It’s Boxing Day morning and I’m wishing I could be going to watch the football later. Nothing would give me more satisfaction than going to watch Leicester vs Ipswich at the King Power Stadium today with my dad. Instead, I find myself on the other side of the world sat in my office with nothing to do except sit here and ‘desk warm’ for the next four weeks.
The kids have finished school for the winter break, but I’m still required to sit at my desk for nine hours a day.
To add insult to injury, I’m the only ‘teacher’ at work today and probably will be for the majority of the next four weeks, with the notable exception of the legendary Mr Bae.
I had to do it last year as well. In retrospect, it was relatively soul-destroying. I expect I’ll pass the time on Facebook, YouTube, devouring the news and I may even attempt to study some French. Why you may ask?
I feel it’ll be a little more constructive than playing online scrabble.
Christmas in Korea is a strange affair. Whilst its celebrated across the country, it’s entirely different to Christmas in the UK. To most Brits, Christmas means much more than merely commemorating the ‘birth of Jesus’. In Korea, Christmas is primarily a Christian day. People go to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus (which admittedly, is what we’re supposed to do in the UK).
Perhaps surprisingly, Christmas is also commercialised here. There are plenty of stores with Christmas decorations, playing (a limited selection of) Christmas songs. However, that’s where the similarities end.
Nobody seems to care about Christmas in Korea. It doesn’t have the same meaning or tradition. Nobody does anything special, no family get-togethers, nothing. No crazy Christmas parties, literally nothing changes except for a few token Christmas lights and decorations.
Apparently Christmas Day is a ‘couples day’. A bit like Valentines Day (which they also celebrate, along with ‘Black Day’ and ‘White Day’ which I can’t be bothered to explain – maybe another time).
After the exam period, I tried to do Christmas based activities for the two weeks building up to the big day. You could describe it as an attempt at trying to create a little festive cheer and spirit. Sadly, the kids didn’t care, they even commented “Wow Dan, you really like Christmas’. They don’t.
The students wanted to see some Christmas pop songs, so I introduced them to Wizzard, Slade, The Pogues, John Lennon – they hated them. It wasn’t Mariah Carey, and it certainly wasn’t K-Pop. Although surprisingly (to my delight), my older students did actually enjoy Band Aid.
We did our best to re-create the spirit on Saturday. A group of us foreign teachers got together and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon/evening eating a combination of British, Kiwi and South African food. We had a lot of fun, ate far too much and made the most of the company.
Christmas Day itself was a quiet affair. There was no point in trying to re-create a British Christmas so we celebrated Korean style. We spent the afternoon watching Sherlock Holmes at the cinema and ate our ‘Christmas dinner’ in an Italian Restaurant. Chuncheon (our nearest city) was heaving with people. In stark contrast to the streets of Leicester I imagine. The evening was spent on Skype to our parents before finishing the day off with ‘Love Actually’. As you do.
It was a nice weekend, but nothing compares to a Christmas at home. Today I’ve found myself yearning for home and the comforts and pleasures it provides. Fingers crossed, we won’t be missing many more Christmases after this one.
Anyway, I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas and making the most of it.
This week I envy every single one of you!