Peace Corps Writers
Talking with . . .

Jason Sanford

An interview by John Coyne

I FIRST HEARD about storySouth and from Jason Sanford (Thailand 1994–96) over six years ago when he went online with hisPrinter friendly version magazine. He has managed on his own, with a little help from his friends, to produce a first class Internet magazine. I finally got around to emailing Jason and getting his story. Here is one Peace Corps writer/editor who is making a difference. As Jason writes about storySouth, “online fads can’t help but fade away; great writing endures. storySouth is all about the writing.”

Jason, where are you from in the south?

I was born and raised in central Alabama near a small town called Wetumpka. I literally grew up at the end of a mile-long dirt road, surrounded by cotton fields and the deserted ruins of an old sharecropping farm. My brother and I constantly played in these falling-down houses and barns and I think that influenced my eventual course of study at Auburn University, which was anthropology with a specialization in archaeology.

And then you joined the Peace Corps?
Yes, I was a TEFL-crossover Volunteer in Thailand from 1994 to 96. I taught in a junior high school in the village of Sa Klee in central Thailand.
     Sa Klee was a fascinating village. Situated on a small river, the village was in a traditional rice farming area. However, because the village was only two hours from Bangkok and situated near a major highway, a number of extremely large factories had been built around the village. One shoe factory on the edge of Sa Klee employed over 15,000 workers, many of them immigrants from the poor Northeastern part of the country. So in this village you had two hundred year old teak houses standing a hundred yards from plywood and tin slums. Because of this cultural clash between new and old, the teachers at the school really worked hard to improve the well-being of everyone in the area. That’s where the crossover part of my title came in.
Why would a kid from the rural south join the Peace Corps in the first place?
I joined because I both wanted to help people and also see other parts of the world. My family really believes in service to both our country and humanity and I saw Peace Corps as a good way to do this.
Okay, what happened to you after your tour?
Well, I met my wife-to-be in Thailand — she was serving with the Peace Corps in the Northeastern region of the country — and after our service was up we moved to Minneapolis. There was a large RPCV Thailand community in the Twin Cities, so we knew something about the area. I eventually went to work as a senior editor at a publishing company in the area, where I edited anthologies of fiction and poetry for children (among other books).
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