New Years Thoughts and Resolutions 2014

I know it’s a bit cheesy, but I wanted to make a little to-do list for 2014. ¬†To-do list/resolutions list ūüôā

*Get better at cooking and get at least 2 go-to REAL meals.  
Not just parts of meals, but 2 real meals that I feel proud of.

*Buy a better camera. 
I’ve had the same point-and-shoot camera since high-school and I’ve really been wanting a new one. ¬†IDEALLY a DSLR. ¬†*swoons*

*Finish my Korean book  (Korean 1)
I’ve been working on my Korean book pretty steadily, but it’s easy to fall out of habit or to give up. ¬†It has 30 chapters and I’m on Chapter 6. ¬†A bit overwhelming, but…would be AMAZING.

*Pay off credit card
I’ve already decided that this year is going to be my saving year. ¬†(So don’t expect as many travel photos over on the old Facebook). ¬†I saw a lot of amazing places and did a lot of incredible things last year, but this year is my year to really save and get focused.

*Travel to 3 new Korean cities

*Spend less time on my phone and social media 
Korea has been a bad influence on me.  Need to get off the cell phone.
Thinking about picking a week out of the month and not going onto Facebook.  Not like much changes from day-to-day anywa

*Spend more energy on a hobby.  Get back into the gym or sign up for a dance class.  
I’ve been meaning to do this, but finally getting to the point of financial stability again after changing schools and such, and I really want to take better care of myself physically.

*Read 5 new books
I hardly read anymore (largely due to lack of English books where I live…and they’re expensive here), but I have some that I haven’t read that I can definitely dive into. Also largely do to me being lazy.

*Make an effort to stop chasing affection
I think this is because I’m 27 and I have a lot of friends that are starting to get engaged or married now…and here I am, still single. ¬†This might be one of those “the grass is always greener” times as well.
It’s hard because I enjoy my own life but I keep wondering why I’m still single. ¬†I want to make an effort to stop trying so hard…or…willing it to happen, and to just learn to trust in the process. ¬†I enjoy my freedom, but I also want to be able to share my life with someone as well.

*Volunteer more
We have an awesome group here that arranges trips to orphanages and such (especially around Christmas) and I want to make more of an effort to get involved with them.

I have more that I could add, but for a year’s worth, I think this is a pretty good (and do-able) list. ¬†Some are more things to strive for, but I think overall, it looks pretty good.

I made this one for 2012-2013 when I was in my hostel in the Philippines…drinking wine with hostelmates and watching the city light up with fireworks from the rooftop. ūüôā
12-13   13-14

Still fun to look back and see what I’ve been up to. ¬†I usually have to scroll back through pictures on Facebook… ūüėõ

I went out with some friends last night for an “End of the Year Celebration” sort of thing. ¬†We wanted to have a nice dinner where we could all get dressed up a bit. ¬†It was really nice and it felt good to get dressed up to go somewhere other than out to a bar. ¬†(Not like I get super dressy going out to a bar anyway, but you get the idea).
Daejeon is also fairly small and doesn’t have the…atmosphere? ¬†environment? ¬†structure? ¬†for the dressy sort of vibe. ¬†There aren’t many high-end restaurants or theaters here…most of that sort of thing is in Seoul because it’s a bigger city. ¬†Our city is known more for its universities and research centers than a booming nightlife sort of thing.
Going to hofs, bars and clubs tend to be more of the social norm here from what I’ve seen. ¬†I’m sure it’s similar in Seoul, because it’s in the culture, but there are other options because it’s bigger. ¬†(A bit too big for me though…I get annoyed too easily if there are people everywhere.)

Anyway, goodnight!
See you in 2014!

Christmas: Korean Style

Christmas is pretty different over here in Asia, especially in Korea.  
For Koreans, as I mentioned before, it’s basically another Valentine’s Day. ¬†It’s a time to go do stuff with your bf/gf. ¬†If you’re single, then lots of people will head to the bars or clubs like any other night out.
Stores are all still open like normal.  
You can buy Christmas decorations in stores (Christmas lights are about 20,000–$20, everything else seems reasonably priced though) and it’s usually available around the first of December or so. ¬†You can hear Christmas music in coffee shops and department stores get a bit more dressed up. ¬†There are Christmas cards and sales, but not to the degree as back home. ¬†Baking (cookies, etc) isn’t a really a thing here, so Christmas cookies are more of a thing among the expat/foreign communities.
It seems more Christmas-y compared to last year, and I think it’ll grow more, but I’m hoping they learn more about the¬†giving aspect of Christmas rather than the cutesy parts. ¬†As it is supposed to be the real reason for the season.

Holiday Blues

I’m assuming this is just my holiday blues talking, but I’m feeling pretty disappointed with Korea at the moment.
I know Christmas isn’t a main holiday here, but it seems that all holidays over here revolve around being in a relationship. ¬†If you’re not in a relationship, then you’re sad and pathetic. ¬†People go “hunting” at bars and clubs and stuff (guys and girls) in the weeks before Christmas to try and find a bf/gf or someone to be with for the holidays. ¬†
I usually love Christmas and doing gift exchanges and I like the whole concept of Random Acts of Kindness…but…ugh. ¬†Christmas is just like…St. Patrick’s Day or another Valentine’s Day here. ¬†It’s not uncommon for people to work Christmas day and schools are in session on Christmas eve and the day after Christmas. ¬†I know it’s Asia and it’s different, but I think this is one of the hardest parts for me to grasp. ¬†Just feeling really homesick. ¬†
I’m usually fine throughout the year, but a lot of friends have either gone home, moved to other cities or done the whole “ooh! ¬†I got a boyfriend, now I’ve fallen off the face of the planet” sort of thing.

I hate the pressure that seems to exist here with getting a relationship and not being “lonely”. ¬†

Probably another reason why the suicide rate here is so high. ¬†If you’re single, then you’re pitied and people ask all the time about if you’re lonely. ¬†(Uh…I wasn’t until everyone kept asking about it.) ¬†Then the fact that there’s so little vacation time and people are expected to work so much.
Working too much and not having time for family. ¬†But people rushing into marriage because of pressure because they’re “too old” to be single…so rushing out and getting married within a year if they’re too close to age 30. ¬†

But speaking of being in a relationship, I’ve always believed (sometimes more strongly than others) that if I did my own thing and was a strong person, enjoyed my life and was generally happy, that that “right person” or whatever would make his way into my life. ¬†That I don’t have to “go looking” or anything. ¬†I’m beginning to waiver on this a bit and wonder if I’ve messed up somehow. ¬†I’m 27 and still have no sign of that person. ¬†I’m not looking for a Prince Charming or someone to come rescue the damsel in distress…I just want someone to enjoy my life with. ¬†Someone with similar values but different enough that I can learn a bit from him too. ¬†Just…someone to go through life with. ¬†Friendship set on fire, as they say. ¬†Sigh.

Might start with getting out of the country that thinks it’s normal to have a 3-4 week relationship…and to not see eachother ever because of being overworked. ¬†Sigh.

Ugh.  This is a depressing post, but I just wanted to get it out without spamming up Facebook walls with my holiday blues.

Christmas at Home…

I’m sitting here in my apartment in my bed on Christmas Eve and I wanted to make a special post.
I’ve been asked a few times by (mainly) Koreans as to how we celebrate Christmas at home in America. ¬†Christmas seems to be sort of comparable (as far as size and importance) as maybe St. Patrick’s Day back home.
Some people get into it, and there’s more “stuff” available this year than there was last year, but they just don’t do the commercialism aspect of it like we do. ¬†It’s also a romantic holiday here (ie: Valentine’s Day). ¬†It’s thought of to be a bit sad if you’re without a “somebody” on Christmas. ¬†Mostly department stores and coffee shops are the ones that get into it.

I wanted to start off with my own memories of Christmas at home and then sort of wrap it up with the differences. ¬†Just a reminder, but these are my own personal observations. ¬†They aren’t meant to offend anyone or…I don’t know…start some sort of internet war. ¬†Just what I’ve noticed here in my city and with my (nearly) 2 years of experience here.

Christmas has always been my absolute favorite holiday. ¬†I love the sense of warmth that it usually (minus Black Friday) brings during the middle of the frigid winter. ¬†I love seeing the lights in the trees and drinking hot chocolates…and just the anticipation that it brings.
I grew up in a split-level house (stairs at the main entrance, with a downstairs and an upstairs) and I remember that we always put up the Christmas tree together on the day (or weekend) after Thanksgiving.  It was a tradition and the whole family was there together.
My mom usually baked a lot of holiday cookies (especially sugar cookies with the sprinkles on top).  We had one of the artificial trees and we put it up in the living room upstairs.  Every member in the family had a red and white stocking with their name written on it in cursive in colored pipe cleaner.  My brother was the exception as he had a character reindeer stocking that opened up at the mouth that let Santa put in the gifts.
We kept the big box of holiday decorations in the garage behind a wooden door. ¬†We’d usually have a fire going in the fireplace downstairs with a Christmas CD in the CD player. ¬†We’d drag the box up the stairs and put the tree up (faster as we got older and wanted to be done with it)…tree then lights and garland and finally ornaments. ¬†Both my brother and myself have (my mom saved them) several handmade ornaments that we made in school. ¬†My mom also bought us each new ornaments each year at the craft shows that she liked going to.
My dad would hang the lights on the outside of the house and my mom, my brother and I would put the lights in the front bushes in front of the house.

Stores and shops were all decked out in their red, green, silver and gold and advertised sales for this and that.  Christmas parties are HUGE and frequent.  Secret Santa parties and Tacky Christmas Sweater parties on top of family celebrations.

I loved riding in the car and going to see all the Christmas light displays in each of the neighborhoods.  It was sort of a competition to see who could deck out their house the most for Christmas.  I love seeing the lights in contrast with the white snow and dark, wintry skies.

We’d also go to a light display called Santa’s Magical Kingdom
http://www.santasmagicalkingdom.com/explore-kingdom-home.html
about 20-30 minutes from our house.  We would all pile in the car and drive out there on a night in December.  They had visits with Santa and ice skating (if I remember correctly) too.

We also visited Santa at our local mall each year. ¬†We got to sit on his lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. ¬†Then an “elf” would take your picture and you’d be on your way. ¬†There was a full North Pole creation at each mall…and a massive line (although I notice that more now than I did when I was a kid).

We celebrated Christmas throughout most of December at school and did Christmas activities and performances.  I took dance and we always had a winter recital.
We had a week off for Christmas and New Years during elementary school, two weeks (pretty sure…) for middle school and high school. ¬†In university, we had a month off after our final exams.
I remember they’d also have horse-drawn carriage rides downtown for all the couples (or families) and you’d get to go on a small tour of downtown St. Louis in a carriage (driver and all). ¬†The top was open and they’d give you a warm blanket so you wouldn’t freeze in the winter weather.–(we usually did this when we did the Santa’s Magical Kingdom thing)

I remember also sitting on the couch in our downstairs watching Christmas movies with my family and eating Christmas cookies with milk.  You also always remembered to put out Christmas cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, we’d put out the cookies and head to bed early. Later, they had the “Santa Tracker” on the news on TV, too. ¬†I remember that both my brother and I would wake up super early on Christmas morning…whoever woke up first would go wake up the other one. ¬†We’d run down the hall to the living room and examine the presents and then head downstairs to get our stockings. ¬†The stockings always had smaller gifts, like candy, chocolates or small stuffed animals.
Our parents would usually be up (because of us..ha) or we’d go wake them and urge them to hurry. ¬†We weren’t allowed to open presents unless they were both there.
I remember how LONG they seemed to take to get ready.  My dad always wanted to get the camera and then my mom would joke about how we needed to eat breakfast first.
We’d open presents together as a family and then eat a special breakfast, usually French Toast, scrambled eggs and bacon. ¬†(or pancakes).
After breakfast, we’d get ready for church and attend the Christmas service. ¬†We’d come home and my mom would start on a dish to bring to my Grandma’s house for Christmas. ¬†If it was snowing, my dad would likely be outside shoveling the driveway or playing with us and our new toys.
In our family, all the aunts, uncles and cousins all get together at my Grandma’s house for Christmas (or another family member). ¬†Each family brings a dish so it isn’t all left for the host family to whip up themselves.
We’d visit my other Grandma and Grandpa on Christmas Eve and eat Christmas dinner there and open presents as well. ¬†My family from Chicago would usually come down as well and we’d celebrate together.

On Christmas Day, we’d head over to my Grandma’s around 5pm and socialize then have a massive dinner together. ¬†As a kid we’d play with our new toys and talk about what we got. ¬†We might watch a Christmas movie in her front room or play outside. ¬†As an adult, I got to have wine and play Risk, a board game (what now seems to be a tradition). ¬†We would get everyone together and take a big family picture as well.

We’d keep the tree up til early til mid-January and then start taking down all the Christmas decorations before we got back to school.

//I was going to talk in more detail about Christmas in Korea, but it’s going to have to wait. ¬†This post is long enough. ¬†ūüôā
Christmas in Korea is coming soon.