To sum it up as painlessly as possible, the holidays just aren't the same without friends and family. I made a trade off and I am so happy where I am right now, so I guess it's okay, but the holidays pretty much sucked without mom's home cooking and waking up with my family on Christmas morning, and of course, without my other half, Garry.
This is my third Christmas away from home. First Oz in 1999 with Jessica, then England in 2003 with Jay and now 2010, flying solo in Seoul to add to my list. Goal: Christmas 2011 at home. I heard the same complaints over and over from friends at home being run off their feet, and dashing from one place to the next, making the holiday rounds. I don't think you really know what you have or appreciate it until it's not there.
I spent most of Christmas weekend avoiding any thoughts of Christmas. Christmas Eve was spent with a bunch of almost-strangers but it was really nice. A teacher had a dinner party with lobsters and wine and cheese and other yummy treats. Kudos to him, he was an amazing host. At the end of the night he actually sent everyone home with a tupperware of soup he whipped up with lobster leftovers, it was amazing! I was so impressed, especially because you have to realize most kitchens here are about the size of a clothes closet. He worked magic in there.
I was up at the crack of dawn on Christmas, as I usually am, but this year for different reasons. I met up with some friends and we caught a bus to Phoenix Park, a ski resort. The goal was to spend the day on the mountain but unfortunately for a multitude of reasons we didn't make it out till after 3 (the joys of not knowing where you're going, and being with a very large group trying to get organized). By the time we got out, the slopes were almost closed for 2 hrs of grooming from 5 - 7. Great timing. It was also almost -20, frigidly cold, and crappy conditions. I made it back out for a bit of night skiing but the enjoyment level wasn't really worth toughing it out.
We had rented an apartment, so a girlfriend and I curled up and spent Christmas evening just chatting and lounging till the rest came back and had some wine and food and cuddled up for bed. I say cuddled cause the sleeping arrangements were Korean style. No beds just little matts, pillows and duvets. We had 2 apartments and in ours there were 8 people. Two Korean girls scored a private room and the rest of us snuggled into the lounge. In Korea, the heating system, called ondol , is done through the floors, so sleeping on the floors is actually warm and really comfortable.
Sunday was spent missioning it back to Osan. Our shuttle wasn't leaving till 6 but that wouldn't put me back in Osan till after 10, so a few of us made our own way back. The weather over the weekend was so unbelievably cold and I was chilled to the bone. I came home to a bottle of nice wine, leftover soup (so appreciated!!!) from Christmas Eve, and a Christmas skype date with Garry. A nice way to wrap up the weekend (xxoxoxoxox G).
NEW YEARS.......the love hate relationship with what to do on NYE. Most of the teachers I know here spent New Year's away, in a hot place. Osan didn't exactly seem like the most happening option so I legged it into Seoul for another marathon night.
I went to Hongdae which is a really amazing part of Seoul, bubbling with people and night life. There are food stalls, shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, dvd bangs, noriebangs (karaoke rooms), and big clubs too. And most things stay open until the next day. Pick your poison and I'm sure there is something here to cater to it. Because I live so far on the subway line from central Seoul, when I come in at night, I make the commitment to stay there till at least 6:30 the next morning when the subway re-opens. It is pretty disconcerting.
So the night was mayhem, as NYE in any city usually is. It's fun to add to my list of places to ring in the new year, but all in all it was nothing to write home about. Shots, drinks, bar hopping, dancing.....and eventual exhaustion. Luckily my partner in crime for the evening was on the same energy plateau I was and we called it quits at the same time. By 4am we quaffed down a delicious end of the night shawarma and hustled into a dvd bang to kill a few hours before we headed back to Osan. (DVD Bangs are just like living rooms you can rent with movie selections). We tried to choose the longest movie we could come up with (there were no Lord of the Rings movies so we opted for Titanic) and curled up to sleep.
A three hour nap can do wonders for the body, so even though we felt a little worse for wears, we made it home by 10am on New Years Day. After a hearty breakfast and another nap I woke up just in time to ring in the NY at home. I spent most of the Torontonian new year with Garry, but also managed to squeeze in skypes and phone calls with a handful of others back home.
All in all, I made it through the holidays. Fun at times, but I am pretty glad their over. I have a mandatory week off from school because the building is closed down. The timing is crappy cause I am also enrolled in afternoon Korean classes, the same week. So technically, I am spending my week off in another school. Seems like I just can't get enough. But I am looking forward to a few trips to Seoul, hopefully some shopping and 9 consecutive sleep ins!
PS. All these pictures are in reverse order! Argh! Too lazy to switch, sorry.