back to working in the States.

slick willy

Should I stay or should I go now?…

This indecision’s bugging me.

Post-JET I hit the road for five months and ran into all sorts of people. For the inevitable question “where are you from?” I kept stock answers based on who I was chatting with. So for the toothless Syrian shepherd who’s English consisted of “Bush. Bad!”—vigorously illustrated with furrowed brow and shaking head—followed by “Obama. Good!” I threw out my vigorous nose point and Japanese accented “America.” This built enough rapport to move on to higher-level discussions, like “Clinton! Very good!” followed by suggestively arched bushy eyebrows, gaping smile and hip gyrations.

For the umpteenth hawker, I’d occasionally throw out something exciting like “I’m Japanese” or “I’m from Holland.” Either they’d be confused or annoyed and leave me alone or we’d start in on a more interesting conversation. “(playfully) Noooo. Really, where are you from?” In a small Egyptian town I spent two insightful days hanging out with a shopkeeper and his friends after starting a conversation like this.

I loved being able to connect with Japanese backpackers, who were universally びっくり! that I could speak Japanese. I often had to say a few sentences in Japanese before they could comprehend that this white face was Read More


May 2

Eric Baker (Fukuoka-ken, 2006-08) will be writing the Baker’s Dozen column as he  approaches the end of a year of travel and reconnecting. He will discuss his thoughts and experiences as he transitions back to working in the States after two years on JET.

Like many folks, I discovered JetWit through a JET friend. Joining the Facebook group, I began exchanging messages with Steven, our prescient leader, who suggested I start writing a few posts about my life as I, too, join the increasingly anxious fray of those looking for work. michigan-hand-ma

You may wonder how it came to pass that I’m starting these posts now, in May. I’m either ahead of the game for an ’09 JET or way behind for the group who finished in the summer of ’08. As you may have guessed, I’m the latter–I took a scenic western route returning from Japan to round out 2008. This year I’ve balanced my time between reading and fitness binges at “home” in Detroit, and with a number of week or two-long stints on the road, reconnecting with my diaspora of American friends, seeing how they live.

So far I’ve found value through the ups and downs of my deliberately gradual reentry. But while my old friends are well on their varied roads to success, evidenced in their shapely Apple and Ikea products and the flatscreen TV pandemic (when did that happen?), I turn 25 tomorrow, am living with my parents, and am increasingly in need of that pension refund. I check my account most days for that deposit, and in the meantime my 0% American Express keeps me afloat. But with my Nokia prepaid phone, goodwill cutlery and non-HD compatible 27″ JVC, I’m clinging to the fringes of social acceptance.

In fits and starts, I’m making the inevitable transition to commence thinking about and searching for my next job. I’ve missed most grad school deadlines, so that is eliminated for now. But most everything else is up in the air. Like my friends, I’m happy to move since—my pride in the Great Lakes (五大湖, anyone?) and ability to use my right hand as a map of my state aside—finding work in Michigan isn’t realistic right now. And for better or worse, I sometimes feel more socially isolated being temporarily back “home” than I did in my inaka hamlet.  I’m becoming antsy to really Read More


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