My Ireland bucketlist

It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve been home in Ireland.  Now, I have a week in Ireland to do everything.So I made a list,

  • Eat potatoes with a good lashing of creamery butter everyday
  • Eat Mammy Brownes brown bread and possibly learn to actually make it.
  • Eat anything else that Mammy Browne made, apple tart, buns, scones, anything and everything.
  • For snacks eat Taytos, Cadburys, Roses and anything else that may be lying around the house.
  • For an additional snack, eat some proper cheese.
  • Drink Lucozade like it’s going out of fashion.
  • Learn at least one new tune from Kathryn and play music until Mum gets angry with us.
  • Go to Mass  and have that conversation about the homily and the priest and the crowd with anyone who wasn’t there.
  • Say the rosary with Grandad (random, I know, but it’s the small things in life).
  • Put on my wellies, go outside, walk around and pretend to herd the cattle or sheep.
  • Prepare suitable phrases for Dad that I did a good job on the herding.
  • Be a gap stopper for a few hours.
  • Play a session in a small pub.
  • Meet all my friends and neighbours.
  • Meet my aunts, uncles and cousins and catch up on anything I’ve missed.
  • Spend as much time as possible with Mum, Dad and Kathryn.
  • Do the shopping in Dunnes Stores.
  • Go to the Mc Donalds drive through in Roscrea with Kathryn ( it’s a long story).
  • Take a million pictures and threaten to make a powerpoint presentation as my present to my friends in Korea. Day 1……..
  • Tell stories that start with “When I was in Korea…….” with Alexa and Ali.
  • Do a few tourist things with Ali, Alexa and Kathryn.
  • Find my old hurl and bring it back to Korea.
  • Buy loads of nice things to bring back to Korea.
  • Drive “my car” around the yard.
  • Play cards.
  • Count in the New Year with my family.
  • Buy storybooks on Irish folk tales so I can read them to my students.
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My sister is stealing my country and other random thoughts.

For four years, I’ve been the only Browne in Korea. It was a great novelty back home, “Shauna,  the one in Korea”. I had a monopoly on this country. It distinguished me from my older sister ( “the one in Spain”) and my younger sister ( “the one in college”). Such distinctions are extremely important.

Now, in exactly 2 weeks, my sister and her partner are moving here. She took my friend’s job and coincidentally her apartment will be literally a 30 second walk from my one. So many thoughts come to my mind, most of them purely selfish of course and I wonder if all expats feel like this when a family member comes to live in their country.

I literally spent all four years telling her that she should move here but it wasn’t until she finally came on a summer holiday that she saw that we were in no danger from the dreaded North, the food was edible and although the people don’t speak English and there are oh so many of them, we all still manage to hang out and have a great time. Also, on the plus side we have phones that she’s never even heard of, internet that’s so fast you wonder why someone would live anywhere else and a transport system that is extraordinarily efficient. So Korea is a natural choice.

But, one little part of me is thinking “really, you couldn’t just pick a different country?” It’s going to confuse everything. “Shauna, the one in Korea or is that Majella that’s in Korea. But aren’t they both in Korea now”? She’s already friended some of my friends on Facebook. I’m sure there’s some etiquette law against that sort of thing. Really? You stole my country, now you’re reigning in on my friends!? It’s almost like this is one of those ready made lives. A great job in a great school she knows she won’t have any problems with, a great apartment, a sister who already knows the area, already has the contacts and has already made friends that you can be introduced to. When I think back to my first time coming here, like all my friends, we did it on our own so in some ways, I find this to be the height of cheating although if I were her, I’d probably be moving to Korea now too. I know a few people with siblings here in Korea and I wonder if all of them think the same thing or is it just me.

Then there’s her partner. He’s Spanish and although they’ve been going out for years, I’ve only ever seen him about 3 times. The only Spanish I know is Hola and a few other random phrases I learned from Dora the explorer so Skyping is like speaking to the U.N. I say something. My sister translates it and then translates his response. Recently though, he’s learned English so this will be the chance to actually get to know him.

When people ask me if I’m excited for her to come, I’m fairly slow to respond. When we were young, fighting was something we were champions at.  Obviously we’ve grown up now but we still manage to have blazing rows over What’s App. Sending each other messages in CAPITAL LETTERS to make a point. And a few times, we’ve had to cut off Skype because we will have gotten into a fight and hanging up is the only option since we can’t just hit each other.

So, with her living next door, I wonder how our relationship will develop. Since I moved to Korea, we’ve stayed close enough but I wonder how it’s all going to go. Will she look to me for advice or will it be the other way around since I’ve been here longer. Will she be my left arm or will she branch out and do her own thing and get her own hobbies etc?  So many questions that only time will answer.

Of course, after it’s all said and done, I am delighted that she’s coming here. She is my sister after all. Stay tuned to this blog for more on what happened after she arrives.

 

Majella

How do expats spend Christmas?

Have you ever wondered how expats spend Christmas? I asked some of my expat friends the same question and there is what they came up with.

Janet1Janet Newenham;  Cork woman, blogger and the person with the  most jet set lifestyle I know. This Christmas she will be spending Christmas day in 3 airports, Seoul, Shanghai, Phnom Penh. She will then spend her vacation in Cambodia. As if we’re not all jealous enough, I just heard that she’s also going to the Phillipines in January.   You can catch up on all her adventures by reading her blog http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com/.

stephanie

Stephanie Anglemyer; Photographer, blogger and one of the busiest people I know in Korea. She will spend Christmas Eve in her friend’s house here in Korea. Then, Christmas day, she will be tuning into Skype where she has an annual tradition of watching her Dad’s Christmas  Eve service. Stephanie is a really talented photographer and you can check out her blog here, http://www.anklebiterphotos.com/author/stephangle/

DanDan Berry; You can always find Dan in the midst of an Irish music session here in Korea. Dan is a volunteer with ARK (Animal Rescue Korea) and is originally from Canada.  This year, he’s spending Christmas in his new apartment, taking care of his “eejit canines”, chillaxing and having a few pints.

Conor

Conor O’Reilly; I’ll be here all day if I’m going to describe Conor so I’ll  try to keep it brief. Irishman, husband, new father, poet, writer, blogger, avid photographer. This year Conor, his wife Jin Won and their daughter Claire are heading to Thailand for 2 months. That’s the longest Christmas vacation I’ve ever heard of.  You can catch up with Conor and his thoughts on his blog, http://ifihadaminutetospare.com/ (the photo was taken by Tom Coyner. http://seoulman.smugmug.com/)

JessJess Plotnik; What can I say about Jess? Canadian, great craic, always laughing and having a great time, a little accident prone. Jess will spend Christmas day at a pot luck in a friend’s house in Gimpo, “a tradition I like to think I started in Gimpo”.

ian

Ian Scheideberg; Ian is an avid poet and writer. I’ve known Ian for most of the time I’ve been in Korea and we always have great old craic. You’ll never be short of conversation when you hang around with Ian.  This Christmas, Ian will be in Taiwan for 2 weeks.

Eoin

Eoin Kennedy; Eoin is my cousin. When we were children, we would always see each other at Christmas. This year however, Eoin is working  and living in Canada. So he will spend Christmas day working and then enjoying Christmas dinner with his boss and his boss’ family

Majella

Majella Browne; It is no coincidence that she shares the same surname as me, she’s my sister. Majella has been living in Spain for the past number of years but this Christmas is her last one in Spain as she’s moving to Korea on December 31st!

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If you want to add your Christmas plans to those above, just leave a comment below!

Don’t eat the yellow snow and other tips for surviving the Korean winter.

  1. Time: Leave earlier and factor in that it might take you longer to get home.
  2.  Layers: If you are going to survive a subway journey, layer up. It’s so warm inside but freezing outside so don’t just wear a big jacket.
  3. Because of the hot cold thing that happens as you move from indoors to outdoors, use a good multivitamin to keep up the immune system.
  4. Thermals; Thermals are a must. Don’t be an awful eejit,wear your thermals.
  5. Boots: Invest in a pair of lined boots with good traction. Nobody wants to fall on the ice.
  6. Gloves: If you use a smartphone you might want to think about getting a pair of capacitive gloves. That way you can use your phone while wearing your gloves. A win win right there.
  7. Socks: Nothing is worse than wet, cold feet. If you ignored my idea of a good pair of boots, a spare pair of socks never goes astray.
  8.  Down Jackets; Buy yourself a duck. Honestly, there is no other jacket worth wearing if there is not a duck on the inside.
  9. Cut a fringe;  Having a fringe keeps your forehead warm and thus further insulates you from the wind chill. . My friend Leana, guarantees me of this fact.
  10. Plan your route; Know what exit you’re meeting at so you don’t stand out in the cold for no reason.  Think about the route to the subway station etc so you don’t have to walk the icy path. Safety first. Sometimes though, it’s unavoidable.
  11. Buy a space heater; If you’re a public school teacher there is a possibility that your classroom will be cold so be prepared to need extra things.
  12. Ice puke puddles; Avoid these like the plague. Puke puddles are not pretty at the best of times, frozen ones are worse.
  13. Fluids; Keep up your intake of liquids. Even though you don’t realise it, you lose it through sweating etc.
  14. Take up a hobby; For whatever reason, we spend more time inside during winter and it’ll be a long boring winter if you don’t have a hobby.
  15. Humidifier; Because we use Ondol (floor heating), the air becomes really dry and can cause you to get sick. It’s a good idea to have a humidifier to put the moisture  back in the air. You can buy them in Emart and Homeplus for about 50,000won.
  16. Don’t stand behind the salting machines. You may think this is obvious but I know people……
  17. That’s all I can think of. If you can think of more, let me know and I’ll add it in.

Thanks to Leana, Trevor and Cindy who supervised this blog post.

The nicest things.

With this being the season of goodwill, I decided to do a blog on the nicest things anyone has done for us since we got to Korea.  We all too often hear the bad stories, the negative things so hopefully this will do a little to help us remember the good people and great experiences we’ve had.

Huge thanks to everyone who got involved and shared their stories. I asked them all,

“What’s the nicest thing anyone has done for you since you moved to Korea?’

“My vet let my dog stay in the hospital for free so she could get the proper treatment”

“Strangers who give me lifts home”

“Me and my friends got lost hiking once and this Korean man came up to us and showed us the way down. It took hours. We slowed him down completely and probably ruined his day but he never complained”

“I went to Everland on my birthday with my boyfriend and a Samsung Representative gave us free passes”

” I was in dance class one day and my shoe broke. Not wanting to miss anything, I took of my other shoe to dance in my socks. I was randomly paired with a Korean partner I’d never met before. When he saw me return with just my socks, he went and took his shoes off. I was puzzled at first but concluded that he didn’t want me to feel embarrassed being the only one dressed so unconventionally. Chivalry alive and well”

“Sometimes, older Koreans who are sitting in seats will kindly take my bag and hold it for me while I commute”

“When our group, consisting of 12, missed the last ferry from Udo to Jeju, some Korean locals helped us by calling a fisherman who was willing to bring us to Jeju in his small boat. He had to make two trips to get us all back”

“I asked for directions once and the person walked with me for 30 minutes so I would find my way”

“One rainy day, I didn’t have an umbrella so I was walking in the rain. A Korean woman stops her car, comes after me and gives me hers.”

“An adjumma gave me her corner seat on the train”

“When I fell and got hurt getting off the subway, two Korean teenagers picked me up and helped me to the subway station office”

“A man ran after me as I got off the subway to return my T Money card that had fallen out of my pocket. It wasn’t even his stop so he had to wait until the next train”

” My first year in Korea, I had a tonsillectomy. A friend from my church, who had access to the base, bought me 100$ worth of soft foods as a surprise”

“I left my brand new guitar on the subway. As my friend and I were discussing how to get it back on the platform, a man gets off the train going in the opposite direction to give it to me” He had seen what had happened, gotten off, came back just to give it back to me”

“I came home last week to find the Christmas tree and lights had been put up”

“The friends who I’ve made in Korea who check up on me when I’m sick and bring me things that they know I like without being asked”

“My director doing things for me because I can’t speak Korean”

“I went to school sick and that night my co teacher arrived with enough chicken soup to last a week”

“An adjumma pulled a loose thread from my Mac jacket once”

“Once, I let some weights fall on my head in the gym and my head was bleeding really badly. The gym owner took me to hospital himself, waited while I had all the x rays and got my head stapled. Then he paid for the hospital bill and drove me home”

“My first director used to take us out to try different foods and then pay for it”

“When my grandmother died and I stayed in Korea, my friends all rallied round and made meals and came over to keep me company so I wouldn’t be alone”

“My friends being there for me day and night when I found out my brother had cancer”

“I fell over and sprained my foot once while out with friends. I decided to go to the emergency room but couldn’t walk. Someone I barely knew at the time helped me hobble up the street, found a taxi, found the nearest hospital and wheeled me around the hospital until I got my cast on”

“When I moved in to my first apartment in Korea, one of my neighbours ( a foreigner) that I didn’t know at the time, came over and showed me how everything in the apartment worked”

“Someone I didn’t know walked me from Noksapyeong to Itaewon once, when I got really lost”

“Tourist information services called the post office when I left my ipod there and arranged for someone to look after it until I could collect it.”

“The post office realized I was a foreigner and arranged for a special delivery so I didn’t have to carry my heavy oven back home.”

“I think it was my second week here in Korea, so I had no phone or anything. i went to Ilsan to meet a friend and when it came time to go home i get on the wrong bus, i soon realise after hours of traveling, especially when everyone had gotten off the bus and i was the last person still sitting there while the bus had come to the end of its line. the bus driver came up to me and he managed to communicate with me in his very limited broken english where i wanted to go. i told him where i lived, and he checked on his phone for the closets bus station and bus times. unfortunately at that time there were no more going in that direction. he then called off his own phone the tourist helpline and i managed to speak to a translator to explain where i lived. the bus driver then called to find where the closest taxi stand was, drove me there in the bus and put me safely in a cab. it was the best first time getting lost in Korea and i was never afraid of catching buses again”

” My first year here I was partnered with a public school and I was pretty much alone my first year. The maintenance guy at my school lived right next door to the school and he took me in as a long lost son. I have spent chuseok, his mothers 3 birthdays and his son’s going into the army. I have been there for him when It was his wife’s birthday. He has invited me to church which i had to refuse, and also I’ve gone to the sauna with him and his family. He is really nice, and he continues to be nice to me, and I hope that I always have him as family. He is so familiar with me he smacked me on the hand for not learning Korean fast enough just recently. He feeds me and I have never had the chance to repay him, and sometimes feel really guilty when I visit him because I don’t bring anything, or do anything to help him. Although i remember I helped him farm some of his crops the first year, but that was it.”

” When I was in the U.S embassy applying for my damned f-4 visa I had not reconciled the fact that I needed american money for the fees within the embassy after being given the run around where I was told I wouldn’t actually need the money and I could use an assortment of the other instruments to give them money. However after that not working, I finally go to the front of the line where I needed to pay for this particular document, and after realizing that I did in fact not have the appropriate method of payment and that i would have to go out of the embassy to go to a bank and then would have to reschedule another appointment and then come back like 2 weeks later a very nice chinese woman asked how much i required. i said about 60 dollars u.s and she promptly gave it to me. i asked how I could re-pay that and she said don’t worry. that was super nice.”

If you want to add a story to this list, just leave it as a comment below and I’ll put it in!