The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

RANDOM NOMAD: Bart Schaneman, Experience-hungry Newspaper Editor in Seoul

Place of birth: Scottsbluff, Nebraska, USA — I was raised on a farm nine miles east of town. I had an incredible childhood.
Passport: USA
Overseas history: South Korea (Jeonju, Seoul, Jeonju, Seoul): 2006-08; 2008-09; 2010-11; 2011 – present.
Occupation: National editor for the Korea JoongAng Daily, an English newspaper in Seoul; and author of Trans-Siberian, a travelogue about a trip on the the world’s longest railway.
Cyberspace coordinates: Bart Schaneman (Tumblr blog) and @bartschaneman (Twitter handle).

What made you abandon your homeland for Korea?
I left because I wanted experiences. I wanted material to write about. I wanted to travel and get out of America. I didn’t want a mortgage. I didn’t want to get trapped. I didn’t want to wait until I was too old to see the world.

Was anyone else in your immediate family displaced?
I’m the only person in my immediate family who doesn’t live in the region called the Great Plains.

Tell me about the moment during your stay in Korea when you felt the most displaced.
I don’t really have a moment like that. Korea’s an exceptional place. It’s safe. The people are kind and educated. It gets easier to live here as a Westerner all the time. I’m here by choice — it gets lonely, and I miss my family, but I don’t really question why I’m here. There were minor annoyances about how things are done differently than what I was used to when I first got here. I don’t really notice those anymore. People here move to their left on the sidewalks. That’s not too hard to get used to.

When did you feel the least displaced?
Every time I go home I remember how lucky I am to live in a foreign country. Not that Nebraska or the Midwest is a bad place. I love it and I hope I’ll be lucky enough to get to live there again someday. It’s just very familiar. Difficult to find interesting. In Asia, I’m rarely bored with my surroundings. I value that more and more as I get older.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from each of the countries where you’ve traveled or lived into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
Kimchi. But only from Korea. It’s not right anywhere else.

We are therefore looking forward to the meal you are invited to prepare for Displaced Nation members, based on your travels. What’s on the menu?

I’m going to serve you all a bowl of chamchi kimchi jjiggae: tuna and kimchi soup. It will make you feel like you can flip over cars after you eat it. Great when you’re sick or hungover.

And now can you offer a Korean word or expression for the Displaced Nation’s argot?
The most important word to understand in Korean culture, to my mind, is jeong. It doesn’t translate directly, but the closest way to describe it is as a type of deep bond that is formed between people over time that helps you care for someone. You might not see an old friend frequently any more, or you might not be romantic with your partner, but you have jeong for them so you still want to help them when they need you. It explains a lot about the Korean mind and Korean society.

Earlier this month we did a poll on expat voting. Do you still follow your home-country politics?
I work as a journalist so I pay attention to American politics. Koreans pay attention as well. I’ve heard it said by people here that when the U.S. coughs the whole world gets sick. Most of my co-workers are from the U.S. and very well informed.

Do you vote despite living abroad?
I vote when I like the candidates, but I don’t vote if I don’t like what’s offered.

Were you surprised at the 2012 outcome?
I’m always surprised at how divided America seems around election time. People I love and trust can think about the world in an extremely different way than I do. That’s more surprising to me than who won the election.

The American Thanksgiving took place last week. What do you feel most thankful for in your life right now?
I’m lucky to have the life I have. I’m healthy. I’m alive. I don’t need much more than that. No complaints from me.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Bart Schaneman into The Displaced Nation? He may have us all eating kimchi, but at least he can amuse us with tales of the Trans-Siberian! (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Bart — find amusing!)

STAY TUNED for another episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby.  Yes, this time she really is posting! Last week, the washing up after her Thanksgiving dinner took longer than expected…! (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Img: Bart Schaneman in the Boseong Tea Fields in Boseong, South Korea (May 2011).

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