Suwon Toilet Museum.

There’s no way I could leave Korea without going to the toilet museum in Suwon. How many toilet museums are there in Ireland? None.

I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a trek. The closest station is Sungkyankwan University station, 2 stops from Suwon station. From there, you can get a taxi to the museum.

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There is an indoor museum and the outdoor area across the road. The indoor part is a little confusing and really only has 2 floors to look at. If you have children, there are plenty of things to see and do, including a children’s play area.

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Unfortunately, most of the writing is in Korean so not the best if you speak another language but there are plenty of visual images to keep you entertained!

Across the road if the outdoor park, which is entertaining but a little small. We spent ages out there taking pictures and would have spent longer if the weather was a little cooler.

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Overall, this place is worth a visit, even if it’s just to say that you went. It’s a free afternoon but I’d only go back in cooler weather. Although it’s a little small, with the right group of people, this is a great experience. You can check out the toilet museum website here.

Living abroad- The best decision I ever made.

There was no reason for me to actually leave Ireland. I had everything, a great family, a great job, great friends, great opportunities but I also had this great desire to see more, do more and learn more about what I was capable of achieving, what I was capable of becoming.

People thought I was crazy, my own father included. He was terrified that I’d get killed in a North Korean attack.Some people thought 22 was too young and I’d be back in a few months.  Most people thought I was going to Croatia and when I clarified it as Korea, they usually replied “where’s that?” But off I went and now, six years later, I look back on that as the best decision I’ve made.

To read this blog or look at my social media, my life comes across as being fun filled and adventure packed. And it is but it’s also not without the challenges that come with life in general and certainly life abroad. Those are the challenges that have molded me into the person I am today. They’ve forced me to push myself to achieve more, get outside my comfort zone and constantly look for new opportunities and mostly to keep from getting too comfortable or complacent.

I no longer look on problems as problems, merely challenges that I know I can overcome. As a foreigner in Korea, the smallest tasks are difficult, everything from paying your bills to getting a health check. At the start, I thought I could do everything myself and was never a big fan of asking for help. After a while I learned my limitations, knew what I was  capable of and when I needed to ask for help.

Living abroad, it’s very easy to be just another foreigner, a face in a crowd. But when it’s time to leave, you want to say that you contributed something to your new community. You learn to challenge your perception on the limitations of your capabilities. If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d be the Chair of the Irish Association in Korea, I would never have believed you. But, through my desire to get a solid, regular Irish music scene started in Seoul, I achieved much more than I thought possible of myself. I look at the growth of the Irish music scene here wonder if any of it would have been achieved if I had been happy just playing to the walls of my apartment?

My greatest fear when I came here was failure and now I welcome it. I’ve learned that you’re not always going to succeed in everything you set out to do.Samuel Beckett put it nicely when he said

Ever tried. Ever failed.No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

There will always be hurdles, challenges and set backs but without failure you can never really appreciate success and life abroad is full of failures. You have to celebrate the small achievements, grow a thick skin, take a lesson away from the experience.  Attitude is the difference to life abroad. If you look on every little  situation  as a huge problem, you might as well go home. When I met people who live abroad and people who travel a lot, it never fails to surprise me how great their attitude is. They’ll make positives in a bad situation, they learn from mistakes, they go with the flow and they adjust their plans accordingly. They also have this great ability to laugh at themselves. I’m certain that for me, these are not skills I would have picked up if I had stayed in Tipperary.

The word “home” has taken on new meaning to me now. I’m actually looking forward to spending some time back in Ireland because for so long, I’ve taken what was right in front of me for granted. There are so many great places that I never bothered to visit. I have gained a new appreciation for home and when I return, I’ll go out and explore with new eyes.

Undoubtedly, living abroad has changed how I look at things. My perspective is different. The world is a very big place and certainly much bigger than my corner of Tipperary or Ireland in general. When you live abroad and travel, you see so much of what’s out there just waiting to be discovered. You get to be part of something bigger than where you come from. You learn new cultures and new ways of seeing the world. You meet a diverse range of people and have new adventures and together these build up to creating opinions based on experience. .

Living abroad isn’t for everyone but don’t limit yourself out of fear of the unknown.What you achieve by living abroad far outweighs any negatives that come with it.  I believe Polar explorer, Ben Saunders put it best when he said;

And yet, if I’ve learned anything in nearly 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it is that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and from challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown. In life, we all have tempests to ride and poles to walk to, and I think metaphorically speaking, at least, we could all benefit from getting outside the house a little more often, if only we could summon up the courage.

How my Irish driver’s license got “discarded” by Seoul Global Centre.

This is the story. I went to Seoul Global Centre (S.G.C.) in 2011 and exchanged my Irish license for a Korean one.The Korean license is valid for 10 years, until 2021. Great, brilliant. I was told that to get the Irish one back, I simply had to return to the SGC and exchange it. Lovely.

I’ve been happily motoring around in Korea for 4 years. Never once in that 4 years have I got an email or letter or anything to say that any time period was up or that a deadline was approaching or whatever. Now that I’m returning to Ireland, I went back yesterday to exchange the license only to be informed that this wasn’t possible. Obviously, I asked why and was told that everyone who gets a Korean license signs the paper that says that it will be discarded after 3 years unless you come to pick it up.This has seemingly always been the policy. Do I have recollection of signing this paper? No, it was years ago! Were they able to show me the papers I signed in 2011? No.

I tried talking my way into getting it back. Since I’m leaving Korea no one would know if she just opened the safe (where I’m certain it still is) and gave it back to me. She was having none of it.

I thought about crying which I am just too positive to do.

I thought about sitting on the chair and refusing to move until she gave me the damn license. This was ruled out based on the amount of security hanging around. No one wants to get arrested before they leave a country.

I thought about jumping over the desk and just pulling the safe open and getting it forcibly but that was disregarded because I don’t have a desire to cause a scene or get arrested.

So, I left and went to my embassy to ask them what I can do. I just have to do what I did when I came here. Go to the  Korean Embassy in Ireland to get it verified and then follow the directions on this very helpful website;  http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/motoring_1/driver_licensing/exchanging_foreign_driving_permit.html

I did call Seoul Global Centre this morning to ask whose policy it was and they said that it was a Government policy. I also asked why it was 3 years as opposed to 10 or 5 and she said that she didn’t know herself.  I can’t find any more information about it online.

While the situation is obviously not desirable, it was caused by my own ignorance. The very bright part of this story is that my Irish license is expiring in September anyway and now my Korean one is good until 2021 so all good on that front! I am certain that they still have it in the safe and that they haven’t actually thrown it away but “discarded” is the term for not giving it back to you.

The lesson is that to anyone who has got a Korean license by swapping over, GO BACK AND GET IT WITHIN 3 YEARS! I don’t know if you can then reapply to keep the Korean license for longer or how it works so if anyone knows, please leave a comment below.

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Selling your car in Korea- all you need to know.

It’s all well and good to find a buyer for your car, but where do you actually go to transfer ownership and so on? That’s what I asked also. After some research, I found that if you live in Goyang (like me), you go to the Goyang Car Registration centre, here.

What this website doesn’t tell you is what you actually need going along with you. First, you need to visit the centre with the person you’re selling to.

The seller needs;

  • Alien Registration Card
  • Registration of the vehicle. You got this with the car.

The buyer needs;

  • Proof of insurance for the car.
  • Alien Registration Card.

In Goyang, there is not one word of English to help you on your way. So, just do your best at the information desk and the lady should present you with these two documents;

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Fill them out ( yes, they’re in Korean). I think one is a sale document and one is transfer of ownership.  Top section is the sellers information and the bottom is buyer’s information. Then there’s a bit about the car information.

Then get 3,000won and walk to the bank and get this;

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When you get seen to, they will check the car for outstanding fines. Unfortunately for me I had a few. You MUST pay them before you can proceed.

When everything is clear, you simply show these documents and the ones listed above and it’s done. The new owner will get a new registration form that has the car in their name.

I recommend you bring a Korean speaker with you in case you have fines to pay. We had to call so many people to find out how much the fines were and the bank account to pay the money into. Nobody at these places spoke English.

I also recommend you get the number the second you walk in the door. We originally had number 75 and they were only on 43 or something like that. Fortunately, some old guy gave us his number because we were foreign.

You need to check where to do this in your area. My coteacher told me it was city hall and when we called them they said that Goyang had its own car centre. Other areas like Seoul may have different places so be sure to get someone to call and find out.

Overall, after the fines were paid, the whole thing was really easy. If you have any questions, just let me know!

What did you say? Things your students say in Korean.

When I started at this school, I had NO IDEA what the children were saying to me. I work in a Korean playschool so the students only learn English as subject. My favourite story is of a day with the 5 year old’s just a month or two after I started. One of the boys said something to me and by the way he was acting, I knew he needed the bathroom. Unfortunately, the assistant wasn’t around so I just let him off and left the door of the classroom open. A few minutes later, he appears back with nothing on from the waist down. Turns out he needed a hand finishing in the bathroom and with no assistant, he just came back to me!

After that, I promised myself to get my Korean together so I’d actually understand what the students were saying and I did. I just listened to them and since they say the same things day in day out, I would write it phonetically, ask my co teachers and then learn how to say it properly. Here are the top phrases my students say;

  • 쉬 마려워요 (she mar yeah woh yo) – I need to pee
  • 똥 마려워요 (dong mar yeah woh yo)- I need to poo
  • 선생님………( sun saeng nim) – teacher
  • 연필 필요해요 (yun pill pil yoh hay yo)- I need a pencil
  • 지우개 주세요 (gee you gay juice a yo)- Eraser please
  • 색연필– (saeng yun pil) crayons
  • 아파요– (app pie yo) I’m sick/hurt
  • 어떻게 해요 ( oh dok a hay yo)- How do I do this.

Here are some phrases and words that you can say to the students;

  • 애들아! (yeah dra)- Guys!
  • 조용히하세요! (jo young he ha say yo)- Be quiet!
  • 어디 아파요? ( o d apa yoh) – Where are you hurt/sick?
  • 화장실 가다오세요 (hwa jang shil gat da o say yoh)- Go to the bathroom and come back.
  • 빨리! (bally) Quickly

Since we’re here to teach English, you should obviously keep the Korean to a minimum but in a a bind, these phrases may help. As ever, my Korean spelling could be atrocious so feel free to tell me any mistakes!