Christmas in Korea

Christmas and Korea were two things Kitty and Santa never thought they would mutter in the same sentence, let alone use to describe an event in their lives, but there they were. Christmas in Korea. At first they were unsure how this holiday season would go. Where could they get a tree? Does anyone put up decorations? Wait, did someone just say Koreans don’t believe in SANTA? Spreading cheer for all to hear might not be as easy as they thought.

Image

The week of thanksgiving Kitty and Santa made a decision; they needed a tree. The surrounding stores didn’t have the usual Christmas selection that you run into at your Walgreens, Walmart and Target, so they decided to order one on a Korean site that they had used successfully once before. The only problem with the site is you never know exactly what you are ordering. The site has an English version, but the product descriptions are all in Korean so you have to base your selection off of the photos they provide. Kitty and Santa used there best judgement as they tried to catch a glimpse of their prospective tree. For some reason on this site all the product pictures flash and rotate, and you can never really get a good look at what you are purchasing. After hours of debating just exactly how tall a 64 cm tree would be, Kitty closed her eyes and made the decision final.  It was only a few days later when their boss let them know they had received a package. They could hardly wait for that last bell to ring. They raced downstairs to the front desk to find a rather small rectangular box sitting on the counter. It was light as a feather and equipped with a handle. Santa and Kitty skipped home and ripped open the package. From what they could remember of that fuzzy snap shot on the screen, everything was there! It wasn’t as big as they hoped, but it had lights, ornaments, a star and stood upright. Construction and decoration time took about 15 seconds total. They sang one round of Christmas tunes and it was complete. Christmas in Korea was off to a great start.

Image

A few weeks later Kitty and Santa woke up to discover it had snowed while they slept soundly in their Korean crib. Since they had been living in California for the last few years Winter was not a season they had the pleasure of experiencing, and they had forgotten how exciting it was to see everything covered in white for the first time. The kids came to school squealing, and dressed head to toe in gear. (I don’t know why they were surprised, Koreans seem to have gear for every type of climate). After school that day Santa had an idea, “I think we should go ice skating this weekend!” Kitty looked at her beaming smile and thought, this sounds like an idea you’ve had before. Then it hit her, a few years back Santa had said the same thing to her, except now she had replaced roller with ice. Fifteen minutes after showing up at the roller rink Kitty had been taken out by a middle school kid. Lets just say they made a quick exit and didn’t even stay to partake in the races for our their age group.

Kitty looked back at Santa who was still smiling ear to ear. How could she say no to that childish grin. She replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes! That sounds like fun!” Before they knew it they had located the rink, which was conveniently close to our beloved Lotte.  Upon entering the building they were greeted by two men who tried to explain to them in Korean how much they owed. Santa gave one of them some money and waited for her change. He handed the money back and Kitty realized Santa was AGAIN trying to pay for something with a bill equivalent to one dollar. After a brief recap about which bills were which, they moved onto the next desk where they were greeted by a group of girls who seemed very excited to help them. They were middle school students and their English was better then most people they come in contact with, which made them equally excited. “What size shoe?” they shouted in unison. Kitty responded with, “BIG, the biggest you have.” The girls giggled and ran into the back. After a few minutes they had their skates laced up tight, and with a small crowd of on lookers they hit the ice. It took about 30 minutes to complete one loop around the rink at which point they were herded off and scolded for not wearing helmets. The rink referee strapped a helmet on each of them, and they were dismissed. They started to really get the hang of the skating, but the most difficult part was dodging the little kids flying out in front of them. They made their exit on the rink without an injury. Successful day at the ice rink!

Image

After their ice skating excursion Kitty and Santa had picked up some cookie mix from the Lotte. The landlord in their building had been called to their apartment quite a few times since moving in only a short 2 months ago, and they decided making him some cookies would be a nice gesture. The directions on the cookie box were of course in Korean, so Kitty had to wing it.  It took her a few tries in the toaster oven, but she felt the last batch had turned out successful enough to give away. Kitty and Santa marched up to their landlords apartment without rehearsing what they were going to say if someone answered.  When their landlord cracked the door open just far enough for them to see his face, Kitty shouted Merry Christmas and Santa chimed in with a thank you in Korean and they shoved the plate through the door. He looked a bit frightened  and replied, “ok, ok…” then slamed the door in their face. They scurried back down to their apartment and locked the door behind them.  About 30 minutes later there was a knock at the door. Kitty and Santa looked at each other in sheer terror, which is their natural reaction anytime someone is at the door… and not just in Korea but back in the states as well. Usually this is followed up with a few whispers while hiding behind the couch and crossing their fingers that they remembered to lock the door. This is the result of watching too many I Survived episodes and the fact that their pajama ensembles aren’t exactly up to par. They thought maybe the landlord was there to return their cookies. Were they really that bad? Santa’s outfit was a little less embarrassing and so she opened the door and poked her head out. It was our landlord who decided to return the kind gesture and bring us some candied sweet potatoes and ginseng juice boxes. Santa thanked him, gave a bow, and locked the apartment back up.  It looks like we had made a new friend!

Image

Before they realized it Christmas eve was upon them.  Unfortunately for them most Koreans don’t celebrate Christmas like Kitty and Santa do back in the states, so they only had Christmas Day off. Christmas Eve at school was celebrated with the kids by singing carols, baking cookies, decorating trees and of course a visit from Santa (aka Edward Teacher) with a photo shoot to follow. Nothing ever goes undocumented!

Image

Image

Image

After school Kitty and Santa went home to kick off their own Christmas. They opened one present upon Santa’s request (her families tradition to open pajamas the night before so they can wake up looking fresh), had dinner, watched Christmas movies, drank some vino and made a few Skype calls to home. Santa opened presents on group Skype with her family in California and Chicago. Her dad read the Christmas story, like he does every Christmas morning. They played games and shared many many laughs. Kitty got to participate in her families traditional Christmas eve party. She was set up right next to the cheese platter so she could enjoy all the action and truly be apart of the festivities. Her favorite part of Skype is always playing with her adorable nephew.

Image

Image

They were tucked into  bed fairly early so they could get up on Christmas morning and have time to open presents and relax before preparing for their company. A few of their friends from school were coming over for a late lunch, white elephant exchange and cocktails. Everyone was in charge of bringing something and everyone took their job very seriously.  We ended up with a display that could have fed the entire school. We had cocktails, dinner, desert, more cocktails and then snacks.  By the end of the night we were stuffed and ready for bed. We distributed the left overs (somehow Kitty was left with a 5 gallon tub of chocolate ice cream) and said our goodbyes. It was so nice to spend Christmas with new friends.  They have been so helpful these first few months and without them we would be lost in this crazy Korean life. Christmas in Korea is definitely going to be one to remember!!

Image

Image

Image

IMG_1445

Image

Advertisements

Flightless

Image

Bird-wiser anyone?? The first night out in South Korea Kitty, Santa and a friend were waiting in line at a bar when a poster caught Santa’s eye. Open auditions with the Gwangju Performance Project! “Wow that would be cool” she thought, but continued on with her night without taking notes. The next morning much to her surprise she found the poster stuffed in her purse. Not remembering how it got there she decided it was a sign and she had to attend.

Kitty has always been Santa’s number one fan when it comes to her dream of becoming an actress and wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip through the cracks. Not even a whole week in SK yet and there they were figuring out the bus system. Everything was in Korean so they mapped out how many right turns the bus would take before they had to get off at their stop. They finally made it downtown when the torrential downpour began. There wasn’t an obstacle that was going to stop them from getting to this audition. They made it and 2 weeks later Santa was offered the part as “Francine” in the play Flightless.

Image

Flightless was locally written by Zac Cates.

Flightless is a heavy-handed propaganda play written for the National Socialist Audubon Society, promoting Flight Supremacy. To quote their glorious leader, Adolphin: “If you can’t fly, you might as well die”.

Image

The play was apart of a six act show and ran 2 weekends. It was an amazing experience and Santa was so happy to have met and worked with all of the talented people involved. Juggling school, a social life and rehearsals was a lot to take on for the first 3 months in Korea but it truly made Santa feel right at home. She’s excited for the next project in SK and to continue her work back in the states next year!

BIG thanks to the very talented director, Travis Major and the amazing producer & stage manager, Gail Elgersma.

Image

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler

What are we missing?

photo 2

WHAT ARE KITTY AND SANTA MISSING MOST? When asked this question one would think there would be a long list of things that Kitty and Santa would be able to ramble off, but there aren’t many items that they can’t get their hands on in Korea. After discussing this via Skype with Santa’s Dad the other evening he jotted down a few things to send her for Christmas; coco wheats (She hasn’t had it since she was 12 years old but now that she can’t have it she wants it), hair product, medicine, trail mix and a few favorite desserts.  All that talk of Coco Wheats triggered her dad’s memory and he sang the complete jingle from the commercial he remembered from when he was a kid.  Kitty and Santa were very impressed…you know you want to sing along!

tumblr_mamickizKJ1qael56o1_500

From the looks of our list you can see there are a few things Kitty and Santa miss, but they are definitely not necessities.   Most of what they long for can not be packed up into a tiny box and mailed across the world for a hefty price, but in case you were wondering…

1. The number one thing Kitty and Santa miss is without a doubt family and friends, especially because their family members are their closest friends. This is the furthest and longest they will both be away from home. Luckily with Skype, iMessage, and email they get to see everyone’s faces sometimes more often than they did living in California. Luckily their parents have finally figured out where the camera is on the computer so they no longer have to stare at foreheads or up nostrils. Although technology makes a huge difference it is still hard being away, especially during the holidays.

skype

kittys fam

313044_10100113189180099_789632539_n

395878_10100239300906189_152840521_n

2. Sriracha. Before kitty and Santa left for SK they were thinking of things that they could not do without. Of course this savory chili sauce came to mind and Kitty thought they should pack a few bottles. Santa stopped her, “Kit it’s Asia. Of course they will have Sriracha. That’s the one thing we don’t need to bring.” Duh Kitty thought. She must have been having a blonde moment. Well they were wrong. Sriracha is yet to be spotted in South Korea and things haven’t been the same without it. As some of you know Sriracha goes on everything and with every meal. It’s kind of like kimchi for most Americans.

srara
3. Sandwiches and Salads. These are two of kitty and Santa’s favorite dishes. Unlike most restaurants back home, there are no sandwich or salad sections on the menus over here.  Sometimes there aren’t even menus (not that we would be able to read them anyway). Nor are there delis on every corner. The closest we get to a salad is when they serve a side of cabbage smothered in mayo.  It is surprisingly delicious, but the amount of mayo kind of offsets the health benefits.

cabbage
4. Trader joes, farmers markets and  juicing. These three things had became part of Santa and Kitty’s daily or weekly routines back at home. Although the Lotte Mart is 17 times the size of Trader Joes it doesn’t compare to what the good ole TJ had to offer. There aren’t Farmers Markets on Saturdays in Little Italy like they were use to back in San Diego, and the produce selection is scarce and expensive.  Without these two places and no blender our dream of juicing in SK faded fast:( Santa’s dad said he’s going to send some apples in a care package. It will be interesting to see how that works itself out.

juice
5. Bar Method and Yoga.  Santa and Kitty had really gotten into the routine of dropping into these classes everyday after work. Now they settle for long walks around the reservoir and hauling groceries back from the Lotte. They have yet to check out the free outdoor gyms at the park, but once the snow melts off the equipment you might be able to spot them trying to blend in with the locals.

barmethodhtx-46_600
6. Target. Not much to say here. If you shop at target then you know what we are talking about. The majority of the time we pay this place a visit we don’t even need anything, but always manage to fill the cart. We miss just wandering around Target for hours on Sundays and exploring EVERY section. Once our rounds were complete we would look at the clock and say to each other, “WOW we basically just worked out for 2 hours!”

Target Christmas

Now you can see what we are talking about. These things cannot fit in a box to be shipped over to Korea. Well besides Sriracha, which Santa and Kitty have at the top of their wish lists this year:) Thank you to all the wonderful family & friends that sent Kitty and Santa cards & cheer this time of year! We can’t wait to spend the holidays with you all next year!!