Irish Girl in a Korean supermarket- Part 2

What’s worse than one Irish girl in a Korean supermarket? TWO Irish girls in a Korean supermarket.  Since most foods are pretty familiar to me now, I thought I’d walk around with Clare, who arrived a few months ago.  I tried to focus on the normal foods so people would be reassured that they weren’t going to starve if they came here.  So here’s what we came up with;

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Yellow Melons; Although they’re called Yellow Melons in English, I had never seen them a day in my life before coming to Korea.  They’re super popular in summer and surprisingly enough, they are also quite delicious. 

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Boiled Lotus Root Slices; Here’s one I just learned last night.  Honestly, I’ve been eating these things at school for ages and never knew what they were.  Until last night of course.  Thankfully, my English is pretty good so I simply read the name.  What do they taste like? I wouldn’t know.  Although I eat them, they look kind of dangerous so I mix them in with rice and other food stuffs.  Are they healthy? Well they haven’t made me a Ninja yet so they can’t be that great. 

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Ho duk; I really don’t know what to call these in English.  I think it’s sweet pancakes (although a Korean can correct me if that’s not accurate). They are super delicious. Pancake mix with cinnamon in the middle. Great in the cold weather and if you buy them from a stand they are only 1,000won or less.  They also come with Green Tea mix as well as the regular mix.  And you don’t need an oven to make them, only a frying pan.  Win win. This packet was on sale also so for less than 2,000won I’m going to have some delicious Ho Duk.

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Kimbap component; This is the radish that goes into Kimbap.  If you’re making a million kimbap, buy a packet of these and your sorted.  Some people are actually brave enough to eat this by itself but personally I prefer mine mixed with all the other stuff in Kimbap. 

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Another Kimbap component; I could have called it Seasoned Burdock but chose not to because I didn’t know what it was called until I took the picture.  Again, it goes in Kimbap. I’ve never seen it eaten on its own (or maybe I have but didn’t connect the dots).

 

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Dairy Items; Just to prove that things here are super normal, I took a picture of the dairy section.  You can find yoghurt and all kinds of drinks and the like.

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Snack Foods; The first one is like a Honey Pancake.  Unlike the one before, you buy these ones already made and it’s not cinnamon on the inside.  The picture on the right are sugary balls of flour mix.  It’s really hard to describe. 

 

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Tea; The top one is Honey Citron Tea which is like Marmalade but you add water and drink it.  The bottom one is Honey Chinese Quince Tea.  Quince is a type of pear, same deal here, add water and drink it.  I’m sure its good for Vitamin C and all but there’s a lot of sugar in it so don’t go mad drinking it. 

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The fish; This was definitely the highlight of the trip.  We were walking around the frozen foods and stumbled across these fish tied together.  Many questions came to mind, 1. Why? 2. How would you get this home if you didn’t have a car? 3. How would you go about cooking this? 4. Who buys this? 5. Why? 6. Where would you keep this when you get home? We must have looked like we were in distress because  the very friendly lady came over and we asked how you would cook/eat this.  She gave us this look, as if we were stupid and said “oh you just cook it”. Excellent, thanks, that really clears it up for us.  Any Korean reading this might be able to answer the question. 

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Octopus and Squid; This is exactly what it says on the tin.  Octopus and squid, in a regular packet and in a form where you don’t need directions on how to cook it. 

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Mandu; Mandu are dumplings in English.  Possibly one of my favourite foods in Korea.  And you can cook and eat them in loads of different ways.  You can boil them, fry them or eat them in a soup.  They come in pork flavour and Kimchi flavour.  Super handy and super easy to cook. 

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If you’re looking for toothpaste, look no further.  You can find Bamboo Salt, Tiger Herb, Forest fresh and all kinds of other equally attractive toothpaste flavours. 

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We finally made it to the sweet aisle.  As Clare pointed out, they really love My Chews in Korea (picture on the left).  But they also have loads of other random sweets  and crisps.  No Taytos and no salt and vinegar flavour but shrimp, pizza, original and all other kinds of random flavours. 

Our best find on the sweet aisle was………

 

I can’t find the words……..

 

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Having a supermarket adventure is hungry work so we took a well deserved rest and had some food with the other cool kids who were also hanging out in Home Plus,

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Huge thanks to Clare Gaffney for coming along on the supermarket adventure.  As ever, leave your comments below.

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Letters from Ireland

Not everyone can lay claim to the world’s best parents, but I can.  Mammy and Daddy Browne are a force to be reckoned with.  They are the ultimate team and when I grow up , I hope I can be somewhat as brilliant as they are.  But although they’re the best, I didn’t think they’d actually reply to all 28 letters I sent them as part of my letter writing challenge in February.  But they did!

As I sat with my cup of Barry’s, I couldn’t help but laugh.  These letters, in 2 sides of an A4 page, managed to give me a full run down of the local news, gossip and goings on as well as a “back in my day” revision.  They were so brilliant, I reckon my parents should start their own blog. Just the perfect balance of Irishness with a hint of parent.  There were definite themes that kept arising in the letters so I’m going to outline the views from Ireland below.

My mother on all things Korean; Anything my parents know about Korea either I told them and they don’t believe or they hear it on the news and take it as completely accurate.  When enquiring about the movie scene here it was; “Do you have cinemas over there and if so are you behind or in front of us in terms of movies”?

Following on with the idea that I play music in Korea.  Replying to my letter where I explained about playing at St. Patrick’s Day with my trio she said, “Are they Korean nationality or do they speak English”? Can’t be both, you must choose one!

Later, she asked if there were any supermarkets or was it all just small shops.  She’s going to get such a shock when she arrives (possibly later this summer) to find that you almost need a map to get out of Home Plus alive.

Thankfully, they were all quite impressed by my mad Korean skills ( I wrote half a letter in Korean).  According to Mammy Browne however, Korea is “like Morse Code” and “I don’t know how you do it”. What can I say, mad skills……

My mother on Roscrea and its supermarkets; Our local town in Ireland is Roscrea.  It’s not that big, actually it’s about 10 times smaller than Paju, that gives you an idea.  It’s a regular Irish town, nothing special apart from the country’s best rashers, sausages and musicians.  This is the town that we go to all the time for groceries, bank, everything.  According to Mum, in the 4 years since I left, “the town of Roscrea has gotten so quiet, no problem getting a parking space in the centre”.  That’s how we measure economic growth in Roscrea, availability of parking spaces in the centre.   There are also 4 supermarkets.  but in these bleak economic times “I really wonder how the four supermarkets stay open, there is a fierce piece competition between them all”. Then there was the usual rant about Easter related products ripping people off. And people buying it all up anyway.  Mum, if you’re reading this, is there any chance you’ll send me a maltesers Easter egg? Or just the maltesers?

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Love; A good number of these letters were dropping hints on the notion that I should soon start thinking of getting married.  Dad went as far as to pick out an eligible candidate and send a letter with his credentials, road frontage availability etc. Excellent.  Mum was much more subtle in her hints.  While talking about the “anything goes” fashion of today, she mentions how she only buys clothes “for the special occasion”. Nod nod wink wink. She also dedicated a letter to the discussion she had with Dad about how couples meet each other these days.  And there started the “and back in my day, and I’m going back to 1975” speech.  This lovely trip down memory lane outlined how couples would meet at the dances and spend ages picking out dresses and hair styles and shoes and how everyone knew the dances (heaven forbid they wouldn’t know the dances). And they would all spend great times looking forward to meeting each other.At that time marriage was forever not like the “young wans these days”.

So I think the message is, hurry up and get married but don’t be in too much of a hurry because you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong person (possibly someone who doesn’t know Ceili dancing or hates Irish music).  I’ll work on it.

To finish things up I’ll give you a review of the things I’ve learned from the letters that nobody thinks important to tell me on Skype;

1. My mother has been playing the concertina for ages and I didn’t even know. She has also been studying theory of music and the piano and is always doing exams.  She’s now only 2 grades from finishing all 8. Fair play Mum. Fighting!

2. My mother has no sense of rhythm.  Although this is what she says but I always knew I got my rhythm from my father.  

3. For my grandfathers age, he has great eye sight and is in great health “not a fear of him” I hear.

4. My cousins are so big now, that most of them are in school, or leaving school.  I don’t know why I’m so shocked, it has been 4 years.

5.  Even though it’s been ages since I’ve been home, everything is the same.  Nothing has changed and it’s business as usual.

Why St. Patrick’s Day is better abroad.

It wasn’t until I moved abroad that I really started to appreciate St. Patrick’s Day. As an Irish person, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, March 17th is always a special day. But as Irish people, it is sometimes all too easy to take this day for granted. It’s always been around and someone else always makes it happen. It’s usually just a case of turning up and enjoying the festivities and talent that’s on your doorstep.  For me, spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland involved playing music on a lorry somewhere and watching a parade, nothing that required too much effort or thought. 

Since I’ve moved to Korea, I’ve taken on a whole other attitude to St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s become more important and it’s the only day of the year that Irish all over Korea can come together and have the upper hand. We spend every other day of the year standing out.  We talk differently, we look differently, we’re just foreign and we spend our days learning to adjust to the culture of Korea.  But on March 17th, it’s our opportunity to show Korea our culture.  We already know how the music sounds, we know the words to the songs and we even know the dancing.

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As I randomly screamed the instructions at the over enthusiastic participants at the festival on Saturday I thought about how I probably wouldn’t be doing it at home.  Everyone at home knows the Siege of Ennis and I can’t remember the last time there was an outdoor Ceili type thing in the festivities in Roscrea. 

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The other side to this is that is takes more to make St. Patrick’s Day happen abroad.  Many of the regular readers of this blog know that I do a little volunteering for the Irish Association of Korea, the group that organise the festivities here.  In Ireland, I never got involved with making a parade happen or any of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities for that matter.  There was always someone else to make it happen. But  here I was in Korea, motivated by the thought that if I wasn’t going to help organise St. Patrick’s Day, who would? It doesn’t just happen like it happens at home.  And so followed weeks of endless emailing, negotiating, planning, meeting and waking up in the middle of the night with another idea to write in the notebook you keep beside your bed for this exact reason. 

It was a case of finding musicians and dancers and bands, they don’t hang around here like they do in Ireland.  Like everything worth doing it takes time and effort and then, although you’ve publicised it and every expat knows it’s on you still wonder will anyone come.  In Ireland, you’re guaranteed a crowd, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. In Seoul, there are a million other things people can do on that Saturday and you depend on them and their sense of Irish to come out and support the event. 

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So as I watched the  people  from all over dance to the Siege of Ennis, clap along to the music, come in fancy dress, dye their hair green and get involved in the craic that was, I realised how much more pride I take in the celebrations here.  It’s a very humbling experience to see, not only Irish but Koreans and people from all over the world, join together in a city, millions of miles from Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Here’s a video I took at the event on Saturday;

St. Patrick’s Day Seoul

Sleeping in Incheon Airport- Spa on Air, a review.

I don’t make a habit of sleeping in airports. I also don’t make a habit of sleeping there for the good of my blog, I was actually leaving on a trip. Now that we’re clear on that here’s how it all happened.

My conspirator, Olivia, and I were heading to the Feis in Shanghai. So, as a result of not wanted to get up at ridiculous o clock to catch a bus, to the train to get to the airport, we decided to give Spa On Air, the jimjilbang in Incheon Airport a go.

It was a Thursday night at midnight by the time we arrived. The airport was eerily quiet and we set off on the journey to find Spa on Air. Signage for the place is a joke. Couple this with the fact that I can’t read those ridiculous “you are here” maps and the whole thing was a special experience. Eventually, we found 2 adjummas having a break and we were grateful to find signs of human life. We thought we left it behind when we got off the AREX. They were good enough to point us in the right direction and we headed further into a land of nobodies. Eventually, we stumbled onto an area with flags for the much sought Spa on Air and with great relief approached the nice lady at reception. The only thought was that, with this many people not in the airport, there couldn’t possibly be too many people wanting to sleep in Incheon on a random Thursday night in March. I was wrong. No private rooms left (although at that random hour, I wasn’t surprised) but it would cost me 20,000 for a sleep over. This is definitely more expensive that regular jimjilbangs. (It is possible to ring ahead and get a reservation. Here is a link to their number http://www.airport.kr/airport/facility/efalicityInfo.iia?carId=39)
As we changed into our uniforms (the shorts and t-shirt provided at reception, mine could have fit a small family), it was clear that you were paying for quality. The dressing room was beautiful, lockers were large and the toilets were clean and new, ( No squatters here). We also had cleanser and cotton wool to remove makeup and hair dryers and all the usual things to make you look normal. There were mirrors everywhere (possibly so you could enjoy how great you looked in your uniform?) and it was all nicely decorated with signs in English and Japanese.

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Next task, find somewhere to sleep. They have a lounge room with reclining chairs that look super comfortable, I wouldn’t know since everyone else had taken them and we had to make do with mats on the floor. Not to worry, sleep is sleep. Until someone leans too far back on their recliner and the entire chair falls with the loudest crash, just centimetres away from your head at 4am. There’s the usual coughing, snoring, talking, walking etc. going on during the night so although I caught a few hours shut eye, Olivia didn’t.

Next morning, up, shower, ready and what do you know, you’re already in the airport so it took us about 5 minutes to stroll to the check in desk.

All in all, I definitely would stay here again if, 1) I arrived back too late to take public transport and 2) I arrived early enough to get either a private room or a recliner. It’s the small things in life.

 

*Update- August 2013.

I’ve just stayed at Spa on Air before my trip to Malaysia. I rocked up around 7pm and there was loads of space. Although the recliners are very comfortable I just couldn’t sleep so I found a small sleeping room and slept on a mat on the floor. It was a surprisingly great nights sleep. Quiet, peaceful, and comfortable. The showers and baths here are lovely. They keep your suitcases at the front where they are safe and supervised until you leave.

What I liked;

  1. The place is super clean and new
  2. The staff speak English
  3. The lockers are big enough to fit a small suitcase.
  4. The showers and baths are great
  5. The changing room is spacious, quiet and well stocked with beauty products.
  6. There are loads of places to sleep. The lounge chairs, the public sleeping rooms and the private but public sleeping rooms.

What I didn’t like

  1. If you arrive really late, you might have to sleep on the floor in the lounge area which can be a little noisy with people coming and going and snoring etc
  2. The signage for the place is really bad.