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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Registering for a race in Korea

I LOVE doing races in Korea but registration is usually in Korean so I thought I’d do a blog with some vocabulary and instructions.

 

1. First, decided which race you want to do. Head over to marathon.pe.kr. You should see this home page;

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2. Across the top, you’ll see the different tabs. You should press the second from the left. It’s called 대회일정 (tournament schedule). Then you’ll see this;

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3. Now you should choose the location you want. Races happen all over Korea. Personally, I stick to the ones in Seoul and there are always a tonne in 여의도 (Yeouido). Choose your own and click on the link to be brought to this;

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4. Near the bottom of that page, you’ll see a link. That brings you to the home page which is where you need to go. The home page might look something like this;

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5. Now you have to look for the registration are. Some home pages make it really easy and others make it a mission.  Look for 참ㄱㅏ신청 (Application for registration). When you click on it, you’ll probably see some of the following;

개인: Individual

단체: Group/team

신청조회: Inquiry

Click the one that suits you and then you’ll see a registration form maybe like this;

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Here is the vocabulary you need to know;

ㅇㅣ름: Name

생년월일: Date of birth. ARC first 6 numbers

성별/남/여: Gender/male/female

주소: Address

연락쳐: Contact number

ㅇㅣ메일: Email

참가종목: The race you’re doing. Half, full, 10km etc

기념품: Gear

사이즈: Size

쿠폰입력: Coupon details

입금ㅈㅏ명: Name of person who will send the money

비밀번호: Password

비밀번호확인: Retype password

확인/최소하기 : Enter/cancel

Once you click “enter”, you’re done. Just transfer the money into the bank account. You’ll find the bank details on the home page of the race.

About a week or so before the race, you’ll get your package with your gear, number and chip.

 

Apologies if there are mistakes in the Korean. Any questions, just ask!

 

We Run Seoul 2014

The Nike “We Run Seoul” race is one of the most hotly anticipated races in the city. So much so, that registration only opens 2 weeks before the event. On that day, Koreans everywhere sit beside their computers to get a place. The race only has 2 divisions, 10km and 21km. There are 20,000 spaces for the 10km and 10,000 for the 21km.

While I wasn’t exactly sitting and waiting for the registration to open, I did try that day and failed to get a place. My Korean friend, however, got a place and couldn’t do it so she gave it to me!

The gear arrived the week before the race and the pack was a simple Nike t shirt, a plastic bag (for storing your gear on the day), the number and a voucher. The chips were already glued to the back of the number so that made it more convenient than usual.

The race itself was a bit of a let down. First, it is important to show up early, as your gear must go into the lorries before 2pm. Since the start and finish points are different, the lorries go ahead of the runners and you can collect your stuff at the finish line. The race doesn’t actually start until 3pm. That leaves lots of time for lunch, coffee, stretching, whatever. Runners are divided into 4 categories, A,B,C,D.A & B are the long distance runners and they leave first.

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Hanging out in Gwanghwamun before the race.

 

 

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It looked like this for all 10km……..

I was group D and despite doing my best to get close to the top I couldn’t and ended up a long way back. I could hear the M.C. talking to the crowd and if I heard the “Just do it” slogan one more time, I would gladly have jumped up and shoved the microphone down his neck. A lot of people looked like they were there to try out for Nike models and looked fit to do anything BUT run.

Eventually the C group left and since there were just so many of us we got to leave together. Because the stage was by the start line and the M.C. was some famous guy, everyone wanted a picture which slowed the whole thing down.

The race started in Gwanghwamun and finished in Yeouido and it was lovely to see people either side of the road cheering you on.  The sheer volume of people made it close to impossible to run. I initially thought it was space out after the first few kilometres but it didn’t. A kilometer 5 there was a band playing and of course people just stopped up for pictures creating another pile up. Just as we were almost finished, the road narrowed and there was a bottle neck of runners. After that though, the sprint to the finish line was clear.

All in all it’s always good to do a race and it was great to see so many people getting out and involved. If you’re a serious runner I recommend you do the 21km. I can’t see myself do that particular race again but getting to run through the city was really nice.

 

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My friend and I at the finish!

 

 

5 things I’ve learned from 5 years in Korea

It’s been five years since I first stepped off the plane in Incheon but in reality, I can recall the details of that day like it were yesterday. I remember the intensity of the heat, the terror of being driven on the “wrong” side, the clothes I was wearing, everything. When I look back now, I can see how my experience here has molded me into the person I am now, how Korea has challenged me to think differently and how the people I’ve met have influenced my thinking in a new way.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way;

1. People will always be people, no matter where they’re from. When you travel, you become aware of how different nationalities have stereotypes, the Irish like to drink, Americans are loud and annoying etc. Living in Korea, you meet people from many different countries around the world.  Stereotypes don’t hold with individuals. Not every Irish person likes to drink, not every American is loud. Every country has the  energetic, hard working, beautiful individuals as well as the annoying, rude jerks.

2. You can always find help. Moving to a new country, on your own is a daunting task. You consistently think in “What if’s”. What if I get sick? What if I get hurt? What if, what if, what if. I have a friend who just spent a month in Cambodia, alone for 3 weeks of that. During those 3 weeks, a family member died in her home country and she fainted after catching her finger in the hostel door. During these trying times, it was the kindness of strangers that got her through. It’s the same living here. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve injured myself or gotten lost or needed some form of help and despite the fact that at the beginning my Korean wasn’t great, I have always received help.

I should also point out that your friends are your family here. I’ve seen so many situations where a group of friends have rallied around to help someone who they possibly met only a few months earlier. A good, core group of friends can never be underestimated.

3. You can become the person you want to be, not the person society dictates you should be.  When you live in your home country, there is a certain pressure to live the life that the society dictates for you. Moving to a new country changes that. You start from scratch. New job, new apartment, new life, new friends and new you. Nobody knows you, nobody has expectations of you and it’s up to you to do a much or as little with that as you want.

4. Comparisons are not worth it. It’s swings and roundabouts.  I have a certain life in Korea. For me, it’s a great life. I travel a few times a year, I have been fortunate to meet great people and have great opportunities given to me. Then, I hear about some friend or other back home who just got married or had a baby or built a house and I can’t help but compare our lives. But, comparisons are useless because our lives our different. There’s no life better or worse than the next, they’re just different. I gave up my life in Ireland for my life in Korea and yes I’ve given up certain things but I’ve gained others so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

5. You find yourself capable of so much more than you thought possible. When you move abroad, you’re on your own.  At the beginning, so many things catch you. The first time I got an electricity bill in Korea, I had no idea what to do with it. I didn’t know how often it came, where to pay it, nothing.Something so simple that I wouldn’t give two seconds thought to in Ireland

It’s the same with language and making a life for yourself. Being forced into a situation makes you think differently and react differently to situations and you become a more mature, capable version of yourself. Five years ago, when I landed in Incheon, I would never have thought that I’d be capable of being the chair of the Irish Association in Korea, but I am. A positive consequence of  living and travelling in Asia is that it has forced me to use every skill I possess get by.

 

My first weekend in Korea……

 

1st weekend

 

Me these days………..

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Moving Apartment in Korea

In the five years I’ve been in Korea, I’ve only moved twice. The first time was to a bigger apartment just down the street but this time I made the big move from Paju to Ilsan.

It all happened rather quickly. I knew for a while that my apartment contract was up and informed my co teacher of my intention to move to Ilsan. Neither of us saw the urgency of apartment hunting before summer holidays so we both arrived back on August 4th with no new apartment sorted. We were so slack that we didn’t even know when I was supposed to move out of the apartment I was in. After a phone call to my land lady, it turned out that I had just 10 days to get myself together and move out.

This is when my co teacher proved how much of a legend she was. Ilsan is a large enough city with several areas. Here is a map I got from Wikipedia; (http://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/%ED%8C%8C%EC%9D%BC:Korea-Goyang-si-Ilsan-gu-map.png)

 

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My school is in Daewha so naturally I wanted to stay close but after a few more phone calls my co teacher deemed the apartments too old to stay in. By lunch time on Monday she had chosen an area she saw fit and had an appointment booked with the real estate agent. Excellent.

5.30pm and we’re looking at apartments. I should take the time to outline how this works. For me, the apartment is provided by the school. This means that I was on a budget in terms of key money and rent. Key money is the large sum you hand over at the start and you will get it back at the end of the contract if there’s no major damage to the apartment. In this case it was 5,000,000. Key money can be any amount though, from 3,000,000 to 20,000,000, depending on the size of apartment.

Then you have your monthly rent. In my case it was 500,000. Again, rent can be any amount depending on the size of the apartment, area you live in etc etc.

So we looked at a few apartments. My coteacher turned out to be super fussy. There was a funny smell, it wasn’t big enough, the building wasn’t secure enough, bad location and on and on until we arrived at a brand new building.

So new, that the apartments weren’t even finished yet. We looked at a one room but since there were no doors, I stumbled into a larger two room. This was my preferred space and after my co teacher negotiated the rent, I was good to move in.

My boss signed the contract on Tuesday and the following Thursday I moved out of my old apartment. Looking back, moving out was a stress free experience. I simply put my stuff in boxes, left them together and had the movers take care of them.

Moving out of an apartment in Korea is actually a big business.. You call up a moving company and tell them when you’re moving. They confirm that they are available and ask how much stuff you have, what floor you’re on and what floor you’re moving to. You get a price and pay a deposit. They turn up to your apartment on moving day, park the lift and truck outside, speak with you about what you’re taking or leaving and then you’re free for 30 minutes. Well that’s how long it took for them to move all my furniture and stuff out of the apartment. And they are thorough. They simply take out your window and move everything out. Here are some pictures to give you the idea……

 

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You can see the crates in the last picture. While they were doing that, my co teacher and I were having some refreshments…..

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The worst part of the day was sorting out the bills at my old house. We had to go to the real estate for that apartment, who had to call the gas company, electrical company and figure out how much was owed. Eventually, we got it done and off to Ilsan.

Same thing happened there but in reverse. They took everything from the truck and it was all put into my apartment. The man even suggested where he though everything should go. They were so good in fact, that they re made my bed and put my shampoo and conditioners in the correct area. After that, it was me and a tonne of boxes in an apartment building where I am the only resident.

The new place is working out well. It’s more compact that my old place but more of an apartment, if that makes any sense. Everything is new and there’s CCTV around the building, an electronic key pad on the door as well as a camera outside to see who rings the bell.  It has a beautiful shower and the days of having the shower over the sink are over! (It’s the small things in life, you know)

Right now I don’t have any pictures of the new place but as soon as I do, I’ll upload them here!

 

3 ways to find an E.S.L. job in Korea

If you had asked me how to get a teaching job here three years ago, I would have responded with a list of recruiters. Now, the method by which teachers are recruited has changed. Lots of schools want to cut out the middle man so here is my list of how to get a teaching job in Korea;

1. Update your status.

Everyone has Facebook, right? Some people use Twitter. These are honestly some of the most powerful tools to get you that job.

Think about it. There are so many people who are either currently living and working in Korea or used to work here and still have contacts.  If you have 500 friends on Facebook and just one of them shares your status about wanting a job in Korea, how many people have you reached? Ask even friends of a friend to get in touch and keep an ear out for possible job openings.

My good friend Janet (http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com) has recruited 3 people for her school alone. She simply used the power of social media to get the word out.

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2. Search the web;

Some school try to hire directly so they advertise on websites like Craigslist and Dave’s E.S.L. cafe. . Recruiters also post here. There are also group on Facebook like  “jobs in Korea” that get a variety of postings from schools and recruiters you can look into.

 

3. Use a recruiter;

A quick survey on my Facebook page showed that people highly recommend;

1) Korvia Recruiting  – For public school positions.

2) Korean Horizons– For public school positions.

3) For South Africans, Teach Korea.

4) Star Teachers 

 

With using a recruiter, make sure they are actually IN KOREA. The exception seems to be Teach Korea. They are based in South Africa. According to a friend this is because there are very specific problems with getting all the documentation in S.A. and this recruiter is excellent at walking you through what needs to be done.

From experience, choose a good recruiter and then trust them.

* All the above were recommended by friends. If you have one that you’d like to share, please comment below!

 

 

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 pay your bills at the bank machine in Korea

I have finally mastered the art of paying my bills at the bank machine by myself. Hold the applause, it only took me about 4 years.

There are loads of ways you can pay your bills in Korea. Just to make it clear, I’m actually talking about my gas and electricity bill, nothing else. Some 7-11’s, GS25’s and other convenience stores take payment. This is convenient if you work all day and can’t make it to the bank within the opening hours. (A list of these places are on the back of the bill)

To make life easier for everyone, I’ve decided to put the instructions and some terrifically bad pictures up here.

What you will need:

1. Gas and/or electricity bill

2. Bank card

wpid-1400826894950.jpgGo to the machine that looks similar to this one. Put in your card.

There are 5 options on the screen, all in Korean. You’ll be looking for the top one on the left. It’ll say 지로공과금 납부. Press this button. 

Then you should tear off the part of the bill that is demonstrated on the screen. Insert it in to the machine.It might say 공과금 투입구 

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If you have 2 bills simply insert them one after another. The amount should appear on the screen.

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Check that it is the correct amount and press

Finally, it asks you to choose the type of receipt you want. One shows (I think) the total you have left in your account, the other doesn’t. Choose whichever you want. Just press 선택 under your chosen option.

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You will get your receipt and that’s it!

*Apologies for the terrible pictures
*Apologies for any mistakes in the Korean typing. If you spot some, let me know and I’ll fix them.

 

Oh to have some relish!

I’ve been in Korea long enough to not miss any food too much but there are some times that I could really go for a bottle of Lucozade or a double decker bar. Or when I’m on the first train home from Seoul on a Sunday morning, I’d love to know that a big fry up was waiting for me at home, but sadly it never is (*sob sob*)

Here are a few of the foods I miss from Ireland:

Relish:Let’s face it. Ssamjang is a fairly poor substitute for relish. Nothing says sandwich like a good spoonful of Ballymaloe Relish. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, you can check it out here. Eat that sandwich with a packet of cheese and onion Taytos and a cup of tea and it’s a perfect meal.

I’m quite partial to relish at the best of times and did bring some back with me at Christmas that I’m rationing but to have a constant supply of relish would be like all my Christmas’ in one.

While stalking the internet looking for relish the other day I found this on the Viking.ie website of all places.  All that relish in one basket……

Clonakilty fry making materials: Burnt sausages, a few rashers, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, brown bread are all the perfect Sunday morning breakfast. Any substitutes are just not the same here…..

Brown Bread: Nothing goes better with a cup of tea than a slice of Mammy Browne’s brown bread. Of course I could and have made it myself but it’s just not the same.

Barry’s Tea: This one technically doesn’t count since you can get Barry’s tea here. There has not been a time in the five years I’ve been here that there hasn’t been a supply of Barry’s in my press. Boxes here are the small ones but I think I could somehow convince someone  to bring me this one………..http://www.vikingdirect.ie/catalog/catalogSku.do?id=0465&cm_cat=2000000361

Double Decker Bars & Curly Wurly’s: Double Decker bars and curly wurly’s eaten straight out of the fridge are perfection.  Other Asian countries stock Cadbury’s so whenever I’m on holidays, naturally I stock up on such items, tell myself I’ll ration them out but then have 75% eaten by the time I land in Incheon.

Cheese: Some mature dark cheddar from Kilmeaden is exactly what Emart needs to start selling. Cheese here doesn’t even come close to what it is back home.

Coleslaw: Here’s a random one. Coleslaw from Supervalu Roscrea is my favourite by a very long mile. It’s perfect and my attempts to replicate it have failed miserably. I got “coleslaw” with a meal I bought here once and what I got was nothing more than a dob of mayonnaise and a piece of cabbage. Imagine a sandwich with Bernie’s coleslaw and Ballymaloe relish. Since I try to keep things going to Tipperary and Roscrea in particular, here’s a link to their Facebook page

Fizzy Drinks: Or “minerals” as they are sometimes referred to in Ireland.  As mentioned above, there are times when you would just love to have a bottle of Lucozade or some club orange. So delicious, it deserves a picture;

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If anyone should so feel the need to buy and send me one of these, I would be your friend forever. In the meantime, I’ll continue eating this poor excuse of a sandwich while sobbing quietly in the corner……………..