The LASIK experience.

My first pair of glasses were giant pink ones that enveloped my entire face. I didn’t care though, I loved them and that’s all that mattered. As time went on, I got a little more stylish with my glasses and contacts were eventually added to my eye wardrobe.

That’s the way it’s been for 20 years, glasses and contacts. Now, I’m a few months away from returning to Ireland to study so I decided that I should get LASIK while it was available to me at a good price. Among the many advantages to living in Korea are the medical procedures. You can have any procedure you so desire and it won’t break the bank. People pop in for nose jobs here like they pop in for a manicure.

My friend had gotten LASIK done before she left and was happy with the result so I went to the same clinic as her. It’s called Yeabit eye clinic in Hwajeong. About a month before the procedure, I went in for a consultation.It took one hour. It basically involved them testing and measuring my eyes to check that I was a candidate for the procedure. They also put three different drops into your eyes which dilates your pupils so my eyes looked a bit funny for 24 hours.

For two weeks before the operation, you’re not allowed to wear contact lenses.I had my appointment on a Thursday and on both Monday and Wednesday, the nurse from the clinic Kakaoed me to remind me of things and give me a chance to ask questions.

The day of the procedure, I was slightly terrified. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. What if I go blind? What if the machine breaks down in the middle of the procedure? What if……and so on. Eventually, I told myself to man up and just do it. You have to do the same few tests when you arrive so they can compare measurements and so on. You then go to the pharmacy, conveniently next door to collect your eye drops.

Back to the clinic and you get a shot in the hip. What’s in the shot I don’t know but it didn’t do me any harm. Then they draw blood for your Plasma drops. Plasma drops are exactly what you think they are, eye drops made from the plasma in your blood.

Then they lead me to my waiting room. I’ve been to hotels where the room wasn’t as nice as this one. It had a bed, a wardrobe, a couch, a sink, a foot stool and the glass in the window was multi colored. The place was so beautiful. The nurse came in again to  explain what would happen during the procedure and what to do and not to do and so on. For both eyes the procedure takes just 15 minutes. The key is just not to move after they position your head.

There was no need to work myself into a state over the operation. It was all very basic really. You lie on a declined chair and the doctor places you head in the correct position. After that they place a mask over your face and cover one eye. The drops go in, you look at the green light and then the red one and then it’s done. They place something in your eye so you can’t move it. The worst part is after the laser. They warn you it’s coming and not to close your eyes but between the anaesthetic and the darkness that comes, you don’t know whether your eye is open or closed so you just have to hope for the best. Your vision only goes for a few seconds before it returns. Then the second eye is done and it’s all over.

Honestly, the worst part of the whole experience was when they removed the mask from my face. It sticks to your face and I believe that I left a layer of my face on it when they took it off. I expected to be lead, unable to see to the waiting room but I had vision straight away. I waited 10 minutes for the good of man kind before I walked away. I caught a taxi and went home.

For three hours, you get “onion eyes” That’s the best way to describe it. It’s not painful but it feels like you’re chopping onions. I just lay down, closed my eyes and entertained myself by praying, listening to music, singing, talking to myself and so on. By the end of the three hours, the stinging had gone and I felt back to normal.

For the next few weeks, I’ll have to put drops into my eyes at regular intervals during the day.

Today, I returned for a follow up and my vision is better than 20/20. Wahoo! Supervision! The bad news is that I’m not allowed back to football for a few weeks but it’s a small price to pay for perfect vision.

LASIK is the best decision I’ve made and I highly recommend it. Here are all the need to know details in terms of the financial side of the procedure.

Consultation fee: Included in procedure cost.

Procedure: 900,000won total for both eyes.

Medicine: One day of pain killers (which you only take if you need )

2 sets of drops: 17,000won

Plasma Drops are included in the 900,000

Follow up check: Free

Total Cost 917,000won.

I live in Ilsan so I got this done at Yeabit eye clinic which it right beside Hwajeong Station on Line 3.

Random Recommendations:

Eat a meal shortly before the procedure.Then afterward you can close your eyes for three hours and not worry about food.

If you have no complications, go home as soon after the procedure as you can. The onion eyes only started as I was travelling home in the taxi so if you can get home before the onset of that, brilliant.

Take a rest day the following day. Although I feel perfectly normal, my eyes still look a little red and are a little tired from yesterday so naps are required.

If you have any questions about this that I can help you with, just drop me a line shaunabrowne87@yahoo.co.uk

Meeting Marcy Katz

The internet is a funny sort of place. You can meet all sorts of people on the internet and it’s made the world a smaller place.

Two years ago, I got an email from a lady who had read a few of my blogs on Paju. I still have the email conversation in my inbox

Aloha Shauna,
I am from Honolulu, and just stumbled across your blog!
Loved your writing about visiting the hospital in Paju….
My husband and I are going to be visiting Korea and Paju next month

I get emails all the time from people who read my blog and are looking for further information. As it turned out, Marcy was travelling to Korea on a ceramics related trip with her husband and a few friends and happened to be staying in my area. After a back and forth we made arrangements to meet for dinner. It was all a bit random, I admit but the more people you meet in life, the more adventures you have. At the very worst, I thought, I’d get a delicious dinner that night.

I remember that initial meeting like it was yesterday. The weather was still warm but the nights were starting to close in early and I headed off in my car to where I thought the restaurant was. I ended up on this tiny country lane that had a drain on one side and a small river on the other so I had to continue driving for a while before I found the space to turn around. A quick call to Marcy gave me  the exact location and finally I arrived. The restaurant was one of those random places that I’d never go to with my friends. It was some sort of fusion food and delicious enough.

From the start, it was like we had all known each other for years. The conversation went from their trip to life in Korea to tourism and life in Ireland and blog writing and everything in between. What struck me most about the group was their vitality. Each member was a bit older than I but they spoke of a packed schedule and adventures with a livliness that made me a little exhausted! We ended the evening exchanging Facebook information and promising to stay in touch.

Marcy, Bob, Jimie, myself and Liz at Yoree restaurant in Paju.

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And stay in touch we did. Jimie was the first to return to Seoul a year later and we had a most wonderful afternoon together during her stay here. My mum was also visiting at the time so it was a wonderfully diverse meeting.

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The weeks and months flew by and out of the blue, Marcy contacts me again. She will be returning to Korea and would I have time to meet her? Of course! We spent last weekend wandering around the War Memorial in Seoul, me introducing her to Game of Thrones and her telling me all about her ceramics trip and tea picking and her grandchildren. We ate and drank and listened to Jazz and generally had the craic. We caught up on two years worth of news in just 1 day.

The internet is a funny old place alright, but without it I would have never made the acquaintance of Marcy, Bob and her friends.

ONDA Salmon – a review

If I had a tonne of money, I’d eat salmon every day. Unfortunately, I don’t so when my friend suggested we should try a salmon restaurant for her birthday, I was all ears.

ONDA Salmon is located in the Hongik area of Seoul. I hear that ONDA is from a Spanish word meaning “wave”.

The location of ONDA Salmon is a little difficult to get to if you’re not familiar with the area. The closest station is Sangsu and it’s about a 5 minute walk from there. If you follow this link, there will be a map, http://www.koreanetwork.com/listing/onda-salmon-%EC%98%A8%EB%8B%A4%EC%82%B4%EB%AA%AC

The restaurant has two opening times, 1pm to 3pm and again from 5pm (or perhaps 5.30pm) to 11pm. Luckily we had a made a reservation as there was a queue forming when we arrived in time for the second opening. The interior is not that large with perhaps 10 or 12 tables in total. We were a party of just 5 people so it was very comfortable for us.

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Naturally, everything on the menu centers around Salmon. The dishes are a little pricey but worth it. For three dishes, four Sangrias and a soft drink the cost was 115,000 won.  The salmon was fresh and tasty and possibly the best I’ve tasted in Korea so far. Service was fast and the waiter spoke English. Portion size was ok. It could have been larger. One member of our group ate virtually nothing and the rest of us cleared everything but I felt that a little extra would have gone a long way.

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I’d go back here again for sure but can’t see myself regularly frequenting the restaurant. As ever, if you have questions, please leave them below!

Cinderella- what might have been.

“It’s boring, we already know how it ends” piped one of my friends while we were watching Cinderella. Being a big fan of fairy tales and having a bit of an imagination, I couldn’t get that statement out of my head. It’s true, the movie was a bit predictable. What if we could write alternative storylines for Cinderella? They don’t all have to end with “and they all lived happily ever after” so  here are a few of what I came up with;

*Photo from Google

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Alternative Storyline number 1; Ella’s mother and father both live to old age. Ella marries a local village hand who is equally as selfless and happy as she. The prince never meets her in the forest and ends up being forced to marry that princess from another kingdom. That princess is beautiful but an awful witch and ends up destroying the prince and his kingdom. Her kingdom takes his in a brutal and bloody war in which he dies. The end.

Number 2: Ella’s father dies first and her mother being so distraught never remarries. They continue to struggle along with the household staff but then they are faced with possible bankruptcy. She is then forced to marry a count from the kingdom and thus Ella is introduced to the prince. They fall in love with each other but Ella’s commoner past is a factor for the prince’s advisors. hey want him to marry the princess from a kingdom far far away. The fairy godmother intervenes and Ella ends up marrying the prince. They all live happily ever after.

Number 3: Both of Ella’s parents die in a random, freak accident involving the mice and geese that Ella clearly adores. She is then forced to marry an old bachelor and continues to live in her house. Her new husband, being of advanced years, dies soon after and, distraught, she rides into the forest where she meets the prince. She doesn’t have a clue who he is and ends up attending the ball in search of another husband. Unknown to her, the prince is totally besotted by her and proposes to her immediately. They all live happily ever after.

Number 4: The story is exactly as depicted in the movie. After she has a fight with her stepmother, she rides off into the forest where the prince and his crew are hunting stag. The prince’s men get a little trigger happy and mistakenly shoot her horse. Ella falls to the ground, breaking her collarbone and wrist. The prince rushes to her aid and insists that she is brought to the palace to recuperate. She spends 4 months there receiving treatment, during which time the prince falls in love with her. When she is better, she wants to go home but the prince surprises her with a ball during which he proposes. They get married and live happily ever after.

Number 5: Ella has a sister who is equally as good and selfless as she. When her father marries the evil step mother, they are both thrown into a slave type life. It is her sister, however, that rides off into the forest and meets the prince. When he sends out word for her to present herself at the palace, Ella drags her there, wishing to stay true to the wishes of the prince. While there, the prince sees Ella and spends the next few months trying to figure out which sister he loves most. The girls are oblivious to this internal struggle and continue to help and be very popular in the village. Eventually, he chooses her sister and Ella lives her life as a spinster. The end.

*Photo from Google

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And now for the more morbid endings;

1. The story continues as predicted until Ella is returning from the ball. She left it too late to get home before the magic wore off and as they drive along the cliff edge her “carriage” turns back into a pumpkin. She falls out and over the cliff. The kings men are still chasing her and see her fall over but are too shocked by the horses turning into mice and the footmen turning into lizards that they cannot do anything. Ella, as it turns out cannot swim and drowns. The prince never does find her on his search throughout the kingdom. This means that the princess from a foreign land gets to marry the prince. She’s only after him for his money and status and soon starts to poison his drink with arsenic. He dies. The end.

2. The story continues as predicted right up until the evil step mother finds her glass shoe. When the step mother breaks the shoe, she cannot help herself and stabs Cinderella. With no prince and no medical help, she eventually bleeds out. This suits the stepmother very nicely. She buries the body in their garden and the prince never finds her. This results in a failed search for the prince who then has to marry the princess for the other kingdom. He lives a truly miserable life as ruler. The evil step sisters are indeed married off to influential members of the kingdom. They all lead ridiculously material, fake lives and everyone in the kingdom is actually miserable. The end.

I could continue this post for days but most of the scenarios end in death of one character or another. I’m available to write alternative endings for most stories so put your requests at the bottom!~

AXA Direct English Website for foreigners in Korea.

When you drive a car in Korea, your greatest barrier can sometimes be finding car insurance. Car insurance is mandatory in Korea so it’s really important to consider the brand and coverage very carefully, which is never that easy for foreigners.Recently, AXA Direct just opened up a comprehensive English insurance website!I checked it out and have all the details below. Thanks to the newly opened English website of a global insurance brand AXA,every service with car insurance is now available in English.

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What is AXA?

AXA is a global insurance brand with 100 million customers in 56 countries worldwide.

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Every year, global top 100 brands are chosen by reputable marketing institute ‘Interbrand.’

        AXA has been chosen as the NO.1 insurance brand for 6 years in a row.

How can you find them in Korea?

1. Go to axa.co.kr and  choose ‘English’ from the language tab on top.

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The English site appears.

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AXA provides quotes, service type confirmation, signing up and much more, all in English on the new site which makes it very accessible to expats in Korea.

On the AXA website, everything is readily available in English from contracts to claims.

Now choose your own insurance products and whatever else you need. Everything is in English so there’s no need to get help from a Korean.

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 The red button will “Get a quote in just 5 minutes”

In AXA English Website, even foreigners can easily get quotes

and sign up for their own car insurance.

AXA is one of the few companies in Korea to provide English quotes service online

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보험가입내역

Just enter your registration number (ARC), phone number, and car information.

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 Select your driver type, and then you see the lists of recommended packages that you can immediately subscribe to.

I timed the whole subscription process and it actually does take around 5 MINUTES!

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Also, you can just press “Request a Call” for any difficulties.

They let you book a consultation call with exclusive agents for foreigners only!

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My first year out driving in Korea, I got an overcharged insurance premium because I couldn’t understand Korean.

With a website like this the control is in your hands and you can get the insurance package that suits you. It’s very clear and easy to use and everything is available immediately.

As part of the service, AXA Direct will also provide emergency help in English so if you have an accident or break down or so on.

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They even have a hot-line dedicated for English speakers, providing accident report

and emergency road service. There is also an app available where you can report and accident or call the help desk.

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You can also get help in relatively minor emergencies.

If you’re locked inside your car, if the car unexpectedly stops due to fuel shortage, flat-tire, dead batteries, or for any trouble situations, AXA will come help you.

This is all available from the mobile app.

Can you get a discount?

AXA provides a variety of discount programs with some items like mileage option or black-box registration. With a mileage option, you pay as much as you drive and get additional discount for driving less.

(10% off for driving less than 5000km , 5.6% off for driving less than 9000km)

Other programs include black-box registration discount offered to those who drive with black-boxes, and accident-free discount offered for those who drive accident-free for 3 years.

These 3 discount programs can be offered all at the same time, providing as much as 21.5% off!

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I’m delighted to finally have this service available for English speaking drivers. Click the link below and go find more about AXA.

www.axa.co.kr

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This posting was written along with the support of AXA Direct.

Myanmar- the country time forgot

Myanmar has been on my bucket since forever and when the opportunity to take a tour there came up, I took it. I’ve never taken an organised tour before so I had mixed feelings as to the benefits. Was it going to be all go and no down time? Were the other people going to be difficult to deal with? I had no idea and I really didn’t care that much because I just wanted to see Myanmar. The Royal Asiatic Society of Seoul organised the tour and there were two options available, long tour and short tour. I took the short option so I stayed 6 days and 5 nights in Yangon.

After arriving in Yangon, I met the other three people on the short tour as well as the guide. As we drove along, our animated conversation was interspersed by the guide; “Excuse me ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce to you my country………” A night at the hotel and we were up and ready for day 1.

The four of us spent our day enjoying the sunshine and touring Yangon University. This really just involved visiting all the love sites and taking a tonne of selfies.

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After lunch we joined the long tour members at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum. This is a memorial built to honour Aung San and six cabinet ministers who were assassinated. In 1983, North Korean agents attempting to assassinate the visiting South Korean president bombed the structure. He escaped but 21 others were killed. The structure was completely rebuilt and although less grand, it is still very beautiful.

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We continued by taking a Yangon Heritage Trust walking tour of the heritage buildings in Yangon. The architecture is outstanding and the buildings are generally in bad repair as they have been neglected throughout the years.

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That evening we enjoyed a buffet dinner at a traditional performing arts centre.

 

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The following day, we enjoyed a lecture by a former university professor who then accompanied us to Shwedagon Pagoda. ,Myanmar is full of pagodas but this one is possibly the most impressive. It is a 98 metre golden spire located at the top of Singuttara Hill and it can be seen from anywhere in the city.

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The next day we climbed on a boat and headed for Twanty, a town known for its pottery. We sailed across the Twanty canal and enjoyed the water taxis taking people to and from work. To get to the pottery, we took horses and carts. Possibly the most humbling part of the entire trip was the visit to the pottery workshop. Workers make anywhere from 150 to 300 pots in a day, depending on the size. The pottery wheels are spun by young girls who give up their education to do this task. The work is so menial and if they succeed in selling all their wares, they will receive just 6 dollars which must be split between them. The work area is dark and dusty but they were so welcoming and patient when we visited, even giving up their lunch break so they could show us around. Of all the things that humbled me, it was this visit.

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We also visited Bogyoke Aung San Museum. This museum was founded in 1962, 15 years after the assassination of Bogyoke. In Myanmar, Bogyoke is the term used for the general. This museum was his home before he was assassinated. No cameras were allowed inside.

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We also got to see the National Museum and got a guided tour through this 4 floor museum.

The reclining Buddha was HUGE. Honestly, so impressive but the most impressive thing I saw there was this monk. Some serious monk swag happening here.

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One of my favorite places was the Bogyoke Market where you can buy ANYTHING you so desire. It is crammed full of jewellery, art, clothes, fabrics and so many other items. This was also a great place to go people watching and there was a great feeling of the local life here.

On the final day we were free from any timetabled events to go wherever we wished. A small group of us headed across the river to a small village where we took trishaws and saw more pagodas and generally just interacted with the locals. To see them continue to wear their traditional clothes is amazing. The skirts are called Logyi’s . They are so easy to wear and I came home with three of them.

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As it turns out, my group were the best craic ever and they made the trip. Upon reflection, if the same person organised another tour, I’d take it in a heart beat. One day I will hopefully be able to return to Myanmar and visit other cities like Mandalay and Bagan. Myanmar was truly fascinating and a trip here is not to be missed. It still hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world in many respects and now is the time to go there before all the tourists arrive.

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You can find out more about the Royal Asiatic Society in Korea from their website http://www.raskb.com

 

Some tips;

 

*Bring US Dollars- We arrived on a late night flight from Seoul. If you don’t have dollars, you won’t have any money until you can make it to a bank. Make sure your dollars are crisp and clean.

*Wear pagoda appropriate clothes. There are so many pagodas so be sure that you wear clothes that cover the shoulders and go below the knees. Also, there are no shoes or socks allowed so carry some wet wipes in your bag.

*Ask questions. The guides are only too happy to be explaining about their city and country so be sure to ask if you have a question.

*Go with a tour or get a guide and driver. I like to think that I’m fairly capable when it comes to travelling around a new city. However, there is literally no way that you will be able to tour Yangon unless you have a guide and driver.

* It’s extremely safe there and we didn’t have any incidents. However, as with all trips, don’t do something you wouldn’t do at home.

 

Burns Night 2015

A few months ago I was asked to give the reply from the lassies at Burns night. Dinner in the Hyatt was mentioned so naturally I agreed. It was as easy as it sounded to write the reply but I did my best.

For those night familiar, Burns night is an annual, international celebration of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. Poems are recited, songs are sung and general craic is had.In Seoul, we celebrated the night in the Hyatt Hotel.  We had a piper, Garret,  and the whisky was flowing so it was all very Scottish.

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A group of my friends came along and it was nice to be able to dress up and go out!

 

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In my research for the speech, I found Burns to be an interesting character. He fathered 12 children by 4 different women. He was so fascinated by women that he had couldn’t choose just one and had several relationships with different women. He credits the ladies with his abilities as a poet. He wrote some beautiful poetry, my favourite being;

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!

 

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We were treated to an amazing address to the Haggis. I’ve seen this done 3 times now, but this was the first time I’ve seen a woman do it. She nailed it  and I think it added a bit of flavour to the Haggis!

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That was followed by some recitations and song singing.

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Eventually, it was battle of the sexes as the Toast to the lassies and Reply from the lassies were made. In the toast to the lassies, Scott had everyone in stitches as he quoted some amazing dating tips from koreadatingtips.com. Check out this link http://www.korea-dating-tips.com/how-to-talk-to-girls.html Super funny stuff.

After all the speeches it was off home. Great event made better by the people who were there.

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