Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Baby, it's cold outside.

Winter is upon us. It feels like overnight, the temperature dropped and what was a lovely autumn became a bitterly cold winter. I like winter as I love snow and lots of snow related activities (although I have yet to do any skiing ever or ice-skating in ages). However, sometimes it is a struggle just to poke your nose out of bed. That Siberian wind doesn't help either!
Keeping warm: Layers, accessories and hot water bottles
Photo credit - Rucy -

I have a pretty thick skin and it takes a good bit for me to be really cold. I blame my mother, she's from the American Mid-West, and she can pretty much withstand any weather. She and my dad have the most epic battles over heat. My dad wakes up and comes down complaining about the cold and turns on the heat. 10 minutes later my mother walks in, realises the heat is on and turns it off. The minute my mother leaves the room, my dad turns the heat back on. It's a never-ending amusing cycle!

When we were little, and would complain about being cold, my mam would tell us to put on some more socks and a jumper (sweater). Her pet peeve was that in the evenings and weekends us children would drag down our blankets and duvets to the sitting room.We'd then sit curled up watching TV, playing games or reading books. The amount of Christmas photo's that we have where we are wrapped up in blankets is hilarious. The peeve probably wasn't related to the duvets coming down but that they stayed downstairs! So, as you can tell, I got used to layering up and curling in blankets to keep warm! (This makes it sound like my mother never had the heat on - she did, and we never were so cold that it was ever an issue when she didn't!).

When I went came to Korea, I was in for a shock. I really thought that college in Nebraska and life with my mother had prepared me for the Korean winter. I packed two coats, plenty of leggings and tights.I even brought some scarves and boots. And then, winter 2012 came. I thought I would die. It was so cold. That wind could cut you. It was so sharp, it felt like knife points. It was much colder, too, than I was used to experiencing in Ireland and the ice gave me nightmares for days! In Ireland, mostly, when it rains the slush disappears. In Korea when it rains, it freezes (sometimes) and instead you have a sheet of ice to skate to work on. Which....takes hours!

I was so sick last year, I even went deaf for a couple of weeks. I could still hear but everything was muted. So, this year, I started preparing ahead of time. I put a second blanket on my bed from the middle of October and by the end of the month I had proceeded to a hot water bottle as well. For the last week, I've topped my bed with a third blanket and I now wear socks. I need to get some more long pj's this week. Stocking up on thermal underwear, hot-packets and woolly socks is a necessity.

So without further ado, please see some things that I recommend for surviving Korean winters (please note, you can still get sick and still feel cold even with these measures but they CAN help):
  • Layer up.That way no matter the temperature in the office you will always feel just right!
  • Bring a cardigan or extra jacket and leave it in school along with some cosy slippers and (maybe) a little blanket. Works like charm!

  • Have a winter emergency supply in school. I prepared my one last week for both my schools: tissues, wet wipes, chapstick, Vitamin C drink (replaced everyday), hand-sanitiser (no matter how much you want to disbelieve it, schools are germ-infested!), and hand lotion to prevent your hands from chafing.
  • Waiting for the bus? No problem! If you are lucky enough to be waiting beside a convenience shop, get one of their honey drinks or a coffee. If you prefer something less sweet, invest in a travel mug and bring your own! (Also, warm drinks like honey tea or ginger tea are a really good idea if you have  sore throat!)
  • Buy a hot water bottle. You can get them in HomePlus (I have two from Ireland) and use it at night. I put my one in my bed about 30 minutes before I want to sleep. Korea also has these little hot-packs which I have seen teachers put on the sole of their feet and students stick in their gloves. Invest! (Another choice is to bake/steam a potato and then carrying it in your pocket - my granny used to do this in the old days and I just got fed this potato today).
  • Hats, coats and gloves are all a necessity. Also, a lot of earmuffs even have vents so you can still hear what's going on around you. I couldn't find a hat I liked last year and that fit over all my hair, but luckily my sister made me one. Scarves are a godsend, use them!
  • Thermal underwear, slippers (for home and school), and a nighttime ritual are all essential. My own nighttime ritual has become a cup of tea, a hot-water bottle, thermals and slippers.
  • Eat soup and rice porridge on a frequent basis. Not only are they hot, but they are also healthy, nutritious and delicious.
  • If you want to try and avoid a huge gas bill, get an electric heater or an electric blanket. My brother gave me this one and it's brilliant. No idea what the costs are to buy can always sell it on when you leave! 
  • Lastly, it's winter, not hell on earth! Get out and enjoy it. Whether it is to take a small walk or have a snowball fight with your students, you won't die!.

So, you might think I'm mad to have so many emergency items at school. You might think I'm mad to wear (and recommend wearing) so many layers. But "if you caught pneumonia and died," I bet you'd wish you'd stayed inside, layering up as per my advice! 

PS This post is inspired by the Tom Jones version of "Baby, it's cold outside".

PPS This post was meant for last week but I got a cold on Saturday so I didn't finish the photos until today. Sorry!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tea, Tea, Barry's tea!

Some of the WSC crew 
When I first arrived in Korea, I drank a lot. I felt like I was back in the good ol' Wayne, America days with my crew of Ms QueeNae, Ms. Ordinary, Ms. Tasha, Blessed, Sunshine, The S sisters, Anabanana, LeneWitIt, Mr 24, That one guy, BHK, DLee and Mr. Big Sexy (most of the picked their OWN pseudonyms, so I'm not responsible). Back then we drank our way from Thursday through Saturday. We had great fun, amazing nights and cemented firm friendships that last until this day (these friendships were not only cemented around a shared love of alcohol!!!).

However, times change. These days, there are times when I don't want any alcohol. And to be honest, that now considerably outweighs when I do! Don't get me wrong, I love a drink. I like the socialising that comes with it and I like the atmosphere it (mostly) creates. Arriving in Jochiwon was quite overwhelming. I didn't know that there was a Facebook page and when I went to the foreigner bar to meet other teachers, none of the other foreigners initiated contact. My brother was with me and after much persuading from him, I finally went over and introduced myself. It turned out that the two people I met were new and didn't realise I was new too. I got to know them quite well and our first few weeks we hung out a lot. As time went on, I met more people but the community was still quite small. Also, most activities centred around food and alcohol so I spent a lot more time drinking than I had in the previous 6 years I had lived at home in Ireland.  I'm not complaining. I really enjoyed every minute of this life but I wanted something more.

See, at home, I was used to sitting around my house, drinking tea (Barry's, of course) and chatting. With my friends, we had several game nights and dinners at each others' houses. We did world food nights, cake nights and wine nights. Some of my friends and I even did Wii dance-offs. It was great fun and our time was not mostly spent around alcohol. Sure, alcohol was involved but it was always a choice in a myriad of other drinks. It wasn't the sole reason for getting together or the one thing each gathering was centred around.  I found after a few months living in Korea that I wanted that life. I wanted a social life that allowed me to be somewhat creative, to express myself and that didn't exclude my friends who don't like bars or who don't drink.  So, last autumn, I started making dinners for my friends about once a week or once every two weeks.

Now, the expat community in Sejong is much bigger and, I think, has a lot more socialising opportunities that do not involve alcohol. Whether it's going to hike Obangsan or doing coffee meet and greets at the local coffee shops, there are more options. One of my friends, Swaglu, even organised a scavenger hunt to welcome some new people in September. Sure, we still go to Touch or some of the other bars but they are no longer the only place you need go to meet people and they are not the main social arena any more. Which brings me to my next point. As our community expanded, inviting people (outside my core group of friends) to dinner was getting difficult. Our apartments are small and it's hard to sit so many people comfortably in the space provided. I still want to be welcoming, though, and to include as many people as possible.

Tea night #2
Tea night #2
Tea night #2
I feel like sometimes I am "stuck in a hole and I want [me] to get out, I don't know what there is to see" but if I don't crawl out of the hole, I will never see what the world and I have to offer. I put myself out there making dinners for my friends. I know I can cook and that the food I make is decent but I wasn't really sure if it was decent enough to put on a plate for someone else. I still don't really know but they all eat it, so at least it is edible! I want to put myself out there even more. To open my heart and my home to everyone that I can and not just my really close friends. I know that by doing so I "might just get a big surprise and it may feel good and [I] might want to smile, smile, smile." So, in September I hosted a tea night and I hosted my second one this week.

Once one idea came, it started to shine. I found myself planning events to welcome people into my home, to include them in the things that I love and I wasn't the only one doing so! My friend, BexC, wants to do a chili cook-off, Katetastic and I have talked about a girls' wine and crafts club (that's happening next month!), some of the guys have organised BBQs and Thanksgiving dinner, and Swaglu has so many ideas coming out of her that I can no longer keep up! It's contagious. Welcoming people into your community is important with meet and greets, dinners and drinks but even more important is building your community. That's what chili cook-offs, tea nights and book clubs are for. And we have all of those in Jochiwon. We are a small community but we are a community, nonetheless. We are now more than a few bottles of soju and a chat. We have more things that bind us together than just being expats who live in Sejong. We are expats who live in Sejong who like to cook, to drink tea, to drink wine, to share our creativity and to spend time together hiking, cycling, taking photos, exploring and reading. The amount of friends I have now who love to write and who encourage each other in their blogging endeavours amazes me (Rucy, TravelThayer, Chasing Glitter and AKA to name but a few).

So, you might think I'm mad to believe that to have a real expat community is possible. You might think I'm mad to think that you can and should involve yourself in things like chili cook-offs, book clubs and craft clubs even if you are only there for a year. However, I firmly believe that the meaning of life does not come from the bottle of soju (although that can occasionally give you some insight!) but rather from spending time with others and giving of yourself. If you are willing to put out to the world what your interest are, even if it is only for a short while, you can have a huge impact on your community. You will find like-minded people and people who will really surprise you by what they are interested in. I never fail to be surprised by how many people love Harry Potter. It makes me smile every time he comes up in conversation (and we usually end up doing a round of the Mysterious Ticking Noise). So my advice is, don't lose the opportunities that Korea (or life) presents to you. If you truly enjoy doing something, see if anyone else is interested in joining you. You might be surprised to see who likes the same things that you do. And if you live in Jochiwon and you are terrible at planning events or clubs, let me know: I've got people for that!

PS. Sing the title to the Potter Pals and the Mysterious Ticking Noise tune "Snape, Snape, Severus Snape". It's also inspired by Take That's Shine.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

All my memories gathered 'round [him]

As I may have mentioned before (here, here and here), my brother came to visit! It was wonderful having him here and I really didn't want him to leave!
Selfie in Changdeokgung Huwon, Seoul. The Secret Garden Palace 

He was a great house-guest: he killed a cockroach for me that was crawling on my wall. I'd had enough of them at that stage (a story for another day) and I begged him to get rid of it even though he was still sleeping and it was 6.30am! He also helped me to rearrange my apartment and to do a thorough cleaning out of my big suitcase full of winter clothes. Whenever I needed help with anything he was willing and ready. The only time he was intractable was when he was curled up in bed and ready to go to sleep!

From the minute he arrived it was mostly go-go-go. I had planned on going around Seoul with him the day he arrived but instead we headed to the train. He was exhausted from his trip but I insisted (like the good sister I am) that we should go for a walk.  I didn't let him rest at all those first few days, as the very next day after he arrived we headed back up to Seoul for the Halloween shenanigans and to do some touristy things. During his trip, he saw two palaces, Changgyeonggung and Changdeokgung, went to Insadong twice, partied in Hongdae, went to a lantern festival, visited both my schools (and went to four Halloween parties) and went to Gyeongju and Japan.
Palace time! The 3 pictures going clockwise from the top are from Changgyeong
and going anti-clockwise from the top are from Changdeok.
Top left - "Why do you need to take my photo, again?"
We were both really impressed with the palace at Changgyeongung and we were really lucky in the time that we went. We went fairly early on the Sunday morning after the Freak or Treat walk. When we arrived there were only a handful of people in the palace and we were able to take a leisurely stroll around the gardens. It was the first time for both of us so we were able to just drink in all the sights, colours and quiet. We sat for a while just chatting and catching up as the weather was beautiful and warm with a soft breeze. In contrast, Changdeokgung was much busier and much colder. We hadn't planned on going there as we were headed to Jongmyo Shrine. Unfortunately we'd have had a long wait for the tour and neither of us wanted to do an actual tour. When we got to Changdeokgung though, I blurted out that not only would we take the entrance tickets to the palace but also to Huwon (the secret garden) for a Japanese tour. Yep, I paid for a 90 minute tour in a language I don't remotely understand! The autumn colours were fantastic but I would not recommend joining a tour where you don't understand anything. Whilst it was nice for us to chat and hang out, it meant that we probably wasted 45 minutes of precious sightseeing time waiting around for the tour to move on.

Desserts, BBQ, Jeon, Bibimbap and Kimchi galore!
While he was here, we went on huge culinary adventures as I tried to expose him to as much Korean food culture as I could. From bibimbap to Korean BBQ, any culinary (vegetarian) delight I could present him with I did. It wasn't only the savoury things. Any sweet that I delight on, we got to eat! I have waited impatiently for this colder weather to eat Hotteok and Bungeoppang. Knowing that they aren't very healthy helped me to resist eating them until he arrived. And boy, when he did, we went to town! Several times we burned our tongues on Bungeoppang (similiar to Taiyaki in Japan) and delved into the delightful sweetness of ggul tteok and bingsu.
Street food in Jochiwon.
One the night he returned from a day trip to Gyeongju, I was talking to my sister and telling her that I didn't think my brother had done enough exploring in my town. She insisted that when I met him off the train that night we should go for a 30 minute walk. I am so glad that we did as she instructed because not only did we get to walk around and see Jochiwon but we also got to eat street food that was pastries! We wandered down a side street of the traditional market and there was still a vendor selling mandu (dumplings), deep fried battered pumpkin and these battered things that looked like courgettes. However, when we bit into them they were seaweed rolls filled with buckwheat noodles and vegetables. I was so excited because I've been wanting to eat down in the market for ages and to try more street food.

We had plenty to talk about and there was never a dull moment in the two weeks. I think that my favourite part of his visit was just having someone to come home to. It was the same when my cousin visited last year. My home never feels lonely when I am there alone but someone else's presence over an extended period of time, like a week or two, creates such an impact on your space. With him gone, I felt really lonely and really sad. I still do to be honest and even thinking about it makes me want to cry. You see, both he and my cousin are family. They don't just bring themselves to visit me. They bring a little bit of all the people I love most in the world with them. They bring shared experiences, shared memories and shared connections. They bring home. It's nearly a year since I felt homesick and right now I feel so incredibly homesick. Not for Ireland. I'm homesick for someone else to share my space and to make my house into a home.

So, you might think I'm mad to let my brother's visit affect me so much. You might think I'm mad to feel that over a two week period my brother could have made such an impact on my home. You might think I'm mad to have bawled in Seoul station for a good 25 minutes. Maybe it is silly but home is where the heart is and my heart is with my family. I loved having my brother here and I think that his visit has only strengthened our relationship and has allowed us to look at each other with new eyes and open hearts.

PS. Thank you Jody for visiting! I miss you tons!

PPS This post was inspired by a brilliant brother and John Denver's Take me home, Country Roads.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Do you see what I see?

Last week, on Saturday, my brother and I headed north to Seoul. On disembarking at Yeongdeungpo station (and after a doughnut or four) we proceeded to take the subway to Hongik university. One of the subways that we boarded (line 1, 6-2 gate, I think!!) had the most amazing carriage. I was in love from the minute I entered it. We were only on this subway for one stop, so I didn't take a picture (challenge issued by my brother) but I will do my best to describe it.

To the right of the door that we entered was a book case filled with books. One of the other passengers slipped one into his hand and proceeded to read just after we boarded the train. I kept staring at the bookcase hoping in vain that there would be something in English so I too could reach in and pull a book out to read.

To the immediate right of this was a seating area with two seats opposite each other with a little table. This was a mobile phone charging area. A second charging area was also available on the opposite side of the carriage. Right in front of both of these booths was somewhere where you could hang your umbrellas etc. It was nice day so no one was taking advantage of it - but because the bar wasn't too high, I was able to grab it instead of trying to keep my balance.

There was a water dispenser just beyond the phone charging area with those little paper cups. What I found most impressive was that it had both a cold and a HOT water dispenser - I would have thought that would be a bit dangerous on a subway as it lurches into a station!  Not only was there the water dispenser in the carriage but also a snack area was to the left of the door that we entered. I couldn't see past the snack area and there wasn't enough time for me to explore the carriage in it's entirety. There were probably many more things to see but my eyes were too greedy for what was in my immediate vicinity. Plus that book case was distracting!

So, you might think I'm mad to have not taken a picture and to have accepted my brother's challenge. You might think I'm mad to not be 100% sure of the subway I was on. However, I think the latter is unavoidable as I was too concentrated on the actual carriage to really care where I was going. For the former, something that I have learnt this past weekend is that a camera can't always capture exactly what you see and sometimes the entirety of what you are seeing is more important than the snapshot of a particular time and space that a photo captures. I still love taking photos but sometimes what my eye sees and my mind captures is even more picturesque.

Map courtesy of

PS This post is inspired by a fantastic subway ride and the song Do you hear what I hear?

Monday, 11 November 2013

I roll[ed] out of bed in the morning and [threw] on what I wanted and [went].

At 4.20am your alarm clock goes off, quickly followed by several other persistent alarms from your mobile. Groaning, you drag yourself out of bed onto the stone-cold floor as the bright fluorescent lights from the convenience store opposite softly permeate the room. Stumbling around you are incredibly glad that you planned your outfit AND set out your clothes for this morning. Once dressed, you double check the contents of your backpack: flight reservations, passport, change of clothes? All ready!You head out the door to the stillness of the night: you have finally found a quiet hour in 조치원. On  the 2nd November, this was me as I made my way from 조치원 to Seoul and then Osaka, Japan.

Fantastic poses! Photos courtesy of Katetastic.
A link to her blog is at the bottom of this page.
A few weeks ago, Katetastic and I were talking about how close Korea is to some other countries like Japan and Taiwan. We discussed maybe going there for a weekend or to Jeju which is an island off the coast of Busan, South Korea. That evening I started searching for tickets to Jeju, Japan and Taiwan. About a week after we booked our tickets (Kate, Rucy and I), my brother told me he was coming to Korea and that his visit here would overlap with our Japan trip: three became four. Our flight was at 10.25 from Seoul Incheon airport, hence the early start and we arrived in Osaka a little after noon. It took a little while to get to Osaka itself as we grabbed convenience store food and then, inadvertently, stood in the wrong line for a good 30-45 minutes before Rucy figured out our mistake and went to check if we could take a different train. The train journey itself was smooth and uneventful - except that during it, Rucy managed to perfect the Korean technique of falling asleep and only waking just as they announce your arrival at your station. When I take subway or train naps, I knock out! If it wasn't for my alarm, I would find myself in Busan on many occasions!

After dropping our stuff at the hostel and discovering nearly everything we wanted to do that day closed at 4, we proceeded to the Ebisucho subway area to see the Tsūtenkaku tower. Initially impressive looking, the tower itself was a bit disappointing. We found ourselves underneath a quite diminutive tower with a 45 minute wait. However, the street from the subway station to the tower was lit up and filled with interesting shops. So instead, we wandered around the area taking in the lights, colours and smells of Osaka. Sadly, this was quickly done and we found ourselves at a lost of what do do until 8 when we were meeting our friends who lived in Osaka. During our wait, we discovered one big difference between Japan and Korea: WIFI. I never realised just how prevalent it is and how much I appreciate it when I am in Korea until we had no access in Japan and couldn't change our meeting place or times. I don't mind not having WIFI but when you expect it, it is definitely a bummer to not have it!

On meeting our friends, we proceeded to our second tourist spot of the evening: Dotonbori. This place was light filled, hip and a clash of Western and Japanese stores. There were plenty of places to eat and tons of things to look at - from cosplay girls to interesting shops and fascinating buildings. We visited the iconic billboard and ate Okonomiyaki, Osaka's best known dish. It is cooked on a grill in the middle of the table. However, unlike Korean grills it is one flat sheet. It reminded me more of the Mongolian Grill I went to in Council Bluffs many years ago. This dish is considered a Japanese pancake. Like Kimchijeon, it is a savoury pancake and it very tasty. This is the third Asian country I have been where they have a food that is like a savoury pancake but that has it's own unique twist (Vietnamese Banh Xeo).

Takoyaki - Photo courtesy of Katetastic.
See below for link to her blog*.

The most impressive sight that we saw was Osaka castle. The grounds were spectacular and even from outside the castle it made for interesting viewing with its deep moat and high, unscalable walls. It reminded me of the view of Edinburgh Castle when it is viewed from Prince's street! When we were there two guys came over to invite us to some show that they were doing that night. We weren't able to go but we got a photo with them nevertheless. While I found the exhibition in the castle a little disappointing (I think I was expecting what you'd see in Edinburgh Castle!), it was still interesting and the grounds more than made up for it, especially since we got to try Takoyaki - which again was popularised in Osaka.

So, you might think I'm mad to go to Japan for one night. You might think I'm mad to eat octopus considering I really don't like seafood and you might think I'm mad to consider going on another weekend trip. Well, I kind of think that I am mad too! I am exhausted. I don't think I've been so tired in an age. However, I also know that my lack of recovery from this trip is not really due to having gone to Japan but having had to get up really early and having had some sort of Saturday school every weekend for the last few weeks and next coming weeks. That is what tires me out and makes me non-functional for a week! Or at least that's what I prefer to believe - the other option is that I am getting old and travel tires me out. NEVER!

PS. This post was inspired by my trip to Japan and by Beyonce's If I were a boy. 

PPS: Katetastic's blog can be found here. It's a fantastic one, so read away! Thanks, Kate for letting me use your pictures!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

And the leaves that are green turn to brown, wither [in the] wind and crumble in your hand"

This Autumn, I did a challenge to try and capture a picture a day of this season as it is my favourite!

While I didn't get a picture a day, most days I got at least one and sometimes even more! These photos are all my own and range from Autumn colours to Autumn holidays. You might think I'm mad but I did struggle on occasion to get the perfect shot on some days!

Below is a collection of these photos.

I hope you enjoy them all!

This post is inspired by my favourite season and Simon and Garfunkel's "Leaves that are green".

PS: Follow me on Instagram
PPS: Collages were made at

[It's] creepy and [it's] kooky, mysterious and spooky, [it's] all together ooky, Hallowe'en!

Although I am a Christmas fanatic, Autumn is my favourite season. The colours, the clothes, the chill in the air and the swirling, dancing, beautiful leaves are some of my favourite things. I love Hallowe'en, too: the pumpkins, candles, games and decorations. Strangely, I intensely dislike scary movies. Hocus Pocus and it's ilk I can do, but Scream, The hills have eyes or Saw make me ill and give me nightmares for weeks

When we were kids, our mam would dress us all alike for the holiday - 7 pirates or headless horsemen would walk fearlessly down the street visiting all the neighbours. Our costumes ranged from shepherds, when there were only three of us, to a Chinese Dragon with the littlest one being pushed in the buggy. We'd great fun and all the older neighbours loved us coming by and would ply us with crisps, chocolate, peanuts and fruit. Although I am a chocolate nut (pun intended), my favourite things were the pears, apples and mandarin oranges. These would last us the week and, because of the season, were so sweet and delicious. We used to give up chocolate for the month of November, so Hallowe'en night culminated in a mouthwatering feast.
Photo courtesty of my mother.
We'd eat and eat and eat chocolate and crisps, play musical chairs, bob for apples or pennies and trying to bite the swinging apple. One year we added the game where you have to pass a ball or orange around using no hands. We'd seen this in Charade, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburnand we were dying to try it. For some reason for a few years I hated Hallowe'en - I think it was because I was at that age and also because I was the oldest kid I knew who still dressed up for Hallowe'en. I think I felt awkward and out of place.

I think when I really started to look at Hallowe'en as something to enjoy again was the year my brother-in-law turned 25. His birthday is in October, so the weekend of his birthday he had a fancy dress party at his house. Everyone milled around in costumes ranging from the Phantom to Bosco (a beloved Irish TV puppet). I went as Dr Quin, Medicine Woman.It was a great night and a lot of fun. Although it wasn't Hallowe'en it made me realise that I liked dressing up!
Also, a friend of mine hosted Hallowe'en parties for her friends two years running. The first year, she and I had been in Edinburgh at the start of October and she was able to pick up some Hallowe'en items. I'd also been wandering around some of the charity shops (think Thrift stores, American readers) and came across some old silver candlesticks for her. Her Hallowe'en get-together was fantastic. She made a really fancy, delicious meal and everyone was dressed up as witches, burlesque girls, or gypsy fortune tellers. The following year, instead of a sit-down meal we had nibbles and wine, a much larger gathering and lots of laughs. That year I was the goddess Gaia and we had a lot of vampires, devils, queens and sailors. Thanks to my friend's great love of all that's spooky, my appreciation for Hallowe'en increased.

When I came to Korea, I was delighted to find out that on the Saturday around Hallowe'en people do usually dress up and go out drinking. There is even a zombie walk for those who want to participate. I saw some people with incredible, terrifying and realistic costumes from this event. Seriously, I was so creeped out! I think Zombies creep me out more than any other Hallowe'en character. (Yuck! Even writing about them gives me the heebie jeebies.) On the night in question, myself and some friends went to Hongdae. One of my friends dressed all in black except for a mouth mask that was purple. She looked really mysterious and like a burglar! I met up with several friends who ranged from doing the Korean  "Matchy" cute couple to an Egyptian Princess and Mummy. We even had a Katniss from Hunger Games! The highlight of my night was meeting a guy who was the spitting image of Neil Patrick Harris (Barney Stinson from How I met your mother)! I even got to kiss him (on the cheek)!

For this Hallowe'en, I decided to participate in a 5K walk/run called "Freak or Treat". It took place at Seoul Zoo and was in aid of Childfund. You could dress up or you could just use their t-shirt. I decided to just use the T-shirt as I'd much prefer to be WARM than dress up for this event! My brother and two friends went on the walk. I think we must have missed a turn somewhere because we were finished in maximum 30 minutes and that includes lots of photo stops! Afterwards, my brother and I checked in at our hostel and then proceeded to Hongdae for the annual get-together. There were a lot of superheroes, some people dressed as Daft Punk and even an adjumma zombie.
I think, Daft Punk, Iron Man and Captain America must have spent a small fortune on their costumes they were that elaborate! I went as a sailor...except I forgot to make a hat so I think I just looked dressed up! My brother didn't have a mask yet and one friend went as a dancing Scream Ghost and another as a Korean Pop-Star. My friends who went as the "matchy" couple last year were Wally and Wanda (from Where's Waldo?/Where's Wally?).

Actual Hallowe'en was spent lying in as my school let me take a holiday-day as my brother is visiting. I then got up at 8.30 and started cooking and cleaning for the pot-luck dinner. A bunch of friends, new and old, came over for dinner and some even got into the spirit of Hallowe'en and dressed up. All in all it was great night and although I was exhausted by the end of the evening, I was really glad that I hosted this event. My brother was amazing and helped me re-arrange my apartment in a much more spacious manner. The food was amazing, the company even better and a lot of people left tons of candy which I shared out amongst my students at my 2nd school for our Hallowe'en party there. 

All photos this year except top left.
Last year, I had 10 different Hallowe'en parties between my two schools! This year, I only had 6 and they were all in one school. Last year we made masks and I taught the students to use the "Trick or Treat" chant. This year, two weeks before the event I told my students about it and charged my students with making costumes and decorations for the classroom. I had told my mam about doing a class on Hallowe'en so she sent me lots of decorations and I still had some leftover from last year. I had also requested some photos from my family and my students had fun trying to guess which one was me! My brother brought over lots of Irish sweets and between that and the leftover candy from my party the previous night, the students were "sweet-ed out". I split our class between our regular lesson and a Hallowe'en theme. The students seemed to really enjoy the day and were really impressed with all the Irish sweets!

So you might think I'm mad to love Hallowe'en as much as I do, especially considering scary movies are not my thing. You might think I'm mad to continue dressing up even though I am now over 30 and you might think I'm mad to celebrate Hallowe'en 6 times in the space of 1 day! For this last one, I completely understand anyone's viewpoint on this - but as an English teacher the greatest lessons I can teach my students are the ones that reflect my culture. Hallowe'en is a traditional Celtic Holiday and has had a  major impact on Irish cultural history and traditions, some of which persist to today. Whilst I don't intend to celebrate Hallowe'en every year with my students, it is important that they are exposed to this holiday, if only to let them find new ways of exploring English.

PS This post is inspired by my love of Halloween and The Addams Family  theme song.