Playing With My New Toy!


Yesterday I told you about my new toy.DSC_0005

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.

 

 

Letter from Korea, February 2013


Suwon
February 2013

Dear Ireland

Today, Thursday February 7 of the year 2013, has been a long and busy day, and it’s far from over. This morning myself, herself, and +1, rose at 6am as we always do, but instead of feeding and returning to sleep, we dressed in a panic, and bailed into the car in sub-zero temperatures. A trip to the airport was afoot. Why? Well, mammy and daddy were on their way to Korea!

It’s kind of a childish thing to describe my parents, or mother and father, as mammy and daddy, as opposed to ma and da, or the ould won and the ould fella, but it’s certainly better than calling them Mum or Mom, and Dad. Not that there is anything wrong with calling one’s parents these, it’s just not Irish, at least not where I from anyway. However, for the rest of this post I shall refrain from calling them mammy and daddy, as that is now how +1 is shaping up to call herself and I at some stage in the not so distant future. How times have changed.

The arrival of the ould pair is a welcome turn of events. Last time we were together was in August 2011 after my brother’s wedding, and since then much of the communication has been through skype. We have not really sensed too much distance, maybe because we’re used to the separation, which was until we actually met them in the airport. Physical bonds and connections can sometimes be under-rated.

I know that there are plenty of so called expats in Korea who have probably not seen their parents in a much longer time than I. But I reckon I’m still old enough to pine for their company a little. Still, let’s face it though, probably the most important reason they’re here is to see +1.

She is the first grandchild on both sides of the family, and that means she is in line for some serious dotage. Herself’s parents are definitely keen on making sure that +1 gets pride of place in all family events, and I think it’s about time that she got some Irish molly-coddling!

A full suitcase at least of clothes, toys, and other gifts came along with my ould pair this morning, not to mention a whole host of gifts from family and friends who managed to link up with the caravan of supplies before it embarked towards Korea. So long story short; we’re spoiled rotten right now.

The thing is, while I survive quite comfortably here in Korea without things like black and white pudding, bacon (the Irish kind), decent chocolate, and a whole host of other ‘delicacies’, receiving a delivery of supplies really makes it feel like a second Christmas.

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I think Korea has a fine tradition of food, and it certainly makes living here much easier, however if there’s one thing that Korea really needs to think about introducing to the national diet it’s more cured pork products. Frankly, I believe that the world needs more of them, and Korea would be a better place with a tradition of curing pork. If you think it’s beyond them, I point you to kimchi, which is essentially cured cabbage with the essential preserving ingredient being salt. However I am not sure if I’m willing to advocate a kimchi-pork type concoction…actually I am, although not in the vein of kimchi jiggae. In fact anything would do as long as it’s not that excuse for ham you find littered around supermarkets. Where am I going with this? Oh yes. Korea, cure some meat for Christ’s sake.

On another note, based on the aforementioned arrival, Korea also lacks something else important, and that’s cheap baby clothes. It’s crazy. Really. Yeah I know you can buy everything cheap online, but frankly I don’t trust buying everything on the internet and I can’t see the economy progressing if everyone is relying on 택배 to survive affordably.

Anyway (avoiding a rant here), if you go to any supermarket or department store with clothing, baby clothes are extraordinarily expensive. In fact all clothes are extraordinarily expensive, especially given the quality. Even everyday outfits made of simple cotton with cute designs, are often not cute and over-priced. Even Ireland has cheaper alternatives than Korea, which is why +1 was supplied with half a suitcase of baby’s clothes! If only she was cognisant enough to realise the significance of this.

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But for now what’s important is spending time with the folks before they head back to Ireland in a few weeks. We’re not sure when we’ll get a chance to see them, and it’s important for +1 to know them, as she is loved very much by all my family but the physical distance presents a distinct barrier to actually developing a relationship. While I know that she is far too young to actually remember or react to this first meeting, I think my parents couldn’t hold themselves back from visiting, even if it is a balmy -12 outside (say nothing of the wind chill).

P.S. Added fun from next Sunday, my brother and his lovely wife will arrive from London! I’m preparing another list!

Letter from Korea, December 2012


Suwon, South Korea
December, 2012

Dear Ireland

There are moments when I completely forget that I’m a father now, and I lapse into my old routine, desperate for something which I used to think was enjoying. Things are a little different now. It’s not that those things which I used to be entertained by are no longer entertaining, as they are somewhat, it’s just that these moments where I forget don’t last long. I’m either jolted from a daydream into activity by a gurgle or yelp, a call from Herself (who seems perpetually busy), or I just remember.  It’s a nice realisation to have over and over again.

The change has been swift. Even the difference between when Herself was heavily pregnant and since we’ve brought little cute +1 home (yes I’m still calling her +1 here) is stark. But to anyone who has spent any amount of time with people with new-born babies, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I won’t deny that I was far from adequately prepared, especially from a psychological perspective. I think I’m doing better now.

Thankfully, Korea makes things easy on us new fathers and mothers. We had a week in what’s known as a jorriwon (조리원), which is an after-care centre for those who have just had a baby. While there were some who complained about the standard of care given in the place we stayed, I couldn’t actually see what their problem was.

Here is a place where you go to stay which has a number of programmes for mothers to help the recuperate, as well as cooking your meals, doing your laundry, and most importantly, helping you get used to your new responsibility, which is of course raising a child. And where these people helped out mostly was allowing you the opportunity to try and fail a few times at trying to feed and placate your child, and if you couldn’t hack it they’d take it off your hands and deal with the child while you got some much required sleep. This allowed us to ease ourselves into the whole new parent thing.

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I spoke with a few Irish people, and even when I mentioned the price, they sounded enthusiastic in their ‘fuck that’ exclamations, in the sense that the price was incidental and that a service like this is what Ireland could do with. Sure it’s a bit elitist, and for us it was certainly expensive, but it was just another item on the increasingly long balance sheet of payments.

We only stayed a week in this place as we considered it pointless to drag the process of getting settled into a routine at home. We both were certain that the longer we stayed there the more difficult it would be to get out of that level of comfort. More than anything though, we were also very eager to bring +1 home, which is where we’ve been for the past couple of weeks.

Up until Friday however, we had the help of the mother-in-law, who as I’ve said before, is some woman. She arrived and immediately began to clean, cook, and attempt to feed +1. Which was great as it took the pressure off us. I was in work up until recently (now on winter hols) so she would stay in the room with Herself and help with the night feed, while I was banished to the couch. Every so often I would join Herself and get myself eased steadily into the night process.

Being in work made my life easier, I can honestly say, as I was away for the day I missed out on five hour long marathons of feeding, dozing, peeing, shiting, changing, rocking, feeding, dozing, sleeping for ten minutes, and so on. I’d return home to find Herself and the mother-in-law in tatters with exhaustion. However this didn’t stop another table full of kimchi and seaweed soup being served up with regimental efficiency every evening.

The thing about the seaweed soup is, and don’t get me wrong I know it’s very healthy, my own mother had five sons and never touched a drop of the stuff and she never experienced anything adversely negative from the lack of it. Although, the obvious refutation to that is how would you know if you’ve never had it? I do know that Herself has probably had more of it that she has had in her life to date, and whether she’s doing better than if she hadn’t had any is irrelevant. She’s happy and getting stronger every day and that’s what matters.

But now I can hear +1 waking up so I will have to close. Herself will have to be woken up to feed her and I will have to be the dutiful go-for as we do our best to make this process as easy on everyone as possible.

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That is how things are going in Korea now.

The sun is going down outside. The snow was melted by the rain over the past few days. It’s chilly but more like a December chilly as opposed to the -15 freeze we were engulfed in last week. I have two months of holidays ahead of me. There’s a presidential election on Wednesday but what do I care, it won’t change much I suppose. Christmas is around the corner. Family will arrive to see the new arrival in February. I’m a father. A proud one. Life is good, I suppose.

Old Man Syndrome


On Friday morning at around 6.40, while many were still in bed or still only waking up, I was standing in the delivery room of the maternity hospital in Dongtan where myself and Herself have been frequenting on and off over the past nine months. Staring right in our faces was a tiny, screaming child, whose skin was still blue and covered in quickly drying blood having just being removed from the womb of my beloved wife. I will not lie. I cried at that very moment, but I did my best not to show it.

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Our little girl, otherwise known as +1, is perfect. She is tiny, delicate, confused, but still she is part of both of us and just thinking of her makes me smile. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of parents out there who have felt exactly the same at this moment. It’s this happiness and pride which is coercing me to share this news with you today.

I think that, right now, my biggest challange is accepting the fact that the rest of the world is moving on around us, oblivious of this moment, one which is probably irrelevant to many. I think tomorrow morning when the world restarts with work and appointments to meet, we will click back into gear somewhat. but for now, I don’t really care.

I really can’t go into enough detail about much now, as I am too riddled with emotion to account for myself adequately, and even if I could it wouldn’t represent my state of mind, because it is basically just full of mesmerised questions!

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These are just some of the thoughts fleeting around my head at every second:

How can a person’s skin be this soft?
What will she actually be like?
I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.
A smile really does make one smile in return.
All communication is a language which needs to be learned.
The future has just become a whole lot more daunting.
For all that we imagined, we could never have imagined this.
It is now less of a wonder why people believe in God.
We are not the first people to have a new baby and we will not be the last.
The human body is more amazing than you think, and when you look at women you really have to appreciate this even more.
My mother, who had five sons, really is a tougher nut than she looks.
My daughter looks like my mother.
How should I react? Herself’s friends and family, as well as hospital staff have congratulated us over and over again because our daughter resembles me. If this was in Ireland I’m fairly sure people would be consoling Herself… (maybe not the hospital staff but definitely my brothers and friends).
I think that the occasions where I’ve been happier, or equally happy, have been few and far between.

And as I tweeted earlier…

Over the past three days I have turned from a skeptic and a cynic to an idealist and an optimist. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Life has changed this weekend, and I hope to be a better man because of it.