Christmas in China and New Year's in Korea


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January 8th 2009
Published: January 8th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

I worked hard to bring Christmas to China when I was packing for this journey in the summer. I sent a box that had a stocking, several familiar ornaments, and a box of Stovetop stuffing with gravy; I downloaded Christmas CDs and stocked up on red pillowcases and tea towels (I'm slightly Martha Stewart). I pictured using a plant as a Christmas tree. As it turned out, Christmas is alive and kicking in China, from the pop-up Christmas cards in Trustmart to the Elf-clad waiters in Pizza Hut (which, by the way, I never entered, but saw from the outside). I bought myself a 5' tree (just slightly shorter than myself and a wee bit tilted), lights, ornaments, and garlands (which I wound around the bannister). My place looked festive like no other place I've lived in (outside of my childhood home--due credit must go to my father, a master of Christmas decor), particularly with the built-in multi-coloured LED lights that grace my ceiling in the fanciest of Chinese styles.

On Christmas Eve, friends from school threw a little gathering for a bunch of teachers, and in the morning (somewhat headachy from the evening's festivities), I threw a rather large and raucous brunch. About 30 people crammed into my apartment, where we had pastries, fruit, bread and cheese, and omlettes and bacon. I was told it was one of the best Christmas brunches ever, to which I tossed my hair, sniffed and said, "of course it was" (in all seriousness, it really was a lot of fun). That evening we had a "traditional" Christmas dinner of Korean sam gep sal (pork BBQ). The restaurant loved that we were there on Christmas and bought us a Christmas cake, then asked us to sing Christmas carols to the restaurant. Everyone really got into it, including the cute kids who started clapping and dancing to our rather out-of-tune songs. We capped off the night by going to a Chinese club, where Christmas had, in fact, tucked up its fir skirts and disappeared into the crowds.

New Year's Eve I darted away from work (after a rather propogandous--can I make that word up?--"party"/concert thrown by my school) to catch a plane to Korea. In Seoul I met friend from Canada who I had visited when I lived in Korea about 4.5 years ago (and haven't talked to since), and we had a good time, staying out until 8.30 in the morning and eating sam gep sal (that good ol' Korean pork BBQ again) at 7 in the morning. The next day I flew (literally) down south to Jinju (my old city), where my Korean friend (who only 20 days before had had a baby) met me, took me for dinner, then took me home to meet her family (two small kids and a not-so-small husband). It was late when I got in, so the next day we visited my old boss (pretty sure I gave him a small heart attack when I came in through the door), and another Korean friend. We ate a lot, yet again. Sunday (this is truly a whirlwind tour) I flew back to Seoul and stayed with my Canadian friend again, eating more delicious food (including spicy sam gep sal...I can't get enough of the stuff!), and then leaving the following morning back to Dalian. It was an incredibly busy weekend, but really great to see everyone and everywhere I wanted to see. I'll have to head back to see the kids (quite literally the cutest kids ever, aside from my niece, of course) grow up.

Now I'm back in China, with my aiyee (housekeeper), Subway delivery (available for $6 and over orders), and my two-story apartment. Although I was sad to leave Korea, I must admit I'm not so sad to be back in this lifestyle....and only a week away from a 5-week holiday! Life is pretty sweet here.


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Hi I googled hout-dok and your blog came up - do you have a recipe for hout-dok? we ate it on a roadside in the rural town of Hong Seong :)

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