Monthly Archives: January 2013

Home, sweet soju, home.

I’m a chapter in a book.  No idea what it is about cos it is all in Korean but who cares?  I’m a chapter in a book.


I recognise my name in Korean but that’s about it

I love Korea.


Korea has the best snacks, stationary and shameless love of posing for photos.

There is really no other way to say it. I love this quirky, adorable, brutally honest, sometimes smelly, awesome stationary providing country. The food is delicious and sinfully cheap, Soju is my soul mate and whether it is stiflingly hot in summer or freezing cold in winter I love the place.  And no other country has put me in a book.

It has been four years since my last visit and longer still since I lived here. But it is just like returning home.  And boy do I love being at home, even if it is only for a week.

This is my first actual full time holiday in three years.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve taken time off from work in the past years but it has been to attend uni classes or to do major research essay.  This time, this week it is all about having fun and relaxation…and a little about drinking.

It was minus 12 when I arrive.  Minus, people MINUS.  So of course when it is ridiculously cold I embrace the ridiculous, dress like the Michelin Man, grab a bottle of Soju and sign up for a Hapkido lesson.

I’ve been wanting to do has a refresher Hapkido class for a while, specifically I wanted to relearn form.  Form is a kind of a rhythmic sequence of Hapkido kicking, punching and defense moves.  Most all form is great exercise and really relaxing.  When I can’t sleep and am wound up by things I have seen and heard in the field, doing a short form pattern has a surprising way of calming me down.

Despite my black belt, I didn’t want to do kicking or punching or falling or wrist-locks cos, lets face it I’m a tad older than I was seven years ago when I earned it.  Walking to the dojung with my friend we discussed how we are adults, and that we just had to be firm with our Sabunim (Hapkido Master) and that we just wanted to do form, nothing else.


Oh no, however will I get out of this?

Sabunim is a force of nature.  He is a master in several martial arts, studied his Masters in Australia, speaks fluent English, is learning Mandarin, and he wrote a book (of which I am a chapter).  He is not someone that you easily say no to.  And we didn’t.  Within seconds we were donning our uniforms and obeying his every instruction.  It was fantastic.

I was hopeless of course, my kicks were wonky, my self-defense more like self-destruction but it was hilarious.  I haven’t giggled so much in ages.  As usual Sabunim was right.

I will be sure to tell him so when I can walk again.


Now that’s more like it.


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Filed under On holidays

Warning: Professional photographers do not read this

Actually I should probably extend that warning to accomplished amateurs.  This is not a blog about how to take good photos, it is post about the continual and never ending learning curve I am on to become an effective and purposeful humanitarian communicator.

I’ve always loved photography.  And until I started working with professionals I always thought I was kind of ok at it.  When I was given my first DSLR (a joint present from my self, my parents and Santa) at the age of 34 I was giddy with excitement.  That excitement lasted a good 30 minutes.  Then the fear set in.  What do all these buttons mean?  Why are there so many dials? What does that flashing red light in the viewfinder mean?  Of course it wasn’t all bad. I understood what the picture of the bin meant.  (Trashcan for my international friends)

A well-meaning relative advised me to just use the auto setting.  I mentally struck them off my Christmas card list and vowed in that moment to only shoot in manual.  Having no idea what this would actually entail I enrolled in a course for beginners at a local TAFE.  Scared does not begin to describe my emotions when I realised maths and physics were going to be involved.  Aperture and shutter speed and ISO and white balance and over and under exposure and and and!  I became a communicator so I would only ever have to write numbers and never have to add them up.  Now I had to understand how the size of a hole and the speed of something going in and out and the sensitivity of…


Yep I get it now.

So, anyway…

When I was living in South Korea I was warned about English pirates. These were people who would just come up to you and start talking to you in the hope of getting a free English lesson.  I hated the term and preferred to think of these people as friendly and keen students.  I am now a very friendly and keen student of photography and take every opportunity to hijack friends, colleagues and even my own staff of professional photographers to learn all I can from them.

In Ethiopia I learnt how to focus on a person’s eyes.  In Brisbane I learnt that if you position someone in front of a pole, in the photo it looks like it is growing out of their head. In Senegal I learnt how to use reflectors and diffusers.  In New Zealand I learnt the importance of shutter speed when dealing with moving subjects.  Today, in Melbourne I learnt that when battling the midday sun the flash comes in really handy.

Anyone got any more photography tips for me?


Filed under Emergency Communications, Training