Dandelion Land


The green that creeps from beneath is a steady process. Warming the eyes along with the flawless blue of the sky with its cotton wool clouds. Blue and green, that is spring for me. It is without saying a relief to welcome the colourisation of the country after the death of everything in winter.

I can’t say that I would like spring as much as I did if I didn’t dislike winter. When I was in Korea it was the dry and arid air, the biting cold winds, and the white bright sunlight pitching rays constantly. Winter in Korea is a time when snow storms were a relief from the constant squinting.

For my first winter in Ireland I expected the long days of wind and rain, a grey and lifeless landscape, and the damp that seems to find everywhere. But it was the darkness which caught me off guard. The sun setting at four o’clock in the afternoon swallowed the evening in absolute night, and leaving myself, Herself, and +1 staring at each other at home, expecting something to happen.

Much like Korea, Ireland’s winter swallows up all the visible life. But for the crows hovering overhead, perfectly silhouetted in any weather but more so in the overcast of December and January, little signs of life persist. Waiting for the world to awaken after winter follows a similar pattern in Ireland and Korea. Snowdrops show first, white exaggerated in the damp mud of flowerbeds. Then the shoots of daffodils break through the earth.

In Korea at this time of year you can’t take a step left or right without seeing a cherry blossom tree blooming. Even in the most sun deprived thoroughfare hectic with traffic, a much desiccated looking tree will be blooming as resplendently as its excessively pruned bows will allow. I’ve always thought it to be a bit over the top.

Yet a few weeks ago I was driving into Dublin’s city centre and at Cabra Cross, just by the McDonalds and Tesco the traffic stopped. This is one of Dublin’s less dynamic traffic spots, and it certainly is not an attractive part of the city – but let’s not be too harsh as there are worse place to be stuck in traffic. I looked out the window, and much like those very deprived looking cherry blossoms, at the base of a tree were some frail and gutter mud splattered daffodils, attempting to be as resplendent as their situation allowed.

 

Now the daffodils are slowly dying off, but the trees have gradually been warming our eyes as first the hedges and now the trees start to green with spring. It’s not long after this that the dandelions come out, yellowing in a peppered splay across any grassy patch. A sure sign the warm weather has returned is dandelion seeds tumbling carelessly in the breeze of a sun splashed afternoon.

We call these piss-in-the-beds because if you pick one you will wet the bed, or so we were told as children. But I wonder would the dandelion be as common if it weren’t for children blowing their seeds at every opportunity.

I wake up early most mornings to the new sound of spring, as thousands of different noises come through to my room. Birds singing, mostly, but the leaves rustling in an April gust comes frequently enough. There’s also the silence of morning, something I can’t remember from Korea. Where no noise from the street permeates the walls, and looking out the window all I can do is really imagine the sound.

More so than before I appreciate my new domain in Ireland. The garden, green, and all the other colours it presents, and the breeze and the birds, it’s a long way from my old position watching for glimpses of life on the twentieth floor in Suwon. They are two different places, and nowhere can either be compared. Ask me if I prefer one, I’d probably prefer to not answer that but I would say that I’m happy where I am for now. All I need now is for someone to cut the grass for me…

Monochrome Seoul


I don’t get into Seoul as much as I’d like to. Although recently I’ve been fortunate enough to hit up the tourist trails around Myeong-dong. I miss the big city. The feeling you get as you’re lost in a tidal wave of more people. I miss the main streets, and the side streets. I miss looking up from the cavern floor of a canyon of highrise. I miss getting lost in a world of alleys and emerging and finding my way around because it’s just Seoul.

Here are a few shots I took recently uploaded to an album on flickr. All shots were taken between April and May of 2014.

To view more of these grainy and shaky Seoul street shots please follow this link.

To view more of these grainy and shaky Seoul street shots please follow this link.

To view more of these grainy and shaky Seoul street shots please follow this link.

 

Photography © Conor O’Reilly 2014

 

 

Sprung


Spring has moved beyond it’s intial flex and is now well into the process of ejecting life from within the winter locked bowels of the plants and people longing for the seasons much anticipated warmth.

For me, without a doubt, the finest part of spring in Korea has to be its first couple of weeks as the first rain soaks and nourishes the earth, then the yellows of the forsythia and other plants slowly poke out in the yellow dusy haze. Before long the bushes on the streets begin to glow a warmer green, and the ever present cherry blossom trees have pre-bloom fur about their branches as the white petals rest just a few days from when they explode everywhere.

Did I mention the azaleas, which are the true jewel of the Korean spring?

It is this time when Korea’s spring is at its best, in my opinion. Yes, we all obssess over cherry blossoms (just spend a moment on my instagram page) because, well as impractical as they are, they are very nice to look at. However, before their emergence, this is when I find any extra skip in my step. The added warmth in the air makes this all the more easier.

Of course, it’s hard to resist arming myself with my camera on those short walks to work. Here’s a small set of some of the views on the way too and from work.

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All shots are unedited original images ©Conor O’Reilly 2014

For more photography find me on Flickr, Tumblr, and Insatgram

Playing With My New Toy!


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Today with the sun shining and no pressing business, I ventured out into the wilds of Yeongtong-dong in Suwon and played with it. I won’t lie I’m still using it a little like a point-and-shoot, but I still can feel the difference. The focus is by far my favourite, as well as the texture of the photographs. I can’t really go into what makes them look or feel different, maybe it’s just that they look more real.

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Being the father of a five month old child, I was up early. I think I took these shots around 8am (which is late for many I know), and those of you familiar with my life on the twentieth floor will be familiar with this view, without the sunsets of course. The building behind the large effusing smokestack is Samsung Electronics global headquarters, Digital City.

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Once the morning had progressed a little I headed out for a walk in the warm may air. These couple of shots were taken in the little neighbourhood park just in front of my apartment. It’s always empty but for people passing through during the day, and with the trees finally coming back to life it would be an understatement to suggest we’ve had an explosion of green.

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Korea is such a colourful country in spring. This is lilac and the smell wafts down the street in the breeze. Most of Korea obsesses over the cherry blossoms to the point that they’re overdone a little, but just after the last few petals have drifted away in the late April gusts, a new variety of colours emerges, with lots of bright pinks and reds and purples, not to mention all kinds of small flowers hiding at the foot of each tree.

 

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While at play with my new toy, I thought this was interesting. It’s the lighting in the local Starbucks. I know, Yeontong is full of independent coffee shops and I go to Starbucks. Well, they have couches that are usually free in the morning, and they sell more than Americanos for 5,000 won, so what do you expect me to do?

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More walking and more things to see. This time on the way into work I passed by the local Buddhist temple with its mulitcoloured lanterns set out on the street, a sure sign that we are in May. I pass by a few public schools, which always means shops selling crap for kids to spend their few hundred won pocket money on, and then finally into Half Moon Park (반달공원). Here the infamous Yeongtong Mountain sits – legend has it that you’re only worth your mettle if you can run up this mountain in the middle of the night after a good session in Now Bar. I have yet to witness anyone really attempting this.

Yeongtong Mountain is actually a fountain in case you’re wondering.

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Here are a few shots from where I work, which has a nice campus and especially so in spring. The big pink blossoms are Ornamental Cherry Blossoms, not to be confused with your run of the mill cherry blossom or Japanese cherry blossom. There is actually a distinct difference, the main one being that they’re out a week or so after the others.

Actually this is probably one of the first times I’ve admitted where I work (so if you hold a grudge now’s the time to call my boss and blame me for something I didn’t do.

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I just thought I’d put this one in to conclude. It’s right up The Bobster’s alley in terms of content. Great colours again and no tweaking or flash used here. This is just outside my own apartment as I was waiting for +1 to wake up before I went upstairs.

 

Bonus Photos:

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I don’t usually post pictures of family here, in fact I’m quite against it, but I figured one or two pictures won’t land anyone in jail in the future. Here is the lovely +1 in all her resplendent glory! The D5100 has a ‘baby’ setting on it. It’s like they saw me coming!

A Catch Up


For the past two weeks I’ve been stuck in a mini-post rut. I dilemma if you will.

A couple of weeks ago my grandfather passed away back in Ireland, which meant a return home at short notice. I brought Herself and +1 along too, because Herself really liked my grandfather and we’ve a lot to be grateful to him for. We could hardly have left +1 at home now could we?

The dilemma has been how to write about it, because initially I wanted to say something about it. I’ve already started a 1,500 word post on this experience, but it is just a stream of and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened. Maybe you or someone else would have liked to read this, but I just couldn’t finish writing it and had to stop. It’s not because it made me sad, it was something else.

It was an emotional return for several reasons. First, we had to come and say goodbye to my grandfather, a man we hadn’t seen in a year and half, but whom we both loved dearly. Secondly, we had to return for the first time in a year and half, and this is something we’d been hoping on doing for a year and half. Third, we had to bring +1 to see everyone, and this was perhaps the most amazing part of the journey, but we had hoped that we could introduce the two of them to each other when we go back to Ireland this summer. In terms of knowing how to react it was difficult.

We should have been sad, but it was hard to mourn. It wasn’t a black and white happy -v- sad thing, that’s not how we do it in Ireland. I’m already going on again.

Still, the more I think of this the more difficult it has been to make this post which I was crafting into something. I think in the end I’ve decided to keep this event, essentially, private. It will be something that you’ll know happened but I will keep the finer points to myself, family, and friends. 

That’s all I wanted to say.

That being said I don’t want to let everything I wrote to sit and rot in a folder in my computer. Here are a few snippets and thoughts which cropped up while drafting the longer post.

  • The cursing was not because I would be going back to Ireland. My grandfather was notorious enough in his own way, but he had always been a source of gentle encouragement, antagonism, and support over the years, and since I married I don’t think that myself and Herself could be in our present position without his help.

  • We bought my ticket first, but then we realised that this was not a journey which I could do alone. After a few hours of rummaging around we eventually managed to pay for another pair of tickets for both Herself and +1. At three in the morning we finally went to bed, and for some reason I set my alarm for nine, but fortunately our natural alarm clock (a.k.a. our five month old baby girl) had us up before seven. We set to packing and eventually we managed to pull ourselves together and made it to the airport bus, and to catch our flight in plenty of time.

  • For parents traveling with an infant for the first time on a flight that would last a combined length of fourteen hours, the scene was set for the unpredictable. In hindsight this was good. We are travelling back to Ireland in the summer, but with over two months to ‘plan’ the journey, I would not doubt for a second that we would have worried ourselves into taking the bus eventually. Fortunately there is no surer cure to nerves than having to do something without thinking.

  • The death of a loved one or family member is never easy, but we had travelled across the globe for a funeral of someone who we had not seen in a year and a half. This was also someone who was quite unwell. When we last left Ireland in the summer of 2011 myself and Herself tried to say goodbye properly but the last memory we have of my grandfather alive was of him boarding a bus to go on a trip with the other people who he was now living with in the care centre where he lived out the last of his days. He was in such a position that he didn’t know much better and my old man told us not to worry over it, and that it was better like this. Of course you can never really know the best way, and we will not know as none of our family got a chance to properly say good bye to him as he passed away in his sleep. 

  • When we arrived everyone was caught between two emotions. Sorrow at my grandfather’s passing, but also delight and gratitude for our arrival, which I think this was multiplied greatly by the arrival of cooing and gurgling +1, who revelled in the attention of so many new faces. 

So anyway, that’s it. Back to normal now. Oh, except for the fact that +1 is still jetlagged. Fan-fuckin-tastic.