The accepted supposition is that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people on Earth. But, I think, if we are talking about RPCVs that ratio tightens and it is more like 4 connections between you and anyone else in the world. And if you add growing up in the rural Mid-West in a town of less than 100,000, and being the same age, well, then, maybe, for all practical purposes, you’re kissin’ cousins.
So that is why it is not so strange that Peter Hessler (China 1996-98) has a piece in the January 9, 2012, New Yorker about a guy named Jake Adelstein–who Peter knew as a kid in Missouri–and who went to Tokyo five years ago not knowing a word of Japanese, became a crime reporter for the country’s largest newspapers, and now lives in Tokyo under police protection because of his articles on the yakuza, Japan’s version of the Mafia.
But what is surprising is that two boys from the Mid-West have become internationally famous, one as a prize winning RPCV writer of books on China, and the other guy as an investigative reporter who as a kid in Columbia, Missouri was tall, spindly, cross-eyed and took up karate at the U of Missouri where he was studying Japanese, then fell down an elevator shaft and forgot everything he had learned. Only in Missouri!
You have to read Peter’s piece, which is fascinating and funny and full of arcane information about Missouri, Tokyo, the yakuya, and is really all about the way the world works in Asia and back here at home.
No one writes it better than Hessler.
Who, by the way, lives in Cairo!
It is pretty hard to keep up with these ‘homeboys’ from Missouri.