On Thanksgiving we ended up at the same restaurant we were at last year: Chef Meili. Last year there were only four of us, but this year we had a whopping 18. I am sure we annoyed the crap out of other patrons and we definitely were right in the middle of everything, but it was lovely. During dinner we all went around and said something we were thankful for, we toasted to good friends, and we gorged on delicious food. Chef Meili is such a warm and inviting restaurant (in fact that chef gave me a big hug when we got there for bringing so much business, haha) and I really couldn't have asked for more.
I made hand turkeys with my students for a good week and a half before Thanksgiving, so I had plenty of time to perfect mine. Thankful for so much!
Our beet soup appetizer. Just like last year, this soup left me wondering "If all beets are this delicious, why don't I eat them ALWAYS?"
Thanksgiving dinner with all the necessities: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, mashed potatoes, etc. Very tasty...we all cleaned our plates for sure!
Fancy pants pumpkin pie.
Everyone happily chowing down.
Posing with the chef...this guy is awesome.
Yeon Ah, Ga Young, and I
Melissa, Frank, and (birthday girl) Julia
Erich, Chrissy, and Jamie
David, Erika, and Casey
Laura, Yeon Ah, and Ga Young
Sarah, Diana, and Shannon
Sarah, Carin, and Sarah
Dana, Joseph, and Josephine
Awesome friends. I am undeniably thankful for them.
The next holiday we ran into was Julia's Birthday, which happened to be the day after Thanksgiving this year. We celebrated all weekend, with dinner and a Monkey Beach outing on Friday and a get together at Shannon and Jamie's on Saturday. Always a good time. Though I took roughly eight billion pictures Friday night, here are just a couple of my favorites.
The birthday girl blowing out her candles at Fresh House.
The birthday dinner crew: Diana, Chrissy, Frank, Shannon, Julia, Eric, Jamie, Stephanie, Erich, Josephine, Derek, and I.
Cheers! Monkey Beach is known for its buckets...try Malibu Orange- it is dangerously good.
This picture, pitting good against evil, is pretty indicative of the descent into madness that was Julia's birthday festivities, haha.
I've got to say, I really struggled to get into the Christmas spirit this year. I don't know if it was just homesickness, or what, but it was really a last ditch effort that finally got me feeling the slightest big Christmasy. We did have a couple of light snowfalls (maxing out at about 2 inches) that helped. So did doing a little volunteering (wrapping festive packages for Soap for Hope and shopping for kids at an orphanage in northern Seoul). And decorating my apartment.
As they would in pretty much any country, the kids lost it.
Big, chunky flakes.
Soap for Hope Christmas sale packages.
Cabinets decorated (complete with cards from my adorable returner twins David and Grace.
Christmas tree corner, with gifts from home ready to go!
Then Christmas was finally upon us! Christmas Eve I had a tiny get together at my tiny apartment. Frank, Melissa, Josephine, Chrissy and David came over and we ate a bunch of pizza while watching Gremlins and Die Hard (BOTH Christmas movies, thank you very much). Then Chrissy and David slept over (Chrissy and I both clad in new Christmas pajamas). Christmas morning we got up and the three of us did a mini-gift exchange before cooking up a storm in my apartment. It was all very domestic, haha. At 2:00pm it was finally time to head up to Frank and Melissa's apartment where we had just about the most amazing potluck I've ever been to. SO MUCH DELICIOUS FOOD! There was pork, chicken, steak, green bean casserole, cheese cubes, dips, sweet potato casserole, salad, pasta salad, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and desserts galore. I ate so much I was pretty sure I was going to die...but I would have died happy. After the food we did a Yankee Swap and I ended up with a lovely bottle of Jose Cuervo and a list of recipes. An excellent time was had by all. Christmas night in Korea was Christmas morning in the states, so I got to video chat with my mom and grandparents and open gifts together. I was extremely spoiled this year with a new Kindle, lovely Ugg boots, beautiful jewelry, some fantastic clothes, Season 5 of HIMYM and various other treats.
Chrissy and I: Christmas sleepover ready.
Brand new pans to cook the green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole! But...wait...they don't fit in Meaghan's easy bake oven....
Crisis averted by Chrissy's superhuman strength.
Chowing down while crammed into Frank and Melissa's apartment. We make cozy look good.
So much delicious, so little time!
Plate lickin' good!
Good friends, good food, and good conversation...that's how we do.
Food on every surface!
Erich and Julia posing with my fish pillow. I got a "Merry Fishmas" package from Liz containing this fish. Written all over it are fish related puns thought up by my friends at home. It is so amazing. Some favorite puns include (but are not limited to): "We're praying to COD that you return soon." -Bruno; "Being bored WALLEYE wait for you to return." -Tristan; "Maryland isn't the same wiTROUT you." -Carl; "HOOK yourself a nice KOI-rean boy." -Gabriel; "REELy. Leave that SCHOOL." -Daria; "I hope your Korean experience is a 10 on a SCALE of 1-10." -Greg; "Can't wait to see you when you FINish in Korea." -Liz. Seriously, what did I ever do to deserve such awesome (and hilarious) friends? Merry Fishmas and a CRAPPIE New Year, indeed.
Yankee Swap gifts.
Is any holiday complete without family fights?
Really though, all of us here in Korea hope you had a spectacular Christmas.
Love: Shawn, Eric, Frank, Michael, Joseph, Chrissy, Derek, David, Jamie, Julia (with moo), Erich, Lee-Rae, Melissa, Josephine (with Fishmas fish), Shannon and I.
This past week has been pretty chill. New Year's Eve DEFINITELY snuck up on me, though! (Whoa, snuck isn't a word? Who knew!) The crew had a little planning meeting earlier in the week and we decided to go up to Jongno where they ring this big bell 33 times. Everyone made it sound like a Times Square type of experience, so I went with high expectations. More on that later. First, yesterday afternoon, Jamie, Shannon, Matthew, Josephine, Carin and I went to see the movie Tron in 4D. That means not only is the movie in 3D, but you are in seats that move, air shoots out, smells are pumped into the theater, etc. It was AMAZING. The movie itself was alright, but the 4D experience kind of blew me away. I think I'm going to need to go see every movie that comes out in 4D here. Exciting (very Korean) way to spend the last afternoon of 2010. We bid our adieus to injured Shannon and her posse (Jamie and Matthew, obviously) and Carin, Josephine and I headed up to Jongno. We found ourselves a spot at a Holly's Coffee and settled in to play games for about an hour and a half. Good times. Then we met up with everyone else and headed over to the Dream Palace building for dinner. I attempted to order the stew type stuff we'd eaten there a few times before, but we ended up with just Korean bbq. However the meat was excellent, so no one was complaining!
Chrissy, Julia, Erich, Carin and Josephine enjoying dinner.
Frank, Joseph and Melissa enjoyed it too...even if they don't look like it!
Yay 2011! Check out the tiny hat barrette I borrowed from Shannon. DAPPER!
After dinner and securing the rest of our party from the metro station, we headed over to Hope Haus Bar, which is on the Cheonggyecheon for some drinks and games. The bar owner was less than pleased with our group size, volume, and perceived lack of purchasing power so that blew a little, but eventually we settled down, played some Kings, and generally had a good evening. Around 11:45pm we headed over to Jongno for the ringing of the bell. It was...um...anti-climactic. There was a count down, yes. Then a bunch of Koreans released balloons with wishes on them, yes. That was pretty cool. But then everyone just kind of immediately left. It was really strange. We stood in the middle of everything wishing people happy new year and waited til the crowd dissipated. I was just expecting more, I guess. This year in lieu of making resolutions, I stole an idea from Simi over at Straight from the Curls. We each took a small piece of paper and wrote down something we wanted to let go of in the coming year. It could be a bad habit, relationship baggage, a negative experience, whatever. At midnight we all burned the papers and said goodbye to the things we wanted to release. It was great!
Fun lights by YBM.
Second NYE in a row with these ladies. Love!
Lots of people.
The thing on the right there (Asian looking building) is where the bell is housed.
Me, Chrissy, Diana, Erich and Josephine all ready to burn our papers!
There were roughly 8 billion police out.
Last Moments of 2010! from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.
Here are the last few moments of 2010 on our side of the world! Today I cannot help but wonder how much wildlife will die thanks to Korean New Years wishes.
After we left Jongno we took a leisurely walk down the Cheonggyecheon, stopping for pictures, before hailing a taxi and heading home. I was asleep by 2:00am, haha.
Cheonggyecheon still decorated for Christmas!
Fun lights say goodbye to 2010.
One last photo for the night.
Happy New Year from Julia, me, Carin and Glenn!
Overall, 2010 brought me some wonderful moments. Meeting new friends. Adventures to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Japan. Visits from Jo Anna, Mike, Carl and Monica. Unforgettable trips to Jeollanam-do, Nami Island, Jeju, Busan and all corners of Seoul. A million hilarious experiences with my students. A renewed appreciation for what I have back in the States. Countless memories I'll always share with my friends from Korea.
I hope your 2011 is filled with health, happiness, love, and laughter. I hope you explore the world (even just your corner of it) and yourself with a renewed passion. I hope you're surrounded by people and things you enjoy, and that this time next year you're in an even better place than you are right now.
Happy New Year!