Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas in my Apartment


As I mentioned before, I have take the liberty of decorating my small corner of the world here in Seoul. I live in an office-tel - basically an apartment for one. My mom commented when she arrived in October that walking down the hallway of my apartment kind of looked like walking down a cell-block in a state penitentiary. I can't blame her - the hallways are rather cold and foreboding, but once inside let me tell you - it's a pretty cool little place.

It's even better at Christmas time. I got the lights up on the picture window, the old Korean Christmas tree running it's third tour of duty with pig-in-diapers-with-a-crown-on-its-head ornament hung with care. That's about it, though there are some Christmas cards from home, a few candles and a Totoro curtain hanging from the entrance way. I've got pictures from home, Roger Whittaker and a few others on call on itunes and the speakers given to me by Ray, and I've got Time Horton's coffee in the cupboard and short-bread in the freezer.

In my walk-up loft, I have a few mattresses ready for guests on Christmas Eve. That's going to be good. In less than a week, my place will be permeated with the smell of my vegetarian chili - a smell that has for me become as synonymous with Christmas as pine trees and Christmas morning blend coffee. I will write about Christmas Eve after the fact, but for now I can look forward to it. I will have 8 or 10 friends coming to hang-out, eat a pot-luck, play games (Catan and others), watch a Christmas movie or two, and chat with wine glass in hand - long into the night.

In less than an hour, I've got a skype-call lined-up with mom and dad and my good friend from home - Ben. Ben was around near the original days of my annual "It's a Wonderful Life" Christmas parties. They were good, and they grew. I believe that I got all the way up to the "15th annual" before heading off to Korea. These years, Benny makes sure to contact my parents each holiday season for a get-together. My parents miss my friends as much as they miss me, so it works out well.

So, today, before heading out for our first Christmas Caroling gig (more on that later), Sung Sook and I will be opening gifts via skype with mom and dad back home. Their package arrived here in Seoul about a month ago now - they were on a mission once they got home. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree - Douglas even tried to see what was inside, but to no avail.

Speaking of packages, allow me to relate a quick tale of good fortune and good karma. A while back, my brother back home, Janos, put me in touch with two friends of his that he knew through the ever-expanding Calgary Theatre Scene, Neil and Emiko. I had met Neil once at a neighbour's house party about three years ago. I had seen Neil and Emiko on stage in various productions in Calgary, but never really got to know them at all beyond a "hello".

Anyway, Janos put us in touch for the reason that they were planning a trip to Korea to teach. We facebooked from time to time, they asked a few questions, I answered them, and they made their way here in late November. Unfortunately, their hagwon didn't work out. It's a big one, but not the right one. Neil had taught previously in China, so this wasn't a case of culture shock so much as it was a case of two people facing the reality of the next year of their lives and making the call to back away rather than deal with being miserable until this time next year.

Thinking they might need a place to stay while they figured their stuff out, I offered my loft. I'm going to be honest here - I nearly wanted to suck-back the words as soon as I typed them on facebook chat. The thing is - I didn't really know these people. My apartment is small, and by the sounds of things, they stay would be indefinite - not a comfortable situation for me, or for the newly married couple who had suddenly found themselves stranded in Asia.

However, if the situation were reversed, I know that I would have been grateful for the offer - coming as it was from someone from "home". Neil and Emiko ended-up staying less than a week. They found another position before heading home to Calgary for Christmas, and they will be back here in January to start their new jobs.

Now that they are gone, I have to say that I immediately missed them. Truly good people, and I'm not just saying that for their benefit as I know that they are unaware that this blog exists. My initial hesitance at offering them a place came mostly from the fact that I had been stupid busy of late - rather bitter at school, and not the best guy in the best mood to be a host of any kind. Good people do bring the good out in me though. I was sorry in a way to see them go, but glad they'll be back in January for a visit before heading south to Geoje Island to teach.

What I am also truly grateful for is "Neil and Emiko's One-Day Trans-Pacific Delivery Service." While I am keeping some of their heavier baggage until January, Neil and Emiko offered to take my two substantial Christmas packages back home with them on the airplane. Mom, dad, and the rest of my family had their gifts from me, from Seoul, almost within the same day of them leaving (considering the time change). It comes around. Thanks, guys.

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