AngloInfo Expat of the week

This is reblogged from the AngloInfo site, http://blogs.angloinfo.com/expat-of-the-week/2014/06/13/meet-the-expat-66-shauna-browne-from-south-korea/. All credit goes to them.

You can find out everything you need to know about Seoul on the Seoul AngloInfo site, http://seoul.angloinfo.com/( where I happen to blog from time to time)

Meet the AngloINFO Expat of the Week

1.      Where do you live now, and where did you move from?

I live in Paju, South Korea and I moved from Tipperary, Ireland.

Shauna Browne from Paju, South Korea

2. How long ago did you move? What made you decide to make the move?

I moved to Korea in 2009 so I could travel more, have an adventure and get outside my comfort zone a little.

3. What do you miss most from home?

Family. We’re a really big musical family and there are days when all I want to do is go home, sit down with my family and play a few tunes. My older sister moved here in January but she never wants to play music with me!

Playing accordion at the Seoul Céilí International Dance and Music Festival

4. What do you appreciate the most in your adopted country?

The convenience and the people. Everything is so easy compared to back home. There is a service for everything and it usually only costs you half what it would in Ireland.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people here in Korea. I have lots of Korean friends who always go that extra mile to help me out and that makes the difference.

5. How did you make new friends in your new home?

The Irish community here is great. There is a sports club which I’m part of, I play a lot of music and I’m the chair of the Irish Association here so I get to meet a lot of new people.

 Seoul Gaels on tour in Shanghai

At the very beginning though, I made friends by going out with my co workers and talking to their friends and then gradually I got involved in the other organisations.

6. How often do you go back to your hometown?

Not that often. Any chance I get, I usually like to head off and explore a new country or city. In the five years, I’ve only been home twice.

Round and about in South Korea

7. What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved?

Language. I live in a city outside Seoul so not many people are willing to speak English to you, even if they can. At first, I was lost, I couldn’t pay my bills or understand what anyone said but after I got the basics under control, it became easier.

Getting involved- I like to be involved with lots of different things and when I moved here first, I didn’t really do anything except go to school and come home. The first few weeks were definitely the hardest in terms of beating the loneliness and finding out where I could go to do the things I wanted to do. I was really lucky to meet great friends from day 1 so I had it easier than a lot of people.

8. And the nicest surprises?

There have been loads of great moments. Being able to do things alone and in Korean was a huge thing. Being able to buy a car, having my sister come to live here, passing my Korean exam, meeting some amazing people, being able to help out in the Irish community and seeing that community grow has been a great thing.

9. Any tips for beating home sickness? 

Everyone has days where they miss home, it happens. For me, it’s all about attitude. Going in to a new adventure knowing that every day won’t be a great day, being able to laugh at yourself when something random happens and just appreciating the good days is what works for me.

Also, if I was to do it again, I would research things better. I wish I had known about AngloINFO and all the great blogs and sites on Korea before I came. I would have researched more and been a little more proactive in terms of finding things to do from the outset.

10. What do you do for a living?

I am a kindergarten teacher so I teach English to Korean age 4 to Korean age 7.

11. How do you spend your free time (in your adopted home)?

These days I am the Chair of the Irish Association of Korea so that keeps me busy organising events and responding to general inquiries. Busiest season for us though is December through March when we organise the St. Patrick’s festival.

In the rest of my free time, I play gaelic football with the Seoul Gaels which is a lot of fun. I also play Irish music with and thankfully the demand for sessions is high so we’re usually out and about playing every weekend.

Playing gaelic football with the Seoul Gaels

12. Are you settled here now? Or do you plan to move on one day?

Right now, things are going really well so I have no plans to move on in the immediate future. However, things change so I guess the plan is fairly loose but I’m very happy where I am right now.

13. Would you share something embarrassing that happened to you as an expat (but that makes you smile when you look back)?

Oh gosh! Where to start with this! So many embarrassing things have happened. I have red hair and I remember a few months after I got here, sitting on the train and having a woman come over to me and just start stroking my hair and then my arm. Koreans just don’t have red heads!!!! These days, it’s not so bad but I still get the occasional toucher.

The very first week I came here, two friends and I decided to eat out. Armed with just a dictionary, we headed down town and chose a packed restaurant to eat in. We asked the lady for the menu and she pointed to the wall. We look over and the wall is covered in Korean, not one picture and you could hear a pin drop in the restaurant. The Koreans were in stitches but we persevered and ordered by pointing at someone else’s food. I can’t remember if it was delicious or not but every time I order these days, I think about how far I’ve come from that first night.

More than once, I’ve gotten the subway in the wrong direction, stayed on it for 30 minutes, clueless and then have to backtrack.

I also walked in to a DVD room once as a way to stay out of the rain only to discover it was a front for……..other activities. Lesson learned.

14. And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to someone considering moving to where you live, what would it be?

Have a good attitude, you won’t like every part of life in Korea. It’s a huge change from where you’re coming from and it’s a lot to take in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get out as much as you can and get involved, even if it’s in something you’ve never tried before. Friends make the life here a lot easier and opportunities open up when you know a lot of people.

Finally, do your research. These days there are a tonne of great websites, blogs, Tumblr accounts etc. out there so for the few months before you move check them out.

Most of all though, just have confidence in yourself and a little bit of imagination and you’ll have no problems!

 

You can read more from Shauna in her AngloINFO Seoul blog A Long Way from Tipperary. Connect with Shauna and other AngloINFO users in Seoul. You can also like us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ordering from iHerb

What is iHerb?

iHerb is a website that sells health related products. For example, vitamins, supplements, groceries and so on. Here is a link to the site http://www.iherb.com/.

Why order with iHerb?

I’ve heard my American friends rave about this website and how great it is. You can find some products on the site that you might not find easily in Korea and because it’s an American site, they have brands that we would be familiar with.  The website is in English so that’s always a plus and ordering is very easy.

Do they ship to South Korea?

Yes. They ship to over 150 countries and South Korea is among those countries.

Personal Experience.

Recently, I’ve started to eat Quinoa and through the recommendation of a friend, ordered it from iHerb. In total my oder was 2 packets of Quinoa, 2 packets of Chickpeas and some vitamins. A pretty small order which came to $28.81  in total. Shipping to South Korea cost $4.00. I placed the order on June 1st and chose Korea Direct post. Estimated delivery time was between June 23rd and June 26th.

I was notified that it had been shipped a day later and was notified again when it reached Incheon. I expected it a day or two later since I live only an hour from Incheon. However, after a week there was so sign of the package. Getting a little worried, I emailed i Herb. The following day, I got a phone call from customs to say that the package had been held until I gave my A.R.C. number. After it was sorted the lady said to wait another 2-3 working days for delivery.

I received it yesterday, June 16th so well before the estimated delivery date. The products were exactly as described and it had been packaged really well.

Apart from it taking two weeks to get to me (my friends have had theirs delivered in 4 or 5 days), I would recommend the website and I’ll definitely be using it again.

 

Stories from inside the classroom.

There are days at school when the students annoy me so much that I want to walk out the window and take my chances. But other days, they are so funny, I almost can’t remember the bad days.

I’ve learned so much from the students and whether they learn anything is beyond me. When first I started at this Kindergarten, I didn’t speak much Korean. Since it’s a Korean kindergarten and I’m the only foreigner, I wasn’t too long learning!

One day at the start, I had a five year old class and no assistant. Everything was going really well until this boy kept repeating something to me in Korean. I had no clue what he was saying so I just ignored him, hoping he’d stop. But he didn’t, he got out of his chair and made a gesture which made it quite clear that he needed the bathroom. I let him out and three minutes later, he’s standing at the door, butt naked holding a piece of tissue! Of all the days not to have the assistant!

 

I’ve learned that no matter how close to five the four year olds are, you probably shouldn’t give them scissors. I learned this the hard way. To be fair, they get scissors in art and other classes so I thought it was a fairly ok idea. I just let them off to cut the paper and when I turn back around one child is holding a clump of his hair. My only thought was ” I am such a failure”.

That’s a thought I have every day though. When one child is spread eagled on the table and another looks like he’s going to use his pencil as a weapon, I feel like a failure.

Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what the children are thinking about when I give them a task. Today, their task was to draw their family. Ryan called me over and said; “Teacher, this is what people look like on the inside”

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He went into some serious detail about how the blood works with the veins and arteries so I looked at him and said “What does this have to do with your family? It’s my father”, he replied. Insert a shocked silence here.

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Just when I think I’m getting through, I realise I’m totally not. The above is supposed to say “This is my father” etc. But the student just did it phonetically, as in Korean so it ended up as “deesmebab” Quite clever if you turn the B’s around. At least he’s making an effort.

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This picture is the “family” of another student. I think that’s him in the middle, the dominant male. I have no idea who the other people are although the person on the right yielding what looks to be an axe looks a little malicious.

The most enjoyable time of day is just after lunch.  The children line up, class by class and brush their teeth. Since the staff room is on the 3rd floor where the four year old’s hang out, they are who I see most of. It is the funniest thing you’ll ever see. They get toothpaste on their faces, in their hair, on their clothes, they let it fall on the floor and then pick it up and brush their teeth, everything. If they eventually manage to brush their teeth, they “rinse” their mouths with water. This means the water ends up on the mirrors, on the floor, they just drink it, they spit it at each other, they try to talk with the water in their mouths, everything. At the end of it all, most of them have soaked themselves and their clothes have to be changed. Funny times.

You should see what happens when they get to play soccer in gym class. The gym teacher throws the ball to them and they try to kick it. What actually happens is that they just miss the ball and then they can’t figure out where it is so they run in circles looking for it. It cracks me up!

I know I’ve made it out that I work in a jungle or somewhere but we have a lot of fun and despite what I actually think, they do learn English!

 

 

How to make Galbi Onion sauce.

When I go for Galbi, I eat the onions in the sauce by the bucket load. For so long, I’ve wanted to know how to make the sauce but I could never get it right. I’ve finally got it down so I decided to share it here.

 

What you need;

1. Soy Sauce

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2. Apple Vinegar

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3. Onions. (You know what they look like.)

The quantity to use depends on you. I pour more vinager than soy sauce but I don’t use an exact measurement.

Simply mix the two together until you find the taste you like, add the onions and enjoy!

 

 

How to use the Norebang remote control

Have you ever gone to a Norebang and really wanted to know how to use the remote control? It’s taken me AGES to figure out  the buttons and as it turns out, you can do some seriously fancy things. In this blog, I’ll take you through some of the basics.

Choosing and reserving a song. 

This is pretty simple and straightforward. Each song has a number. Choose a song,point the remote control at the screen, enter the number into the remote control and then press 예약, as in the picture. This reserves your song. wpid-20140606_165258.jpg noname01

Starting and stopping songs

If your song is the first one and you want to start it straight away, then instead of 에약, you should press 시작 (start)

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If you are butchering your song or just don’t want to sing it anymore, you can stop it by pressing 취소

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That’s the very basic stuff that will get you through any Norebang night.

Now for some fancy stuff…..

On the top, you will see pairs of white buttons with up and down arrows. Here’s what they do (l-r)

noname04 1. 음정– Song Key 2. 템포-Tempo 3. 멜로디– Melody 4. 뮤직– Music 5.  마이크– Microphone 6. 에코– Echo 7. 리버브– Reverb These are for people who can sing and/or take the norebang very seriously. The only one I use here the button to change the key, which can be handy. Another handy button is the button that changes songs into the male or female key. The first one here is to change it to a male key (남음정)

noname05Female key (여음정);

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 So that brings us through the most important song related stuff.

If you want to search for a song, you will need to use the bottom half of the remote control. First you can search by title (제목) outlined below.

noname07You should make sure that you’re searching in the language you want. You can change between Korean and English using this button (한 being for 한글 and 영 being for 영어);

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You can also search by singer or 가수 as it will be on the remote control;

noname09If you really want, you can search by lyrics (가사);

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The final button is one that I’ve never used but it’s for searching National Songs (I think);

noname11 After that, you can use the circle of arrows to move between songs that you search;

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There are other buttons that I haven’t explained and that’s because I never use them so I don’t know what they do. If I find out, I’ll add them to the blog.

In the meantime, apologies for any mistakes in Korean, point them out and I’ll fix them.

Happy Singing!!!!!!

An afternoon around Shanghai

sh2Last weekend, I found myself in Shanghai to play in a football tournament. Arriving Friday afternoon, I just had a few hours to dedicate to tourism.  Since I was staying in the Jing’An Temple area, I first headed to People’s square.

This area, once a racecourse, is now home to Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban planning and exhibition hall and the grand theater. While these were all great to see, the square was all about the people. People were sitting out on their work breaks, some were waiting for their friends, some were meditating, feeding the birds giving it a great vibe.

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After the square, the original plan was to walk through East Nanjing Road, a shopping street, to the Bund. However, I got completely distracted when I saw the Bund in the distance and just walked in that general direction. Although this method took me through some side streets and had the locals looking at me funny, it made for a true Shanghai experience.

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Finally, I made it to the Bund……..

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This whole area features beautiful architecture and the boardwalk is the perfect place to relax and see the area at your leisure.

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I did manage to find Nanjing Road on the way back…..

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Feeling a bit hungry, I followed some locals into this food alley and using charades, bought a delicious vegetable pancake…

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East Nanjing Road had so many stores, this would be a day trip in itself

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My final destination before leaving was the area around my hotel. This is the Jing’An temple area. It looks great during the day but is at it’s best at night.

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All China Gaelic Games and GAA in Korea

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join 2 ladies and 14 men from Seoul Gaels in Shanghai to compete in the All China Gaelic Games. Teams from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Dalian and Seoul, over 200 players from 10 different nationalities took part in the competition.

This was a weekend that showed that GAA in Asia is well and truly alive. I can’t help but wonder if, in 1884, Michael Cusack ever thought that 130 years after the GAA was founded, it would see clubs doing so well in Asia, thousands of miles from Tipperary.

I also think about how we, as Irish people, take GAA for granted. Every parish, village and town has a pitch with proper goals, people who know what Gaelic football is and how it’s played, access to footballs, jerseys, sponsors and trainers.  In Seoul, I see the committee struggle each week to secure a pitch for us to play. Each year, due to the very nature of expat living, there is a huge changeover of players. But despite all the difficulties, clubs continue, training goes on and so starts the dedication to the season and the team.

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Playing here is a little different to how we play back home. Games are 7 minutes a side, 9 players per team. In 30 degree summer heat, 7 minutes is a long time. In Korea, we have our own league with teams, mens and ladies from Seoul, Busan and Daegu. If numbers allow, teams are divided A and B. The league has at least 3 rounds so it provides a great opportunity to improve on fitness and skills between rounds, especially for new players.

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Then, there are Asian competitions like the All China Gaelic Games (ACGG’S), North Asian Gaelic Games (NAGG’s)and the Asian Gaelic Games (AGG’s). For the ACGG’s, only three of us were able to travel from the Seoul ladies team so Shanghai kindly agreed to let us play with one of their teams. This is the perfect example of how attitude is the winning formula for GAA in Asia. There is literally no such thing as “can’t” here. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, nationality or skill set. Everyone is encouraged to come out and get involved regardless of whether they’ve played before or whether they can commit to every tournament or not. It’s that welcoming approach that makes me regret not joining my team sooner. Despite never having met the women from Shanghai before Saturday, they welcomed us as part of their team and by playing with them, we walked away from the tournament having learned a lot that we can bring into the next games with us.

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Our mens team enjoyed exceptional success in Shanghai, losing out on the gold medal by just one point. Two of our players also won All star awards so overall a successful outing.

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It’s not all about the football either. Being part of the team is as much about the craic we have off the pitch as it is about the football itself. The theme for the after party last weekend was “Pirates of the Carribbean” and there were a few strange looks from the other guests in the hotel as pirates walked in and out of the lobby!

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Here in Korea, we’re preparing to host the North Asian Gaelic games this year which we’re really looking forward to. Teams from Japan and China as well as our own Korean teams will travel to take part in the tournament on July 5th.

If you’re interested in getting involved in GAA in Korea, you can contact our clubs;

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

Or for GAA in Asia

http://www.asiancountyboard.com/