Friday, 30 August 2013

The budding celebrity!

A friend of mine, Swaglu, recently was asked to do an interview in Korean because she is a foreign girl who attends the local boxing gym. She has excellent Korean, so she was more than happy to comply! The interview was in a local Sejong newspaper.

Swaglu, like me is a TEFL teacher and, in fact, we both teach advanced classes for gifted students at the same school. Swaglu is very determined, talented and full of ideas, one of which is to create a website for Sejong teachers. I will be working with her on this endeadvour so her new found celebrity can only put this challenge in the limelight!

Check it out:

Congrats and well done, Swaglu!
Swaglu and I exploring Jochiwon - Photo courtesy of Swaglu

Thursday, 29 August 2013

It's a love/hate thing.

So, here I am. 15 months in on an unexpected love affair with a country I never thought I'd live in when I was younger. Well, in fairness,  when I was young I wanted to be a nurse. The fact that the sight of blood made me ill never crossed my mind! Anyway, my love affair with Korea is still going strong but despite that (or maybe because of it) I've come across some flaws. Like all true loves, being in love doesn't blind you the other's faults and so perhaps it's time to tell you what are the 10 things that I love and hate about Korea. Without much further ado, here you go:
  1. I hate that I get shushed for talking on the subway or bus (it might not happen often but it still hurts).
  2. I hate that in summer the school will have no A/C on even when we are all sweltered to bits. I'm Irish, I melt like the Wicked Witch of the West! 
    Black Tea Latte

  3. I hate that you don't know how to make a sandwich! Strawberry jam does not belong with ham and cheese! On the subject of bread, you really don't get bread either do you?
  4. I hate that you don't really know how to cut curly hair.
  5. I hate that you don't know how to make a plain old cup of tea.  Black tea lattes just don't cut it. 
  6. I hate that when I go home I will have forgotten how to live without a table bell and waiters hovering around will drive me insane.
  7. Restaurant table bell
  8. I hate that you have a festival for everything. The pressure is on to attend as many as I can whilst I am here - but do I really want to go to a backpack festival?
  9. I hate that you don't have any English subtitles for any of your Korean shows on OCN. All those dramas and nary an English word in sight. Vampire Prosecutor you look amazing but sadly my Korean skills are not up to par to follow you! Sigh!
  10. I hate that many of your beautiful palaces and temples were destroyed in the war so I only get to see a replica of their majesty.
  11. "But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all" even with eyes wide open at all your glory and all your grime. 
And because I really do love Korea, here are my top 10 things that I love about her:
  1. I love the Korail app and all the convenience of searching, booking and cancelling my train ticket all on my phone.
  2. I love how convenient and cheap getting around Korea is from trains to taxis. 
    Jochiwon Train Station
  3. I love having wifi nearly everywhere you go!
  4. I love the Cottage Pizza lady - she is so friendly and happy and not only gives me pizza but also honey ginger tea in winter and water and oranges in summer!
  5. Which leads me to how much I love service in Korea. The food industry really knows how to "keep [the] customers satisfied" - from refills on their delicious and numerous side dishes, helping you to grill your meat, and when you get take-out adding unasked for items such as boiled eggs, pickled radish or cabbage salad.
  6. I love the way at Korean style restaurants you have a bell at each table. I love that this means no harried waiters are hovering over to you and instead you just ring a bell when you need water, lettuce or another portion of meat.
  7. I love all the coffee shops everywhere I go. Coffee, coffee, coffee all day long and every coffee shop caters a nice menu to non-coffee drinkers from black tea lattes to smoothies to  iced lemonades and teas.
  8. I love the socks from the pandas to the PSY ones - they embrace Korea's obsession with cute! 
    Panda socks - Win-Win! They are pandas
    and socks
  9. I love that Korea sells produce on a seasonal basis - yes, you can still get many fruit and veg out of season but at a cost! Seasonal produce is cheaper and, as it's not imported, fresher!
  10. "But mostly I [love] the way I [love you], [dearly], even a [lot]" even with my eyes wide open at all your glory and all your grime.
So you might think I'm mad to struggle to find something to really hate about Korea and you might think that it's hilarious to be stuck disliking their sandwiches and lack of A/C but in my daily life these are the things that frustrate me the most. You might think I'm mad to be enamoured with even the small things like socks and restaurant bells but they are the little things that keep me smiling.

PS This post was inspired by the poem "10 things I hate about you" from the film of the same name starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

PS  For insights into 10 things you may never understand about South Korea, please see this article. Numbers 3, 4, 5 are definitely things I wonder about sometimes!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

I'm glad I "was homeward bound".

On August 2nd at 5 minutes to midnight, I boarded the plane "a ticket for my destination" in hand - I was finally homeward bound after 14 months living in Korea. The weeks coming up to going back to Ireland were hectic with finishing school for the semester and busying myself for a week of camp before I could start my holidays.

In my head, I had lots of plans for who I would see and what I would do. I didn't do half of either! For someone who normally likes to plan a little ahead I didn't this time beyond a few emails out to friends to tell them I'd be in town and would try to see them. Instead I let home be a place "where my thought's escaping, [...] where my music's playing [and] where my [family] lies waiting". I did get to see people and do some activities but mostly, I hung out with my family, drinking tea, watching movies and tv shows, chatting, singing (off key of course) and playing with my nephew. I introduced my family to my favourite board game, Settlers of Catan, and I had dinners, lunches and teas with friends and family.

It was nice to just relax and have fun. To fall back into a routine that would have been my weekends when I lived there. The best thing though was making every little trip or walk with my nephew into an adventure - whether it was visiting aunts and uncles or cycling around the Phoenix Park. Having a 2 year old in your life means that everything is a ton of fun even playing hide and seek or making sure he doesn't bump into something hot as he stretches across the table to grab his sandwich. So, together with his parents and the rest of my family I had more adventures in two relaxing weeks home that I probably have had in all my time in Korea!

So you might think I'm mad to view that two rather relaxing week as adventurous and you might think I'm mad to have not used my time more wisely. However, I'm rather glad that I spent two weeks of mini-adventures as it has given me a new idea to make life more interesting and fun - if you look at the world through a two year old's eyes and view everything as an adventure - how much more exciting is your life?

So while I may not be homeward bound for quite a while, I am going to let my trip home and all my wonderful friends and family inspire me to make life in Korea a series of adventures.

 PS This post was inspired by Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" and by two wonderful weeks at home.