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?

20 Positive Vibes


It’s not a time to be taking things for granted.

My youngest brother of four is in town for two weeks and antics are at large. Plenty of trips to traditional Korean spots such as E Mart and Starbucks have so far resulted.

+1 grows from strength to strength. She’s climbing, jumping, running, spinning, and aside from the constant exhaustion, she is nothing but a joy to watch and serioiusly addictive happy drug.

A number of life things have finally sorted , or are in the advanced stages of sorting themselves out. I have a bit more direction and confidence thanks to this.

It’s spring in Suwon and Yeongtong, and once we get those eternalz tourists out of the way (also known as cherry blossoms) the city is riot of green and all sorts of other colours as flowers are sprouting everywhere. It’s truly gorgeous and my favourite time of year.

I lost some weight in Thailand and have managed to keep it off, to a certain extent.

I’ll be reading a poem at a PEN Korea event in Jukjeon, which is just down the road from us. This is happening on the 26th, and I’ll pop a notice up here so if you’re in the area you can drop by.

I’ve been reading (and finishing) a lot more books lately. It has been quite rewarding as I was frustrated by this. Most recently I read The Great Gatsby again, as I last read it in secondary school as part of our first or second year course reading. If you had to do this, I’d suggest rereading it now as you will discover a real gem of a book that was, in this man’s case, wasted on the energies of a fourteen year old.

Since Thailand I’ve been developing my understanding of my camera and its functions, and while I’d say I’m no expert and far from it, I am enjoying the learning curve and its fruits. If you’re keen to learn about how to use your camera I’ve a friend who is staring some photography workshops in Seoul if you want to look him up.

I think that, the more and more I look back, our two months in Thailand was such a good decision, not only because of the weather but also, and more importantly, we got to spend so much time together as a family and learned so much about each other.

I’ve been having some luck submitting some stories and poems to magazines of late, and it’s a gentle reminder that I should keep working away. I’m considering putting a chap book together of Korea related poems, but I consider a lot, so maybe I should say nothing until it actually happens.

I got my writing class to write some poems for me, as part of a lesson on working on narrative, descriptive language, and dramatic effect, and they were all really good.

I walk to work every day.

The amount of good quality imported beer going at decent prices in the bigger supermarkets is increasing steadily. And, the local Lotte had a wine sale of late.

Today the sky is clear and blue and I can see right across Suwon from my twentieth floor perch here.

Last week I met up with three really good old friends from when I first arrived in Korea. I hadn’t seen them for a variety of reasons, namely me being useless, but since seeing them I’ve been reminded of the importance of people close to me staying constant in my life.

I know that some will think I’m a bit of a no-mates internet addict, and I kinda am, but I’ve been getting a lot of benefit from the groups area of Facebook of late. Not only in the Korean Bloggers one, but in a number of photography groups also where I’ve been picking up tips, getting exposure to things I usually wouldn’t seek out, and also networking with others of a similar ilk. It seems a little more of a mature way of utilising the website, rather than just as a promotional tool

A second thing about Facebook, when I initially cancelled my account a few years back I did so in half a fit of nerves and rage, but since I’ve returned I’ve approached it with a different attitude. I see it as a way to actually keep in touch people I know from throughout my life who are from over 30 different countries, and who are also living in 30 different countries. Yes Facebook will lead to the decline of civilisation but at least we’ll know how others are getting along while it’s happening.

I like having hobbies.

Something really amazing is going to happen in July, but it’s a secret.

I have an amazing wife who loves and supports me in everything I do, and we are completely committed to each other, our eternal present, and our futures. And for this I more grateful than anything.

I say all this in light of the tragedy of the Sewol ferry sinking just off the south coast of Korea. I can’t even bare to look at the news because of it. These twenty postive waves are an attempt shine a light on the importance of everything in life, regardless of how trivial it may seem. Be grateful for yourself as we never know how or when it may be taken away from us.

Guest Post: Davy’s Day Cometh


Everybody needs a hero, whatever walk of life they’re in. Sporting ones seem to hold an especial one in people’s lives. I’ve been very fortunate to have befriended many of my heroes over the years. People like Noel Meade, Trevor Brennan, Colm O’Rourke and Graham Geraghty. Heroes are particularly important in a sporting context – they inspire the next generation.

Three days after Dublin regained Sam Maguire, photographs were got with the grand old trophy after Bernard Brogan Snr stopped into a local hostelry while passing through the area. The joke on the night being that it’ll be the occasion a Meath man will hold Sam for a long time!

Not too much would be wagered on that being the case. Not only because of the progress Meath have already made and the talent that’s already coming through. Also due to some of what transpired on the local club scene of late. Now, unfortunately, circumstance deprived yours truly of the opportunity to see any action on the said weekend, but in the space of 24 hours Meath heroes of yesteryear Ray McGee, Donal Curtis and Geraghty – all either in or heading for their fourth decade – turned in inspirational displays for their clubs.

Seeing them still so effective at this stage tells you just how blessed we are as a county were to have them in their prime. Any youngster lucky enough to see them in action – even now – will surely have been inspired. Just as Clare hurling captain Pat Donnellan admitted he had been inspired by Ger Loughnane and his team from the 1990s.

Croke Park in Dublin: where many a hero is made, and where plenty of characters have played. (imagae courtesy of Wikipedia)

Maybe there’s no explanation for it, but, ‘colourful’ characters are generally the greatest heroes of all. Brennan, Paul O’Connell, Paul Carberry. Davy Fitzgerald though, is the king of them all. He was the first goalkeeper I can recall coming up and scoring. After he did so in the 1995 Munster final – and won his race back between the posts – there was only going to be one winner.

Then there was his outstanding save against John Leahy towards the end of the ’97 All Ireland. Similar result ensued. Davy Fitz is different. For example, where most would cower at the thought of facing down Henry Shefflin from close range, Davy thrived on it. Yet, it’s that very diffence that makes him one of the greatest characters the GAA has ever seen.

Davy is, in a sense, like Roy Keane – either love or loathe him, no grey areas allowed. This of course is a fanciful thought, but personally he’d convince me to run barefoot across The Burren in mid-November. Indeed, chances are he makes his current Clare players do it!

It’s indicative, however, that they’d most likely do it for him. Unfortunately, there’s an element out there that like to snipe and sneer at the great man from Sixmilebridge. Viewed from a fairer angle, he has to be one of the most passionate and inspirational people many of us have seen. His passion is infectious.

Davy Fitzgerald giving it socks! (Image courtesy of breakingnews.ie)

It must be said, mind you, that he has been extremely fortunate to have an exceptional bunch of players to work with. Talented underage sides from recent years yielded players such as Cian Dillon and John Conlon and Darach Honan. Add in that the county has put U-21 titles back to back fuelled by the likes of David McInerney, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Shane O’Donnell and that they have the McCarthy Cup for the winter shouldn’t be a shock.

Still, great players turned respected coaches such as Ger O’Loughlin and Anthony Daly saw their native team come up short under their care. When the Davy Fitz factor was added, for the majority of the season, it was a long, long way from Clare to everybody else! And as was said when Dublin won the football recently it may take quite a bit for other teams to get where they are.

With Clare, the evidence may be even more obvious. Factor in that stars of the most recent underage success Seadna Morey, Cathal O’Connell, Niall Arthur and Peter Duggan couldn’t break into the senior team and Loughnane’s assertion that they could dominate for years isn’t hard to believe. If Davy Fitz is guiding the ship it should be an unforgettable voyage to utter greatness.

This post is a guest post. For more on guest posts and how to submit please follow this link.

brendan boylan

Brendan Boylan has been writing since he as 14, professionally since 2001. He ahs been a freelance journalist for all of his adult life, specialising in all things Irish but mostly on sport. His greatest enjoyment comes from the sport he holds most dearest which is gaelic games, or as we Irish call it, The GAA, and a close second would be his passion for horse racing. He always dreamed of beinga  farmer, and this year that dream came true. His next goal is to get into writing about farming on a regular and professional basis.

Visit Brendan’s website boylantalkssport.com or follow him on twitter @BrendanBoylan

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.

Nostalgia for a Despot: an Armchair Perspective of Korea’s Present


The big talking point in the land of the morning calm is undoubtedly the election of the conservative party candidate Park Geun Hye to the presidency. Park’s father is man by the name of Park Chung Hee, whose name is both revered and reviled in Korea. Park Geun Hye is a woman, but more in the vein of Margaret Thatcher, where it could be argued gender is incidental.

Park’s election has sparked plenty of talk due to her relationship with her father who ruled this nation with a very controversial iron fist for the best part of two decades in the 1960s and 1970s. While I didn’t follow the election race in too much depth, I know that Park’s victory ticked all the boxes in terms of surprise, disappointment, doom, and any other negative or positive political emotion you can think up.

Now, I rarely talk politics here as it’s not in my writ really (unless it’s Irish politics but I save that for places like twitter and pub, which is the best place for it – I wouldn’t want to go and develop a bad reputation or anything like that now would I?). In terms of international politics, as in the politics of countries I’m not from, I do my best to merely observe, as becoming too involved or concerned does little other than frustrate me, and whoever decides to troll my comment thread. There’s more to this than that though.

Four years ago when Barrack Obama was running for president I made a determined effort to step back and ignore the entire debate. I knew he presented some viable opportunities for change but at the same time he was running for the office of American president, so despite all claims of wonder he was, deep down, aspiring to be a crook and a war criminal. Now I won’t deny that I did get excited by this year’s election as, well, the whole thing was so entertaining. The most disappointing thing about the whole process was that it was real life.

That’s just how I deal with politics, and I treated the Korean election with a similar amount of interest. You might wonder why this would be the case considering I have a vested interest in the outcome, and I do – I have a job, family, and lifestyle here in Korea, as well as paying all of my taxes here – but what good would it have done? Other than me being incredibly disappointed or annoyed (about another thing) it would serve little function. Korea would continue and I would have to seek to continue on within it without a say in how this continuance happened.

Now, for a better analysis of the result of the election, I’m going to direct you to Bobster’s House (Bobsters House: The Day After the Last Day of the World), which is where I took the title for this post from, as he has a more detailed, passionate, and constructive criticism of the situation on his blog. What I am going to do now is continue to observe as best I can.

The thing about elections is, and this is something not mentioned enough in this kind of discourse, is that the result of an election, be it a landslide or decided by a few loose votes, is always a reflection of the mind of society in which we have chosen to live. Love it or hate it, this is always the case.

In the case of Park Geun Hye’s election, it’s a story of the dictator’s daughter who actively participated in the administration who has emerged as the president of the country, now a respected democracy and global player in international affairs and economics, among other complaints. This country is now a starkly different one from the one her father took charge of and it now has the laws and institutions to protect itself from another despotic regime taking over – unless the North invades of course. But does that make a difference? Perhaps. No one actually knows what is going to happen. Alas.

Yes there are going to be some serious outcomes from the new president. I believe freedom of speech and freedom of information will continue to be threatened.  I believe equality will continue to remain something to be aspired to in the future (putting it mildly). I believe the wealth gap will continue to widen. I believe that few solutions to Korea’s economic situation worth remembering will be instituted.

Society in Korea has decided that it wants this lady to rule the country, and there is little more that we can complain about. Korean society is a lot more different and diverse than the bright lights of Gangnam and this election has done well to remind us of this significant reality. I travel to the countryside quite a lot, especially into Gangwon-do and around the outskirts of Cheonan and Yongin, and there is no doubting that eclectic neon-clad districts of Seoul such as Gangnam and Hongdae are more the exception than the rule.

As The Bobster pointed out, there are now more fifty year-olds in Korea than forty year-olds; that’s more people recalling the glory of full employment and rapid economic development than those who recall the aftermath, which was at the height of Park Chung Hee’s despotism. Even members of Herself’s own family who voted for Park in the recent election used the fact that because of her father she would do a good job.

It does not surprise me so much that Park was elected as president. Korea is a conservative country, and she is from the conservative Saenuri party. In fact, it strikes me that the opposition parties have done quite well considering how conservative Korea is, both politically, but also socially and culturally.

What doesn’t seem to be being mentioned loudly enough is that Korea is such a different country from what it was. It is a different time with different demands, of which there re too many to discuss here. I don’t think enough people know this. Korea doesn’t need full employment and rapid economic development as its highest priority any longer. It needs stability and support for its population, which is overpriced, aging, and suffering increasingly from its overly competitive dynamic. The miracle on the Han River is no longer as miraculous. The Han River’s economic development is now routine to the point it has become stagnant.

Back when Korea was developing, becoming an export economy was the best option, as there were plenty of people desperate for work, food, money, and everything else society required in the latter half of the twentieth century. Now is it any different? I would say no, it is not. Korea is still an export economy and its population revolves around the survival of its key players, namely Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and possibly some of the smaller, less famous Chaebol.

If you come down to Suwon where I live you can see this. Samsung’s Digital City is located in the centre of the city, which is an old and aging one without much industry around it. Surrounding Digital city spread out across both Yongin and Hwaseong counties are at least six more large Samsung manufacturing plants, all top of the line and all make Foxconn’s Chinese production facilities look primitive. This is the core of Samsung Electronics’ manufacturing empire in Korea.

Overall Samsung employs around 100,000 people in Korea (about half its global workforce). However, the local economy’s reliance on this company is staggering. From my window I can see large construction projects being carried out in Digital City. In the Dongtan plant, there is also large construction work underway. Surrounding all these factories are companies which supply and support Samsung’s manufacturing processes. Let’s not forget the newly developed towns, such as Yeongtong where I live, new expressways, subways and buses to connect to Seoul, schools, shopping and dining facilities, and more. This kind of development has nothing to do with Korea’s economic prominence; it has everything to do with the global demand for Samsung products.

As usual, this export orientated development is no different from the 1960s when Korea fulfilled a similar role to the one now carried out by China – a manufacturer of cheap but high quality goods, but ultimately dependent on the international economy for its survival. Is Korea not any better now as it churns out televisions and mobile phones at a high rate to satiate an always hungry global consumer?

The thing is, when Lee Myoung Bak became president, it was argued that he was the right man for the job and he could reinvigorate Korea’s stumbling economy (let’s not forget that this was 2008 – a time when major European economies and the US were themselves beginning to falter). The same party’s candidate can hardly have much more revolutionary steps up her sleeve for seeing about an economic rebirth, especially for a country that is tied to the ups and downs of its buyers across the world.

What Korea needs now is a change, and a big one, across the board. The economy is just one area which needs work, but it is certainly an obvious and easy one to provoke. Korea needs to learn to innovate and it needs to become attractive to the international environment – which isn’t easy when you consider the compeititon in Asia alone is places like Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and of course Singapore.

Korea has a fantastic population of hardworking and concerned citizens who only want the best for their country. But are these people being misled? Possibly. It needs to re-educate and approach the world from a new angle. It needs to change its institutions and it needs to respect them. It has to look at itself and rely on itself more.

Changes need to be made to turn away from this old-fashioned overly dependent means of running the country to one which encourages the old to develop into the new, and one which sees its Korean identity as pivotal in its interaction with others. This is not the case now. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, and this is an iceberg that will take longer than five years to melt.

P.S. I could be very wrong about all of this.

*UPDATE* Have a read of Roboseyo’s take on the election, including a more in depth and less one sided (and despondent) perspective on the role of Park Chung hee’s role in Korea’s past and present.