Emigration- Selfish or necessary to “get ahead”?

It all started with a tweet from my sister- “Will miss you this weekend chick! Perhaps a skype date with the family?!xxx”

And that’s when the floodgates opened and the guilty feelings came back, posing the question; ” Is emigration selfish or just necessary to get ahead in life?”

This weekend in Ireland, my father is launching his second book.  My older sister, who lives in Spain, is coming home for the occasion.  Hence 4/5s of the Browne family will be there.  Except of course for me. 

 Before I came here, I was working a 35 hour a week job, which I was really enjoying, getting paid well and would probably have continued for another while.  I lived a 2 hour drive from home and could continue in my role as a good daughter, sister etc.   My degree is in Communications and Public Relations and so by the time I graduated, the jobs in that sector was not as numberous as when I started studying.  Still, I am pretty certain that I would have found a job.  So why emigrate? It was just me- no husband and no children.  My parents encouraged us to travel but if truth be told wanted us to go to places where we had backup, like Australia where we have close friends.  But, Australia, for all it’s positives is what everyone does and Shauna Browne like to do things differently.  So after researching the job market and everything else involved in such a big move, I came to Korea. ( I had been here for 3 weeks in my final year of college so I knew the necessity for English teachers) In September 2009, I left my parents in Dublin Airport and took that flight to a whole new country, culture, language, and continent.  I was on my own and failure was not an option.

So you see, I didn’t have to leave Ireland.  There were options there.  I wasn’t in such debt that I needed the money, I simply did it because I wanted to. And doing so means that for the last two and a half years, I’ve been living with the guilty feelings that since leaving, I’ve become a bad daughter, sister, niece and grand-daughter.  My grandmother passed away while I was here and my family made the decision that I was not to return for the funeral.  I always wondered though, despite the support and matter of fact attitude from my parents, whether people at that funeral looked at my family and thought ” You’d think Shauna would have come home for her own grandmothers funeral -how selfish”

I’m pretty sure that everyone who has emigrated knows exactly what I am talking about here and the guilty feelings are something we suck up and get on with because we have to.  My life here in Korea is only getting better so I can stand over the decision to live here. 

 But I can’t help thinking that people who make the big decision to emigrate, do so to give themselves an up in the world.  If I had stayed  in Ireland and applied for jobs, I would be just another, educated, Europe travelled, predictable candidate.  Now though, if I were to apply for a job in Ireland, I have this whole other experience and ability that comes with emigration.  I would stand out from those other candidates who have never had this experience. Emigration makes you a different person.  You go to the new country on your own.You learn a new language and culture.   You become more independent, more open and wiser.  You build your life from nothing and succeeding in a new country is down to no one but yourself.  The same can be said applying for a job in the new country.  You bring skills and knowledge from Ireland that set you apart from candidates here so it’s win win situation. 

I do realise that it’s different for everyone.  I came on my own, but so many others move entire families to different countries, for whatever reasons.  I read somewhere recently that children who speak two languages are better at switching between tasks that children who just learn one.  I imagine children who grow up or spend time living in another country are much more rounded, independent children than those who don’t and I can’t help but think that if this is the situation why wouldn’t you move to another country? Is wanting the best for yourself and your family really so bad???????????

So while I’m safe in the knowledge that this move has given me the upper hand is so many ways, I will always live with the guilt that I’ve abandoned my family. And as my life continues to get better here in Korea, I’ll continue to live with the fact that everything comes with a price.

A first for whatawaygook…….

I’d love to lie and say it’s my super personality or my astounding beauty but without a doubt, my best feature is my hair.  I treasure it  just a little and its gets a lot of attention in Korea.  Koreans want to touch it all the time, so I’ve decided to start charging for the privilege; “5,000won 주세요………”

Only problem is that in the summer, with the humidity it goes wwwwwhhhhisssssshhhhhhhhhh. I know you know that means that no amount of hair straightening will keep it in order.  I could keep it tied up all summer but that really isn’t an option so I decided to take the plunge and get a MAGIC STRAIGHT PERM.  It was a first for whatawaygook.  Before I tell you about the process, a magic straight perm is a perm where your hair stays magically straight for 5 or so months. 

I’m not going to lie.  I was terrified going in.  I’ve never had any dye or perm or anything other than shampoo in my hair so this was a huge step.  But I was a real champ and let my friend get one done a few months earlier and it turned out fine so I took the plunge.

Here’s how it went;

Friday May 3rd 2012;

11.30am- Went to hairdressers and got the message across that I wanted a Magic Straight Perm.  They said yes.  Excellent.  Already half way there. 

11.32am- My stuff is in a locker.  I’ve got my phone and a good book for this marathon.

11.34- “uuuuuhhhhh we washeeee hair??????” Said like a question but I’m fluent Konglish and know that this is meant as a statement.

11.40 (or so)- I’m settling in to the chair and they’re messing around with my hair.  It’s still red though so always a good sign.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH They are now putting  some crazy smelly thick grunge in my hair. 

11.56- I’m praying.  There’s a heater over my plastic bagged head.  They keep saying “uuuuhhhhhh 10 more minutes…” Please please don’t make my hair fall out……or go brown or any other ridiculous colour. 

12.06- “uuuuhhhhhh we washeeeee your hair????” Ya ok………………….

12.15- Wohoo!!!!!!!! It’s still red!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Woop surely they’re nearly finished?????

12.30- Now there’s two fellas drying my hair.  Getting a bit thirsty.

12.35- Now the boss is checking to make sure the hair is fully dry.  The other guy is finally gone to get me coffee.  About time too. He just asked the boss what the word for syrup is in English.  I told him it was ok syrup is syrup and it doesn’t matter cause I don’t want any!!!!!!!

12.36- Ok things look good the hair straighteners are on. 

12.38- Coffee in hand and they begin to straighten my hair.  Man, they only straighten like an inch of hair at a time.  This is going to take a while………………………………………………………………………………………

12.40- Wait…….. surely it should be illegal for two guys to be this good with hair straighteners.  Actually we’re in Korea so maybe not…………………………….

12.57- Wow! My hair is the business.  I tell him good job and prepare to get up from my chair. 

12.58- “UUUUUHHHHHH we washee your hair??????????????”

 “eeeeeeeehhhhhhh AGAIN?????????????????”

 Yes, no finishee, one more time.”

 Ya ok one for the road so,……………………………..

1.07- Damn whats he doing now??????  Putting lotions and potions and a liquid like thing in my hair.  If you’re doing this because I only said good job and not excellent job then I’ll…………………………….ah I don’t know what’s going on here…………

1.20- My hair is dry and straight.  He wants to know if I want cut……………”eeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhh NO!!!!!!!!!!!

1.25- I’ve been looking at my hair in every available surface since I left the hair dressers.  The 2 hours and 80,000 won I just spent are totally worth it……so far so good. 

Monday 9pm

I just washed my hair.  Had a little freak out and said the rosary while I was drying it but……………Wohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s still red and its straight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woop!

My advice, my friends to get a super straight perm immediately.  Cheap, cheerful and a sure way to make your hair look excellent this summer.

5 must have accessories for the Korean summer

With the arrival of the good weather, it’s time to get out your summer fashion accessories. 

1. Umbrella, sorry I mean “parasol”- Ok.  I just don’t understand what Korean women see in these umbrellas.  They are so many kinds of ugly.  But if your over 40 and don’t have one…….well there’s not really much point going outside really.

2. Camera; Ah yes.  Everyone looks better with a tan and sunglasses on.  And Koreans do love to take pictures of themselves any place, any time.  That’s why a camera is such an essential item this summer………………..

3. Mini- Fan– Let’s get it straight.  The air you get out of these yokes is about as much air as you get from a fart! Honestly.  And Koreans hang them around their necks like it’s essential to have for the heat and the zombie apocalypse.  I just don’t understand.  But also essential if you want to be truly “Korean”

4. Factor 5,000,000,000 sunscreen; Heaven forbid you might get a tan this summer.  The only Koreans I know who want tans are the young generation.  The old crowd shelter in the shade.  Anyone with white skin (i.e. the Irish) must at all costs stay away from shaded areas so as to escape with your life from the near molesting Koreans give white skinned foreigners. 

5. Picnic equipment; Korean LOVE picnics.  Just about every shaded space of park is filled with picnic blankets in the summer.  Therefore to fulfill our “operation Paddy Korean” we must have a picnic blanket in our bags ready for any opportunity to have a picnic.

10 Things I’ve started to do since I came to Korea.

There are a lot of things I’ve only started to do since I came to Korea.  For the good of mankind, I thought I’d write them down.

1. Saying everything twice; I don’t know if I think Koreans will understand better but I always say things twice.  Hello Hello, bye bye, sorry sorry, thank you thank you, ok ok, nice nice.  Now I literally can’t stop doing it.  Now I literally can’t stop doing it. See? See? MUST……………STOP……………………..

2. Eating things with chopsticks; No chopsticks in Ireland and although I was an epic fail for a while, my chopstick skills have actually improved.

3. Walking everywhere;It’s no wonder I’m looking for a few pounds.   In Ireland, I drove everywhere, not because I loved my car, Suzie (r.i.p.), but because I had to, otherwise it would have taken me a week to get anywhere. I don’t have a car here so I walk everywhere, around my city, around Ilsan, around Seoul.  When its a little too far, I take the bus or use the subway.

4. Drinking outside 7-11; This is not going to do my “looking for a husband” mission any good but when the weather is hot enough at night, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a few beers outside 7-11 with the good citizens of Geumchon.  Excellent craic, great people spotting, cheaper than a bar and just 20 steps from my apartment where I can return any time I feel like it. A little classy……..??????

5. Putting my make up on anywhere; I wasn’t ever too fussed about my makeup in Ireland but Korea turns me into another person.  I literally have makeup in my bag at all times ( you never know, there could be an emergency…….) and will top it up anywhere.  For social research purposes, I’ve put makeup on, riding the bus, waiting for the subway, on the subway,  in the elevator, in taxis and of course in bathrooms.

6. Eating Watermelon like it’s going out of fashion; Was I the only one who barely knew what a watermelon looked like before Korea????? Seriously, there was never a watermelon in the Browne house.  But here once the weather gets nice I am eating watermelon almost everyday.  Any visit to Korean friends guarantees watermelon……why????why??????

7. Considering Dodko “ours”; I’ve never been to Dodko and don’t really care about it but every time someone mentions the D word, I automatically say “DOKDO IS OURS!!!!!!!”

8. Watching Korean dramas on t.v. just to “improve my Korean”; I can spend hours watching a drama on t.v. that’s in Korean and not have a clue whats going on.  I have some super skills in making the storyline up myself though.  And as a method of learning Korean, it’s not half bad.  This kind of thing would never have happened in Ireland.

9. Consider “service” a worldwide necessity; In Ireland, I run out of shops for fear they will charge me more but in Korea, I linger at the counter supervising the service handout.  Seriously, you can never get enough service and the sample sizes are soooooooooo handy when you go on holiday or a weekend away.  Long may it last.

10. Getting out and staying out more; Every available opportunity will see me out and about.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just for a drink with my friends or out for the whole night, I’ll be there.Many’s the night we’ll stay out in Seoul until the first train the next morning.    This just isn’t feasible in Ireland as I live in a rural area so any attempt at going out needs military style planning.  Here, I’m within a few minutes of everywhere.  It’s great.  If anyone’s ever in Paju, give me a call……….

Ok so actually I just thought of one more;

11. Taking off my shoes; This is another one of those “I can’t stop doing it” things.  Literally it’s an automatic reaction.  When I went home to Ireland, everytime I walked in to the house, I took my shoes off.  No one else was too impressed by the pile of shoes inside the door but since when do we care what anyone else thinks???????