For anyone wondering where I’ve been, and why there hasn’t been a lot o’ bloggin’ going on, there are a couple of reasons.  First, I’ve been doing some traveling with family in places where there wasn’t even an Internet connection.  Second, my wife and I have been in a real season of healing, growth, and renewal.  It has been wonderful.  Thanks for those who’ve prayed and counseled me.

Finally, I have been working on some big projects, in life, work, and yes-even blogging.  Look to see some of that soon.

101 Reasons Why I Should Win a Trip to North Korea

So, I recently watched a documentary about North Korea.  I later saw the magazine that created this, Vice, was running a contest in partnership with Young Pioneer Tours to send someone to North Korea.  This is very interesting to me, as I have always had a deep fascination with the country and a love of travel.  So, I made a list, a list of a few reasons why I should be the person that Vice chooses to go to this amazing country.

101 Reasons Why Vice should send me to North Korea

    1. Although I am not Korean, I have one of the most common Korean last names, Shinn.  Koreans always want to know why I have a Korean last name (mine is Irish, actually), and this provides instant conversation and commonality.  Maybe my guide will have my same last name?
    2. I currently have a beard.  Beards are disarming.  I often hear people say, “Hey, who’s that disarming guy with the beard?”

Me with beard. No, I don’t have a black eye

    1. I have never caused an international incident, not even once!
    2. I have been to several countries in Asia already, and I know to take my shoes off when going inside.
    3. I seldom quote any line from Team America: World Police.
    4. I once had a soldier in Taiwan point a gun at me.  I kept my cool and diffused the situation (I wasn’t the one who caused this—see #3).
    5. I have no facial tattoos or piercings.  This is a plus in photos.  Also, it helps in traveling through metal detectors.
    6. I really like Korean food.
    7. I am relatively tall, yet thin.  This means I will have a great view, but I won’t take up too much space, or feed the “fat American” stereotype.

From this angle, I’m a giant.

    1. Although I like golf, I am a worse golfer than Kim Jung-Il.
    2. I am from Texas, but know how to say words like “nuclear” properly.  Enough said.
    3. I have no ties to any world intelligence agencies
    4. I am a good writer, a pretty good photographer, and my stuff would be a great addition to Vice.
    5. I love my country, but I realize that other people love theirs too, and we don’t have to fight about it.
    6. I am happy to bring The Dear Leader some Salsa from Texas to the International Friendship Museum.  I know our country isn’t too encouraging of him, but I am a nice guy and I believe that Salsa tends to make everything better.

Come on. Who doesn’t love salsa?

    1. I have never been photographed protesting anything.
    2. I have been in musicals, and actually like them.  I hear that is a pretty important thing in North Korea.
    3. I know how to sing and dance.
    4. One time I convinced my mom that I was being nominated the ambassador to Uruguay.  She believed me.  This proves that I would be very ambassadorial.
    5. My wife is Asian.  This gives me Asian street cred.

My wife doing something Asian, in Asia.

    1. I am really good at saying non-offensive things, even if I’m thinking them in my head.
    2. I use chop sticks.
    3. My zoom lens is only 149mm (see rules for entering North Korea).
    4. I really do have a love for the people of North Korea.  I realize that when we have a media-inspired view of the people it kind of dehumanizes them.  I want to meet them and tell their stories.
    5. I occasionally read the North Korean news online…No really.  I really do.  Now that I think about it, that sounds kind of weird, but you should try it some time.
    6. I don’t smuggle.
    7. I think Art Garfunkel-style hair is kinda cool.  I hear it is quite popular there.

Singer Art Garfunkel looking very majestic.

    1. I don’t usually win stuff, but this year I won a free toilet.  I think that we should keep the ball rolling with this lucky streak and see what happens.
    2. I know all the important polite words in Korean.
    3. I am a huge Karaoke fan, and can sing many inoffensive songs that don’t even mention the Anti-Christ (obscure reference to the Vice documentary that started this).
    4. . I am very agreeable.

My wife and me with close personal friend, Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys)

    1. After traveling a lot, I think I really do a good job of representing the West without sounding arrogant and rude.  The people of North Korea need to meet people like this.
    2. Asian people find my nose fascinating.  I don’t know why, but I have had numerous conversations about this.  It would be a crime to deprive the Korean people of my nose.
    3. I am in the research phase of my doctoral thesis on “Folk Music in Asian Socialist Countries.”
    4. People have remarked that I seldom produce offensive odors.
    5. I was Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006.
    6. Children like me.

Children are always giving me gifts

    1. Sometimes I spend too much time on the Internet.  Nothing short of a trip to North Korea will cure me.
    2. I can hold my Soju (Korean alcohol).
    3. While I am an avowed capitalist, I could learn to be more socialist, if the money was right.
    4. I have been to Native American pueblos and Pueblo, Colorado.  Seeing the U.S.S. Pueblo would complete my list.
    5. I do a great impression of the traffic directing lady from that YouTube clip.

    1. I am not a carrier of any communicable disease.
    2. I once went a whole week without using any sarcasm or witty repartee (or did I?).
    3. My career involves working with teenagers.  This makes me unflappable and able to handle just about anything.
    4. This trip would mean a lot to me, and would certainly be a huge highlight in my life.
    5. My brain contains no useful information about nuclear technology that could be used by any government.
    6. I was not born until the 70’s, therefore I remained neutral in all wars prior to that time.
    7. My High School Senior Class voted me “The Most Likely to go to North Korea.”  I am sure that this was prophecy.

A page from my HS yearbook.  I keep it in my wallet.

    1. I am the most humble person I know.
    2. I have taken and passed the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) to determine mental health.
    3. I have never been arrested.
    4. I do a great impression of Ross Perot.
    5. I’ll eat anything at least once.
    6. My best friend really wants a T-shirt that says “My friend went to North Korea, and all he got me is this lousy T-shirt.”
    7. Let’s face it, people would find me really interesting at my next High School reunion.
    8. You could pick someone who gives you all kinds of free gifts in order to go, but I’m really the gift that keeps on giving.
    9. I promise to bring my special Peace Kazoo.  It has worked on a number of other occasions.
    10. I won’t defect.  I promise.
    11. I will make the entire magazine staff coffee, but just to be nice.  Call me.  I’ll make it even if you don’t pick me.

It was fresh this morning.

    1. I am great at following tour guides.  I once followed a guide at Disneyland for two hours before I realized he was just a Japanese tourist.
    2. Several Korean roommates in college said that I was the most Korean non-Korean they knew.
    3. I have slept on the ground in Mexico, hardwood floors at home, a car on numerous occasions, and bus floorboards.  I won’t complain wherever they put me.
    4. I am really curious about the everyday things in North Korea that don’t often get shown.  Not the secret stuff they won’t let you photograph, but even trees and mountains, and the real life kind of stuff.  I want to experience it myself, the sights, sounds, smells.
    5. I promise not to embarrass myself or anyone I represent.
    6. I don’t have any items of clothing with offensive messages on them.

This picture doesn’t need a caption.

    1. I know a lot of foreign exchange students here.  There are even some from North Korea.  I would be able to relate to them better if I’d been in their country.
    2. People are getting tired of my old stories.  Some new ones would make people much happier.
    3. I once got picked last for the sports team at recess.  This would totally make up for that.
    4. I’m not allergic to anything.
    5. I grew up in the farm country of California (yes, there is a farm country of California) and it would bring great hope to the people there to know that someone made it out alive.
    6. I know people in Beijing who would love to see me (it’s on the way to North Korea).
    7. I was in marching band, so I know how to march in step, if that ever becomes necessary.
    8. Other people aren’t submitting a list with this many reasons, so you know I’m really serious.
    9. I’m great at following directions.  When I shampoo, I always lather, rinse, and repeat.
    10. I have no problem with saying “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War.”  If you think about the course of the war, people in the West should be fine saying that too.  Don’t make me spell it out.
    11. I always have the feeling I’m being watched anyway.
    12. This would also give me an opportunity to visit Europe and become civilized.
    13. My friend Alex says that if you don’t pick me, he’ll kill this puppy.  You wouldn’t want the blood of an innocent puppy on your hands, would you?

Don’t let little Snowball die!

    1. I look pretty good in the color red.
    2. I know how to make my own Kimchi.
    3. I have a part-time job at a bookstore.  Books and magazines might start having better placement on the shelves if I win (this could be taken as a bribe—I’m not entirely sure).
    4. August is Ryan Shinn Travel Awareness Month.
    5. The phrase “Ryan wins” just kind of sounds fun to say.  Try it.  You won’t be able to stop.
    6. I already prepared an Arirang scrapbook.

If I don’t win this, my wife will kill me.

    1. Think of all the fun you’ll have listening to the video while Koreans are trying to pronounce the name “Ryan”.
    2. When North Koreans think of Texas, there is only one person that they think of.  Imagine all the free publicity for you if they try and take that anger out on me.
    3. I realize the potential for accidental Spoonerism of the phrase “Dear Leader.”  I have already practiced to ensure that I will never accidentally say “Deal Reader” or “Real Deeder” in public.
    4. I promise to have no major health crises while abroad.
    5. I am on no terrorist watch lists (well, at least I was until I said that).
    6. If you pick me, I’ll teach you how to do this.

  1. I’m a really good swimmer, which will help in case I’m on a ship off the Korean coast that mysteriously gets torpedoed.
  2. My voice frequency is mysteriously unrecordable by hidden microphones.
  3. I find goose-stepping military parades kind of fascinating.
  4. My skin contains micro-printing that prevents me from being counterfeited (reference that my sense of self-preservation doesn’t permit me to explain).
  5. I believe that every person is unique and invaluable.  I try and treat every person with dignity, no matter how different they may be.
  6. I do a perfect Barney the Dinosaur impression.  This doesn’t really improve my chances, I know, but it is a proven fact that Koreans love Barney.
  7. My wife said I could go.
  8. I know that life has a purpose, and I try to do everything in life with a sense of purpose in mind.  While I would have fun and make fun happen, I would also approach a trip to North Korea with the same kind of focus.
  9. I think I’ve proven I can be entertaining, thought provoking, and humorously irreverent.
  10. If you have had anywhere near the amount of fun reading this that I have had in writing it, you know I’ll come up with more fun things to say after having been in North Korea.

Thank you for giving me the chance to do this.  Even if I don’t win, it will have been worth it.  But I really do want to win, and I think I’ve worked hard enough to deserve it.  I hope that my entry has convinced you of that. ——-Bonus Reason——– Reason 102