As I write this I know my family, and most other families in the UK, are spending the day eating, drinking, watching movies, eating, drinking, playing card games, eating, drinking, and recovering from all the eating and drinking achieved yesterday (on Christmas day) and the day before (Christmas Eve). Having decided to extend my contract here in Korea by a few months, I’m celebrating my second Christmas away from home. I also just realised that, unfortunately, if the next year goes as planned, it will be the second of three Christmases that I won’t be home for.
This year was a lot different to last year thanks to advanced planning and having been in the country more than two weeks. I realised early on that Christmas day would be very hard to get right. We only get one day off and Josh and I are back to work on boxing day (which is right now actually). Because of this we decided to have Christmas early and made plans to celebrate Christmas on the weekend before. This turned out to be a good idea.
If there was any excitement about Christmas here in Korea then I didn’t see it. The only place that got Christmassy was Myeongdong, and this is unsurprising as its the shopping centre of Seoul. That, and the Christmas songs being blasted out in phone shops and coffee shops, were the only indications that Christmas was coming.
Susie went to London a few months ago and brought back two items. Sailor Jerry’s dark rum, which I got a taste for before coming out here, and Bisto gravy granules, for a proper roast dinner. She surprised me with two bottles of rum and no less than three packs of gravy. We decided to have a proper Christmas dinner on the Saturday before the three of us, plus the newest addition, Brendan, a friend of Josh’s from home who has moved to Seoul to teach for a year, went out to party.
Friday night arrived and Brendan and Susie come to Bupyeong for the night. Drinks were flowing and around 4am we made the less-than-sober decision to message everyone we know and invite them round for dinner. Unsurprisingly, most had plans already but our party of four became a party of eight by the next morning.
The next morning we all had headaches and lots to do. My jobs included going to buy Josh’s present, a fish tank, getting to Seoul, shopping for food and then cooking it before people started to arrive at Susie’s house at 7pm. Josh and Brendon had to do some Christmas shopping in Seoul and were also tasked with buying the alcohol for the party.
I managed to get the tank, meet Susie and get the food without too much trouble. I’d never cooked a full(ish) Christmas dinner before and lots of the cooking was guesswork. I couldn’t tell you how long everything was cooking for, I honestly have no idea. Before the cooking was finished I sped off to the station to meet our friends, Ted and his girlfriend Alice, Alejandro and Irene. Most arrived on time but Irene never appeared. I borrowed Alejandro’s phone and called her.
“Hey Irene, it’s James”
“Hello, I’m confused.” She said, sounding confused.
“I’m just wondering where you are. I’m waiting at the station.”
“Aren’t we meeting tomorrow?” She asked
Turns out sending texts at 4am can cause some confusion. She, and two others it turned out, had thought we were meeting on Sunday. We headed up to the house without her.
We had a good time at the house, dinner came out alright and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Ted and Alice had to leave before midnight but Irene turned up and we ended up chatting and playing drinking games until it was time to go, to Itaewon.
Josh isn’t a fan of Itaewon, which is a little more classy and expensive than Hongdae, the student spot. I don’t think this visit changed his mind but I had a great time, and I only had to lie about my job once. Having started much earlier than usual we ended up finishing much earlier and got home before 5am.
We slept pretty late on Sunday and had a late lunch. We decided to go to Seoul to pick up our things from Susie’s and clean the house. To our surprise the house was spotless when we arrived, her brother had very kindly done the cleaning earlier.
So that was our Christmas, a little early but definitely a good idea. As I said, it was going to be hard to get Christmas day right. For Christmas day itself, check out part 2, where Josh goes fishing in a toilet.