A Family Affair in Hoi An

As I said in my last post, my mom came to visit us here in Vietnam last month. It was such a great visit and we packed a lot in to the 2 weeks. Our first trip that we took was down to Hoi An for 4 days. Luckily my niece Sarah, who lives in Singapore, had a long weekend so her and her fiance joined us for a couple of days.

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How do I describe our time in Hoi An? Wow… Let’s just say it was full of shopping, tailoring, eating, boat rides, bike rides, beaches, rice paddies, swimming, temples and more!

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In this post I’ll just talk about Hoi An town itself. Hoi An is a traditional town with beautiful old buildings and lanterns absolutely everywhere. It is very peaceful since no motorised vehicles are allowed in to the town center.

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I must admit that it is very touristy with every building being either a shop, tailor or restaurant, but I absolutely loved it there! It was such a nice getaway from noisy Hanoi.

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So I have mentioned tailors a couple of times so far in this post and that is because Hoi An is THE place to go to get clothing tailored.

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While we were there I got some beautiful leather ankle boots, a dress, a pants and shorts tailored. Jason got a pants and 4 shirts tailored and my mom got 3 pairs of shoes made.

Overall we were happy with the items that we got made. For my dress and one of Jason’s shirts we went to one of the bigger well known tailors that had a lot of reviews. Then while walking we happened upon a very small tailors with a lovely woman inside, she was offering to make shirts at a much cheaper price so Jason said he’d order one and see how it went.

The next day we went back and found that it was perfect, no adjustments needed, unlike the bigger store so we ordered more from her and were happy with everything we got made.

Now, a month later, the pants and dress have become staples in my wardrobe, I’ve only worn the boots once because it’s summer but they looked beautiful. I still haven’t worn my shorts but I’m sure that I will soon. Jason found all of his shirts very comfortable and perfect for work. The name of the tailors was Thu Linh 2 and the address is 40 Tran Phu Street. There are thousands of tailors in Hoi An but this is my recommendation.

As for my boots. I love them! I got them made at Friendly shop (18 Tran Phu). They are quite well known for making quality leather products and they offer a 6 month guarantee.

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I can’t wait to write more about our time in Hoi An, especially the different day trips that we took!

Have you ever gotten anything tailored? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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I’m Back!

After taking nearly a year off from blogging for various reasons, I’m finally back and so excited to continue writing about my adventures. A lot has changed since I last wrote and it would probably take more than one blog post to explain everything.

But basically, I now live in Vietnam!
I absolutely loved Colorado, seriously, it was the best place ever! Unfortunately, the job market there, not so much. I struggled so much with trying to find a decent job, which I never actually did find. This led to me feeling depressed and worthless. I was stuck in a job that I didn’t like and earning terrible money. It was the first time in my life that I started regretting all of the amazing experiences that I’ve had. But, myself and Jason also volunteered at a local college in Denver to help refugees and immigrants learn English. This was an incredible experience and it made me realize that I enjoy teaching and since I have so much experience in teaching ESL, maybe I should focus on getting the qualifications related to this.

We also realized that it would be near impossible to get Masters in Colorado with the jobs that we were in and not rack up a huge amount of debt, so this led to us looking for work abroad again.

It was so hard leaving Colorado, the sunshine, mountains, beer, Denver, mountain towns, friends etc. but we have been in Vietnam for about 6 months now and are enjoying our time here. We are also researching Masters programs which is exciting and if all goes well, I will be starting mine next year.img_20160815_211359

 

I will still write about all of the fun things that we did in Colorado and of course write about our time in Vietnam. I’m so happy to be back!!!

Beomeosa Temple Stay (part 2)

IMG_9253If you want to read about the first half of our temple stay you can read it here.

So continuing on from where I left off…After dinner it was time to walk up to the main temple area to watch a drum ceremony. There was a raised platform with different instruments in it. We were told earlier in the day about them. The first instrument is a big drum. The second is an instrument shaped like a fish, a third shaped like a bird and finally there was a big bell. The ceremony happens three times a day. 3:30am, 6:30pm and 10:30am. The ceremony is performed to wake all of the spirits of the world. The drum is to wake all of the beings on land. The fish is to wake all of the beings under the water, the bird is for beings in the sky and the bell is played to wake all of the beings in hell.IMG_9267
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It was a beautiful ceremony to watch.

After the drum ceremony we were brought in to a small temple. There were about 30 other monks already inside standing facing Buddha. Once we were inside it was time for the evening service to begin.IMG_9322

I don’t have any photos from this time as it seemed very personal and I wanted to be involved in it myself. This was hands down my absolutely favorite part of the temple stay. The service started with the ringing of a bell and all of the monks began chanting and singing. It brought tears to my eyes. All of us temple stayers then just tried to follow the monks as best as we could. We bowed while they were chanting and it was just incredible.

After the evening service it was time for one of the toughest parts of the stay. It was time to make the 108 beads.IMG_9272

We were each given strings and beads on a pillow in front of us. We would stand up, then kneel down and bow to the ground we would then place a bead on the string, kneel back up and then stand up. We completed this 108 times. It took a few days for my knees to recover from it and we were all dripping in sweat but it was such an accomplishment as the time went on to see how many beads were completed.
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We then turned our strings in to necklaces. At the top of the necklace are four smaller beads dangling. When a monk sees a dead animal they take one of these smaller beads and places it with the animal. The monk told us that if we have a pet that dies we can place one of our beads with them.

Once our necklaces were completed it was nine o’clock and time for bed. We would have a 5a.m. wake up call to begin our second day in Beomeosa. I was so excited to get to bed (mats on the floor) unfortunately I was sleeping next to a really loud snorer so I only got about an hour sleep.

I’ll write about day two of our temple stay adventure in the next blog post.

How to book a temple stay at Beomeosa:

I booked through their website which has English. It was very simple and I just had to transfer the money to them once I had booked. You can find the website here.

Teaching English…Let’s Talk Money

Well, today is my 5 year anniversary of living in Korea. I can’t believe I have been here that long. Some days it seems like only yesterday that I arrived here, scared out of my mind of what the future would hold. Other days, I forget the way we say things back in Ireland and it seems like forever since I lived there.

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One of my first weeks in Korea

 

But something that Korea has afforded me to do is to live a comfortable life never having to worry about money.

I was recently chatting to Jason feeling a bit panicked that we mightn’t have as much savings leaving here as I had hoped. Luckily we sat down and wrote down our finances and worked out that we may be only $1,000 short of what we had hoped for.

One of the questions that I usually get asked when people are considering moving to Korea is about money. Because let’s face it…it’s what draws most people to teach English here in Korea.

So let me break down what 5 years in Korea has afforded me to do…

Myself and Jason got to pay off over $15,000 worth of debt in about 3 months (we had both payed off about $8,000 in our first few years in Korea.)

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The night that we became debt free we bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate.

We got married and had an amazing honeymoon in Bali.grainnefb-56

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I got to visit Ireland and my family 4 times in 5 years.486737_496040363747367_1584591532_n

 

I got to visit Jason’s family in America once for a month.396203_372672622750809_1854014088_n

We got to do a 4 month Asian adventure together travelling to Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and India.Agra and the Taj Mahal.

We have also gotten to travel to China, Japan (twice), Amsterdam, Malaysia and Borneo. Jason also went to the Philippines.

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cb61f-malaysia058We were able to get our dog, Willy, 2 complicated operations on his legs which cost us just under $2,000 (a bargain for what was involved!). In America, each leg would have cost about $10,000!imagewilly

We have travelled throughout Korea together.206423_208115522539854_6647442_n

229550_1841185080856_1820334_nWe have never lived pay check to pay check.

and we are hoping to leave Korea with just under $30,000

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Not bad for 5 years!

You can probably now understand why we stayed here for as long as we did. We know life in America will be incredibly different but we are definitely excited for that next challenge!

So if you are considering moving to Korea to teach English, please do! It’s a great way to have fun while saving money or paying back your student loans (I have one friend who has paid back over $40,000 in student loans over 3 years!)

If you have any questions about moving to Korea or about teaching English, just let me know.

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Korean Cultural Concert

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Last week I came in to school to news that one of my 6th grade classes would be cancelled because they were going to the National Museum to watch a cultural performance.

I was then lucky enough to get an invite to go with them and watch some of it (I had to make sure to be back in school in time for my 5th grade class).
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It was a very beautiful perfomance that involved performers playing the Daegum (a Korean traditional wind instrument), playing traditional Korean drums, singing traditional songs and dancing. All of the performers wore beautiful Hanbok (traditional Korean dress).
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It was so fun to be able to watch it with my students and seeing how proud they were afterwards. I’m so happy that I got to go and enjoy it with them! Only 2 short months of teaching these amazing kids left…it’s going to be tough to say goodbye!imageimage

2013…the year of changes.

Yesterday was the beginning of my three week holiday from school. While most people in the west had  a nice time off during Christmas, I, like most other teachers here, only had Christmas day off. It wasn’t too bad though as most of our coursework for this year was finished so “work” involved going to school and watching a movie with the kids…I’m pretty lucky really. The best part is that now when everyone else is depressed to be back at work, now, I get to relax!

I guess relax is the wrong word for my holiday plans. For the first time in a long time both myself and Jason are going to stay in Gimhae for our holidays. We simply have too much to do and money that badly needs to be saved. This next three weeks will mainly involve selling and getting rid of most of our belongings, packing up the leftovers, study grammar and do a pre course grammar test for our CELTA course, plan our travel plans, sort out visas, find travel insurance and a million other things that I can’t think of right now! Yes I think “relax” was definitely the wrong word to use!
…Oh, and did I mention that we have three dogs and a cat right now too? luckily for us most of the animals are great and very easy to look after, and most will return to their own homes by the end of the month! (In fact as I write this, the lovely Blue is looking at me from the other side of the computer screen)
When we leave here we will have about 3 months of travel (while job searching) to look forward to. As most of you know, I love to travel, I have been planning this trip for about a year. You could almost say that it’s a hobby of mine to plan routes, look up towns and cities and find the best places to go. The plans that we started with about a year ago have completely changed and now we are left with a very loose plan. Our travels will involve Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and India. I am so excited for this trip to happen, I am even more excited to be doing this trip with Jason. I really can’t think of anybody else that I would rather travel with. But once on our trip we must job search and make sure to find a suitable job, in a suitable country for us and especially for Willy. Right now our two main options seem to be Turkey and Taiwan. Turkey because it would be closer to my family (practically on the same continent!) and some of them could and would come and visit me. I could also take short trips home and I think both of us would love to have a chance to live in a country that has so much history, beautiful architecture and delicious food!! 
We only started thinking about Taiwan a couple of weeks ago. I’m not going to lie, the reason that we became interested in Taiwan is the fact that they don’t really have a winter. South Korean winters are tough. They are dry and cold and this Irish girl really cannot handle those two factors combined. I always thought that Taiwanese weather was quite similar to Korea and Japan so I was quite surprised when I found out that you don’t need a big winter jacket there! Taiwan is also quite tropical with some amazing beaches (yes, I have been stalking your Taiwan photos Erica!)Taiwan also has quite high salaries for English teachers compared to most other countries, even Turkey. You also must find an apartment for yourself, which is ideal for us as we have decided that this is the perfect time to move in together and live in a bigger apartment, for both us and Willy.
The third option, which is only if we are desperate and cannot find a job elsewhere is to stay in Korea and get a job somewhere else in the country. The fact that one of my bestest friends in the world(that’s you Lou) is considering moving to Korea in the summer makes this option a little easier to swallow, although neither of us particularly want to do this. I think we are both ready for a change and ready to learn a new culture.
I don’t think we will be adding other options to our immediate future as we need to make sure that Willy gets all of the right shots for a certain country and passes all of the regulations so by only having these three options it means that Willy can get prepared well in advance for his big move.
I’m slowly learning that over planning is never a good thing because when those plans change or fall apart I usually get over-emotional and upset, so this year my new years resolution is to be less of an ocd freak and try to let the world decide my fate for me. (ALTHOUGH some things must be planned for, Jason Elliot!) 
but before I can think about the future too much, I have the horrible task of saying goodbye to this wonderful country and equally wonderful people, February is going to be a tough month!

Our story so far…

So here it is, our first ever blog!
We decided to write this blog because over the last 3 years we have been to some awe-inspiring places and done incredible things, but although we have documented it with photos (…and lots of them) we have never really written about our experiences.
We are about to embark on a new life in March and thought it would be great for both our families and friends to share not only our photos but also the stories that go along with those photos. We are also doing this for us, so that we have something to remind us of the great times 🙂 We have just under 6 months left, still enough time to have plenty more adventures here in Korea.
This is Grainne writing right now and I just wanted our first blog to explain a little about our lives, past, current and future.  

Soon we will be leaving Korea, which will have been our wonderful home for about 3 years. I have so many mixed feelings about this significant change in our lives, excited for what lies ahead, sad for what we leave behind, both all of the places, people and things that remind me of us meeting and the beginning of our relationship here and of course Willy the wonderful dog that we have been fostering, not to mention the great friends we have made along the way.

What a great ride it has been, there have been tough times, lonely times, exciting times, frustrating times, happy times, sad times and exhillirating times but no matter what having somebody that loves you standing at your side throughout it all makes life in Korea much easier. This weekend we will be celebrating our 2 year anniversary and what a great 2 years it has been. I don’t know how or where we will be celebrating it as Jason is keeping tightlipped about it but I have no doubt that it will be a great weekend!

Right now, I’m trying to keep myself busy with planning and organising our travels after Korea. I know that if I don’t keep busy I will be a whimpering mess as the day is slowly approaching when I have to say goodbye forever to my sweet little Willy. He has been my life for the last 7 months, he has dictated how I live my life, where I go, what I do and who I see. But I’ve never been happier just looking into his little face and knowing that we’ve helped him, if only by making him a more adoptable dog. Of course he has helped me too, by forcing me to learn what responsibility is and showing me that I can do something if I put my mind to it, no matter how hard it may seem (It was a very hard first 3 months!) I don’t know how I’ll be able to say goodbye, I wish with all of my heart that we could keep him, but both myself and Jason have discussed this possibility a million times and cannot think of a way that would be fair to him or us. But saying that, we have hopefully found him his forever home and know that whatever happens he will always be loved and well looked after.

Anyway, enough of Debbie Downer (a nickname I have picked up here in Korea for my tendencey to find a way to bring even the most upbeat conversation down with a sad story or 2) We have a lot of exciting things coming up in the next couple of weeks, we will be going to Namhae on a day trip with all of the foreigners in Gimhae Public schools (no school for a day!!) and during Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) Myself and Jason have a trip to Japan planned. All of which we will keep you updated with.

I hope you enjoyed this first blog and I look forward to writing many more (with Jason) I promise we’ll put more photo’s into the next entry. 🙂