Archives for December 2013

Merry Christmas!!

couple christmas photosMerry Christmas everyone! We’ll be celebrating the day with homemade cinnamon rolls, Christmas movies, good friends and delicious Italian food. I hope you all are surrounded by the ones you love this holiday season and celebrating in style. We miss our friends and family so much around the holidays but are eternally grateful for the family that we have found here in Korea!

 

An Unconventional Holiday

couple christmas photos

When you hear ‘Christmas’, imagery of decorated houses, strewn Christmas lights, cinnamon candles burning, cookies in the oven and a constant flow and family and friends typically comes to mind. It probably comes as no shock that Christmas in Korea looks quite a bit different. Although we celebrate it as a time to draw close to family and friends and celebrate Christ’s birth; for Koreans, it’s the most romantic and date driven day of the year. If you have a special someone in your life, Christmas Eve and Christmas are celebrated much like Valentine’s Day in the States. There are even some popular areas in Seoul and Busan that shut off all the lights at midnight on Christmas so couples can kiss in the dark.

So what does Christmas look like for us? Not quite the same as back home but something that I have grown to love all the same. I try to keep all the traditions I can from back home such as homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning like my dad makes every year, or making homemade decorations since they can be expensive and hard to find here. But there is one thing that I actually love about being an expat in a different country during Christmas and that’s being disconnected. Disconnected from the ads, the crowds and the commercialized version of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with all of this, I’ve just been able to view it from an outsiders perspective. And I’ve grown to just enjoy getting back to the root of what the holiday means to me, without all of the other distractions that are so easy to fall into. All the ads plastered everywhere promoting the latest and greatest, parents stressed out to try and pay for a Christmas their kids will love and the pressure to buy buy and impress.

Living in Korea, Jeremy and I have been able to lead a much more simplistic lifestyle compared to back home. Most of our disposable income is spent on travel, majority of our furniture was found in the trash (ok, this is a little extreme for most I agree), and many things are not available here so we’ve learned to live without many of the products and conveniences of home (although we never complain when boxes full of American goodies get sent in the mail). It’s been a sort of big ‘reset’ button on our thinking towards spending, need vs. want and how we view consumerism. And these views have followed into the holidays. Living in Korea has shown us that you don’t need a fully decorated apartment, pile full of gifts under the tree, or many other things that signify ‘Christmas’ in the States to truly have a great holiday. What’s most important to us is time spent with those you love, enjoying holiday traditions while making new ones of your own and most importantly to Jeremy and me is celebrating the birth of Christ. All you need at Christmas are the ones you care about…and peppermint hot chocolate never hurt either. I hope you all have a great Christmas and get to celebrate with the ones you love!

 

Saying Goodbye

cats in korea

I always thought that people who cried over animals who died or were lost or had to be given away were…well, silly. And I think I was the only one who didn’t cry at the end of the movie ‘Marley’. It’s a dog people, why were people so upset? I just didn’t understand how people could get so attached to an animal. This coming from a person who never had pets growing up. Unless you count a guinea pig that we tortured played with as a pet. Not quite the same. That is until we got a pet of our own, Zeke, about a year ago. I wasn’t exactly a huge cat person but fell in love when we went to our friends house who’s cat just had a litter and saw Zeke sitting there. I instantly became attached with an animal that I didn’t think possible. I spent the next year being followed around by our little black cat who always wanted to be around us, begged to be held, and who fell asleep curled up and purring next to me day after day. So you can imagine how I feel after originally thinking we would take him with us when we moved; and for several reasons that I won’t go into, we made the difficult decision that if someone offered to take him, we would give him up. Well our prayers were answered a few weeks ago when two new teachers came to town and fell in love with him. And off to his new home he went.

korean cats

I’ve just realized how much he was a part of our daily routine. The cat that as soon as we walked in the door, was there waiting for us and would meow until we picked him up. The cat that would wait for Jeremy and I to be cuddled up in bed at night and then decide to sit on top of us until we made room for him in the middle and then curl up and purr himself to sleep. The cat that would sit and watch me cook or wash the dishes in the kitchen (most likely in hopes that I had chicken for him). The cat that would sneak into the bathroom when I was in the shower to play with the water. And the cat that anytime I raised my voice (in anger or even just excitement; guess he can’t differentiate the two) would get so upset that he would run to wherever I was in the apartment and nip and bite at me to tell me to calm down and be quiet.

It is these small things that we grew so accustomed to and made this expat apartment feel like a home.  And now consequently, what makes it feel so strange without. I have no regrets about getting Zeke and I know that giving him away to a great home was the right choice even as hard as it was. And believe me when I say that I’ll now be bawling along with everyone else anytime we watch a movie where something happens to the family pet.

Our Little Blue Matiz

A little over two years ago we made our first ‘big’ decision and bought our first car together as a married couple. A 1999 Daewoo Matiz for the price of $200. Now I realize that it doesn’t look all that great on the outside…or the inside for that matter. When buying your first car as a married couple, you’re not typically dreaming of rust spots, no air con, and having to sit sideways in the back seat because it’s so small. Oh and when we first bought it, anytime it would rain, we had to push start it. Nothing says ‘First Year Bliss’ like pushing a clown car in the pouring rain on the way to work. Don’t worry, we eventually got this fixed.
daewoo matiz

We bought the car for a mere $200 from some friends who were upgrading (I don’t blame them). When we purchased it (aka us handing them cash and them handing us the keys…how official) we had anticipated that it would only last through the summer rainy season, another two months. For less than what we spend on groceries in one month we thought it was a great deal. Little did we know that our little blue Matiz would still be chugging along two years later.
daewoo matizThe only negative with our dream car is that it wasn’t exactly legal. And by ‘not exactly’ I mean not at all. We bought it from friends who bought it from a teacher who was leaving and who never gave them any paper work in order to unsure or title it. So in the two and a half years that we had it, we never had it insured and it still technically belonged to an owner who was long gone by that point. Not the smartest choice but one we willingly made for the chance of a cheap car in a different country.

We honestly weren’t too worried though seeing as how in the almost three years we’ve lived here, we’ve never gotten pulled over and even if we were, many times cops in our town do not know much English and don’t want to deal with waygooks (foreigners) so they usually wave you on. We were golden…

Until…I walked out of class one day to my boss telling me he had very bad news. And of course I stared sweating thinking he was angry with me for playing Hangman in class…again. Turns out I had parked illegally right outside of the school (weird seeing as how there were dozens of cars surrounding mine and they were just fine) and my car had been towed. Oh and better yet, he started asking me ‘Who’s Matthew?’ Apparently they had figured out our little secret. So after a very awkward car ride with my boss to the tow station, we grabbed our things and said goodbye to our  love. They wouldn’t let us take it because well…it didn’t belong to us…technicalities. But that’s ok because we found out that there were over 70 tickets linked to the car from us and previous owners. But thankfully we didn’t have to pay those…because it didn’t belong to us.
daewoo matizSo what started as our trash car, quickly turned into our favorite and we’re sad to see Ol’ Blue go and get impounded at the end of the month. We’ll be framing the key to always remember our first little clown car in Korea.