Dandelion Land


The green that creeps from beneath is a steady process. Warming the eyes along with the flawless blue of the sky with its cotton wool clouds. Blue and green, that is spring for me. It is without saying a relief to welcome the colourisation of the country after the death of everything in winter.

I can’t say that I would like spring as much as I did if I didn’t dislike winter. When I was in Korea it was the dry and arid air, the biting cold winds, and the white bright sunlight pitching rays constantly. Winter in Korea is a time when snow storms were a relief from the constant squinting.

For my first winter in Ireland I expected the long days of wind and rain, a grey and lifeless landscape, and the damp that seems to find everywhere. But it was the darkness which caught me off guard. The sun setting at four o’clock in the afternoon swallowed the evening in absolute night, and leaving myself, Herself, and +1 staring at each other at home, expecting something to happen.

Much like Korea, Ireland’s winter swallows up all the visible life. But for the crows hovering overhead, perfectly silhouetted in any weather but more so in the overcast of December and January, little signs of life persist. Waiting for the world to awaken after winter follows a similar pattern in Ireland and Korea. Snowdrops show first, white exaggerated in the damp mud of flowerbeds. Then the shoots of daffodils break through the earth.

In Korea at this time of year you can’t take a step left or right without seeing a cherry blossom tree blooming. Even in the most sun deprived thoroughfare hectic with traffic, a much desiccated looking tree will be blooming as resplendently as its excessively pruned bows will allow. I’ve always thought it to be a bit over the top.

Yet a few weeks ago I was driving into Dublin’s city centre and at Cabra Cross, just by the McDonalds and Tesco the traffic stopped. This is one of Dublin’s less dynamic traffic spots, and it certainly is not an attractive part of the city – but let’s not be too harsh as there are worse place to be stuck in traffic. I looked out the window, and much like those very deprived looking cherry blossoms, at the base of a tree were some frail and gutter mud splattered daffodils, attempting to be as resplendent as their situation allowed.

 

Now the daffodils are slowly dying off, but the trees have gradually been warming our eyes as first the hedges and now the trees start to green with spring. It’s not long after this that the dandelions come out, yellowing in a peppered splay across any grassy patch. A sure sign the warm weather has returned is dandelion seeds tumbling carelessly in the breeze of a sun splashed afternoon.

We call these piss-in-the-beds because if you pick one you will wet the bed, or so we were told as children. But I wonder would the dandelion be as common if it weren’t for children blowing their seeds at every opportunity.

I wake up early most mornings to the new sound of spring, as thousands of different noises come through to my room. Birds singing, mostly, but the leaves rustling in an April gust comes frequently enough. There’s also the silence of morning, something I can’t remember from Korea. Where no noise from the street permeates the walls, and looking out the window all I can do is really imagine the sound.

More so than before I appreciate my new domain in Ireland. The garden, green, and all the other colours it presents, and the breeze and the birds, it’s a long way from my old position watching for glimpses of life on the twentieth floor in Suwon. They are two different places, and nowhere can either be compared. Ask me if I prefer one, I’d probably prefer to not answer that but I would say that I’m happy where I am for now. All I need now is for someone to cut the grass for me…

Gangneung Bus Station


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What this place is is a blur. A moment of passing. Transit. From there to here or from somewhere else to another place. All that is left is the grey area, a space with less colour than grey, as distinct as the indviduality in a large packet of A4 paper. Where is there when the moments worth remembering are elsewhere? But I am here and there is this other place which I should be in and it may be where I am going – perhaps with the sun shining and flowers and colours and other weather and familiar faces and absolutely no apprehension – there is no longer part of me until the next time I see it.

Take this bus station. A point of arrival and departure that never moves but just sits here swallowing up and spitting out people moving between to positions. It’s only function is to sit in the town at a crossroads. People sitting around, waiting with boxes and bags and nervous looks on their faces. Huddled in front of heaters with collars pulled high against their chins, waiting in silence for their bus too be called. Everyone is looking at everyone, and not at their shoes like they usually do. Nervous and out of place, no one belongs in a bus station. Everything that is here is designed to convenience transit away from and to this place; restaurants, shops, cafes, seats, clocks, doors, steps, lights, everything. You could say that nothing belongs here, but I do, at this moment moving from there to here or wherever in my journey I am, looking at my feet hoping nobody sees me too clearly.

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o be in this place is to be dislocted. To be abandoned to a schedule. To be out of place. To be a number in a queue, waiting as the seconds tick away. And then you’re gone and any memory you have of the place is a mystery why it’s a memory.

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Words and images © Conor O’Reilly 2013

Days of Chuseok


The Chuseok holiday is ending slowly here. All that is left is the rest of the weekend, but that’s not really Chuseok. Most businesses will open up tomorrow in the hope of catching those desperate to restock their fridge and fill their belly with something other than Chuseok food.

Of course we suffer in Korea this year because Chuseok, a three day holiday, has fallen on a Thursday, so the three days around it also meld into Saturday and Sunday making it a nice rounded five day break. There will be a very slow and more unenthusiastic than usual start to work all around the country this Monday.

Myself, Herself, and +1 have been on the east coast since Tuesday. The town, as you may already know, is called Jumunjn (주문진) and it’s where Herself was born and grew up. Her parent’s house is a short walk from the beach, and to a certain extent it is within very short distance of some fairly nice countryside. If you’re fortunate enough to have a car then there’s a wealth of scenery and country well worth exploring.

As it’s kind of late at night and +1 seems to be more restless in the evenings (she’s just under 10 months old now) I’m going to share with you some photographs I’ve take over the past few days, rather than writing a long essay. Some are s little blurry as I’m still struggling with having the right amount of paetience to make this DSLR of mine work for me. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

If you’d like to read a little more about my experience celebrating Chuseok in my own home in Suwon, please follow the link.

Also be sure to check out Ben Haynes guest post Get Ready, Get Set…Chuseok

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Copyright all photographs Conor O’Reilly, September 2013. All rights reserved.

In Dublin


Today was the twentieth day of August, 2013. On this day, myself and Herself went to Dublin. Here are some of the things we saw.

Words will follow shortly.

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I use a Nikon D5100 to take these photos, with either an 18-55mm or 35mm lens attached. Photos will be uploaded in more detail to my flickr page, but for now please enjoy them here.

All photographs copyright of Conor O’Reilly 2013. Reproduction without permission is forbidden.

Looking Up


You come to Korea from where I’m from and you can’t stop looking up. Always up. At the sky without so many rain clouds, at the trees forever in a constant pattern of change, and at the buildings which stretch above everything I’ve ever known. It takes a lot of concrete and steel to make a megalith as complete as the Korean urban space, and event then it never seems complete. There is always some mason tapping away at some finer piece chiselling another groove in the pursuit of perfection.

And inside every groove lives another person, perhaps with their family, perhaps not. There are over 48 million people in this country, and it is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. You would think that you can never escape elements of the human here, but it is possible. You just need to close your eyes and try.

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Suwon where I live is small compared to other cities in Korea. I think I get confused when I hear the population and think of whether or not a city is big because I am prone to making comparisons. Like suggesting that a city of one million people is not big because there are plenty of cities around the world with populations over great than ten million souls. Comparatively we will never be happy with the populations of cities as we will always find one which is greater by some degree in some means of classification.

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Even then a city as an urban space cannot be properly understood at any one moment as it is forever changing. Its people die, businesses close and open, some policy creates some new complaint or cause for celebration. You know how it is. A guess can be made at the next best option but the streets that make up the urban space always aim to surprise, and I can only blame the people who make up the inhabitants of cities for this very welcome phenomenon. 

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Cities with their intensive concentration of people, constantly viewed by some as anti-human, are as human as everything else humans decide to make a part of their lives. Since I’ve come to Korea I’ve thought of both cities as both the anti-thesis of humanity and as the epitome of what humans live for. It is now that I understand or accept cities for what they are. They are an animalistic reaction. Cities are the home of the herd, and it is the herd which comes together as a means of supplying itself with more food, increasing protection, and to make finding mates a simpler process so as to increase the chances of the survival of the species. The highrise in Korea is nothing more than stacking more people in to provide higher odds of survival.

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It is no surprise that few homes come in the shape of a cylinder or sphere. Soul after soul compressed into blocks of concrete and steel without the honeycomb simplicity and complexity of a bees hive, but still everything continues to spread. I look up. It can’t be helped. Stack after stack of rooms on top of rooms, lives lived and thrived inside, happiness and tears, arguments and heartbreak, and more memories than atoms in between each neatly organised and tidily ordered set of walls. Each stack of rooms neatly slotting in between its neighbour, some growing from others, some torn down and new seeds laid for new rooms to grow eventually. There are a few dead with carcases shrouded in plywood and graffiti.

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But you will never know this if you live in a place like this, and I mean really live. Don’t stare at this grand blue print of a metropolis and dissect each block with demographics. Know each window hides a face and a past and a story and a future. And know that without any one of these this place would not be the same.