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Friday, January 26, 2007

Christmas 2003 and winter travel

[Another from the archives. A couple of minor changes: I included my parents' phone number in the original, for anyone who wanted to call, but I don't really think it's a good idea to post it on a website that anyone can visit. I also typed "syllable" instead of "syllabus" the first time around. Other than that, it is the same as it was three years ago.]

Dear Friends and Family:

Well, we made it to America. My father-in-law picked us up at about 7:30 in the morning and took us, along with my mother- and sister-in-law, to the airport. After checking in, we had our last Korean breakfast: kimchi fried rice and fish soup. I was planning to sit by and eat nothing, but I couldn't resist.

It's been a day and a half since we arrived, and I am still jet-lagged, so don't be surprised if I drift in and out from one topic to the next, paying little heed to chronology.

And now it has been a few more days, and I am pretty much recovered. So let me catch you up a bit from my previous missive, keeping in mind that I don't have easy access to that missive, and may therefore overlap a bit.

Our Christmas in Korea was busy, and not very Christmassy. I was in charge of the Christmas Eve service at our church, as well as giving the sermon the Sundays before and after Christmas, as well as trying to finish my latest report before leaving the country. I managed to finish everything but the report, which is still waiting for my attention. I brought all of my materials home, and even made a trip to Lawrence to visit the K.U. library on Monday. Great library, and for an alum, or anyone with a Kansas drivers' license, you can get a library card for $10. Not bad.

But back to our Christmas: my parents sent us a small box of presents this year, despite the fact that we would be home a week or two later. It arrived a week or so before Christmas. Last year (well, I mean 1992, but you understood that, right?) I made us both wait until Christmas to unwrap our presents. This year we were both feeling worn out and down, so Horyon managed to talk me into unwrapping them all right there and then. It was very nice. Nothing to write home about (though I did)–just some clothes and small cute things. In a way, that was our most Christmassy moment. (My word processor doesn't like "Christmassy", but I don't care, I'm using it anyway.)

The Christmas Eve service went well, but attendance was low. I had planned for 60 and hoped for 100, but there were only 25 or 30, and most of those were our regular attenders. It was a bit depressing, but not until the next day. Holidays are always hard when you're in a foreign country, and the more different it is celebrated, the harder it is. Strangely enough, a holiday with no celebration (in the foreign country) is a lot easier to deal with. For example, American Independence Day (the 4th of July) is not observed at all in other countries. Believe it or not, they don't care that much. And some of them might be happier if we had never broken free of the British Empire, but that's neither here nor there. Christmas is observed in Korea, but in a very different way. Like biting into a lovely golden brown bun and finding that it's full of bean paste, Christmas has some of the appearance, but little of the substance of American Christmas. Korean Christians accept it as the Christ's Mass–a special church service, but no more so than the other Christian Holy Days. The secular view is very simple: it's a red day on the calendar. No school, banks and government offices are closed, and most people get the day off. It is more of a couple holiday than anything else. People meet their boyfriends and girlfriends, go to the movies, have dinner, then wake up and go back to work the next day.

Presents are uncommon, though some parents buy presents for their children. Korea already has a Children's Day in which kids are spoiled rotten, so there is not much cause to make December 25th another Children's Day. No big Christmas sales, and no big after-Christmas sales. In the past five years, I've noticed an increase in decorations and lights, mostly from businesses. Some people decorate their homes, I guess, but when you live in a shoe box apartment, you can't decorate the outside, and inside decorations don't show very much from the outside.

And so this Christmas, once again, I was in a bit of a funk. And knowing that I was going to be in America a week later didn't seem to help at all.

I spent the week after Christmas working feverishly on my report. I made some remarkable progress, but didn't consider it good enough to pass. So I have it here with me now, in my parents' home in Kansas. Just like the good old days. I'm planning to get it in the mail by this coming Monday. Should be no problem. The jet lag is mostly gone, though I still wake up and have to pee every couple of hours through the night. Horyon and I have slept 11 hours the past couple of nights, catching up for the past month, I guess.

We went with my folks to see "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" yesterday. Fantastic. I'm very much looking forward to seeing extended versions of all three, and have already put it on my Christmas Wish List for this coming Christmas. If somebody doesn't want to be tickled until she screams, it had better be under the tree next Christmas!

We will be in America until February 9th, when Horyon leaves. She has a week of teaching starting on the 11th, then 10 more days of vacation. How annoying is that? When we planned this trip, she said, "Are you going to make me go back to Korea all by myself? Alone?" I tenderly held her hand, looked into her eyes, and said, "I hope you have a nice trip." I will be leaving my parents on the 19th, and staying in the Detroit area for about five days. I will spend time with Andy and Sarah Douglas near Detroit, as well as Rick VanManen near Toronto. Then back to Korea on the 24th. Classes start for me on Tuesday, March 4th. I turned in my syllabus during the last week in December. Can you believe I got it done that early?

Unfortunately, this means that we will celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary, on February 17th, in different countries. I will be sure to have a nice steak dinner, and I'm sure Horyon will have soup and rice. In some ways an ideal meal for us, if only we could have it in the same room.

So as I return to my report (ten pages of baffling balderdash so far, not counting appendices and bibliographies), I wish you all a joyful new year, in which you find true Peace.


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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.