January 2010


By the numbers:

1- case of seltzer water I got from Costco.

2- exam days in January where I helped to assess paintings/drawings of applicants to our department.

3- new syllabi that I have to write for Spring Semester. They are taking me SO long to write.

6- days I will spend in China in February, visiting my cousins.

7- packages and cards I have received from the US this month. Thank you for sending your love in the form of  something I can touch.

8- people were needed to help me sign up for my new gym membership. It was quite a spectacle!

10- weeks of break = awesome

20- years since I have seen a elementary school classmate. We had lunch this week.

119- days, approximately, until I will come home for a visit. Just a quick one, for a wedding, but home nonetheless.

In December in Daegu there were  lights on a couple trees on campus, a decorated Christmas tree in every subway station, some holiday displays in the stores, but NO publicly played Christmas music. I asked about it and was told that it was outlawed a couple years ago.

“What, no Christmas music?”

I didn’t realize how much I associate music with the holiday season. As December began I quickly realized that I would have to take matters into my own hands. Thanks to a reminder from my sister I listened to the KBCO Holiday channel on-line, and thanks to an e-mail link from a friend I discovered NPRs Christmas playlist. Between the on-line music and my own stash I was still able to envelope myself in the sounds of the seasons (as long as I was home or in my office), but I missed hearing it as I walked downtown or in the stores.

Like the lack of music, Christmas in Korea was a very quiet season, so different from the craziness of the season in the U.S. Then in addition, December was a very busy month at work: planning my classes for the Spring semester, guiding all my students in their final projects, lots of end-of-the-year parties, and piles of grading. I didn’t really forget about Christmas, but I almost did. Somewhere around the 17th I realized that I didn’t have any plans. I tried not to be depressed, I tried to be brave, but I couldn’t help it. For the first time in my LIFE I had no plans for Christmas!! Could it be true?

After a few days of sad prayers, the Lord answered me with an invitation from my friends Heather and Kevin. They live in another city in Korea and although we didn’t really know each other before, we were part of the same (fabulous) church in Savannah. It was so nice to spend a few days with them and get out of town. Although I wasn’t traveling to see my own family, the 3 hour train trip put me in the Christmas mood.

Their real-life Christmas tree!

At my house I had the cutest little Charlie Brown tree. I really thought I took a picture of it, but now that I’m going back through my photos I can’t find it.  Anyway, when I walked into their house on Christmas Eve, I was surprised and so excited to see a real tree!!

Kevin & Heather playing

I made them some place-mats.

On Christmas day in Korea it was Christmas Eve in the U.S. which was perfect since usually the biggest family gathering and celebration happens then. All my family had traveled to be with our extended family in Minneapolis. As thankful as I was to be with friends, I was still really missing my family. With skype I was able to join them, sisters, cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, grandma, for about an hour as they sang carols and read the Christmas story. Sometimes I was just in the room and other times I got to talk with people. I cried a lot when I heard them singing and cried when I saw their faces, and I cried even more when they let me make a song request, partly because I was sad and partly because I was so happy to be able to “be” there. Alongside with another cousin who lives in China, we were all in the same room together. Isn’t that cool?

I stole this photo from my sisters FB page. I’m there on the left 🙂

It was good for me to join with them for a little bit and helped me to feel connected when the reality of the distance should have meant we were disconnected. When I hung up I felt happy to have shared in the celebration of Christmas with my family and free to get back to my life in Korea.

***

As much as Christmas was void of many of the traditions I know and love, but it still was wonderful. A friend gave me a list of advent readings and as I read the prophesies of the Messiah, through the story of Jesus’ birth, and finished with His death and resurrection, I was acutely aware of what I really celebrated in Christmas. It was sweet. I have heard many people say this before, but I’ll go ahead and say it again: without the noise of the season, it was much easier to reflect on the wonderful gift of Jesus!

Before I end this post, I have to mention the Pepakakor. In my family these Swedish gingerbread cookies are an essential flavor of Christmas. You wouldn’t have Thanksgiving without turkey, you wouldn’t have Valentine’s Day without chocolate, and you definitely wouldn’t have Christmas without Pepakakor. Since I don’t have an oven, I had resigned myself to their absence. . . but then, a friend with an oven invited me to make Christmas cookies with her. Oh the joy, oh the surprise!

Here they are in all their goodness. We didn’t have any cookie cutters so we just used a glass to make the circles. I ate a bunch, brought some with me to Kevin and Heather’s house and am saving a few in the freezer for a future date.

***

As I just re-read this post, I am really struck by the number of people who gave me the gift of friendship this Christmas. Friends reminded me how to get Christmas music in Korea, a friend helped me to bake my favorite cookies, friends invited me to stay with them for Christmas, a friend gave me a list of advent readings, and there are parts of the story that I didn’t even recount (like all the friends who sent me gifts).  It is easy for me to feel isolated and alone here, but by writing this, the Lord just gently reminded me that I am not.


노래방 (noraebang)- literally means “singing room”

Tonight I had my first 누래방 experience with a bunch of people from my church and it was a blast! It was all the fun things about karaoke, like the singing and dancing to songs you love. And none of the uncomfortable things, like singing in front of an entire bar of people you don’t know. In a noraebang each group of people get their own soundproof room, a big tv screen, a huge book a songs, loud speakers, 2 microphones, couches to sit on and a disco ball.

We sang and danced for 2 hours to the likes of ABBA, Cindy Lauper, The Black-eyed Peas, etc. etc. The disco ball made it especially fun! I think I’ll do it again.

I am a delinquent blogger at best and there are many things to say but I’ll start back in November. While my cousin, Paul, was visiting for Thanksgiving we made a day trip to Busan. It is only about an hour train ride from Daegu, on the East coast of Korea. Busan is a big city and a big port,  and it felt very different from where I live.

As close as it is, I haven’t been to visit more than passing through on my way to Japan (in September). The day was really about fish, both dead and alive. We spent a good part of the day at the biggest fish market in Korea and then finished with a trip to the acquarium.


sea slugs, ewww.

It’s kimchi-makin’ season.

View from the tower.

same-same!

These are cranes like those in the Savannah port that I’ve always thought of as “the dinosaurs”.  They are “same-same” at what I know from home. This is one phrase that I’ve assumed since living in Korea. I don’t know if there is something in the Korean language that this translates from, but it is used QUITE frequently when comparing one thing to another. It’s a phrase that’s kind of a joke to those of us native English speakers. And one of those things that even though I know it’s not correct, I use anyway because the Korean English speakers use it and understand it.