September Video-Chinn Family Day Trip

Liz has a really awesome family. My father-in-law, Ken, is currently on a professor exchange out here in Korea. This means life is good. Life is really good. Even when we live super far from California, family is a simple bus ride away. This is a video of a day-trip we took during a Korean holiday a few weeks ago. Enjoy...

Chinn Family Day Trip Sept 2012 from Mark & Elysabeth Ratto on Vimeo.

...get Lost my friends.


August Video-Coaching Some Koreans

In late July this summer, I had one task, coach team Germany to a championship.

 Team Germany in this instance consisted of 12 fourth, fifth and sixth graders from all over Seoul. With each kid living at an orphanage in the city and every year Jerusalem Ministry holds a volunteer-run soccer camp for some of the orphaned youth in the city.

 When I first volunteered for the camp I thought, yeah, we will play some soccer, give high-fives and have a little fun. But by the end of the camp most high-fives became hugs and having fun meant investing eight hours of encouragement into these kids. As you can imagine, love is not necessarily rampant at the orphanages. So, the camp aims to blind-side them with encouragement.

 I bought in to this idea. By about hour two, it became obvious that this three-day camp was about much more than kicking a ball.

 I was the head coach of team Germany and while I couldn't communicate fully with the kids, I had seven Korean-speaking volunteers right there with me at every turn.

 We poured into these kids. Whenever they pulled the ball back quickly, made a crisp pass or went in for a solid tackle, we cheered obnoxiously. Most of the time, if we weren't doing drills or playing a game, the team and the volunteers were interacting. Laughing. Joking. Smiling. Enjoying.

 At no point did it ever occur to me that this experience would impact me so greatly, until it was over. After winning the camp tournament, our team was treated to a victory dinner.

At that dinner, I understood. The kids were truly grateful for their meal. They made us lettuce wraps and basically stuffed them into our mouths as a sign of endearment. The older kids were teaching the younger ones how to cook. They asked me about my wife, and told her she was ugly (a Korean custom when you think someone is very pretty). We joked about how badly they beat the other teams and about how good if felt to be champions.

 For a moment, I witnessed them in a family style environment. Mother and father figures sitting around them and simply looking at them, with that gaze of appreciation and endearment. And in that moment it became clear; this was a life-changing soccer camp.


 Above is a video my wife, Elysabeth, made of the camp. She was the volunteer videographer.

 ...get Lost my friends.


Video for July

Here is my video for July. I take you through a popular area in Seoul near Ewha University. It's been a very hot summer out here in Korea, so getting some good street food when the cool night air starts to settle is much needed.


July Video from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

...get Lost my friends.


Wedding Video

Here's some advice: hire a talented videoagrapher for your wedding. It's not about price or equipment with these kinds of things. It's about talent.

With that being said, our wedding video is super good.

Elysabeth & Mark's Wedding 06022012 from inhousegoods on Vimeo.


...get Lost my friends.


May Video

On June 2nd, I experienced incredible love. The kind of love that only comes around, well, once in a lifetime.

Elysabeth and I had a wedding in a backyard. Her backyard, in fact. The home her family has lived in for almost 15 years stands at over 120 years old. Sits on an acre lot. And provides the perfect setting for an occasion.

We returned to the states from Seoul for just over a month to prep. But, it's funny, no matter how much you prep for a wedding, there really is no telling how it'll turn out.

To be honest, our expectations were high. Shoot, Elysabeth's mom and aunt had been working quite diligently for over six months prior while we were still abroad. And in our month back, we worked overtime to get all the details squared away. So, with that in mind, we expected the shindig to run pretty smooth.

It did, of course, run smooth. The weather was Southern California perfection. The food was great. The dance party stayed bumpin'. And all aspects seemed to work out.

But at the end of the night, we didn't talk about any of that. All we kept saying was, "There was so much love out there tonight."

It is a powerful thing when over 320 people make a trip (some came from Australia, Canada, Minnesota, Texas, Tennessee, New York..all over the place) to your backyard and express their love. Elysabeth and I were overwhelmed at the amount of smiling faces, huge hugs and sincere sentences of love we received.

We understand that this was to celebrate our marriage, but we can't help but feel like it was about so much more.

The video below recaps the month and shows a time-lapse clip of the actual wedding. Enjoy...

May Video & Wedding Prep from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

...get Lost my friends.


Making a Bed

Today, I made a bed. Generally, like anybody, this task produces a little grumble. It is quite annoying trying to pull each corner without the opposite corner flying up and ruining everything. This task has plagued me since I was young.

Today, I made a bed much the same way. I started at one corner, lifted the mattress and slipped the elastic corner of the sheet right into place. The next step would be at the diagonally opposite corner, naturally. But when I started heading over to that way, a beautiful woman walked into the room and took hold of that sheet. She promptly lifted the mattress, and slipped the sheet in. Perfection. That woman is my wife. We got married three weeks ago and in that moment, as she smirked and walked to the next corner, I understood.

Today, I made the best bed possible.

...get Lost my friends.


Biking to Busan

The Korean peninsula consists of two countries, North and South Korea. Seoul, South Korea's capital, is located about 150 miles south of the border between the two estranged countries.

Thus making Seoul the biggest city in the Northern part of South Korea. The country's second biggest city resides in the southern most part of South Korea, named Busan.

With that thrilling geography lesson behind us, I can get to the point...


The video below tells about the journey.

...get Lost my friends.


One Paragraph for April

So, my April skipped on by while I sprinted behind it, trying to catch up. The gist of last month can be summed up by the fact that I was in the midst of transitioning out of my 3 part-time jobs, signing a contract for a new job (P.E. teacher at English Speaking Highschool in Seoul), wrapping up 4 free-lance articles, sending my fiance off to America to plan for our wedding on June 2nd, getting ripped (muscle wise) for my beachside honeymoon in Mexico and a three-day 250-mile bike ride across South Korea. And in the middle of that still enjoying life amongst the wonderful people in Seoul. Needless to say, it was busy, but oh-so-good. I will never have another time like that, I presume, and because of that, May stands to be all-the-better as I joined my fiance in the states for wedding prep. Moral of the story, life can hop, skip, rush, jump, breeze and/or fly on by, but that's the only way I would want it. ...get Lost my friends. (PS-Bike trip video to come soon)


Video for March

This is not my video, it is our video. By 'our', I mean the people that officially make me look cool. It's been a tough job, but they have stuck with it. And now I can legitimately say I belong to a photo club.

I know, that is obnoxiously cool, but hey, it feels so good when you say it.

The video below is something we made in about 3 hours while posted up in a really unique cafe near Insadong in Seoul, Korea. One of the best aspects of Korea is the cafe culture. We bought maybe 10 bucks worth of coffee and they let us occupy a whole corner of the place for way too long without any fuss from the workers.

The people in the video, by order of appearance, are Joanne Chun, me, Hannah Yoon, Michael Holmes, Lee Ann Baughn and Elysabeth Hahm.


...get Lost my friends.


Poop and Chopsticks

On Friday last week a kid swallowed a marble. Yep, in real life.

On Tuesday of this week, that kid squatted over a pile of newspapers and pooped.

Moments later, one of the brave (or pressured) Korean teachers sifted through the fresh fickle matter with chopsticks and resurrected the marble.

Yep, in real life.

...get Lost my friends.


February Video

My life in February.


(PS-To watch it in HD, just on click the letters 'HD' down in the bottom right hand corner of the video.)

...get Lost my friends.


T.V. Ready

In Korea, I get approached. Seoul buzzes with over 10 million people and about 10% of that bundle are different looking foreigners. You would think the fascination would fade.

Not so.

At times I have been zeroed-in-on by an old man, simply because he likes my beard. Other times, middle school students will put an iPhone in my face and start asking questions for an English class project. They ask me question like what sports do you like? Do you watch Korean dramas? Or, the worst so far: What is your favorite band, Metallica? To which I reply, "No. God no. America does not like them anymore. Please tell all of your friends what I just said."

At times it is very entertaining. At other times, quite inconvenient. But, in some rare circumstances, it can also be profitable.

My friend Michael called me on a Thursday and told me that one of the national T.V. news networks wanted some Americans in a news clip. The show's producer approached him at a random coffee shop and just simply started talking. He mentioned that they just wanted to interview us about Korea and film us walking around.  "And, oh yeah, they will pay us 50 bucks," he slips out over the phone.


So, on a slightly chilly Saturday, my good friend and I joined a crew of four Koreans, two other interviewees from Japan and had us a nice little day on camera.

 ...get Lost my friends.


Valentine's Day-The Right Way

Gentlemen, feast your eyes on the best Valentine's Day possible.

 In Korea, they have this wonderful tradition where the women treat the men on Valentine's Day.

So, when my lovely fiance Liz asked me, "Where do you want to go for Valentine's day?"

I promptly grunted, "All you can eat BBQ." I'm telling you, fella's, life is good in Korea. The pictures below are of my Valentine's Night. I couldn't have dreamed it up any better.

I apologize to my vegetarian friends for the explicit images below, but I had to share the goodness that was February 14th, 2012.


And the little lady even made this cake, from scratch no less! She is truly remarkable. But then again, it was Korean Valentine's Day. 

...get Lost my friends.


Photo Club

Today played out as such. I, and six other wildly creative people, waddled into a cafe around 11:30 a.m. and simply took it over. We set up shop in a separated room in the corner of the two story cafe, drenched a chair with our jackets and littered a table with our photo gear.

The beauty of photo club is that it's not really a club at all. It's just a bundle of my friends sitting, talking, laughing, sharing and simply enjoying the moment. Sure, we eventually take pictures. But it's not about that. It's doing instead of simply saying.

One day, one of us said, "let's start a photo club."

We did.

Last week, another person said, "let's make a stop motion video with a piece of paper being the main character."

So, today, we did.

I really like it.

Here are some pics I took after we finished our video (which
I will post next week).

P1060385 P1060407 P1060369 P1060358 P1060351 P1060324 ...get Lost my friends.


January Video

At the start of January, Elysabeth and I spent our time coping. We lost our little Molly. Still, to this day we giggle and remember her quirky little self. But this month, instead of my usual clip to clip video of Seoul, I decided to make a little tribute to the tiny pup.

Oh yeah, this is also my video for the month of January. ;-)

...get Lost my friends.


Wizard Shoes

I've been at my kindergarten for a long while now and at times I have been put into decision making positions. With that came the responsibility to hire people.

This experience was fascinating.

Applicants were aloof. Resume's were hilarious. And people simply blew it. But the other day I chuckled when I thought about one interview in particular.

Let's call him the British Taekwondo Master. He had long, pony tailed, blonde hair. A very nicely cut, grey three-piece suit and Benjamin Franklin style bi-focals. His face looked kind and his 6-foot frame stood lean and athletic.

He came to Seoul to pursue his dream of winning international Taekwondo competitions and in the interview intricately weaved me through how the Taekwondo masters in London established him as the next best thing. At which I replied with no words but a short glance at the colorful bookshelves with children's books, thinking, "Did you know you are interviewing to teach 4-year-old's how to say 'hello'?"

The interview felt like a vortex of odd. He talked. We didn't. He kept moving his hands in wavy yet circular motions as he spoke. My hands stopped taking notes. His eyes were serious. Mine were understanding, yet very confused. Simply, odd.

The interview ended when he said, "To be honest, and please understand me Mark, I feel like the Taekwondo spirit brought me to Korea, and even to the this office, to speak to  you, Mark."


As he left, he bowed very sincerely. Then put on a not-so-subtle pair of pointy suede shoes because in Korea you leave shoes at the door and wear slippers inside.

The vice principal, looking perplexed,  then quickly asked, "Why does he wear the shoes of a wizard?"

To which I replied, "Good question..."

...get Lost my friends.


Subway Observations

These days I ride the subway a lot. I recently started a job coaching soccer in English and the school's location caused a big jump in my commuting. So, three times a week, I spend close to 2 hours riding subways, buses and walking. It's nice, kinda. I read more, reflect more, but more than anything, I unintentionally observe my Korean compadres.

This brings us to today's post, Subway Observations.


In the midst of a brutally compact subway car sat an old lady. Small in stature, frail and sleepy. She looked like any other old woman on the subway but for some reason, I stood peering in her direction.

She sat with closed eyes and hands crossed. Again, nothing unusual but as the announcement rang over the loud speaker, "Next stop, Dongjak station," she casually opened her eyes and wiggled into a position to get up. But, she quickly realized the solid wall of people right in front of her and between the seat and the door.

"Uh, oh," I thought. "She'll never make it."

I stood corrected. She very gently grabbed hold of a young Korean girl's arms who stood directly in front of her. And in that moment, a very beautiful transaction of affection occurred. The old lady lifted herself up and with only a nod or two they successfully shuffled and switched positions. The old lady then scooted her way through the thick kelp-like crowd to the door. She made it, like so many times before in life.

In these moments a very distinct stirring of appreciation happens inside of me. I really appreciate the innate kindness Koreans show toward one another. Sure, this is not 100% the case, but it's definitely not rare. It's common to see, and I truly love seeing it.

It keeps a person kind, even in the midst of terrible subway rides. Beautiful.

...get Lost my friends.