Let me tell you a story……

Back in the day when I lived in Ireland, I had a driver’s license and a car. I would bomb all over Ireland in that great car (which has since passed away). This is the car, Suzy. Apologies for the fact that she’s sideways.

Suzy

In the 3 years, I was driving in Ireland, I only got breathilised once.  And what a great adventure that was.

It was a Friday night and my sister, Kathryn (I have 2 sisters) and I were returning from a Chinese in Nenagh.  We were driving the home car.  At the time, I’m pretty sure Suzy the Suzuki wasn’t yet on the scene.  It was a really quiet night and there were hardly any other cars on the road.  We were almost out of the town when we saw the flashing lights and realised that we were going to be stopped at the checkpoint.

Normally, this would freak people out but for me it was the first checkpoint of any sort since I got my full license so I was pretty excited.  We drive up to the Garda, roll down the window and after the usual small talk (where are you going, what are you doing here etc) she asked if she could test my breath for alcohol.  By this time, I was so happy that it was really happening that I replied “NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO problem”  The Garda looked at us and said ” I thought you were saying no. I’m just out of Templemore*, I wouldn’t have known what to do”. When I stopped laughing at this she gave me the instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the beep

It was that simple.  Not knowing how long it would be until the beep, I took a deep breath and blew into the bag. However, after about 2 seconds I heard a beep so I stopped.  It was more of a puff than a breath really but a beep is a beep.  At this stage, I’m pretty sure the Garda thought there was something wrong with me (possibly I had been drinking????) So she had to change the bag and then gave me the second set of instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the big beep.

If she had said that the first time, there wouldn’t have been any problem to start with.  So, once again I blew into the bag.  Except this time I almost ran out of breath listening carefully for the damn beep that eventually came.  I passed (surprise) and so we went on our way back to Ballybrowne.  That was the last time I was breathalised until………..a month ago.

Skip 5 years to my driving in Korea.  I’ve had my car (Spuddy) since November. In the last 4 weeks, I’ve been breath tested 3 times. That’s twice more than in my 3 years driving in Ireland. But the whole experience here is a little bit of a let down compared to the adventure in Ireland.  My first breath test here was driving home from Ilsan.  At first, I thought it was an accident scene, until the traffic was reduced to two lanes.  It eventually dawned on me that it was a drink driving checkpoint and again I was super excited.  I knew there was a blog coming out of this.

I drive up, roll down the window and expect to see a device similar to the one in Ireland.  Instead the police officer put a rectangular shaped device in front of my mouth and told me to blow into the square.  It took a full 2 seconds before the light turned green and I had to drive away.  What a let down.

The other two times I got stopped were coming home from Munsan and randomly outside my apartment complex in Geumchon.  I think there’s a conspiracy here somewhere, but that’s for another day……….

*If you’re not Irish;

a Garda is a police officer

Templemore is where the Gardai train

Nenagh is in Tipperary

Getting a car in Korea

Living in Paju, it is of great benefit to be in possession of an automobile.  First on the agenda was to get a driver’s license.  This was the least difficult part of the process and I had it in a few hours.  I first brought my license to the Irish Embassy in Seoul to get it apostilled.  Then a short work away, I went to the Seoul Global Centre, who have a specific desk dedicated to this exact cause.  First, she handed me an eye test form and sent me on my way.  Conveniently, the eye clinic was just a 5 minute walk away.  So after I got that form in, gave her a passport picture, I handed over my Irish license.  She handed me back a Korean drivers license.  The deal is that if, at any time, I want my Irish licence back, I simply trade in my Korean one.  However, after 3 years, if I’m still in Korea, I can have them both in my possession.  Here’s a picture;

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I got my license in October 2011. It wasn’t until September this year, that I got serious about getting an actual car.  First, I went to Craigslist where I found USFK Classifieds.  Excellent, gave them a call.  What followed was about 6 weeks of my time wasted because of one reason or another.  Every time I called and arranged to go there, for one reason or another he couldn’t show me cars.  Once he was gone to Ulsan to deliver a car etc etc.  So the last straw was when I called on a Friday and made an appointment for the next day ( as requested after the Ulsan incident). So I tell him ( and he was a foreigner) that I’ll be there at 2.30 and he confirmed our appointment.  I get there the next day and he doesn’t even pick up the phone.  I called 4 times and my calls were never returned.  So that was the end of my relationship with that company, they clearly didn’t need my money. 

After that, my confidence was a little shaken.  I was starting to wonder if I actually needed a car.  Then I waited at the bus stop for 15 minutes in the rain and decided that yes, I did need a car. So, I went back to Craigslist.  This time found another website www.karstart.co.kr  Found an email address and emailed them my exact requirements.  Within 30 minutes I had a reply and so started a great relationship.  Before the week was out and thanks to my twitter friends, I had the search down to 2 cars.  Called and Mr Choi agreed to let me test drive both cars on Saturday.  True to his word, he picked us up from the station and after a few metres, let me take over.  This happened with the 2nd car and he was so patient as we checked everything and asked a million questions. 

So then it was business time.  The car came in on budget.  After that there was the small matter of tax and insurance.  Being Korea, a simple phone call was all that it took to get quotes from about 10 different insurance companies.  After choosing the one I wanted (coincidentally the cheapest), I paid my tax, and government charges.  Add an English Sat Nav system to that and my bank account was 4,500,000 lighter.  definitely within the 5,000,000 I was going for. We sorted it all out while drinking coffee and eating oranges in Mr Choi’s office.   

Best of all, he offered to let me drive it away that day but having a party to attend I chose to get it delivered.  Again, true to his word he delivered to my school in Ilsan on Monday afternoon, Sat Nav installed and insurance sorted. 

I’ve called the car Spudnik because…..well just because.

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Do I have regrets? Yes.  I regret wasting so much time with the first company when Karstart had it all sorted within the week.  I’ve only had the car for a day but I drove home from school in 15 minutes where it takes the bus 35. 
If anyone has more specific questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be sure to help in any way.
Imagine what I can do with all the time I’m going to save not waiting for buses. I might actually get more blogs done!!!!