Wednesday, 6 January 2010

How I Spent the Holidays

Happy New Year!

2009 ended with a busy winter camp schedule and 2010 started with a terrible cold that's been dragging on despite the full course of antibiotics that I fed into my system. Luckily the doctor visit and meds were only about $5 American. I have yet to report on my English camps, which have been vastly different from the summer camps, but I'll but that off for a few more days and see if I can't kick this nasty bug.For now, I'll let you know how I celebrated Christmas and New Year so far from home.
Christmas is a National holiday in South Korea, though the weight of it is much lighter compared to America. Nobody buys real evergreen Christmas trees, and the only ones we found in Andong were at grocery stores, and no taller than 5 feet, though I know that there are actual stores for Christmas decor in the larger cities. Many shops downtown played some Christmas tunes and did some decorating, but for the most part it was still pretty tame. Decor seemed to be treated like a kind of trend; an unusual sort of charm. Like something out of a 1950's Christmas magazine issue- garlands and bows, bells and trumpets and doves. Iced Christmas sugar cookies were the most entertaining- about $1 a cookie at the big bakery downtown, but nonexistent elsewhere.
And then there was the tree that popped up downtown:
A towering cone of flashing lights. I love it.
On Christmas Eve we decided to add our own touch of Christmas spirit to Andong at the site of the great tree. Somehow, miraculously, we all organized 20 of the Andong native English teachers to sing Christmas carols. We collected donation to go to two local orphanages (where two of the teachers volunteer), and our total came to upwards of around $700. Some of that did come from private donations prior to the event from people who couldn't make it. We were thrilled!
We had a whole booklet of songs, ranging from the solemn Silent Night, to the more upbeat Jingle Bell Rock. The biggest hits were Rudolph and Jingle Bells, because they have popular Korean equivalents. The most comical was our rendition of Little Drummer Boy, because we couldn't seem to match our ba rum ba bum bums to any consistent speed. But where we lacked in singing talent, we made up for with our sweet hats.
[The penguin hats were a Baskin Robbins promotion. If you bought an ice cream cake, you got a free hat. We ate a lot of ice cream.]
We also had Dave. Dave's Hagwon (after school English academy) had him dress up as Santa, so we suggested he show up to caroling in his suit. Much to our delight, he actually did, and with a big bag of candy that he handed out to Children.

We ended the evening with a trip to the bar to celebrate.

Christmas day was calming. The morning was spent at home. I surprised Scott by cleaning the apartment while he was asleep, and he surprised me with a delicious western-style breakfast in the morning. We opened presents, Skyped our families, then met up with some of our friends for a game of Balderdash and a trip to see Sherlock Holmes.

Po enjoyed his first Christmas too.^^

The days between Christmas and New Years Eve were spent at an overnight English camp out of town (but more on that later), so our celebrating was a bit subdued due to exhaustion. The big trend in Korea is to go to the east coast on New Years Eve and wait to watch the first sunrise of the new year. Since we didn't get back from our camp until about 4 that day, we skipped a trek out to the beach, but our Hapkido instructor took a picture on his phone and sent it to me so I wasn't completely in the dark. Instead, 10 of us went to our friend Erin's apartment for wine and fancy finger foods. We brought frozen cheese sticks, which looked a little sad between the homemade crab rangoon and the brie and crackers plate. We flipped on the TV to catch a countdown, which followed a large KPOP party in Seoul, and ended with the ringing of a large iron bell. Every town in South Korea has a bell to ring on the new year and for other special occasions. No giant ball, but the similarities were surprising. It was also interesting knowing I would get to see the new year in a time zone half a day earlier than everyone back home, who would later see clips on TV from around the world cheering after midnight.


  1. What a wonderful post! I loved seeing all that I have heard about. I hope you feel better soon. I have heard that chicken soup cures all.

  2. wow - I didn't know this was your blog that I had been following - I was the caroler without a penguin hat who came in from Yeongyang - thanks for the post!

  3. Thanks for the great post! Your comments remind me of how small our world has become. Take care of yourself! Love, Dad

  4. Haha, yes indeed! I didn't quite catch your name, but it was so great having you.^^ We had so many people! At our practice before Christmas Eve only 6 of us could make it, so such a turnout was glorious. We want to do it again next year, with maybe a couple of rehearsals.