• Received “free hugs” on Christmas evening from random Korean strangers standing in Myeongdong with signs and costumes?   Check
  • Miscalculated amount of time needed on train to get home from Seoul, got kicked off in a random town and became horribly lost from about midnight to almost 3 am while getting back home Christmas evening?   Check
  • (In same evening) Accomplished lifelong goal of riding in FRONT of the yellow line and standing smack in front of large windows on public transportation bus (due to it being so crowded I was literally shoved against said windows)?   Check
  • Watched a car crash literally 5 feet in front of me while still completely lost and crossing a random street?  Check
  • Had two snowball fights with my students during which I was both the annihilator/was annihilated?  Check
  • Started off New Year’s Eve by accomplishing another lifelong dream of participating in Karaoke with some Korean friends (believe it or not I’ve never participated in Karaoke before this, though I’ve always wanted to!)?   Check
  • Received smoochies (on the cheeks) from two random Korean guys who ran up to me saying “We love you!” while in Seoul for New Year’s Eve countdown?   Check
  • Also received hug and a “Happy New Year” from random police officer, along with shouts from the fellow police officers watching (who just a few hours earlier were quite stoic and standing in intimidating lines)?   Check
  • Tried Kimchi again (though I’ve really disliked it the entire past 4 months) and found that I suddenly really enjoy/even occasionally crave it?    Check
  • Had a thoroughly amazing Christmas and New Year’s?   Check

Whew…. In case the prior list didn’t accurately convey how brilliant my Christmas and New Year’s turned out to be I’ll just state the obvious… it was amazing!

Rather than list all the details  I’m just going to recount the latest adventure (time of occurence: Christmas evening) which ended up being one of my favorite experiences yet. Oddly enough it’s another semi- “harrowing” one (like my previous hospital adventure) but I enjoyed every single ounce of it and wouldn’t trade it in if you paid me. Which is something I wouldn’t have expected … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

To start, I spent Christmas in Seoul with some friends. We had a blast in Myeongdong, looking at lights, having snowball fights, eating giant waffles laden with ice cream and fruit and other sugary assortments and just enjoying the sights around us.

To get home I took the train as usual (which, though massive and confusing, is thankfully also covered with signs in English). Unfortunately I miscalculated when the trains would stop running and was kicked off my train about halfway home, in some random town. This might not seem too bad except I didn’t have a cell phone on me, I’d never used the buses and I also didn’t have enough cash for a taxi.

So I walked out of the train station to the sight of taxi’s and taxi drivers flagging people down and asking where they wanted to go. Earlier that evening my friend Ami had given me a plant (see picture below) which I promptly broke a short while later due to falling on the ice (surprise, surprise). And there I stood, clutching my broken plant and looking rather bewildered (as there were NO buses in view) when suddenly another foreigner (about my age) named Rick popped up directly in front of me and asked where I was headed.

I explained I needed to get to Hwajeong and he said he’d show me where the buses were. I gasped with relief and trotted along thankfully beside him. He explained he was from California and we exchanged the usual small talk pleasantries while walking around a corner to the bus stop (which I highly doubt I’d have found otherwise as it was a good way from the train station).

Upon arriving at the station we both soon realized that NONE of the signs were in English. And when I say they weren’t in English I mean they were in Hangeul, which is literally a bunch of symbols. I’ve learned to read most of it but this was a giant map covered in tiny symbols… and I hadn’t the foggiest idea where to begin to even ATTEMPT to locate my particular stop.

So Rick and I managed to flag down another Korean who explained I needed bus 906. Rick then hopped onto a different bus and I proceeded to wait… and wait… and wait… until 40 minutes later I was still waiting. (Keep in mind it was freezing and had been snowing the entire time. There also wasn’t a single spot of heat at this bus stop and a huge mass of us were crowded beneath the roof shingle extending from the bus stop wall.)

And after all this my bus finally arrived but was already packed FULL. I watched in amusement as several Koreans tried to shove their way on anyhow and it looked as though a couple of them might actually grab the doors and walls of the bus and ride it Spiderman style.

I then started wondering when the last buses would run for the evening and if I’d end up truly stranded.  So I started chatting with a really nice Korean girl, who informed me “maybe one more bus come tonight” (to which I thought, “HOLY CRAP”!?!?!) and offered to help me keep an eye out for that bus. Thankfully, the final bus DID arrive and though this one was also quite packed he let us jump on. And as I was next to last I got to ride RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE HUGE WINDOWS (and, ahem, I’d also like to take this moment to point out that it was in FRONT of the yellow line.)!

It was glorious and felt like flying 😉 At that point all stress and concern left and I found myself oddly content (though quite aware I still had no idea what stop I needed and was not exactly home free yet).

I ended up getting off the bus several stops too early (as the stops were not shouted out, what little the bus driver said was in Korean, and I spent the majority of the ride trying to catch glimpses of signs that  might indicate where I was) and landed in this random/semi-deserted looking town at about 1 am (ish). So, still clutching my broken plant, I trudged through the huge snowflakes that were also still falling and tried to gather my bearings.

If you know me at all you know that I tend to get lost within 5 inches of anywhere, so the fact that I meandered in the right direction AND managed to find signs indicating that my particular area was close turned out to be a bit of a “Christmas miracle.” I also didn’t have the luxury of asking for directions as the only other Koreans in sight (who I did try to flag down) did not speak a word of English.

To top of this amazing experience I also watched a car crash into another car, literally five feet from where I stood, while I was crossing the street. (No one was hurt… besides the actual cars).

And I finally arrived at home… close to 3 am, completely content and rather proud of myself. It might seem like a small feat to you but getting lost has always been an issue for me (let alone in a foreign country) so this was just another experience that caused me to realize perhaps I’m less of a “nancy” than I’d originally thought… 😉

Hope your holidays were merry and jolly and all that good stuff. Still love and miss you all!

(Me in Myeongdong following a fall on the ice which cracked the previously mentioned plant…)

***If you want to see any further photos from Christmas, New Year’s or otherwise you can do so at the following public links (even if you don’t have facebook).

Christmas Pictures (Myeongdong/Christmas Weekend)

New Year’s Eve Pictures (Karaoke/City Hall in Seoul)

Updates to the Miscellaneous album