December 27th, 2011
Today is the second day of my three week winter English camp. So far, the camp is going very well. The students have picked their English names, and once again we got some doozies. My top three? Two girls who have called themselves ‘Shubi’ and ‘Shuba’ (they sit next to each other as well, so they can forget about me remembering which one is which) and a boy who, uncreatively, named himself ‘Compact signpen set’. Naturally, compact signpen set (or Signpen, for short) is one of the worst behaved boys in the class, which ensures that I have to use his name several times a day to bring him into line. I decided that my teaching time is one of the biggest aspects of my life in Korea, but one of the most poorly documented in this blog. So, I’m going to start taking my camera to class and try to score some pictures and video of what my day-to-day classes are like. Stay tuned for that over the next few weeks.
I guess I should tell you a bit about my Christmas in Korea. Originally, I planned to let Christmas kind of slip by this year. I wasn’t going to do much to celebrate and just not make a big deal about it. When I told one of my friends about my decision to pass on Christmas she was incredulous and demanded an explanation. I told her I was going to pass on Christmas the same way a single person passes on Valentines Day – they have no partner, so what is there to celebrate? My reasoning was that I was not with my family, and for me Christmas is all about family, so why celebrate?
But, of course, as Christmas drew closer I abandoned this plan in favor of immersing myself in the Christmas spirit. I reasoned that this whole year in Korea is a year of celebrating firsts, and this was my first Christmas away from home, so I better jump right in and see what its like.
On Christmas Eve a bunch of friends of mine were having a Christmas party. They had rented a pension in a building right next to Haeundae beach. The fifth floor windows faced west, which conveniently included the beach and the ocean and the sunset, which were all spectacular. We drank beer and wine and eggnog, and we made mulled wine (which I’ve never had before, but definitely enjoyed). There is a restaurant in Busan that was doing turkey dinners. We ordered an entire Christmas dinner from this restaurant and it was spectacular! Turkey, mashed potatoes (which I used to eat thrice weekly in Canada but have not enjoyed in nearly a year), gravy, cranberry sauce, peas (PEAS! I never, ever thought I would miss peas – but they are such a ‘home’ food for me) and apple pie. It was an amazing spread and more than enough to fill 15 people up for the night, with leftovers.
Around 10pm a cruise ship off the coast started firing off fireworks. We turned off all the lights and watched fireworks over the Pacific ocean on Christmas Eve, while singing carols. Finally, around 12am we did a yankee swap. For those of you unfamiliar with yankee swap the idea is to bring one gift, everyone draws a number, then you go around opening presents. When you open a present you can choose to keep your present or steal an already opened present from someone else. The first present I opened was a pair of computer speakers, which was awesome! But the next person opened their gift to find white rice chips, white rice crackers and a bowl of microwavable instant white rice. I’m pretty sure that gift was someone’s Idea of a joke – but it must not have been a very funny one because no one would take credit for bringing the white rice present. Anyway the guy who opened it immediately swapped it for my speakers and, naturally, I was now stuck with the white rice which – understandably – no one wanted to swap.
I woke up Christmas day around 8am and skyped the family on their Christmas Eve. I spent the rest of the day relaxing, playing videogames and generally doing nothing (which is what I usually like to do on Christmas Day, though it wasn’t the same in my empty apartment in Korea as it usually is back home.
Christmas in Korea was a mixed bag. Christmas Eve with my friends was fun and unique (eating Christmas dinner cross-legged on the floor with chopsticks was probably once in a lifetime), but I wouldn’t take it over a traditional family Christmas back home (which is probably a no-brainer). I think I’ll remember this Christmas as a unique experiment and a first time experience in a year full of firsts.
These days I’m looking ahead to my trip to Japan (the planning for which is coming along – but slowly I must admit).
Stay tuned for more on Japan, teaching a winter camp in Korea and my Korean New Years experience, which should be awesome (because the only thing required for an awesome new years is to stay up late, and maybe get wicked drunk).
That’s all for now.