Before I start, here is a requisite dose of cuteness from Kindergarten:
Christmas in Korea was a pretty quiet affair. I went to a friend's house for Christmas dinner, and since all apartments of foreigners are minuscule by definition, we ate in her kitchen/livingroom/diningroom/foyer on the floor. She spread out a little picnic blanket and we all had little cushions to sit on. Everyone brought some food - though most everyone brought some desert so the sweets far outnumbered the actual food.
The eight of us at the feast ate our way through two chickens, a large amount of mashed potatoes, a large salad (provided by me!), steamed vegetables, and a large assortment of pastries, cookies, and breads.
Maria, our hostess, lives in the boonies (and by 'boonies' I mean 'not close to a subway station' which, to me, is a deal breaker) so she had her boyfriend D.H. (the D.H. stands for his Korean name which I have now forgotten. His English is very good because he works for a company that sells scents to perfume manufacturers and the like. You know the new car smell? Yep, they make that) pick Leslie and I up from our neighborhood.
We were halfway to Maria's when it became obvious that traffic was going to make us ridiculously late. Its normally this way on Saturdays, but I guess it was a little worse because it was Christmas. D.H. suggested we abscond with our cargo (the chickens, vegetables and cookies destined for our Christmas dinner) to the east coast because he didn't want to sit in traffic another second and no one else was going that way. We were enthusiastic about the idea until we realized that Maria would murder us all with a blunt object. So, we resigned ourselves to sitting in traffic all day.
I spent the two days leading up to this gathering ingredients for gingerbread cookies. Since nutmeg and cloves are not really very popular in Korea - in fact, I couldn't find them anywhere I looked - I had to travel all the way to Itaewon and the foreign food market (run by an Indian family) to find them. Even then, I found only whole cloves and whole nutmegs. At the time, this didn't bother me because I figured I could find something to grind them with. I did not consider how HARD nutmegs are. My finger still aches from the good hour it took me to grind even a quarter of a teaspoon of powder from those stupid things. The cloves were easier once I figured out that the stems were not worth grinding. I used fresh Korean ginger (sold at the supermarket on a counter filled with all sorts of seaweed and ginseng) which was not nearly as hard to grind. The end result was well worth it, however, because after the painstaking process of chilling the dough, pounding it flat on the microscopic counter space in my kitchen, cutting it out and cooking them in a borrowed toaster oven, I had a huge bag full of DELICIOUS gingerbread cookies shaped like, of all things, cars, fishes and dogs. Not sure what these things have to do with each other, but they came as a set and I don't question Daiso*.
The school also had a Christmas party which, as I was informed the day before, I was supposed to play Rudolph. Matthew, my co-teacher, was supposed to be Santa. So the kids sat down in the playroom to eat all their delicious food and sang some christmas carols (or really, sang gibberish to the tune of Christmas carols) while they ate.
I like this picture because Christina has just discovered I am taking picture of everyone while she has her mouth hanging open.
This I am posting to placate their vanity should they ever see this page.
Matthew and I, after eating, got dressed in the staff room. We both had on santa-esque suits and hats but I had on a pair of glasses with a huge red nose and antlers, and a scarf wrapped around my head to hide my hair. Matthew had a huge white beard (and mustache!) and glasses on. Not his glasses, though he has some, but Mr. Kim's glasses. We finished up the outfits with lipstick on Matthew's nose and my cheeks. I hope this picture does us justice:
When we came running in the kids were all shouting who they thought we were. Of course, it wasn't hard to guess. There aren't that many teachers and many of them were there in the room. Still, Matt and I bravely maintained our facade. I had to guide Matt into the room because he couldn't see through Mr. Kim's glasses (I was his seeing-eye reindeer!). We were responsible for giving out presents from under the tree (the parents had all sent them in over the course of the last week) and had to pretend not to know which kid was which. They left one kid for the end because he is very badly behaved and Christina called him out in front of all the other kids, saying she wasn't sure that Santa had a present for him because he had such bad manners. I felt sorry for him, but I know that's just becasue of my culture. In Korea, social controls involve the whole population. The way you get a kid to behave is point out that his behavior is not acceptable to the society as a whole. In America, we would probably have taken the kid aside and given him a one-on-one talk about how his behavior was not acceptable. In Korea, the punishment for being bad is having your entire peer group know it, bringing ridicule from those you want most to accept you. To you or me it may seem harsh, but its worked for thousands of years over here.
After we were through with the gift giving, Matt and I went into the storage closet to change and came out demanding to know why no one told us Santa and Rudolph were going to stop by. We told everyone that we had gone out for lunch and had missed the whole thing. I even convinced Kiwi (five year olds) for a couple days that this was the case.
Apricot (four year olds), however, was having none of it. In an unprecedented show of deductive reasoning, Clare pointed out to me that I was, in fact, wearing the same shoes that Rudolph had. I tried to play it off by exclaming "Rudolph has my shoes?" but they were having none of it. They were too smart for me. I even got it on tape:
Clare is the one making dramatic gestures towards my footwear and Paul is there trying to make me understand that he thinks I was Rudolph. He's so cute and completely without guile. He honestly thought I didn't understand what he was trying to tell me and was upset becuase he likes to be able to communicate properly. His mother tells me that when he's at home, he gets frustrated when he can't form full sentences.
I have to work this week, but thankfully only for Monday through Wedensday. After that, we get a four day weekend and I am back to work. So, I am going to chill hard core this weekend. Can one actually 'chill hard core'? Oh, well, I intend to find out.
*Daiso is like a dollar store that sells things that are actually useful: pots and pans, kitchen equiptment, makeup, toiletries, potting materials, books, crafts, etc.