a few funny things

Three things I saw on Sunday that I thought were funny and worth sharing.  The first is quite common here.  It’s called couple’s shirts (or pants, shoes, coats, etc)  Basically it’s a couple dressing alike in public.  I’m still trying to convince Lane.  He doesn’t seem interested.

couple's shirts

The next two I found in the bathroom of the subway station. One is a button you can press and loud water sounds come out of the speaker.  It seemed less effective as a way to induce urination and more effective as a way to cover up unpleasant bathroom noises.  That’s just my take though.  There is also the button to call the subway attendant, from INSIDE the stall.  How handy if you run out of TP! 🙂

wooooooosh!

"tissue opsoyo!"(There isn't any TP!)

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Cherry Blossom Festival

It’s cherry blossom season in Seoul.  The trees are in full bloom and everyone is out to see them.  Lane and I went to the last day of a festival at Yeouido park, just south of the river.  They block off the road and let people walk this long line of trees for like 2 weeks.  The trees have been a bit behind this year, but they finally came into bloom.  Unfortunately it wasn’t super sunny, but the temperature was nice.  We are also seeing trees in bloom all over the city.  It’s a really nice change from the long, cold, white winter.  Spring is here!

The line of trees as we approached.

a roof of blossoms

They lit up the trees after dark. So pretty!

looking across the han river.

K-Drama

Since returning from the Philippines I have discovered a new obsession.  In fact my inability to resist this obsession makes it a little scary.  But since it’s what I’ve been spending a lot of time doing, I figured I should share about it here.  I lovingly refer to this addiction as “My Stories.”  I learned from friends here at SEV about a website called mysoju.com.  This website posts many Korean, Japanese, and other country’s television shows and movies with English subtitles.  I then heard about a show that aired here in December of 2008 called “Boys Before Flowers”  This show was immensely popular so I thought I would check it out.  I LOVED it.  I became really attached to the characters and actually thought about the characters and show when I wasn’t watching.  Like I said, a little bit scary.  Since then I have watched a semi-reality show called “We Got Married” in which celebrities are paired up and live together once a week as a married couple.  Also surprisingly entertaining.  I’ve been trying to think about why I like these shows so much.  If these type shows were on in the US I know that I wouldn’t have been interested in them at all.  As I tried to imagine the US versions of these dramas and reality shows I realized one huge difference.  The Korean shows are much more innocent.  Characters rarely even kiss and sex scenes are nowhere to be found.  Because of this there is more focus on relationships, family, and romance.  Imagine the OC, or 90210 without all the sex…. just drama.  I really appreciated this aspect of the Korean shows.  I can’t say that this is true for all Korean television, but it is true for all the shows that I have seen thus far.

My favorite show "Boys Before Flowers"

Along with the entertainment aspect I was able to learn a few things about Korean culture (keeping in mind that this is a television show and therefore not completely reflective of Korean normal life)  I learned a few Korean words as well.  So if your interested in watching a show or two check out the website and let me know what you think.  I, of course, highly recommend “Boys before Flowers”

http://www.mysoju.com/browse/popular/

"Your Beautiful"

"We Got Married" one of the same actors from Boys Before Flowers was on this show first.

"Birth of the Rich" A show Lane and I are watching together

Philippines vacation

This past week Lane and I were required to take a week of vacation days from the school.  It’s a slow time because it’s the start of the new school year.  So students don’t sign up for camp when it’s their first week in a new grade.  Lane and I decided we wanted a relaxing, low key vacation someplace warm.  We got the best price on tickets to the Philippines so that’s where we went.  We stayed on a small island called Sangat in the Palawan district.  We were on this island the whole time and so didn’t do any sight seeing, shopping, or learning about the country and culture.  This felt weird to me as I’d never been to another country without doing those things.  It was a wonderful time though.

We went scuba diving on our first full day there.  It was a first for both of us.  Most people learn how to scuba dive in a pool, but we started in the ocean.  After getting fitted for the wet suit, mask, booties, and flippers, we set out on the boat to our dive site.  First we got all our gear on, then we learned a bit about how to use it.  We all knelt in the water about 1 meter down and practiced taking out our air and putting it back in, getting water out of our masks, and adjusting our flotation.  Then, WE WENT FOR IT!  We were down for about 30-40 min. first we swam over some coral reefs and saw some little fishies.  Then, unbelievably, we went to about 9 meters and dove around a wrecked Japanese gun boat!  Amazing!  Who gets to see a ship wreck on their first dive??!!  At one point my flipper came off and almost went into the wreck!  Luckily the dive guy behind me was able to grab it in time.  On our way back up, amongst the coral, we even saw Nemo! 🙂  This was a goal of mine.  He was just wiggling all over that Anemone.   Unfortunately we have no pictures of any of this as our camera would not do well if it got wet.  Use your imagination.  Another unfortunate happening was with my ears.  I was having trouble equalizing them as we went deeper.  At one point, I got light headed and floated to the surface without realizing what was happening until I popped up at the surface.  This was not good for my ears as I came up pretty quickly.  Even though it was several days before we left I also had ear trouble on the plane.  So I’ll be seeing a doctor soon about it.  I hope it’s not permanent damage.

We were also able to see some pretty cool fish and coral and things when we went snorkeling just in front of the beach area.  We saw Nemo 3 more times.  We also saw a star fish, a large angel fish, schools of colorful big and little guys, a jaw fish, and lots of little crabs on the beach.

We spent a lot of time just lying around in the hammocks or beach chairs and reading while sipping coffee.  The weather was perfect.  Not too hot and not too chilly.  Though it did get a little windy a couple of the days.

One day we decided to kayak out to the hot springs on the side of the island.  It’s hidden away in a mangrove forest.  It was beautiful and relaxing.  Unfortunately, we underestimated the power of the wind and current that day and tried to battle to get back.  It really felt like a squall and I was scared.  The wind and current were especially strong around one corner and I simply could not get around it.  We tried 2 times and failed.  There was no let up in the wind and I thought we were stuck.  Thankfully I have a strong and brave husband who offered to forge ahead and bring back a boat for me.  Though he was paddling as hard as he could and standing still at times, he made it and came back to rescue me.  My hero!  I was so worried about him until I saw the boat come around the rocks.  Ahhh, so relieved.   But all in all, it was worth it.

We also did a little hiking.  Or tried to anyway.  Most of the Island is steep rocky cliffs.  We did pretty well, but when Our hands were sore form the sharp rocks and I got a long cut on my leg, we called it quits.  Still a good time though.

You can view all the photos at   http://picasaweb.google.com/mandi.kaufmann/Philippines?authkey=Gv1sRgCK-i14fLpuizpwE#

Warm weather and sweet songs

As February draws to a close we have been blessed with some wonderfully warm weather.  We are starting to notice a change in the city already.  More people outside, tables being setup outside, and an overall happier mood are some things we have noticed.  We’ve been able to hang out outside with the kids at lunch break, and of course, Lane took the frisbee out.  We also got to choose and teach a song to one team this week.  Lane and I both chose Beatles songs (surprised?)  Then we taught them everyday for 45min.  Today was the performance/graduation and their parents came to watch.  It was a lot of pressure, but also a nice change from the usual.  Enjoy the photos and videos! 🙂

come on Lane...your like 3 times his size you big bully!

Come on Lane...you're like 3 times his size you big bully!

They want that Frisbee soooo bad!

Rock Paper scissors solves everything...even who gets the frisbee.

Kimchibilly

This past weekend Lane and I went to a concert called Kimchibilly.  Kimchi being the most eaten food in Korea, and billy referring to Rockabilly music.    Some of us ladies decided to dress up for the occasion with Rockabilly style hair, makeup and clothes.  We went with Victoria, Bridgett, Caroline, Jenna, and Casey, and our friend Scott was up from Busan for training and was able to join us.  Great group of folks and great music.

We got to see some awesome Korean and Japanese bands.  The concert started at 5:30 and didn’t finish until after 11pm.  There was a lot of dancing and some great hair.  We heard every thing from the Korean Beatles/Monkeys (my favorite), to Ska (sung in Korean with a Jamaican accent), to metal (which some of us chose to opt out of).  There was also some great Rockabilly, of course.

The concert was in Hongdae which, we found out, is quite the spot for night life.  It’s the area with a lot of dance clubs, live music, and art.  So naturally, it’s where all the young Koreans hang out on a Saturday night.  We learned this when trying to get on the subway at 11 (everyone trying to get home before the subways shut down at 11:30/12).  The mass of people moving slowly down the stairs was quite an experience and worthy of a photo.

all dressed up

the korean beatles. my favorite!

ska band...crazy!

The Soul of Liberty. A fun Japanese band. This woman rocked that bass.

dancing!

more dancing

woohoo

The headliners "The Rock Tigers" wow, they were great. Unfortunately I was pretty tired by this point and I just stared in awe.

crowded subway entrance

Luner New Year

Here in Korea, and many Asian countries, the Lunar calendar was the traditional one followed by the people.  Now most people follow the solar calendar that the western countries use and celebrate New Years on Jan. 1.  However, their calendars also show the lunar date and Lunar New Year is a big celebration for the nation.  Traditionally people travel back to their hometowns and visit family.  Some where the Hanbok and perform ceremonial rites paying respect to their ancestors.  They usually make special food and play games and talk with their family throughout the holiday.  They also give gifts.  A fairly recent tradition is the giving of  gift sets to employees (and friends and family).  These gift sets come in all shapes and sizes and we see them everywhere.  SEV employees received a hair- loss prevention shampoo gift set.   But, they didn’t have enough of those , so 4 volunteers received a SPAM gift set.  Apparently the spam gift set is normal and a good gift here.  We actually eat spam alot here, mostly in the cafeteria.  It’s actually pretty good.  We’ve heard that the spam here is made of better meat than what we use to make spam in the U.S.  But, I dunno.  There is also a lot going on at the palaces, gates and folk villages for lunar New Year.  Lane and I went with some friends to the Namsan Hanok Folk village on New Years day and had a great time…even though it was freezing.  Here are some photos.

Kara, with her lovely SPAM gift pack...so much spam, so little time.

Lane, Randy, and August on the subway on the way there.

On a side note, Randy is a Kaufman and his mother attended Goshen College.  He works with us at SEV.  Random!

the gate on the way into the village. Lots of people.

Oh the joy!

So did he...

That's me...I had to.

The parade enters right as we do...LUCKY!

These guys beet their drums and used their heads to expertly wave ribbons in the air at the same time.

They performed for a long time. It must have been tiring!

fun jumping teeter totter

We got to watch this woman make Makoli (It's a kind of rice wine) we've had it in restaurants, but this tasted very different. Then, because we are foreign, we got on the news drinking and talking about the makoli.

too tall

kimchi pots. Kimchi is fermented spicey cabbage. Similar to saukraute, but spicey...people have refrigerators here for the sole purpose of storing kimchi. Korea's national food.

wishes for the new year.

yep, we did. and that's the kite I made in that bag. 🙂 and yes, I own large earmuffs.

Lane, Randy, and August walking around the large time capsule at the village.