Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ugly Sweaters, White Elephants, and Hope

The Christmas season is fully upon us.
Here in Seoul that statement rings true just as loudly as anywhere else in the world.
Subway stops are decked out in lights and garland.
Massive trees don plazas and storefront windows.
Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber can be heard belting out from local stores.
And what Christmas season is complete without an ugly sweater party!

This past Friday night, my friends Emma, Rich, and Rob rented out a bar in northern Seoul for the festivities. About 30 people showed up, most of them sporting hideously ugly sweaters. Another fun and entertaining part of the night was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. A popular event in the United States that was properly introduced to the British, Canadian, and Irish folk in attendance. That was a huge success. Everyone that participated ended up with very entertaining and somewhat practical gifts. I took home a huge bag of restaurant starters (they remind me of very very very airy and edible Styrofoam packing peanuts) and a spoon/chopstick set. Other memorable gifts included a Hello Kitty toilet seat, wind-up, light-up Lego man, various Korean alcoholic drinks, and a Rudolph replica constructed out of 5 bottles of Cass beer (complete with antlers and a red nose!).

Since I've gotten to Seoul, I've been wanting to do some sort of volunteer work to get me out into the community and meet others here in the area that have the same interest. One such opportunity presented itself on Saturday. Emma (the other person in the snowman jumper (aka sweater) above) and I met up with our friends Sam and Rachel at the House of Hope. This is a home that has activities and social opportunities for mental challenged children and adults. We spent the afternoon helping them set up for their end of the year volunteer awards banquet. In the process, I was able to meet various people from all walks of life and look forward to getting even more involved with this group.

Following my day of volunteering, I headed out to Bucheon, which is a "suburb" of Seoul and hung out with my friend Tennille and some of her co-workers form the Hagwon that she works with. It was great meeting some more new faces and being able to hang out with her and do some catch up. All in all it was a fantastic weekend spent with great friends, new faces, and some Christmas cheer!