One Month and a Bit: photos from Korea, August to October, 2013


As I said, I’ve been back in Korea for a little over a month and a bit. Plenty has happened, including Chuseok, the IAK ceili, a trip to Herself’s grandmother’s farm, walks into and out of work, and a little bit of a trip to a theme park.

Here is a simple photo update of the past 40 odd days. Some have had some editing, others go up in their natural state, so to speak.

All photographs copyright Conor O’Reilly, 2013

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Letter from Korea, October 2013


Suwon, Korea
Ocotober, 2013

Dear Ireland,

It has been well over a month since myself, Herself, and +1 have been back in Korea, and what I expected would be my September letter got left by the wayside and is only being seen to now in October. You know you’ll get the usual excuses for not doing anything which isn’t vital to one’s survival, such as being busy with things which are vital to one’s own survival.

After two and a bit months in Ireland, returning to Korea for life, work, and more life, was less the shock we had thought it might be. A smaller home, no garden, no dog, less rain, and that view from all the way up at the top of our tower just seemed to be what was right at the time. There seems to be less culture shock the more we travel between Ireland and Korea.

Update: Some photos from the last month and a bit back in Korea

When we first came back to Ireland we walked around in a half-daze finding it hard to comprehend that the last time we were here was almost two years beforehand. Yes, we had been back briefly in April for a funeral, but this was different. With the funeral we knew that we only had so much time and that we would be busy, obviously, and the week passed quicker than we knew it before we were back in Korea.

Two months is in many respects a long time, but you know it’s never long enough some times. Every time I seem to go home I seem to leave everything I want to do until the last two weeks of my time. This includes meeting friends, going into Dublin, and a whole list of other things. Maybe because I just feel comfortable up to that point until when I realise that it’s all going to be miles away in a mere matter of days.

This August though, we returned relatively scar free to Korea and returned to the regular humdrum. It’s a humdrum though that exists for everyone after their holiday, regardless of where they were or how long they were away for. Maybe we’re getting better at it, and maybe we’re becoming more aware of what it is we should be doing and when we should be doing it. In this case, it’s getting on with our day in the middle of all the other days.

We go to work, we go shopping, we take +1 out for walks and to her little classes, we meet friends, we go for dinner, and on occasion I get a little drunk. We complain about the weather and things that aren’t working properly in our apartment, we say hello to neighbours we recognise and wonder why others still don’t pay any attention to us even though we’re living here three years. The sunsets continue to decorate that sky to the right when I look out the window around six or seven every night, and always we see our little daughter growing stronger and more mobile to the point that we are often lost for words. This is just a snapshot of everything that occupies us, and I believe we all have our comparisons tidied away somewhere.

At the back of all this foreground lies our future. We could not continue to move forward without knowing what lies there. We have been fortunate enough to be given the many opportunities presented to us, and we know each moment presents opportunity. Korea for all the things it is not is definitely a boiling pot of opportunity, you just have to fight harder to make the most if it. The life I have delved, almost accidentally it seems sometimes, has brought a mightly stew of changes in my life, and my family’s life. Opportunities have been taken and missed, but regrets are something we seem to have few of.

On the east coast of Korea in a small town called Jeongdongjin, right on the coast and just south of Gangnueng, you can see this happening but you need to wait around for a while.

Right beside the broad white beach is a small urban park, and the centre piece is a rather large cylindrical egg-timer. Yes, an egg-timer as I know it as, that drops grain after grain through a tiny hole bit by bit counting down until the end of the year, until it rolls over and starts again.

We never see a grain dropping and we would need to spend the entire year to see the results of this ever gradual change. But like most who see the change, we come and and we go and we see it at different stages of progression.

In the future we know that by sitting here and watching everything reverberate and rotate balancing on its fulcrum, we know that things change with every minute. From full to empty and half-full again, it is worth taking a step back and realising that we never see progress as it happens, only once it has passed.

We don’t need anniversaries or milestones really to see this, just the patience to allow each grain of sand to pass through the hole and for the mound of white sand grow and grow until we have our own little mountain.

Instagramming My Environment


Friend and travel blogger Steve Miller a.k.a. The QiRanger, has started a new October series of videos titled Eye on Your Environment. His aim is to look a little closer at the world around him, and to talk about what makes his environment special to him. I can see a lot of worth in this kind of post (and have tried myself before), but especially because Steve doesn’t live too far away from me and in an environment which is not too dissimilar to Yeongtong.

I thought after watching Steve’s video that I could do something similar. Regulars to this blog will know that I don’t really do video, although I do do photographs, in fact arguably too many photographs. Although that may be others opinion’s of me sneaking into my work, but still lots of photos is me, regardless of the quality.

One way of photographing I’m also quite passionate about is with Instagram. Now, frankly I don’t care about your opinions of the photo sharing phone application, as I have mine, and if it’s something you feel is close to the most evil thing in the planet then I imagine you should reconsider your priorities, or whatever.

I use instagram to basically chart my motions and impressions, although I limit it to those which I believe to be aesthetically pleasing (in my own eye) or particularly interesting. As I live in Yeongtong you can rest assured that a lot of my images make a big deal of trying to make Yeongtong look aesthetically pleasing. This may be the biggest challenge at times.

I stem from the belief in photography that there is a certain amount of beauty to be found in everything ugly. In fact, I find that so-called ugliness is in fact more pleasing to photograph as it is the effects of humans on the environment which interests me. And with regard to the environment which is itself a human creation, the effects of time and weather and lives interchanging in all the multitude of ways it does is where my eye will usually be drawn for a closer look.

Instagram, the social photograph sharing app, is ideal for showing what I see as unique, and worth letting others see also. Of course the fact that the app is linked with my twitter, flickr, tumblr, and facebook, and there’s the convenience of having it always with me on my phone allowing for me to be in a position to have a photograph taken, tweeked, and shared within moments. I think I do have a problem with over-tagging, but then one must do one’s best to try to attract more followers. This is the internet afterall and if I don’t stake my claim (which is basically the same as screaming my side of the argument as load as possible), who is going to listen?

Back to the QiRanger and what I started out to say.

Yeongtong itself is not a pretty place. It seems to constantly shape itself into a copy of everything else in the neighbourhood. It is a place where you can imagine everything constructed or used to construct sitting on a shelf with a pricetag. You can feel that all which was made here was in the imagination of an architect, and not a particularly good one at that. Everything was once shiny but now after fifteen or so years the price paid for the sparkle has proven to be a poor substitute for the more durable alternative.

The broken paving slaps and cobblelock tiles where the poorly levelled earth has come uneven. The benches have detiorated and but still usable. The footpaths are uneven and the streets are a mess of cars poorly parked and those basing the rules of the roads on their chances of not getting caught by the police. The facades of the buildings are long past any notion of contemporary, not just because of the red-blue-green neon flashing constantly, but typically tacky bad christmas decoration like attachments to the painted concrete. Lets not even start with the now unwashed glass that gives a eerie mottled effect to so many businesses. Let me not forget to mention the constant buzzing of delivery scooters.

But Yeongtong has its charm. It has its coffee shops and it has, for the most part, clean streets. It has restaurants and children ploughing the streets between hagwon hours and drunks jostling for each other’s shoulder space as the leave restaurants later in the night. There are parks and trees which fill with sunshine, laughter, and silence as the rest of the neighbourhoold rumbles around it arguing with car horns. There is an independence about Yeongtong in its many boutiques and restaurants which can be found away from the usual franchise filled streets. There are people who smile when you walk in and talk with you like a person, who share a story, and ask you about your day. And this may not seem like something to talk about but often you forget in some places that there are people working there, not just teenagers programmed to chirp 안녕하세요 in the same nasally annoying voice.

From where I work on the outskirts of the neighbourhood to my home on the twentieth floor, Yeongtong is a vista on a world in motion. Yeongtong was made to facilitate living both for the Samsung behemoth and Seoul behemoth. It is not a perfect place, nor is it so imperfect that you cannot live there. Its perfections and imperfections are in many ways subtle, and in that regard I feel that the immediate displeasure you may have here will soon be overrided by the time you find what it is that gives Yeongtong its own sense of place, and that is its livability. Yes all places are livable, but for me Yeongtong will never be perfect and I could not stand living in the perfect home.

Home is where we do our best to subsist and survive. It is where we go to escape from the outside, and where we delve into for our own pleasures, be they a favourite chair, a flatscreen television, complete silence, or every so often a stunning sunset or the brightest of sunlight streaming inside right into the late evening.

Yeongtong is where I live, it is my environment, and I document this with Instagram as my medium. Please join me for my so-called ride of living in the bellows of Korean suburbia.

Instagram: conzieinkorea

Please click on photos for larger images on flickr

What’s in my bag?


Heading into Seoul today, February 19, 2012.

Contents:

– 2 New Yorker magazines
– 2 leather soft-back A6 Moleskine notebooks
– 1 book In the Palm of your Hand by Steve Kowit
– 1 poetry book Black Moon by Matthew Sweenry
– 1 Penguin Classic book Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
– 1 summer issue of The SHOp poetry magazine
– 1 Starbucks 2012 diary and day planner
– 1 spiral bound paper backed notebook
– Several sheets of white A4 paper with all kinds of notes, poems in construction, sketches etc.
– 1 large white envelope with letters from assorted financial institutions in Ireland.
– 1 round Zip-Lock Tupperware tub with sliced carrot, apple, and kiwi pieces inside.
– 1 Schaefer fountain pen
– 1 white Gangeung-si click pen
– 1 mechanical pencil
– 1 HB pencil
– 1 brown leather Bally wallet
– 1 set of keys with 2 x USB keys and one stainless steel Scott’s terrier key ring
– 1 iPhone 4 32GB
– 1150 Korean Won

Previously: Under Close Examination