Tag Archives: seoul

“I’m not getting in the car!” – A Half Marathon Abduction

9 Jun

When I signed up to run my first ever Half Marathon in Korea, I never imagined I would find myself limping along a motorway, having ran consistently for 18km, suddenly being shouted at my some strange Korean man telling me to get into his car. No, that was definitely not how I imagined my first half marathon would go.

Many of you reading this blog will probably get a good laugh out of this post. Many of you know me pretty well, and know I’m not *exactly* the athletic type. While I’m ashamed to admit it, the type of marathons I’m associated with involve either sitting on the couch and watching 10 episodes of ‘Criminal Minds’ back-to-back or heading out with friends for a marathon drinking session. Like I said, this is not something I’m proud of but it is the truth!

For Lent this year, despite not being in the slightest bit religious, I decided it was about time I followed in the footsteps of my Dad and gave up alcohol. How hard could it be to not drink for 40 days and 40 nights?! Actually, considering I included all the Sundays, it was actually a 46 days…and while the first few weeks were killer it really wasn’t AS hard as I thought it would be overall. Just don’t EVER make me do another Paddy’s Day sober!

In order to keep myself on track, I signed up to run a Half Marathon in Seoul on March 30th. I’m not entirely sure if I decided to give up alcohol so that I could get fit enough to run the Half Marathon or if I signed up to the Half Marathon to ensure I stayed off alcohol! Either way, the plan worked!

first 10km group pic

With Aiden, Lauren and Tammy having ran our first 10km race of the year!

After months of training in the gym, and completing a few 10km races with some friends, March 30th was fast approaching  and I was slightly terrified. I originally thought the cut off time was 3 hours (and while I know that seems like an awful lot of time to established runners, to me it just about made the race seem ‘doable’!) but the week before I was notified that you must finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes or you will be thrown off the course. I wasn’t quite sure how they would ‘throw people off the course’ but this scared me even none-the-less! In the lead up to the race, another hurdle was thrown at me when my training  buddy dropped out as she felt she was unable to complete the race in time.

I started to get cold feet. “Nobody would know I didn’t run it”, I thought. “Nobody would really care”. However, at the end of the day, I knew I had put the hard work in, had trained (relatively) hard, and had been sober for over  a month. If this was ever going to happen, NOW was the time!

My friend Lauren and I stayed in a jimjilbang the night before the race, which meant we ended up getting only a few hours sleep on the hard floor of a sauna which was packed with Korean families, old men who snored all night long, and the annoying buzzing of a Korean TV channel  showing the news on repeat.

We woke up early, but not exactly fresh-faced, and headed to the Kintex Stadium in Ilsan where the race was being held. Nerves really started to set in on the walk to the stadium, as we saw all the Koreans kitted out in professional running gear. Not only were we the only foreigners, but it seemed we were also the only women! We had a sudden moment of panic that maybe it was an all-mens marathon but worry soon drifted away once we saw an assortment of middle-aged Korean women stretching and preparing for the race. Besides a scattering of Korean soldiers running as a group, I feel we may have been the youngest runners there. Not that this made me feel much better, in fact if anything it made me feel worse. People twice my age were going to be running past me and laughing, and there was nothing I could do about it.

peace marathon

The day the race pack arrived…it even had my name on it. There was no turning back now!

For the first 6 or 7km of the race, I stuck with a group of people who were aiming to finish the Marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes. There was a man with a big balloon attached to his backpack with the time written on it, so presumably if you stuck at his pace for the entire race you would finish around the 2.15 mark. Turns out that was over-ambitious on my part and my the 8th kilometer I was running with the 3.30 group, a group that may well have been first-timers.

We were the group at the back, and behind us there was maybe 10-15 stragglers. Behind them was something that scared us all. Each time I glanced back, it seemed to be gaining speed. It kept getting closer, hovering over us like some sort of evil villain. It was of course ‘The Timer Bus’. This wicked bus followed the race and if anyone, anyone at all, falls to the back of the pack and behind the bus…BOOM you get thrown on the bus and are disqualified from the race. At various stages throughout the race, I came dangerously close to this bus, and every time it crept up behind me I wanted to cry. There was no way I had run this far to drop out and spend the last hour following the rest of the runners on a bus!

I reached the 10km mark in about 1 hour and 5 minutes, and was delighted with this time as it was my fastest 10km to date. I also had a renewed source of energy at the 11km mark, as it meant I was on the home straight. There were 2-3 water stops along the way (not enough in my opinion!!) and 1 food/snack stop. I was so far behind the majority of the runners, however, that by the time I reached the ‘snack stop’ just before the 15km mark, all the food was gone. All that remained was empty cereal bar wrappers and banana peels scattered across the road. DEVASTATED.

At this stage the creepy bus was coming really close to me, and few of the people I had been running with early on had already been forced off the course and onto the dream-wrecker of a bus. I tried to push myself, and fasten the pace, but my energy levels were falling rapidly. The internet on my phone had stopped working and the only song that was loaded was The Proclaimers ’500 Miles’…so that’s pretty much what I listened to on repeat for the last 6 kilometers of the race. Could have been worse, I guess. 

lauren and i

Lauren and I before the race

By the 18th kilometer I was really struggling, and the bus was ramming right up my behind. At the speed I was going (a slow jog) I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete the race in the alloted time. In fairness, the longest run I had ever done before this was 10km, so to get this far was an achievement in itself. No matter what, I told myself, even if I have to walk or crawl the last 3km, I will NOT give up! By muscles ached, my stomach rumbled, my face was the colour of a lobster and my ears started to hurt from listening to the same upbeat song on repeat for the past hour!!

And that is the precise moment that some stranger pulled up beside me and started trying to get me into his car! I was towards the back of the group, all us stragglers sticking together, and this guy starts shouting at me in Korean. He was kind of swerving in front of me, determined to get me to stop. I just pretended not to see him, looked dead straight ahead, and kept pushing my body to run. He would not go away though and soon he started shouting at me in broken English saying, ‘Time’s up. You cannot finish. Get into this car. Get in’. Ehhhh not a chance in hell was I getting in that car. I did not run 18km to give up now. He was super persistent though and drove along side me for the next kilometer shouting intermittently in Korean and English. He finally got the hint that nothing he could say or do would get me into his car and eventually drove off to pester some other runners.

I’m happy to say, despite a wickedly steep hill towards the end, and almost losing my motivation in the final Kilometer, I successfully finished my first Half Marathon in just over 2 hours and 35 minutes and have the medal, certificate and photos to prove it.

half marathon seoul

Tired but happy – first ever Half Marathon completed!

Lesson Learned: Never let anyone stop you from achieving your goals…you have nobody’s expectations to live up to but your own! 

 

 

St Patrick’s Day Festival Seoul in Photos

18 Mar

Sadly I was too busy on the day to take lots of photos like I usually do, but I thought I would share the few I did take anyway. For a full review of the day, check out THIS POST.

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A fusion of cultures – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

18 Mar

Listening to an American Military Brass band open an Irish Festival in South Korea by singing Ireland’s call on a day that many will remember for Ireland’s Six Nations victory, was not something I will easily forget.

Speaking on stage at the 14th Annual Seoul St. Patrick’s Day Festival, The United States Army 2nd Infantry Division band said they were delighted to be there and saw the festival as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the partnership between America, Korea and Ireland.

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The US Army 2nd Infantry Division Brass Band. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A sea of green and smiles and laughter. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

The event, which took place at D Cube City in Sindorim last Saturday, was an incredible fusion of Irish and Korean music and culture and while there are over 1,000 Irish living in Korea, many of whom were no doubt present on the day, it was the presence and participation of so many non-Irish residents that made the festival so unique.

To watch an Irishman on stage speak fluent English, Irish and Korean to an equally stunned and impressed audience, was a true example of what the festival is all about. It is not simply about showcasing and promoting Irish culture abroad, but it’s about being excellent representatives of how welcoming, friendly and adaptable the Irish people are and how open we are to other cultures.

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

It was great to see so many Korean kids enjoying the festival. Photo by Michelle Marie Jenkins

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Some of the finalists in the Costume Competition. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

While Ireland and Irish musicians were well represented on the day, there were also musicians and dancers from Korea, the United States and even China. Listening to Bard, a group of Koreans who play traditional Irish music, play some classic Irish tunes while young kids danced in circles in front of the stage and 1,000’s more soaked up the atmosphere and basked in the first of the spring sunshine really encapsulated the theme of the day.

Other highlights included; watching the crowd look on in awe as Tap Pung, a Korean Irish Dancing troupe, took to the stage and gave Riverdance a run for their money; watching hundreds of waygooks (foreigners) form a human train in front of the main stage while Sweet Murphys Fancy belted out some drinking songs; watching professional photographers click furiously with the knowledge they were getting incredible shots as the finalists of the costume competition lined up near the stage and danced around in a last-minute bid to impress judges and lastly seeing big groups of Korean school children sitting in the audience, delighted with the green balloons and the hilarious Jameson branded “leprechaun” hats which had been given to them for free, smiling and laughing despite not having a clue what was going on!

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

A beautiful Korean-Irish Fusion dance directed by Nannah McGlennon. Photo by Stephanie Anglmyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

Tap Pung, Korean Irish Dancers on the main stage. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

St Patrick’s Day has always been my favourite holiday of the year, even surpassing Christmas and Halloween in my personal popularity chart, and this year was no different. I have always been a very proud Irish citizen, and this pride seems to multiply whenever I’m actually outside of Ireland.

Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Korea this year, however, felt extra special and yet I can’t exactly pinpoint why that is. It could be  that it was my first time being involved in the behind-the-scenes organization of the festival, which took 6 months of hard work and dedication by a team of volunteers who were delighted to see their hard work pay off on the day. It could have been the fact that I was volunteering on the day so had a different perspective from the rest of the crowd.

Finally, and this could be the real answer, it could be because it was my first time in celebrating St Patrick’s Day sober in over a decade. Whatever the reason, pride and joy was simply flowing through me like a fast-flowing river on Saturday and no amount of negativity or difficult situations was going to dampen my spirits on my favourite day of the year!

A snapsot of the colorful crowd. Photo by Stephanie Anglemyer

A snapsot of the colorful crowd.

paddys day seoul

Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Myself and Michelle taking a short break from our volunteering duties!

Big shout out to the Irish Association of Korea for organizing such a  memorable festival and to all the incredible volunteers who helped out on the day. It was the perfect way to welcome the spring to South Korea and another excellent showcase of why everyone loves the Irish!

To see more photos from the day, check out Stephanie Anglemyer’s photography website at: http://www.anklebiterphotos.com/

Generation Emigration – St Patrick’s Day in South Korea

11 Mar

st patricks day seoul korea

Each day this week on the Irish Times website, members of Irish communities around the world will be sharing plans for St Patrick’s Day where they live. Today, I had the opportunity to share my experiences in South Korea and to write about Seoul’s 14th St Patrick’s Day festival, taking place this weekend.

To read the article on the Irish Times website, click here.

Back home in Ireland, preparation for St Patrick’s Day does not involve too much planning, aside from stocking up the fridge, planning crazy green outfits with friends and deciding how early is too early to start the festivities. This year, all that changed for me.

On arrival in South Korea last July, I was asked to join the Irish Association of Korea (IAK), a not-for-profit organisation which promotes Irish culture in Korea. As well as hosting events for the Irish community, it also provides the opportunity for Koreans and other expats to experience and learn more about Irish life. The main event of the year is the St Patrick’s Day Festival in Seoul, now in its 14th year, with up to 10,000 spectators showing up on the day.

Being a part of this active and engaging organisation has given me incredible behind-the-scenes experience of what it takes to plan a St Patricks’s Day Festival abroad. It takes months of hard work by an extremely dedicated team of people. Over the last few months, much of the committee members’ free time has been tied up at meetings, fundraising events and sponsorship talks. I could never have imagined how much time and effort goes into organising one day of craic agus ceoil until I was involved myself.

Now that all the ground work has been done – sponsorship secured, a perfect venue located, great musicians, experienced Irish dancers, story-tellers and local volunteers recruited – we are all very excited for the event to begin.

The festival here Seoul is known for the keen participation from members of both the Irish and Korean community, and this year will not disappoint with traditional folk dancers and musicians playing Irish music, both traditional and popular rock, coming from all over Korea to perform.

Musicians from Ireland will also feature heavily on the bill and the festival will offer an opportunity for the public to get involved, with traditional ceili-dancing, which has grown in popularity every year, taking place at the main stage. There will be face painting and story telling for children.

No festival promoting Ireland and Irish culture would be complete without the GAA present and thus a display of Gaelic football will be hosted by the one of the most successful teams in Asia, the Seoul Gaels Gaelic football team. The Seoul Gaels will also be using this opportunity to seek new recruits for their upcoming season, which starts in April.

The Seoul St Patrick’s Day Festival is the perfect opportunity for people living in Korea to experience Irish culture and get a feel for the wonderful array of Irish talent living here. March 17th is a day when we all think of Ireland and its rich history. To be able to celebrate that here in South Korea shows the extraordinary power of the Irish abroad and I am very proud to be a part of such a great expat community.

Pharrell Williams – Seoul is also HAPPY!

9 Mar

PharrellWilliams_Happy

With the help of my amazing friends, and quite a few total strangers, I just finished filming, editing and uploading a Seoul remake of the Pharrell Williams HAPPY music video. Considering all filming was done on smart phones and the entire video was edited in a few hours, I think we did a pretty good job. Let me know what you think! :)

SantaCon Seoul 2013

9 Dec

Last weekend myself and about 8 friends from Paju attended SantaCon in Seoul, which is a gathering of 100′s of people all dressed as Santa Claus, his elves and everything in between parading around Seoul’s nightlife district singing Christmas Carols and simply being merry.

I ordered 3 elf costumes off ebay and was delighted when they arrived just in time. I also got creative with some fairy lights, colored paper and a giant piece of black foam and made myself a YouTube video / photo booth which I must say I was fairly proud of!

Sadly I didnt take as many pictures as I would have liked  (cause I was having too much fun!) but here is a quick glimpse of the shenanigans had on the night.

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Top 10 Korean Phrases – A Vlog

24 Oct

Last night myself and Shauna (from the amazing “What a Waygook” blog) decided to make our very first Vlog. We wanted it to be informative but also fun, so we decided to talk about the ‘Top 10 Korean Phrases’ that you should know while living here. Shauna asked all of her Facebook friends and followers which phrases they thought were the most useful and then we sat down in Shauna’s apartment, cup of Barry’s Tea in hand and pretty much had a chat about learning Korean.

We must have been chatting for about half an hour when we realised our beautiful video had cut off after 12 minutes due to the memory card being full. DISASTER!! A real beginners mistake, I know, but as my Dad always says, “If you do not learn from your mistakes, your are doomed to repeat them” and I can guarantee you this is not a mistake we will be repeating again!We hoped to teach you the Top 10 Korean Phrases (with a few BONUS phrases thrown in for good measure) but as our video cuts off early, you only get to enjoy the top 8 Korean phrases this time. We will finish the Vlog next week though, don’t you worry!

We really enjoyed making the video together and we are hoping you will enjoy watching it. It was our FIRST EVER time doing this, so please let us know (leave a comment here or tweet us @iamshaunabrowne or @janetnewenham)  if you would like us to make any other videos about life in Korea.

Here are the phrases (Yes, there are actually more than 10, we know!!) written in both Korean and English and with what we hope is the proper way to pronounce them. Happy Learning!

1. Hello- 안녕하세요. Anyeong ha sayo.

2. Thank You- 감사합니다 Gamsa ham ni da

3. Yes- 네 ney

4. No- 아니요 ah ni o

5. Where is the ___________? ________ 이 어디에 있어요? ___ o d eh is oh yo?  For example, “Where is the bathroom?’ The word for bathroom is 화장실( hwa jang shil) so the sentence becomes 화장실이 어디에 있어요?

6. How to I get to _______? _________ 어땋게 가요? o ddeok kay gay yo? For example, How do I get to Seoul is 서울 어떻게 가요?

7. I’m sorry- 미안합니다. me ann ham ni da. There are a few ways to say I’m sorry. This one is very polite and once you get better at Korean you can change the polite level depending on the situation.

8.Discount Please, 갂아 주세요. Gakk ah chew say yo. This can only be used when the price isn’t set. For example at a market or somewhere.

9. Simmer down/calm down; 침착해요. Chim chak hay yo. A great one if you’re out and about and someone is bothering you or something like that.

10. How much is this? 이거 얼마예요? e go ul mah eh yo? (이거 being “this”).

11. Directions; 직진- jik jin,  Straight

오른쪽 oh ruhn chuk, Right

윈쪽 wen chuk, Left

여기 세워 주세요. yoh gi say woh Chew say yo, Stop here please

12. Really? 진짜? jiin ja? I love this word! Even these days when I can’t follow my student or whatever I just reply “진짜”?

13. One moment please, 잠깐만요. Jam can man yo, . You can use this when getting off the subway, bus or just to say “wait a minute”

Tales from a late night JimJilbang

17 Oct

On our weekly adventures in Hongdae recently (that’s the hip and happening nightlife district of Seoul, for those not in the know!) I have been fading early and am no longer able to pull those all-nighters like I used to. I must be getting old! The thought of staying up all night and then having to face sitting on a crowded train full of other drunk, tired and often queasy revellers for over an hour is FAR from appealing! Instead of booking into a hostel or hotel like most normal people, or making friends with some randomer who lives in the area and pleading to crash on their couch, I have instead opted to spend the early hours of most Sunday mornings sweating it out on the floor of a Korean Jimjilbang!

First, for those not acquainted with Jimjilbangs I better give a quick explanation about these magical places. A jimjilbang is a large, segregated Korean bath house full of an array of hot tubs, traditional Korean saunas, massage tables and showers. For most Koreans, it is part of their weekly beauty ritual and involves going to the Jimjilbang with either friends or family and spending hours washing, bathing, and scrubbing their bodies in order to get super smooth and healthy looking skin. All wet areas prohibit the use of clothing for safety reasons (apparently with the extreme heat of the baths and steam rooms, it is believed that toxic chemicals can leach out of apparel and into the body. Oh and it is also believed that if you wear a swimsuit or cover up you may be trying to hide a disease!)

Once out of the bathing area, the many saunas can help to clear out your pores, empty your body of bad toxins, and can help you de-stress and relax. Depending on which Jimjilbang you go to, and how much you pay to get in, will determine the quality and quantity of facilities inside. Some of the 24 hour jimjilbangs around Hongdae are pretty basic and don’t even have saunas while other big one’s such as Dragon Hill and Siloam Sauna near Seoul Station have up to 5 or 6 floors of facilities including a restaurant, entertainment area, hair salon and an abundant number of sleeping rooms and saunas ranging in temperature from an “ice room” to a 96′c “fire room”! You could easily spend a whole day here wandering from sauna to sauna. 

korean sauna seoul

I have had MANY late night jimjilbang experiences in various parts of Seoul, but for me nights spent in the 24 hour jimjilbang near Hongik University station in Hongdae are always the craziest. The last time I stayed there was so bizarre I’m going to share the experience with you, step by step!

I left the wonderful FF’s club at around  5am. I could have forced myself to stay awake one more hour and caught the last train home but that was simply not an option I fancied. I was physcia;;y exhausted from my full days shopping, my disastrous Korean hair salon ordeal and a night of fun and mayhem hanging out in Iteawon and later hongdae with various groups of friends. I headed to the 24 hour “Happy Spa Place”, which was only a 5 minute walk from FF’s, paid 9,000 won (about 6 euro) and was given 2 small towels. some pretty gaudy looking pink PJ’s, and a key for a locker. I was warned it was pretty crowded but didn’t care..all I needed was a tiny corner to lay town and pass out.

 

washing korean sauna

They weren’t lying. As I took off my shoes and entered the tiny changing room/locker room, there were bodies ALL over the ground. It was quite the challenge to tip toe over them and around them. While most were passed out, all wearing the lovely matching pink PJ’s which I had been given, some where sitting butt naked in front of full length mirrors drying their hair, others were wandering around, also naked, except for tiny towels wrapped around their head on their way into the bath house. I quickly changed into my PJ’s, bought a disposable toothbrush from one of the old ladies sitting  who was sitting comfortably on a massage chair twice her size, washed my face and managed to curl up in a ball on the ground next to the sinks…the only available space I could find!

About 2 hours later I was woken up by the same toothbrush selling Ajamma, who was shaking me and shouting at me in Korean. I was startled and sleep and had no idea what was going on. Apparently I was “in the way” so she made me lie down on a nearby table and told me to sleep there instead. I obeyed and within minutes, although slightly confused, was fast on my way back to sleepy land.

Less than an hour later, a different scary looking Ajamma woke me up by practically pushing me off the table…apparently I was in the way again. It was now 9am and many new people had arrived, while most of the others had either gone home. I decided it was time to, temporarily, get up and check out the public baths that were on offer. The first thing I was greeted with were rows of seats and showers, where you can sit down and scrub yourself til your black and blue. Honestly many of the Korean women I saw here were sitting by this shower for up to an hour scrubbing themselves, washing their hair, shaving, washing, scrubbing, and other stuff I’m PRETTY sure you don’t want to know about.

 

cold water pool

I opted on a bath that was 40′c tostart off and slowly worked my way around to the hotter baths bit my bit. The bath house was pretty empty which means these GIANT hot tubs were all mine. It was  bizarre feeling sitting in this dark, dimly lit public bath house, situated underground in the middle of Seoul’s top party district, realising I was butt naked in a bubbling pool of magic and with not a  care in the  world apart from the impeding hangover which was fast approaching.

After half an hour I headed back to the changing room and decided to lie down in a different, more secluded corner, to get a few more hours sleep. I was again woken my an ajamma but this time she simply woke me to put a soft pillow under my head (I had been using a wet towel as a pillow!). She smiled down at me, then walked away. Eventually I forced myself to get up at around 11am at which stage the jimjilbang was seriously busy, with a lot of fresh-faced Koreans arriving to spend the day pampering themselves before the work week that lay ahead.

I changed out of my pink PJ’s, got dressed, returned my keys to reception and decided it was about time I headed on home. :)

 

Big is Beautiful – Except in South Korea

16 Oct

Last weekend was a disaster.  Total disaster.

It actually started on a high note as I had just been paid and was looking forward to doing some serious damage in the shops around Seoul on Saturday. The weather has been changing pretty quickly and while Autumn has well and truly arrived, Winter also appears to be fast approaching. I have been prancing around in flimsy summer dresses for the past 3 months but now that every one around me has started covering up and starting wearing wooly jumpers and winter boots, I decided it was about time I started investing in a new winter wardrobe.

I have also not been to a hair dresser since I left home in June, so you can imagine how badly I need both hair cut and a color to cover up those awful brown roots! I made an appointment for Juno Hair Salon in Myeongdong as I has seen rave reviews online and a few of my friends had been to Juno hair salons and only had positive things to say.

Saturday arrived and I was excited about the day of shopping that lay ahead. I took the train to Myeongdong, which is the top destination for shoping in Seoul, with 100′s if not 1,000′s of clothes, shoe and beauty stores to choose from. The atmosphere alone puts a smile on my face. Well, it did up until last weekend anyway.

I headed straight to Juno hair and was seated in a waiting area where I was offered a drink of my choice and handed an iPad which had a huge array of photography of celebrities. I was told, in broken English, that I could pick any celebrity hairstyle I liked. Out of all 200 choice, there was not 1 curly blowdry, which is the exact style that suits me and the exact style I was looking for. I quickly browsed my phone and showed them what I wanted, saying I wanted a color and a cut.

The scene of the "Hair Humiliation".

The scene of the “Hair Humiliation”.

After a 20 minute wait I sat down with a stylist and explained what I wanted. He took one look at my hair and told me, “Your hair is dangerous. It is dangerous!”. Wow, thanks, just what i wanted to hear!! How on earth can my hair be DANGEROUS?! It seemed he wasn’t keen on dying my hair blonde (considering EVERY other person in the salon had black hair, I wasn’t THAT disappointed for fear they may also dye mine black!) so we agreed that a cut was all I needed.

I was handed over to another girl who washed my hair, continued to comment on how dangerous my hair was and complained that I had “too many hairs”. Now anyone that knows me knows that I have thick hair, but you know what it’s my hair and I love it just the way it is. To be sat in a Korean hair salon for over 2 hours and be repeatedly told negative things about my hair was far from the ideal Saturday I had imagined. About half an hour later I was informed that they were doing a treatment on my hair (yes, they had ALREADY started) and that it would cost me 90,000 won. I was pretty annoyed, as you can imagine, but as they know best I Iet it slide and hoped it would be a good treatment and help the condition of my hair. At this point I was told that the cut would cost 25,000 and the treatment 90,000.

After 2 hours of washing, treatments (part of which had me feeling like I was in a sci-fi movie!), discussing and a lot of waiting, it was finally time to dry my hair, Another woman (person number 4 so far!) was assigned to do this and she just kept saying I had “too many hairs” and making funny looks as she dried my hair in a way that made me look like Mufasa from the Lion King. Not quite the look I was looking for. She then took out a pretty crappy looking curling iron and spent the next 45 minutes, begrudgingly, curling my hair. A few more nasty comments here and there about the quality of my scalp, the quantity of my hairs and a few disgusted looks and I was ready to RUN out of the hair salon with my anger levels soaring and my self-esteem at an all time low.

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=f93218c22e&view=att&th=141bfa04da687567&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=1449026594493431808-local0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P85L3yjQMlp7cZ2mn0fIaVP&sadet=1381899570911&sads=yC2M7BzUFUf2m3rLAEjH1dLkjmI

A scene from a Sci-Fi Movie? No, just a Korean hair salon!

But before I escaped from this hell hole I was given my bill, which was FAR more than the agreed amount. A questioned the discrepancy and the receptionist informed me it was because I had “so many hairs”. I reluctantly paid up but not before swearing to myself that I would write a damning blog about this salon and NEVER return for round two of “hair humiliation”.

My hair looked pretty good, but it was not the style I wanted and I knew it would not last more than a few hours without going frizzy, I still had my horrible brown roots, and I was 130,000 won out-of-pocket.  :-(

I decided some retail therapy would cheer me up. I was heading out with some friends in Iteawon and Hongdae that night so went in search of some shoes and maybe a new dress. After enquiring in about 15 shoe shops if they had my size (Korean 160, UK size 7) I was told by one less-than-friendly shop owner, “No shop in Korea does that size. Too big”. Not only did I know that was a lie but I was less than impressed with her attitude.

Looking for Big Shoes? You're in the WRONG country!

Looking for Big Shoes? You’re in the WRONG country!

I finally went in search of Payless Shoes, an American shoe chain that sold shoes of a questionable quality but in BIG BIG sizes. After an hour of searching, and browsing various blogs for directions, I eventually found the shell that was Payless shoes up until October 1st 2013. That’s right, turns out a store that sells large sizes just couldn’t hack in downtown Myeongdeong. :-( Bad news for all you fellow big-footed expats!

I had failed to buy shoes so decided new clothes would have to do instead. Most of the smaller stores had nothing that would even remotely fit me and some were even reluctant let me in the store…I am pretty tall I guess, and from their perspective I have hips that belong to an ape rather than an average Korean woman. I eventually gave up and went to meet my friends feeling pretty exhausted and annoyed, cursing my genes for giving me big feet, big hair and a height of 5 foot 10 Inches.

Turns out “Big is Beautiful….except in South Korea”.

Huge Fire in Itaewon – South Korea’s Expat Hotspot

30 Sep

A lot of images have been shared on various social media sites this morning, such as twitter and facebook, relating to a huge fire which broke out in the early hours of Monday morning in Itaewon, the foreigner district of Seoul. The story was also covered by 10 Magazine on their website HERE.

It has not yet been confirmed what started the fire but reports say it took place between 7.30am and 9am in the area next to the Hamilton Hotel, on Itaewon’s main strip. Reportedly, a whole block hasNo serious injuries have been reported but much of the main road between Itaewon station and Noksapyeong is currently closed off.

More images and video footage can be viewed HERE.

fire itaewon seoul

 

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