Steve from Michigan

Download audio file (steve.mp3)

Mark interviews Steve Yenik, a friend and co-worker of his, who lives in Kyoto, Japan. In it, Steve talks a little bit about the Midwest of the United States, the orignial thirteen colonies, and his hometown of Owosso, Michigan.

Mark: I’m just sitting here with my friend, Steve – my friend and co-worker, Steve Yenik, and we’re in Kyoto, Japan. Steve, what year did you come to Japan?
Steve: Uh, 1969.
Mark: Right.
Steve: Uh, let’s see, 1969, yeah. That’s how many years ago, forty? No, thirty, more than thirty years ago.
Mark: 59, 69, 79, 89, 99…79, 89, 99, 209 would be forty.
Steve: Thirty five, say.
Mark: Right.
Steve: Thirty five.
Mark: And you’re from the States?
Steve: Right, Michigan.
Mark: Michigan, yeah?
Steve: Yeah, Michigan. Michigan is famous for lakes. It has many lakes – the Land of 10,000 Lakes. And uh, Winter Wonderland, too. Winter sports – very, very popular.
Mark: Michigan’s up on the Canadian border.
Steve: Right, right, right.
Mark: The Northeast.
Steve: Yeah, yeah, yeah. North – well, Midwest. It’s called the Midwest.
Mark: But it’s the Northeast of the country. Why is that?
Steve: Well, originally the West – the country wasn’t so big. And so Michigan was not quite all the way west, but it was pretty far west, yeah, when it became a state.
Mark: Hang on a minute, hang on a minute.
Steve: Yeah?
Mark: What do you mean “the country wasn’t so big?” The country’s always been the same size, hasn’t it?
Steve: No, no, no. It started off real little. It was just a little strip on the East coast, and it started kind of, uh, spreading like, uh, like a fungus or a virus, or something. And it spread across. And when Michigan became a state, it was pretty far west, but it wasn’t all the way west, so they called that part of the country the Midwest. And uh, the other parts out there would be the Far West, and California was just something altogether different, I guess.
Mark: So, the idea of ‘west’ shifted gradually west, with time.
Steve: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. Yeah, originally, uh, you know, the Appalachian mountains would’ve been the west side of the country and now, it’s way far east. And uh, yeah, the Frontier. That was called the Frontier. It was a big deal.
Mark: When you say America was a thin sliver on the East Coast, where did it start? Was it New York or Philadelphia?
Steve: A bit north of there, Massachusetts.
Mark: Massachusetts.
Steve: And a little bit north of there even, actually, uh, New Hampshire. It started from there and went down to Georgia. And there were thirteen original colonies. I could name them.
Mark: Go on.
Steve: Uh, maybe. New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. I did it!
Mark: Wow, good job! Virginia and Carolina, which – were those states named after queens? Or…
Steve: Yeah, Virginia after queen Elizabeth – the virgin queen – so they called it Virginia.
Mark: And Caroline – Carolina?
Steve: That I don’t know. It’s probably King Charles, or something like that. I’m not real sure, but they cut his head off, so, um.
Mark: In Australia, a lot of the place names are Aboriginal names.
Steve: Yeah.
Mark: What American states are Native American or Indian names?
Steve: Lots of them. Um, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Dakotas, North and South Dakota, Utah…
Mark: Iowa.
Steve: Iowa, Kansas…
Mark: Illinois.
Steve: Illinois, uh, Missouri, uh, Arkansas…
Mark: Seattle
Steve: Oklahoma maybe.
Mark: Seattle, but not Washington?
Steve: Uh, not Washington, no. Seattle, I don’t know what that is.
Mark: That’s the name of Chief Seattle.
Steve: Oh yeah? Chief Seattle. Well, there’s all those states and then when you get into cities, there’s dozens of cities. I grew up in a city called Owosso, for…named after Chief Owosso. So…
Mark: How do you spell Owasu?
Steve: Oh, it’ll be an O-W-O-S-S-O. Go Owosso – O-W-O-S-S-O.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. Makes a…you can make a nice rhythmic chant out of that one for football games.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: O-W-O-S-S-O. Owosso! Go Owosso! Something like that.
Mark: How many people were there when you were growing up?
Steve: Where?
Mark: In Owosso.
Steve: Owosso. Oh, I don’t know. 20,000 maybe, or 25,000 or something.
Mark: Wow.
Steve: Not…not terribly big.
Mark: I grew up in a town about the same size: Mt. Isa, in Queensland.
Steve: Yeah, well….
Mark: How’s your tea?
Steve: Good.

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22 Responses to “Steve from Michigan”

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  1. garby leon says:

    hey steve – it’s yr old buddy & roomate garb from university of michigan, 1965-6 … remember, back when you eased back on playing the piano to learn japanese? maybe playing with the prime movers was a little too much, right? … ok i also remember the retreat center you built in massachusetts, and then one visit back to michigan when you started a snowball fight amongst a bunch of inebriated plutocrats & relatives of mine on new years eve in east tawas .. anyway contact me if you have mind to – intensitymedia AT yahoo DOT com – very curious what you’ve been doing all this time – lots to catch up on – yr brother, garb

  2. Dave Miner says:

    Steve, You d-bag. I hope you bring your ass and your lovely family and come across the big pond back to the states this summer for something I know you likely detest: a class reunion. I’m living in Florida now, and if I can get my sorry ass up to Michigan for this occasion, then you can get your as there too. I would love to see you and your family and tell them what a lousy hockey player you were and how much fun we had playing at your farm. By the way, I have family living in Japan, and it would be neat if you could meet them. One cousin teaches English and the other teaches flower arrangements. The “flower arrangement” cousin is my first cousin Ginny who married Koreshiga Anami – yep that Anami family. Koreshiga is a wonderful guy and now retired from the Japanese foreign ministry. Seriously, let’s get together. Drop me an e-mail at
    Dave Miner
    p.s. Donshisha Univeristy is closely associated with my alma mater Amherst College.

  3. Chuck Lyons says:

    Steve Yenik,

    The class of 1964 is looking for you.

    Are you in Japan?

    Can you go to a web site,, and find your 1964 photo under “classmates” and give us an update. Love to hear from you.

    Chuck Lyons

  4. Luis Yungan says:

    It is very nice English excercises. Congratulations to everybody. Go ahead!

  5. T Kabza says:

    hello Mark and Steve. yeah nice to see an english conversation is occurring. I’ve once known a fellow named steve Yenik oddly enough. He was around in the town Ann Arbor in um 1966 and reading up on TEA and Charles Ives. In a follow up comment you could give me an email. I’ve an interesting photograph of this guy on South University. Ok. Bye. Kabza

  6. apc33 says:

    Thanks to Rajjak, Marcello, Larry, and Noelia for your comments. We’re happy that you found something of use here on the site.

    Larry, did you ever get Steve’s email? If not, please let me know.


  7. Noelia says:

    I really like this web site it’s very helpful I’m student of english and I’m argentinian. I was looking for real conversations and let me tell you this. I have an examination tomorrow and this exercise will help me absolutely. thank you very much!!! greetings from argentina.

  8. larry Hansen says:

    Hi Mark; I am an old friend of Steve Yenik form the U Of Mich. My last visit to see him in Kyoto was in 95, and his e-mail address has changed. I need to contact him, can you pass along my e-mail address to him, or give me his address or phone contact?
    thanks, Larry Hansen

  9. Marcello says:

    Hi Rajjak,

    Yes. The website is very helpful. However I am not the author. Your thanks should go to Mark White.

  10. Rajjak says:

    Hi.. Marcello, My name is Rajjak rahaman all the way from India. I did my graduation in the year 2005. And God knows how long i have been looking 4 a we site and then finally i have found it yours. It is incredible, tremendous. And the conversatinions is marvelous, useful….if anyone wanna send mee mail about English language i would be obliged. my E-mail Add is:

  11. apc33 says:

    Hi Marcello. I am happy that you found this and other conversations useful on the site. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Marcello Barisano says:

    Hi my name is Marcello. I have recently graduated from Florence University in Literature and Language. I have used your conversation to demonstrate how cohesion works in spoken English. Tanks for publishing interviews like this one, they can be very helpfull for students of English as foreigner language.

  13. Mark White says:

    Hi Everybody

    A few people have wondered how to use our site because there are no activities or exercises to go with the conversations. I do not think they are needed. Just get the students to listen and if they enjoy and are interested then learning is taking place. There is no need to obssess on evaluation. Just let it happen. Remember we are educators, not evalauators.

    Also you could get them to post comments like this one at the end of the conversations so that a duiscussion might take off.


    Has anybody thought about maps? I mean really thought about maps and what they are? In this interview Steve and I talked about a map a little and since we recorded it I have looked at a lot more maps and thought about them. Maps usually contain some geographical or political information. They show where people live or how they are distributed. they show where rivers and coastlines are. They reflect natural physical phenomena in the world.

    While looking at the map of the States, I was thinking about how the shape of the west coast and also the fact that the southeastern states were once part of The Kingdom of New Spain (which included the Philippines) have somehow conspired to modify the shapes of the southeastern states. Look at the map and see how they slant in as they go up from Mexico. You can almost see the political tension between the Hicspanic world and the Anglo hub coming out from Washington and New York and that northeast corner where the USA began.

    Now look at the map of Colorado. Look at the shape of it. Notice anything? It is a square, or more precisely a rectangle. It is an abstract figure. Somebody drew it on the earth. There was no border dispute that caused an irregular line. There was no treaty that caused an irregular little hump in a boundary that had to skirt around three villages of people who spoke Kurdish. There is no coastline or river path either. The shape of Colorado comes direct from the human mind. Somebody went out there with surveying instruments and drew straight lines and nobody opposed them. Nobody modified what they did. Nobody stopped this abstract shape from the human mind being printed on the earth without the influence of man, river or coastline. This shape, this map contains no geographical information (in a sense). What does this mean? What does it tell us? Any ideas? Anybody? Anybody there? Anybody out there? Anybody listening? anybody reading? Anybody looking?

    Mark White

  14. Mark White says:

    Hey Angelika
    Please let us know how your students respond to the conversations.
    We have been so busy lately that we have not been able to get much up but hope to get back into it soon

  15. apc33 says:

    Hi Angelika….

    Sorry about that. We’ve been a bit sidetracked over the last few months, and should have made our RSS feed more visible. I’ll add the button now. In the meantime, here is the feed:

    Thank you for your interest!

  16. Angelika says:

    I appreciate your website. However, how can I subscribe to your podcasts?
    I see now orange RSS button.

    I am an ELT teacher in Germany and would like to use your stories in class.

    Best regards,

  17. apc33 says:

    Thanks Graham….much more on the way. We’ll try to throw in a few surprises as well.

  18. What a great recording! I’m sure the transcript really helps students understand when they listen to it too. I’d love to hear Mark interview some other speakers. And can’t wait for that Jack-in-a-beabstalk story!

  19. apc33 says:

    Wiki Smith, thanks for your comment. I love these two guys with all my heart. It truly is entertaining to hear them talk. I hope Mark will be able to capture a few more with Steve this year.

    Coming soon….Steve tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Seriously.

  20. apc33 says:

    Phillip, we have a lot of fungus here in Japan. The weather is humid and mold is everywhere. As for the text, we transcribed it the old fashioned way: by finger. My tea is good too. I prefer green tea mixed with maccha during the day, and houjicha at night.

  21. Wiki Smith says:

    These two boneheads are BRILLIANT. It was just a good healthy laugh listening to them chat. Thanks Mark and Steve!

  22. Phillip says:

    I love the idea of the thin sliver of America growing like a fungus west. When I was first listening to him, i was thinking that the land itself was growing west, not just the people manifesting destiny.

    I am curious if you/someone typed the audio or if you used voice recognition softward (voice to text)

    how’s your tea?

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