Thursday, December 25, 2008

God bless us, every one

My Christmas in Korea started off with two strikes against me. Three, really, but that messes up my metaphor. (My alliteration is magnificent, however.) About 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, my heating oil ran out. As it was (and is) below freezing, this is not so good. But people were still at the school, and I called, and they called, and the tank was filled again within a half hour. Then my electric heater, which sits two feet from the computer when I'm at the computer and two feet from the bed when I'm in bed, died. Then this morning, stumbling around fresh out of bed, I hit the coffee carafe on the cabinet and smashed it.

(The day before, the mother of a girl we'd helped with her college prep and the admission process-- my contribution was to edit [well, practically rewrite] her essays- was so happy that her daughter was accepted at both Caltech and Penn that she dropped by with a big thank-you gift to the school, and Heeduk gave me 300,000 Won from it. That's about 210 bucks and it paid for the heating oil.)

I'd planned to go with friends to see "Australia" at the IMAX downtown, then to Hami Mami's for the big Christmas buffet, but Heeduk emailed me on Christmas morning, asking me to come to work for three hours, for which he'd pay me 100,000 Won. I didn't want to, but I had a heater and a carafe to buy, so I made my apologies about missing the movie and went. (It turned out that I ended up watching kids take the SAT practice test for half the time, so in a fit of temporary Yuletide insanity, I told Heeduk he might just as well just pay me half. He took me up on it, which frankly surprised me a bit. In retrospect, that's really only about twelve bucks an hour, which isn't enough for going in at the last minute on Christmas. Ah, well, maybe he'll think well of me... or maybe he's going "Sucker!")

The buffet (with my friends Raymond, Luke, and Sandi) was terribly disappointing for awhile; it was poorly run and chaotic, they'd run out of turkey and were an hour late getting more shipped in from the other Hami Mami's near Camp Walker: it was a huge, tense mess. The only good thing was hearing so much English spoken; I may have seen more Americans there than I have cumulatively seen in nearly four months here.

Finally, though, the new turkeys were brought in from the bullpen, I saw them being carried in and told my friends and they didn't have to wait in the line that snaked all the way up the stairs, I had some coffee and dessert, and I felt much more mellow. (Oh! And last night I was sad that there are no Christmas cookies-- pine trees, angels, bells-- in Korea, and today one of the Korean teachers, not knowing of my feelings, brought some in that she had made! But I digress. And digest.)

When we went back to the dorm just past dark, Sandi insisted on lending me some cd's to transfer to MP3 and some books, I found the excellent little lending library the teachers had set up at the dorm, and I began to feel a lot better. The cold, cold air felt so good that I didn't put on my gloves or hat, and then, walking to the bus stop, I came upon the Bell Park and its decorations: rows of trees wound about with white lights, with hundreds of cobalt blue lights hanging like a canopy between them, making a kind of lovely bower; reindeer made of white lights; Santa's sleigh, highlighted with lights, with young couples and families lined up to take pictures of themselves sitting on the sleigh. And then I offered to take a young couple's picture with their camera. And the air was cold and crisp and clear and fresh. And a star (Venus, actually) hung in the East.

And then it was Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on Earth.

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