Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A,B, C...It's as easy as, ee, sam

When I was a kid, I wasn't always very good in church and instead of paying attention during the homily I would sometimes read the missalette (or rather try to). I remember being stumped by a particular word. I couldn't figure out what it was and because I was too young I didn't realise what part of the missalette related to what part of the mass. One day, I had this sense of absolute triumph! I actually realised that the word in written form was the word I kept hearing after the Our Father when the priest says "Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." The thing is, when I realised I recognised the "anxiety", I also simultaneously realised I'd figured it out a while back but I just hadn't actually noticed. One day my ears and eyes just clicked and I didn't even realise it. 

Since coming to Korea, I've had several lightbulb moments but also several instances when I didn't realise I'd figured something out until sometime later. The first time I consciously realised that I could read and understand (some) Korean was the day I was sitting in the realtor's office and while he was busy on the phone I started sounding out the letters on his calendar to pronounce "Nong Hyup Jochiwon" - NongHyup is the equivalent of BOI at home and Jochiwon is the town I live in. The clarity, the pride and the triumph I felt was amazing, especially since I'd only been learning Korean a couple of weeks at that stage. I now know a few verbs and can make simple sentences. When I listen to Koreans speak I can recognise the subject and object markers – I may not understand the gist of the conversation but generally I recognise one or two words. Like the kids, I’m teaching I need to listen to native speakers, not just so that I can recognise a word here or there but so I can listen to the rhythm of their speech patterns and their pronunciation. Once that word registers with you, you never forget it. Case in point, when I was studying for my SAT and ACT, my mom got us a vocabulary book to improve our English. One of the first words in the book was “Ameliorate” which means to improve, enrich, make better. It was such a cool word and I used it every chance I got. I would imagine there are quite a number of essays that I submitted in college where I used this word. The Korean word for me is “Yak gook” which means pharmacy. There are several of these in every town in Korea so it’s important to know what it means but also typically, if there is a pharmacy, there is usually a clinic close by. Very handy!

As a teacher, you have to be open to learning. Why? Well, because if you are open to learning that transmits to your students. You need enthusiasm, joy, and most importantly an interest in your subject. There is no point in teaching something you don’t like – if you aren’t enjoying the subject chances are your students won’t either. So far I’ve enjoyed most of the classes that I have taught and the subjects I have chosen whether it was Halloween or the alphabet. However, there are days or classes that are a chore.

My 6th Grade class is a tough class to teach. Out of the nine students around half don’t really want to learn so they chat and distract the other students. Every subject I picked, they mostly ignored me. So I started to do lessons on “what do you do in the evening and on the weekend” to see what they were interested in. Even that didn’t work. In fact, one student told me that “On Saturday I air drink.” – a witty, funny answer when you realize that he means breathes! Unfortunately, hilarity aside, an annoying answer considering I know he plays guitar and football those days.  Eventually, frustrated I chatted about this with a friend who told me that she just plays games with her 6th graders and practices vocabulary that they already know. Voila! One Jenga game later and they were describing the facial features of Rapunzel, Pororo and Shrek. Success!!! Sometimes, you need to learn to let go and breathe. I’m not good this. I never was but being a teacher is making me realize that I need to learn how to do this. If I get frustrated the 6th graders who are distracting everyone else wins. However, if I trick them into practicing English by playing a game with them, I win and so do they… and it’s waaaaaay more fun!

So you might think I’m mad to have not figured out that I would be better off teaching these kids some games and have the losing team/player practice the key vocabulary a bit sooner than I did. You might think I’m mad to learn a new language especially in a country where you CAN get by with no more than an Annyeong Haseyo (Hello) Kamsamnida (Thank you) but I’m glad that I have challenged myself to learn a new language. Considering my past track record with learning languages (Italian, German anyone?) it may not be my smartest move…but I have a distinct advantage this time round: I’m living in Korea. I’m also glad that it took me a while to figure out what seems to work best with my 6th graders because by doing so I exposed them to new language and ideas. Further, I was able to figure-out their level of English and what some of their interests are which can help direct my games going forward.

So here’s to learning something new everyday…whether it’s big or small, whether it’s 1, 2, 3 (il, ee, sam) in Korean or learning a cool new word in English. My goal for the remainder of 2012 is to learn something new every day. 

PS The title of this post was inspired by Jackson 5's "ABC".

Monday, 22 October 2012

The drivers on the bus ......

Where I live is very flat so there are very few inclines, never mind hills, that a bus driver needs to climb. Unfortunately, there is a lot of traffic and, in Korea, bus drivers and taxis have the right of way. For the most part this system works well until you you look up and realise that there is a traffic jam in front of you and to avoid it, the bus driver is creeping up on the path and looks to be heading straight at a lamppost!

As my town is quite busy, particularly in the evening, it always amuses me when we reach the roundabout and there are cars coming in every direction. As we start going around the roundabout you can see the opening that will allow us to proceed towards the terminus and disembark. Just when you are grabbing your stuff and preparing to stand up, you hear your bus driver shouting (what seems to be curses) and pressing firmly and consistently on the horn. Regardless of this rule that taxis and buses having the right of way, some idiot driver thought "Oh, I can make it" and has proceeded directly across the path of (my) oncoming bus. The bus driver will lay on that horn until a) the driver continues on his way or b) backs the hell up. As soon as the smallest gap appears, the bus driver will plough forward, still muttering and drop us off. I swear, sometimes we were soooo close to side-swiping a car! 

For the most part, I've gotten used to all this and my screams are not quite so vocal....unfortunately that awful feeling the pit of my stomach has yet to disappear. The first time that I noticed how crazily the bus drivers drive here was when I spent a week  with my brother when I first arrived. He brought me to visit his school and to get there the bus climbed several really windy roads. Going up wasn't so much a problem as coming home: The driver was speeding down these really windy hills that jutted out onto these huge drops. The only things that separated us from death was a tiny railing. I buckled myself in, held on to the seat in front of me and prayed that I would make it home in one piece. I couldn't even read my book my stomach was tossing so much. Every turn felt as we were going to go right through the railing and over the side. I was never more relieved to get out of a moving vehicle in my life! And....this journey reminded me why I am NOT a rollercoaster person.

This is one of the few things that frustrates (or rather scares the living daylights out of me!) here in Korea. I have lauded how much I like living in Korea and this is certainly true, but having been here for 4.5 months now means that some of the novelty has worn off and the rose-coloured glasses have lost some of their tint. Korea is still amazing but for anyone coming here it is best to be warned about some things:

When I first arrived, literally, on way from Incheon airport to our hostel in Seoul, my brother proceeded to give a lesson in Korean Etiquette. I have no problem with the bowing, serving others before yourself and even sharing the same cup to drink soju from when at teachers dinner. Giving up my seat to the elderly, injured, pregnant or disabled is respectful...and in my book, common courtesy. What I do have a problem with is being shushed whilst using a public transport system. After crazy bus drivers it is the only thing that gets my goat (well that and seeing young healthy teens sitting down while an old lady/man is standing).

I can understand if we are being really loud and obnoxious (a bunch of foreigners in any country can appear this way to the natives)  but when you are having a quiet(ish) conversation on the subway surrounded by other people also talking in hushed tones it is extremely annoying to be told: "Shush, be quiet"! Most of the time (because I know I have a tendency to get loud when I am excited or involved in a conversation) I immediately adjust my tone and continue the conversation. However, sometimes it is unwarranted and that is when I get annoyed as it kills the otherwise happy conversation. Each time this has happened to me (without warrant) I was surrounded by a bunch of Koreans who were talking too. The person who shushed us said it only in English, rather pointedly marking us out. 

So, you might think I'm mad to even get in the bus or talk on the subway, but I'm glad that I do - I'm learning how better to balance (literally) myself and how to talking really quietly and still have someone hear me. Plus my listening skills are improving on a daily basis...soon, I'll be able to hear a pin drop!

Finally, as a parting gift, I leave you with an Ode to Korean bus drivers:  

The drivers on the bus like speeding, speeding, speeding. 
The drivers on the bus like speeding all day long. 
The drivers on the bus run red lights, run red lights, run red lights. 
The drivers on the bus, run red lights all day long. 
The foreigners on bus scream "OMG, OMG, OMG". 
The foreigners on the bus scream "OMG" all day long.
The drivers on the bus are crazy, crazy, crazy. 
The drivers on the bus are crazy all day long. 
The inside of the bus I take to and from school

PS this post was inspired by "The Wheels on the Bus". After all, the life of an English Teacher means this song (and it's tune) are a huge part of my life!

When I take the bus in Korea (from KikinitinKorea)
I think to myself…

Friday, 12 October 2012

Thank you for the kindness, the words you're speaking, thanks for all the encouragement you're giving.

So, imagine you are sitting at a busy subway station in Seoul. You and a friend are sitting beside each and are waiting for another friend to join you. You've been chatting for a while, but you both decide to use a quick moment to take advantage of the WiFi. Suddenly, you feel someone hovering over you and you look up expecting the friend you are waiting on. Instead, you see a stranger and as you register this a sharp pain radiates throughout your leg. "What the feck?" you think. And as the stranger moves back you see her extended foot curl back to the floor and it hits you: You've been kicked in the shin. On purpose. By a random stranger. In the subway station. In Seoul. As this all passes through your head in the space of a second, your reaction is swift, loud and pissed off. "Owwww, what was that about!" However, the lady has moved off and you can't find her. Your friend sitting beside you is in shock and as you sit back down, you realise that you are as well.

The above is a true story and it is something that still shocks me when I think of it.  I was kicked in the shin for doing absolutely nothing. I wasn't being unkind to anyone, I wasn't being loud or rude. I was sitting down, quietly, minding my own business. Once the initial shock wore off, I realised that I was glad that this occurrence happened when it did. Why? Well, if this had happened during my first couple of weeks after arriving in Korea, think how I could have reacted? Instead I three months into what so far had been an amazing, wonderful experience. Until that point I had not experienced any negativity in Korea or any obstacles to my enjoyment of Korea...weirdness, yes, negativity, no.

My sister has written a blog where she talks about the kindness of strangers. I, too, can testify to the amazing kindness of strangers. For example, on Tuesday and Friday, I work at a different school and it is quite a bit out - in fact, I've to take two buses. These two ladies noticed that the bus driver keeps charging me the wrong amount 1900KRW instead of 1150KRW - not a huge amount,  but that extra 800 KRW each time equals more than a bus ride home!  So, these incredible strangers now drag me on the bus with them and make sure the driver charges me the right amount. I have met a man outside the bus stop one day who took me and a friend aside and had a grand old chat about his life. He'd been in the Korean war, had traveled to America and all this with very little English. Sadly, I had to decline drinking a beer with wasn't even 8am and it was a school day. These people's generosity in their time,gestures and stories makes for an incredible journey but I am happy to say that it isn't just strangers who have extended kindness to me.

Until that moment when the lady kicked me on the shin, I had (and have) only ever experienced the kind words, thoughts and actions of strangers, acquaintances, friends and family, whether here or abroad. From the minute, I arrived in Korea I have been overwhelmed by kindness - my brother gave me an amazing welcome, my co-teacher is friendly and helpful, my friends and acquaintances have made my life joyful, fun and given me a purpose outside of teaching.  I have amazing students and just as amazing homeroom teachers who frequently make me laugh,and constantly feed me.

Yes, I have an amazing support system here in Korea - whether it is a random stranger offering me beer at 7.50am or my brother making sure my settling into Korea goes smoothly. Thankfully, the support doesn't just end here. My family and friends from home and abroad keep me grounded and send words of encouragement often. Due to their support I am able to reconfirm to myself on a daily basis that I have made the right choice in living here. Furthermore, this incident reminded me that overall, my life is pretty legend(wait for it)dary. I have always been blessed by amazing friends and family, and for some reason, compared to other stories that I have heard, I really have had a pretty sweet life. Whether in Ireland or America, the people in my life now and years ago have shaped me to who I am today. So thank you for the kindness, the friendship, the words you have spoken to help me grow. Thank you for the encouragement and love because I couldn't live without it, in all honesty. I would not be where I am today. I salute you all.

So, you might think I'm mad to not really care that the crazy lady kicked me. It shocks me that it happened but I am glad that it did because it reminds me of how she is an anomaly in my life and that not everything in life is pleasant. Korea is a wonderful place, but like anywhere it has it's own share of crazy,weird and downright mean people. I just happened to meet one person who encompassed all those traits!

Dinner my co-teacher made for me and my cousin

Peppermint sweet from a student
as we walked to school
Persimmon from  a co-teacher

PS this post was inspired by Abba's "Thank you for the music" and all the wonderful people constantly give me support, encouragement kindness whether they are stranger or friend.
PPS - examples of generosity from those I've met in Korea. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

I [did] survive

I was afraid, I was petrified, I kept thinking that there was no way I could do this without someone by my side.. Everytime I've tried to do this before, I ended up being with someone else. But then after many days of thinking and realising that either I stood up and did this, or I failed, yet I grew strong and I learned how to get along......with myself.

Two or three weeks after arriving in Korea, my co-teacher and I sat down and figured out when I would be on holiday (or as they call it here, vacation). I knew that my holidays would start the night of the 10th and end on the 22nd of August.  Excited, I approached a few of my friends to see when their hols started only to be dismayed to realise no one's really conincided with mine. What on earth, could I do? For someone who travels frequently you would think that this wouldn't have been a problem.....unfortunately it was.

What can I say...I am someone who has NEVER gone to a movie by myself. I have never gone to the beach by myself. I rarely go for a long walk by myself and travel by myself........ Well, that is ok as long as it just the plane, train or bus. Once, I arrive at my destination I need to be around people I know. Whenever I wanted to visit a foreign country I always brought a sibling with me. After all, what is the fun of travelling and having experiences if you can't share them with anyone?
So, now you can see my dilemma. Here, I was in a foreign country, with a language I don't know and 7 days (excluding weekends) that needed to be filled.

Even though, I was terrified, petrified of doing everything by myself, I knew that I would have to do it. Afterall, I didn't want to spend the entire time in my apartment watching TV. So, with that in mind, I went on two practice sessions. One was in early July. I was in Seoul and unexpectedly had spare time, so without further ado, I travelled from Itaewon to Gyeongbokgung Palace. When I was walking up the steps at Gwanghwamun subway station, I started to have a mini panic attack and could barely climb those few steps. I took a few deep breaths, berated myself and got to the top. Once I stood and looked at the huge statute of King Sejong and at the palace beyond, I knew I could do. Putting my fear behind me I proceeded to the palace and paying the small entry fee walked inside and spent about 35 minutes walking around. I liked it so much that I agreed with my brother we would visit it a few weeks later.

That day, I was on the early train arriving in around 10 am. My brother wouldn't arrive until 1pm. What to do, what to do? So, reminding myself that when Life gives us Lemons we have to make lemonade....I made my way to the history museum of Korea with absolutely no panic attacks. What a fantastic morning I had wandering around the gardens and then the exhibits. By the time I met my brother, I knew that even though I would struggle being so much by myself, I would be able to manage wandering around Korea without any familiar companionship.

I, also, knew I wouldn't survive 12 days without a little familiarity so, my brother and I agreed to meet in the afternoons of his three last days in Korea. I would spend the morning doing some sightseeing and in the afternoon we would hangout together. Additionally, an old family friend is also teaching in Korea so I went to visit her for a couple of days as well. After that, I was on my own.

I spent 5 days in Gyeongju a town on the East coast of Korea. It's a beautiful town and I would love to go back again someday. I didn't visit too many of the sights but instead I relaxed, took naps, read "Clear and Present Danger" and altogether enjoyed wandering around the town and spending some alone time with myself.. There were other people in the hostel who I was able to chat to in the evening, which was a welcome relief from my own company - there are only so many times that you can say "Smile" and take a picture of yourself without getting bored!                                          

So, you might think I'm mad to have never traveled alone and spent time by myself anywhere whilst on holiday. might think I'm mad when I say that when even when I did travel by myself, I wouldn't want to do this again unless I had no other choice. Why? Well, I discovered  I CAN survive  - I didn't crumble or lay down and die:  I can do museums, palaces and parks by myself but that I feel awkward doing the one arm photograph or asking strangers to take my picture every time I want one. Furthermore, at the end of the day it's nice to share your experiences with someone else....especially those involving food!  

PS This post was inspired by Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive"
PPS the top picture is  from Gyeongbokgung palace on the day that I went there by myself. The next set of pictures are from the History Museum of Korea and it's gardens. The vessels you see were completely filled with jewels, etc when they were excavated. The next set are my brother and I at Gyeongbokgung palace later that day. The remaining pictures are from Gyeongju.

Monday, 27 August 2012

I wanna be a Rockstar ......

Imagine walking through a town and everywhere you go people stop and stare at you. As you walk by you can feel their eyes on your back, so you glance around.....and sure enough they are still staring at you. Some people even get the courage to come over, say "hello" and ask you a few questions. The really brave ones will ask for your number....and no, they don't want a date. They just want to get to know you and have YOU as their friend.

Wherever you go you are instantly recognisable and everyone wants to know something about you.  People will stop you and give free drinks and food....In fact when you are in the zoo just kickin' it, a bunch of old men come and purposefully sit down beside you just to offer you some tomatoes.

Every day as you are walking through a building, you hear people shouting your name and then the pitter-patter of their feet as they run after you just to get a glimpse. as you sit in this building, people drop in to say "hello", leave you snacks and have a few minutes chat.

Welcome to my life as a Rockstar.....well, not exactly. However, I am the Korean equivalent of a Rockstar....the Native English Teacher.

One of the first things I noticed on arriving in Korea is how much people stare at you. I have a sister who we used to tease when she was little for staring at everyone that passed by....but Koreans have her beat. I live in a town where there are several other foreigners or Waygooks (as we are called) so it never fails to amuse me when I walk into the train station, which pretty much every other Waygook in the town probably goes to at least once a month, and have every single person stare at me the entire time, I am buying my ticket until I proceed to the tracks. You would think at this stage, I'm "just another Waygook"....however, my brother did point out..."but you are REALLY short" even by Korean standards....either that or it's the hair!

I live in a small town but travel frequently to Seoul and Daejeon and more recently spent some time travelling around Korea to Chuncheon and Gyeongju. I have to admit this feeling of being famous has yet to wear thin. The amazing thing is, each of the images I have referenced above are my true life experiences. Admittedly the people shouting my name are my Kindergartners....but I never fail to get a kick and a smile out of it. Seriously, anytime I need an Ego boost I just think of my Kindys and how excited they are when they see me.

Another thing, that I have mentioned above is the kindness that I have met with since I have been here. Everywhere I have been, whether it is at school or at the zoo, someone is offering me food or drinks. My co-teacher was worried that I wasn't getting enough vitamins (I had a bad cold) so she went out and bought me orange juice.
Another day, a 5th grader (mind you I don't teach this grade), left a potato for me on my desk that they'd cooked in their Home Ec class...unfortunately I wasn't in School that day or for the next 3 soo...yeah it was pretty gross by the time I got it ...but the gesture was there. Whenever I am travelling on the Subway or on the train, someone will always stop me at least once to make sure I know where I am going. I'm not saying that you don't get this in other countries...but in the West we are so used to people from different cultures and countries that unless someone has a map and is looking extremely confused we don't really try to see if they need help. This isn't a complaint or a platform saying that you should start staring at everyone you see. It's an acknowledgement that even though Korea has become more Westernised in recent decades, a Waygook (as we are known here) can still stand out and get a much needed Ego boost :).

So do I want to trade in my life as a Native English Teacher in Korea "for fortune and fame"? You might think I'm mad but...hell to the NO!!!!!!!!! I get the fame but without the fortune, pressure or lifestyle of the Rich and Famous....honestly, who really wants their face and business in the Tabloids?

PS. The title of this post was inspired by Nickelback's "Rockstar" which peaked at number 2 on the Irish Charts a couple of years back.

PPS. The first pic of me is when I was in Korea just a week. The pic in the middle is from the TrickEye Museum that my brother and I went to one weekend. We'd great fun taking lots of pictures and looking, more than likely, incredibly silly. The pic below is from Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul which I have been to a few times. It's gorgeous.

Friday, 13 July 2012

[I left] on a Jet Plane..Don't know when I'll be back again!

I can't believe it but when I last wrote on here I had just found out that I was moving to South Korea to work as a TEFL teacher. I am now 6 weeks in and so far really enjoying it.
The last few weeks in Ireland flew in. I was so busy running around applying for my visa, visiting my doctor to get all my shots sorted out, and moving out of the accommodation where I was living and back to my parents house that I barely had time to think never mind realise that I was leaving my family, my country and the job I'd worked in for nearly 6 years. Everything felt rushed and scattered. I was on the phone as often as I could be with my brother in South Korea to find out as much as I could about this country I was planning on living in for the next year. I tried to spend as much time with my friends and family as I could but never really was able to. I think that in the end not everyone even knew that I was leaving.

All the while through  my last month I was mostly courageous and pragmatic. I didn't feel too scared and I didn't feel the enormity of the change that was about to happen in my life. I just felt ready. Even when I said goodbye to all the wonderful people that I met in my old job, I just about cried.  I held it together saying goodbye to my family and neighbours....right up until the last 10 minutes before I left.

It's funny how sometimes even though you know something is the right choice, the thing that is best for you to do, it is still the hardest one to make. I was honestly having very few worries about living in another country right up until those last few hours. When that finally hit me, it was overwhelming and I spent the time waiting for my flight and on my flight to Abu Dhabi alternating between tears and sleep. I was lucky that my sister was there to encourage me and comfort me my final few hours in Dublin, and because she stayed until I went through the security doors at Dublin airport, it meant I went through them. I didn't want to and just as I got up to the security door, I really wanted to turnaround, run back to her and say..."It's a joke! I'm staying here!" However, it was knowing that she was there willing me through those doors and on to a new adventure is what saved me at the end. My family and my friends' encouragement was not something I could sacrifice to fear. So, thanks to all the prayers and the encouragement of my family, friends and random strangers, my feet made it through those doors and into the No-man's land that is every airport.  Even though it hit me soo late that this was an enormous change, I am really glad that so far that was the only time I have really felt any doubt about the direction my life is going in. I am getting to do somethings I always wanted to do - Live in a different country and teach.

So yes, you might think I am mad to have gotten on that jet plane and emigrated when I had a stable job. You might think I am mad to have moved to another country and not know when I will be back in my own.....but you know what - I am glad that I was mad enough to make this change and walk through those security doors at Dublin Airport. If I hadn't, I would be sitting at home, hoping and planning to  fulfill my dreams but never doing anything about it.

PS The title of this post was inspired by John Denver's "Leaving, on a Jet Plane".

Friday, 25 May 2012

It started out as a feeling...and (then it) grew louder and louder, 'til it was a battle cry

Have you ever had a song just speak to you? Can you see that song reflected in your life? Whilst "The Call" has been one of my favourite songs since it featured in Prince Caspian, I've only just begun to realise it has mirrored my life over the last few months, even years...metaphorically speaking, of course! Here's my interpretation of the song

It started out as a feeling  ..... That it was time for change, I didn't quite now what but I knew I needed to make changes in my life 
Which then grew into a hope.....I realised (finally) what I was good at - training and coaching people
Which then turned into a quiet thought....My brother completed TEFL and recommended it to me. I started looking into how I could do TEFL last summer. 
Which then turned into a quiet word......I started the i-to-i TEFL course in September

And then that word grew louder and louder...In February I completed it and began to look for a job
'Til it was a battle cry....On the 17 April 2012, I took the huge risk (with only a VERBAL offer- I'd my interview at 7am and at the end was offered the job) to resign from the company I have worked with for almost 6 years and on the 17 May 2012 I will finish there. On the 25th May I started my flight to Korea to begin [My] Call. 

I'll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye.................I'll come home to Ireland, I'll visit America again...I just don't know when exactly. It's not goodbye - just "see you later". 

Just because everything's changing
Doesn't mean it's never
Been this way before..................Yes, this is a big and scary change. Right now I am handling it but I have had to make big and scary changes before - Boarding School, Moving to America, Going to College, Moving back to Ireland, Starting my first "proper" job.

All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war......It's not a war exactly, but it's going to have it's tough moments. I need to remember that and move on. I might be thousands of miles away from my familyand friends but it was the same when I was in America. Luckily there for the first year I had one of my sisters with me. Now, I am very lucky to have my brother with me for the first few months. He is "my friend" in the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light..........................It's only for one year - and if I can't manage to spend one year away from home and doing something that I think I really will enjoy - then there is no hope for me. I may as well just give up now. So that's my star whose light I will follow - it's only for a year

Now we're back to the beginning
It's just a feeling and no one knows yet
But just because they can't feel it too 
Doesn't mean that you have to forget...............Towards the end of every adventure, big or small, you get that feeling that something needs to change. You don't know yet what it is, and when you figure it out, it doesn't mean that you forget or ignore your other old adventures

Let your memories grow stronger and stronger
'Til they're before your eyes............Instead you have to let them inspire you as that is what keeps you strong and helps you to stay your ground. You might think I'm mad but every time I feel overwhelmed, I'll just remind myself (and hopefully it works!) - you managed 4 years at Wayne and you survived: You can do 1 year in Korea

PS The title of this post, and indeed the entire post was inspired by Regina Spektor's "The Call"...which is a family favourite. 
PPS Editing this in Abu Dhabi so full stops are in odd places because for some reason my laptop is no longer recognising that it is Irish

Saturday, 14 April 2012

I ain't missing [me] at all

Well, since I last posted on here so many things have changed.
I tried the whole spontaneity thing and it kinda worked. The only thing is, is that I am best at being spontaneous when it involves food or meeting people. I have done that plenty of times since February and I am so glad that I did because I've learnt that I like myself better when I don't constantly have a plan and that you learn so much about other people. I've also learnt that the best nights out are those that end up happening on a whim. I wasn't disappointed, not once!
Another way that spontaneity enriched my life over these last few weeks has been when my sister, lets call her Ms. Adventure, came home from America. She only told my mom and one of my other sisters that she was coming home. So she was able to proceed and scare the s**** out of everyone! The week after she arrived home I'd taken holidays (not knowing she was arriving) and was planning to do day trips out of Dublin and visit all the museums. However, with her arrival I spent a fantastic week at home with my family. I suppose that was the biggest lesson that I learnt from my spontaneity trial - let things happen and don't be afraid of adjusting your plans. So I would like to tell Mademoiselle Awesome that her challenge was inspiring and successful.

So another thing that has changed is my hair. So here is a story that travels back into the aeons: I was a girl with short hair for many, many years. Every time I tried to grow it out it grew up and up, out and out. Sometimes it looked like I had my own personal "hair shadow" following me around wherever I went. However, after several failed attempts, in 2000 I stuck with it. By the following year the hair that grew up and up, fell down and down. Once it started to fall down, I kept letting it grow only getting it trimmed when I absolutely had to. In the end it was about half-way down my back and extremely thick. I was challenged in college by a friend called Blessed to make a change. She did suggest getting my hair coloured but I refused (and still do) to change that. So she suggested layers and so from 2006 to 2012, for the most part, my hair fluctuated between layered and not! I did play with fringes (or bangs for my American readers) once or twice but they never really worked out. This year one of my sisters, Mshystery, challenged me to put my hair in the hairdressers hands. I refused. Then my other sister, Mademoiselle Awesome, also challenged me to do something with my hair. I went to the hairdressers the week before Paddy's day. When I sat down, I still didn't know if I had the guts to get the usual or to trust the hairdresser. She asked me "So what do you want done today?" I froze for about 10 seconds and then blurted out : "I don't know!" .....and I have a bob!

Another thing that has changed is my future...I'm not sure yet where it is going to bring me but it promises to hold many challenges and much excitement. I should know how my life will change by the end of next until then I bid you adieu and you might think I'm  mad but I ain't missing [the old] me at all!.

The title of this post was inspired by John Waites' "Missing you".

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Slow down! [I'm ] movin' too fast!

So I am writing this entry after it occured to me half way through this week of sleep (I've been home sick) that the reason I am sick is that I have been moving too fast.

If you remember, I decided to set myself the goal of completing my TEFL certification by the end of January. To understand what was so monumentous about that task you need to realise that it took me from September to December to complete approximately 60 hours of my TEFL and I was hoping to complete the remaining 60 in 31 days. Well I made it to 115 hours completed by the 31st, Nevertheless, I am so proud that I completed that much and in the time frame that I did – and even though I didn't reach my goal completely – this certification (from i-to-i) is now under my belt and allowing me to go one more step in the direction of change and adventure.

Unfortunately, working fulltime combined with studying every evening until at least 12 at night (mostly until at least 1am) does not lend itself to a healthy lifestyle. Sadly my other goal for January rocked, peetered and fizzed out half way through. I was a woman obsessed with finishing TEFL and now that it is over – I feel groundless. As if now that I am not anxiously awaiting feedback from my tutor with a “yea” or a “nay” that I am doing nothing worthwhile with my life. (OK don't worry this is not a “I am depressed” blog). Which leads me to what I've decided to do to make (the remaining part of) February worthwhile.

I was talking with my sister, Mademoiselle Awesome, at the beginning of February about planning (at this stage I hadn't finished TEFL yet). She suddenly turned to me and said “I bet I know what you're planning for this evening”. I was a bit taken aback but said “go on”. She then proceeded to tell me IN DETAIL exactly what I had planned for the rest of the evening. I laughed but she then pointed out that 9/10 she can guess what I am planning and it hit me (well, actually she hit me with her wisdom – sometimes she acts like she is 100!) - I never stop and smell the roses – or slow down and appreciate life without having planned it down to the milisecond. I don't understand the concept of Spontaneity. How sad, I hear you exclaim! And you are right. I am 29 years old and for the last 5 years at least I have forgotten how to do something just because: When I come home in the evenings by the time I get to my door I've planned that I am going to watch X, check my emails, cook dinner and tomorrows, shower, bed by 11. When something doesn't work out I get frustrated and snappy (just ask my family). I live as if I can only live if everthing is planned. If I plan on going on a walk on Tuesday but my sister asks me on Monday, I usually will refuse her because you know – I plan to go tomorrow.

So you might think I'm mad but for February I'm going to slow down and try to “feel groovy”. I don't have enough time to fine-tune and plan this goal especially since February is almost half-over! However, that's a good thing since the goal of the month is to try and find some Spontaneity in my life.

Wish me luck !

PS – Yet again the title of this post is inspired by a song and if you don't know the song “Feelin' Groovy” by Simon and Garfunkel – we NEED to talk!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Not [just] another negotiation.

Happy New Year. After fireworks, countdowns and popping champagne, what comes to mind when you think of New Years?

For me, its that dreaded time of RESOLUTIONS. Every year I make them – exercise more, eat more healthily, keep in better contact with my friends, especially those from college. Every year by the time week 1 is over, I have started to negotiate with myself on how I can compromise on my resolutions: “Humm, I had that jambon at breakfast, I shouldn't eat that cake” - 2 seconds later.. “Oh but its CHOCOLATE!” and within 5 minutes I have scoffed the lot and convinced my guilty conscience that I will start afresh tomorrow. Sometimes I do and I stick to it. However, more often than not by the time January is over, I've run out of patience negotiating with myself and have completely talked myself out of whatever I have resolved upon whether its to not eat that piece of chocolate cake or to actually write to my friends instead of trawling through all their photos on Facebook.

So the moral of the story (or in this case, blog) is that this year I made NO resolutions for 2012. None. Nada. Zilch. It feels soooo good. Its not that I don't want to lose weight, or wish I exercised more and kept in better contact, I do and I would love to actually do these things...but if I decide in January that I WILL do that all year, I know I will just fall down and once I do I find it very hard to get back on track. My mom keeps telling me that is the point of resolutions, that you fall but then you pick yourself back up – kind of like the windy, narrow, dangerous cliff-edged path that is the path of Right - you might stumble over the cliff, but there is always a little path hidden away to bring you up again (of course, you have to find it first :P )

Considering my track record, you might think I'm mad but I have set myself 2 targets for the month of January (and the month of January only!):

  • Complete my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate. I have completed about 60 hours already (it took me 3 months) and I have around 60 hours to go. I will give you more updates on the reasons why I am doing TEFL at a later stage – so bear with me.

  • Walk 20-30 minutes every day even if it is lashing rain or extremely icy. So far – this one is going well too. I am proud that I have managed to stick to this so far, even though its only been a few days.
Something else that I am going to work on is to complete a diary for what I eat/drink. This was given to me by my sister and brother-in-law and has yet to be completed. As I said before I can talk myself out of anything! Maybe this can be February's goal!

And so the journey begins....

PS The title was inspired by the song “A way back into Love”