Tag Archives: south korea

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

9 Jun peace marathon

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! 

 

 

A Korean Island Escape – Camping on a Deserted Island

5 Jun camping on island

When I signed up last-minute to a weekend camping trip on a deserted island off the West coast of Korea last weekend, I had no real idea what to expect.

As some poor unfortunate soul dropped out on the Friday morning, I jumped at the opportunity to take their spot and spend what was predicted to be a scorcher of a weekend camping with 60 other waygooks on an island. Although WinK (When in Korea, a travel group I often go on tours with here in Korea) described this island as having ‘no electricity, no running water’ they also said their would be the chance to see bioluminescent plankton and build a campfire to beat all campfires!’ Sounded like my kind of place!

panorama beach shot

I had less than 5 minutes to pack my bags for the weekend before I ran out the door to work, and spent my lunch break frantically running around HomePlus in search of a tent, snacks to munch on and sufficient alcohol to survive 2 days on a deserted island.Later in the day another friend of mine secured the last spot on the trip, I managed to borrow a tent from a friend and we were al set for the weekend ahead.

After many hours of traveling (4 hours standing on a subway!) Coral and I eventually found the motel we were staying in and joined the group for dinner. I mean, who doesn’t love eating galbi (Korean bbq) at 1 o’ clock in the morning. After a few beers, some shots of soju and talking to both old and new friends, it was time for bed. Despite only getting 2 hours sleep and having to wake up at 5am Saturday morning, I leaped out of bed with a smile on my face and was ready for the journey ahead. We would need to take a bus to the port, a large ferry to a  nearby island and the WinK leader had prepared 3 smaller boats to take us to the private island which would be all ours for the weekend!

group on ferry

peeps on ferry

We waited at the ferry port for about an hour for everyone to arrive and I couldn’t help but laugh when people started cracking open bottles of beer at 7 o’clock in the morning. I followed suit soon enough and the weekend was suddenly off to a fantastic start! The ferry journey was really relaxing, withe everyone sitting up on deck watching seagulls follow the ferry as local Koreans through big chunks of bread off the side of the boat. Beers were drunk, jokes were told and many photographs were taken.

One more, smaller, boat ride later and we arrived at our final destination, Sa Seong Bong Do. Considering the amount of stuff everyone had with them, the half hour walk to the camping spot was a bit painful. If I was to do this trip again I would re-think what i consider ‘essentials’ and pack as light as possible. That said, the people with the most stuff happened to be carrying ice-coolers and canopy to provide shade to the masses, things which would have been greatly missed if left at home!

arriving on deserted island

boat drinking

We were all pretty wrecked, and a little tipsy in my case, by the time we set up camp and pitched out tents. Many decided a quick dip in the sea was needed while others went for a nap. The day was spent playing games on the beach, making new friends, searching for wood for the campfire and relaxing with new friends while sipping on cold sangria and laughing and the ludicrous card combinations turned over in the always-popular ‘Cards against Humanity’!

Later in the day, people started preparing their food for dinner. Turns out just because you are going camping does not need you need to starve yourself. In fact, judging by the food and crazy-innovative ideas thought up by the dozens of other super-prepared campers, I realised that camping food can in fact be bordering on ‘gourmet’ if you are fully prepared.

While I munched on doritos and salsa, apples and a few protein bars, others were cooking steaks (one guy managed to eat more than SIX steaks in a 12 hour period!!), grilling sausages and meat kebabs, wrapping potatoes and a mixture of veggies in tin foil and cooking them over the camp fire. There were smores, breakfast burritos, fried eggs, french toast, potato salads and an array of other things to make your mouth water. Gas cookers, frying pans, saucepans and an array of other cooking utensils that I would never have thought of bringing were on offer, as people cooked up fresh clams, pasta and who knows what else!

sunset

colorful sunglasses

cards against humanity

 

The night was spent playing drinking games, singing along to typical campfire songs and some people braved the cold water in search of the bioluminescent plankton which we had all being told about. Lighting the fire was a pretty amazing moment, as everyone gathered around in a circle, mesmerised by the flames, watching with anticipation for Skofes ‘Bird effigy’ to explode into a Burning Man-esque fireball. Less than a few minutes in and the masterpiece was pretty much ruined, but it sure was fun to watch!

Waking up a little hung over Sunday morning, I crawled out of my tent to see just a few stragglers stil sitting on the beach chatting. I wasn’t too sure whether they had simply woken earlier than I had or they had decided to stay up all night. The campfire was smouldering, the surrounding area was littered with empty bottles and remnants of what had happened the night before but best of all there were half empty bags of marshmallows  scattered about the place. The wonderful Ashley provided us with chocolate biscuits and whoever was awake got treated to delicious smores for breakfast. As they say, the early bird catches the worm!

bonfire

breakfast

seagulls ferry 1

All in all, it was probably one of the best weekend I have had while in Korea. The fact that it was so isolated made it all the more special. In Korea, we are so used to being near to the every-day comforts like toilets, corner stores which never close and restaurants which stay open til the wee hours of the morning. We are surrounded by people, cars, buses, subways and flashing lights on every street corner. It was so great to just get away from city-living, even just for one weekend, to relax on a beach with not a worry in the world and sort of ‘get back to nature’.

If you want to go on this trip, or similar ones, check out the WinK Facebook page for a list of their upcoming events! I would HIGHLY recommend it!

Spring has Sprung

8 Apr wpid-20140406_133837.jpg

A small taste of the photographs I took last weekend at the Gyeong-Ju Cherry Blossom Festival. No words can fully describe how beautiful spring is in South Korea…even if it only lasts a few weeks!

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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

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! :)

YongPyong Resort – A Winter Wonderland

23 Dec

Last weekend my friend Sonja and I headed to Phoenix Park and Yongpyong resort for a mini vacation. It was so good to get away for a few days and the scenery up in the mountains was spectacular.

We spent all day saturday hitting the slopes in Phoenix Park ski resort which has a great variety of slopes to suit all levels. Everything was so easily accesible even the laziest skier in the world could not complain!

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You could literally ski straight down any slope and into a Dunkin Donuts, Coffee shop or Apres Ski bar. The ski rental place was less than 5 minutes walk from the chair lifts and there is even a youth hostel overlooking the slopes.

As we went as part of a WinK tour group, we got amazing discounts on both ski rental and lift passes. The full day including skis, jacket and pants and lift pass was only 50,000 won (about 30 euro) which you really can’t beat. Even though it was very busy and there were groups of school kids and students everywhere, the queues remained pretty short throughout the day which I was very impressed by.

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After a long days skiing on only about 2-3 hours sleep we were absolutely shattered come 6pm. Luckily all we had to do was sit on a bus and relax as we headed to our hostel which is part of the YongPyong ski resort. Following quick showers and naps, a big group of us all headed out for a delicious pork BBQ dinner.

Another relatively late night of bowling, arcade games, socializing and making new friends meant come 8am Sunday morning nothing (not even giant chocolate muffins and hot tea) were getting me out of bed. Maybe it was a waste, maybe it could be considered laziness, but in a move to help my aching muscles and tired body recover, I opted out of skiing at YongPyong and decided the spa and waterpark was more to my liking.

Again thanks to WinK we got an amazing discount price, and only ended up paying 10,000 won to enter. What we discovered inside…and more specifically outside…meant we knew within seconds we had made the right decision!
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Outside the waterpark, was an assortment of hot tubs full of various colored, scented and therapeutic water. Oh, and thanks to the fact that it’s winter, all surrounded in snow!

Sitting in rose scented jacuzzi with the sun shining brightly while taking in the breathtaking, snow covered surroundings was an incredible experience. We literally sat outside, dashing through the snow from pool to pool, for about 2 hours. In fact we were enjoying ourselves so much we failed to realise how sunburned our faces were becoming. Small price to pay for a little taste of paradise in the mountains!

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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 Reasons to Join a Korean Gym

22 Nov

I am really enjoying working out at the moment and am well on my way to succeeding in my 9 week challenge to get my bikini body back in time for my trip to Cambodia. Apart from cutting out all junk food, eating healthier meals, and attempting to drink less alcohol at weekends, my local gym has been my biggest friend over the last month. As Korean gyms are really different to your run-of-the-mill gym back home in Ireland, I thought I would write a quick blog post about the Top 10 Reasons to Join a Korean Gym! If you have any other suggestions, be sure to leave a comment.

10. Storage lockers for your toiletries

This is a little random, I know, but Korean gyms really are totally different to gyms back home.  Everyone gets a big locker for their gym bag and you can also get a small locker (if you choose) to store your toiletries in. Everyone at my gym has a cute little basket to store all their stuff in so after a good work out they stroll into the changing room, strip naked (this is also pretty different to home!!), take their toiletries basket with them into the open plan shower area (again, different from gyms back home) and continue to wash, shave, scrub, moisturize and every other cosmetic related activity you can think of. Some of these girls have more bottles of lotions in their gym basket than I have in my entire house! It’s a nice idea though, and save you having to haul your toiletries to the gym each day. Never agin will you get “the fear” that you have indeed forgotten your deodorant!

toiletries-storage

9. Unique group exercise classes like KPOP Dance

I recently signed up for GX classes in my gym thinking GX stood for Aerobics. Turns out GX stands for Group Exercise (DUH!) and one of the many GX classes (ABT, Zumba, Hot Yoga, Pilates, Aerobics etc) on offer is K-Pop Dance. My friend Tammy and I just signed up to this and are actually pretty excited for the classes to start next week. We are going to be the envy of every (teenage) girl in every Korean nightclub in no time! BAR BAR BAR Jumping, Jumping! :D

kpop

8. Catch up with your favorite TV shows

No longer can you say, “Oh I can’t go to the gym tonight, My favourite TV show is on at 8pm”. I think most gyms all over the world have TV’s attached to treadmills at this stage but in case your gym doesn’t, let me tell you all Korean gyms do! And they have up to 10 channels in ENGLISH including 3 movie channels. Granted you are probably not working out as hard as you should be if you strolling along ona treadmill watching NCIS or Mission Impossible 4, but it’s a good motivator to go to the gym when the TV on your treadmill is larger than the TV in your apartment! :D

ncis english tc show

7. They have machines like this….

I actually don’t know what this is. Put as I see every one else sitting on a bench on putting their legs on it after a long run on the treadmill, I have started doing the same. It’s seems to be a leg massager/leg fat jiggling machine. I have never seen one before so if anyone can inform me of what this machine ACTUALLY does, please leave a comment!

legs fat jiggling machine

6. They have FAT JIGGLING machines!

I think these bizarre machines disappeared from Western gyms in the 60’s or 70’s, when people realised that a machine that wiggles and giggles your fatty bits is, in fact, not helping you to lose weight. I’m not sure what Koreans use this machine for, but I think it’s more of a massager to loosen up your muscles than anything else. If you’re gym doesn’t have one of these ‘magic machines’ you’re going to the wrong gym!!

old fat figgling machine

5. Huge saunas where you can sleep

Korean saunas are not really like western saunas. First off, you not sit in a burning hot wooden cabin butt naked. Korean saunas are in fact much more relaxing and convenient. You go in wearing the matching gym clothes (provided by the gym) and lie on a clay floor covered in mats. The room is hot, but not so hot that’s it’s unbearable. Many people come in here after a hard work out and just fall asleep for half an hour. You could even bring a book in if you wanted, but for me its the perfect time to block out the world close my eyes and simply relax away from all sorts of technology. It’s more like a ‘relaxation room’ than a sauna but I absolutely love it.

sleeping suana gym

4. No more smelly gym clothes!

This could well be the BEST thing about Korean gyms. Say farewell to carrying home a gym bag full of sweaty, smelly clothes each day. Say farewell to those worries about not having anything to wear to the gym. Say farewell to spending money on clothes you would only ever wear while working out! Korean gyms provide gym clothes and towels for you every day and do all the washing and cleaning. Sure orange might not be your colour, and you may feel silly looking like EVERYONE else, but boy does it make life easy. All you need to do is bring your trainers/runners and a pair of clean socks and you are good to go. For me, this makes going to the gym 100 times less stressful as I never have to worry about having clean gym clothes!

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3. You can play screen golf!

This one is a bit random, I know. But never in my life have I seen a gym where you can go for a workout, chill in a  sauna and THEN practice your swing! Many gyms in Korea have a screen golf facility where members can practices their swing in a small, enclosed and heated environment. I have not tried this yet, and probably never will if I’m honest, but it’s a bonus for all you golfers out there!

screen golf korea

2. Koreans come in ALL shapes and sizes

Yup, it’s TRUE! Not all Koreans are the small, skinny beauties you imagined. Over the last month I have discovered that Korean women really do come in ALL shapes and sizes. This can be a real confidence boost for us foreigners who often feel like giant sumo wrestlers next to cute Korean girls. There is so much negative media regarding cosmetic surgery and the constant aim for perfection..which in their eyes involves calf reductions, butt lifts and leg extensions. It is so uplifting to see Koreans who love their bodeis and working hard to look and feel good the “old fashioned way”. In my gym, Strong is the new skinny and I like it a lot!

shapes and sizes

1. Friendly Trainers 

In my (somewhat limited) experience the trainers in Korean gyms are super friendly and motivating. While they may not speak much English they know the basics, and are always willing to help you figure out how to use those awkward weight lifting machines, encourage you to run faster on the treadmill or just chat with you about why you are in Korea, if you are liking life here and if you know anyone else who might want to join their lovely gym!

personal trainer

Not beautiful enough to live in Korea

18 Nov

Over the weekend, I went to a Soccer game in Seoul World Cup Stadium with a big group of friends. We had all had a very late night/early morning the night before so were a little worse for wear come Sunday afternoon. Lack of makeup and unwashed hair aside, we spent the day cheering on Seoul FC and feeling pretty proud of ourselves for opting to be productive rather than hibernating in out match box-sized apartments.

After the match we headed into the shopping centre to grab a coffee, relax and try to warm up having being outside in the almost freezing cold Korean winter for the last 2-3 hours. As we walked in a well dressed, perfectly manicured Korean lady approached me and my friend and asked if we would like to get our photo taken for free. It all looked professional with proper lighting, cameras and a “set” where we could sit and pose so without delay my friend and I signed up.

The photo shoot was organized my Korean Cosmetic brand “Skin Food” which specializes in all sorts of lotions, moisturizer and cosmetics for your face, body and hair to make you look both younger and “whiter”, two aspects of beauty which every Korean aspires to be. We answered a few questions which had been roughly translated from Korean to English with regards to our skin tone, how old we were, how old our skin looked, what we would like to change about our skin and other questions which I usually avoid/hate to answer. 

After about 5 minutes we sat down and were asked to pose naturally, which we attempted to do. While they loved my dear friend Mandy (a 38-year-old with the skin of a 31-year-old, or so they said with much delight and awe), they kept telling me “smile bigger”, “smile with your eyes” “You’re too awkward” and “Still too awkward”. The 3 hours of sleep I had had the night before, many hours of dancing, cocktails, hours of shopping, match day pints and general tiredness was suddenly catching up with me and I simple did not have the energy to pose like a Korean. We gave our phone numbers and the woman said we would be sent 2 photos; the first one would be of us “au natural” and the second one would be photo-shopped by the “talented” photographers and would make us look younger and whiter, the look we should aspire to be.

Instead of writing any more, I’m simply going to post the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots as I am still slightly frightened and slightly horrified at how they think I should look as opposed to how I look right now. I may look tired, I may look hung over, I may look “too dark”, but I still like the way I look “au natural” way, way more than their idea of “photoshopped perfection”.

The "before" picture

The “before” picture

The "after" shot.

The “after” shot.

Related posts:

Big is Beautiful – Except in South Korea

Cosmetic Surgery in Korea – Starting Young

Korea- What Grinds My Gears

Irish Abroad: Top 10 Irish Foods We Miss

30 Oct

Lately I have really been craving various Irish foodstuffs that I simply cannot get here. I decided to ask my wide range of expat friends (who now live in Canada, Dubai, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Poland, Japan and Myanmar/Burma and many more exotic locations) what Irish food they missed the most while living abroad and the following were the Top 10 answers! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any more good suggestions. :)

Number 10: A decent pint of Guinness

In fact this isn’t limited to Guinness, more Irish drinks in general which you often can’t get abroad. A decent Guinness, a pint of Beamish or Murphys, and an ice-cold bottle of Bulmers Light (for those watching the calories!) are the top contenders on the list of most missed alcoholic beverages. Along with Buckfast Abbey, that is.

While Korea does have a good choice of local alcohol ranging from low quality beer to a cheap distilled beverage known as Soju ( top selling alcohol brand in the world!!) and delicious rice wine called Makeoili, none of these will ever live up to a good Irish pint.

A good pint

A good pint

Number 9: Clonakilty Black Pudding

Clonakilty Black Pudding is a staple food item in houses all over Cork, and Ireland. Black Pudding , and the sausages, bacon, eggs, beans and toast which go with it, can cure any hangover no matter how bad and are not only eaten for Breakfast but can be easily transformed into a Gourmet Lunch or Dinner should the need arise!

There is NOTHING that comes even close to replacing Clonakilty Black Pudding here in Korea. Eating rice and spicy cabbage (Kimchi) to cure my hangover just doesn’t quite do the trick!

Mmm Black Pudding

Mmm Black Pudding

Number 8: Chicken Fillet Roll from Spar 

One of the biggest things I crave from back home is the humble ‘chicken fillet roll’ made up for you in a matter of seconds and found in every deli in the country. The fact that nearly every shop has a Deli, and that there is a shop on nearly every corner in every town, makes the lunch time experience back home a blissful experience!

When it comes to lunch time choices in South Korea, the choices are pretty limited and far from appealing! Most food is deep friend and if on a rare occasion it is not, my lunch time choice are limited to a variety of dishes made with rice, spicy cabbage and spam. No thank you!

The infamous Chicken Fillet Roll

The infamous Chicken Fillet Roll

Number 7: McCambridge Brown Bread

I think most Irish people will agree with me when I say that there is no better brown bread that McCambridge Brown Bread. Be it for toast in the morning, or sandwiches at lunch time or with soup in the evening, nothing beats a few slices of McCamdridge!

Here is Korea they seriously lack good bread, which is a bit of a mystery given the fact that there is a bakery to be found on almost every corner. In Ireland, bread is pretty much part of our staple diet where-as in Korea it is more of a treat or a luxury thus all the bread, and bread products are sickly sweet and could never be used the way they should be….to make a decent sandwich!

Best bread in the world!

Best bread in the world!

Number 6: Ballymaloe Relish

The relish SO famous, they sent it to space. Enough said.

Ballymaloe Relish

Ballymaloe Relish

Number 5: Cadburys Chocolate

No matter what country, no matter what continent, no place does a chocolate bar like Ireland. Ireland has the biggest selection of delicious milk chocolate, available in every shop, on every street corner, in every town (similar to the infamous deli counter!) and no amount of Hersheys, Peanut Butter cups or whatever other bizarre chocolate is on offer around the world will ever compete with this! Be it a Dairy Milk, a box of Heo’s or a tin of Roses at Christmas, nothing beats Cadburys chocolate.

Pure chocolatey goodness

Pure chocolatey goodness

Number 4 : Tayto Crisps

By sure Ireland’s favorite crisp. You just can’t beat a salt and vinegar crisp sandwich or opening up a packet of Cheese and Onions Taytos in the pub and sharing them with all around you. Soon enough, some other kind soul will return to the table with a new round of pints and another packer of delicious Tatyo crisps. And so it goes on…

In Korea we are given magical choice such as Wasabi flavour, Seaweed flavour and worst of all….Cuttlefish flavour. YUCK.

Tayto Crisps - Best crisps in the world

Tayto Crisps – Best crisps in the world

Number 3: Garlic Cheese Chips (and other Chipper Food!)

While many Irish expats will admit to always having a wide range of foods available to them late at night, ranging from 24 Hour McDonalds, late night pizza joints and Turkish Kebab stands lining the streets, we will also cry out for Garlic Cheese Chips at 3 O’ clock in the morning, yearning for those late night chippers back home! (KC’s chipper in Cork is so popular they have a Queue Camera on their website!)

Garlic Cheese Chips

Garlic Cheese Chips

Number 2: A Jumbo Breakfast Roll

A brilliant mixture between number 8 and number 9 on this list is the Jumbo Breakfast Roll, whereby us Irish have perfected the method of putting an entire Irish Breakfast into a  Cuisine de France bread roll. A favourite amoung early morning workers, Builders and college students, nothing beats a Jumo Breakfast Roll after a night on the town.

The Jumbo Breakfast Rolll

The Jumbo Breakfast Rolll

Number 1: Barry’s Tea

Stop an Irish person in the airport and ask them what’s in their suitcase and about 90% of them will admit to having packed a box of Barry’s Tea bags. Us Irish just can’t seem to survive without them. Ideally served with Irish milk (real dairy!!) and a spoonful of sugar, a cup of Barry’s Tea has many magical attributes and is the perfect start, middle and end to every day. Be it relaxing at home, gossiping with friends, skyping home to family or reading a good book, a cup of real Irish Tea is always the perfect companion.

Barry's Tea

Barry’s Tea

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