Letter from Ireland, August 2013


Dunboyne, Ireland
16 August, 2013

Dear Korea

Negativity is an often attractive topic. It’s in our nature to be critical, to find issue with what is at fault, and even when we are happy we still find reasons to complain. This isn’t exclusive to any particular situation or condition, everyone does it in some manner or form. There may be some explanation to it, but that is not my aim today.

I wanted to write today about something which has being an increasing source of bother for some time, and since I am now in Ireland I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on it from a particular standpoint.

Some time back, possibly longer than one year ago or more, I wrote a post on this blog entitled “10 Reasons Why I Dislike Korea“. I suppose when I wrote it I felt that I had to say what I said. I was feeling inciteful as well as insightful, and at the same time I was approaching the living in Korea thing from a new angle. I didn’t consider it an “I hate Korea and here’s why you should too” kind of post, and I still don’t. I read it again recently with the thought that I might take it down, but decided that no it wasn’t my post which had the problems, it was the people who read it, and of course those who commented on it who had the problems.

Regularly people find my blog with search topics which automatically create the idea that they hate Korea, or that they are looking for people who hate Korea. These kind of people who go searching for previously written complaints find my blog post with a set agenda, that is they agree with me, or accuse me of being a racist, which I don’t believe I am. But what gets me a little is that more often than not, people take what I have written and muddle my meaning.

I suppose that’s just part of writing to be read though. That some people disagree with me, or that they take what I write and twist into some other meaning and confuse and confront me as if I have some sort of agenda is something I have to deal with. I have kind of stopped replying and interacting with many commentors, with the exception of the odd clarification. That’s my way of dealing with it.

I had thought of removing the post from my blog but I think that would be against what I stand for. I do still believe in what I wrote, and if it’s a little more negative than how I usually think or write, let it be a lesson for me to think these things through. On the up side, it does bring a lot of traffic to my blog, more than many of my other posts, but I don’t get the impression that many people do what I suggest they do and that’s read some of my other posts to get an idea of how I really think.

And you know, how I think now is no different than how I ever think. I try to think as openly and as relevant to my current situation as possible. I try to approach my blog posts about wherever I may be as honestly as I can. I don’t think I’ve ever lied, or taken anything out of context before (too much). As I say, it’s a personal blog and I am just the opinion of one person. This is the internet, I suggest using it to find a counter opinion.

You see it’s always easy to choose the reasons we dislike somewhere when we are there. Call it a constant search for a better situation, or something, something that encourages us to simply desire a better slice of the cake, because every human is entitled to want.

I could easily turn around and write ten reasons why I like living in Korea (and maybe I will but it would be a challenge to avoid cliches – which may be why I wrote the ten reasons in the first place). What I can do is point to where I am now, Ireland, a country where I have lived for a lot longer than I have lived in Korea, and one where I left in 2005 when I was 23 because I disliked living here. Today I couldn’t even attempt to rattle my brain to recall the simple causes of my initial departure, but there are plenty of things which get to me already and I’ve only been bacl here on holidays for a month and half.

Things like this odd superiority complex, the casual racism, the expectation that Ireland is and always will be perfect for everyone, that it is impossible to get real, good, Korean food, that we still as a people cannot stand up and fight and demand together the changes this country needs (but this could be a universal problem), that we still can not turn left on red, and that the majority of pubs still insist on serving only Guinness, Heineken, Carlsberg, Smithwicks, Bulmers and Budweiser…

We are people and we all want a better lot. We see things which we believe can be improved and we try to talk about them, to raise awareness where we see wrong. Some things will never change, such as the poor beer choices in Ireland and the human zoo that is Costco in Korea. We hope, and in this hope we continue on, making our own changes to see the progress in our lives, because we know how little hope we stand of ever finding the solutions we seek elsewhere.

I do dislike many aspects of living in Korea, but I bear them as an acceptable weight, and I see them as challanges which would be merely different but equally pertinent in any other country I might choose to live in, including my own. There are plenty of reasons that I like Korea also, but I chose not to write about them at that time.

There is no such thing as utopia. With every situation were people live together there will always be complaint and distaste. I believe it is in our nature. The important thing is that we do our best to concern ourselves with our own goals and our own future and we look beyond what others see as wrong. No place is exempt from criticism, just as much as no country should be criticised for only its mistakes and wrongs.

The same can be said for people. If you see what someone has done or said, look back and try to see what else they have said or done and try to realise how much of a human they are and how their actions reflect our own, regardless of skin colour or place of birth. In the world, it’s all just best that we get along, regardless if we’re from Ireland or Korea or somewhere in between.

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.