Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Bruns Weekend Update

In our typical fashion, we've been a busy bunch this past weekend - well, for the past two weeks, actually.  I thought I'd share a few highlights for our friends and family out there, especially those who can't follow along with our adventures on Facebook.

Our "angel" in Itaewon...

First came the weekend of parades for Rob. The Eighth Army Band performed at two parades in one day - the first was at the Itaewon Global Village Festival, just off post a bit.  Here's a short clip, thanks to my friend, Jackie:


Afterwards, the band stopped for dinner and Rob bravely tried octopus - complete with live, squirming creatures being cooked on their table top. You might be able to catch a glimpse here:

Peek-a-boo...going to eat you...

Michael says he wants to eat an octopus now...
this from the kid who can't eat a piece of bread without gagging!

The Eighth Army Band then performed a combined concert with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Capital Defense Command (CDC) Band on October 15th at Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. 

Called "Love of Country," the concert was a U.S.-ROK Joint Military Concert performed to commemorate 61 years of alliance between the two countries. There is a pretty nice write-up about it on the army page HERE (the link sometimes does not work for me, but you can try).  Rob conducted a few tunes and it was a well-received event:

Rob ran in the Spartan Race Korea with a group from the 8th Army Band this past Saturday.  Discounting the super long bus ride to and from, they had a glorious, mud-tastic time. Lots of obstacles, lots of hills, and lots of mud.


and after:

Michael continues to "play soccer" each Saturday morning in the 3-5 year old bracket. They have a fun time running after the ball, or simply chasing each other, and they've even learned a few things along the way...okay, maybe not, but they are still having fun! Occasionally the ball stays within bounds, isn't picked up by a kid, and is kicked near a goal.  Rob says it's like herding cats...I tend to agree.

I recently tried my hand at another painting at an Art & Seoul event - this time the subject was Seoul Tower - due to the parades, Michael had to tag along, so no adult beverages for me - but here's the result:

And finally, while Rob was off traversing mud pits like an ancient warrior, Michael and I took a leisurely ride on the subway to Sindorim for a little play time at Pororo's Park.

Look - Halloween in Korea!

We then enjoyed some beautiful Irish music at The Ceilidh: a Celtic music and dance festival being held nearby. Yep, Irish music in Korea - 'cause, why not?  Enjoy!


Our next post? A day's hike around Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Look, Ma - I'm a Writer!

Some of you may remember that I have occasionally submitted an article to a blog called Korea Ye! It's an online site with helpful articles for military families living in Korea.

A few of my past article topics have included:

Well, the exciting news is that the folks in charge of the "Overseas? Yes!" blog series have changed the publishing format a bit and have asked me to come onboard as a weekly staff writer!  I am thrilled, and just a little scared (an article each week!), to have this opportunity while we are living here!

Here is a monthly round-up of my newest articles for Korea Ye!

Neal's Yard Cafe - a place for great coffee and yummy desserts in nearby Itaewon.

Korea Tourism Organization - a great spot to get help with all things Korea.

Total Martial Arts Studio - the Taekwondo studio where Michael takes classes.

Let me know if you have ideas for future articles, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Random "Living in Korea" Stuff - Part 5

For this installment of "Random Things"...

1) Police Cars: I've mentioned before that driving here is crazy, but there is one thing in particular that I am sure is going to get me into trouble back in the states at some point. The police cars here always have their lights on - always.  You know to pull over only if they use their siren on you. So let's hope I adapt quickly to driving nicely when we move back, so I don't accidentally ignore any flashing lights in the rearview mirror!

2) Korean money:  The Korean currency is called "won" and comes in varying denominations:
-coins are 10, 50, 100, or 500 won
-bills are 1,000,  5,000,  10,000, or 50,000 won

The conversion rate is roughly $1 USD to 1,000 KRW (the rate fluctuates each day, which sometimes triggers a mad scramble for the exchange shops when rent is due here).

Something to keep in mind: always hand over your money with two hands, or with the left hand on your right elbow - a sign of respect and a common custom here.

Want to know whose faces are on the Korean won? had a great post about it HERE.

3) Other Korean Customs: I'm reading a book right now titled "This is Korea", which I picked up at the National Museum of Korea. It has great information about Korea in general and various Korean customs.

I have already mentioned handing over items, such as money, but there are some other Korean customs to be aware of if you travel to or live in Korea.

Bowing - instead of a handshake, we bow,  The deeper the bow, the more respect. I bow a lot...I'll probably be bowing for some time to come...

The "come here" gesture: in the US, we usually use our hand with palm facing up and flicking the fingers to say "come here".  In Korea, the palm is facing down; the gesture with palms facing up is for dogs (or those you consider as such...)

Writing in red ink - This is a big NO-NO when writing or signing someone's name, as it means they are dead.  (Something I wish I'd known before signing the cell phone contract on our first day here...but I'm still kicking around, so I guess I'm okay.)

Knives as gifts - another no-no, as this signifies cutting off the relationship. I guess you could give them if you were saying, "See ya!"

4) Poverty: I've posted about a lot of amazing and wonderful things here in Korea (and there are many!), but there are some "not so good" things, as well, just in case you were wondering - such as poverty. Each day we see many Koreans with large carts and trailers piled high with cardboard, plastics, metal scraps, etc.  They haul these tottering piles of recycling around the city by hand, many of them elderly and bent under their burden, and then turn them in at recycling centers for the cash exchange.  This is how they make their living, as they cannot find employment elsewhere.

5) It's fall here in Korea - which is the time of less humidity and MANY festivals.  We will be attending a few (ie. as many as we can get to) and I'll be sure to post some blog write-ups about them.  

In the meantime, the Korea Tourism site has a great list to consult:   Festivals

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Hangul Day Fashion Show, with King Sejong the Great

October 9th was National Hangul Day in Korea. Hangul is the Korean alphabet, which was created during the Joseon Dynasty in 1443 by King Sejong the Great.

To celebrate the day and its creator, a friend and I had the happy chance to attend a fashion show (in the VIP section!) at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), complete with musical entertainment and a display of Korean hanbok by designer Soon Hwa Lee.

The runway and stage were set, and we were outside underneath part of the spaceship-like DDP structure - very cool (and shiny!).

Our emcees for the evening (in spoke Korean and the other repeated everything in English) got us started with the welcome speeches and introductions, including a number of ambassadors and congresswomen.

I did not get a video, but these two lovely Korean children performed the Korean National Anthem - on cello and voice - and it was beautifully pure and simple.  Click above to hear a sample.

The entertainment started, and oh, it was wonderful - first was a traditional Korean mini-drum dance - very colorful, energetic, and fun to watch.

- and I did get video of this one - it features percussion and the piri (think REALLY loud oboe), so check your volume first!


Next up was ballet, with two sets of dancers - one somber and one joyful.  I think the first pair was really sad due to the chilly weather - she was visibly shivering, the poor thing.

The last pre-show entertainment was from a K-Performance called "Grandpa is a Superstar" was a mix of rap, b-boy, and a "grandpa" who tries to do all of the dances - very funny!


Next came the actual fashion show, which was split into two parts - the old and the new.  The first half of the clothing worn was from the period of King Sejong the Great - and showcased the clothing worn by various people within his family and court, including children, military, performers, and advisors.

Hanbok is the traditional clothing of Korean, marked by clean lines and beautiful patterns/fabrics. It is worn today mostly on holidays and for weddings.

I'll let the pictures, that show the beautiful fabrics and designs, speak for themselves:

This next one was my favorite of the entire show - she also danced in it, which made it even better.


This next gentleman performed a traditional Korean martial art, with a fan as his weapon, 

Military attire from the period:

King Sejong the Great's clothing:

The actors re-eacted a story of the king giving his outer cloak to a scholar he found sleeping in the cold.

The king and his court, when hangul is proclaimed the official written language:

To introduce the next half of the fashion show, a Korean TV drama star came out to sing - a new style of music for the new styles of hanbok.


As you can tell from the next few photos, there was a marked difference between 
old and new - no sleeves!

And some very interesting head pieces - this one is one of the science instruments that King Sejong the Great used and is also displayed in the town square.

picture from S. Henley

This next one was another favorite. I think the model liked it, as well - she had a sassy smile the entire time.

Some outfits were missing more than just sleeves...

picture from S. Henley

There were a few more dresses that had Hangul and the Korean flag on them, but by then my poor phone battery had given up.  So these pictures are care of my friend, Sharamie:

picture from S. Henley

Check out the headpiece on this one!

picture from S. Henley

Designer Soon Hwa Lee taking her bow at the end.

picture from S. Henley

I had a great time and learned a little bit more about hanbok - 
hope you enjoyed it, as well!