Meeting Marcy Katz

The internet is a funny sort of place. You can meet all sorts of people on the internet and it’s made the world a smaller place.

Two years ago, I got an email from a lady who had read a few of my blogs on Paju. I still have the email conversation in my inbox

Aloha Shauna,
I am from Honolulu, and just stumbled across your blog!
Loved your writing about visiting the hospital in Paju….
My husband and I are going to be visiting Korea and Paju next month

I get emails all the time from people who read my blog and are looking for further information. As it turned out, Marcy was travelling to Korea on a ceramics related trip with her husband and a few friends and happened to be staying in my area. After a back and forth we made arrangements to meet for dinner. It was all a bit random, I admit but the more people you meet in life, the more adventures you have. At the very worst, I thought, I’d get a delicious dinner that night.

I remember that initial meeting like it was yesterday. The weather was still warm but the nights were starting to close in early and I headed off in my car to where I thought the restaurant was. I ended up on this tiny country lane that had a drain on one side and a small river on the other so I had to continue driving for a while before I found the space to turn around. A quick call to Marcy gave me  the exact location and finally I arrived. The restaurant was one of those random places that I’d never go to with my friends. It was some sort of fusion food and delicious enough.

From the start, it was like we had all known each other for years. The conversation went from their trip to life in Korea to tourism and life in Ireland and blog writing and everything in between. What struck me most about the group was their vitality. Each member was a bit older than I but they spoke of a packed schedule and adventures with a livliness that made me a little exhausted! We ended the evening exchanging Facebook information and promising to stay in touch.

Marcy, Bob, Jimie, myself and Liz at Yoree restaurant in Paju.

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And stay in touch we did. Jimie was the first to return to Seoul a year later and we had a most wonderful afternoon together during her stay here. My mum was also visiting at the time so it was a wonderfully diverse meeting.

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The weeks and months flew by and out of the blue, Marcy contacts me again. She will be returning to Korea and would I have time to meet her? Of course! We spent last weekend wandering around the War Memorial in Seoul, me introducing her to Game of Thrones and her telling me all about her ceramics trip and tea picking and her grandchildren. We ate and drank and listened to Jazz and generally had the craic. We caught up on two years worth of news in just 1 day.

The internet is a funny old place alright, but without it I would have never made the acquaintance of Marcy, Bob and her friends.

Cinderella- what might have been.

“It’s boring, we already know how it ends” piped one of my friends while we were watching Cinderella. Being a big fan of fairy tales and having a bit of an imagination, I couldn’t get that statement out of my head. It’s true, the movie was a bit predictable. What if we could write alternative storylines for Cinderella? They don’t all have to end with “and they all lived happily ever after” so  here are a few of what I came up with;

*Photo from Google

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Alternative Storyline number 1; Ella’s mother and father both live to old age. Ella marries a local village hand who is equally as selfless and happy as she. The prince never meets her in the forest and ends up being forced to marry that princess from another kingdom. That princess is beautiful but an awful witch and ends up destroying the prince and his kingdom. Her kingdom takes his in a brutal and bloody war in which he dies. The end.

Number 2: Ella’s father dies first and her mother being so distraught never remarries. They continue to struggle along with the household staff but then they are faced with possible bankruptcy. She is then forced to marry a count from the kingdom and thus Ella is introduced to the prince. They fall in love with each other but Ella’s commoner past is a factor for the prince’s advisors. hey want him to marry the princess from a kingdom far far away. The fairy godmother intervenes and Ella ends up marrying the prince. They all live happily ever after.

Number 3: Both of Ella’s parents die in a random, freak accident involving the mice and geese that Ella clearly adores. She is then forced to marry an old bachelor and continues to live in her house. Her new husband, being of advanced years, dies soon after and, distraught, she rides into the forest where she meets the prince. She doesn’t have a clue who he is and ends up attending the ball in search of another husband. Unknown to her, the prince is totally besotted by her and proposes to her immediately. They all live happily ever after.

Number 4: The story is exactly as depicted in the movie. After she has a fight with her stepmother, she rides off into the forest where the prince and his crew are hunting stag. The prince’s men get a little trigger happy and mistakenly shoot her horse. Ella falls to the ground, breaking her collarbone and wrist. The prince rushes to her aid and insists that she is brought to the palace to recuperate. She spends 4 months there receiving treatment, during which time the prince falls in love with her. When she is better, she wants to go home but the prince surprises her with a ball during which he proposes. They get married and live happily ever after.

Number 5: Ella has a sister who is equally as good and selfless as she. When her father marries the evil step mother, they are both thrown into a slave type life. It is her sister, however, that rides off into the forest and meets the prince. When he sends out word for her to present herself at the palace, Ella drags her there, wishing to stay true to the wishes of the prince. While there, the prince sees Ella and spends the next few months trying to figure out which sister he loves most. The girls are oblivious to this internal struggle and continue to help and be very popular in the village. Eventually, he chooses her sister and Ella lives her life as a spinster. The end.

*Photo from Google

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And now for the more morbid endings;

1. The story continues as predicted until Ella is returning from the ball. She left it too late to get home before the magic wore off and as they drive along the cliff edge her “carriage” turns back into a pumpkin. She falls out and over the cliff. The kings men are still chasing her and see her fall over but are too shocked by the horses turning into mice and the footmen turning into lizards that they cannot do anything. Ella, as it turns out cannot swim and drowns. The prince never does find her on his search throughout the kingdom. This means that the princess from a foreign land gets to marry the prince. She’s only after him for his money and status and soon starts to poison his drink with arsenic. He dies. The end.

2. The story continues as predicted right up until the evil step mother finds her glass shoe. When the step mother breaks the shoe, she cannot help herself and stabs Cinderella. With no prince and no medical help, she eventually bleeds out. This suits the stepmother very nicely. She buries the body in their garden and the prince never finds her. This results in a failed search for the prince who then has to marry the princess for the other kingdom. He lives a truly miserable life as ruler. The evil step sisters are indeed married off to influential members of the kingdom. They all lead ridiculously material, fake lives and everyone in the kingdom is actually miserable. The end.

I could continue this post for days but most of the scenarios end in death of one character or another. I’m available to write alternative endings for most stories so put your requests at the bottom!~

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!

 

 

Top 5 things to see on Jeju Island.

Jeju is the perfect weekend get away if you’re looking for a break from the main land. Just a 50 minute flight from Gimpo, return tickets can be bought for as little as 100,000 won.

I’ve just returned from my fifth trip to the island and have compiled my top 5 list of things to see on the island.

 

1. Seongsan Ilchulbong- Otherwise known as “Sunrise Peak”, this peak is located on the east side of the island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is said to have risen about 100,000 years ago after a volcanic eruption.

The entry fee is a mere 2,000won.  The climb to the top depends on how fit you are. It generally takes about 40 minutes. It’s not that difficult and there are little look out points along the way.

The view from the top is spectacular. It is also recommended to do the sunrise here.

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At the bottom, you can take the steps down to the sea. You can get a boat ride around the coast for 10,000 won.

You can also see the Haenyeo here. Haenyeo are the diving women of Jeju. For many years, these women have dived into the ocean in search of clams, abalone or seaweed. They are a very unique part of the Jeju island. You may be lucky enough to see them out diving in other parts of the island but twice a day, they do a show at the bottom of Seongsan Ilchulbong.

 

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2. Hallasan– You cannot visit Jeju without visiting Hallasan. Hallasan is a vocano and the highest mountain in South Korea. It has five hiking trails of different lengths and which one you choose depends on your interest in hiking. My mum and I chose a super easy 1.2 km trail (off the Eorimok Trail) which was difficult enough but the view from the top was spectacular. wpid-20140926_145512_pano.jpg

 

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3. Waterfalls- Jeju is full of waterfalls. They are everywhere. I’ve visited a few and my favourite are probably Cheonjeyeon beside the Botanic Gardens. In this are you can see three waterfalls. It is a nice walk from one to another and you cross the Seonimgyo bridge as you go. This bridge has seven nymphs on the side.

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4. The Beach

Jeju during the summer season makes it worth visiting the beach. There are several around the island.  The one we liked best was Jungmun Saekdal beach. There are other things to see in that area so it is definately worth a few hours to visit.

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5. Yongduam and the coast road.

Just a few kilometres from the airport is an attraction calle dYongduam. It is a rock shaped like a Dragon Head. It is a nice thing to see (although it doesn’t exactly look like a dragon). Then hit the coast road for the next 8 kilometres to see the beautiful coast of Jeju. There are several things to do along the way.

 

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And a bonus………THE MYSTERY ROAD!!!!!!

Everyone loves a good mystery road. We found it on the drive around the coast ot maybe the drive on the way to sunrise peak. Anyway, we found it. There is a point in the road when you put your car in neutral and although the road looks to be a downhill, the car will mysteriously go uphill. WordPress wouldn’t let me upload it straight here so I uploaded to Facebook and here’s a link;

 

That’s all for now folks! Add your comments and questions below!!

 

 

 

 

 

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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