Archive for December, 2010

After the serious shenanigans at the school Christmas party, I was really looking forward to a few song-and-dance free holiday celebrations with my good friends, cousin Tim and Evan. Ask and you shall receive!

On Friday, Evan and I put together a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner consisting of scrumptious fried chicken, cornbread stuffing and cranberry sauce sent from home and steamed broccoli.

I cooked the stuffing on the stove, then transferred it to the toaster oven to crisp up a bit. I also popped the chicken in the oven for a bit to warm it up, oh man was it good. We bought the bird from E-Mart and did not regret the decision to go precooked. It was spicy, seasoned perfectly and the crunchy texture was a nice contrast to the tender broccoli and soft stuffing.

Of course, there were holiday songs playing while I cooked, and the presents were stacked under the plant :) Tim arrived that night, and after we filled our bellies we met up with some friends for beers at the Beatles bar. There, we were able to see our friends play some live Christmas music, which was a nice treat.

The party continued into the wee hours of morning at Radio Star (with more live music and beer, obvi)

On Christmas morning (afternoon) when we rolled out of bed, I got to work mixing some delicious lemon-ginger scones sent by the Naylon family in an amazing care package full of yumminess (including gorgeous jewelry and the ingredients for some seriously delicious polenta cakes we made). What a wonderful Christmas treat — thank you!

Evan had to open one present early (coffee from Starbucks) so it could brew, and Tim showed us one of his gifts also — WIRELESS INTERNET! Best gift ever! No more being a slave to the cord.

We ate the scones with eggs and slurped coffee while we watched Home Alone. I forgot how awesome that movie was.

After a cat nap and a shower, we threw together mashed sweet potatoes and gravy, then hurried out of the apartment to Beatles, where we were meeting friends for a potluck holiday dinner.

We hit the street just in time to see a flurry of snow fall from the sky. A white Christmas! I whooped and hollered, taking lots of pictures and even a video. Snow is still novel to me, okay?

The spread at the potluck was insanely good. The star of the table was the turkey from Costco — a rare and expensive find here, so I was grateful for every tryptophan-laced bite.

The sides ranged from vegetables and stuffing, to potatoes and bread, to onion dip, bread and cheese! It was a delectable feast that I grazed at all night. It had been so long since I had onion dip, so I was majorly hooked on it, and only stopped trying to scrape up the last gobs from the bowl when it was, sadly, removed from the table.

I opted for red wine with my dinner, but was in for another treat when Eric brought homemade eggnog. Amazing. It was so good! Just like Lyndon’s mulled wine/brandy, a Scottish traditional drink.

The layout was perfect for a holiday meal, with comfortable couches littered around the place and cheery carols on the speakers.

At one point, Tim got into an amusing Go Stop marathon with a lovely girl we met their, Jasmine.

They were pretty evenly matched, but Jasmine took Tim in the end (and the 8,000 won that was at stake on the card game). You win some, you lose some.

I particularly enjoyed singing carols onstage at one point, crooning and laughing into the mic. Dave took care of the guitar!

All night the snow didn’t stop falling, and a few times I caught myself in a trance, hypnotized by the soft, slow flakes that glided gently to the ground. It was picturesque, simply stunning, and mesmerizing.

After our bellies were full and the food was put away, we decided to throw on our dancing shoes and head to M2, a relatively new club in Cheonbukdae.

We went with a few friends, and met up with a few at the club!

The place was seriously poppin’ — Christmas isn’t so much a family holiday in Korea, so the twenty-somethings had no qualms about hitting the dance floor on Jesus’ birthday. While we were there, three different deejays took the turntables, and they were all awesome.

Here’s clown face spinner — a little creepy but spins really well.

We stumbled out of the club into the snow after 4 AM, then headed straight for KFC for some fried chicken. nom nom nommm.

A very Merry, and certainly memorable, Christmas <3


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There is nothing more gluttonous, tragic, hyperactive and awesome as a school Christmas party.

Today started out like any other day… minus the fact that we got to skip two hours of kindergarten in the morning :) We were supposed to wake up “early” and go to the gym, but had trouble leaving our bed before 11. Evan blames my mom, who sent us the most heavenly flannel sheets. They make getting out of bed, especially when the window is frosted over because of the cold, near impossible.

We got to school at 1:30, and spent the afternoon with our elementary students. Classes ended at 6 (a half hour early, yay) so we could prepare for the kindergarten Christmas festivities, which began promptly at 6:30.

Some of the elementary crowd, who hung around to watch their younger siblings put on a show, complained of hunger immediately following class. Some Hello Kitty candies helped subdue their famine.

I was designated the job of handing out pamphlets to parents as they walked into the school, bowing and greeting them with a grin and a perky “Merry Christmas.” As I stood, smiling at the flood of families that waltzed through the door, I couldn’t help but think of my own family. The past two years, Christmas has been filled with warmth and love, with both my family and Evan’s. Christmas meant pajamas all day, drinking lots of wine, cooking amazing food, reading stories, sharing traditions, giving and receiving gifts and most importantly, spending a lot of lazy time with the people you love.

Even though I can’t physically be with either of my families this holiday season, I felt really blessed to be able to spend the holidays with my beloved students and their parents, bursting with pride at seeing their little ones singing songs, acting in the play, reading stories or giving presentations. It made me not feel sad to be here, just grateful to be included in an intimate celebration.

After I handed out programs, I joined the teachers and the children in the “green room” to help prepare the kiddies for their turn onstage. It was then — 15 minutes before the first song/dance performance — that the foreign teachers were told that we were expected to sing and shake it with the children. Greeeeaaaaat. I believe Evan’s exact words were, “Thanks so much for the warning.”

Here is Evan warming up.

Needless to say, we were a disaster onstage. Not only did we flub all of the dance moves, but I admittedly don’t know all of the words to some classic Christmas jams. I stood in the back left of the “stage,” a fortunate position as I could watch what all the kids were doing and do my best to imitate their actions. Evan was less fortunate, being in the front left, so he couldn’t see the dance moves without turning and staring at the kids next to him.

It was beyond mortifying to wiggle our butts and belt out words to Christmas carols, and I would have been royally pissed if I didn’t think the whole thing was hilarious. A few times I actually laughed out loud during the song, but luckily my giggles were drowned out by the screeching tots.

The frosting on the cake was when we would mess up the choreography, because not only was it completely undignified for us to be dancing and singing in the first place, but the teachers should not be the ones messing up the moves. I felt like that kid in the recital who looks like they wandered onto stage by accident, staring at the audience like a deer in headlights, motionless aside from all of the moves that they’re doing two beats too late. I was never that kid in dance class, but somehow I managed to be the 25-year-old onstage looking like an idiot with a bunch of two to seven year-olds. Fabulous.

At one point, we had to play pin-the-balloon-tail-on-the-child, which was an adventure, especially for the kids who were at certain points screaming their heads off, pushing other kids to the ground, or hiding under the table, growling and pretending to be a tiger. They needed their balloon “tails” for when they wriggled their hips to Jingle Bell Rock. I spent most of my time “backstage” being utterly useless, laughing my ass off and taking adorable pictures of the kids.

Not only are the kids cute beyond words, but they also learn at an early age to throw up the double peace sign and a wink for pictures. Priceless.

Oh, and we had to wear Santa hats for the sing-along too. Some of them had these crazy white braids (seriously, WTF) and one boy in my class had one that was about three sizes too small. I made him keep on the doll-sized cap until I could get a picture of his head squeezing into it. More giggles ensued after said picture, sometimes I act so immature.

When the presentation was finally over, it was time to eat. The platters of food were brought out, and we got right to work on them. I probably ate one too many pieces of pizza, and packed away more kimbap than was necessary. I was stoked on the spread until I saw one kindergartener coughing on it, and realized with a heavy heart that his phlegm fit, while being the only one I noticed, was certainly not the only one that had taken place. Sigh.

The spread was incredible though, having more food than the crowd could possibly put away. I expect some sugar-induced craziness that was on display at the Halloween party, but surprisingly I didn’t witness any banchee behavior.

It was while pecking at the food on the various tables that I realized chopsticks really are the most ideal utensil to use on a communal spread. They are more sanitary than grabbing with grubby hands (duh) and actually spread less germs than spoons or forks, if you consider that western-style utensils are slathered with more saliva than chopsticks, which are more used to drop large portions of food into an open mouth. I took a mental note for future cocktail parties.

Evan and Greg put on Santa costumes after the potluck was over, and handed out presents to the children. The gifts had been brought in by parents the week before, and it was really fun to see the children receive exactly what they wanted from Father Christmas himself. Even though most of them greeted the men in red suits as Evan Teacher or Greg Teacher. At one point, Soo Min was asked to say “Merry Christmas” to “Santa” and she turned, gave Evan a dubious look, and said, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Evan.” A hilarious, albeit slightly sad and jaded, holiday greeting.

Ev and Greg made good Santas. They handed out lots of goodies that made the boys and girls very happy :)

We also made treat bags for our little ones for this special holiday. We handed them out at the party, seeing as we won’t see the little ones until Monday, and hit a small snag with our elementary school students who also wanted treats from us. Doh. We told them we’d bring them chocolate and candy canes tomorrow, which appeased their aching sweet teeth (for now).

I had a few lovely conversations with the parents of my students, and felt really touched upon hearing how pleased they were with my teaching methods, how happy the kids were and how much their English has improved over the past eight months. It made me think about how much I was going to miss my kiddos come April.

After the last songpyeon was devoured, and Christmas gift torn open, the number of guests dwindled as they carried their sleepy, sugar-stuffed children home to bed. The teachers gave the hagwon a scrub down — Rachel and I cleaned the tables while the boys handled the ancient vacuum cleaners.

After that, we enjoyed beer and leftover snacks with our fellow staff members, celebrating a successful and crazy evening.

Now we’re home, snickering at viral videos of Hitler finding out there’s no Santa Claus, snuggling on the couch and wondering how on earth Christmas Eve has snuck up on us. I was feeling sentimental, so I searched for one of my favorite Christmas songs online. The first video I found brought tears to my eyes.

Celtic Woman is simply amazing. Their voices and the violin together create such a seamlessly beautiful melody that is quite enchanting (and videos are nothing compared to their live performances). Watching this brought a rush of memories back — standing in my stiff, itchy dress at Christmas mass, my overwhelming happiness and joy for the holiday helping me to overcome the physical discomfort of my “dressy” clothes, singing my heart out in the choir, staying awake until my eyelids felt like lead, excited for the return of Santa, helping my dad prepare food for the family Christmas party, waltzing with my sisters in our pajamas as we waited for my parents to rouse on Christmas morning, tearing open stockings with anticipation, curling up next to the roaring fire, watching my nieces struggle to open their own gifts, spending the holiday at the Naylon house and feeling right at home, cooking and chatting with Steve and KayDe, reading The Polar Express and ringing bells on Christmas Eve, making four quiches for Christmas brunch, experimenting in the kitchen with my dad, snuggling under the sheets and comparing books with my mom, guzzling mimosas with my sisters (when they weren’t pregnant), throwing the dice and shouting at family members as we vied for wrapped gifts during the dice game… this song embodied Christmas for me. Everything I hold dear, all the cliches that are true about the holidays.

Reminiscing fills me with joy for these next two days <3 Merry Christmas everyone

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So, when I went to the hospital last week, the nurse first ignored the giant protruding vein in my arm to try to squeeze the needle for my IV in my skinny hand, and when that didn’t work she poked around my arm for a few minutes before actually getting that sucker in a vein.

A week later, I have two lovely bruises as a reminder of her incompetence. Hospital FAIL.

At least the IV itself was amazing — both times I’ve gone to the hospital, I’ve had a bright yellow liquid streamed into my blood, which I believe to be vitamin b12. Whatever the miracle liquid is, it got me up and at it in no time flat. So I guess I can excuse the nurse using my arm as a pin cushion.

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Since we’ve been coughing our lungs out a bit sick this week, we decided to forego drinking and spend the blustery weekend snuggled up, eating snacks, reading, doing crossword puzzles and watching movies.

When Saturday rolled around, we felt well enough to leave our isolation but not so well that drinking and dancing at Radio Star sounded like a good idea. Enter Lotte Cinema!

Lotte Department Store is a colossal giant of an establishment — eight floors of endless merchandise, restaurants, a movie theater and even an arcade we could use to pass time. It is one of the few South Korean enterprises (including Samsung, LG, and Hyundai) poised to take over the country. I’m just sayin’.

We decided to continue our Harry Potter marathon from the few weekends prior (one day we actually watched seven hours of Harry Potter) a kick we had been on since Evan wanted to know what the phenomenon is about. Unlucky for him, since I love the books, I kept interjecting with tidbits that the movies left out (because they always leave some things out) but he listened patiently.

At last we were caught up, and wanted to see the new film that just came to theaters here. So we bundled up, and shuffled over to the cinema to buy tickets.

I couldn’t resist stopping in front of the dazzling tree out front for a photo op. It is beautifully decorated in twinkling blue/white lights, with a star (of David?) at the top. It looks more like a Hanukkah tree than a Christmas tree, which is strange because Jeonju is mostly Christians and Buddhists, but beautiful nonetheless.

The store was a zoo. Wall to wall people scrounging up presents the last weekend before Christmas. It was actually really fun being out while it was feeling so festive. There was Christmas music playing, and for a minute it transported me straight home, to the chaos that is holiday shopping.

Lotte Cinema is set up in a way that completely makes sense for the crowds that rush there to see new films. When you walk into the lobby, you are greeted by a ticker machine that spits out numbers for the people in line. That way you can relax on the oversized leather ottomans and wait to see your number pop up, DMV style.

We had awhile to wait.

This is how the bank works too, and surprisingly it hasn’t triggered any traumatic experiences I’ve had dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles in Los Angeles. It’s quite effective actually, and you don’t have to worry about any ajummas taking cutsies in line. Because they do for everything else, and they would if lines existed at the movies.

We nabbed two of the last seats for the 8:40 showing, then headed to T.G.I. Fridays to eat because, well, we figured we could eat delicious food if we weren’t spending money drinking.

We even got an appetizer — fajita nachos. Nom nom.

I opted for the carbonara pasta with artichokes (!!) and tomatoes (and okay, red wine), while Evan got the half rack of ribs with prawns. Yum!

We still had time left before checking out the boy wizard, so we went to the arcade above the movie theater. We played some racing games, shoot-em-up games and battled it out at air hockey. I only lost the race because my punch button didn’t work (true story!) but Evan creamed me at air hockey fair and square.

Well, I helped him along by scoring about four goals on myself. Doh.

The movie ended up being brilliant, despite being forced to sit in the front row. Seeing all the movies made me want to read the books again… lucky for me, I’ll have plenty of time on my hands for that sort of thing come April :)

A much-needed date night success!

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I have been so neglectful of my blog lately. I could blame it on the sickness that has been plaguing me this week, causing me to take medication that makes hours blur together in a foggy haze, but I think I’ll just blame it on the cold.

It’s too cold to think, let alone formulate sentences that my frozen little fingers would have to slowly tap out on my snow-colored keyboard.

Earlier this month, I thought it was cold. Temperatures were hovering around freezing, and I began wearing two layers of socks, two layers of leggings under my jeans, three layers of tops under my big winter coat. No. That wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg.

Now, it’s -3 Celsius outside (26 Fehrenheit). Any exposed epidermis immediately shrivels and stings in the bitter wind, numb and dry as the chill creeps through your clothes and down to your bones. If I wasn’t cold-blooded before, I certainly am now. There are times at home when I feel like I will never be warm again. My ears, toes and fingers feel like they will be the first to call it quits, give up on me when I need them the most, bitter and unprepared for this new weather they’re experiencing.

Did I mention that I’m a warm weather person? I like snow and all, but only during weekend trips full of snowboarding and roaring fires. Did I also mention how fun it is to read how much my family and friends are enjoying the sunny, 80 degree weather in southern California? Hmph.

Oh, and we’re only halfway through December. Don’t be surprised if one day I just turn into a snowman and remain in a remote Jeonju park until I thaw out in spring.

Oddly enough, the coldest days haven’t been the snowy ones. Perhaps the moisture makes the air a bit warmer, or the powdery sky dust simply melts my heart a bit, whatever the reason here’s to hoping it snows even more.

Only 1 1/2 weeks until Thailand

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I am oh-so-lucky to be a Paradise.

Not even one week after my sister and Evan’s brother/sister-in-law sent us goodies in the mail, I received another huge holiday package from my mama <3 I am so spoiled!

This package came with a wide variety of items, including:

– walnuts

– peanut butter (more! yay!)

three different kinds of chocolate covered pretzels (Evan’s favorite)

– two different kinds of beef jerky

– snap pea crisps (yum… yummmmm)

– Cheetos (my serious Achille’s heel)

– dried mango and blueberries

– a make-your-own gingerbread man kit (yay! Christmas activity!)

– arborio rice (risotto time)

– chocolate covered fruit

– chocolate toffee

– incense

– stickers/pencils/goodie bags for the kiddies :)

– smarties

– a thermal for Ev

– wool sockies

– flannel sheets (these will be so nice — I’ve been sleeping in sweatshirts!)

The Girl Who Played with Fire (YES! YES! I’ve wanted this since finishing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The package couldn’t have come at a better time — I have come down with a nasty cold/fever and went to the doctor for another shot, IV and more medication. The good doc said I need to have a lot of bed rest… after school, of course :) An additional package came today from my seester, filled with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final book in Steig Larsson’s trilogy. I can’t wait to start reading!

So while Christmas festitivies continue around the world, I will be here, snuggled in my new sheets, reading my new books and eating a plethora of snacks. Thank you so much for the lovely gifts — I miss you mama and dad.

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Thanks to the lovely Christmas care packages we received from our siblings, Evan and I had more than enough supplies to plan a stellar Mexican food night, and just in time too because it had been so long…

I started the process by cooking up a few chicken breasts with some diced green chilies from California. Yum!

Next, I warmed up some refried beans — the first I’ve had in eight months. They were perfect, smooth and creamy. The buttery texture paired nicely with the chicken. My happy orange spoon helped keep them from sticking to the sides of the pan :)

For toppings, I kept it simple with sliced pepper jack cheese and diced cherry tomatoes. Ole!

Last, everything was wrapped up in a soft, warm flour tortilla. The final product was truly a taste of home — and comforting after a long day at school and the gym.

Speaking of which, I ran three miles without stopping for the first time this weekend. I brag only because eight months ago, I was terrified of treadmills, and avoided them at all costs. It may have taken twenty-five years, but I’m finally starting to like running! I’ve even started reading fitness/well-being blogs like the (never home)maker for motivation to keep moving in the increasingly cold weather. Who knew I would take such a priceless gift home with me from Korea?

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