Suwon Toilet Museum.

There’s no way I could leave Korea without going to the toilet museum in Suwon. How many toilet museums are there in Ireland? None.

I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a trek. The closest station is Sungkyankwan University station, 2 stops from Suwon station. From there, you can get a taxi to the museum.

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There is an indoor museum and the outdoor area across the road. The indoor part is a little confusing and really only has 2 floors to look at. If you have children, there are plenty of things to see and do, including a children’s play area.

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Unfortunately, most of the writing is in Korean so not the best if you speak another language but there are plenty of visual images to keep you entertained!

Across the road if the outdoor park, which is entertaining but a little small. We spent ages out there taking pictures and would have spent longer if the weather was a little cooler.

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Overall, this place is worth a visit, even if it’s just to say that you went. It’s a free afternoon but I’d only go back in cooler weather. Although it’s a little small, with the right group of people, this is a great experience. You can check out the toilet museum website here.

Selling your car in Korea- all you need to know.

It’s all well and good to find a buyer for your car, but where do you actually go to transfer ownership and so on? That’s what I asked also. After some research, I found that if you live in Goyang (like me), you go to the Goyang Car Registration centre, here.

What this website doesn’t tell you is what you actually need going along with you. First, you need to visit the centre with the person you’re selling to.

The seller needs;

  • Alien Registration Card
  • Registration of the vehicle. You got this with the car.

The buyer needs;

  • Proof of insurance for the car.
  • Alien Registration Card.

In Goyang, there is not one word of English to help you on your way. So, just do your best at the information desk and the lady should present you with these two documents;

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Fill them out ( yes, they’re in Korean). I think one is a sale document and one is transfer of ownership.  Top section is the sellers information and the bottom is buyer’s information. Then there’s a bit about the car information.

Then get 3,000won and walk to the bank and get this;

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When you get seen to, they will check the car for outstanding fines. Unfortunately for me I had a few. You MUST pay them before you can proceed.

When everything is clear, you simply show these documents and the ones listed above and it’s done. The new owner will get a new registration form that has the car in their name.

I recommend you bring a Korean speaker with you in case you have fines to pay. We had to call so many people to find out how much the fines were and the bank account to pay the money into. Nobody at these places spoke English.

I also recommend you get the number the second you walk in the door. We originally had number 75 and they were only on 43 or something like that. Fortunately, some old guy gave us his number because we were foreign.

You need to check where to do this in your area. My coteacher told me it was city hall and when we called them they said that Goyang had its own car centre. Other areas like Seoul may have different places so be sure to get someone to call and find out.

Overall, after the fines were paid, the whole thing was really easy. If you have any questions, just let me know!

What did you say? Things your students say in Korean.

When I started at this school, I had NO IDEA what the children were saying to me. I work in a Korean playschool so the students only learn English as subject. My favourite story is of a day with the 5 year old’s just a month or two after I started. One of the boys said something to me and by the way he was acting, I knew he needed the bathroom. Unfortunately, the assistant wasn’t around so I just let him off and left the door of the classroom open. A few minutes later, he appears back with nothing on from the waist down. Turns out he needed a hand finishing in the bathroom and with no assistant, he just came back to me!

After that, I promised myself to get my Korean together so I’d actually understand what the students were saying and I did. I just listened to them and since they say the same things day in day out, I would write it phonetically, ask my co teachers and then learn how to say it properly. Here are the top phrases my students say;

  • 쉬 마려워요 (she mar yeah woh yo) – I need to pee
  • 똥 마려워요 (dong mar yeah woh yo)- I need to poo
  • 선생님………( sun saeng nim) – teacher
  • 연필 필요해요 (yun pill pil yoh hay yo)- I need a pencil
  • 지우개 주세요 (gee you gay juice a yo)- Eraser please
  • 색연필– (saeng yun pil) crayons
  • 아파요– (app pie yo) I’m sick/hurt
  • 어떻게 해요 ( oh dok a hay yo)- How do I do this.

Here are some phrases and words that you can say to the students;

  • 애들아! (yeah dra)- Guys!
  • 조용히하세요! (jo young he ha say yo)- Be quiet!
  • 어디 아파요? ( o d apa yoh) – Where are you hurt/sick?
  • 화장실 가다오세요 (hwa jang shil gat da o say yoh)- Go to the bathroom and come back.
  • 빨리! (bally) Quickly

Since we’re here to teach English, you should obviously keep the Korean to a minimum but in a a bind, these phrases may help. As ever, my Korean spelling could be atrocious so feel free to tell me any mistakes!

5 things I love about Korean gyms!

I LOVE the gym and there are so many reasons why. Here are some of my top reasons to love the gym in Korea;

1. The great characters- You are guaranteed to meet great characters in the gym. You get all kinds.

First you have the people who look like they may actually live at the gym. They will be there no matter what time of the day or night you go. They have a little gang also, they all go together and have share jokes and generally have a bit of craic while they’re working out.

Then you have the adjummas. These women are fierce and if they want one of your weights or machines, you’d be best off giving it to them.

Finally, you have the people who are only there for the sake of being there. They look like they just walked off a Nike advert, they do not sweat and spend more time flirting with the gym instructors that anything else.

2. The useless machines– There are so many machines that do nothing in a Korean gym. Take this one for example;10896868_10152728724308016_3251874785038359723_n 10313043_10152728724388016_8410101403486755741_n

What is the purpose of this machine? IT HAS NO PURPOSE! The plate just vibrates and that’s it. How is this in a gym? There is another machine where you can turn yourself upside down. Why would you spend your time upside down? I don’t know why these machines are here but it keeps me entertained watching the people using them.

3. The treadmills– Each treadmill has a tv screen! Fantastical! Plug in your headphones, choose your program and away you go. No need to miss any of your favourite shows or miss your exercise.

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4. The instructors- The trainers here are so brilliant! They know everyone who goes in and they take the time to speak to everyone about why they’re there in the first place. Whatever the reason, they put together a plan that suits and change it up every few weeks to prevent boredom. If your foreign, you become a pet project and I consider the lady in my gym to be my own personal trainer. Amazeballs.

5. The K Pop dancercise classes– I don’t know what they actually call the classes. It’s like aerobics but with k pop dancing??? It’s hard to describe.Are they there to learn new dances or to get fit or a combination of both?  It’s a tonne of adjummas in the craziest outfits you’ve ever seen doing some k pop dances. I tried once and failed miserably. They must be psychic because they looked like they knew what to do before the instructor did. I LOVE being in the gym while these ladies are around. They bring coffees and snacks for after the class and they always slip me some chocolate or fruit on my way out. .

This video gives you the basic idea. The classes in Korea are more intense and the outfits way more out there.

Add your favourite things about Korean gyms in the comment section below!

Teaching Kindergarten in Korea – my words of wisdom

Teaching Kindergarten is possibly the most exhausting thing you can do. My school teaches Korean age 3 to Korean age 7 and after 4 years, I almost don’t know what silence is. Between the crying, the talking, the shouting, the laughing, the sheer activity, it’s always go, go, go.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years*;

1. K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid!

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It’s a marathon, not a race. Set small goals for every class and work on simple things. Use the same words and phrases until they can use them correctly and then change it up. Little by little, they’ll make great progress and enjoy doing so because they won’t be under preassure.

2. It’s all about being organised.

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They might only be 6 but they will eat you alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to know what lesson you’re giving, what games you’ll play, what songs you’ll sing and you have to have all your materials walking in the door.
If you’re new to teaching, make a lesson plan and follow it.
Also, have lots of activities ready. They have zero attention span so changing lots is the key.
3. Have a routine.
Try to structure your classes the same so that the students know what to expect. Have a proper introduction, main class and conclusion.
Introduction is probably the most challenging. How do you get them to sit down, stay quiet and listen? You can try a few chants;
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My personal favourite is “what sound does sh make? sh sh sh”
Once they’re sitting quietly, do your hello song and things like day, date weather, basic things to get them concentrating.. There are loads of Hello songs on youtube. Choose two or three so that they don’t get bored singing the same song every day. Make sure to have actions so that they have something to do.  I sing the theme tune to Happy Days for days of the week and although they claim to hate it, they can all sing it.
4. Be familiar with what is expected in terms of discipline.
Korea is so sensitive when it comes to disciplining children.  Every school should have guidelines on what to do if a child is unruly. Whatever you do, follow up on threats, don’t make idle promises. If you give them three warnings, outline in advance what the consequences will be and sometimes positive reinforcement works. For example, I have a little boy who is a bit energetic in class. At first, I went for being cross with him but after a while I literally showered him with love. Every little thing he did well, I praised him to the high heavens. Now he’s one of my best. Doesn’t always work, but something to think about.
5. Always shake it up a bit.
Every few weeks, do something different. Sing a new hello song or introduce new chants, make up new games or whatever. It keeps the students interested and keeps you from getting bored.
6. Games will save you……..so will props
Students LOVE to play games. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and anything you call a game is a game.
Some games I use;
Matching game (flashcards)
Find the card (flashcards)
Spell the word ( board and a marker race)
Ball games like Donkey
Fly swatters (beating the words that I call out)
Hangman
Scrabble letter games
Musical words (dance around until the music stops and then find the word I call out)
Sorting games
Dice games (throw a 6 means name 6 words of a category)
Props are also a great way of gaining interest in what you’re doing. Just putting flashcards in a container and making a big fuss of opening it is all they need to pay attention.
7. Knowing that your plan will always go out the window when you step into the classroom.
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No matter how great you are, something always happens that throws your plan off. A child gets sick on the desk, pees on the floor, a fight happens, whatever. Just go with the flow in the most organised fashion possible and if all goes to all, every child LOVES to draw a picture!
If you have any questions about anything, just let me know!
* All opinions are mine. I’m in no way an expert on teaching, these are just some things I’ve learned!

Emart Town- Ilsan

When regular Emart combines with Emart Traders, Emart Town is the result. On June 18th, one opened beside Kintex and my coteachers came back with stories of how brilliant it was.  I headed along myself to see what all the fuss was about.

Where is it?

This Emart town is in Daewha, Ilsan. It’s next to KINTEX. Honestly, unless you have a car, it can be a bit difficult. It is on the road opposite Hyundai Department Store. It’s very well signposted. If you want to go but don’t have a car, simply get out at Daewha station and get a taxi to Emart Town. It’ll be a 5 minute or so drive.

I believe the 062 bus stops there but cannot be certain.

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What can I buy there?

Everything! There is an Emart, an Emart Traders (for Costco style shopping), restaurants, a hairdressers, beauty shops, a pet store, an Electro Mart and possibly many that I’ve forgotten.

I went to the Traders section and was over whelmed by the sheer quantity of products available. I spent about an hour picking up my things but I could easily spend an entire day there.

Random Tip- The green trolleys are for the Traders section and the yellow trolleys are for the regular Emart.

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Do I need a membership card or special credit card?

No. The best thing about Emart Town is that you don’t need to be a member at all. You can pay in cash or by card. If you have an Emart points card, you can use it but if you don’t, no problem.

Worth a visit?

Definitely. There are a few things that make it a better shopping experience than Costco;

  1. The place is HUGE so while there are a lot of people, it doesn’t feel like that.
  2. No membership card needed.
  3. Great range of food. In my opinion, better than Costco.
  4. It has a regular Emart so if you don’t want 5 million of something, you can buy it there.

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Get involved with Irish music in Seoul!

Lately, I’ve had a lot of messages and emails from people interested in getting involved in Irish music in Seoul. I definitely won’t complain about this. It’s great to see the progress that Irish music is making here. When I started playing in Seoul, we were hard set to find a place that would hold a session. Now, we literally don’t have enough time or people to keep up with the demand.

If you play Irish music, sing or dance, you’re always welcome at one of the many sessions that happen in and around Seoul. Your first port of call should be the “Irish music in Korea” Facebook page. Request to join the group and then you’ll be up to date on the sessions that are happening.

Generally, every second Friday night, there is the Tulip Session in Myeongdong.

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Once a month, we have a session in Dublin Terrace in Gangnam.

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Finally, we have the weekly Sunday Session in the Wolfhound Bar in Itaewon. It starts around 4pm and ends around 8pm. This is my favourite session for so many reasons. Some of the best sessions I’ve ever had were in the Wolfhound.

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As with the nature of these sessions, we do extra sessions, we do less depending on the time of year and so on. If you have any questions about Irish music in Korea, feel free to email me or go to this website http://www.ceoltoirisoul.com/

*This information was correct at time of posting (June 2015)

The LASIK experience.

My first pair of glasses were giant pink ones that enveloped my entire face. I didn’t care though, I loved them and that’s all that mattered. As time went on, I got a little more stylish with my glasses and contacts were eventually added to my eye wardrobe.

That’s the way it’s been for 20 years, glasses and contacts. Now, I’m a few months away from returning to Ireland to study so I decided that I should get LASIK while it was available to me at a good price. Among the many advantages to living in Korea are the medical procedures. You can have any procedure you so desire and it won’t break the bank. People pop in for nose jobs here like they pop in for a manicure.

My friend had gotten LASIK done before she left and was happy with the result so I went to the same clinic as her. It’s called Yeabit eye clinic in Hwajeong. About a month before the procedure, I went in for a consultation.It took one hour. It basically involved them testing and measuring my eyes to check that I was a candidate for the procedure. They also put three different drops into your eyes which dilates your pupils so my eyes looked a bit funny for 24 hours.

For two weeks before the operation, you’re not allowed to wear contact lenses.I had my appointment on a Thursday and on both Monday and Wednesday, the nurse from the clinic Kakaoed me to remind me of things and give me a chance to ask questions.

The day of the procedure, I was slightly terrified. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. What if I go blind? What if the machine breaks down in the middle of the procedure? What if……and so on. Eventually, I told myself to man up and just do it. You have to do the same few tests when you arrive so they can compare measurements and so on. You then go to the pharmacy, conveniently next door to collect your eye drops.

Back to the clinic and you get a shot in the hip. What’s in the shot I don’t know but it didn’t do me any harm. Then they draw blood for your Plasma drops. Plasma drops are exactly what you think they are, eye drops made from the plasma in your blood.

Then they lead me to my waiting room. I’ve been to hotels where the room wasn’t as nice as this one. It had a bed, a wardrobe, a couch, a sink, a foot stool and the glass in the window was multi colored. The place was so beautiful. The nurse came in again to  explain what would happen during the procedure and what to do and not to do and so on. For both eyes the procedure takes just 15 minutes. The key is just not to move after they position your head.

There was no need to work myself into a state over the operation. It was all very basic really. You lie on a declined chair and the doctor places you head in the correct position. After that they place a mask over your face and cover one eye. The drops go in, you look at the green light and then the red one and then it’s done. They place something in your eye so you can’t move it. The worst part is after the laser. They warn you it’s coming and not to close your eyes but between the anaesthetic and the darkness that comes, you don’t know whether your eye is open or closed so you just have to hope for the best. Your vision only goes for a few seconds before it returns. Then the second eye is done and it’s all over.

Honestly, the worst part of the whole experience was when they removed the mask from my face. It sticks to your face and I believe that I left a layer of my face on it when they took it off. I expected to be lead, unable to see to the waiting room but I had vision straight away. I waited 10 minutes for the good of man kind before I walked away. I caught a taxi and went home.

For three hours, you get “onion eyes” That’s the best way to describe it. It’s not painful but it feels like you’re chopping onions. I just lay down, closed my eyes and entertained myself by praying, listening to music, singing, talking to myself and so on. By the end of the three hours, the stinging had gone and I felt back to normal.

For the next few weeks, I’ll have to put drops into my eyes at regular intervals during the day.

Today, I returned for a follow up and my vision is better than 20/20. Wahoo! Supervision! The bad news is that I’m not allowed back to football for a few weeks but it’s a small price to pay for perfect vision.

LASIK is the best decision I’ve made and I highly recommend it. Here are all the need to know details in terms of the financial side of the procedure.

Consultation fee: Included in procedure cost.

Procedure: 900,000won total for both eyes.

Medicine: One day of pain killers (which you only take if you need )

2 sets of drops: 17,000won

Plasma Drops are included in the 900,000

Follow up check: Free

Total Cost 917,000won.

I live in Ilsan so I got this done at Yeabit eye clinic which it right beside Hwajeong Station on Line 3.

Random Recommendations:

Eat a meal shortly before the procedure.Then afterward you can close your eyes for three hours and not worry about food.

If you have no complications, go home as soon after the procedure as you can. The onion eyes only started as I was travelling home in the taxi so if you can get home before the onset of that, brilliant.

Take a rest day the following day. Although I feel perfectly normal, my eyes still look a little red and are a little tired from yesterday so naps are required.

If you have any questions about this that I can help you with, just drop me a line shaunabrowne87@yahoo.co.uk

ONDA Salmon – a review

If I had a tonne of money, I’d eat salmon every day. Unfortunately, I don’t so when my friend suggested we should try a salmon restaurant for her birthday, I was all ears.

ONDA Salmon is located in the Hongik area of Seoul. I hear that ONDA is from a Spanish word meaning “wave”.

The location of ONDA Salmon is a little difficult to get to if you’re not familiar with the area. The closest station is Sangsu and it’s about a 5 minute walk from there. If you follow this link, there will be a map, http://www.koreanetwork.com/listing/onda-salmon-%EC%98%A8%EB%8B%A4%EC%82%B4%EB%AA%AC

The restaurant has two opening times, 1pm to 3pm and again from 5pm (or perhaps 5.30pm) to 11pm. Luckily we had a made a reservation as there was a queue forming when we arrived in time for the second opening. The interior is not that large with perhaps 10 or 12 tables in total. We were a party of just 5 people so it was very comfortable for us.

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Naturally, everything on the menu centers around Salmon. The dishes are a little pricey but worth it. For three dishes, four Sangrias and a soft drink the cost was 115,000 won.  The salmon was fresh and tasty and possibly the best I’ve tasted in Korea so far. Service was fast and the waiter spoke English. Portion size was ok. It could have been larger. One member of our group ate virtually nothing and the rest of us cleared everything but I felt that a little extra would have gone a long way.

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I’d go back here again for sure but can’t see myself regularly frequenting the restaurant. As ever, if you have questions, please leave them below!

AXA Direct English Website for foreigners in Korea.

When you drive a car in Korea, your greatest barrier can sometimes be finding car insurance. Car insurance is mandatory in Korea so it’s really important to consider the brand and coverage very carefully, which is never that easy for foreigners.Recently, AXA Direct just opened up a comprehensive English insurance website!I checked it out and have all the details below. Thanks to the newly opened English website of a global insurance brand AXA,every service with car insurance is now available in English.

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What is AXA?

AXA is a global insurance brand with 100 million customers in 56 countries worldwide.

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Every year, global top 100 brands are chosen by reputable marketing institute ‘Interbrand.’

        AXA has been chosen as the NO.1 insurance brand for 6 years in a row.

How can you find them in Korea?

1. Go to axa.co.kr and  choose ‘English’ from the language tab on top.

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The English site appears.

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AXA provides quotes, service type confirmation, signing up and much more, all in English on the new site which makes it very accessible to expats in Korea.

On the AXA website, everything is readily available in English from contracts to claims.

Now choose your own insurance products and whatever else you need. Everything is in English so there’s no need to get help from a Korean.

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 The red button will “Get a quote in just 5 minutes”

In AXA English Website, even foreigners can easily get quotes

and sign up for their own car insurance.

AXA is one of the few companies in Korea to provide English quotes service online

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보험가입내역

Just enter your registration number (ARC), phone number, and car information.

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 Select your driver type, and then you see the lists of recommended packages that you can immediately subscribe to.

I timed the whole subscription process and it actually does take around 5 MINUTES!

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Also, you can just press “Request a Call” for any difficulties.

They let you book a consultation call with exclusive agents for foreigners only!

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My first year out driving in Korea, I got an overcharged insurance premium because I couldn’t understand Korean.

With a website like this the control is in your hands and you can get the insurance package that suits you. It’s very clear and easy to use and everything is available immediately.

As part of the service, AXA Direct will also provide emergency help in English so if you have an accident or break down or so on.

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They even have a hot-line dedicated for English speakers, providing accident report

and emergency road service. There is also an app available where you can report and accident or call the help desk.

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You can also get help in relatively minor emergencies.

If you’re locked inside your car, if the car unexpectedly stops due to fuel shortage, flat-tire, dead batteries, or for any trouble situations, AXA will come help you.

This is all available from the mobile app.

Can you get a discount?

AXA provides a variety of discount programs with some items like mileage option or black-box registration. With a mileage option, you pay as much as you drive and get additional discount for driving less.

(10% off for driving less than 5000km , 5.6% off for driving less than 9000km)

Other programs include black-box registration discount offered to those who drive with black-boxes, and accident-free discount offered for those who drive accident-free for 3 years.

These 3 discount programs can be offered all at the same time, providing as much as 21.5% off!

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I’m delighted to finally have this service available for English speaking drivers. Click the link below and go find more about AXA.

www.axa.co.kr

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This posting was written along with the support of AXA Direct.