Sunday, January 01, 2006

Christmas in Seoul

Christmas here in Seoul is a little different than what I’m used to.  There isn’t near the amount of commercialization that we have in N. America though I think they are working at catching up.  Sad I know.  Who doesn’t like in your face commercialization?

In many ways, Korea is going through the American cultural shifts of the 20’s to the present in about 1/3 of the time.  That however is another blog all on its own.  So, back to Christmas.

Christmas here is much more akin to Valentine’s Day.  It’s not nearly the family day that we think of in North America.  To be sure, it is a family day, but it’s not nearly as big of a deal.  Some kids don’t even get presents and it’s no big thing!  Wow, parents in North America would be struck down in the streets and kids would be picking up their broken Nintendo’s and taking them back inside.  Yikes!

For many people, Christmas is a lover’s day.  Boy friends and Girl friends get all snugly and if you aren’t dating anyone, then you just hang with your friends, not all snugly.  :-)

This year for Christmas, one of the Vice Principles from Lila invited me to join her and her family for the day.  I teach both of her daughters.  Her oldest daughter is a middle school student and I only see her at the Hakwon.  The youngest is in grade 5 or 6 ??? and gets to see me at both places.  Ain’t she lucky :-)

Well, needles to say, I was a bit reluctant to accept her offer as I’m used to Christmas being a very family and close friend type of day.  Many people assured me that this was not the case and I would be quite ok accepting, and not nice to refuse.  If she didn’t want you there she would not have offered they told me.  Ya but (don’t ya just love ya buts) what if it was just a sympathy invite, I kept thinking?  I don’t want to intrude!  Finally, after several reassurances by my friends, I accepted and began looking forward to the opportunity.

I met them at their church which is about a 2 min walk from my Apartment, and joined them for the Christmas morning service.  I had been to Kwan Lim Methodist Church before so I knew what to expect.  The Church provides translation headsets and the translator is very good as she speaks English very well.  The choir and orchestra were also very wonderful that day.

In the orchestra there were only two trombones, one base and one normal.  Now, I played trombone for many years and it was quite fun listening to this one single trombone triumph over all of the other noisy people.  :-P  If you played trombone you’d understand.  Suffice it to say, I used to, as well as other trombonist that I know, get yelled at on a regular basis for playing to loud.  ahahahahaha.  This trombonist however, played nicely and only shown through at the appropriate moments, much to the director’s relief I would guess.  Silly director.

After the service we ate at Popeye’s, and then saw a movie at the theater.  When that was finished, we met the VP’s parents and another of my middle school students.  His mother is also a VP at Lila and his aunt is Lila, Dr. Kwan, the Director of the School.  Ya, I’m hobnobbing pretty well over here eh.

So, with everyone in two cars, we headed for Ilsan.  Ilsan is a city about 1 ¼ hours outside of Seoul and very near the DMZ.  About half way there, the road sides facing the river on both sides of it become lined with barbed wire and there are posted armed guards every so often.  What a comforting drive. :-P  It seems a bit strange since you are still in S. Korea, but it has something to do with the truce and no one is allowed in the river at that point.  There aren’t even any bridges across the river.  What a pain that must be.

Anyway, we made it to Ilsan without incident and continued on a little past to a restaurant called “The Province”.  The restaurant is quite an upscale place.  The building really isn’t anything special from the outside during the day, but inside its all rough hewn lumber giving it an antique ranch kinda feeling.  The menu prices however quickly assure the patron that he/she is indeed at an upscale establishment.  Talk about feeling sheepish.  My hosts however were quite insistent that I order from a particular place in the menu, from which actually, the entire group ordered from.  Wow, it was good.  mmmmmm.  I had a steak, chicken breast, and shrimp fajita mixture that was very spicy with burrito shells on the side.  Ah, my mouth waters just thinking about it; big chunks of green peppers, onions, and thin long sliced carrot pieces too, yaaa.  I also have to say that the steak was top notch stuff, not that crappy Taco Bell sorta meat.  Nothing personal to you Taco Bell enthusiasts, but …

After ingesting said scrumptious palate pleasing morsels and tea, we went outside.  All part of this restaurant business are several smaller stores selling girly type things.  If one was looking to purchase porcelain or ceramic table settings, baked goods, jewelry, and other such things, this is where you would want to go if price was not an issue.  Put it this way, my dad and I could leave my mom and a friend there and go play a round of golf and return to find them still looking about.  Ok, so it’s not nearly big enough for a full round of golf, but you get the idea.  :-p

What I liked about this place were the thousands of those little white Christmas lights everywhere.  By now it was night time and all of the trees, buildings and fences were outlined in a very meticulous fashion.  I can’t imagine how much work went into it all.  Plus, there were two big fire pits for people to sit or stand around and a little café to purchase soup or hot drinks at.  I just stood outside in the freezing cold winter air and soaked it all in.  There was great Christmas music playing through the P A system and it was all in English.  :-)  I was lovin it.  I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures that were taken.

So, yep, I had a pretty good Christmas day.  I really felt blessed by it all.  I felt blessed by God, and blessed by my new friends.  For me it was God blessing me through them and I appreciate them very much for it.  They really went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of.  I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was a real honor.  Another thing that made it such a wonderful time was the fact that as husband and wife, the parents not only loved each other, but they liked each other too.  Some things can be faked but genuineness can’t.  It’s always fun to be in the company of people like that.  :-)


At 1:24 PM, Blogger Darren B said...

Good to hear that you had a nice Christmas day. We had been praying that you wouldn't be alone - nice to see God answer prayers in a cool way.

Ok - one question, though -- the carols were in English, there was a translator for church, but how did you follow the movie that you went to? (I can barely sit still for two hours if I'm interested in the movie - if it was in a language I didn't understand... Yikes!)

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous me said...

Ah, good question. All the foreign movies that are played in Korea are simply given subtitles. It's much better than dubbing. Dubbing is often so very fake and many times the voice over doesn't match the emotion of the original’s voice.

It's pretty cool how our brains work because after a few minutes I don't even notice the subtitles. For me, I'm so used to seeing them on TV and movies that I don't even notice them when the movie starts. It helps that the subtitles are done in white and with a thin font.

At 2:13 AM, Anonymous me said...

Oh ya, how could I forget. Thank you very very much for the prayers. :-)

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Darren B said...

You're welcome.

We celebrated New Years with Sol-Wha (Trent's wife) and she's still getting the hang of English (three years later!) She was telling us that in certain parts of Korea they only get snow once or twice a year -- so much for a 'white Christmas'!

Handy for you that there's so much English in Korea... except, I guess, at the restaurants - and that's what photos are for! :-)

At 2:36 AM, Anonymous me said...

Oh how right you are. :-)


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