Monday, May 25, 2015

Help other military families overseas...

As you know if you've been reading my blog, I have also been a writer for Korea Ye! while here. It's a website with peer written articles dedicated to helping US military and their families navigate their way in Korea. It offers PCS tips, restaurant reviews, directions to attractions, reviews of name it and someone has either written a story or they need to!

When we first found out we were moving to South Korea, the joy of finally knowing where we were going was quickly replaced by a sense of panic. WHERE were we going? What was it like? How on Earth were we going to tell family!? I quickly scoured the internet for anything I could find on Korea and thankfully stumbled upon Korea Ye. It became "home" for me, where I'd go to find out about area customs, places to go, how to handle aspects of the move. The articles on Korea Ye, and my eventual part in writing for the site, have made our stay in Seoul soooo much easier. We owe a great deal to the site for our successful experience while here.

Heather and Joelle, the owners of the Overseas Yes family of websites, would love, Love, LOVE to be able to help more families across the globe, in places such as Bahrain, mainland Japan, Guam, and Europe. To do that though, they need some support and assistance.

They have started a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds to build the websites, get writers and staff on board, and start helping families in new areas of the world.

Here's what I'm asking...can you please join me in making a donation to help other military families? If you've enjoyed reading about our adventures, have lived overseas before, and/or will possibly be heading to an overseas location in the future, please make a donation to help others and maybe even yourself. Even just $5 will help the network reach its first $5,000 goal and get Bahrain Naam up and running. Please click this link and help pay it forward:

Want to see what these sites can offer? The Overseas Yes network currently has four sites serving US military personnel and their families in OCONUS locations:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Samulnori - my attempt at Korean drumming!

I saw this ad pop up in my e-mail one day in February and said, "Oooh, me! Me, me, me!"

[Special Class for Foreign Residents] SAMULNORI(사물놀이)
The Korean traditional percussion quartet called “Samulnori(사물놀이)".
●Period: From March 19 to May 14(Every Thursday), 3pm ~ 5pm (120min)

-Orientation : March 19, 3pm at 국립민속박물관
-Class (8 Weeks): March 26 ~ May 14, 3pm~5pm at Seoul Global Cultural Center
*Performing Day: May 20(Wed), 2pm at 국립민속박물관 (National Folk Museum of Korea)
●Fee: FREE for foreign residents only

So I quickly signed up, convinced my friend Vilija to join me, and we've spent the last few months in Myeongdong on Thursday afternoons, sometimes with Michael tagging (and dancing) along, learning to play the janggu and buk. We started with an orientation at the National Folk Museum, located on the grounds north of Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The attendees were first treated to a samulnori performance and lecture. The performer pictured below, Mr. Oh, was to be one of our teachers.

Here's a quick clip of a portion of their performance:


We were then quickly given instruments, handed two sticks, and were walked through the beginner steps of reading the notation. I found this great link which shares more info: Samulnori 101

Right hand stick = / = "dak"
Left hand mallet = O = "kung"
Both played at the same time = ø = "deong"

picture courtesy of the Seoul Global Cultural Center

Each week we practiced at the Seoul Global Cultural Center in Myeongdong, where we learned a few more patterns and got quite the aerobic workout. Here is one drum I used during the class. The leather bindings are actually used to tighten the right side drum head and have to be released after you are done playing.

Here's my chicken scratch version of the songs we were performing. The Xs above the janggu notation were the buk's part (think of it like the bass drum of the group). The rhythms are all grouped in 3/4 time patterns (similar to a waltz) but are often much more intricate.

After a lot of practice and many attempts at memorization, the day of the performance arrived. 

We headed back to the National Folk Museum and the hosts played this short video of our practices and interviews (yup, that's me talking in one clip, followed by Vilija). My only wish is that they had not covered up our drumming with the extra video music, but you can get the general idea.


We wore traditional costumes for the performance, with red, yellow, and blue accents. Red symbolizes fire, blue is for wood, and yellow is for earth. The white we wore is for metal and there can be black accents, for water. The sashes all get tied with large bows in the back.  :)

There was a bit of a media frenzy as we practiced here - lots of flashes and camera clicking added to our drumming - since we're all foreigners trying a bit of traditional Korean culture. 
Here are links to two reports I know of:

picture courtesy of the Seoul Global Cultural Center

There is a video clip of our performance, but I am not received it from the SGCC yet. As soon as I do, I will update this page with it.

picture courtesy of the Seoul Global Cultural Center

We all received this nice set of certificates for completing the course, one in Korean and one in English.

Interested in learning more about samulnori? 
I found this great site that I'll be referencing in the future, since I'm bringing back a janggu!

Thursday, May 14, 2015


When we moved here we looked for a physical activity for Michael to be involved in, to replace his involvement at the Little Gym in VA, and were lucky enough to find out about Taekwondo classes at Total Martial Arts System (TMAS) in Itaewon. Since Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, where better to start learning it?

He tried it out, did pretty well, and has been in training for almost a year now. Master Kim and Michael's current instructor, Mr. John, have been very kind and patient with him (training a preschooler is not always that easy!). The activities are fun and designed to build the basic skills needed for more advanced training - balance, control, focus, strength, agility, memory.

He has an adorable little uniform, which he wore well at first and has since decided is too hot, so he wears the belt on occasion...I'll get him back into it soon. He's grown quite a bit, so it probably fits better, as well!

He's gotten better and better; progress happens in small steps and as he matures.

He even was granted the next belt color (yellow) for improving a few weeks back! I was so happy for him, but he was probably the only student ever who was sad about removing his white belt. I managed to catch him mid-cry where it looks like he's smiling...

Not sure what the future will bring for his training, but we're so glad he had the opportunity while here and that he had the influence of some wonderful teachers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

April "Korea Ye!" Articles

Here is a monthly round-up of my articles for Korea Ye!just in case you missed them:

Shopping at Namdaemun Market

Gusto Taco on USAG Yongsan

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Pansori 판소리 : Korea’s Musical Storytelling

A Day in Hongdae

This is going to be one of those "heavy on the pictures" blog posts. Michael and I celebrated Children's Day (May 5th in Korea) with a random trip to Hongdae. It's an area near Hongik University that has a pretty active arts and music scene, but today was all about pictures.

We headed straight to the Trick Eye and Ice Museum for some photo fun. Michael was adamant that we go to the ice portion first. It was pretty darn cold, and the slide was cool (ba dum bump).

I was chastised for forgetting his mittens...and he was soon not too keen on being in the ice museum. Ha ha!

But we had to take a pic with the penguins.

Next up was the Trick Eye Museum - this is another one of those fun places that just has a whole bunch of fun scenarios to take pictures - so here ya go!

The amazing shrinking Michael!

He's a natural.

And then there was this...lordy.

Bye, bye, Michael!

What the?!?

Again, he's a natural.

Hangin' with the pandas...
and the astronauts...

I love this picture for no other reason than the guy's expression next to us - ha ha ha!

He seemed to be in great peril in most of these shots...hmmm.

But then got to relax...

Before taking on a combat challenge.

After having plenty of fun with the trusty cell phone camera, we decided to explore a bit more and made our way to the Hello Kitty Cafe. I had a moment of deja vu on these stairs and realized it was because I had been here the year before when it was a Hawaiian restaurant!  Things change so quickly here!

The food was perfectly kitty-ized.

And we stumbled upon a 2nd floor bedroom setup...

Selfie in the mirror!

We headed out, after scoring some Hello Kitty swag at the gift shop, and made our way down the street.

We passed the Hongdae Playground - which is famous among the college set for its craft fair/market/street performances on the weekends. As such, it's not really a playground at you can tell from the state of this poor slide Michael just HAD to go down.

But there were some interesting murals and street art in the area.

And with that last photo, our sightseeing and picture taking was done. We headed home for some promised time on a "real" playground and yogurt smoothies!  :)

If you'd like to visit the Hello Kitty Cafe, here is a picture of the map from the back of the business card.  There are two locations I know of - one in Hongdae (top card) and one in Myeongdong (bottom card).