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Friday, December 26, 2003

Thanksgiving and Christmas 2003

[I am once again dredging my old mass-mailing folder. Interestingly enough, Thanksgiving and Christmas from three years ago sound a lot like this year, with a few minor details changed. No spelling mistakes this time, and no big chunks seem to be missing. Enjoy!]

Dear Friends and Family:

I hope that you all had a good Thanksgiving or two. Horyon and I managed to have two. Maybe that makes us a little greedy, but I like to think it means that we're just lots more thankful.

Our Christmas was, by comparison, not a big deal. More on that later, though. Our first Thanksgiving was on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving. Horyon ordered a turkey from the same place we used last year.

(As you may recall, last year the turkey farm people were real turkeys. They sent us the bird three days early, and when I pulled it out of its styrofoam box, I found that it had been cut clean through the middle of the breast. On top of that, I couldn't cook the bird on Thanksgiving, so I cooked it the day before. When I reheated it in my oven, it dried out and became a sort of turkey brick. Not a good scene. Made good soup later, though.)

Back to this year: We had some of my former coworkers over for a potluck dinner. This time the turkey only had holes where you would expect them to be. I stuffed them full of a mixture of bread, onions, mushrooms and butter, popped the poor unfortunate thing in the oven, and five hours later impressed the heck out of everyone. It was a very familial kind of event, with some people even watching rugby on the tv. (What? Don't you all watch rugby on Thanksgiving?)

On Thanksgiving day we had another sort of party. My university, Kyoungsung University, invited all of the foreigners on their staff to dinner at the Westin Chosun, one of the classiest hotels in town. They had a buffet that...

Mmmm.... buffet.*

... so all in all it was a great evening.

In spite of having two separate Thanksgiving meals, both of fairly high quality, I missed being in America more than ever this year. I haven't been home for Thanksgiving since 1993, and I probably won't be home for Thanksgiving until 2006, if not later. (I've done a little better for Christmas, since I managed to be home for Christmas 1996.) In 1993, if you had told me that I would miss the next dozen Thanksgivings I would have questioned your sanity.

After Thanksgiving, we just sort of raced into Christmas, and now Christmas is quickly receding into the past, and our trip is preparing to jump on us, grab us by the throat and shake until we give up.

In church, I gave the sermon the first week in December, the third week, and this coming Sunday (the fourth week), as well as organizing and leading the Christmas Eve service. I've also been working on my 3rd paper for my master's degree. I need to get it finished before we leave Korea, and that will take some doing.

One of our members, Traci, had her mother come visit for the holidays. She brought fixin's for some yummy Canadian-style snacks. Some other members spent the afternoon decorating the lobby of the hall where we had our service. It was actually quite festive.

Post-Christmas Eve service Party

Of course, my job didn't just stop, either. For final exams, I interview my students. All of them. All 250 (give or take a dozen). I did a pretty good job of scheduling them–eight minutes per student, with 10 minute breaks every hour. I even had the interviews set up very well, such that the students had to basically interview me, asking follow-up questions (abbreviated on the blackboard as F.U.Q.s, much to the amusement of my colleagues) using the grammar that we had studied through the year. I did interviews for two weeks, from 3 hours to 6 hours per day. By the end of the whole thing, I was sick and tired of making up lies about what I was going to do the following weekend, or what I had done last summer. I always enjoyed talking about how I met Horyon, even when I had to use a simplified vocabulary and talk...



I managed to compute my grades and get them turned in on time this semester, impressing my wife, colleagues, friends, and myself. So far I've had one student come in to point out a mistake I made. Ironically, it was the same mistake I made last semester–not entering his final exam grade. This time there were a couple of in-class assignments also missing. I think that at some point I had hidden his line on the spreadsheet. Dunno why, but it kept me from entering his scores. Ended up bumping him from an F to an A. And let me tell you, the poor guy was in a panic. I truly feel like Santa Claus now.

For Christmas day we went to the in-law's church for an 11:00 a.m. service. We were about 10 minutes late, so they made up for it by going about 10 minutes too long. They use their Christmas day service to officially recognize people taking new positions in the church–deacons, elders and such. They recognize them by reading their names. All of them. All 398 of them. Fortunately they skipped the 319 people who were re-elected to do something they had already done the previous year. Horyon told me that a lot of the names were overlaps, but still, you have to admit, this is a pretty big church.

After church we went to an expensive sea-food restaurant where my father-in-law paid for lunch: lobster and crab. Good stuff. They boiled it, then cut it open so we could eat it easily. My one complaint is that instead of melted butter for dipping, they provided gochu-jang(go'-chew-jahng: chilli-pepper paste). No big surprise there, as they provide gochu-jang to dip everything into. They even dip chilli peppers in a mix of gochu-jang and fermented bean paste. Sounds a little over-the-top, I know, but it works for me. (Except for the times when it peels the skin off my tongue and burns all the way down, giving me the spicy-food-hiccups.) In Nepal, they told me that chilli-peppers are good for when you are sick. Kills the little bugs living in your gut, as well as those little bumps on your tongue that you used to use for tasting stuff.

When we got home, we watched a copy of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that I borrowed from a friend. Horyon was amused, and I was drawn back to my childhood. Do you realize that it came out in 1965? It seems very simple by today's standards, and the straightforward Biblical message it delivers would probably not be produced today. But the commercialization of Christmas is a modern issue that it tackles head-on. At the beginning Charlie Brown says, "I just can't get into the Christmas spirit. Every year it's a reminder that nobody likes me. Why can't I get with the program, Linus?" Questions I think we all ask from Christmas to Christmas.

Well, I have a ton of work to do in the next 5 days or so, so let me make one request: As much as I love hearing from you all, can you please send your next message on or after January 1st? Horyon would really appreciate it, and those of you who still haven't sent in your membership for Procrastinators Anonymous will totally understand.

I hope that your holidays bring peace to you, and I hope that you can make some joy for yourself and others in this season and coming year.


* I know it's silly to have a footnote in an email, but I'm doing it anyway to make up for going into a sort of memorial food coma. That buffet had turkey and potatoes and gravy, as well as a ton of other stuff. I didn't eat so much that I couldn't sit down afterwards, but I did eat enough that I didn't need any breakfast the next day. Mmmm... buffet...

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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.