20 December 2009

A Korean Christmas

I felt a bit like Santa today. We've been testing the students for the last few weeks, and today's test was on Lesson 8.

Kelly Teacher: What do you want for Christmas?
Student: I want a ________.
(cell phone, touch phone, iPhone, mp3, mp4, Wii, etc -- you know, "normal" presents for Korean kiddos)

Kelly Teacher: How much is it?
Student: It's ______ won.

Seems appropriate to wear a Santa hat tomorrow during the test, right? I'll try to get my co-teacher to sneak a photo.

The Christmas season in Korea has felt fairly normal, despite of the lack of eggnog, peppermint mochas, and Caucasian Santa Clauses. I've received wonderful care packages full of delightful American delicacies (Mom's homemade power bars, Hot Tamales, REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS, beef jerky, etc). I managed to get my hands on a 4ft Christmas tree, some ornaments and some lights, and now I never want to leave my apartment. It's absolutely freezing, all of Seoul is lit up like a Christmas tree, materialism in the markets abounds, and I've even seen snow a few times.

If I've learned anything in my time here, it's that Korean's don't do anything halfway.

Case in point: This is a picture of a Christmas store. It is packed so full, you can hardly walk down the narrow excuse for an aisle.

And I loved every minute of it.

Last weekend, we celebrated Christmas at Kim and Todd's place.

We had an old fashioned Christmas party. We wore plaid and/or ugly Christmas sweaters (Simon wore his Santa suit), ate pot roast, drank hot cocoa, sang Christmas carols, and watched Christmas movies.

But the best part of Christmas in Korea came earlier that day.

Katie and Charissa.
For the last two months,
they've been stalkin' and talkin' to ALL our families,
getting the low down on Christmas traditions
and asking for holiday letters.

On Sunday afternoon, at their instruction, we convened at my place. We entered into a candle-lit room and were immediately greeted by soothing Christmas classics from Frank, Etta, and Bing. The tree was lit and nine stockings proudly displayed each of our names. For the next two hours, wine and tears flowed as we took turns opening our letters and reading them aloud, and digging through our stockings, laughing together at small inside jokes that were waiting inside. We may all be away from our mothers, brothers, fathers and sisters, but we most certainly are not lacking family this Christmas. We're just a few days away now -- some gals have flown back home, others will stay, and some have even decided to come to Thailand with me at the end of the week.

All I know is I've never been happier in my life.

Family Photo
Christmas 2009
Seoul, South Korea