Sorry, it has been a while since I last wrote. A lot has happened since my last entry, so I'm not sure where to begin!
Christmas Day marked six months for me being in Korea, which seems pretty crazy, right? That means I am half way through my contract with my current hagwon. In a couple of months I will have to start making some more tough decisions about what I will do next--either stay in Korea or go back home, or some combination of the two. Right now, I think I'd like to come back to the States, visit for a while, travel a bit, and then return to Korea, but I'm still unsure. I'll keep ya posted though!
Christmas has been a bittersweet time in Korea. It is definitely a recognized holiday, no doubt, but not nearly as intense as in the States. Christmas Day the schools closed down in Gwangju, so that was mainly what excited the children. We will also get New Years Eve and New Years Day off. However, the traditional New Year's that we celebrate isn't a big deal in Korea. They honor the Lunar New Year.
For the foreign teachers, the holiday season began about two weekends ago, when the annual "12 Pints of Christmas Pub Crawl" took place in Gwangju. Apparently a tradition in the making, I swear I think every English teacher in the city showed up to celebrate. People wore costumes, there were Santa hats everywhere, and Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas is You" was played more than any sober person would tolerate. Pretty much your average American Christmas party really.
Fast forward a few weeks and it was Christmas Eve. We worked until 10:30pm that night and immediately exited the building upon closing time and made our way to our favorite watering hole. Friends from across the city had all gathered to ring in the big day together, and I must say, it was probably one of the best nights in Korea so far. Again, Mariah Carey was there, but so were all the best people I've met so far in this city and for a little bit it felt like maybe we were spending Christmas with family after all. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, giant snowflakes started falling, and several of us ran outside to take a look. One friend from South Africa and another from Florida got to experience their very first white Christmas. Pretty legit Christmas eve.
The following day I spent the morning recovering and skyping with family back in Iowa. A Korean friend had invited me to a Catholic church that he attends for Christmas mass and I was really debating whether to go or not. My bed was so cozy and Home Alone NEEDED to be watched. But a little push from Fiona, and I decided to go....and I am so very glad I did. I was the only person from the Western hemisphere I believe in attendance, but it was such a cool service. It was split between Korean, Timorese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and English languages. They people were amazing and my Korean friend introduced me to everyone, making it feel really welcoming. After the mass, the Bishop bought the entire congregation samgyupsal, a traditional Korean meal.
After mass, I met up with some friends for a classy Christmas dinner at this new restaurant downtown. The previous weekend I had spent hours walking around from restaurant to restaurant looking for a place to make a reservation, but almost everywhere was fully booked for the day. Apparently, Koreans eat out on Christmas. Feeling pretty bummed out, I had sort of accepted that it wasn't going to happen, but then....a Christmas miracle! Monday morning a Korean teacher took time out of his day to call around until he found a place for us to go. So Tuesday evening, a group of seven of us went to a very nice Italian restaurant for dinner.
After dinner I made it back to my apartment and skyped with my family as they opened presents Christmas morning. Thank goodness for technology! It was wonderful to be able to communicate in such an easy and functional way. So although being away from home was a bit hard during the holiday season, so many positive things seemed to fall into place as well.
This Saturday is our company year-end party and then its New Years, so let the holiday cheer continue! Merry Christmas to everyone and have a wonderful New Year as well:)