Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan is undoubtedly becoming a very popular place. Recent construction has seen the arrival of One Mount, MVL, Aqua Planet and lots of new apartments to deal with the increased population. It’s just a short drive from Seoul and it’s a really fun city with lots to offer.

One of my favourite things to do in Ilsan is a trip to Lake Park.  Lake Park covers a HUGE area, over 900,000 square metres and boasts the largest artificial lake in Asia.

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These days, I go to the park to run. The track around the perimeter covers approximately 4.9km and it’s so wonderful to see the assortment of walkers, cyclists, runners, skateboarders out and about exercising. The walking trail is longer at about 8.9km. There is also a basketball court and a game area.

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If you’re not that into exercising, fear not. There are a tonne of things to do in the park. It’s the ideal venue for a picnic and a get together with your friends. It has lots of open spaces for people to sit and enjoy. I’ve gone with my friends a few times and the atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon is perfect. It’s peaceful and relaxed and you can spend the afternoon people watching is you wish.

It’s a great place to bring your family. There are lots of things for children to see and so.

 

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You can easily get lost in the park. Even a gentle walk will bring you to pagodas, gardens, the cactus centre, the mini zoo, there is such a variety of things to do here, you can never get bored!

At the weekend, you are bound to find live entertainment in the park. There always seems to be a band or singers performing and entertaining the crowd.

A few tv dramas have been filmed here also, the best known probably been Star’s Lover.

 

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The musical fountain is also here. You can enjoy a performance several times during the day.

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Really close to the park is One Mount and Aqua Planet. One Mount has both a water park and a snow park as well as shopping so together, this could be the perfect get away from Seoul!

 

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Directions: Jeongbalsan Station (Subway Line 3), Exit 1 or 2.
Walk along Jungangro-1261 beon-gil Street or Jungangro-1275 beon-gil Street for 10min.

For those with a car, there is a car parking fee. It is 300 won for the first 30 minutes and an additional 100 won for every 10 minutes after that.

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!

 

 

An afternoon around Shanghai

sh2Last weekend, I found myself in Shanghai to play in a football tournament. Arriving Friday afternoon, I just had a few hours to dedicate to tourism.  Since I was staying in the Jing’An Temple area, I first headed to People’s square.

This area, once a racecourse, is now home to Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban planning and exhibition hall and the grand theater. While these were all great to see, the square was all about the people. People were sitting out on their work breaks, some were waiting for their friends, some were meditating, feeding the birds giving it a great vibe.

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After the square, the original plan was to walk through East Nanjing Road, a shopping street, to the Bund. However, I got completely distracted when I saw the Bund in the distance and just walked in that general direction. Although this method took me through some side streets and had the locals looking at me funny, it made for a true Shanghai experience.

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Finally, I made it to the Bund……..

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This whole area features beautiful architecture and the boardwalk is the perfect place to relax and see the area at your leisure.

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I did manage to find Nanjing Road on the way back…..

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Feeling a bit hungry, I followed some locals into this food alley and using charades, bought a delicious vegetable pancake…

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East Nanjing Road had so many stores, this would be a day trip in itself

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My final destination before leaving was the area around my hotel. This is the Jing’An temple area. It looks great during the day but is at it’s best at night.

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All things beauty.

If my mother taught me three things about taking care of my skin it was cleanse, tone and moisturise. That was it. That’s what would make my skin great and for the years I was living in Ireland, it worked.

When I moved to Korea however, that all changed. There were stores every few metres selling products I’ve never heard of.  For me “essence” was a word that proceeded vanilla, “serum” was the cure for a random disease and although I had no idea what “emulsion” was, I would have guessed it had something to do with paint.

After reading an article on the uses of all these products by the author of The Wanderlust Project, I decided I would try a more Korean approach to skincare.

Skincare products in stores like Etude House, The Faceshop and Missha are extremely affordable so I figured there wasn’t much to lose.

Now my skincare regime goes like this;

1. Wash face with a cleanser.

2. Cleanse (using a cream cleanser)

3. Tone.

4. Apply Serum. A serum has a specific function more than what a moisturiser can achieve. For example brightening, whitening etc.

5. Apply Emulsion. An emulsion is a very light, thin moisturiser.

6. Apply moisturiser.

7. Apply sunscreen. If your moisturiser has an spf, this isn’t necessary.

8. Primer. Prepares your skin for makeup.

9. BB or CC cream. Here are some of the ones I use;

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10. The rest of the makeup. However, if you’re just going for a normal day the CC and BB might suffice depending on the type of skin you have.

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It’s slightly exhausting to do it all the time and frankly it’s a little time consuming. I’m sure I’ve actually skipped some steps because I’m lazy so don’t take the above as the gospel of using Korean beauty products.

Has this new regime actually improved my skin?

I’ve always been really lucky to have good skin. There has been a definite decrease in breakouts (possible due to the higher level of attention I pay my skin) and my skin feels more moisturised.

Disclaimer; All opinions here are my own. All products shown are simply personal preferances and no commission has been received. 

 

 

The dentist.

I hate the dentist. The very thought of going there makes my palms sweaty and my stomach turn. I don’t even know why. I’ve never had a particularly bad experience at the dentist but as soon as the word is mentioned I feel slightly sick.

In Ireland, the dentist, like the doctor were only places you went when you actually, desperately had to. Not exactly a great way to be but each to their own.

These days, in the state of being an actual “grown up”, I’ve had to be more pro active about such things so I’ve been to the dentist a few times.  I used to use a dentist in Paju but it didn’t get the most positive reviews from my other friends and nobody spoke English there so I decided to try somewhere new.  .

Yesterday, I went to a place called Star 28 in Ilsan, La Festa.  My friend Ian recommended it to me as they could communicate in English. After getting terrifically lost (how many 5th floors can there be?), I eventually found it and what greeted me when I walked in was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The waiting room had  huge couches, tables and chairs, a computer and magazines to keep you going while you were waiting. The receptionist signed you in and had you filling out the forms as if you were simply buying a new pair of shoes. After waiting there for a while, they could have pulled all my teeth and I wouldn’t have cared.

Eventually I had to see the actual dentist. They brought me to a private room and took some pictures of my teeth. Small talk was had before the nurse explained a little about what they needed to do. I must note here that she told me in Korean and for the most part I understood. In fairness to her, when I didn’t understand she just phrased it differently so I did.

The dentist then came to do his own examination and then we sat and had a great conversation (in English) about what he was going to do. Then the nurse took over and told me how much it would cost, how I didn’t have to pay it in one go and how it would maybe take two visits. She then finished by telling me that I needed some scaling but because I have National health insurance, it was free.

The regular filling was 70,000won (48euros) and the more advanced work was going to cost me 100,000w.(70 euros) I really wanted to say “that’s it? 170,000 won (118 euros)?

Worst thing about the experience is that when you’re having your work done, they put a cloth over your eyes so you can’t actually see what’s happening. In some ways, it’s a good thing and in others it’s bad. To hear the drill or whatever freaks me out but I just practiced some reels in my head so it was all over before I knew it. And painless. I went home and did my usual run before eating dinner.

I have one more appointment next week and now I’m not so terrified so I’ll happily go in and keep my smile smiley and leave knowing that I’ll still have money in my wallet!

A Korean Wedding

I’ll never forget the first wedding I went to here. It was about 3 weeks after I arrived in Korea. One of the teachers at our school was getting married so we all went along. I put on a nice dress, makeup and generally made an effort to look good. We show up and there were people in jeans, we ate lunch 3 times and only saw the couple walk up the aisle before leaving. Since then I’ve been invited to a tonne of weddings and they all generally go along the same lines.

In Ireland, people generally get married in churches. In Korea,  while they get married in churches, more often they married in wedding halls. These halls can have several weddings going on simultaneously and really are like factory production line of weddings. The most recent wedding I went to was in one of these wedding halls and here’s how it went.

I arrived with my co teacher and we found the area that our couple were in (there was another 2 couples there also). The bride and groom were having their pictures taken so we stood watching before eventually being allowed jump in for a picture with the bride.

Then it was lunch time. A buffet lunch, we made our way around eating whatever we fancied. All around the room were projector screens where you could see the rooms where the couple would walk up the aisle. As we sat down for dessert, we could see our friends exchanging vows.

After lunch, my co teacher and I left. That was it. I didn’t actually attend the ceremony and it seemed like I wasn’t expected to either. This was possibly the most heartless wedding I’ve been to.

About 2 years ago, another co teacher got married in a more upmarket wedding where she rented a wedding house, invited only a certain number of people and after the ceremony was a seven course meal that everyone ate together. So every wedding is different.

We also don’t buy gifts in the same way. Most people give money on the day. The amount depending on how well you know them. In the case of my co teacher, we all threw in 30,000won and my boss gave it to the money collectors on the day.

All in all, I go away from every wedding here thinking how strange and somewhat unimportant it feels. Different countries, different ways I suppose.

 

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