Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Caleen and I at Jungangtap Park.

Caleen, Sherry and I at Jungangtap.

Our friends Sherry and Mi Ok

Mi Ok and Sherry displaying their gifts.

Our cute little Christmas tree!

Happy Holidays! We hope this year’s Christmas season brought you all some refreshment and fun. Despite being thousands of miles from home and familiarity, it’s certainly been a good season for us. We’ve been so thankful for the love and friendship of those near and far and, most of all, for the Hope that dawned so many years ago and continues to shed its light in this present time.

As you might have guessed, Christmas in Korea isn’t quite what it’s made to be in the States. In fact, in some areas (ahem - Chung-ju), you’d be hard-pressed to find any clue that the Christmas season was upon us. People generally do as they have been all year – working, shopping, working, eating, etc. And while there are some people here who celebrate Christmas, it’s done pretty casually. From what we could gather, families usually go out to eat for dinner and give gifts, though fewer than the much preferred holiday of Lunar New Year, when children receive money from an assortment of relatives, including extended family.

In the midst of this considerably scaled-down Christmas environment, Caleen and I were something like yuletide cheerleaders, imparting holiday cheer whenever possible. Because we are about to begin another session in school, we had some extra time to pretty much do what we wanted, so we used it to share how Christmas is celebrated in America and teach Christmas carols in English. Though I received some groans whenever I giddily passed out a new stack of yet-to-be-sung carols, I think they liked it. They seemed curious to know how things go in the perceived wonderland that is America, so it was fun to tell them about our customs and even a few family traditions, though I was careful to leave out the Semi-Annual Impromptu Christmas Eve Dance Party held at our Dad’s house. I didn’t want to give them the impression that everyone did the funky chicken and electric slide at Christmas time.

On Christmas day, Caleen and I were in for yet another harried holiday relay, though of a different variety. We usually spend our Christmas Eve’s and Christmas days visiting pockets of friends and relatives all over the Boise area, often wrapping gifts between destinations, but this year was naturally different. Having opened our gifts to each other the night before (naughty, I know), Caleen and I got up and rushed off to the home of our friends, Isaac and Erin. There we had the typical American celebratory breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon and played games with new and newer friends. It was a good time. We played the infamous ‘What if…Game’ and Spoons, throughout which we discussed the highlights of the night before (i.e. Isaac choking down a can of dog food for 50,000 won). When we finished there, Caleen and I rushed home to tidy up our apartment and prepare another meal for our esteemed Christmas guests; Sherry, a student from school, and Mi Ok, Sherry’s mentor/past social worker.

To give you a little more info on how this came about, you should know that it came about through one of Caleen’s aforementioned ice cream socials at Baskin Robin’s. As a student of hers, Sherry came with her mentor, Mi Ok, and the new friendship started from there. Sherry had told Mi Ok a lot about Caleen, and so Mi Ok wanted to meet her and get to know her better. By the end of their meeting, they had formed plans to go to lunch and Jungangtap, a park near Chung-ju which features a 7 story pagoda to indicate the center of Korea. When the day came, Mi Ok, Sherry, Caleen, and I went and had a wonderful time. In addition to seeing the pagoda at Junangtap, we also visited a local, privately own liquor museum and sculpture park, during which we got to learn a little more about Sherry’s home situation. For reasons still not completely known to us, Sherry’s parents divorced when she was five and was sent to live with her grandmother, who went blind three years ago. Now twelve years old, Sherry has to care for her grandmother alone while attending school and two after-school hagwons. Needless to say, much of her childhood has been taken from her. One of the only sources of relief and fun for her is her weekly meeting with Mi Ok, who though no longer being her social worker, has continued to mentor and care for Sherry. Mi Ok even has a huge photo album devoted to chronicling Sherry’s childhood. Anyway as we said our goodbyes, we were so touched by the beauty of their relationship that we decided that we would like to have them over as our Christmas guests.

Having a despairingly small kitchen with no oven, there really isn’t a whole lot we could have prepared in the way of traditional Christmas foods, so Caleen and I settled for a spaghetti dinner. Despite the absence of some preferred ingredients, things turned out pretty well, and we enjoyed our time with Sherry and Mi Ok. Though neither of them really celebrate Christmas, both of them bought gifts for us. Sherry used what little pocket money she probably had to buy a Monet notebook for Caleen and a lap blanket for me. It was so sweet. Mi Ok then presented her gift of several photos she’d taken of us at Jungangtap and a picture frame. We felt so special. We weren’t expecting anything from them. We then gave them their gifts from us, cleverly wrapped in the Christmas stockings we weren’t ever going to use again. They loved them. We knew Sherry loved Harry Potter books but had never seen a Harry Potter movie, so we bought her a Harry Potter DVD. We also bought Mi Ok one of those lovely bath and lotion sets so popular with us and women worldwide. We then all sat on Caleen’s bed to watch Sherry’s new Harry Potter DVD, eat cookies (Thanks, Judy!), and drink hot chocolate. Unfortunately, Sherry was called home to feed her grandmother in the middle of the movie, so they had to leave a little prematurely, but it was a special night. We felt blessed to have them over and hope to spend more time with them.

Well, that’s all for now. In closing, we wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We hope to write again soon with our thoughts on the new year!


Janet Fonnesbeck said...

What an interesting update. I love reading how you spent your holiday. You two are giving your new friends such a good witness of our Lord. God Bless.
Janet F.

KristinDewey said...

Thanks for the update!!! Ash, I totally miss your spaghetti!!!! Was it missing loads of garlic?? LOL! I figured that was something you didn't have that you mentioned you needed. Anyway, so good to read about your experiences and friendships God is building there for you. Keep lettin those lights shine!!! Love you both!!!!

Dan and Mandi said...

We want to hear from you again! What is going on?
Mandi P.