In Recognition for Contributions to Irish Culture in Korea…


On Thursday night I was invited over to the Embassy of Ireland in Seoul for a special event. It had been a while since I’d been there, having been in on occasion helping promote Irish Association of Korea events, and for other reasons. I brought the family with me this time, and remembered to take a shave and a shower beforehand. The visit was worth the effort.

Myself and five other individuals were to be awarded for our contributions to the promotion of Irish culture in Korea. While I was undoubtedly the shortest tenured recipient of the award, the company I kept held no qualms about my presence at the ceremony.

With ambassador O’Donoghue and IAK chair, Shauna Browne

Among those were Tom Coyner, who chaired the organisation for seven years and has his share of stories from over the years, Byung Guen Chun, a Korean gentleman who was encouraged into participating over ten years ago and is still an enthusiastic member, Sean Conneely, a Irish Columban missionary who has made Korea his home for over forty if not fifty years, and the daughter of Mr Lee (that’s what we’ve always called him, and I can’t find his business card to use his proper name, so sorry…) who is the owner of the Dublin bars in Gangnam and was unable to attend. Bernard Hughes, another long term Irish expat and contributor to the IAK, was unable to attend also.

It was a very simple ceremony. The Irish ambassador to Korea Aingeal O’Donoghue and IAK Chair Shauna Browne handed out the awards, after each of which a few words of praise were lauded and then the obligatory photographs, all washed down with a bottle or two of champagne. It was a nice but short opportunity to catch up with some old friends, some of whom I am likely not to see again for some time.

Award recipients and ambassador O’Donoghue and IAK chair Shauna Browne

I can’t really emphasise how much this award means to me. While there’s the obvious recognition that is attached to the commendation, that it comes from my peers in both the IAK and the embassy is an indication that the work individual contributions we, and by we I mean all those who have gone before me, have done over the year building up the Irish Association of Korea to the organisation it is today has not gone ignored.

The past year has seen a few notable departures in the committee but I think that this change allows for new faces to step up and embrace the challenges I feel are worth the effort. I couldn’t have imagined myself organising as many St. Patrick’s Day festivals as I did when I first came to Korea, and in the end look where I ended up just before I leave the country over nine years later.

My new paperweight 😉

This is a perfect indicator of how important it is to take every opportunity that you stumble upon, embellish it, nurture it if it’s worth it, and then let it grow with you. And while I know I travelled half way around the world to do this, it’s not necessary for everyone. You just need to be able to make the opportunity yourself, but I’m not going to tell you what those opportunities are. That’s the part that’s up to you.

Now I just need to find something to fill my time over the next five years. Maybe they could use me in Dublin…

 

For more information on the Irish Association of Korea and how you can get involved (I recommend it!) visit www.iak.co.kr

You can see more photographs from this small event here 🙂

Colours, Colours, Colours! A Good Vibes Post for My First Two Weeks Back in Ireland.


I’ve been back in Ireland for approximately two weeks. I promise that during this post I will not mention the weather too much. All I can say is that it has been unseasonal.

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When we return to Ireland we spend most of time in my parents home and my old stomping ground, Beechdale in Dunboyne. At the best of times it’s a fairly ordinary housing estate on the outskirts of Dublin, albeit in County Meath. We also managed to get down to Kerry for a few days, to show the visitors around (the visitors being Herself’s oul pair who are over here with us).

Well, we’ve been doing plenty of touristing around here (yes there are some things worth doing) and also down in Kerry. It has been a good few weeks.

What I couldn’t really get over though, and this may be because I never really looked or cared before, or maybe I’m just getting all soppy and sentimental (again), is the amount of flowers, both in my mother’s own garden and growing wild.

A field close by where myself and my friends spent many years gallivanting in a manner I will not divulge here, for fear of incriminating those who would prefer not to be incriminated. Eh. Yeah. Anyway. The field, to my delight was bright yellow with buttercups. The yellow glow rose from the thin green base below and was extenuated by the overcast sky above, which warmed the flowers even more.

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In my mother’s garden as I mentioned, there was all sorts happening, and when the few drops of rain lingered on the petals in the afternoon I couldn’t help but to take some pictures. The brightest of purples and reds were perfect within the dark green of the leaves of bushes. I was not sure if it had always been like this, but I could be sure that it was something I would try to enjoy as much as I could during our stay here.

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In Kerry, the flowers again seemed to rise from every corner. Not such a frieze of yellow as the field of buttercups, but more a Monet like landscape of dotted primary colours, with occasional whites and light pinks splattered in between. Did I mention that many of these grew from the walls?

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Now that I am working a lot, I only catch a moment in the evening to enjoy the colours which are growing all over. I know It’s an unusual variety of post for my first after returning from Ireland, as I had thought of a few, but this just seemed to stick with me. I should also add that it’s summer, and with all the distractions of the outside world, this just seemed like the right thing to talk about to take our minds away from all that other stuff that makes the world field like an incredibly difficult place to live.

I hope you’re having it good too, wherever you may be!

P.S. Still having too much fun with my new camera!

Saturday, June 30 2012


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It started raining today. They say it’s the beginning of the monsoon season. All I know is it hasn’t rained properly for over a month. They say it’s the driest summer ever. It’s only June. They say a lot of things.

I just finished making myself a mug of strong black coffee, turned a Tom Waits CD, brought in a reading lamp to the living room and have set myself up for a Saturday of writing in this rain dulled apartment of mine. When I finish that I’ll probably read.

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Letter from Korea, June 2012.


Suwon
South Korea
June 28, 2012

Dear Ireland,

Are ye well? I have been doing my best to find the time to write this month’s letter before the month is out for a very good reason. As much as I would like to write about Ireland’s disastrous showing in Euro 2012 and my efforts to watch each game at 4am, there are more important things to note in this month’s letter. The whole of my world as an Irishman in Korea has suddenly changed from its original Hemingway-in-Paris aspirations to an all too realistic situation.

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Normalised into Indifference: MBC etc.


I think I’m normalised to a lot of the larger complaints made about living in Korea. Complaints like ‘Korea is soooo racist’ and other ones, but I’ll stick to the racist thing here because it’s topical. By topical I’m obviously talking about the video of the naïve and innocent foreigners who admitted to MBC about having sex with Korean women, which in turn encouraged further reporting of rumours about someone’s friend who may have overheard something in a Caffé Bene.

I’ve had a bit of time to think about this, but I’ll keep it short as there isn’t really much to say. I have no doubt that all that was said in the video was true. Whether it was reported on ethically and the footage actually involved the aggrieved is debatable.

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