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Merry Christmas from Busan

It’s Christmas Day here in South Korea. It’s just passed 4pm and I have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. This is my first time being away from my family. I knew I would be spending the holidays alone; this is what I signed up for when I moved to Busan to be an English teacher. If I were home right now, I would be exhausted but happy after having spent the day cooking, cleaning and getting all dressed up to go to church. After church I’d get home and have way too many tamales and regret making myself so uncomfortably full. And right about now, I’d be getting ready to open up gifts with my family. Of course, you never realize how much your traditions mean to you until you’re away from home. It’s those little things like sitting down to have a meal together that make the holidays so special. So today, I am missing my family more than ever.

Christmas is quiet for me today. I woke up and made coffee. I called my mom and my sister. It’s Christmas Eve for them and the time differences are very confusing to keep track of since I have to be aware of what time it is in Florida and California. With my sister entering the military soon, I will also have to keep track of the hour in Texas. Not only am I spending Christmas Day alone, but I also have COVID-19 to think about. As much as I would love to go out and take a walk to clear my mind and explore my new home, I am staying in. With cases rising, it seems a little selfish to throw caution to the wind and go out as I please. I am itching to get to know new places in my city, but all of that will have to wait. As a teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to take care of myself to take care of my students. Busan will still be waiting for me.

I haven’t been completely alone, though. Last night, on Christmas Eve, I invited a couple of the teachers from my school to have an unconventional Christmas eve dinner: Papa John’s pizza, soju, and Christmas cake. We hung out a lot longer than planned. It was nice to sit with native English speakers and just have a conversation about anything and everything. With the current situation worsening, restaurants and bars have been closed but I think this worked out better than expected. We are all here from different countries, by ourselves, and alone during the holidays.

Although I had moments of sadness today because I miss my loved ones, I know this Christmas will be one that I remember for a long time. I am in a foreign country, I had pizza and soju for Christmas Eve dinner with a teacher from Canada and one from the United Kingdom, I woke up and have spent the day alone, and I can’t go out because it’s not safe. But despite all this, I feel okay. I am at peace and I feel happy. I really pushed myself far out of my comfort zone and I am learning to be happy and content on my own, no matter what situation I find myself in. With 2020 coming to a close, I am ending the year with a new perspective. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to make this big change in my life and move here to Busan. I have already learned so much in my short time here, and I know I will be learning even more in the next year.

Please stay safe out there. Wear your mask. Stay home if you can. Merry Christmas. 🎄

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