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“You’re going to South Korea???”

So I’ve finally decided to start a blog, 18 months after leaving Ireland, a bit late but better late then never!My first blog is just going to be a  recap on the time I spent in Korea, second blog will deal with travelling Fiji and NZ and then I’ll move onto my present whereabouts!

So most of you know I left Ireland in May 2010 for a year of teaching in South Korea, but first I stopped off in Dubai to stay with Mark for 2 weeks! I had a great time there, went to the top of the tallest building in the world, saw the biggest aquarium inside a mall, went to fancy roof top bars, got a warning card for wearing a skirt in a mall, and went to the biggest mall in the world!! (Although Korea also claims to have the biggest mall in the world, but I think they like to claim having the “biggest” things in the world to compensate for something 😉 )

After my fun filled 2 weeks in Dubai, I headed  to South Korea with my bags and what little money I had left! (Moneybags Keogh spent alot of my money that was meant for Korea, in Dubai!) When I first announced I was going to Korea for a year, the first question on most people’s lips was “Why the hell are you going there?”. Back then I didn’t have much of a response other than I wanted to leave Ireland, and I had a friend in Korea who had only good things to say about it (thanks Bryan!).  Now that I have spent time in Korea I can answer the question of why would a person go there much better.

Korea is a country full of culture, age-old tradition, history and more importantly alcohol is really cheap! When arriving and settling into Korea you are faced with so many new experiences and sights. The culture shock is pretty big, the language barrier is massive and the smells are quite offensive to the nostrils! But once you get passed all these things you see the amazing country for what it is. Korea is full of weird and wacky ideas that you will struggle to find anywhere else in the world, especially at such good prices. For example they have jimjilbangs (sleeping rooms where you have the opportunity to avail of the saunas, steam rooms, baths with local Koreans; the one rule being you must be naked!); noraebangs (private kareoke rooms where you and your friends can sing, dance and drink the night away); kisseybangs (kissing rooms-no further explaination needed!) and so much more.

Korea really is a place that never sleeps, restaurants and bars are opened 24 hours, as are noraebangs. Another thing that most westerners like about Korea is the drinking culture- Koreans love to drink; they are the Irish of Asia if you will. Whoever said the Irish drink alot has clearly never been to Korea! In Ireland we binge drink from a Thursday through to Sunday but in Korea they drink every night of the week! It is not uncommon or unusual to see a business man falling around the sreet drunk off his head at 9pm on a Tuesday night. When you see something like this you merely smile and say “Aaah Korea!”.

Although they are big drinkers, Korea is a very safe place and the crime rates are very low. There are no drunken brawls in clubs or pubs, it just doesn’t happen (if it does it’s usuually between the westerners). In my 15 months there I never once witnessed Korean people fighting. I’m not saying crime is non- existant, but for a country with a population of 50 million, crime is extremely low. (Having said that my apartment was robbed TWICE while there, unlucky eh?!)

The second question my friends had when they heard I was going to be teaching children was simply “WHY?”, because, as most of my friends know, I hate kids. Ok ok hate is a strong word but I severly dislike them. So how did I cope being surrounded by them 24/7? I won’t lie, there were days in school in Korea when I wanted to quit and head home to Ireland, other days I wanted to literally murder some of my students, and other days when they gave me a headache so bad that I wanted to curl up in a ball for a week and cry. I shouted at them, I screamed at them, I pounded markers, pencils and pens off the board, I kicked them out of class and I sent home bad reports about them, but with the bad comes the good, and I had more good days than bad thankfully!

Orange Tree

My kindergarten classes were some of the cutest kids I have ever seen, and the most rewarding classes to teach. Of course they were tough work, kids that age have so much energy and are so loud (especially when Rach teacher had a hangover), but they are also so innocent and so affectionate. Teaching kids who walk into your classroom having never even heard English before, let alone spoken it, is challenging to say the least. But after a month, when those same kids can understand you and can speak back to you, the feeling of achievement is really something special. It really does make you feel good about yourself for a few minutes, until you snap back to reality and realise that one of those amazing kids has just vomitted everwhere and another ran into the door! Overall the teaching was another great experience, and there are some students that I will never forget. Having said that, the experience definitely proved to me that I do not want my career to be in educating kids!!!

For me, Korea was just such a unique place that was so much fun. I had the time of my life there, and while I didnt enjoy teaching, I enjoyed every other aspect.  There were definitely some cultural shocks, and the language barrier was massive, but once I got past them, I absolutely loved it. Koreans are very friendly and hospitable and always want to make sure you have a good time. Having said that, they are also very direct. If you look like shit they will tell you that, it was surprisingly refreshing but definitely not for you if you’re easily offended!!

Korea has so much to offer, from the towering cities full of good food and fun activities, to beautiful countryside, skiing and snowboarding, hiking and of course, the DMZ which is the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. It’s a very interesting place and I highly recommend you go if you’re ever in South Korea.

I’ve really only scratched the surface of Korea but I would end up writing a book if I kept going! So I will end that chapter of my life by saying it was the most amazing experience I have had, I loved living there and will definitely go back. While it was hard at times being so far from home, missing my family and friends, and of course Phil, I’m still glad I did it. I was lucky that some friends came to visit, Phil came out twice and my brother and sister also visited! I miss the food, the people, the crazy fun things that can happen only there and I made some  friends in Korea that will be friends for life.

Snowboarding                                                                    .

Until next time 🙂

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