Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 35 : Merry Christmas everyone! Yep its that time of year again, so grab your egg nog, hang out under the mistletoe and wear the best christmas sweater you can find! We're excited to be celebrating our first Christmas together as a married couple and we everyone has a very memorable Christmas filled with family and friends. We've been getting the kids at our school excited all week as we got ready for our big Christmas party we had on Friday.
We started the festivities with a little gingerbread cookie making that went about as smoothly as it could go with a room full of 70 kids. We managed to keep the gingerbread related injuries to a minimum, and even without any cookie cutters and a fully functioning oven (Korea doesn't believe in ovens) the whole thing turned out pretty darn well.

After we ate the cookies, Arthur teacher distracted the kids with a rousing game of pin the button on the gingerbread man. The kids loved it! Any excuse to put a silly hat on and spin around in circles I guess...

Next, we turned the lights down and put on the classic Frosty the Snowman cartoon. Its amazing how they can stretch that short Christmas song into a full fledged movie but the kids seemed to like it.

After that we cleaned up and got the kids ready for their real lunch. Then it was show time for Santa, so I ate quickly and prepared myself for my upcoming role. I had been elected Santa that morning and I was excited about the prospect of redeeming myself for the tired looking Santa photos I generated for my school last year. Another teacher Sherry got the kids riled up as she set the tone nicely for Santa's big entry. I did the best Kris Kringle I know how, and Arthur helped hand out the presents as the kids posed for a photo with Santa. I think it was a marked improvement on my part from last year, but I still suffered a few wardrobe malfunctions and heard " you're not the real Santa! " from some trouble makers in the audience. All in all, the kids had an awesome time and it will be a Christmas that they will never forget.

More photos of the kids, our school, and our apartment in the next post. Until then, enjoy the holidays and any time off you may have. We're working Monday and Tuesday but then we're off until January 4th which we're looking forward to.

****P.S. There has been a Christmakkah miracle! ****
This morning, I (Brandon) went to Lotte Mart (kinda like Wal-Mart) to buy our Christmas tree. As things in Korea are always a little strange, they told him that since Christmas was yesterday, I could no longer purchase any of their trees (that were still on display). Knowing that I couldn't come home empty handed I talked to several employees and supervisors about buying one of the sample trees. One after another they said " Sorry, not possible". As I was leaving feeling defeated, a sweet lady behind the cosmetic counter said, "Wait" and began opening a big box. Inside was a big tree, decorations, and even lights. She showed me the stuff and I asked " how much ? ". With a big smile she said something in Korean I didn't understand, then she said "Service" which is Korea's way of saying free. I walked out of there with a giant box of everything I needed which a day ago would have cost me $125, but today it was completely free. Thinking I was leaving with nothing, I couldn't help but feel like I'd just experienced a mini Christmakkah miracle and now our place really feels festive. God I love Korea!

With love from South Korea,
Brandon & Shayna xo

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 16 : We're officially back in Korea and we couldn't be more excited.We had an amazing summer and we want to thank all our family and friends for making our time back home so special. That being said, its great to be back doing what we love, traveling, taking photos, and teaching the occasional English class. For any of you concerned about the situation over here don't worry, things seemed to have calmed down and as usual the media makes it seem worse than it is. When we arrived, we wasted little time and our friends here had already planned a road trip adventure for our very first weekend. There were six of us in total so we rented a big van and hit the open and often unpredictable Korean roads.

Luckily we were in the very capable hands of our driver Patrick and he was able to reduce the near death collisions to only a handful. We were heading south to start in a place called Gokong, which is famous for its prehistoric tomb sites called Dolemans, that date back to early Korean civilization. They're scattered all over the country but the main cluster of them lie here.

They're basically massive rocks laid on top of each other that kind of resemble a table. We hiked around the area a little, felt rain, and then got lucky as the sun tried to break through and made for some cool photos.

After we had our fill of Doleman tombs we left for Jeongju an hour away to visit a very interesting Fortress. We made it to the huge walls surrounding the fortress but it seriously looked like it was going to pour. Shay and Patrick decided to not risk it with their expensive cameras and checked out a museum on the grounds. Jenny, Phil, and I thought we'd chance it and see what happened. We got close to the fortress and then the skies opened up and torrential rains came down, but we were able to seek refuge under the main gate.

It didn't last long and we were able to walk around a beautiful fortress garden and check out some traditional housing as it was hundreds of years ago.

On the way out we also scaled the fortress walls and made it to a look out point that gave sweet views of the foggy city below.

We met up with Shayna and Patrick at the museum in the midst of them being serenated by a trained Korean opera singer who had taking a liking to them. By this point we were starving so we grabbed some food. On the way out we saw an advertisement for a traditional Korean music performance that evening close by, so we jumped at the opportunity for some culture and bought tickets. To kill some time we walked around a traditional Korean village right in the middle of town, and they had converted much of it into interesting little shops for visitors and tourists.

We got to the performance and being the only foreigners there got a few looks but mostly went in undisturbed. The performance was a fusion of traditional Korean music, rock n roll, and opera with several very good singers making appearances throughout the performance.

I ( Brandon) really enjoyed it and so did everyone else but some of the group thought is was a little long winded for their taste. All in all everyone was happy to get to experience something unique like that. Being pretty beat from the day, we all checked into the classiest love motel we could find and crashed. The next day we woke up early to visit one of the biggest catholic churches in Korea. The building had really spectacular features, and we hope the people didn't mind us joining their morning mass.

Shay was even able to capture an older women in deep prayer.

Next we went off to a famous temple close by called Toepsa. It was a little bit of a hike to get there but it was worth it. On the way up we ran into some of the cuttest puppies we have ever seen and Shay wasted no time getting the shots.

Most temples in Korea look pretty similar, but this one was special because a monk had spent his whole life stacking rocks on top of each other to form these massive rock pagodas all around the temple. Now that's dedication!

It made for some cool shots and we even got to meet the monk in charge of the place, who was looking out with a megaphone in his hand ready for any temple troublemakers.

After climbing to the top and seeing all that there was to see at the temple, we decided it was time to make our way home, in hopes of beating the dreaded Korean traffic jam. We had a little pit stop at Costco on the way home, where we blew the remainder of our budget on old cheddar cheese and Costco muffins. We got back to our place, and much to our delight our bed had been delivered as promised and our new apartment was already to starting to feel a little more like home. It was a great weekend and a great chance to catch up with old friends we hadn't seen in half a year but none us seem to have missed a step and we all had a awesome time.

It was also our first Korea adventure where we both had good cameras to capture the moments with, so it was nice for me (Brandon) to graduate from equipment manager to full on photographer. Shay's been a great teacher and she's still teaching me more and more so we look forward to more adventures and more stories to share with you! We hope everyone is doing great back home, and we hope you all have an amazing holidays!

With love from South Korea,

Brandon and Shayna xo

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hey guys!!
I thought it was about time I kept my word and so here is our much overdue Toronto blog post. We've been home for a little over a month now and we have been pretty busy. We are living near the Harbour front which is a gorgeous area close to the water! Needless to say, we take lots of walks and are trying to enjoy our time off as much as possible. There is so much to see and photograph- like this cute little day old swan swimming with her mama, awww....

Not to mention our incredible view from our place, can you say a-m-a-z-i-n-g ! ! ! !

We are of course seeing all of our friends and family and catching up with them whenever we can. It's been a very long time (about 6 years) since we've been in Toronto for more than a week at a time, so it's been really nice. And of course, my camera has been with me most days and my friend Jana and I were able to have a quick photoshoot in the park the other week which was tons of fun- isnt she gorgeous? Look at those eyes ... !!!

We went to my version of "heaven on earth" the other week at Woofstock. Pretty much they closed down a whole bunch of streets near Kensington Market and people brought their dogs to chill for the day. We all know I (Shayna) LOVE doggies and I had the funnest time ever taking photos of all the adorableness, check out these cuties...

We're also trying to continue our strangers project- with a focus on Toronto street performers. Brandon talks music with them and then we snap away, we've only gotten 2 so far but we'll get more as time goes on I'm sure...

Then the other day, we went over to Toronto Island and to get some more shots of the city, we're going to try to get as many as we can while we're here since it really is awesome, don't you think?

Anyways that's it for now, the wedding plans are coming along but we don't have anything to share with you yet. Our Engagement shoot is on July 27th, and any cute ideas for a theme are welcome! As much fun as it is here, we really do miss Korea and we wish you could all be here to celebrate with us. Give big hugs and kisses to the kids for us and tell them we love them! I'll try to be good and blog again soon.

With love from Toronto,
Shayna & Brandon xo

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 334: It was Children's Day here in Korea yesterday, which meant the day off for us :) It wasn't the nicest of days but we knew we didn't want to stay inside. We decided to head to Bucheon park, where we knew most of the kids would be playing with their families. So here's some of the cuteness we came across....

The kids in Korea really are too cute for words! So that's it, just a quick update. We're heading to bed soon. We're getting excited about coming home, can't wait to catch up with all of you in person!

With love from South Korea,
Shayna & Brandon xo