Monday, December 29, 2008

My Christmas in Korea

My apologies for being neglectful of my blogging for so long. The day after Christmas, Friday, I came down with a dreadful cold, also known as the snot monster! Since then I have been attempting to release the helium from my brain and the fluid from my nostrils without completely deflating my entire being. There was a weak attempt two evenings ago to write this same exact blog, but after five minutes of sad, uncreative writing, my head tried to float off my body and the attempt was aborted. I spent most of the weekend sleeping, drinking water and trying to ward off the evil germs that inhabited my body to cause such havoc, and so far it seems to have worked. I feel tons better, therefore it is time to reconvene in blogosphere.

Christmas in Korea

Christmas morning was sad indeed. Away from family, friends and my wonderful husband, I felt lonely and disconnected. I was not able to connect to my hubby Christmas morning when I planned to open my one gift (from my Secret Santa). After nearly succumbing to tears from loneliness, I ripped open the package alone in my room, only to be enjoyed by yours truly. Luckily, it was a fantastic present, a beautiful white scarf with pink snowflakes and a wine glass (so that I don't feel like a hobo when drinking wine out of my only tea mug.) I dragged myself downstairs for the morning meeting for our regular day of work only to be delightfully surprised with a Christmas wonder. In our meeting room which is held in the yoga room, the projector was displaying a wood fire. A small Christmas tree, delicately decorated in lights, was in the corner with 30 or so coffee mugs filled with candy and treats littering the floor underneath as Christmas presents would on Christmas morning. Two of the staff had secretly made chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, (not a simple task in Korea considering the ingredients are not found at the normal grocery store) and oranges, croissants and hot cocoa packets were set out in celebration. My gloomy Christmas morning was instantly lifted to a higher notch in the sphere of celebration and joy. I enjoy the people I work with, and if I had to be away from my family, friends and hubby, I was glad to be with them.
The children in Korea, despite what the websites say about Christmas here, don't really understand how significant Christmas is nor how much it means to westerners. I have read many websites that talk about how Christian Koreans (which is 50% of the population) will celebrate Christmas similarly to westerners, but from questioning the students, it seems it is just another day off from school and nothing more; no presents, no turkey, other special foods, nor family gatherings. Few of them spoke of Christmas, Santa Clause or the spirit of giving. One teacher who is dating a Korean said that his parents planned to spend Christmas with their friends separately, and that it was night out on the town with your girl or guy friends rather than a time to spend with your kin. Our joy of this wondrous holiday was foreign to them despite what I had been told by others before coming. Few of them even seemed to recognize that the day held any special significance except a normal day off from school.
We requested to do a special event to recognize the day. This year was the first ever to do so in this school, and the event was to hold a Christmas Carole sing-a-long during the last hour of class. Each class was taught one Christmas Carole, and then everyone was brought into the lounge for an event which was obviously held much more for the staff than for the children. A very skinny Santa Claus came a "ho ho hoing" throwing out mini Snickers as he paraded through the hall. Our only Jewish fellow played his guitar and led us in the sing-a-long of classic Christmas songs including Rudolf, Jingle Bells, Jingle Rock and We wish you a Merry Christmas. The children did enjoy the event, but as I said before, the event was held for the staff, so that we could feel a bit of the Christmas spirit that we might have felt if we had been home.
After the sing-a-long, we congregated in the kitchen for some adventurous cooking. There is a kitchen in the "Cooking class" and although there are 6 stove tops, there is only one tiney, itsy bitsy oven that is somehow also duely a microwave. Don't try and ask me questions about this contraption because I understand it not at all! For Thanksgiving, evidently all 22 teachers had participated in cooking a marvelous feast, however it was quite an undertaking with one oven/microwave and 20 people trying to cook at the same time. So for Christmas it was decided that we should break up into groups and only cook for 6 or so rather than for the entire group. My contribution was gravy- an interesting undertaking in Korea considering we didn't have drippings nor could I find chicken broth. Rather my gravy was from veggie broth (which could only be found in the western grocery store), flour water and butter and I did make enough servings for everyone, since we seemed to have depleted Ireland of all her potatoes. The teachers live on the fourth floor, while the kitchen is on the first floor of the school. We brought all of the tables up to our floor for our Christmas dinner together and placed the small Christmas tree in the middle as our Christmas decoration. Our small group was comprised of British, Canadians and two Americans and as it turns out, we have different ideas for what is a typical Christmas dinner, but as we were all in Korea, and had limited options, we choose to buy already cooked chickens and heat up some veggies. One group even decided just to have take out from California Pizza Kitchen (interesting choice for Christmas dinner but it made the kitchen less crowded). We weren't able to start dinner until 9pm and quiet hours start at 10pm. It was hard for us to care that the kids were supposed to go to sleep, since we know they don't ever go to sleep at 10, and when all we wanted to do was have a proper Christmas celebration, but we held our laughter and whispered across the table. Regardless of all of the adversity to our Christmas, and maybe a little because of it, it felt really special. It wasn't like being at home, but it was the next best thing to it. We all were a little of afraid of Christmas escaping right out from under us without as much as a whisper, and although we had to work at it, we did the best that we could to remember what Christmas was all about and to share the Christmas joy with all.


Belle (from Life of a...) said...

You all must have been totally exhausted...that was a lot of work but I know it meant a lot to each of you to be able to hold on to at least a little bit of Christmas tradition in such an unconventional situation. Will New Years be a bigger deal to the local culture? This is so interesting...I'm learning a lot.

Veggie Mom said...

Turning adversity on its head is what the Christmas spirit is all about. Hope you're feeling better soon, and that everything comes together for you.

Vanessa Rogers said...

I don't think that New Years will be bigger because they celebrate a different New Years on a different date, but there are still fireworks and some events going on. I plan, however, to stay in and make sure I don't get sicker.

Mrs. S said...

Im glad that despite it all you had a good Christmas! I know how hard it was. I did good on Christmas, I have been a mess the past couple of days.

I hope that you feel better soon!!! I hate being sick!!

EuroYank said...

Yes we all hope you get better so that you will not have to spend so much unproductive time in bed!

LadyFi said...

When will hubby be coming to join you?

Glad to hear you had a good Christmas anyway.

I taught English in China for three years and still remember how it was just a normal day at work... Still, the wild celebrations at Chinese New Year more than made up for it!

momma said...

thank you for stopping at my blog :)

i hope you are feeling better soon!

CC said...

It was really interesting to learn a little about Christmas in Korea.

Merry Christmas and hope you are feeling better already.

Pink Ink said...

Thanks for sharing this. I was curious to see how Christmas is celebrated over there. Glad you had a good one, despite the lonesomeness.