Category: Meet the Gaijin

Jalen Cox – Ambassador & Interpreter Extraordinaire

Even though you may not expect it when first looking at him, Jalen Cox is prolific in Japanese. He recently began working in Maebashi as a translator and interpreter, and already he has helped connect the city with the rest of the world.

This week I joined Jalen to hear all about this work, and I found he had a lot to say about it. If you don’t speak Japanese, fret not. Jalen will be able to translate.

Come meet this week’s Gaijin, Ambassador Cox.

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Khanh Nguyen – Music and Adventure & How they keep life interesting

For Khanh Nguyen, music and adventure are the two greatest pleasures in life. In the week, he teaches music to elementary students, and on the weekends he is traveling. He has not spent a weekend at home in months.

I sat down with him to pick his brain about these two passions, and he has a lot of knowledge about them. Tune your instruments, and pack your bags.

It’s time for a musical adventure with Mr. Nguyen.

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Malcolm Harper – How to travel, teach, improve each day, and thrive all around the world

Last week I sat down in Maebashi, Gunma with Malcolm Harper, traveling teacher and bon vivant, to talk all about his travels, lifetime enthusiasm for Japanese, and the differences he has found between the American and Japanese school systems. His thought on these matters and more are articulate, steadfast, and impactful.

Mr. Harper’s class is now in session, so come sit down and get ready to learn!

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Valerie Landers – Expatriate Princess

Valerie Landers is easily one of the most memorable people I have met in Japan.

As a six-foot, bold and outspoken African American woman with dreadlocks, she provides a stark contrast from the homogeneity of the Gunma countryside. And she always has something to say, be it nonsensical or heartfelt.

Last week, I traveled out to Tomioka, Gunma to sit down and pick her brain on what it means to be such an iconoclast. We discussed the sights of Gunma, life among other anglophones, being black in Japan, and how expectations work out (or don’t)

Come sit down and hear her what she has to say!

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John “JP” Wojciechowski – Linguaphile and Tea Connoisseur

“At 13, I had the epiphany of how important it is to learn a second language, and from that instant I made it my mission to pursue that matter to the end.”

John “JP” Wojciechowski, 25 year-old English teacher and linguaphile, the importance of learning a language and then using that language to cultivate new relationships is the most paramount matter in life.

“I felt like I was learning so much about the world,” he says. “I kind of decided that everyone should learn a second language. At that time and that age, I just had a realization that this skill is a way to communicate with other people in the world and gain such a different perspective. That was what really got me, and for the last 12 years I have pursued that goal.”

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Luke Straka – Philosopher and Bohemian

Seated opposite Luke Straka, 28 year-old teacher and philosopher, in a rustic cafe on a Sunday afternoon, one can learn a lot about how to view the world.

“I think that language is the key to many of the philosophical and psychological conundrums that we face as humans in this world,” says Luke. “If I can do anything, I want to learn how to address those issues and use them to bring people together across boundaries.”

A big part of learning to transcend those boundaries is being comfortable with being a stranger in a strange land, a comfort Luke has been cultivating all his life.

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Brendan Bish – Poet, Traveler, Student

For Brenden Bish, 28 year-old international poet and professional student, learning is a way to tune into eternity.

“You never stop learning,” says Brenden. “You can learn so many different things under the sun, so you can learn something and be humbled by each new thing. And each lesson is just one tiny piece of the whole expanse of human knowledge, so I really strive to learn something new in every moment.”

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