St Patrick’s Day Abroad

This is my 3rd year in a row being outside of Ireland for St Patrick’s Day, by far my favorite holiday of the year. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, New years…all fun but Paddy’s day beats them all hands down!

It is just pure and utter madness. 

At first I was quite sad to be away from home, away from all the fun and frolics, the parade, the drinking, the green, the singing, the ceili street dancing and the whole run up to our national day of pride…but after spending it abroad for the last few years, I really appreciate the diverse ways people celebrate all things Irish the world over!

In 2010, I spent Paddy’s Day in Melbourne. It was about 30’c, sun shining and every Irish, half Irish or wannabe Irish person was to be found in any number of Melbourne’s Irish bars…from as early as 8 O Clock in the morning. Well, that’s what time Vera and I started at and there were already some guys on their second pint.It was a pretty awesome day, spent with some Irish friends and many couchsurfers from around the world. We did an epic, day-long pub crawl through out the city planting shamrocks on strangers and jumping on random buses in an attempt to face paint the poor driver. AS it was not half as crowded or chaotic as any Irish city, getting around, ordering drinks, getting food and not being ripped off were all easily accomplished.

St Patricks Day 2010, Melbourne, Australia

Sun is shining, drinks are flowing!

Lat year, 2011, I spent Paddy’s day in South Korea…worlds away from both Ireland and Australia! As it fell on a week day, an all day drinking session was definitely out of the question! However, I did have an awesome day decorating my classroom with the irish colours and teaching my students all about St Patrick which was a welcome break from intensive grammar and spelling tests! That night I met some American friends for some DakGalbi (spicy chicken and rice cake dish). One of my friends was called ‘Jameson’, like the Irish whiskey so that was about the closest thing to ‘Irishness’ I encountered that day. It may not have been the normal St Patrick’s Day, but then again you should know by now… I strive for anything but normal!

My beautiful students in South Korea

Dak Galbi and a Beer with Laurel!

Now I can’t wait to see what fun is in store for me in The Netherlands!

I guess it doesn’t matter where you are…it matters who you’re with! :D

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Loving Travel, Loving Life

Fellow Blogger Travel with Papino recently blogged about travel bliss, a rare moment when the outside world seems distant and all you can do is bask in your surroundings. Be it someplace exotic, a moment with good friends, or a break from it all; when we capture these unforgettable moments on camera they make for truly captivating photos.

I have just browsed through album after album of old photos from life in Ireland to life on the road, from Ireland to Latvia, Ethiopia to Taiwan, and Australia to Korea looking for photos that really capture the moment, be it travel bliss or just a moment of extreme happiness.  

This collection might seem a bit random but all these photos hold a special place in my heart and memories come flooding back upon seeing each one of these pictures. If you want to know more about any of them feel free to ask, but I think the picture with the caption tells it all. Let your imagination or heart work out the rest.

Feel free to share yours be it a story or a photo.

Thanks to Papino for this awesome idea.

Boracay Island, The Philippines

Holidaying at home; Baltimore, West Cork

Isle of Tiree, Scotland

Masaii in Mombassa, Kenya

Life is full of joy, Kitale Kenya

Close to Paradise; Auckland, New Zealand

Spreading joy on Childrens Day in Dublin, Ireland

Pure couchsurfing heaven...on a river!

Setiing my eyes on Sydney Opera House for the 1st time...Amazing

At the summit of Mt Seoraksan in South Korea...Breathtaking!

Frolicking in the Cherry Blossoms, Gyeongju

Pure Travel Bliss

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Love to You, and You and YOU!

I just read a heartwarming blog post by fellow blogger Aaron, over at Blue Eyes in Korea, about how he asked his drama class to write Christmas cards to his Grandfather in which they talked about themselves and about what they liked about him. He writes,

I wish I could be with my grandfather when he receives all of the letters that I had my Drama Club students write to him. In the past two years he’s lost a daughter and a wife, so he’s a bit lonely right about now. Hoping these might cheer him up.

I think its true to say that Christmas really does bring out the best in all of us.

At Christmas time we all think of our loved ones, especially when far away from home. Whether we will spend it in their company or be there in spirit, they will always be in our thoughts and in our hearts. Aarons idea of sending letters to his grandfather reminded me of the beautiful letters I received upon leaving Australia in June. My dear grandfather had passed away and I had booked the next available flight home, in the hope that I would make it for his funeral.

Sadly this also meant I had to quit my job as an au-pair to 4 of the most beautiful children on earth. During our tear felt goodbyes, they each handed me a handwritten letter that I was to open on the plane as I made the epic 24 hour journey back home. As I sat in my seat, an emotional wreck having to say goodbye to an amazing family and a beautiful country and also thinking of my grief-stricken family waiting for me at home, I remembered their thoughtful letters.

“Dear Janet,

You were the best au-pair we ever had. We are so very sad that you are leaving and I will always remember you. I am very sad to hear about your grandpa dying. I think if he loved you as much as you loved us, he must have been a great man. (He most definitely was.)

(Tommy, aged 9)

Dear Janet,

Thank you for being my au-pair. You were always so kind to me and loved me so much. I am so sorry about your grandpa and wish you did not have to leave. I remember all the stories you told us about you horse called pumpkin and fun you had as a child on the farm. I love you Janet. You were the best au-pair ever.

(Daisy, aged 8 )

Janet,

You were our au-pair. You were a great au-pair. With your great big, friendly face, your orange hair and big brown eye. (Yes apparently I have only one eye!!) I am so sorry about your grandfather who died. He was a great man and he loved you. (This made me cry as she talked about him as if she knew him!)

(Lily, aged 7 and a half years old)

I think it is a great testament to my beloved grandpa that children at the other side of the world, who had never even met him, seem to love him as I did. In fact a lot of people loved my grandfather. Many of my cousins on my Mums side, nieces nephews an even my friends from primary school used to always call him Grandpa despite not been directly related. And he loved them just as he loved us.

Even after his death, my beloved Gran, still thinks so fondly of him that when somebody recently dropped off a beautiful bunch of daffodils to the house she insisted, “Oh Grandpa picked these in the garden for me. Aren’t they beautiful?!” This will be my Dads first Christmas with out Grandpa, and I know he will miss him dearly.

So I guess this posts purpose is to push you all, no matter how hard it may be, to let your loved ones know how much you love them. I want to send my love from Korea to Ireland to all my family from my parents and sister, aunts, uncles and grandparents to my cousins and close friends. If you can’t say “I love youat Christmas, when can youxxx

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Diversity is the spice of life

Some Kimchi with your Turkey, Ajamma? Another cocktail or an Ice-cream Miss Clause? Some more fish stew with that Injera, Miss? With Christmas just around the corner, I am suddenly left reminiscing about all the other Christmas’ spent abroad in distant lands, far removed from the traditional Irish Christmas day.

This year, as many of you know, I will be spending my favourite holiday of the year in South Korea, a country that I have grown to love. Despite this fact, the sad reality is that Koreans don’t really celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense so  I will have to compromise, settling for a roast Chicken from a street vendor rather than the traditional Turkey, time spent with friends instead of family and rocking around a Karaoke room rather than the Christmas tree!

South Korean Christmas;all about the kids

Christmas entertainment in Korea, mainly aimed and Children and Lovers

All my years of travelling have taught me that just because something is different to what you have been brought up with does not make it worse. As the saying goes “Diversity os the Spice of life”. This goes for everything; from people, to countries, to food, to how people celebrate holidays around the world.

Last year I spent Christmas day on Bondi Beach. clichéd? Yes. But also an absolutely unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Tens of 1000’s of bikini clad backpackers, chilling out with newly made friends, sipping cheap wine out of a box and breaking it down at Bondi Pavillion at Sunburnt Christmas Djs, renowned worldwide. There may not be Turkey, or presents or family, but there will be wet t-shirt competitions, beautiful sunshine, beer for breakfast and friends you will have forever. Also, the sight of a sea of red and white on one of the most famous beaches on earth is truly something special.

Nice View, Christmas Day on Bondi Beach, Australia

Fun in the Sun on Bondi beach

Three years ago, I spent a summer backpacking across Ethiopia. It was not planned, (my flights were booked 3 days before leaving) but it was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life thus far. Not many people go on holidays to Ethiopia. It’s not exactly the “in” place to spend your summer vacation. In fact, truth be told, I don’t know ANYONE else that has ever randomly decided to go backpacking through one of the poorest countries on Earth, but that’s the exact reason I wanted to go.

What I didn’t realise was that Ethiopia uses a completely different calendar to most of the western world. They still use the Julian calender, and so, are exactly 7 1/2 year behind our Gregorian calender. Confused yet? I was! So as I was trekking up through the Bale mountains in rural Southern Ethiopia, with an awful stomach ache and fever (which later turned out to be a mild case of Dengue Fever) I noticed the date on my bus ticket. 25/12/1999.

 There I was puking my guts out in some adorable little mountain hut, while two child shepherds looked on in bewilderment, as I was treated my a local medicine man who insisted I rub some sort of red flower all over my face then eat it, whilst on the inside thinking “I can’t believe this is where I am on Christmas Day.” And also feeling slightly disoriented at the fact that I had somehow travelled back in time to the Nineties!!

So my friends, family and readers, wherever you ar this Christmas, whether you are celebrating in a traditional way or not, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Thanks for reading! x

My Saviour, local medicine man

A beautiful child Shepherd, looking at me cautiously, Christmas day 1999

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Have a degree? Go teach abroad!

What do you mean you DON’T want to eat beans on toast for the rest of your life??!

I hear ya, I hear ya! You’ve just graduated and you are DELIGHTED. You slaved away for 3 months writing a thesis that, after writing, re-writing and re-writing again got you top marks. You spent 4 years living on beans and toast and pot noodle (okay you could have being eating better but a social life is also an important part of college life). Now you have finally finished college, you have a well-earned degree, now framed in your parents house no doubt, beside a beaming picture of yourself in robes a la Harry Potter beside your proud as punch parents.

But what now? There are no jobs. Did you really slave away studying for hours on end (I know, I know half that time was probably spent on Facebook but STILL!) so that you could move back in with your parents in bally-go-backwards and apply for social welfare? I didn’t think so.

 So instead you are thinking of following in the footsteps of your ancestors and making the long trip to the other side of the world. A mass of land full of jobs and prosperity. Kangaroos and cuddly Koala’s. Irish men sleeping in cement mixers still drunk from the piss up the night before on Bondi beach or wherever. The promised land for nurses, carpenters, plumbers and builders.

Rewind. You’re not a plumber? Oh. You’re not a nurse either and you can’t tell a hammer from a forklift? You have an Arts degree or…a business degree? Riiight, well FORGET ABOUT OZ! Unless, of course, you don’t mind slogging your life away on below minimum wage picking pears on some smelly, rat and mosquito infested farm or standing on the street 10 hours  day, 6 days a week trying to sign passers-by up to some charity they really don’t give two craps about and will probably push right past you, shout in your face and waste your time.

Each night you will arrive home disheartened to a filthy, dirty dormitory or share house filled with 10 drunk backpackers to eat some noodles and watch shit TV cause you’re too broke to actually join in the fun everyone else appears to be having. (Believe me, I’ve been there and done that.)

Fear not recent graduates, I HAVE THE ANSWER! Why not ditch the depression session of Ireland, beat the recession and get your ass over to South Korea, a country that had simply banned the BIG R word from its vocabulary. All you need is a degree in any subject from any University and you’re in the club!

You have no teaching experience? NO WORRIES! You can’t pay for your flights over here? NO WORRIES? You can’t afford accommodation here? NO WORRIES. Its is ALL paid for my dears. Tax is low, wages are high and the craic is mighty! Korea; land of autumn colours, hiking, uninhabited islands, all night drinking, rafting, ziplining, all night drinking, caving, bungee jumping, all night drinking, naked spas, skiing, water parks and..all night drinking.

For more info on getting a job in Korea read THIS  post!

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