Living abroad requires a ridiculous amount of adaptability. Being a 22-year-old recent college graduate who once slept on the tile floor of a church in Macau, China with nothing but a towel for a blanket, I would say I am very adaptable. There have been many instances during my time here that I have had to take a breath and remind myself that just because something is different, doesn’t mean its bad. In fact, it may mean it is better. One great example of this for me was Christmas.
If you have met me for one second, you know that my family is very important to me. I talk to my mother almost every morning, which sometimes makes me feel like a huge lameo. But, as a friend recently pointed out to me, I am getting to the age that being close with my mom has started to become cool again. I feel lucky that I have a family that I can and want to talk to very frequently, but this also means that some things are harder for me. Missing things like birthdays, rock shows, and even family dinners can really suck. Being away from my family on Christmas was not easy. But, just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad. And even though I didn’t get to participate in our family’s annual Christmas poker tournament, I still had a wonderful Christmas.
In Korea, Christmas is more like Valentine’s Day than a family Holiday. I only got one day off for Christmas, which honestly was fine because I had already watched Love Actually enough times that week. I did Christmas lessons with my students all week, which were hilarious for many reasons. The reactions to Santa were priceless, and even though I’m pretty sure it didn’t translate, they seemed to think The Grinch was funny. I gave my coworkers Christmas cards. And, due to an awkward denied hug situation, was reminded that Koreans don’t like hugs as much as Nebraskans do.
In some ways, I spent Christmas like I normally do. I opened presents, sang Christmas carols, and drank entirely too much wine. I watched Christmas movies, ate a lot of carbs, and argued with someone about politics. But, as my coteacher so blatantly put it “Koreans don’t care about Christmas.” Downtown was busy with couple going on dates. Stores and restaurants sold teddy bears and flowers for boyfriends who needed last minute gifts. Everywhere from shopping malls to movie theaters were packed with people, celebrating Christmas in their own Korean way. It was definitely different, but it was also great.
I missed my family, but I felt incredibly happy to be in Korea with the family I have created here. That’s the thing about travel, though. It’s about sacrificing time with family and the comfort of home for something that is so much greater.
It is the last day of December, and I can’t help but reflect on 2015. This year wasn’t easy. I suffered great loss and experienced a lot of change. But I can honestly say that all of the paperwork and time and stress that went in to creating this adventure was so worth it. 2016 will be different, but that doesn’t mean it will be bad. In fact, I think it’s going to be even better.