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Tuesday Timewasters – Meet Martin Schoeller – 06/04

Tuesday Timewasters: A Collection of the Random Things I found on the Web this week! 

Martin Schoeller is a well-celebrated photographer with The New Yorker more commonly known for his super-detailed close-up series but it’s his celebrities in unusual photos that intrigues me.

Martin Schoeller

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On Days Off We Ride Ducks!


This past Wednesday was Memorial Day here in Korea which, if you’re a regular reader you’ll know, meant one thing to me, all together now: DAY OFF SCHOOL! Our second four day week in a row was a welcome addition to the first week of June and allowed us ample time to hypothesize on the positive sides to having a two days of work – day off – two days of work – two days off week.

Students taking a test at the University of Vi...

Meanwhile, back in The Land of the Shamrock, Wednesday June 6th marked the first day of the 2012 Leaving Certificate exams. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know, the Leaving Cert. is the 2 week series of exams you take in order to complete Secondary School (High School) in Ireland. For two years, we study our chosen (and not-so-chosen) subjects and it all culminates in this one 3-hour exam in each subject at the end of year two (English, Irish and Maths I recall are two exams each). In all, over a two week period, you would probably sit 10 or more exams depending on your subject choices, the results of which determine, not only which university you qualify for, but which courses you qualify for. Unlike USA or Canada, in Ireland you apply for your degree you want to end up with and that’s the only thing you study for your entire time at university. And it all comes down to the Leaving Certificate. The whole country sits them at the same time and fail them, you must wait a whole 12 months until the official exam days come ’round again.

Failed every exam up until the Leaving Cert. (like I did with Business Studies) but passed the final exam (like I did with Business Studies), you’re fine. Passed every exam up until the Leaving Cert. (like I did with Physics) but failed the final exam (like I did with Physics!), you’re not so lucky. Although in my case, I’d predicted I’d fail at least one exam and knowing only your top 6 exam subjects are counted, I took seven. I took Maths, English and Irish (compulsory), German (my compulsory European language), Physics (my compulsory science subject) and then Business Studies and Geography, which teaches you about caves and the sea and not so much about different countries and world geography.

The reason I mention the Leaving Cert. is this: This week, 10 years ago, I was taking my Leaving Cert. exams. I thought getting through these exams were my life. That there was nothing beyond it. Just this, just these exams. But oh…oh how wrong I was. 10 years ago, I was 17, plotting to move to England, wanted to do nothing but write all day and was studying for exams no one has ever asked me about since. 10 years later, I’m 27, plotting to move to Canada, want for nothing but to write all day and drink wine and haven’t sat an exam in a decade…and I graduated university!

So, 10 years later, how did I spend my day off school?


The Canadian One and I hit up Ttukseom Hangang Park area for some fun in the sun. 10 minutes from our apartment (not too far from the Cherry Blossom date), it’s easily accessible via Line 7 of the Seoul subway. After some pre-boating riverside relaxing (read: drinking) among the Koreans in tents (no comment), we meandered towards the river to commandeer our boat.

Finally, after an entire year of talking about duck boating (I pass it everyday on the way to work), I was venturing towards the Duck Boat Dock to board my our duck boat.

We paid our 15,000won ($13), were told we had 45 minutes, donned our life jackets and hit the water, peddling off into the distance…though not too far or the man in the speedboat will come after us and force us to turn back. Please note: When on a duck boat, do not go past the buoy area, the man will come after you.

The Canadian One models the life jacket!

During our time at sea on the river, The Canadian One took the steering duties while we both peddled.

 We busied ourselves racing trying to crash into our friends in another boat.



We watched the motorised not-a-duck-boats chug slowly past and we realised our boat didn’t like to turn left so we went in circles for a bit.

We had a brief NCIS: Han River moment when we discovered an empty duck boat and went to investigate.

 We listened to SNL’s ‘I’m on a Boat’ and generally tried our best not to tip our boat over.

Then it was time to return our boat to shore (easier said than done) and hit the bar for some cocktails and cheeseburgers…What?! It was a vacation day!!

I think if I could go back a decade and tell that nervous, 17 year old girl that life after the Leaving Cert. was wonderful, I would. I’d tell her noone would ever ask her about the exams, that in fact getting an A in her Math exam would lead to her getting the worst teaching job ever. I would tell her how she’ll go great places, make some fantastic friends, meet some downright weird people, become a teacher and find a Maple Leaf to love and who loves her. I’d tell her two of her friends from her school group would get married and have a baby and it’s not the two she would have thought. I’d tell her not to study writing as a degree but to study something more useful and take an online class in writing instead. I’d warn her against tequila.

If I could go back a decade, I’d show her the picture of The Canadian One and I in our matching life jackets trying not to capsize our duck boat on the Han river. I think it would make her very happy.

For more fun and interesting adventures in Seoul, check out:

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Happy Birthday Buddha (and thanks for the day off school)

Tomorrow marks Buddha’s Birthday here in Korea. Following last weekend’s Lotus Lantern festival and a 10-day exhibit of the lanterns, Buddha’s birthday really only means one thing to me: no school for a day and I get to go see pretty lights. Ok, that’s two things.

As a non-Korean and a non-Buddist, I never have any indication Buddha’s birthday celebrations are afoot until countless colourful lanterns start appearing along every street. Although, my calendar at school is marked ‘red’ meaning ‘public holiday’, I quite often have no idea what the day actually holiday is.

The Lotus Lantern Festival’s existence, however, I’m well aware of. A weekend of celebration involving the chance to try out a whole host of traditional events as over 100 booths line the streets outside Jogyesa Temple. It culminates in the Lotus Lantern Parade on the Saturday night. Vistors can try their hand at ceremonial bowing, ceremonial tea-making, Zen meditation, taste some traditional temple food and make a lotus flower lantern.

Now, I’ve been to the festival before, so I didn’t attend this year. I’ve also made a lotus flower before and let me tell you I found it neither a ‘relaxing‘ nor a ‘joyful‘ experience. As someone who has all the patience and attention span of a young kitten, the idea of twisting colorful tissue paper into leaves and then glueing them together in a very specific way was never going to mesh well with me. It was never going to be an enchanting relationship between me and my lotus flower. By the time I had finished I wanted to hit the Buddhist over the head with my stupid flower, and although I protected my flower from the elements and guarded it against being squashed on the ride home, it eventually succumbed to a house move and was discarded. It’s worth mentioning I was also hungover while making the lotus flower…that may also have been a factor in my lack of enthusiasm.

Instead, opting once again to avoid the crowds, The Canadian One and I took a hop, skip and a jump down the road to COEX on Tuesday night where, at the Bongeunsa Temple, the lantern display was in full force.

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‘Wanna go see flowers after school?’

Spring time in Korea can mean only one thing.

No more snow!!

I kid, it actually means the cherry blossom trees are in bloom.

Now, I LOVE the cherry blossom trees. Love them! This year, The Canadian One and I decided we would venture for a romantic walk among the cherry blossoms on a school day, rather than on a weekend when everyone and their Korean mother were out in full force. The first weekend in half a year where you could safely go outside sans jacket and we were opting to stay far away from local parks and cherry blossom hang outs.

Instead, on Tuesday evening after school, we ventured to Children’s Grand Park in Seoul, a mere 10 minutes from our apartment. A free park, easy to find, and full of endless surprises. We arrived separately (as we were both coming from work), quickly located each other and coffee and then were on our way to see the flowers.

During our romantic stroll at sunset through the park, we came across this:

Uh huh, that’s right.


Children trapped in little plastic bubbles playing on water.

We watched as a small child crawled into a deflated bubble, the attendant inflated it and then rolled her into the pool.

That’s right. We’d hit the amusement park area of the Children’s Grand Park!

And continuing in our tradition of The Canadian One playing games and winning me prizes, he won me a fluffy orange heart cushion from popping balloons with darts.

By the time we left the amusement park behind and headed onwards on a new path through the park, the sun was almost set.

I declared triumphantly, ‘Look at me, in NATURE!!’

To which The Canadian One responded with, ‘Ummm, you’re in a park with an amusement park in the background and on a paved path…’

He took my photo and sent it to my mam telling her I’d claimed to be in nature. Within minutes, she rang to make fun of me and that kept them both amused for several minutes.

I don’t DO nature. I’m the furthest from outdoorsy as you can get. Years ago, I was approached by a Korean man on the subway and asked if I’d like to go hiking with him. I declined stating ‘I don’t like being outside’ as my reason…although in reality ‘I’d rather not go alone up a mountain with you, stranger, as that seems like the perfect serial killer opportunity to me’ was my main reason.

Anyway, with The Canadian One busy talking to my mother about me and my inability to recognise real nature, I busied myself with taking more photos of flowers and trees nature.

And then we stumbled upon this:

Yep, that’s a lion!

We wandering into the park’s zoo (because naturally a free park with beautiful flowers, an amusement park and a singing fountain would, of course, have a zoo too)

Then we came to weird egg-man…

Then there was the ‘What? Innuendo? No, never. No one would get any innuendo about this slide…no one, don’t worry’ playground:

Nope, no innuendo here…None whatsever

And no romantic walk would be complete without a mosey through the robot park on the way out.

Disco Robots

Does anyone else remember the bit in E.T. where he rides a motorcycle?

Or this bit…where E.T. has friend…and a gun…No, me neither


Penguin Robot

And with the viewing of the giraffe street lamp, we bid goodbye to the Children’s Grand Park, but not before The Canadian One provided me with a quote that really, had I not been there, I wouldn’t have believed he actually said.

While looking at this beautiful flower arrangement:

Him: ‘What do you think Sprin 9 means? Do you think they were trying to say something but messed it up?’

I look.

Me: ‘You mean Spring? It says Spring.’


Him: ‘When you tell people about this, make sure you tell them I’m aware that this is THE STUPIDEST THING I’ve ever said.’

I laughed all the way to the subway station…while ON the subway…and then again when reliving it in my head on the way to the restaurant. Without a doubt, the perfect end to our flower date.