Friday, December 25, 2009

A Very Merry Gurye Christmas

For 21 years, I have spent Christmas just about the same way. This Christmas was probably the most surreal Christmas I have ever had, and probably ever will have again. So, here's how it went down:

Christmas Eve
It all started at breakfast. I kept hearing my mom say "pancake." Now, there's a Korean 'pancake' made out of egg, vegetables and seafood - usually octopus and shrimp, so I was careful to keep my hopes down. When I got to the table, there were three, large, American pancakes waiting for me. And. And. A bottle of maple syrup from Canada. (don't ask.) I haven't seen syrup since the States. I almost cried out of joy.

From 2pm until 7:30 pm was our school talent show. There's a whole other post about the talent show, for it was quite an event. I was positively elated the whole time to see my students (1) not in uniforms and (2) doing something they actually enjoy. At the end of the talent show, they called me up to the stage and gave me my Christmas gift - (take a guess) a huge jar of honey. This one was bigger than the one I got from the marathon. And it was in an expensive celadon jar. I have now stuffed both host families full of honey.

After the talent show, the teachers went out for dinner. Since the school year is over, it was kind of our last hurrah together. I was really sad to say goodbye to my favorite co-teacher, Ms. Seo. She is transferring to another school next year. The next semester looks bleak.

From left to right: Ms. Seo, Mr. Jeong (AKA: hot chemistry teacher), Mr. Lee (physics), ?? father of a student, and Mr. History Teacher.

After dinner, I walked to meet my host parents, their Mongolian friends and some other friends at a bar. Along the way, I came across a quintet saxophone group playing Christmas music by the city Christmas tree. Had it been snowing, rather than 50-degrees, I would have thought I was home.

At the bar, my parents' friend bought a Christmas cake, so we had cake. They wanted me to sing a "traditional American Christmas song" before they blew out the candles. (I think they think that, whenever Americans have cake, we have to sing and blow out candles, no matter the occasion) Not really knowing what to do, I sang a shortened version of "We wish you a Merry Christmas" while they clapped and bounced. Nothing like a 'traditional American' Christmas cake ceremony.
Jaejin Pa + Ahn Oh-nee (Father and Mother)

Some Mongolian man... And Cake!

You-sung: The cutest 5-year ever
(son of good family friends, so we see a lot of him)

We slept in and had tofu kimchi for breakfast (one of my favorite Korean dishes). Family Kong - my first host family - picked me up around 11 to go to Suncheon for our last lunch. However, before going to lunch, we stopped at a light fixture store to buy lighting for their new apartment. Why did they bring me? Well, because I have blond hair, blue eyes, an all-American smile and an arsenal of cute Korean phrases sprinkled with a slight foreign accent. I earned them a $70 discount on a bill of $600. It was the least I could do. Merry Christmas. *^^*

We had lunch at Mr. Pizza - a Korean Pizza Hut-like place - before saying our goodbyes. My heart almost broke when, as I was leaving the car, Oh-chahn said, "Oh, Amy. My very sad," ran his finger in a tear-like fashion down his face, and then, without further ado, returned to his video game. That's my Oh-chahn.

I met up with Scott and Jason in Suncheon, where we hung out and went to see Avatar in 3D. I love movies because they make me forget that I'm halfway around the world. The movie was fantastic, by the way. Especially in 3D. Before booking it back to Gurye, we had dinner at an "Italian" restaurant. Never mind that they didn't have bread or wine or salad dressing. Or that I ate a rice dish. It was all good in our book. Back in Gurye we went to Noraebang (the Karaokee room) where we sang the night away. It was probably the last time I'll see Jason. In Korea, that is.

So that was my Christmas. Kind of different. Christmas is just so different here. It's more like Valentine's Day. It's a day where couples spend the entire day together, dressed up in the same clothes. Yep. Couples outfits.

So, while visions of sugar plums were dancing in your heads, I was fighting back the urge to laugh at every couple I saw, eating rice at an Italian restaurant and singing the night away. Merry Christmas, thanks for reading and I miss you all!


  1. I'm sure this Christmas is one you will never forget. I love the story about you and the lighting discount.

  2. I'm glad that they are also flashing peace signs. You're so infectious.

  3. i love the cake story! haha and that is so funny about the discount. i wish bulgarians loved americans as much as it sounds like koreans do.