Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Christmas Season

It's hard to believe that Christmas has already come and gone.  The holidays really snuck up on me this year and overall if just didn't quite feel all that Christmas-y for me this time around. Last year we had lots of Christmas movie nights in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and maybe we should have put in more of an effort to do the same this year, but I think it just got kind of crazy for all of us in town in the weeks before Christmas.

The weekend before Christmas we all had to spend the entire Saturday at the Mungyeong English play competition that all of our schools were competing in.  The whole English play ordeal was pretty much a terrible experience for me--mostly due to the fact that my coteacher dictated how I had to write the play, then did not help me whatsoever with ANYTHING after that point.  I did the entire thing by myself, which is in no way how it's supposed to be.  The whole thing was a big source of frustration for me because the kids and I put in a ton of time to practice, but because he basically didn't care, the end result was noticeably way worse than what the other schools did.  In a lot of ways, I felt like I was set up to fail with a lot of the things that went on, which not only made me upset for the time I wasted trying to work on the play, but also because the kids spent so much of their time practicing and trying to learn their lines, which is obviously not that easy for fifth and sixth graders to do in a language that isn't even their native language.

Anway, I was a judge the day of the competition, meaning that I had to be there not just for the plays the elementary school kids did, but also for the speeches that the high schoolers and middle schoolders did.  Needless to say, this was a VERY long day for me, and on Tuesday I had to go and judge the finals for the competition.  I was happy I got asked to judge because it meant I got to make a little extra money, but I was less impressed with the strong inclination I have that our scores didn't actually matter. I don't want to say too much, but in the end we had a suspicion that we were asked to judge to make it appear more fair.  The whole speech and play competition thing bothered me only many other levels as well, but I will spare you all with the details because I won't want to get to negative and rant-y.Overall I'm just happy that I won't ever have to do this whole thing again.

Thankfully, all of the play madness was over by Tuesday, which was a big relief for all of Jeomchon's NETs.  Wednesday was Christmas Eve day, which is pretty much just an ordinary day in Korea.  However, in the elementary schools it was the last day of the semester, meaning that classes finished by 12:30 and then all of the teachers went to a restaurant for lunch.  Once we got back to school we had a meeting and some time later teaches slowly started to leave school early.  Now, typically when teachers leave I wait for someone to tell me to go home because technically according to our contracts we are supposed to stay at school the whole time.  However, many times the principal or vice principal will tell us to go home and then it's ok.  Since I don't want to get in trouble and assume anything, I will usually just sit there and wait for someone to give me the okay.

Surely at my old school last year they would have told me to go home right away, so I guess this set my expectations a little too high.  Around 3:30 it was only me and the other Korean English teacher (who only comes to that school once a week) left in the teacher's room.  She looked at me and said "did everyone else go home?!"  At which point I replied by saying that I had no idea because I never have any idea of what's happening at that school.  She nodded in complete agreement and we continued to talk for some time, which was nice because I got some interesting insight about how this school compares to others she works at (the kids are way less motivated to learn) and about the play situation (my CT told her he had helped me the whole time....which made her feel bad because she would have helped me if she had known the reality of the situation).

Needless to say, we were both not too happy about being left in the dark and being the only ones left at school, so when 4:20 came around I was more than ready to get out of there.  It was Christmas Eve, but it didn't feel the least bit like Christmas.

Luckily, we had a party planned here in Jeomchon that night.  We were lucky to be joined by not just the people in Jeomchon, but also some friends from the neighboring towns of Sangju and Yeochon. It was similar to the secret Santa type thing we did last year--we all got assigned a person, bought a present for them,then after they opened their present they had to guess who their secret Santa was.  The night was absolutely lovely, and finally made it feel like Christmas for me.

One of our friends who left in August sent us presents.  Nice to know we aren't forgotten by those who left us!

America, Korea, South Africa, and Scotland

Jeomchon's finest ladies

Country count: 7 South Africans, 1 Australian, 2 Canadians, 5 Americans, 1 Englishman, 1 Scot, and 1 Korean.
So lucky to have so many friends from all around the world to be my family away from home.
 We really had a great night, but I tried not too stay out too late because the next morning we were having another gathering at my place.  I was lucky enough to catch a few friends on skype before I went to bed, but it did mean that I didn't get a ton of sleep before waking up for church in the morning.

It was tough to get out of bed in the morning, but I made it to church then quickly walked home after to get my place ready for Christmas lunch.  We had a small gathering Christmas day, but still ended up having a ton of really great food.

After we ate lunch, it was time for some movies.  We spent the afternoon and evening watching Christmas movies (and The Interview, of course), drinking wine, and relaxing.

Our celebration didn't last too late though because some of us had English camp the next day.  

The day after Christmas I had a full day of camp, meaning that I taught fifth and sixth grade for four periods, first and second grade for two periods, and third and fourth grade for two periods.  I love many things about Korea, but they really need to learn to celebrate Christmas for more than one day.  I won't lie, having a full day of camp right after Christmas was ROUGH, but I am lucky that I am done with my camps now.  A lot of people are stuck with weeks of camp this year, so I'm definitely quite lucky in that department.  

Now it's on to a few weeks of deskwarming before I leave on my vacation on January 12th!  

So there you have it, folks! That was how I spent my second and final Christmas in Korea.  Although I wish I could be home to celebrate with my family, I am again reminded of how amazingly lucky I am to have friends who feel like family here in Korea.  

God willing I will be back home for Christmas next year, but I will surely always remember my Korean Christmases fondly.  If I couldn't be with my family at home these past two years, there is no better group of people I could have asked for to be my family away from home.  

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