Really did the Christmas thing this time. I’ve gotten tired of lonely ex-pat Christmases. I’m going to have my Christmas, dammit!

Even though Eun Jeong spent the last two Christmases with me, this was our first one while living together, so this was a new experience for her. Not only did I have the tree out with a poinsetta. I had Christmas music on WinAmp almost constantly. I thought this would annoy her after a while, but she would actually come in and turn up the volume when I had it playing in the morning. When I didn’t have it playing, she’d hum Christmas tunes around the house.

We’ve made another new furniture purchase. This time it was a dining room table. This as the first new dining room table I’ve ever owned.


We love it. We finally eat dinners comfortably. We had been using the (what we would call) coffee table, where Eun Jeong would sit on the floor, and I’d stoop over to eat from the sofa–fighting the TV for her attention. Now dinner time is a peaceful time when we get to talk to each other and catch up on the day. It’s funny how a piece of furniture as simple as a table can boost a relationship.

We had chicken from BBQ our first night with the table. Eun Jeong was so inspired by the upgrade in our apartment, she took more pictures with the camera (which is technically hers). Note the Ramona the Pest book, which is always in Eun Jeong’s hands as part of her prep for her new job in January.

We’ve been working hard at work on our extra projects. I’ve been staying up until three in the morning, getting up at eight, and continue working.

The weekend before Christmas, both Colin and Brant contacted me about meeting up. Colin and his girlfriend, Seongku, were in Songtan (where the U.S. air force base is) to do some shopping. They were able to find a lot of foreign goods at cheap prices.

On their return trip, they met with us in Anyang. We went to Indio, which is now Dog Table, and had some drinks and foods. Seongku also had some friends show up. At first, Eun Jeong didn’t want to go out, but we had delayed dinner so late, that I convinced her to come with me to at least get some food. She did come with me, and we stayed out all night. She also discovered that she likes peach soju cocktails. She was so impressed by the stuff they bought in Songtan, that she bought a bottle of aloe vera lotion from Seongku. We’re talking about going to Songtan for a night or two during my winter break now.

While at Dog Table, it started snowing. We thought we’d wait it out. But it didn’t stop. The bottom fell out, and it snowed harder and harder.

Oh well, let’s go spend an hour in a noraebang singing songs.

Eun Jeong again was flamboyant and not the usual homebody she is six days a week. She did dances during her songs. Everyone had fun.

When we left, it still was snowing hard. We tried to get a taxi, but there were none out there. It was three in the morning. We decided to walk in the direction of home and find a taxi on the way.

No luck. No taxis. We walked all the way home in the snow, which took a good hour.

Sunday morning, we woke up to this.

It was the heaviest snow I’ve seen in Korea thus far. The kids were out playing in it. Already a few snowmen had been made.

As well as an igloo.

I was looking forward to relaxing with a cup of hot chocolate — but wait! I promised to meet Brant in Seoul for lunch. And he hasn’t cancelled yet.

I fastened up my layers of clothing and took the subway to Itaewon. When I got there, Brant, Derek, and Dutch Dan were finishing their food. Derek and Dan had Gecko’s western style breakfast. Tempting, but I really like their cheeseburgers, so I got one. I caught up with the guys a bit.

We then headed to What the Book to get some–books. I found more Ramona books for Eun Jeong. I also ducked into the International Grocery Market next door to pick up some lamb and oatmeal (Eun Jeong recently found she liked it, and I’m starting to like it again). I also saw that their meat selections have gotten even more diverse, including quail and venison. And the price for their lamb is cheaper than in the States.

Derek and Dan both had things to do, so they departed. Brant and I were going to Sh-wing to meet with Terra and Injoo. First I had to get a cheeseburger at Smokey Saloon–another uncharacteristic request from Eun Jeong.

We met up with Injoo at Sh-wing, and Terra arrived soon after. Sh-wing has gotten a little better since that dismal outing a few months ago. All-you-can-eat wing night is back. The service is faster. And they give ample celery and carrots this time. The only drawbacks are that you have to go up and request refills of the tiny thimble of ranch dressing, and the prices for the burgers have gone up.

Catching up, Injoo has a new girlfirend, a Korean English teacher. He’s still working and saving money. He wants to start his own school. He won’t listen to our warnings.

The week leading up to Christmas weekend was full of activities. Well, at least from me. In my classes, we made Santa letters, advent calendars, 3-D stand up Christmas trees, and vocabulary “gifts.” The letters were entertaining, and the other students enjoyed reading them, as I had them posted on the classroom wall.

He has three computers, but he wants another computer because his other three aren’t new. He was really into writing his letter and didn’t get to finish before the bell rang.

Now Santa, you were slacking a bit last year. This year the presents had better be better because he’s been a good boy. Blue robot. Take note. Capeche?

One of the more surreal letters. Rather than ask for an object, he wants his computer game character (Maple Story) to get a higher level. There are just many interesting things about this letter. Just take a moment and enjoy.

I appreciate that she appreciates his busy schedule.

I was wondering why he was asking me how to spell “Siberian Huskie.”

On Wednesday, Eun Jeong and I met at Beomgye after work to do some window shopping. Instead, we went to Dokdo Chamchi for dinner. Dokdo Chamchi (Tuna) is a Japanese sashimi restaurant defiantly named after the handful of rocks between Japan and Korea that is a current source of controversy.

The place is more of a drinking place than a dinner place, Eun Jeong pointed out. You pay a base price for the type of quality you want. They then feed you constantly, as long as you’re drinking. It was pretty cool, but I’m not going to do it again unless someone else is paying for it. My complaint is that I would have liked more variety in extra dishes. The cooked fish was amazing–like butter. They occasionally gave us special cuts–toro (the prized fatty meat), parts of the head–stuff like that.

After “dinner,” we went to the new coffee shop that is strategically placed above a drug store. You have to enter the drug store to go to the coffee place. While sipping on our coffees, we looked at stuff. They had a sale on beer shampoos, so that was an obvious gift for the teachers. We stocked up on those and some teas for my female co-workers.

My big plan for a gift for the teachers was to make cookies. I had the oven, and I took note that Chris W. pined for his mother’s old oatmeal cookies. I was so busy during the week, that I didn’t get started on the cookies until Thursday night. I had already started some bread dough fermenting for Chris P.’s gift (he said he’d like one of my homemade breads). I checked all my ingredients to see what I needed before work. I picked up a lot of butter, some extra flour, and some sugar on the way back. Eun Jeong helped me with the cookies. I planned to make sugar cookies (left over from when Jack and I made them a few weeks ago), chocolate chip, and oatmeal.

The sugar cookie dough was more of a paste. We had to add more flour to it, and Eun Jeong took over. She had never made cookies before, but her cookies turned out better than mine.

I started work on the chocolate chips.

“Um, honey, where’s the baking soda?”

“We don’t have any.”

“What? I had lots of baking soda.”

“I used it to clean things.”

Figures. I’m the only one who uses baking soda, and she starts using it–all of it–on the day I make all these cookies.

“How was I supposed to know you needed it?”

“We’re baking. I need baking soda.”

The stores were closed. So I closed shop for the night. I still had to stay up late and work on computer projects for school.

I woke up early Friday morning and headed to the store to find baking soda. It took a while to find it. Eun Jeong awoke to the sounds of me pounding on a chocolate bar with a pestle to make chocolate chips. She also helped me fix my chocolate chip cookie recipe.

NOTE: The Joy of Cooking either suggests too little flour for its cookies, or I’m measuring wrongly–or it may be because we’re up in the mountains. All my Joy of Cooking cookies turn into puddles.

Eun Jeong set up a bag to store the cookies. We really cut it close. She had the last batch of chocolate chips in the oven when I went out the door.

The cookies were a hit, though. It was a rough day for everyone. We came to work early for a project meeting. Chris P. had to get the report cards printed and out that day, as well as get some Christmas gifts sent off. Nothing went right for him. Ben stated, “Joe saved the day with the cookies.”

Eun Jeong and I had made a ton of them, enough to fill a bag, and they were all gone by the end of the day.

I occasionally gave some of the cookies to students, as long as they were classes with few students. A few shared my festive spirit.

In my last class, I gave a grammar quiz. I had found some cinnamon Altoids at the drug store on Wednesday, so I was munching on those. The kids saw that I had “candy” and all asked for one. So I shared. Wanna see the reaction?

They also showed me how to make hand puppets out of gloves.

On Friday night, we watched old home movies until Eun Jeong fell asleep.

Saturday was the big Christmas shopping day. We weren’t going to take any chances in getting the wrong things, so we dressed up and headed out to downtown Anyang.

We started at Lotte Department store. Eun Jeong wanted a nice wallet, and she saw that Parisian designer Love Cat wallets were on sale there.

Before we got to the wallets, we had to wade through the outdoor clothing bins. Eun Jeong immediately spotted a nice coat and had me try it on. I was sure that they had none in my size. We had tried coats on at that place before. I put it on, and an old lady shopping next to Eun Jeong said, “Looks really nice.”

So if I can impress the old ladies with it, I’m definitely buying it. Really, I love the coat. It’s a waist coat with a tweed design. Makes me look like an English gentleman or a Bean Pole International ad.

We went through a lot of wallets, and I must admit I liked their designs. Whimsical yet classy. Did I mention that we went through a lot of wallets?

She got a fuscia one with a nice clasp and a lot of pockets.

We next went down into the underground mall. Eun Jeong went straight to this one cell phone store amonst the many phone stores littered all over the place. We looked at the phones they had on display. She picked one up and showed it to me.

“How do you like this one?”

“I like it. Pretty cool.”

We had already gone through shopping through many wallets just to end up buying the first one we saw. I had that same gut feeling about the phones. We’d go through a lot of phones and then end up settling on that one that Eun Jeong picked up. Besides, it looked like she had already researched and made her choice on that particular phone from that particular store.

A quick perusal proved my gut feeling correct. That was the phone that best fit me. It was a slide phone. It had English menus. And it was a great price. We didn’t have to trudge to Technomart in Seoul to find one. Good deals on cell phones have now distributed about the land. Eun Jeong said the price on the phone we were getting was better than Technomart’s internet price.

We had to go through a bit of an application process, which involved using my Alien Registration Card and the sales guy making phone calls. Eun Jeong was so envious that she started looking at phones for herself. The process took so long that she told me just to walk around the mall for a while. So I did.

I had in mind some gifts for Eun Jeong, but I couldn’t find them there. She’s recently gotten into the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) craze in Korea, and I was looking for tools or paints or something she could use for the projects she wants to do.

I returned to the cell phone place, and Eun Jeong was ready. We exited the underground mall at the Anyang Central Market. I had wanted Eun Jeong to check this out. She was hesitant, saying it was “dirty.”

Well, yeah, it’s an open air market. Of course it’s not some sanitized supermarket. And that’s why it’s good.

My hunch worked.

She immediately saw some of the deals there, and I had to restrain her from buying things. There’s this look she gets in her eyes, and I know that she impulsively buys anything she likes. This is the woman who is always lecturing me about my spendthriftness. I had to tell her to hold back and wait until we left before making a lot of purchases. Shop around a bit. Make sure it’s the best.

We got some dwinjang paste, lots of veggies, some dried anchovies.

She found a HoDdeok stand that was really good. I’ll try to make these at home tonight and post the results. I have loved these beignet-tasting stuffed fried donuts since my early days in Korea.

I have said before, my chef brother (sous chef at Eclipse di Luna in Atlanta) would go nuts with all the stuff you can find here. We got some crabs…

And had a look at some Ddeok (chewy rice cakes) stores specializing in weddings.

Oh yeah, and we found that the underwear that I like can now be found in Korea. Eun Jeong bypassed the utilitarian stuff and bought me a set of sexy boxer briefs–a Christmas present for herself. HEE!

Loaded down with stuff, we headed home.

I’ve noticed that Google Earth has added more high resolution pics of Anyang, so a note to debt collectors and stalkers–you can really see where we live now. It’s cool to compare it to the pics I’ve taken from and around our apartment. I’ve added new bookmarks for the area, including the Central Market, which you can download.

Christmas Eve involved me scrambling to get gifts for Eun Jeong. We had gotten each other our major gifts, but we had only two gifts under our tree on Christmas Eve: a gift from Chris and a gift from one of my students.

Well, I had finally baked the cheese ciabatta bread I had been working on since Wednesday for Chris. I dropped it off at his place. I then tagged along with him to Lotte Mart and a DIY place while he got some Santa gifts for his kids. I couldn’t find much of what I wanted to get Eun Jeong. I got her some paint brushes.

When that was over, I headed alone to E-Mart and found everything I was looking for. Paint for DIY stuff. Teas she likes. A yoga mat. Some wine. Bubble bath (a very hard find).

Christmas Eve dinner was a revival of a tradition started in my family in ’80s. Being of Gulf Coast origin, we tended to make seafood on Christmas Eve, particularly oyster stew. This evening, we dusted the crabs with Old Bay seasoning and steamed them with some potatoes.

They turned out so good and creamy, we scooped the meat out with spoons like custard. It was sinfully rich. It felt good and oh, so Christmassy. Eun Jeong, so far, was enjoying our family traditions.

I didn’t have any wrapping paper, so while she was asleep, I did the Santa thing.

She woke up to use the bathroom that morning. She came back out to return to bed when she noticed everything. She squatted down to look at everything in awe.

“Merry Christmas, darlin’.” <— Carpenters tribute there

That was the beginning of a very nice peaceful Christmas day.

She gave me a cell phone trinket from a Japanese designer. My student’s present was some chocolates from Jeju Island. Chris gave me a remote control helicopter.


The next part was calling as much family as I could. It was Christmas Eve still their time. I got in touch with my aunt (my grandfather had already retired to bed), my sister (out with her in-laws looking at Christmas lights), and my mother, brother, and stepfather trying to put together a bouncy castle for my niece while laughing at the cardboard phalluses that the instructions claimed were part of the throne.

Man, I miss them.

Eun Jeong talked to my mother for the first time. She seemed nervous and excited. Mom said, “She’s so beautiful! She looks beautiful and has the most beautiful voice.”

That will explain Eun Jeong’s good demeanor for the rest of the week.

The rest of the day I spent cooking. No obligations there. I just wanted to do it. I got so excited that I even made a menu.

I had already made and drunk mulled cider in honor of my deceased grandmother. I started my cooking by concocting some Bloody Marys in honor of my deceased grandfather. This led to beer in the afternoon and homemade egg nog in the evening.

I still was able to make everything on the menu while catching up with friends hands free on the new phone. I’ll detail some of the items in the food blog later.

Note Eun Jeong reading another Ramona book.


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