Thursday 24 February 2011

Talent show and graduation!

So my long anticipated talent show went off very successfully in the end, I am happy to say! The kids sang loudly and remembered all their lines but most importantly I didn't make too big a fool of myself playing the traditional Korean gong. Lemon tree was a popular choice and the kids looked so cute in their costumes for 'The Ugly Duckling' unfortunately I stupidly forgot to charge my camera before the show so no photographic evidence of their cuteness. (Found some pictures).
Ye'll just have to trust me. The Friday after we held the talent show (last Friday) was graduation. I teach the oldest class in the kindergarten at the moment, the 7 year olds (5-6 year olds internationally). So they are "graduating" and starting in elementary school next week. They were so cute in their little gowns and hats walking on stage to collect their certificates. I'll actually miss them. As of next Wednesday I start teaching the 6 year old class Korean age (4-5 year olds internationally) which is going to be interesting. Their level of English is a lot lower that what I am used to now ( as in most of them stare at you blankly if you ask them a long sentence in English)! That and the fact that I am going to have 17 students in my class (at the moment I have 7) is going to make things very different. It'll be an experience though, most things are here. So until next Wednesday I am going to appreciate the class I have now and hope for the best!

Saturday 12 February 2011


                      Sadly I got news from home this week that nana had passed away. I loved her very much and still do, so being away from home is pretty hard at the moment. All I wanted was to be able to be there to say goodbye but I know she is happy now. I know that wherever she is she knows I am thinking about her too. My friends here have been fantastic and I love them for that but one of the hardest parts of being away is not having anyone here who knew nana to talk about to. Since this blog is mainly read by my family at home I thought I could share some of my stories about nana.
                    She was a wonderful woman and the keystone of the Hennessy family around whom so many of my memories as a child are based. I remember Christmas at nana's house which for many years involved a Christmas tree which was a branch cut off the big evergreen tree outside stuck in a bucket of sand and of course the "blow-up" santa doll which hung in the kitchen (which since before I remember was far too full with holes to blow-up so had been stuffed with straw instead). I remember waking up early to watch Sesame street before nana would come downstairs and start cleaning out the fire. I remember collecting buckets of fresh milk from the milking parlour both to feed the baby calves and to drink ourselves and her showing us hows we could put our hands into the calves mouths which caused much fun between all the cousins as we chased each other around covered in slobber. Collecting the eggs was another fun job, with nana not letting the poor hens out of the house until she knew they'd laid, or having to run across the hay in the barn looking for new "secret" nests. Making toast by sticking slices of bread on a fork and holding it against the flames in the fire then drowning it in real butter, while of course wearing a pair of nana's knitted slippers!
                   I can thank nana as well for being one of the main reasons I have religion although when we were younger we were never too happy about that. Joanne and me and the cousins would all conveniently disappear when we knew it was time for the angelus or especially the rosary. The few times we lost track of time and were still upstairs playing when she called us to say it we'd all go as quiet as we could and pretend we hadn't heard her call in the hope the adults would think we weren't there. Nana taught us all to play draughts. When we were young we thought it was great beating her all the time until we got a little older and we suddenly realised she had been going easy on us because now we couldn't ever win! Or how to amuse us on wet days she's sit us at the table and give us the knife with the black handle (the one she always used) to play a silly game where we would ask a ridiculous question like "Who here is the biggest baby?", then spin the knife and get super excited and laugh at whoever it stopped on.
                   As I got older I appreciated nana for different reasons. One story from a few years ago that I love was a day we were doing a crossword (bear in mind that I had NEVER EVER heard nana swear). Mom called out the clues and we all answered. Anyway it came to a clue, a word starting with 'f' and it was 'what does the umpire shout in a tennis match when the ball goes off the court?'. We all sat there for a second thinking when without any warning nana looks up from her knitting and says "fuck". We sat in stunned silence for a second before bursting into uncontrollable laughter which left us all with tears down our cheeks from laughing so much.
                   As nana got older I realised what a strong woman she was. She had lived a tough life but she never never complained. I loved spending time with her even if crosswords and the six-one news weren't the most exciting things to do. Nana was a very wise woman and she often often told me that travel was the best education I could get along with other things, which I guess is one of the reasons I am in Korea now. When I told her about my plans to go to Korea she said wasn't I great and that she'd do the same thing if she was my age again. She was always open minded to change even new technology and when I explained skype she didn't bat an eyelid but simply wondered what they'd come up with next. She also warned me not to bring home a foreign man. Then obviously she thought about it for a second because she said "Ah sure Lisa, they might be better than the Irish ones" which we both had a laugh about.
              She was forever thankful and hated being a 'burden' on anyone as she put it herself. So I know she is happier now. I will always remember saying bye to her after the last night I stayed there just before I left for Korea when she took my hand as I hugged her and gave her a kiss goodbye and said that I was a good girl and that she was proud of me. So for all those memories and so many more I love her. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Time flies...

Time seems to be zipping by here before I can even get to grips with it. The dates keep rolling by and I still feel like such a newbie in Korea. Well, I know I still am a newbie in comparison to so many other expats here but I've been here 1 and a half months, which in my world seems like a lot! One and a half months in though and I am still virtually cut off from home. No laptops purchased yet and no mobile phones means that I am left relying on the schools computers for my internet use. As grateful as I am for it an email doesn't even come close to hearing my family and friends voices or better still (thanks to the wonder of skype) seeing their faces. When I think of how many options there are now though it makes it impossible to imagine how it must have felt leaving home years ago when goodbye really meant goodbye. Korea is still a totally new place to me... new beliefs, new customs, new places, new language but it's not scary anymore. I am learning the customs (slowly). I am starting to recognize familiar sights and I managed to navigate Seoul's subway system. I have also learnt some of the basic but necessary Korean words (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, water, beer, take me to, where, etc.) which makes life a lot easier. I understand that things can change very quickly here and other things that should probably change stay the same. Korea is a beautiful country with wonderful people and I love being here, in one way though I love it because it reminds me how much I love home. I've heard so many other expats say it and I thoroughly agree that if we could have all our family and friends here on this experience with us that would make it perfect.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!

So Lunar New Year has rolled around and I have a wonderful week of holidays. Last Monday on the first day of the holidays we relaxed and had a nice quiet day topped off with a second visit to our local sushi restaurant (yum!). Tuesday Dee, Kelly and I once again went into Seoul for a little shopping therapy and a delicious meal at an Indian restaurant. We didn't spend as much but we all still had at least 2 bags in our hands coming home! That night we had a movie night at Kyle and Vanessa's place. We watched 'The Town', pretty good film about Irish decendant gansters in Boston, a few Irish jokes were thrown my way during that!! On Wednesday we chilled and packed before catching the train to Busan on the southern coast. We checked into a cheap love motel and then headed around the corner to the first bar we found. Next morning the group of us got up and went to the beach, it is a lot warmer here than back in Yongmun(it hasn't gotten above freezing since I've arrived) but it was still only 11 C so it wasn't a day for sunbathing but I still couldn't resist taking off my shoes and socks to dip my toes in the water. Already I can imagine the fun weekends we will have here in the summer. It was absolutely stunning!

Out again Thursday night and up early on Friday morning to catch a tour bus around the city. The first stop was the UN cemetary for soldiers who died in the Korean war. Notices on the way in requested respectful silence and once you stepped inside you could understand why. Rows and rows on gravestones stretched out in front of you, walking along the pathways reading the names and ages it was hard not to be moved by it. The majority of graves belonged to soldiers of 19, 20 and 21 years old. 2,300 young men were buried there, some of them in unknown graves. Reading one stone which was marked as the youngest soldier buried in this cemetary at just 17 years old I could feel  tears in my eyes. I know its silly because I knew none of them but seeing so many headstones for so many young lives that were lost unnecessarily made it hard not to feel that way.

Wall of Rememberance - lists of all the lives lost

After that we continued on the tour and one of the later stops was a beautiful scenic park with a walk with led to a famous lighthouse. As a group we chose to get a ferry with took us along the cliffs and coastline to see the lighthouse from the sea. Last night then we went out again for a yummy Korean meat bbq where I tasted pig skin for the first time along with other meats (it's not as chewy as I expected but I don't think it'll ever be my favourite meal!). After that we drank some fruit soju (I really want to introduce this to Ireland) and then I  had another first cuisine wise as we tasted SILK WORM LARVAE... yes you read that right. I felt like I was on I'm a celebrity get me out of here! It wasn't as bad as I expected apparently they are highly nutritious!

Oh I forget to day that we went to the fish market earlier in the day as well (world famous) and I saw an eel like fish being skinned alive, chopped up and cooked while it still wriggled! Yuck.. but this is Korea and ever experience is a good one in that way. Anyway thats about it for now... so I'll finish by saying Happy Lunar New Year everyone!

Kelly's birthday week.

Ok so I have fallen way behind on the blog posts but I actually havn't had the time til now to just sit down for a few minutes to write. School has been much the same lots of preparation for the upcoming talent show. Wednesday the 26th of Jan was Kelly's 30th birthday (she doesn't look it), so a group of teachers from the school all went out together for sushi. I had never had sushi before so I was worried I wouldn't like it but after one taste of california rolls I was hooked!! It was so good. After the sushi a few of us decided to have another few drinks down the road in what has become our "local"! School the next morning was fun (a big bottle of water sat in close range on my desk at all times!). That Friday night we arranged to go for a big night out in Seoul for Kel's b-day as well. Problem with Korea is that the majority our friends here are lads and they don't appreciate that girls need time to get ready. So we finished school at 5.20 and they arranged for us to leave at 6. Unsurprisingly we were not entirely ready for a big night out considering we needed showers and unlike the boys our hair takes longer than 2 mins to dry so we decided we'd find a motel first finish getting ready and then go out. Problem was when we arrived in Seoul we couldn't find a motel, in the end we gave up looking and just went out in the clothes we had on. So much for our first dressed up night in Korea!! It ended up being a good night though so we were happy after all. Next morning on the Saturday we got up early and headed to the shopping district (we'd gotten our first paycheck early in the week)! Forever 21 was hit big time and a hundred thousand won later with arms weighed down with bags full of dresses and make-up and tops and jeans and all other wonderful things we finally got the train home for a night of well deserved sleep.