Today is Gwangbokjeol - Restoration of Light Day - in Korea. It commemorates liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Three years later, the Republic of Korea was established in 1948. To celebrate Gwangbokjeol, I invited Sean Chandler, an American in Korea, to join us at SOS Aloha.
In August of 2010, an unemployed graduate from Bagdad, Kentucky, decided he needed a change of scenery. He applied to teach English in the Republic of Korea and was accidentally accepted. These are his stories.
Kim: ROK! What is your favorite sight, sound, and smell?
Sean: I have some fairly strong opinions on this; after all, I’ve been seeing, hearing, and smelling for about as long as I can remember. My favorite sight is probably a perfect sunrise or sunset over almost any mountain range, preferably with a good cloud to sky ratio. I’m a pretty avid hiker and I think it’s safe to say that, no matter how many books I read or how many paintings I admire, nature has the best canvas and the coolest brushes. My favorite sound? Probably either the voice of British singer Seal, although I’ve always imagined the greatest sound on Earth must be the sound of an agent or publisher saying “Sean…We’ve read your book and we love it.” As for my favorite smell? Pizza.
|Korean ship visits Pearl Harbor for RimPac 2012|
Kim: What was your first reaction to Korean spas?
Sean: So… much… skin…
Kim: Kimchi - why it so important to Koreans? Do you like it?
Sean: Kimchi was an acquired taste, but after a year in Korea, I definitely warmed up to the staple side dish of Korean culture. Kimchi is important to Koreans because it is a dish that has been with them even through the lowest points in their history. It is a dish that is unique to their country and has a wealth of varieties that most foreigners overlook. There are literally hundreds of different variations on kimchi that range from “So spicy you’ll see through time” to “Wow, that’s almost sweet!” My favorite way to eat kimchi? Kimchi jjigae, which is a spicy and flavorful stew best served with rice.
Kim: Your book cover and title reminds me of Dave Barry! Who are some of your favorite authors and essayists?
Sean: Hmm, I suppose the cover would remind you of Dave Barry’s Hits Below the Beltway. Pure coincidence. Believe it or not, though, the cover was actually inspired by the giant red text on a book I had to read for graduate school called Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. My favorite authors of the moment are George R. R. Martin, Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, and Alan Moore. As far as essayists are concerned, I’ve recent enjoyed the work of Fareed Zakaria , Christopher Hitchens, and Kurt Vonnegut.
Kim: What's next for Sean Chandler, teacher, traveler, blogger, and author?
Sean: I’ll be publishing my third book of the year in my third genre when I release The Last Cup, a different kind of dystopian future novel that combines elements of The Hunger Games with Brave New World and The World Cup. It’s an apocalyptic future that revolves around the game of soccer. I’m pretty thrilled with the story I’ve crafted and I hope that others will embrace my vision.
Mahalo, Sean, for being my guest in paradise! Sean is the author of NAKED IN KOREA: A KENTUCKIAN'S TALE OF TEACHING & KIMCHI:
It’s a strange feeling when you realize that the majority of people who have seen you naked have passports different from yours, but that’s exactly what happened to author/traveler Sean Chandler in 2010 and 2011. "Naked in Korea" is the funny and heartfelt reflection of a 25-year-old teacher from Bagdad, Kentucky who was hired to teach English in a military town near the controversial border between North and South Korea, only to discover that, even on the other side of the planet, there is still plenty that people share in common.
Shrinkage, for example.
But Chandler’s memoir/travelogue is about more than just how he came to spend copious amounts of time sweltering in an East Asian bathhouse alongside throngs of befuddled Korean men. It is about more than how a hairy Kentuckian learned to enjoy wearing Speedos in a country where conformity is helps. "Naked in Korea" is the story of how a fish out of water learned to get by in a part of Korea where foreigners are seldom seen and the gorgeous mountains contain either unexploded landmines or luxurious five-star golf courses, depending on where you look.
Come join Chandler as he shares his stories about making kimchi for the first time at a prehistoric festival on Halloween and how he learned to drink soju “the proper way”. Hear some pointers on what to bring if a group of Koreans invite you to hike a mountain at 4:00 in the morning on New Year’s Day under a blanket of darkness and knee-deep snow. Discover how to plant fishing traps at the bottom of a frigid river and read about Chandler’s journey underneath the infamous DMZ in a secret tunnel that was once intended for a North Korean military invasion! And, yes, we’ll talk a little about K-Pop.
Along the way, learn what Seoul has to offer and hear fun tips for exploring The Land of the Morning Calm. Korea is a fantastic country with unique people and a happily eccentric culture you simply have to experience! Just, um…remember that clothing is sometimes optional.
I am giving away an ecopy of NAKED IN KOREA to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about Korea - have you tried kimchi? Have you visited a Korean spa, even in the US? Do you have a favorite episode from MASH?
Yes, I've tried my neighbor's kimchi. Yes, I visited a Korean spa in LA last year (at this link). MASH offers too many favorite episodes ... one is when the MASH unit had to move (due to conflict). Klinger had to trade his dresses for a readily available building.
2. This giveaway is open to all readers.
3. Comments are open through Saturday, August 18, 10 pm in Hawaii. I'll post the winner on Sunday, August 19.
Kim in Hawaii
To learn more about Sean, check out his blog at seanchandlerinkorea.wordpress.com.
|My children with the Korean translator!|