Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Merry Korean Christmas

Despite being far from home and the fact that Christmas is not a massive holiday here in Korea, it still remained to be a special day.

Christmas Eve was spent working during the day. This wasn't so bad, since I received 3 separate surprise packages in the mail! These included 2 boxes of Christmas cookies, a 10 pound box of clementines, and maple syrup. Needless to say, I felt quite spoiled. All had been ordered by my mother through G-Market, a Korean website. So, when they got here without a sender name/address and written all in Korean, I was pretty confused! I found out shortly after out who the Santa behind the operation was. Christmas Eve night was spent listening to Christmas music, wrapping gifts for my Secret Santa, and watching Love Actually. Doesn't seem far off from what I would have been doing back home! 

Throughout the month of December, I have received several packages from loved ones that have been gradually accumulating into a pile under my "Christmas Tree". On Christmas morning, I was finally able to open the gifts while Skyping my family. This was a great way to start my Christmas Day! Even though it was still Christmas Eve back home. 

Can you spot the Christmas tree?
Note: These aren't all for me!

Skyping with the fam. My brother opening up the package I sent him!

The rest of Christmas day was spent lounging around eating Christmas cookies and clementines. Well, I guess not the entire rest of the day. I ventured out to Old Downtown Mokpo with a friend around late afternoon. We grabbed some dinner and were pleasantly surprised by how Christmas-y everything was! There was an abundance of beautiful lights, trees, decorations! There was even a live band and singers. 

This weekend will be a very special one, as it is our official Christmas celebration. Since many people are from out of town, we decided to save our get together until the weekend. We went for a non-traditional Christmas meal- BURRITOS! Korea has a great service run by fellow expat called Gringos. They are a frozen burrito delivery service (in order to ship all over South Korea)- and are apparently very delicious and authentic! They were delivered to my school and are currently sitting in my freezer anxiously waiting to be consumed. We also ordered various sides such as salsa, bean/cheese dip, and chili. We will be doing a big gift exchange- Secret Santa, White Elephant, and even filling each other's stockings! I am beyond excited to celebrate Christmas with the people I have grown closest with here in Korea. We have truly become family, and for that I am so grateful! 

Thank you so much to my friends and family back home for the gifts and lovely messages that truly made me feel so special and loved on this day. It would't have been Christmas without you! :)


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Sunday, 14 December 2014

4 Signs You May Be Sucessfully Assimilating to Korean Culture

1. You Can Now "Fall Asleep" on Public Transit

Your senses are no longer hyperactive/hypersensitive during your commute. You can now close your eyes and know exactly where the bus is, without worrying you will miss your stop. I realize this isn't technically falling asleep, BUT this one time I had to stand on a bus ride from Gwangju to Mokpo (1 hour) and I definitely fell asleep standing up. It was probably less than a minute until I got jerked awake, but it made me feel more Korean. They can literally sleep anywhere.

2. You Own a Second Toothbrush That You Keep At School 

You now routinely most of the time brush your teeth will your fellow co-workers after lunch, (without feeling silly walking around school with a toothbrush in your mouth!).

3. You Are Now An Ambidextrous Eater

Believe it or not, Koreans do not eat rice with chopsticks. Yes, (we) they use spoons! More often than not, the spoon is in the left hand and chopsticks in the right hand, and you use the chopsticks to push the rice onto the spoon. During school lunches, there is always a type of soup. So, because of this, I always hold both a spoon and chopsticks while eating. Much easier to hold both at the same time, rather than switching between the two!

4. K-POP Is Taking Over Your iTunes

For those who don't know, K-POP is basically the pop(ular) music in Korea. A lot of the time it's over the top dramatic and extremely hypersexualized. Sound familiar? A lot of it is super catchy and most songs will have a couple English lines. My students are always showing me new songs, the majority of which I question their appropriateness in the school...........

You can listen to some of my favourites here and here. These are definitely much more tame than the majority of the other music videos out there!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Today Was A Great Day

As soon as I opened my curtain this morning, I knew it was going to be a great day.

Mokpo's first big snowfall.

Honestly, you would think I have never seen snow before, based on how ecstatic I was and how many pictures I took. I'm surprised I didn't miss my bus!

Waiting for the bus

It was such a beautiful first snowfall, and I have to say, snow suits Korea quite well. My bus ride to work was quite magical, as all my surroundings I had just grown accustomed to looked brand new. Usually I practice reading Hangul (Korean alphabet), or read my Korean phrasebook during my commute to work. But today, I did not look down. My eyes were captured by South Korea's newfound beauty in the snow, and I found myself reminiscing on my time here so far while gazing out the window.

To me, the snow represented a sense of being home. Before today, although it was December and Christmas season was upon us, it simply did not feel like it. Today reminded me of my home and all the special people back in Ottawa, and gave me the familiar sensations I've felt in past Decembers. This snow also brought a different sensation; that I can also call this place home. I had previously felt at home in South Korea, but this snow brought new meaning to it.

Once arriving to school, I was greeted by my adorable elementary school kids who were just as excited, if not more excited than I was. Snowmen being built, snowballs flying through the air. Today was going to be a great day.

Walk to Elementary School

After changing my wet socks and hanging my snow covered coat, I headed to my first class with my co-teacher. You could feel the difference and excitement in the air, all because of this snow. We started the class off by playing Frozen's "Do You Want To Build A Snowman", fittingly. Of course, this only got them more excited about the snow, and before long, they were begging to go play outside. Since this class was a review lesson, we breezed through it, and then headed outside. They were so happy, and so was I!

Now here I am, sitting at my desk, 4 great classes later. Teachers playing different Christmas songs, debating which ones to sing for their upcoming Christmas festival. An instrumental Gayageum (Korean traditional string instrument) version of Silent Night currently playing.

It feels like Christmas in Korea. It feels like home.


P.S., Just when I thought today couldn't get any better, I booked my flight to Thailand!

Have you ever been to Thailand before? What were your favourite destinations?