Monday, December 1, 2014

A second Korean Thanksgiving

 As you all know, this past Thursday was Thanksgiving.  While last year this was the first time I encountered real homesickness, this year was a pretty different experience.   It’s not that I didn't want to be home for Thanksgiving, because of course I did.  However, I remember last year I had a full day of classes on Thanksgiving Day.  In a number of those classes I was teaching my students about Thanksgiving, which pushed me to the brink of tears throughout the day. 

This year, I wanted to be home, but I was OK with being here.  This year just felt more like “Oh yeah, this is just how it goes.  Everyone at home will be filling facebook and Instagram with pictures of food that I can’t have…but that’s OK. That’s not my life right now.”

Other expats have told me it’s usually this way—your first time away from the holidays is the hardest.  While it’s never exactly the best part of living abroad, it does get easier.

My Thanksgiving Day, or just Thursday, as it’s called in Korea, was just another regular day.  Luckily, Thursdays are my favorite day of the week because I go to my VERY rural school where the classes are small (I teach a total of 15 kids between four classes), no CTs bother me, and I get to go home early.  Since I get to go home early and I knew I would be a little bummed about being away on Thanksgiving, I rewarded myself for completing the day by putting up my Christmas tree when I got home.  I've been itching to put up my Christmas tree for some time now, but I've made myself wait until Thanksgiving, even if my non-American friends think this is the strangest thing.  A Canadian teacher in town was telling me that in Canada once Halloween is over it’s officially Christmas season.  I guess this is kind of true in America too, but there are still plenty of people like myself who hold off on starting the Christmas season until after Thanksgiving.  Nonetheless, although it’s obvious, I guess it never occurred to me that the whole “Your Christmas tree cannot go up until after Thanksgiving” thing is totally an American concept.

After my tree was up, I went to run some errands around town when I bumped into one of my friends.  He decided to join me as I did the rest of my errands, and on our way to Homeplus, we ran into another friend.  Then, once in Homeplus we saw another friend….and then another.  Errands are always more exciting when you have friends there too. 

To cap the night off I had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner of….kimbap.  Ok, so this is nothing special, but that’s because the real Thanksgiving celebration was planned for the next day.  When you have a full day of work on Thursday and another full day of work on Friday, it’s a bit too much to have a big get together on actual Thanksgiving, so Friday it was!
My Thanksgiving dinner. I do love kimbap!

For our Thanksgiving celebration, we invited over everyone in Jeomchon, as well as some of our friends from the next town over.  The dinner was held at my place since I have a larger apartment then almost everyone else in town.  I had some serious doubts about how we were going to fit everyone as all of the “maybe” people began to confirm that they were in fact coming, but it ended up working wonderfully.  We moved my kitchen table into my bedroom to be the food table and everyone brought over their Korean floor tables for us to sit at. 

My bedroom became the food room.

And we all squished into my living room!

We even had pumpkin pie!

It was a lovely night, that truly had that warm holiday feel to it.  Our food wasn't the most traditional, but we did have some of the essentials—stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, and even apple and pumpkin pie. 

This was the first time that we've had such a big get-together in town since all of the farewell parties in August.  Things have been really different in Jeomchon since so many people left, but it was really comforting to have everyone together again. 

Of course, Thanksgiving is always a time of reflection, and I couldn't help but think about just how lucky I am.  These past 15 months have been filled with unbelievable memories. Although life in Korea can seem so normal at times (especially when my alarm clock goes off in the morning), when I step back I am amazed that this is actually my life—that I've actually been working in Asia for the past 15 months, working and teaching students who don’t even speak the same language as I do.  I've seen and done so many things, with only more to come.  I never would have imagined that life would have brought me here, but I’m so glad it did.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was a combination of 8 Americans, 3 South Africans, 1 Canadian, 1 Irish woman (is that the right way to say that?), 1 Scot,1 Englishman, and 3 Koreans.  That means the total number Americans was less than the number of people from other countries—I highly doubt I’ll ever spend my Thanksgiving this way again. Although I will be excited to be home for Thanksgiving again next year, a part of me will we be missing this eclectic Korea family when I return home. 

Thanks to everyone who has loved and supported me through my time in Korea.  I couldn't be more in awe of your unwavering love through this crazy adventure I’m having.


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