Christmas comes to Korea - 24 Hr. Whirlwind
Christmas Eve melted right into Christmas Day. On the 24th, we all wore red and brought any North Pole-style accessories we had (those reindeer antlers sure came in handy...again!). The kids were SO excited to spend their coupons they had been collecting all year. The afternoon classes get two "Carrot Days" (think of the "carrot and the stick" approach. Coupons make up our rewards system, and Carrot Day is when collecting coupons pays off), but kindergarten only gets one each year.
After snack, carol singing, and shopping at our Carrot Day store, Santa arrived! Of course, half the kids were calling out for "A Teacher" (the man behind the mask...er - sunglasses), but some of them got into the Christmas spirit and played out the make-believe. Each class had prepared a holiday song and performed for the teachers and other students. The Korean Teachers choreograph their songs nicely and the kids always look super cute. I wish I could post some of these photos and videos because some of the kids might as well be models/ actors/ rockstars in their own right. They're too darn cute!
The afternoon went well. I tried to ensure that each class got through the material thoroughly and efficiently so that we could got into our 3-day Christmas weekend with a game and in high-spirits. A friend and I grabbed pizza after work and read the Christmas story before tucking ourselves in for a long winter's nap. Scratch that - my sister decided that 2 PM on Christmas Eve was the perfect time to Skype me since the whole family was over at my parents' place! 4 AM for me meant I was not camera-ready and slightly delirious from lack of sleep. Regardless, it was good to see everyone. Sorry for swearing at you in front of my niece and nephew (whoops!).
I had set an alarm for 8:30 AM Christmas morning so that I could Skype my parents and still have plenty of time to prepare crepes for our festive, pot-luck, neighbourhood brunch party. My parents opened their presents (always exciting for me to see the look on their faces, especially when I send home a Toronto Maple Laughs...er...Leafs ugly Christmas sweater for Mum! [Now on sale for a THIRD of the price I paid. Grrrr...]) and we had a nice little chat. After that, it was time to get to work. Crèpes are incredibly labour-intensive, and I definitely had not budgeted enough time especially since I was working with one burner to make each crèpe and had spent a decent enough amount of time caramelizing the apples and bananas. By 12:30 PM (I had hoped to arrive shortly after 10:30 AM!) I showered, changed, applied the teensiest bit of makeup, and lugged my tired behind (as well as sparkling wine and crèpe accoutrements!) a couple of buildings over where the party was already in full swing.
Yum, yum, yum! Delicious salad, a Wisconsin Cheese-ball, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, mulled wine, and of course Caramelized Apple & Cheddar or Caramelized Banana & Nutella Crèpes were on the menu!
We ate and sang carols, then of course came the "White Elephant" portion of the day. The concept differed slightly from our Secret Santa/ Thief game from Expat and the City's party. This time, we were told to bring things from around the house that we no longer wanted or needed. I brought one nice gift of Vietnamese coffee and some gourmet hot chocolate (which covered a friend who had forgotten to bring something), and wrapped up (in magazine advertisements, no less) a gift set of spam I was...nervous to slip under the tree. My handmade paper bow seemed to do the trick as it was picked up in the early stages of the game. Thankfully, the person who picked it up actually LIKES Spam and was looking forward to sharing it with her Father when he visits Korea. Score!
(Here's another gift of Spam. It was received with slightly fewer thrills and squeals of delight.)
After brunch it was time for a Christmas Day nap. I had cleaned my apartment bottom to top and top to bottom on the 23rd, but had a rather unfortunate house-guest who muddied up my bathroom and a variety of other spots. I was in no mood to start cleaning again. I swan-dived into bed hoping to catch some shut-eye before Christmas Dinner.
You may remember Ashley American Grill from my first-ever Earthquake experience. A wonderful colleague of mine had kindly made a reservation (well - a front of line pass) for the buffet restaurant, and 6 of us gals were thrilled to not be cooking or doing dishes. Upon arrival they claimed to have no knowledge of our call, so that was fun, but within a few minutes we got ourselves squished into a table for 4, and a few minutes after that we were ushered over to a table for 6. Voila! A Christmas miracle.
There were several Indian-inspired dishes,which might end up being a traditional Christmas meal in my family. My parents and family friends were at an Indian buffet on Christmas Day for lunch, and we went to the same restaurant together last year! There were BBQ pork ribs, tons of kinds of pizza in two bite slices, a variety of pasta dishes, and tons of salads. It was heaven!
The pièce de résistance has to have been the bite-sized red velvet cake. With a dollop of cream cheese frosting (not quite buttercream, but I'll take it) this dessert hit the spot!
We waltzed out into the madness of Seomyeon (it's always busy), and when we got to the main drag we noticed a large crowd on either sidewalk. Were they waiting for some Korean celebrity?
Nope...they were waiting for me!
I'm clearly kidding. These hoards of people were waiting to spread Christmas cheer by giving out hugs! At least...I think it was a Christmas thing. It was pretty chaotic. There were tons of people grabbing us and taking selfies, so eventually we just went with it and did the same thing. Tons of hugs and warm fuzzies all 'round, amigos!
Does anyone know what these signs say (in English)?
These most awkward Santas work for a "ladies only" bar. We didn't stick around to find out what that meant!
Expat and the City and I have a huge obsession with a bar called "Groove" in Seomyeon (I've tried to Google it for directions, but you'll just have to wander aimlessly until you find it!). It's a spot with great music and a cool ambiance. Drinks are no more or less expensive than any other bar in the area, but there is beer pong for $10 which is a pretty great way to occupy your time when you've been out of University for, ahem, a while, and no longer have your sorority-style pong skills.
This is THE Korean song right now (Song Min Ho with Zico "Okeydokey yo"). My kids love it and when I hear it at the gym it gives me a bit of extra pep in my step!
After Groove, we headed over to Thursday Party where a Friday party was heating up. Of course, we had just been there a few days earlier, but this time managed to get a table right by the door. It was as though we welcomed everyone as they came into the bar wishing them Merry Christmas and a jolly good night. A friend from Hwamyeong popped by with some friends from out of town who wanted to go to Club Grid. With nothing to do on Saturday, we said yes and went along for the ride.
Never did I ever think that I'd be spending the wee hours of Boxing Day in a massive, multi-level Korean nightclub with bottle service and what appeared to be the ghost of Korean Mrs. Claus (featured below) freaking out to "Hotline Bling".
Gotta get them bathroom selfies in at the club! ;)
Around 5: 30 AM after some curry and a cheese donkatsu (pork cutlet) we called it quits and headed home. My first Christmas away from my parents didn't really feel like Christmas, but it sure was a celebration I won't soon forget!