Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm
Author: Jeffrey Miller
Publisher: lulu.com (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 514 pages
If you’ve ever encountered culture shock, you’ll identify with Jeffrey Miller’s story about his life as an English teacher in Korea.
Miller first arrived in Seoul, Korea in December of 1990. During the intervening years, he found that both he and Korea experienced significant change.
“The Korea that I knew back in December 1990 was different and removed from the Korea of today. In the time that I have been here, I have seen a lot of changes and have also been witness to many historical events, which have affected not only the peninsula and the region, but also the world.”
Miller relates incidents he encountered from buying men’s underwear to drunks on the street. “After a night of drinking, people would stop off at some convenient store and slurp down bowls of instant noodles or ramen. Problem was ramen doesn’t mix well with a stomach of beer and soju and public vomiting is quite common.”
Some of his drinking and dining experiences will make you happy you weren’t with him. He writes of noisy mornings, traffic problems and the students he taught.
“In all the years I taught English in Korea, one of the things (and believe me there have been many) that never ceased to amaze me was this notion of having to ‘finish’ first in English class… I think a lot had to do with this ppalli-ppalli (hurry, hurry) mindset entrenched in Korean society.”
While Miller relates stories about the culture of Korea, he does so from a truly American perspective. The American reader knows the TV and celebrity personalities, the restaurants and the food, and the political issues.
Miller spent six years as a feature writer with The Korea Times. He usually chose his own subjects and his own perspective. The articles included in the book offer diverse glimpses of Korean life. One time he toured the Seoul Foreigners’ Cemetery and observed: “The names on the tombstones are a veritable ‘who’s who’ of those foreigners who have impacted Korea.”
If you enjoy learning about life in other countries, Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm offers plenty of vignettes from an American perspective.
Reviewed by: Pat McGrath Avery (2012)