Friday, December 25, 2009

And so this is Christmas

It's dinnertime on Christmas day and I'm in for the night. All day there was an odd grayness in the air, which seems to always be the case in Seoul when the winter warms up a little. It isn't fog, it isn't smog... you know how the air looks in the distance when it's snowing over there someplace? It's like that all day here, but there's no snow, there's just gray. My steel-gray windbreaker blends right in; I was going to call this entry "Don we now our gray apparel", but that sounded too negative.

I'm off for ten days. This week at school, we had our little Christmas party with the students on Wednesday evening (I wore my Santa suit) and took a field trip yesterday to the Seoul Art Center, which has an exhibit on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are Monets and Picassos, Van Goghs and Liechtensteins, O'Keeffes and Wyeths. I'm whatever the equivalent of tone-deaf is when it comes to art, but I was glad to be there, especially to see the Wyeths; as is required for a middle-brow American, he's my favorite.

I admit I was kind of down last evening, Christmas Eve, with nobody around to share it with. I went to the health club and I was even the only person working out there for awhile. Christmas isn't a big-deal holiday here, though the stores certainly do their best to pump up the spirit. On Christmas morning, the Christians (a quarter of the population) go off to church, the bigger stores open, and the streets and subways are a bit emptier than usual.

I wasn't entirely my usual effervescent self this morning, either. Lauren's off to Daegu, Nick to Taiwan, Zach to Miami, and I'm just here. I'm not calling the grandboys till tomorrow morning, and it was rather a solitary morning.

But at noon I met my new friend Ray from the Veggie Club and we went off to a Loving Hut restaurant nearer to me than the one I wrote about in my last post. Then my day brightened; a couple of hours with a sympathetic friend can make a big difference when you're a long way from home on a holiday. We talked about our pasts and our beliefs and gorged on vegan goodies and it was all very nice. The restaurant was packed, I think with people coming from Christmas services, and that was good to see.

When we came out, it was raining; I was going to call this entry "I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas", but then it stopped. It stayed damp and windy, though, as I went to Kyobo Books for a little atmosphere and then back to the 'hood to E-Mart (which was packed) for a little Tug Chow and came home.

And here I am, on quite a quiet Quistmas. I haven't actually done this yet, but I wish I could write like this, so I'll quote Dylan Thomas:

"...I said a few words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."

Merry Christmas, everyone.

* * *

Stop the presses!

I'd just completed the post above, resigned to just spending the night at home, when Chris from work called, asking if I'd like to go out and eat. I wasn't hungry, but it took me about five seconds to decide that it was a lot better than sitting here alone all evening, so I said absolutely. Chris wondered if it was raining again, so I slid open my frosted-glass balcony door and found...

Snow, snow, lovely feathery snow coating the park across the street and wafting through the air. To quote from my entry from one year ago tonight, "And then it was Christmas." I laughed out loud like a delighted little kid; instantly, faster than instantly, it really felt like Christmas at last.

We slipped and slid to the bus to Gangnam, where we sat, surreally, in front of an electrical heater, in a little plastic-tented alcove at Dos Tacos, watching the snow blow by as we ate burritos and I sipped a lime margarita from a glass with a stem shaped like a saguaro. So very, very Korean.

...and as we were walking back from the bus stop at 11 p.m., snow blowing around us, some windchimes tinkled... or it may have been sleighbells...

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