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.

Myanmar- the country time forgot

Myanmar has been on my bucket since forever and when the opportunity to take a tour there came up, I took it. I’ve never taken an organised tour before so I had mixed feelings as to the benefits. Was it going to be all go and no down time? Were the other people going to be difficult to deal with? I had no idea and I really didn’t care that much because I just wanted to see Myanmar. The Royal Asiatic Society of Seoul organised the tour and there were two options available, long tour and short tour. I took the short option so I stayed 6 days and 5 nights in Yangon.

After arriving in Yangon, I met the other three people on the short tour as well as the guide. As we drove along, our animated conversation was interspersed by the guide; “Excuse me ladies and gentleman, I’d like to introduce to you my country………” A night at the hotel and we were up and ready for day 1.

The four of us spent our day enjoying the sunshine and touring Yangon University. This really just involved visiting all the love sites and taking a tonne of selfies.

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After lunch we joined the long tour members at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum. This is a memorial built to honour Aung San and six cabinet ministers who were assassinated. In 1983, North Korean agents attempting to assassinate the visiting South Korean president bombed the structure. He escaped but 21 others were killed. The structure was completely rebuilt and although less grand, it is still very beautiful.

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We continued by taking a Yangon Heritage Trust walking tour of the heritage buildings in Yangon. The architecture is outstanding and the buildings are generally in bad repair as they have been neglected throughout the years.

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That evening we enjoyed a buffet dinner at a traditional performing arts centre.

 

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The following day, we enjoyed a lecture by a former university professor who then accompanied us to Shwedagon Pagoda. ,Myanmar is full of pagodas but this one is possibly the most impressive. It is a 98 metre golden spire located at the top of Singuttara Hill and it can be seen from anywhere in the city.

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The next day we climbed on a boat and headed for Twanty, a town known for its pottery. We sailed across the Twanty canal and enjoyed the water taxis taking people to and from work. To get to the pottery, we took horses and carts. Possibly the most humbling part of the entire trip was the visit to the pottery workshop. Workers make anywhere from 150 to 300 pots in a day, depending on the size. The pottery wheels are spun by young girls who give up their education to do this task. The work is so menial and if they succeed in selling all their wares, they will receive just 6 dollars which must be split between them. The work area is dark and dusty but they were so welcoming and patient when we visited, even giving up their lunch break so they could show us around. Of all the things that humbled me, it was this visit.

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We also visited Bogyoke Aung San Museum. This museum was founded in 1962, 15 years after the assassination of Bogyoke. In Myanmar, Bogyoke is the term used for the general. This museum was his home before he was assassinated. No cameras were allowed inside.

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We also got to see the National Museum and got a guided tour through this 4 floor museum.

The reclining Buddha was HUGE. Honestly, so impressive but the most impressive thing I saw there was this monk. Some serious monk swag happening here.

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One of my favorite places was the Bogyoke Market where you can buy ANYTHING you so desire. It is crammed full of jewellery, art, clothes, fabrics and so many other items. This was also a great place to go people watching and there was a great feeling of the local life here.

On the final day we were free from any timetabled events to go wherever we wished. A small group of us headed across the river to a small village where we took trishaws and saw more pagodas and generally just interacted with the locals. To see them continue to wear their traditional clothes is amazing. The skirts are called Logyi’s . They are so easy to wear and I came home with three of them.

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As it turns out, my group were the best craic ever and they made the trip. Upon reflection, if the same person organised another tour, I’d take it in a heart beat. One day I will hopefully be able to return to Myanmar and visit other cities like Mandalay and Bagan. Myanmar was truly fascinating and a trip here is not to be missed. It still hasn’t caught up with the rest of the world in many respects and now is the time to go there before all the tourists arrive.

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You can find out more about the Royal Asiatic Society in Korea from their website http://www.raskb.com

 

Some tips;

 

*Bring US Dollars- We arrived on a late night flight from Seoul. If you don’t have dollars, you won’t have any money until you can make it to a bank. Make sure your dollars are crisp and clean.

*Wear pagoda appropriate clothes. There are so many pagodas so be sure that you wear clothes that cover the shoulders and go below the knees. Also, there are no shoes or socks allowed so carry some wet wipes in your bag.

*Ask questions. The guides are only too happy to be explaining about their city and country so be sure to ask if you have a question.

*Go with a tour or get a guide and driver. I like to think that I’m fairly capable when it comes to travelling around a new city. However, there is literally no way that you will be able to tour Yangon unless you have a guide and driver.

* It’s extremely safe there and we didn’t have any incidents. However, as with all trips, don’t do something you wouldn’t do at home.

 

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!

 

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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