Emotionally, I knew that Christmas Eve was going to be a very difficult time for me–the holidays (when you are away from your family and friends) are always difficult. However, the morning was quite busy so I was pretty distracted for most of it. I needed to finish buying gifts for the Better World Staff/my resident directors (주연쌤, 소야쌤, and 민정쌤) as well as my Korean teacher so after taking a shower, getting my presents in order, and packing things for our Christmas party, I went to 홍대 to complete my Christmas shopping.
I wanted to buy macaroons from Blanc Bakery, but when I got there, they were literally out of every single flavor except for passion fruit I think? So I skipped out on that bakery and went to Daiso to buy dry erase markers for my Korean teacher. (I wanted to get her a variety of colors to use during class.) And eventually, I ended up walking several blocks to a Tous Les Jours to find macaroons for everyone (green tea, lemon, and grape flavors). A bit before noon, I was able to meet up with Katie at a cafe where I wrapped my gifts and memorized my Korean class presentation while Katie worked on letters for her teacher and then later did a part of her homework too.
During Korean class, we just reviewed most of the new grammar points that would be appearing on our monthly test. We mostly just went through the points and created example sentences to go along with them. My teacher seemed to really like the thoughtfulness of the gift (Though I know they are not the best quality seeing that they were only 1,000 Won dry erase markers from Daiso). She also said that my card was really well written! I did upload it on HelloTalk to have it edited… but most of it was written by me without any translating it! So I was happy to know that I did pretty well–especially with using formal language.
I also gave my gifts to the other Better World 쌤s (which included tissues, hand sanitizers, and hot/cold packs along with a macaroon) and they seemed to really like the letters too. 주연쌤 and 민정쌤 gave me some of the warmest hugs which made me feel very happy–I needed a hug at that moment!
Once class was over, we were on our way to begin celebrating Christmas with a Christmas party at a hostel with the rest of the NSLI-Y students. Josh, Jacquelyn, and I walked with 소야쌤 to the subway station and from there we went to the hostel we would be spending the night at. We had to all anxiously wait in the lobby for awhile because Kaitlyn, Harmony, and Hunter were decorating the room with Christmas decorations.
When we finally got to go up to the room, we were all beyond amazed at the decorations; they had done an amazing job turning the room into a Christmas wonderland. They used garlands and string lights to make a tree on the wall that looked so pretty~ We all placed our presents under the makeshift tree which made it look that much more real. (It eventually fell off the wall about 40 minutes into the party but it was nice while it lasted!) They also made stockings for every single person and hung them (along with garland) along the windowsill. (There was also a photo opportunity made with wrapping paper and red and green balloons.) They definitely worked so hard in preparing the decorations (and all the games) and I could not thank those three enough for making our Christmas special!
We were all told to bring some snacks to the party so we had so much food to go around (including the pizza and fried chicken that 민정쌤 ordered for us). They also bought hot chocolate packs so that we could make some later in the night. Luckily, there was a water dispenser that had both hot and cold water at the hostel so during the middle of the night we all went out into the hallway carrying our cups and packets in order to make hot chocolate.
We dug into the food first because we were all so hungry after Korean class. After eating, we did our secret Santa gift exchange. We started off with Katie who gave her gift to Harmony and then from there, we all passed out our gifts until the circle finally ended up coming back around to Katie with a gift from Mckenzie.
My secret Santa was June and she got me some of the best gifts ever! She must have asked around about my likes because she was able to figure out that my favorite animals are pigs and bought me pig-themed items from Daiso and Butter. I received a pair of pig slippers, a pig coin purse, and this big round pig stuffed animal. (Katie actually gave me the same pig stuffed animal but in a mini size for my birthday.) They were all very cute–Thank you June! After I got my gift, I gave my secret Santa present to Jack after explaining that it was based on an inside joke. When he opened the gift and pulled out the bigfoot plush, everyone started laughing and asking what the joke was which led Katie and me to explain the joke to the group. He passed around the stuffed animal to others in the group and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I know Jack will not really use it? But I hope he appreciates the effort I put into the gift and the thought that went into it!
But also I need to bring up the fact that Josh and Liam came to the Christmas party and changed into fuzzy pink pajamas made for females. It was so funny seeing them looking so ridiculous. I could not take them seriously. Especially, when I looked at how short the pajama pants were. They are always pulling something crazy! (민정쌤 definitely enjoyed taking photos of them!)
After the gift exchange, we began to play the Christmas version of Hot Potato (All planned out and prepared by Harmony). It involved passing around this huge present in a circle and whenever the music stopped and it landed in the hands of one of the NSLI-Y students, they would have to unwrap a layer. Each layer had little notes of what the person needed to do (both good and bad things). So the present started off as this huge box and then with each unwrapping it got smaller and smaller until it ended up being an ornament filled with candy. This game was so much fun and the tasks were really funny too. Here are some examples:
Say Ho Ho Ho after every sentence for the rest of the game
Wear this Christmas Head Accessory for the rest of the game
Wrap someone up as a present (anyone of your choosing)
Get wrapped up like a snowman by the person on your right
Get fed something by the person on your left (while blindfolded)
Sing a Christmas song (song choice by the person on your right)
Call your Mom sing Silent Night to her (no context)
Create and perform a 12 Days of NSLI-Y Christmas
Etc etc etc
The best moments of the game were definitely when Shada wrapped up 민정쌤 as a present (and even added a bow to the top of her head– the one from my present to Jack), Kaitlyn turning Katie into a snowman with a roll of toilet paper, and last but not least, June calling her mom back in America (it was probably like 5 am on the East Coast) to sing Silent Night. I was so surprised that her mom picked up and her grogginess and delirious responses just added to the whole moment. (We all also tried so hard to keep our composure and not make too much noise by laughing.) What a great game!
After playing hot present (would that be the name of the game?), we started a blindfolded cookie decorating contest. There were two rounds of 4 people and at the end of the contest, Addie and Jenna proved to be tied as the winners. During this time, Kaitlyn and I discovered that the lighting in the bathroom was perfect for selfies so it is safe to assume that we took advantage (because yes, yes we did).
Eventually, it got close to 9 pm and so the 쌤s were getting ready to leave us for the rest of night after giving us instructions for tonight as well as tomorrow morning. She brought back 닭발 (chicken feet) and other foods that are commonly eaten with it as well as a light up Christmas cake (This was her Christmas gift to us~) Mckenzie, Katie, Shada, and I cut the cake after we sang happy birthday but switching out the words “happy birthday” for “Merry Christmas.” I recently got to try chicken feet when we had the exchange day camp with the all-girls tourism high school and besides the weird texture of the cartilage, it really was not bad at all. But for some reason, these were literally the spiciest things I have ever eaten. Even though I am not Korean, I consider myself someone who can eat spicy food well. I really love 김치찌개 for example. Though that is the case, this one piece (this one foot of a chicken) burned my mouth for about 15 minutes after I ate it. I literally almost drank an entire water bottle trying to calm my mouth down because it was literally burning and my eyes teared up so badly. Yeah, I will say that my experiences with 닭발 have really not been too good to me.
Once we stuffed ourselves with more food, snacks, and cake, we ended up splitting up into the two hostel rooms (one was for those who planned to stay up late while the other one was going to be for those that plan on actually getting some sleep). The party room (AKA the #teamnosleep room) consisted of Harmony, Shada, Jenna, Josh, Liam, Jacquelyn, Addie, Jack, Hunter, and me. At first, we all just hung out, sitting in a circle–mostly on our phones–chatting about all sorts of stuff. This also ended up turning into a limbo contest somehow? Either Hunter or Josh won; I can not remember exactly.
Eventually, Home Alone was turned on and having seen it the day prior with my host family, I left with Josh to visit the girls in the other room. They were all chilling in this lounge area (as Jacquelyn and Mckenzie went to bed early) making ramen (which they purchased from the vending machine). I did not eat ramen (too much cake I tell you!) but I did share banana milk with Kaitlyn. For some reason, the quiet and calm atmosphere made me start thinking about the fact that it was Christmas (it was past midnight at this point) and that I was not with my family–my first Christmas away from family. This made me start crying so Kaitlyn and I hurried over to the stairwell before anyone else could notice and I started balling my eyes out. Kaitlyn never properly celebrated Christmas but she could still understand my feelings and helped comfort me. (Thank you for the hug Kaitlyn; I am definitely a hugger <3) I was crying and crying standing in that stairwell at 3 am. I eventually stopped crying and turned to laughter when I looked out the window to see that the roads were still filled with cars at 3 in the morning on Christmas day. Kaitlyn thought I was going crazy as I explained that it was funny to see that Seoulites really do not sleep. This led us to talk about the fact that they stay up late but sleep in (a lot of places do not open till 10 or 11 am– even breakfast places sometimes) which distracted me for the moment from all my emotions.
Then, maybe because we were deliriously tired, a big group of us decided to go outside and do a cinnamon roll hug like the one we did in 안동 as well as just huddle together and talk for a while. It was so very cold outside but we still decided to hang out there for quite a while? Yeah, I do not know what was going through our minds either.
Eventually, it was 4:30 am and we laid out all the futons on the floor and got ready for bed. Luckily, we did not have to get up until around 8:30 am so we would not completely be lacking sleep tomorrow morning but… it definitely was not the doctor recommended 8 hours of sleep. But I was happy. Although, I missed my mother extremely and the traditions that we had (that I knew would not be completed the following day…) but I was happy to be surrounded by all these amazing individuals that genuinely made me feel supported and happy. This was not a typical Christmas Eve; it was my first Christmas Eve away from family and my first one abroad–in Korea. However, it will be one to remember~
That is all for this blog post~ I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and spent it with ones you love (even if it that does not include your family). I hope that you surrounded yourself with people that will always love and support you this Christmas~ Thank you for reading~ Till next time.
- Emma 엠마