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.

A Lesson in Perseverance


In 2008 I was on the brink of getting married, and I was busy contemplating what to do afterwards. There were plenty of options, easy and less easy, but none painted in any way a clear picture of the future.

At the time I was working in a relatively big language school on the south side of Seoul and I was nearing the end of my third year. I didn’t have any teaching qualifications, but much like today I talked a good fight and fancied my chances regardless of what happened.

Of course marriage was going to change everything. There was the obvious and easier option and then there was the riskier and more exciting option that you don’t hear of many newly-weds taking, at least not in Korea anyway.

As a couple we’d been pretty straight forward. We would travel around the country and take as many breaks as possible, we spent money as liberally as our bank balances would allow in restaurants and shops, and me in bars. We were having fun in that situation and that was what mattered. But I don’t think we took any major risks.

Seoul, 2008

Seoul, 2008

Just before my contract was ending I was applying around for university teaching jobs in Korea, because we had decided that we would work a little, save, and then travel together to study in Ireland or the UK. I was mostly unsuccessful until I got offered a job at a small enough university in Daegu. We were both quite intrigued and curious about the possibilities this new opportunity would deliver.

Now, let me let you in on a few things. I didn’t have anything higher than a BA degree at the time, and I had no formal qualifications as well as fairly limited experience. The job I had been offered presented little in the way of a pay rise, and it would also involve a big move down to an unfamiliar city where neither of us knew anyone.

We bit the bullet.

I applied for a few masters courses in the UK, extended my contract until a month before our wedding day, and sat down to wait. Before long I had received a letter of acceptance (and a couple of rejections too I might add) to the University of Southampton.

Now let’s not be naïve, Southampton on England’s south coast was an even a bigger risk than Daegu; we knew hardly anyone in the UK with the exception of my brother and his girlfriend and a scattering of friends in London, we’d never lived in the UK, and I’d only been there twice before and both times briefly. Despite this, we went for it because it was the payoff that we were aiming for.

So we headed back to Ireland once I finished working, then came back to Korea, via a long weekend in Hong Kong, and got married with my parents and all four of my brothers in attendance, then lumped a pile of bags on them as they flew back to Ireland, and we packed our bags for two weeks in Turkey for our honeymoon. We then moved on to Ireland where my parents threw a huge party in the back garden with a marquee and gallons of booze, and then we went down to Kerry in the south of Ireland and proceeded to travel up the west coast through Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo and into Donegal, which took us about two weeks. A second honeymoon if you will.

Bozcaada, Turkey

Bozcaada, Turkey

While this road trip was taking place, I got a phone call and got accepted onto an English language teaching certificate course in Dublin, which I accepted, and cut our road trip short.

After finishing the course, we began to prepare for the move to Southampton. This involved a very demotivating visit to the town where we found that another university in the town had made a mess of their halls allocation, leaving half the students without previously promised accommodation. This left the vast majority of cheap accommodation close to the campus to be already occupied before we even got off the plane. In a whirlwind visit we eventually settled on a small two bedroomed place on the ground floor on the opposite side of town to the university. This wasn’t an issue as I only had a few classes a week; most of the time I would spend would be doing my own reading and research, and I could easily walk into the university as it was a brisk 45 minute walk away.

I won’t lie, but aside from the course the year in Southampton was almost a disaster. Hiccup after hiccup befell us. Herself struggled to find any form of work, and she felt genuinely discriminated against. I couldn’t find any teaching work – I later learned that nearby Bournemouth was a hub for English language schools but was still too awkward to get to regularly – and ended up working in a supermarket on minimum wage. Our apartment turned out to have little to no heat, and the place soon got enveloped in damp and mould. We were lonely and we were broke.

In a cemetery next to Southampton Common.

In a cemetery next to Southampton Common.

I remember one incident in particular when we were walking back from the college where I had classes and Herself directed me towards the supermarket because we needed to pick up some things for dinner. I was terrified the whole time because sooner or later I was going to have to tell her we had only 25 pounds left in the bank. When I did tell her it is her face and reaction that I can remember and will forever.

She paused and faced me, stiff as an old iron rod, her eyes dropping, sucked of life and close to tears, as sad as I’ve ever seen them. Her mouth dropped half open, and her fists clenched tightly in desperation around the little piece of yellow paper with the small list of household basics we needed for dinner.

In the end I placated her, and we went into the supermarket and picked up the absolute necessities on the list. I should add that the supermarket was ASDA, so there was no shortage of cheap things, but still it was the first time, and only time, we’ve felt so vulnerable.

We pulled together and learned to adapt fast. In my supermarket job I had the pick of the food about to expire which was always sold at cut prices. I picked up bread, chickens, bacon, sausages, vegetables, ham, cheese, and every other variety of product and often for less than 50p – about 1000 KRW. This in the end probably saved us. Things began to eventually work themselves out and everything got a lot easier in the end, fortunately.

Howth Harbour, July 2009.

Howth Harbour, July 2009.

After a long year we moved back to Ireland where I finished my dissertation and Jin Won eventually found work in customer service to Korean customers on an international website that was based in Dublin. And in the Autumn, after I’d received my final grade for my masters – a grade I was simply happy to get but I should have been disappointed with considering the work I put in – I returned to the job market in Korea, where I eventually found work. That was in January of 2010, and by March I was back at work in Korea hoping on a semblance of normality.

It’s a long story but it’s worth putting across the trials we put ourselves through. Not only was it hard work, it was an amazing experience learning to grow with Herself, because when all is said and done, after all the difficulties of empty bank accounts, old food, the damp apartment, the lack of work, and all those other things, myself and Herself really just had a great time together. If anyone got us through that period it was both of us.

We persevered for the sake of getting a better deal. We took an unconventional route for newlyweds, and we opened ourselves to the possibility of doing things the other way. We haven’t looked back from the experiences. I think we’ve kind of trained ourselves to be irresponsible, as these days we’re always looking for where we can travel to next, as opposed to saving up money and looking towards the distant future. But while that lesson may be a bad one, we are no longer afraid of making the necessary change to get ahead in life, and that’s more important than anything if you ask me.

Sometimes you have to get out and find what it is that’s looking for you. This sounds like one of those silly overly idealistic quotes you see popping up on your twitter or Facebook feed, but you know it’s true. The problem is taking the bait and being hooked in. Our conscience says that the outcome could be of great benefit but it could all go belly up in the end.

Jumunjin, Gangwon-do, February 2010.

Jumunjin, Gangwon-do, February 2010.

I think though, for me, what made me realise all this and suddenly appreciate it more all of a sudden was a conversation I had in work the other day. I was talking to a Phd student in our department, and American I believe, who worked in the university that I turned down five years ago before I got married.

I learned that I made the right decision, as I now worked in a department with four other foreign faculty members, with little or no interference from management (they have their own classes to worry about) and a minimum amount of paperwork. The job relies on me to honestly and professionally teach my students. What I had avoided was a faculty of over 100 foreign teachers strictly regimented with many aspects of their classes and courses dictated for them (why schools do this I can never understand).

I walked away from that conversation relieved, knowing that while the previous years had been difficult, I had gained from them. I had strengthened my relationship with my wife, found a better understanding of the necessity of knowing what you want to do, learned the importance of enjoying yourself even during tough times, and found out five years later that a decision I made paid off. It is something I should do well to take into account when making decisions in the future.