Fifty Things You May Not Know About Me


In no particular order of importance…

  1. I’m a Scorpio born in the Year of the Sheep.
  2. I’ve been married for about six and a half glorious years
  3. +1 will be two in a few weeks, and she’ll be a big sister by May of next year.
  4. I have four brothers, one brother in law, and two sisters in law.
  5. Despite what I like to think and how I like to pretend, I’m from Dunboyne, Co. Meath.
  6. I went to UCD where I did a BA in History and Greek & Roman Civilisation.
  7. Previous jobs include selling runners and sports gear, stickering and tagging CDs and DVDs in a stockroom for the Christmas season, timeshare telesales, market researching, and door-to-door “advertising”.
  8. I have a mild but insatiable addiction to cured pork products.
  9. I first arrived in Korea on March 16, 2005.
  10. I first started writing while sitting on a big rock on the side of a mountain in my first neighbourhood in Korea, Sinnae-dong.
  11. My nickname is Conzie but I won’t tell you how I got it (you could buy me a few drinks to encourage me otherwise).
  12. For all my complaints about people and what they do, I think I’m a bit of hypocrite.
  13. While there are many things that bother me, people who stop in busy doorways or at the bottom of escalators really do deserve the kick I am going to eventually give them.
  14. I got a D2 in English in the Leaving Cert.
  15. I have a Masters in 20th and 21st Century Literature from the University of Southampton, and next year I’ll be starting a Doctor of Education in the University of Glasgow.
  16. I should really be applying for a job right now and not writing blog posts.
  17. I started writing a memoir about my life in Korea back in August, but I’ve struggled to get by the third chapter.
  18. Of all the people I’ve met in my life there is only one person in the world I hope that I never ever see or speak to again. I honestly think that is one too many.
  19. I’m prone to feeling sorry for myself despite my life and decisions always being in my own hands.
  20. In theory myself and herself have three wedding anniversaries.
  21. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything based on my own ability.
  22. I like to be alone just as much as I enjoy company.
  23. I think I found out more about myself in my first six months of living in Korea than I had from my life before.
  24. I am addicted to looking at my smartphone.
  25. Jealousy is something I struggle to manage.
  26. Writing and photography are so bloody subjective it drives me crazy, but I still can’t get enough of them.
  27. As creepy as the idea of internet friends might sound, I have established some very good relationships and connections through the internet.
  28. When I was younger, I never ever saw myself as a teacher.
  29. When I was starting out in university I wanted to be a writer, or a journalist, without ever having written anything.
  30. My favourite thing about teaching is meeting mew people and hearing their story.
  31. I really can’t for the life of me comprehend why English is the most important language in the world.
  32. Racism appalls me.
  33. Despite any regrets I may hold over decisions I made or failed to make, I couldn’t be happier with my life right now. A lot of this has to do with Herself and +1.
  34. I miss Korea a lot.
  35. Dublin is a city I never knew until now.
  36. I find idealism and negativity serious turn offs.
  37. With the right attitude a lot in life can be achieved.
  38. Setting myself realisable goals has made me so much more productive.
  39. For someone as disorganised and messy as me my obsession with order and aesthetic is a serious eyebrow raiser.
  40. The first poem I had published was in Wordlegs, and I wrote it while on our honeymoon in Turkey.
  41. I got paid for a poem I had published in Southword and I still have to cash the cheque. I might never actually do this.
  42. I promised Herself I’d win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  43. I really want to be recognised for who I am and what I’ve done. The answer to this, I know, is “well then, do more, and do it better”.
  44. I used to play and take an interest in a lot of sport, but now I have little to no interest.
  45. I bit my nails, often down to the nub.
  46. I am often dishonest with people close to me, but quite up front to strangers.
  47. There is no greater feeling than getting a big, meaningful hung from my wife and daughter.
  48. I’m quite lazy and forgetful and this is the one single characteristic I would change about myself.
  49. I can’t understand the people who spell my first name wrong, even though it is spelled correctly right in front of them – like in an email or on Facebook or whatever.
  50. My number one priority, despite everything I’ve said here, is providing unconditionally for my family.

This was a pretty difficult list to come up with, but despite the challenge I found it quite therapuetic as it gave me a chance to understand myself a little better – or at least to put my understanding of myself onto paper.

I should add that I got this idea from the Irish Blogger’s Facebook Group, and specifically from the blog A Modnern Mommy’s World, a blog I probably never would have found myself wandering on to, but such is the beauty of such blogger groups on the Buke of Faces. If you’re a blogger from Ireland I’d recommend joining this group.

So, now it’s your turn. What are your fifty things?

People have the their own problems to worry about. You don’t need to hear about mine.


That’s a very moody sounding title for a blog post, isn’t it?

I’ll try to be brief. It’s pushing four months since I returned to Ireland after the long jaunt in Korea. There’s probably a lot to say about it but I’ve felt kind of pent up and not comfortable saying to much lately. I’m going to blame my circumstances in private but pretend everything is rosy on the outside. Despite this things are kind of rosy, as it is good to be back in Ireland, and while some things could be better there are plenty of people in this country suffering a lot more than I.

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Maybe I’m just battling against the former cushy lifestyle that I had in Korea, and the familiarity of living in the same home for over three years – something myself and Herself hadn’t done since we left our family homes some years before. Living in Ireland is very different of course, and the costs are always one of the first places you feel this. Learning to adapt to deal with these costs is its own challenge.

 

 

All three photos taken looking east from Capel Street Bridge, Dublin

Before we lived off credit cards essentially, where they would function as bank cards most of the time, but now we live off hard cash. So if there’s no cash in the bank, or indeed the pocket, there is no longer the long finger to rely on. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but you’re likely to be an adult so you can work out the problems yourself. I can feel the restrictions but I’m kind of glad there we’re no longer juggling bank balances.

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One of the biggest differences is where we live. Of course you’ll be familiar with the view from the twentieth floor, that spot from where our apartment looked out over Suwon and caught the sun reclining over haze and high-rise on so many evenings. The apartment wasn’t tiny by Korean standards but it certainly wasn’t large.

Compare it to where we live now. Our kitchen is almost as big, and certainly longer than our apartment, there are three bedrooms which are all much bigger. We have a separate sitting room, and a dining room a family could be comfortable residing in. But the real coup de grace is the garden, which is not only equipped with mature growth, a green house, walnut and fig trees, but it’s also massive. Of course I can’t be entirely happy – maintaining this space is a full time job in itself, or so it feels.

New skyline view from the garden

I should add that we were very fortunate to have this situation. The house is definitely not mine, it was my grandfather’s and after he passed away last year the house became vacant. Part of the reason we came back to Ireland so hurriedly – I suppose – was because we knew that we had this place to move into. Myself and Herself are grateful for the support of both our family’s, without whom this move would have been impossible. It is still a work in progress but at least there is some progress being made somewhere.

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Some time back I decided to focus my career fully on education, or at least education related. This decision came after a lot of thought and frustration, but one penny that did drop told me that I had been working quite enjoyably in education since 2005, so why stop now? There are a number of reasons why I would stop, namely a lack of jobs and generally lower salaries, but a reason I’ll continue is that I’m kind of good at what I do I think, and I kind of love learning myself.

This focus has made the transition to Ireland easier I suppose, in that I don’t mind teaching English for a living and when we came back in the summer there was no shortage of quality teaching opportunities. This is less the case now, but if anything the lack of work is a strong impetuous to get me up of my arse and find a proper job. There’s plenty out there, but I suppose it’s just a question of finally connecting the hammer with the nail, a skill I have a tendency to lack I believe.

Regardless of that, having to work in the city centre has been something I’ve missed. I am espcecially fond of those pre-work walks across the river, through Temple Bar and from there beyond. There are tiny features and so many sounds that even if you listened you would miss the majority.There is bustle and a hush on seemingly always rain damp streets no more than a minute apart. I feel I almost recognise every face. Town is a remedy in itself where I can daydream my way through the streets and imagine something.

Dublin city streets of an early morning

All that being said, if you’d like to offer me a job I’m more than willing to hear you out.

I had planned this post to be one where I wouldn’t rant on about my circumstances. I had imagined a later post in my life that would divy out the entire insipid unemployment fueled rant, but it seems that a genuine desire just to write something has countered any major veins of negativity. I’ve tried here to at least be honest while at the same time not bore you with melodramatics of a new life in my home country, as it has certainly been far from that. We’ve been enjoying it here, but it’s not without it’s occasional speed-bump. But we knew this was going to be the case so it’s hardly news.

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I’m keen to get back blogging regularly. I miss the attention, the fun of finishing a draft, the nervous wait for the view count the rise, and the sudden vibration and tinkle on my phone as a comment or like comes through. But I’ve been a bit at a loss for things to say, which is a poor excuse for someone as loquacious as I.

If there’s anything you’d like to hear my waffle on about or if you’d like a topic analysed as only I can, or even photographs of a particular place or theme from Dublin please drop a comment in below.

From the top of Google HQ in Dublin

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The photographs in this post were all taken over the past couple of months in Dublin. These days I’ve ditched my old iPhone 4 and and am now touting a HTC One M8, which is very lovely indeed (maybe there’s an idea for a new blog post…)

Letter to Korea, August 2014


Dublin, Ireland
August 2014

Dear Korea,

I may not make a habit of this, but I thought considering our long affair together the least you deserve is an update on life without you. You know, it has been almost two months since I arrived back ‘home’ in Ireland and you seem further away than ever before. This is not the first time we have been separated for a long period, but always I had that return flight date lingering in the back of my mind. Such a comfort does not exist now.

Perhaps it is significant that I write this today, me who has kind of gone off writing this kind of thing, because it is the day when I receive my last pay cheque from my old work in Korea. In some respects I can look at it as the ending of what was another era for me, although I would laud it with such praise very reluctantly. The period of time for such an era to exist has merely concluded but all who existed beforehand continue on living in Korea regardless of whether or not I am there. Ireland is equally unperturbed by my return.

I was expecting more culture shock but have been lucky so far. The benefits have balanced pleasantly against the expected problems. Having a garden and a job to arrive to have made things much easier on me and my family. Family are nearby, as are friends, and there is a seemingly never ending quantity of tasty cake supplying cafes in the city centre which I seem to find myself in frequently on the way home from work. We discover new things daily and look forward as optimistically as possible to each new challenge the rest of the week brings us.

It may well be the honeymoon period, as arguably I’m still on my summer holidays. Today it rained like December and there was a bus strike. We went to the supermarket and again scratched our heads as to why raw prawns were so hard to find. They aren’t really hard to find obviously, they’re just playing second fiddle to cooked ones. A bit like the sunshine does with the rain, and in terms of fiddling about with transport I can’t fail to mention how much I miss my kyotung card, or transfer card. The so-called leap card is more a stumble along moderately well provided you don’t ask too much of it card.

Today as I taught a class I asked the students to write ten things about themselves, be it physical or emotional, and from here they had to let fellow classmates guess what each thing meant and then they would explain. The idea was to enable them to become confident talking about themselves and their emotions, I think. I gave myself as an example, which is something I probably do too often.

One thing that I wrote I wrote on the board as is ‘old is new’. I had been pacing the classroom trying to come up with things to include as part of my list. I looked out onto South William Street and up Clarendon Street from my classroom and in the distance I could make out the heads bobbing back and forth. There was the great debris of Grafton Streets midday traffic. It was in this part of town where I had worked just before I left for Korea nine years previously, and it was around here that I had spent many days and indeed nights. I don’t think I had spent as much as others but I remembered the streets fondly, almost nostalgically.

It got me thinking about each morning when I walked to the school where I teach. As I walked from Ormond Quay up to South William Street I was having this new feeling of being  new to a city, of being here for the first time. I had that blinkered feeling that ignored the normality brought about by familiarity, the same kind of bland taste you get from the same journey to work every day for a year. I was making a subconscious effort not to recognise what essentially looked exactly the same as before I left the city when I was only 23.

It’s not that everything is new. Perhaps it is seeing everything renewed. The old familiarity I had with Dublin hasn’t gone. I walk around and drive around the city and find my way with relative ease. I know where places and, for the most part, the quickest way to get to them. I stare a little longer in wonder than I used to, and I still hope that sooner or later myself and Herself can finally get a chance to regular sample all the delights our new home has to offer.

But that can’t be everything about living. Those grey walls will lose their lustre soon. The chance to be human will be removed and we will feel like more numbers but on a different chart. Herself waits for me through the long mornings to come home from work. It can’t be easy. I worry that what work I have will not be enough to live on. So much has depended on generousity to date. Consider it a metaphor that the tomatoes planted in our greenhouse will soon be dead and we shall be left to find fresh fruit elsewhere.

We sit and we wait for the ruthless nature of what is clearly a beast that only welcomes those working. The safety net that my teaching job in Korea provided and which we ridiculed for its unrealistic nature has finally been removed at our request. Now as we tumble as gracefully as our naive frames will allow us to fold in positions for safety expecting the thump of landing, I wonder will this next year be as challenging as we are expecting? Or will it be something else?

 

 

 

 

Letter from Korea, June 2014.


Jumunjin, Korea
June  23, 2014

Dear Ireland,

If you’re not already aware I’ll be leaving in about a week. I know I’m going on about it a fair bit, but it is what I’ve been building up to for quite a while and it feels appropriate to me to talk about it a lot. Right now, in terms of being in Korea, it doesn’t feel like there is much else I should be talking about. One thing though that I’d like to make clear though is my intentions.

Never at any point have I turned around and said I have to get out of Korea for some abhorrent reason, like the usual tripe you hear about the inadequacies of Korea, Koreans, or indeed the inadequacies of those who cannot accept that this is a very different country to the one which they were raised in. I could go on here, but I won’t.

Over the past four and a half years Korea has presented me unlimited opportunities to not only excel professionally, but also personally. What matters to me most now is that I did my best to respond to each opportunity. Master Yoda’s message has always been in the back of my mind ringing strong, ‘do, or do no, there is no try’.

As an adult I think it’s important to know what you want to do in life. Even if this is the wrong decision, knowing your direction makes developing a lot easier. In Korea I have been granted many opportunities, including business, education, journalism, and I have tried to see them through to realise their potential, or has more often been the case, their suitability to me. I’ve worked on the plans, built my image, and connected with important decision makers in all of those fields. In the long run however, I did not have the heart for whatever it was that I was doing. For me this was an incentive to seek different paths.

It may be that success was not immediate and I just needed to try harder. Passion, however, was lacking and the incentives in the long run were even hard to assess. I could not even tell the length of the run I was expecting to undertake. It is important to know the disntance of any race, or indeed the height of the hill you are attempting to climb.

I’m not without my commitment to other areas in my life. I believe it is important to be prepared for everything that life presents to you, but it is equally important to know as many clichés as possible when you choose to back down from a challenge, and I will let you devise them here. You can draw comparisons if the clichés aren’t strong enough for you to understand my point, all I will say for now on this is that some things were not meant to be.

Korea has changed my mentality on so many fronts, not just how I approach challenges but also how I prepare myself. To take every opportunity we are presented is not possible, and to rely on the patience brought about by previous failures is something that probably doesn’t sound too encouraging when you set out. Again, I look to another master for guidance, this time an Irish one:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”*

 
(*I am sorry, I’ve seen several versions of this, but never once have I seen it accredited its exact location in the canon. Regardless the message rings true. And of course, this is Samuel Beckett)

This July I shall be reacting to another failure of mine. The change from Ireland to Korea was always with an open mind and an aspiration to change again in the future. The future has now arrived and while life has been good in Korea, the ladder upward has been flimsy and without a top in sight. Maybe ladders of life do not need tops, but they should at least have milestones, and by milestones I suppose I mean realisable goals.

Since I began teaching in Korea I have always progressed a step at a time. I can realistically chart my progress contract by contract, while always looking to the next stage, but now there appear to be no more rungs. There are options of course, and the position I had teaching academic English language skills in a leading Korean university had many options, many at the grace and mercy of the almost five months of holidays a year, and the limited class contact hours. Perhaps some have always wondered why I managed to maintain such an active online lifestyle, well now you know.

There is plenty to be done with this time of course, and I know many who use this position or one like it as a base for them to find more work teaching office workers or in homes and the likes. I’ve done all this, and I believe I was a good teacher with a decent reputation. Yet the lack of security and the reliance, invariably, on apathetic and often clueless recruiters on temp contracts charged with the responsibility of placing teachers is an experience I can do without in my work life. Added to this, at the best of times work is only available from 7am to 9am, or from 6pm until 7pm or sometimes 8pm. Students, are tired, bored, and overworked. The dynamic in the classroom is as you might expect, tiring, boring, and far too much work for the teacher.

I think that I’m coming across as scathing here, but I’d like to reassure you that for many these options are fine, and I can see why. What helps is a strong commitment, and also close access to the positions which offer these times. Yeongtong, where I lived for the majority of that time, was limited to the occasional vacancy in one of the several colossal Samsung plants that are close, and a scattering of other jobs. Quality positions were few and far between.

So this is the work life I am leaving. I will say little of the future I am traveling towards. Maybe I’ll save that for a later letter. What I can say is I’m leaving it for uncertainty and a smaller pay cheque. I worry a lot that my shrinking of income and free time will make me regret my decision to leave Korea. As a family we are committed, and I don’t doubt the summer will be fantastic, but as the winter settles in I worry. I think more and more now over the coming days how much I’m going to miss Korea. At this point I will also say I’m a little scared.

I know that we will be back to Korea to visit, but I hope that it does not turn out that we return with our tails between our legs again in a few years time. My attitude will have to change of course if I want to come back with my head held high. I hope that I am prepared for this challenge.

Of Suwon No More


I am no longer a resident is Suwon. It’s a sad day, I suppose, but one myself and Herself talked about for a while. It may be a new idea to you but it’s one thing we’ve known about for some time.

Over the past week boxes were filled, as we’re plenty of those 100 litre rubbish bags. The bags went to the dumpster down below, the boxes to the post office. Thankfully there’s surface post from Korea to Ireland.

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On Tuesday we sent our good bits of furniture to a new home and life in Ansan. They looked happy there, being put to good use at the hands of newlyweds. We’ll miss that fridge I could fit into, and the bed too. It was as comfortable as they get, with a memory or two attached as well.

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In the morning we packed and watched Korea’s draw against Russia. It was already hot and I was hungover from farewell drinks with colleagues the night before. It looked like we’d never come near to leaving that evening, but sleeves were rolled up and sweat was wiped from brows and not a thought was given to what might be, only to what must be.

By five o’clock we had the house cleared and we dined at a plastic storage box. The apartment was bright with evening light, and our words amplified in the echo of our now empty walls. It looked bigger than ever, but it was as still as tiny as it always seemed with all our acquired accoutrements cluttering corners to abandon.

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Eventually everything was gone. We dumped our leftover furniture for disposal and jammed the final bags we meant to pack more sensibly into the back of the car. We panicked again when we saw another pile of something we’d neglected to economise space for, but found a solution through the good will of a generous neighbour.

Before we pulled away we checked the apartment once more, went to the toilet, and I managed to get one last picture of that skyline which looked across at us for three and a half years.

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When I say it like that, the whole adventure probably doesn’t come across as anything nearly as dramatic as it should. Yet, it was where myself and Herself both finally got a chance to settle a little for the first time after we married some six years previously. We are grateful for this opportunity, and none more so than the chance to start a family, itself as new a chapter as any.

Now though, the three of us are starting another phase of life. We are moving country. This is not myself and Herself’s first venture, but for +1 it is. Although I really can’t tell if she knows what’s happening; throughout the past weeks he has just been really good and allowed whatever to happen as it has.

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For now we are in a humid and overcast Gangnueng for a little over ten days, spending time with Herself’s parents and relaxing before we finally fly to Ireland and start settling into the onslaught of reverse culture shock we are expecting on arrival.