December 16th- December 25th
Merry Christmas friends and familia! This was the second consecutive Christmas that I have missed being at home for, as last year I was in Dubai! What a hard life, right? Actually though, being away from the people you love in any situation is hard and being away over the holidays is that much harder. So to combat my loneliness I will recap the last 10 days here in Seoul!
On Wednesday, December 16th I headed out early in the morning to visit the immigration office. It is a ~hour long subway ride into the core of Seoul so I brought my Kobo (currently reading A Fine Balance) and my tunes along to keep me busy. What I should have anticipated was how busy this train was, given that it was going downtown and I was riding it in rush hour to boot! I experienced what it was like to be a sardine squished into a tiny box, with no personal space and feeling like I was slowly roasting alive inside of my heavy winter jacket. I witnessed first hand the “Koreans do not sweat” generalization; I ripped my layers off the first chance I got while the strangers around me looked perfectly cool and relaxed. Anyways, enough about sweaty train rides. There was no line when I arrived at immigration, and was able to zip through the process. I looked around enviously though, at the foreign teachers that had a Korean co-teachers to help them. I guess it’s a confidence boost to me that I was able to get by on my own. I rushed off to work elated with the prospect of finally having my coveted ARC (Alien Registration Card). The rest of the work week went by quickly and without any issues. A highlight was seeing Star Wars on Thursday night. We ate grilled squid legs and some caramel and cheese popcorn. The food was delicious and the movie was so good!That Friday night I decided to take things much easier! After work I headed to get some dinner with Nicole and tasted my favourite food so far here in Korea: Dak galbi. It was a mouth-watering meal of chicken and vegetables cooked in front of us and surrounded by a moat of melted cheese. As with the usual Korean fashion, we also got a variety of side dishes. My description does not convey its deliciousness. Really though, I cannot shut up about it and suggest eating it every time I’m out to dinner with friends. Nicole and I toasted to the end of the work week with some soju and sprite, had some great conversation and then headed home around midnight. Saturday was a more relaxed day. I lazied around the apartment in the morning watching netflix (currently catching up on Orange is the New Black). Around dinner time I met up with Sabrina and we set out for an area called HBC. It is another foreigner heavy area right beside the famous Itaewon. For dinner we had Moroccan sandwiches and beer at a great place called Casablanca Sandwicherie. Eating a proper sandwich with crunchy bread was a welcome treat! With full bellies we traveled a few minutes down the street to The Hidden Cellar. The Hidden Cellar is a little dive place under a restaurant. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the wine is well-priced. Perhaps there is a correlation there… Anyways we walked in, got some wine and lucked out snagging two seats. As we spent more time there chatting and enjoying the live music (random renditions of Christmas songs and 80s hits) we realized that there was some sort of party going on and we may have crashed it. We stayed anyways. Later on in the night we were joined by two of Sabrina’s friends and our friend Charlie (our awesome head teacher). Soon enough there was more live music; it was Charlie’s Irish friend who was giving his last performance before heading home. It was so much fun singing along to Irish folk songs and beloved American tunes from the past. I just love live music and was sad to leave before his set was over. However, I had many plans for the next day!Sunday was my Skype day! It was so lovely to talk with my family and to see how big baby Phillip is getting. I also talked with Gabriella, which just warmed my heart; I miss that girl so much! After I said goodnight to Canada, I went on a shopping spree as I needed a secret Santa gift and a white elephant gift for work. I went back to Lotte Mall to finally check out what the ‘mainstream’ stores were like in Seoul. I found a really cool bookstore, akin to Chapters, and bought the best secret Santa present! It was a poster of a blank map of Korea with small cultural/historical/famous cutouts of landmarks that you could add to the map. Andrew, the person I was buying for, recently made a bucket list for the remainder of his contract here in Korea, so I figured it would be a great way to see all the amazing places he has been and where he was going. I also got him candy and Oreos! I got those for a very good price in the underground market inside Jamsil station.This past week at work flew by! Maybe it was because of the Christmas cheer, or maybe the short work week but either way I am not complaining. Nicole and I have started to make our running a weekly habit; we go every Tuesday/Thursday morning and on Tuesday’s we treat ourselves to bubble tea! At work we made Christmas wishes with the kids and gave them cards and candy. It was so sweet to hear the kids I like wish me a Merry Christmas. They are adorable! We exchanged gifts at work which was a lot of fun. I won a tumbler off of my K-co-teacher Sarah in a “rock, scissors, paper” fight. I also received a great scarf and chocolates from my secret Santa Charlie! I had an unexpected gift from immigration too; my ARC arrived a week early (yay)! To celebrate Christmas Eve and a great week, Nicole, Sabrina, Sam and I had some delicious BBQ in Cheonho (our neighbourhood). We toasted with grapefruit-flavoured soju and beer. Afterward, Nicole and I polished off a bottle of sangria. It may have been excessive but whatever, it’s Christmas! As I walked back to my apartment around 1:30am, I got such a happy feeling thinking about how it was day 19 and Christmas and I was really here in Seoul.
I’m heading out soon to Amanda and Greg’s house with Sabrina and Nicole to have a Christmas feast! *Just a side note: I have such good luck with people named Amanda! All the Amanda’s I meet are so wonderful, and this one is no different. She is the head teacher on the Avalon side and has been such a help during my hectic transition!* Anyways, to this feast I am contributing a bottle of white wine and a bucket of KFC chicken… yum! I’m sure it will be a wonderful day filled with laughter (there is wine involved) and good conversation. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas! Give your loved ones an extra hug because you can and enjoy the heart-warming feels.