Monday, December 27, 2010

Let it Snow!

In the world of international teaching, a break from school is nearly always equated with travel. Rather than asking what dishes one is preparing for Thanksgiving or whether or not they have wrapped all of their Christmas presents, the question that hums off of teachers’ lips as we near a break is, “Where are you going?” After all, it is the love of adventure and desire to see the world that brought us over here in the first place. It only makes sense that we would get out of dodge every chance we have. Chris and I have gladly been a part of this wandering population during our time abroad and we have seen and experienced some incredible things.

This year is a bit different, however. Christmas break came slightly too late for travel for me this year as I am quickly approaching Hindenburg status. So, as all of our friends made their travel reservations either back to the States to visit family or to some warm beach somewhere to find refuge from the cold Seoul winter, Chris and I regrettably sat by and waved them all goodbye. I’ll be the first to admit that I looked forward to this break with a certain amount of apprehension. The first few frigid days served as chilly reminders of how we might be warming ourselves at some Australian winery or, better yet, near the fireplace at our families’ houses in the States. Happily, these despairing attitudes didn’t last long. Though the guest lists were short, we found ourselves attending Christmas parties, impromptu dinner get-togethers, outings with friends, and other things that we simply haven’t had time to enjoy during the school year.

Here has been the best part. We woke up this morning to a few good inches of untouched, fluffy snow. You know how much I had to shovel? None. You know where I had to be today? Nowhere. You know what I had to get done today? Absolutely nothing. And it feels awesome. We decided to venture out around campus where we ran into a few families sledding down a deserted hill. No one had anything but that on their to-do list for the day. Later in the morning, the snow came back and was falling in giant, soft flakes. We got to do what everyone wants to do when it snows like that. We made hot chocolate, turned up the heat, and sat and watched the snow float down from the sky. Now this is what vacation is all about. I think I might go read a book… because I can. Let it snow!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Take "No" For an Answer

Asian culture is a funny one. On the one hand, they are extremely friendly and go above and beyond to help ignorant foreigners make their way in a strange land. On the other hand, they are rule-followers who are quite unable to think outside of the box. This is often frustrating for Americans who have learned that thinking outside of the box is usually a very admirable trait to have. One such frustration has occurred during our most recent trips to Starbucks.

If you recall, holiday season at Starbucks is an event that is marked on expat’s calendars across the peninsula. The snowflake cups and coffee-drinking penguins at the cash register create a sort of haven of Christmas cheer in no matter what corner of the globe you find yourself. This year’s holiday season has been made extra special by the addition of the peppermint mocha to the list of holiday offerings. In the absence of my mom’s sugar cookies, few things come closer to tasting like Christmas than this delicious beverage. Here is the downside. As I have lamented before, Starbucks in Korea does not offer decaf versions of their liquid Christmas cheer and as I am staying away from caffeine during pregnancy, this is very sad news indeed. However, there exists a suitable alternative to the peppermint mocha in such a time as this: the peppermint hot chocolate. It seems simple, right? No peppermint mocha, just order the peppermint hot chocolate. Here is the problem. The peppermint hot chocolate is not on the menu. “So what?” you scoff, “Starbucks takes great pride in customizing beverages for its high maintenance clientele.” While this is true in the outside-of-the-box part of the world, it is far from the case in the collectivist follow-the-rules part of the world. If it is not on the menu, it is impossible to create. End of story.

Though we knew what kind of trouble we might be getting ourselves into, I went ahead and tried to order a peppermint hot chocolate. The girl behind the cash register looked very confused. I clarified that I wanted a hot chocolate with one shot of peppermint syrup. “No,” she replied simply. We encouraged her that it was actually okay to do. Just make the hot chocolate and put in one shot of peppermint. She turned to the person making the drinks and confirmed her previous negation. “No, I’m sorry.” Still smiling and friendly, we continued to explain to her how to ring it up on the cash register. Put in one hot chocolate and then press the key that is labeled “extra flavor shot”, come on, you can do it! She turns to her manager, obviously in distress over the foreigners who don’t seem to be understanding her. Was she mispronouncing the word “no”?. The third “no” inspired us to pull out the big guns. Hands placed firmly on what remains of my waist, I accented my giant pregnant belly and explained that I am unable to consume their caffeinated drinks of choice. After quite a bit of hemming and hawing in Korean, they finally decided to grant the poor pregnant foreigner her Christmas wish. Goal achieved! Peppermint hot chocolate made. This exact scene is played out every single time I decide to torment the unfortunate barista and every single time we end up wearing down their resolve and getting the peppermint hot chocolate.

Most recently, I have tried a tactic that has cut down on the time between ordering and acceptance of the order significantly. Jumping straight to the big guns, I whip out the belly and order a peppermint mocha… without espresso (gesture to baby bulge). Confusion often melts into understanding without any of the middle men and I get my peppermint mocha without espresso. How’s that for thinking outside the box?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BOGO Update

In case you were interested, I thought I would update you on the Buy One Get One free (BOGO) babies. This week we got to marvel at the amazing technological advances that have come about in the last few years by getting a 3-D ultrasound. The best part was that my parents are in town this week so they got to get a sneak peek at the little cuties as well. Here are a few of their best shots:

She's a little shy, this is her hand and the side of her head

A little side profile

Okay, this one I have to explain. If you look closely, you should see one baby's face. Right in front of her face is the other baby's foot. Looks like it is getting to be tight quarters!

That's all for now. Thanks for indulging me!