A View Through December of 2011

So, the year has come to a end. Well, that has prompted me to start a new project.

End of the month videos.

Over the past few months I have really taken to shooting and editing video. My photo skills are 'alright' at best and I just like looking at my video's more than my photos. Plus, Liz is a very gifted photographer and most of the things she takes pics of and posts on her blog, I video. It works out nicely in my opinion.

Below are some things I shot, random events, moments, food we made, people we eat it with and one very nerve wracking moment that ended up being one of the best moments of my Korean life. And before you ask questions, just know that I spent four straight days practicing for it but there is no way I could have winged it.

...get Lost my friends.


Grandpa Ratto

{From the San Fransisco Chronicle on November 30th, 2011.}
  Raymond Angelo Ratto Sr. Sept 19, 1927 - Nov 26, 2011 Beloved husband for 48 years of the late Irene Ratto, he is survived by his angel Eleanor Camicia, his seven children Raymond Ratto Jr., Paul Ratto, David Ratto, Suzanne Walling, Thomas Ratto, Margaret Ratto-Young and Joanne Lippi, 23 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Ray was the beloved son of the late Antone and Johanna Ratto, brother of twin Edwin Ratto, Len Ratto and sisters Catherine Buchl, Joan Ciccarelli and Anne Gangl, as well as his brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews. He was pre-deceased by his brothers John Ratto, Antone Ratto Jr., Frank Ratto and sister Adelaide Ciccarelli. Ray was born and raised in Alameda and graduated from Alameda High School in 1945. 

     He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was a lifelong farmer and part of the 100-year-old family business Ratto Bros., which is still in existence today. In his earlier years, he volunteered with the Boy Scouts and was a member of St. Joseph High School's school board. He was a member of the Ligure Club, Grandfathers Club, the 100 Club and Native Sons of the Golden West Piedmont Parlor. Ray truly embraced the community of St. Joseph's as an usher and active parishioner. More than anything, Ray cherished his family and friends. He was a loving, caring, generous and wonderful man with a welcoming heart. He always had a positive outlook on life, told a story with a twinkle in his eye and had a great sense of humor. He loved farming, traveling and fishing. He held an important place in his heart for his special needs twin brother, Eddie, and those who care for him.

Just over two weeks ago the Ratto family laid to rest it's patriarch, my Grandpa Ratto.

For me, mere words cannot express my love, gratitude and overwhelming admiration for this wonderful man, but here goes: he was a man who loved to live life, and gave his everything to the people around him. He woke up at 4 a.m. to start the day and rarely had a night without some occasion on the calendar. And he always did it with a wink and a smile. Because of this, he is loved by countless masses of people.

Grandpa Ratto, you were, are and forever will be, the greatest man any of us have ever known. You were the definition of a blessing in someone's life. You shall be missed. 

Here is some footage the family asked me to take and put together to commemorate Grandpa Ratto.

(I humbly ask that comments only be directed to him and not the video making itself. It is not an art film nor is it intended to entertainment so please only share this link with friends and family of Grandpa Ratto. It is merely one small thing we, as a family, can look to and remember this uniquely wonderful man by. Thanks.)

...get Lost my friends.



One year had passed since I stepped foot in America. I spent that year teaching tiny Korean kids how to read words like, "Happy", "Ambulance" and "Snow mobile". Consequently, I got tired. Repetition of basic English words for 6 hours-a-day puts a wrinkle in your forehead. So, I did the necessary thing at the end of my contract and traveled back to the States for one month.

In those four weeks my fiance, Liz, and I cruised all over the place. We hit Nashville for a wedding, Raleigh for the opening of a chocolate empire, NYC for my sister's engagement party, Northern California to hug my oldest brother and finally back home to Torrance, CA for friends and wedding planning.

The time back highlighted numerous things but really proved only one big thing: if Seoul had Trader Joe's and In-n-Out, it would be hard to leave. Thankfully, especially for my perfect mom, it doesn't.

The next few posts are of some footage I took. Please enjoy.

...get Lost my friends.

Bay Area - '11

On a drive to Northern California, the radio volume stayed low, roads stayed empty and my mom and I stayed in coversation I wish never had to end. The talk evolved, ebbed and flowed, calmed and jumped, became serious then lost itself in laughter, but, it never stopped.

We talked for six-and-half-hours straight. And for me, throughout my 30 day stint in the States, I never felt happier. Thanks Mom.

But once the conversation came to a halt, we found ourselves smack dab in front of mister chamber of commerce himself, Dave Ratto. My oldest brother, chef de cuisine, and future local politician. He plotted out a 3 day adventure that lacked no assortment of food, family and overt laughing. Dave has many gifts but his main and most important one is his addiction to loving his family. He can't get enough. And, being a member of that family, hanging with the guy is always a good time.

So, below is a little video of our time with Dave. Enjoy.

...get Lost my friends.


NYC + Fam = :)

Scents are distinct. But New York City wafts on a different level. I visit NYC often because my Dad and sister live there and I must say, the minute I get that subway smell 'city mode' kicks in. Non-stop meals, walking, camera action, family frenzy's and people watching ensue. It's generally not a vacation because my California roots generally equate vacations to beaches and relaxing. But not in NYC. Not in that metropolis filled with human interest gems.

But on this particular trip the focus was not NYC, but rather my wonderful family. For the first time ever, almost the the entire entity of the Ratto/Whitson group was in the city. We celebrated the engagement of my sister Kaylen and Martin Geaninni. Together, the two are on the cusp of completely infiltrating and influencing mass factions of the performing arts world in New York.

Below is a video of our time in NYC.

My family is rad.

...get Lost my friends.

Raleigh, NC

Have you ever seen something big, before it could even be considered small. Like, have you ever seen a child athlete that didn't know the double-dribble rule but still dribbled with one hand. Or have you ever heard a friend sing at a causal occasion and thought, "Whoa, that voice could really move people."

Talent before greatness. Seed before Sequoia. Bricks before skyscraper.

I am referring to my brother, Sam, and his wife, Star. Together, they are constructing a shoppe, creating a brand, articulating artisan chocolate and building a dream, one coco bean at a time.

Liz and I visited Sam an Star for four days and really got to see their lives in motion as they build their bean to bar chocolate company. I must say, 'proud' comes to mind. 'Excited' too. Shoot, 'overwhelmingly impressed by how they are doing things the right way!' continues to go scroll through my head. It's just fun to see the guy that helped guide you through life continue to set an example for everyone around him. And to be partnered with a genius of all sorts, well, it's sweet. Videri Chocolate sweet.

Here is a little video of our time in Raleigh.

Raleigh, NC-'11 from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

Videri baby.

...get Lost my friends.


A month of America

Ahh, America. The sweet smell of LAX, the neck stiffening traffic, the carbs, the large people, the beach, the feeling of familiarity. It is all beautiful.

I landed 3 days ago and the one thing that keeps wringing through my mind is the word, 'finally'. After a full year of teaching in Korea, I have finally come home...for a month,

My fiancé Liz and I are doing a month long tour through the states for weddings, family and friends. We spent two days in California, now we are cruising in Nashville for a wedding, then we head to Raleigh for chocolate factory manufacturing, fly up to NYC for my sisters engagement party and finally fly back to California for two weeks of living easy.

It should be a great ride.

Last Import-4
{Our first meal in Nashville. Man, I missed real food.}

...get Lost my friends.


The Whiff of Homesickness

You know it's bad when a puddle of water makes you think of home.

This weekend it officially cooled down. The breeze's actually felt like California and I had very distinct whiff of homesickness. Even walking by bodies of water ranging from fountains to a brown sewage puddle makes me think, "Man I want to go surfing right now."

It also does not help that one of my students rocks these surf-chic style T-shirts everyday at school. His name is Aiden and while his body seems stunted at about 1-foot-9 inches high, his head is as a big as mine. Making him the cutest little dude of all time.

But again, looking at him only makes me want to surf something.


Good thing I'm home in 3 WEEKS!

...get Lost my friends.



A few weeks ago I returned from Bangladesh to Seoul. The trip can only be described as powerful. But to fully understand that, I must explain the months leading up to it.

In late January, Elysabeth and myself walked into New Philadelphia Church. We had previously visited four other English speaking churches in Seoul but this day played out differently than the previous services. After a few praise songs and the offering basket being passed around, the pastor strolled to the pulpit, picked up the mic and picked Liz out of the crowd. He kindly asked her if she would be willing to come to the front and receive some prayer, saying, "the Lord just highlighted you for some reason." So she did.

What happened next changed my life. Pastor Christian began speak to into Liz's life and praying for things that only I knew she had been dealing with. He mentioned things that rested at the base of her heart, things that she had only revealed to me. The prayers were accurate beyond reason.

Liz returned to the seat next to me with wet cheeks and puffy eyes. She looked up at my befuddled face and we exchanged a 'that-was-nuts' chuckle. I sat through the sermon that day without hearing a word. Only two things rapidly ran through my mind. "What just happened?" and "Was that actually God speaking through the pastor?"

Now, before you start analyzing that question for yourself or wondering if I've gone looney, understand that I had pretty much dsmissed God in my life prior to that moment. Sure, I had some belief in God, but at the end of my day, my overtly rational approach to life had me spend the previous five years coming to the simple conclusion that God was not relevant. Not in my life at least.

But in that moment, in that sanctuary, I went through a very intense shedding of personal beliefs and found myself coming to only one conclusion. Yes. That was totally real.

Over the next four months we fell in love with the people at the church and ended up really growing as people in our daily lives and in our relationship. So much so that I turned down a trip to Bali with Liz because I felt so strongly that I should be on one of the summer missions teams. And of course, Liz lovingly expressed that she was cool with it.

Thus bringing me to the title of this blog post. On August 1st, I flew to Bangladesh with a team of 13 amazing people. What unfolded on that trip will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I am not one to write endlessly long pieces on this blog, so I will stick with this--Over those seven days we ministered to over 3,000 people and saw 1,000 of them come to Christ in a country that is 90% Muslim. In the midst of the monsoon season we never saw a drop of rain. And in within the group we represented four different countries and ranged from 23 to 35-years-old but did not record a single argument, fight or even slight disagreement but may have recorded the most laughs ever on any missions trip. It was incredible.

{The trip's Pastor, Myunghwa, enjoying some time with kids.}

{In every village the women were the first to really dive into the message and receive it wholeheartedly. The women are pretty oppressed culturally and to see our female pastor speaking with such authority really captured their hearts.}

{Me, telling the locals a very similar story to what you just read above.}

{Everyday we traveled from village to village on the back of these half motorcycle-half mini-trucks for 5 hours total. After all was said and done we had covered almost the entire southern section of the country. The beauty of the land was overwhelming.}

{Our three meals a day consisted of rice, veggies and some version of curry on either chicken, fish or goat. That's right, goat. It was good but I can't say I'm chomping at the bit to bring the recipe back home.}

{Some of the team looking good after that fresh goat action. Troopers....Notice the group of locals that slipped in the back to watch us. They were so confused when they saw our diverse group that they just stared.}

{Wildly cute kids at every stop.}

{This picture really captures the essence of Bangladesh.}

{That' our boy Innamul driving the cycle/truck like a pro. Roy, the smiler, picked up quite a bit of Bangali on the trip and obviously just caught a joke by big Innamul. Judging my Innamul's face, he's got a dry delivery that hits the spot.}

{So beautiful.}

{Like I mentioned before, it was the middle of the rainy season and much of the farm land was flooded but for our time there we saw only good weather.}

Here is the link to the facebook page with tons of photos from the trip. Take a peek.

It's BANGladesh from David Kang on Vimeo.

One last thing. I truly love everyone that looks at this blog. Even the one's I have never met. You bless me beyond belief.

...get Lost my friends.


Poppin' Questions

I have not blogged since June 8th. The masses have been pacing rooms across the world in angst but here is the reason...


No, I haven't been taking pictures of hands....I have been plottin' and planning a proposal to my beautiful little lady, Elysabeth Hahm.

She said yes. (Details to be found here)

...get Lost my friends.


Being Eye-lash Equipped

One of my earliest posts on this blog described the phenomenon at my kindergarten school here in Seoul that involved the kids petting me. Literally, stroking my arm and snuggling as if my name were Toto.

Well, that compares not to my friend big Dave's petting experience.

Dave hails from Nebraska, stands at 6-foot-3 and a freckly face topped by luscious red hair smooth him into the "ginger" category of slightly offensive stereotyping. So you can imagine how he might just standout in Korea. Light blue eyes and a kind smile make him a direct gawking target of an already overly staring culture.

This never phased Dave, however. Until one special old lady cemented how curious Korean's actually are with him.

While riding the subway like any other normal city resident, Dave noticed the old lady sitting next to him staring unabashedly. He really thought nothing of it, so he focused his attention back on his book. He was in the middle of a page when all of sudden a finger slowly drifted between his eye and his glasses. That finger then gently stroked his eye-lashes. Dave, the epitome of composed, did not even flinch.

Before you re-read what I just wrote, let me re-paint this picture as if you were sitting across the way.

Red-headed Dave and an old Korean woman smooshed together on a bench-style subway seat. Just picture it. Dave, gently reading his book, old lady looking up and chomping at the bit to get a piece of what those lashes feel like.

You can see her sweating with anxiety over the unknown follicles fluttering in front of her. Finally, once Dave is lost in the middle of a page, she makes her ascent into complete violation of space.

One stroke...two stroke...three and it's all over.

Once the task is complete, her heart literally floats from her chest with joy. Dave, meanwhile, just turns the page and keeps on reading, smirking slightly.

The whole thing blows my mind.

Ha, I still laugh just thinking about it.

...get Lost my friends.


The Art of High-Fiving

I love telling little kids to high-five. It's a beautiful thing.

Beginning Stages of High-Fives from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

...get Lost my friends.



The newest member of the family.



Liz and I have been dating for well over four years and for well over four years, she has wanted a puppy dog. Well, Molly's the lucky little lady. She's unworldly adorable.

...get Lost my friends.

The Seoul City Wall

I've hiked an ancient wall. I'm a man now.

{Jamie and Michael mapping out the trip. Parts of the wall were taken down to make way for streets over the centuries, so we had to navigate some back alleys to find the main part of the wall that still stands today. In case you hadn't noticed the poncho so elegantly draped over Michael, we had some rain fall happening.}

{The long stretch of wall we hiked alongside. We had to get to top of that mountain in the distance. It does not look very high, but that's just the angle. It's actually a really long trail to the top so the peak looks low, but it's not, trust me.}

{Some foliage.}

{Made it!}

{Leaving the wall for a little mid-day re-fueling in a quaint neighborhood a short distance down from the trail.}

{We stopped for a carbo-load and it ended up being some of the best pasta we had had in Seoul to date. Abbiamo mangiato buono miei amici.}

{This is the gate to the most important section of the wall. It runs behind the most recent dynasty's ancient palace. But it also, and more importantly, runs behind the Blue House which is the equivalent of White House in D.C. We had to show our passports and sign in to get back on the trail.}

{Ice cream and traditional buildings, perfect. Each new section we became more aware of how good this day was.}

{This felt good.}

{Ancient walls really provide moments of contemplation. Not only about the history and culture the wall represents, but of the place you're in at that moment in life. Both physically and emotionally. Now, this particular picture was taken for photo-op purposes. She hopped on and off fairly quickly. But Jamie's peaceful moment in this picture explains the complete experience of following this very old piece of construction.}

{And finally, after about six hours of walking, climbing, observing and laughing, the reward.}

Thanks Jamie. Thanks Michael. Super good day.

...get Lost my friends.


A Little Video Action For Ya'

This is some footage of two different classes I have back-to-back. Awesome little kids.


My Little Korean Kids from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

...get Lost my friends.


Open Air Market

Just five blocks north of my little neighborhood resides a bigger, more dense and generationally older neighborhood. Within those few square miles is any cooks dream, an open air market. You can get it all. Produce, meat, fish, herbs, spices, exotic nuts, handmade noodles roots, pig feet, chicken feet, eel and multiple different types of animal intestines.

I can cruise out to the the bustling alleyways of the market and grab two weeks worth of produce for 8 bucks. A block of still warm tofu made that hour costs $1.50. But the best moments happen when I don't buy anything at all. I just walk through this perfectly Korean place and soak it in.

(Korean side dishes. This is what they eat instead of french fries.)


(That's a beef carcass, just hangin out.)



(These are roots used for soup broths, I think.)

...get Lost my friends.



Waldo is a little slow. He always has this half-smile half-confused grinnish look on his face. When I tell him to sit, he does, but he's facing the opposite direction. When I tell him to color, he puts his color pencil down and rips the paper. He's not mis-behaved, just missing something. I'm sure he will grow out of it soon, but until then, he delivers moments like these.


Waldo looked bewildered at his paper. The worksheet had a butterfly with no wings and the kids were supposed to connect the dots. You know, draw a line from the numbers 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, etc. Most of the kids, 3-year-olds, grabbed the concept fairly quickly. They drew in the wings and colored thereafter. But Waldo simply looked down. He was stumped.

I knelt down next to him to provide a little assistance. I pointed to 1, he nodded. I then said, "OK Waldo, where is two? Two Waldo? Two? Point at two?"

Waldo promptly lifted his right index finger to the sky and readied himself for the decision. The moment looked momentous for him. He paused like a dignitary during a speech, waiting for the crowd to calm it's applause before landing the final big point. And as he made a move with the finger, it happened.

He injected it into his nose, pulled a boogie out and showed me his prize. I told him kindly, "Close enough Waldo," and finished the butterfly for him.

...get Lost my friends.


The Field Trip

I remember those days. You could feel freedom energy flowing over the playground before the morning bell rang. You knew that today was going to be better than any other day of the month, or possibly year. You knew, even as a kindergartner, there was a chance for this day to change your life. You knew, there was a chance the bus ride was going to be the only good part, but that would be enough to enjoy the day.

A field trip my friends. A day of freedom...For the kids, that is.

On Monday, I went on my fourth field trip of my career as a kindergarten teacher. They generally include about 30 of the best behaved kids and it only lasts maybe four hours, travel time included. But on this particular day, we ("we" meaning me and 20 female Korean teachers) escorted 300-hundred 3, 4 and 5 year old's to a park. We left at 9:30 and got back at 4:45 in the afternoon.

The freedom energy was definitely flowing through these kids. At any given moment one would simply get up and make a run for it. From the outside, it would appear they are escaping. But most of the time they were simply chasing a pigeon, dog or plastic bag. When this happened, the token white guy, me, was asked to chase. I must have ran 30 50-yard sprints that day. Toward the end of the day, it became a game for the older kids. As much as I enjoyed running and playing (the first four times), I totally crashed around two. I kept telling the kids it was snack time so they would sit down and then I would lay on the grass next to them as they massaged my back. In Korean culture, if you ask for a massage, they start hitting you "firmly" on the back. It feels incredible when 8 kids are doing it one time.

On the bus ride back, my seat partner, 5-year-old Soo-jin, slept on my shoulder as we rode the bus home. I realized that is exactly how it should be. On field trip days kids need to feel that freedom but also need to feel that love only a teacher is a position to give.


Anyway, I made it a mission to take pics of the cutest kids at the school. I ran out of battery but I think I got enough here for you to get your fill. There are more on my Flickr page.

{Lining up outside the school before boarding the bus...Hectic.}

{She is asleep before we even leave the parking lot.}

{Little Rio. Absurdly cute.}

{So many tiny Korean people.}

{See the panic in my co-teacher's face? Haha, I like this pic.}

{His name is Doreen. I told him it was a girl's name but he refuses to change it. I admire that.}

{Aiden. Tiny body, huge head, really smart.}

{Rania, already looking like a 42-year-old Korean women.}




{Olivia, Helena and Leah. I like work because of these tiny people.}

{My life.}


{Diana, on the right, loves me. No questions asked, when I came into class, she just loved me.}

{Jamie. I love this girl for two reasons: she acts and looks like my good friend Jamie who works out here too, and whom I have known since sixth grade. But also, because she is rocking a nice snot hanger.}

{Jessica. Grumps.}

{Jun. Loves to repeat everything I say.}

{Don't know this kid but I know that haircut. It's called the, "oops! Oh well, he's only four" haircut...Man that kid behind him does not bearded teachers.}


{I named this girl myself. Mary...After my girlfriend Liz's little sister.}



{This is Soo-jin seconds before her head fell onto my shoulder.}

...get Lost my friends.