Christmas: Seoul Expat Edition

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This was my first Christmas away from my family. It was strange not following the usual Christmas morning routine of waking up early to open presents and then flying from DC to Massachusetts. This holiday season, as cheesy as it might seem, was a very pure example of how the people who you are with change everything. Even as I was away from home and my family, new friends made it a very special Christmas.

My final day of teaching for the semester, December 23, was somewhat anti-climactic. Out of my four scheduled classes for the day, two were cancelled. That was a trend in my final week, and I’m still a little sad that I didn’t get to say goodbye to a few of my third grade classes who will be moving onto high school next semester. I did get a chance to share “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with my final class of third grade boys, thanks to the wonderful Fulbrighter who found a copy with Korean subtitles. Of course, they too appreciated the antics of Snoopy. After sharing Christmas cards and giving insa to the other teachers in my office, the head teacher, principal, and vice principal, I went back to my host family’s apartment to pack.

For Christmas Eve, I headed to Seoul. Two of my Fulbright friends got an apartment and decided to host a Christmas Eve party, including a full Western-style Christmas feast with a turkey, mulled wine, and homemade cookies. That night was truly the first time it felt like Christmas since I’ve been in Korea. Eating a delicious meal and sharing Secret Santa gifts while commiserating with chingus (Korean for friends) in a cozy apartment made Seoul feel like home. More than a few people exclaimed that it was perhaps one of the best Christmases they had ever had.

I did Christmas day in a much more Korean fashion. Waking up at our hostel in Hongdae, a few friends and I headed to a small Korean restaurant to eat different types of jeon, savory pancakes made from things like kimchi and green onions, and to drink makgeolli, a rice/wheat wine found only in Korea. While this was definitely different from the Western-style routine, it was extremely satisfying sharing time with each other.

One of the benefits of the Fulbright Korea ETA program is the long winter break. Beyond a one-week Winter Camp from January 6 to 10, I don’t teach until March 1. Over my break, I plan to explore Korea as much as possible. The highlight, however, is going to be a 28-day adventure to Thailand, India, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia!

It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in Korea for almost six months. The first half was an endless series of ups and downs; indeed, I only felt like I was coming into my own as a teacher the last two or three weeks of the semester. Now that I have one semester under my belt, I know that after my winter break I’ll be ready to take my new batch of students and give them the best English conversation class experience I can.

To everyone back in the USA, my friends in Korea, and all the other people in my life around the world, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 12/28/2013, in Fulbright South Korea 2013-14 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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