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…

Sprung


Spring has moved beyond it’s intial flex and is now well into the process of ejecting life from within the winter locked bowels of the plants and people longing for the seasons much anticipated warmth.

For me, without a doubt, the finest part of spring in Korea has to be its first couple of weeks as the first rain soaks and nourishes the earth, then the yellows of the forsythia and other plants slowly poke out in the yellow dusy haze. Before long the bushes on the streets begin to glow a warmer green, and the ever present cherry blossom trees have pre-bloom fur about their branches as the white petals rest just a few days from when they explode everywhere.

Did I mention the azaleas, which are the true jewel of the Korean spring?

It is this time when Korea’s spring is at its best, in my opinion. Yes, we all obssess over cherry blossoms (just spend a moment on my instagram page) because, well as impractical as they are, they are very nice to look at. However, before their emergence, this is when I find any extra skip in my step. The added warmth in the air makes this all the more easier.

Of course, it’s hard to resist arming myself with my camera on those short walks to work. Here’s a small set of some of the views on the way too and from work.

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All shots are unedited original images ©Conor O’Reilly 2014

For more photography find me on Flickr, Tumblr, and Insatgram

Playing With My New Toy!


Yesterday I told you about my new toy.DSC_0005

Today with the sun shining and no pressing business, I ventured out into the wilds of Yeongtong-dong in Suwon and played with it. I won’t lie I’m still using it a little like a point-and-shoot, but I still can feel the difference. The focus is by far my favourite, as well as the texture of the photographs. I can’t really go into what makes them look or feel different, maybe it’s just that they look more real.

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Being the father of a five month old child, I was up early. I think I took these shots around 8am (which is late for many I know), and those of you familiar with my life on the twentieth floor will be familiar with this view, without the sunsets of course. The building behind the large effusing smokestack is Samsung Electronics global headquarters, Digital City.

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Once the morning had progressed a little I headed out for a walk in the warm may air. These couple of shots were taken in the little neighbourhood park just in front of my apartment. It’s always empty but for people passing through during the day, and with the trees finally coming back to life it would be an understatement to suggest we’ve had an explosion of green.

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Korea is such a colourful country in spring. This is lilac and the smell wafts down the street in the breeze. Most of Korea obsesses over the cherry blossoms to the point that they’re overdone a little, but just after the last few petals have drifted away in the late April gusts, a new variety of colours emerges, with lots of bright pinks and reds and purples, not to mention all kinds of small flowers hiding at the foot of each tree.

 

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While at play with my new toy, I thought this was interesting. It’s the lighting in the local Starbucks. I know, Yeontong is full of independent coffee shops and I go to Starbucks. Well, they have couches that are usually free in the morning, and they sell more than Americanos for 5,000 won, so what do you expect me to do?

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More walking and more things to see. This time on the way into work I passed by the local Buddhist temple with its mulitcoloured lanterns set out on the street, a sure sign that we are in May. I pass by a few public schools, which always means shops selling crap for kids to spend their few hundred won pocket money on, and then finally into Half Moon Park (반달공원). Here the infamous Yeongtong Mountain sits – legend has it that you’re only worth your mettle if you can run up this mountain in the middle of the night after a good session in Now Bar. I have yet to witness anyone really attempting this.

Yeongtong Mountain is actually a fountain in case you’re wondering.

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Here are a few shots from where I work, which has a nice campus and especially so in spring. The big pink blossoms are Ornamental Cherry Blossoms, not to be confused with your run of the mill cherry blossom or Japanese cherry blossom. There is actually a distinct difference, the main one being that they’re out a week or so after the others.

Actually this is probably one of the first times I’ve admitted where I work (so if you hold a grudge now’s the time to call my boss and blame me for something I didn’t do.

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I just thought I’d put this one in to conclude. It’s right up The Bobster’s alley in terms of content. Great colours again and no tweaking or flash used here. This is just outside my own apartment as I was waiting for +1 to wake up before I went upstairs.

 

Bonus Photos:

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I don’t usually post pictures of family here, in fact I’m quite against it, but I figured one or two pictures won’t land anyone in jail in the future. Here is the lovely +1 in all her resplendent glory! The D5100 has a ‘baby’ setting on it. It’s like they saw me coming!

Letter from Korea, April 2013


Suwon, South Korea
April, 2013

Dear Ireland,

I’m not sure if I should gloat but I thought I’d mention the fact that spring is in full swing here. I should also point out that that was an unintentional rhyme  but I digress. Yes, April is warming the bones and joints enough for me not to dread the walk to work, and I am optimistically eyeing the month of May on the calendar in the kitchen. The shorts and t-shirts shall be dusted down soon.

We love spring here in Korea. It’s full of things to be happy about, such as the end of winter, but also the cacophony of blossoms which explode bit by bit throughout April. Right now we’ve bright yellow kenari decorating the sides of the roads, and slowly the purple azaelas and bulbous magnolias are breaking free. Of course the nation awaits the arrival of the cherry blossoms and the plethora of festivals that accompany them.

I should give a special shout out to the yellow dust, which is another of Korea’s wonderful spring characteristics, but it seems to have died down somewhat. Still, if you saw my car you’d wonder which building site I drove through beforehand.

But anyway, what class of an Irishman am I to be complimenting the weather and it’s not even shorts and t-shirts weather yet?

As it’s April I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate myself for no reason other than the fact that I think I deserve it. The topic of this personal celebration? Well it’s this blog I tell you. Yes, your favourite blog in the whole world is approaching its third birthday (in WordPress years). We started off in blogspot in the winter of 09-10 but I soon grew bored of the complete lack of hits and gave up. When I came back to Korea I decided at some point to reignite this blog in WordPress form.

You see, it would be thanks to its WordPress form that I would probably like to offer some gratitude. Any WordPress blogger will be familiar with WordPress’s ample selection of statistics, including graphs, views by country, and a chart which allows you to compare the number of hits month by month right back to the birth one’s humble scribblings. It is nothing short of blog porn if you ask me, and this would be the full extreme gang-bang variety.

I do look back at the early days and wonder, first of all, what the hell was I writing (here is something though, the first Letter from Korea!), but also how the hell did I manage an epic 124 hits in the month of May alone, and then an awe inspiring 204 in June? Things went out of control in July of that year, I think because I learned how to link it to my old Facebook account where I had something like 400 or 500 “friends”. However n in July of that year I deleted that account because I felt lonely and distanced from my friends, and the readers vanished.

From then on in I really had to learn how to blog. I had to learn how to connect with other writers. I had to learn how to find what people wanted to read. I had to find a way to find new readers outside of my former friendship circle. And I think I managed it. I read other blogs and commented. I found out about the Korean blogosphere. I wrote about things that happened, and I trolled topics so that I could give my own take on them. I stopped thinking about myself so much but kept what I thought about things as a central element in what I wrote. But more importantly, I kept writing and writing and writing. And before long things started to catch on.

Roboseyo over at, well Roboseyo chose my blog as blog of the month for 10 Magazine some time last year, which was a nice hat tip to all the work I had been putting in. It gave me the impetus to keep writing, because at that time I had been considering laying off posting because I felt it was getting in the way of other things I was writing. I know that this is still the case, but I’m discipling myself more these days not to throw down any old post idea that comes into my head. I’ve an Evernote account with about seven or eight notes all with potential blog posts on it, many of which where never acted on purely because I lost interest or time just drifted too far away from the topic. I’m always thinking about what I want to write, because I know now not everything I do needs to be written about.

What has been a nice comfort though, and we’re back to these statistics again, is that now my blog receives on average over 2000 hits a month, with many of these people coming from all corners of the planet, but mostly from Korea. I get a minor kick out of knowing that my blog could be considered a blog of note, although I have no idea who reads it. I’m sure more people read the kind of English teacher in Korea blog which there are plenty of here, but that doesn’t really bother me as we’re writing about different things to different audiences.

I know my blogs are long and I know that maybe some people look at the web page before they read, give it a quick scroll and go “fuck that” before navigating away to some other less text heavy page. I’m assuming there’s a large amount of that, as I don’t get many comments or reactions, which I suppose would be the mark of a more successful blogger. Despite this, I think that the blogs I write don’t really look for comments. I hope that anyone who reads these posts  reads them and takes in what I have to say, and then goes for something else to read. That’s how I feel about much of the things I read at least.

I don’t think I’m right or wrong about anything, I just have my thing to say and I am happy that some people are reading, because as a writer that is what I aim for, to be read.

As a writer in Korea I’m going to continue telling my side of the story through my eyes and through my own reckoning. One of these days someone might pay me for this, and I would love it if they paid me a shit-load, but I’m not holding out. I will still be here, money or none, and I hope that I can continue to attract you back.

Sound.

P.S. If you’re a regular reader, say hello, it would be nice to meet you.

Yeongtong in the Spring


Well, it’s finally warming up enough for the magnolia trees and cherry blossoms to bloom.

After the long, brown, and colourless winter, the spring is always such a wonderful season (even with the yellow dust). The colours are so welcoming, and on a nice warm day like today it’s hard for me not to go for a wander around my neighbourhood and take a few pictures and share them with you.

Of course, the cherry blossoms, which are everywhere, always seem to really wait for the last minute to emerge. They almost tease you with one or two trees here and there coming out early, while the rest wait just until the right moment. I’m quite excited  about next week when all of the trees will be in their full spring splendour (yes, I know they’re bloody flowers on trees).

You can get an idea of what to expect from my post last year.

That being said, they overwhelm you so much with their colour and everywhereness that you can completely miss the riot of colours elswehere – which is why it’s nice to sit back and appreciate the blend of new colours emerging at this time just before the cherry blossoms come out. My favourite of all these is in fact the simple green of the new leaves as they grow back for the summer.

In anticipation of the rest of the trees finally waking up please enjoy these few pictures that I took this afternoon.

(just click on the photos to view a slideshow)