I finished work for the year on Friday.
Kindergarten finished with a ‘Christmas party’, which consisted of the teachers putting on a fairly cack-handed puppet show, having the children watch these ‘Elf Yourself’ videos in which dancers’ faces are replaced with photos you provide. The kids thought it was hilarious. Then each class was taken upstairs separately to get present from a Korean guy – maybe one of the ministers at the church – dressed as Santa Claus. He read each child a message in broken English. One of my kids, Diane, slipped on some foamy fake snow that was on the floor and fell. She didn’t hurt herself, but she cried and wasn’t in a good mood for the remainder of the gift-giving. I gave each of my students a gift of some stationery – a pencil, a pencil sharpener, an eraser and a ruler – and some sweets. Then the kids went home.
Saturday saw the first of a couple of parties at the weekend. Habiba prepared some mashed potato – sadly ruined by the addition of horseradish – and some eggnog. We each brought a gift for the secret Santa; I bought Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red, Habiba wrapped some old, unused toiletries. The party was OK – lots of food, conversation, games of mini-pool. The presents we ended up with were a candle (Habiba) and some bathroom stuff (me). We ended up leaving them behind.
On coming home that night, we gave each other our seasonal gifts. From me to her: a pair of earrings, some chocolates, a bag of Starbucks extra bold coffee beans, a copy of A Game of Thrones and an envelope of coupons entitling the holder to such things as a massage, free drink, bathroom cleaning etc. From her to me: a pair of underpants, a cap and a light, long-sleeved T-shirt, and no coupons – even though it was Habiba’s idea.
The following day we attended a similar party, except without the gifts and a lot closer to home – with Habiba’s colleagues, those of them who stayed in the country and weren’t Korean. Also a nice enough party. Both days I ended up getting extremely tired and not at all drunk – which latter is strange given the amount of alcohol on offer.
The tiredness is partly due to having a cold; partly also, I suspect, to a kind of jetlag – or joblag, if you like: I’m pretty used to going to bed and getting up early.
On Monday, we packed boxes to send home. I also packed my gifts for my family, which, by the time they arrive, will be more like Easter presents. I sent off a largish box of books, clothes and other random stuff; Habiba sent three. We spent much of the day going through our stuff (I even threw out all the receipts I’d carefully kept from the past three years). We packed all the things we’d picked out into a suitcase and backpack, took them to the post office and packed our boxes there.
On Tuesday, we went to Yongsan, the electronics district, and Habiba bought herself a mini notebook – which weighs a little more than a kilogram – for ₩330,000 (about £185). Unfortunately, when we got home, it appeared that it didn’t have a built-in microphone; as Skyping is one of the main purposes Habiba wants to put it to, that’s a pain in the arse. We also put in her headphones for repair at the Sony service centre, and bought a two-to-one headphone jack adapter so we can each use our own headphones on the same computer while on our travels.
Those travels will be commencing in two months.