Christmas abroad can be a funny time of year. Especially when you’re living in an Asian country where it’s not really a thing. You’re reminded of all the things that you miss out on by choosing to live away – the parties, dinners, board games, family and friends all together. Everyone is in the same boat though and so we organised a busy weekend of festivities to have our own Christmas out here.
Korea traditionally doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but it has recently developed into a couples holiday. I’ve been surprised by how many lights and decorations have gone up around the city, giving Daegu a fairly festive feel. Along the river an open air ice rink has also opened up (costing one dollar!) so Christmas Eve activities were nice and wintery.
I went to parties both evenings over the weekend with other native teachers or frisbee players. We did a ‘white elephant’ gift exchange, which I’d never done before, and is similar to secret santa, but you buy a generic gift rather than for someone, then there’s a choosing and stealing game to determine what present you end up with. My highlight being some fleecy warm ajumma pants that were duly worn around the city on Christmas Eve. The parties were a ton of fun with good food, alcohol and company!
Christmas day was spent with a short hike in some nearby hills before coffee and cards when we eventually found a cafe that wasn’t full. Unlike England, where cities would be ghost-like, Daegu was absolutely packed with people. I received the most gifts I’ve ever gotten whilst living abroad – so thank-you very much! I have lots of snacks, drinks and puzzle books to get me through the winter desk warming period.
The end of year for teaching is well and truely done. I think I have a total of 7 classes left to teach this week and then the long winter of desk warming will start – school restarts in March next year. To end the year I threw an English Christmas Festival which drew most of my energy for the past week.
My students have been earning paper money as rewards for participating in class and after deciding I was spending too much money on candy in term one this term I said I’d throw a festival instead. The school gave me a very generous budget of $330 and so countless candy, doughnuts, rinks and gift vouchers were bought. There were 7 different stalls that I created around my classroom for the kids to play from guess the height of the snowman to snowball shot and a dice rolling game that definitely wasn’t gambling…
I was slightly stressed throughout Friday as I went through last minute preparations, dealt with the school changing its timetable and praying that I had enough third grade volunteers to come and run the event. Luckily it all went smoothly and I had around 400 students in and out the classroom over the 90 minutes! One of my co-teachers was taking photos that I’m yet to get, but this is my classroom before the carnage happened.
It’s very weird to think that year one is done. Despite the fact my contract isn’t actually finished until late February, with teaching done it certainly feels like it’s all over. By this time next year I’ll have had to figure out what happens next! Having this year without having to think about my next visa or destination has been wonderful though and doing a second year in a country will be a fun experience – actually semi-knowing what’s going on!