As Christmas approached, social media unsurprisingly became filled with friends and families spending time together over the holidays. For some it was even a White Christmas! For the past 25 years I've spent this holiday with my family, and this year I wasn't able to join them. I was a little down in the dumps at times because of it and would be lying if I said I had "the perfect Christmas" that I was used to. That being said, my Christmas was a new kind of perfect!
Luke and I spent Christmas Eve with four other teachers in Daegu - some of us doing some last minute Christmas shopping...which was an achievement in itself. As the day passed, we saw a dancing Santa, a Santa on stilts making balloon animals and kids dressed up and dancing while their parents played Christmas music behind them. AH-DORABLE! The same seven Christmas songs played throughout the city all day and as it got dark, lights began illuminating making it quite a sight. I found myself in the twilight zone a few times just consumed with the lights and trying to make it through the mass of people we were swimming in.
For dinner, we sat down and ate, or attempted to eat, Yoo-ga-nae Dak-galbi (유가네 닭갈비). I had about 3 bites and had to remove my three jackets, hat, and big girl face. I couldn't handle it. WAYY too spicy! (Surprise, surprise.) I kept piling on cabbage and some sort of non-spicy mayo sauce. Nope, couldn't do it. Thankfully, Selestia had a sleeve of crackers which were my saving grace and my tongue stayed intact. Whew! Afterwards we hopped on over to a bar where we sat and ate a kimchi pancake, where I severely struggled with chopsticks yet again. We also all tried Beondegi ("Bon-day-gee"). You must click this link to fully understand what was in front of us on the table. I'll wait...
It was...as you would expect, disgusting. But I can say that I ate it, and never have to do it again! We all shared some Makgeolli ("Mack-uhl-lee") which is a milky white drink made from rice and I believe mixed with cider. It was delicious!
We made our way back to Changnyeong, had a good night's rest, and enjoyed a relaxing Christmas Day. I made breakfast casserole and mimosas for breakfast, which might I say, was bomb! We exchanged gifts, chatted with family throughout the day and then for dinner Luke had prepared two whole chickens - one for each of us - corn, cheesy garlic toast, and a bottle of wine. It was a 5-star day of meals to say the least! After dinner, we got together with the rest of the gang for a white elephant exchange and game night. It was definitely a Christmas for the books!
Right after work on the 30th, all the teachers headed straight for the bus station to make the four hour ride to Seoul for the weekend. We arrived to our...VERY interesting hotel around 10:30 PM and immediately went out on the town. It's a city that never sleeps with people out and about 24/7 and lights on everywhere. We had such a good time eating and drinking and before we knew it, it was 4 AM and it wasn't even New Year's Eve night yet so we decided to venture back.
A bar that we went to really inspired me. "Life is not all beer and skittles."
New Year's Eve morning was slow for us as many of us were nursing our very delicate Soju hangovers. But we pushed through in order to see some of the city! Stephanie, Sam, Luke and I all started by visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace which was built in 1395 and absolutely stunning. I don't even know how many different buildings we walked through and around but it was amazing! What was fun to watch was the majority of the women visiting had rented dresses people would have worn at the palace back in the 1400s. In Korea, everyone is even MORE about taking selfies, and dressing up, and if you haven't noticed, they often put the peace sign by their face when taking pictures. It was definitely fun to watch. Stephanie and I were inspired and decided to pose as well.
We grabbed a delicious dinner, that I really had to work for yet again because...chopsticks. (Luke got me an awesome set of training chopsticks for Christmas that I brought with me to Seoul, and didn't get to use once since I left them in the hotel!) After dinner, we found ourselves walking right next to, and for a few minutes in the middle of, a HUGE protest of the Korean President Park Geun-hye. She was recently impeached but the Korean government has six months to decide whether she will be removed permanently or reinstated. Even though protests here are exponentially more peaceful than the U.S., we made sure to quickly leave the area. We visited a street market for a bit and then headed back towards the hotel and ran into the rest of the group.
Luke and I continued on our own to change and grab what else we needed for New Year's Eve and tested ourselves on our navigation skills. Everyone planned on seeing Rogue One since it didn't come out in Korea until the 28th. So with Star Wars on the line, Luke was motivated, and I had accepted it as a challenge. Only one hiccup but we made it to the theater with about 2 minutes to spare before the title hit the screen. Success!
The theater was in a mall and the movie let out about 11:45 so it was perfect timing! We took the escalators down and on the way, got to see about 20 seconds of an AH-MAZING concert. Lazer lights show, bass that made my heart feel like it was going to jump out of my chest, people packed shoulder to shoulder, and balloons flying everywhere. None of us know who was performing for those 20 seconds but just that short scene alone made my New Year's Eve! We all rushed outside to join the rest of the small crowd as we watched a building and counted down to midnight. And literally nothing happened except the lighting from the concert inside the building lit up haha! We all went out for food and drinks and unfortunately couldn't make it as long of a night as before since we were sleep deprived, so we headed back to the hotel and passed out immediately.
We checked out the next morning and walked around Itaewon, a very westernized area of Korea that was a bit of reverse culture shock for everyone. Awesome shops and places to walk around, and The Original Pancake House was a great change of pace. Yummy pancakes and eggs for breakfast, western style!
There are still so many pictures I want to post so stay tuned!
It was a long and eventful weekend that both ended 2016 and began 2017 on a very high note. Now we have just 5 more days until we leave for our 3-week vacation to Thailand and Cambodia!