November in Yeongtong


Just as I had my camera on the way home from work last week, I had it again yesterday as I walked to and from work. This time it was nice and bright out and ideal for catching the last of the autumn leaves.

In Korea you’ll never hear the end of the talk about the colours of the trees. And I won’t lie, often I forget how splendid it is. Now last year I may have been preoccupied with +1’s impending arrival, but I think this year Yeongtong is looking especially fine. The weather has been splendid, without the usual rain and occasional gale, so perhaps this is why we are being treated to this fine frieze of leaves.

Of course just as I all but finish this post it starts to rain.

I won’t bore you any further with my interpretations of this loveliness, and just get down to the photos. I haven’t tampered with them, except for the odd crop. I use a Nikon D5100 with a 35mm 1:1.8f DX lens (if you want to buy me a new fancy lens you’re more than welcome – its my birthday soon if you need an excuse).

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All photography copyright Conor O’Reilly 2013. If you’d to use any of these images please contact me

Is it December Already?


So now that Halloween is over we can all start getting our Christmas decorations down and checking the fairy lights are all working. While we’re at it, order a turkey, and for christ’s sake start knitting that jumper, there’s a 12 Pubs of Christmas on somewhere…

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Is it a bit early to be joking about this?

The thing is I can titter to myself, but I know that for a fact this is how things might as well be. Christmas is a bigger and bigger ordeal as each year passes. The lights in the cities go up earlier, there are more and more elaborate Santa’s grottos in supermarkets, and for some reason many people’s livers do not collapse, despite the increased effort.

If I was back in Ireland I could probably complain about this. But I’m not. I’m in Korea. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to invite you, my humble reader to celebrate this phenomenon.

In case you haven’t already noticed, preparations for the Christmas period are already in motion. Not more than two or three weeks ago I was in Costco and not one Halloween thing-a-majig did I see. However, Christmas trees and cribs to abandon were in stock. One crib, which to my eye was a walk-in one, had statues of the shepherds, wise men, Joseph, and Mary, not to mention the assorted livestock which usually comes with these things, all of which would have dwarfed little +1 at full stretch.

In starbucks yesterday, November 1st lest we not forget, they had rolled out their red Christmas campaign with all their Christmas flavoured coffees and whatnot over heating from too much cream and chocolate sprinkles. And this afternoon in Emart, the Korean supermarket chain, there was even a small section of plastic Christmas trees and flashing Santa Clauses.

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There are a couple of reasons why this doesn’t make me irate.

First of all there are more important things to get angry about.

Second of all, I kind of expect it so what is the point of getting angry about it – I wish I could say the same for driving standards in Yeongtong…

Thirdly, it’s Korea.

“What? That’s not a very good third excuse”, I hear you chirp.

Well it is. Korea is not a Christmas country. When I think family and holiday in Korea I think Chuseok and Seolal. When I hear Christmas in Korea I hear day off and drinking. Wait. That sounds the same as an Irish Christmas.

When I first came to Korea in 2005 I was lucky to even see the colours red and white together. I lived near a McDonalds which kind of helped me realise it was Christmas, but otherwise there was hardly any wind of it in the Seoul air. By 2008 I was living in Itaewon and you could kind of pick up on it a bit. I was also working in a much bigger school so they pushed the western holidays or whatever a little more, so I was reminded of Christmas somewhat more.

Around that time, someone in Seoul City Hall had the bright idea that fairy lights all over the place made the city look nice in the dark of winter, so Seoul suddenly looked like it was all lit up for Christmas. Of course these lights persisted until February, but in early Decemeber you could be forgiven for feeling the Christmas mood.

Despite this history of Christmas in Korea, my main thought still is that Christmas isn’t a Korean holiday, and any attempt to celebrate it isn’t going to match the ideas we have of Christmas in our own western homes. It’s not a family holiday for starters, and it’s certainly not one that many Koreans look back on with any amount of nostalgia. Now, you do see some kids getting Christmas presents from Santa Claus, and there’s that phenomenon of couples going to Myeong-dong on Christmas Day, but aside from that… oh yeah, don’t forget the twenty million or so Christians in the country (but since when has Christmas been about Christianity, right?).

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If you want to get an idea for where Christmas stands, maybe you should look at Halloween, which for some reason is called Halloween Day (yeah, I know…). There is no resemblance between the Halloweens in Korea and any of the Halloweens in Ireland I remember. For starters where is the abject fear of teenagers in the streets after dark? I could go on.

There is little point in growling about how Christmas is celebrated here. It’s like a Korean in Ireland complaining about how they just don’t do Chuseok like they do back home. And anyway, the fact that the commercial aspect is sneaking into popular culture should be comfort enough, seeing as it’s probably the most dominant feature of a typical western Christmas.

For me, I can find Christmas in Korea a very lonely time, even with a fantastic wife and now and amazing little daughter to keep me company, but I’ve never found a comparable comfort in the Christmas that Korea provides. That doesn’t mean that I don’t celebrate it. I’ve tried different things and always had a great time, but it’s not what I’d liken to Christmas. This doesn’t make it a bad thing.

The way I see it is there are two holidays here, one in the place it originated, and one attempt to liken it. Neither are wrong, neither will every be better, neither will ever suppress the other. Sure one may be more commercially driven than the other, or vice-versa.

So this December as I’m gradually getting used to red Starbucks signs and cups, mispronounced children’s Christmas songs, I’ll be happy knowing that at least there is something here that helps me get on with another year. What matters to me more than anything is, like any celebration, is who you spend it with and what you do, not what everyone else does.

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!