Sunday, December 2, 2007

winter, in four parts

Part One: Tangerines

The weather during Korean winters is dreary, but the trees here make up for it. Leaves are changing to bright primary colors—not unlike they do in the U.S.— but the best and most vivid colors come from the tangerine trees. Jeju Island is famous for tangerines and December is their peak month. There isn’t a very big rural/urban divide where I live; tangerine farms are sprinkled in with houses and small businesses throughout town. Bright orange polka dots are part of the winter scene here.

I spent a few hours last weekend picking tangerines with my friend Alec and his host family on their farm. It was not difficult; you wear gloves (less than a pack of gum at the convenience store, oddly) and use special scissors to clip them off the tree. Everyone on the island either owns a small tangerine farm or knows someone who does; I’ve talked to few people here who haven’t picked tangerines at some point. Not only does everyone pick, but the town itself is overflowing with free tangerines. There are usually leftovers after the tangerines are neatly packaged and sent to the mainland, but this year the teachers at my school tell me there was an extra-large crop and there are even more extras. It shows—I have been given free tangerines at a clothing shop, when paying my cell phone bill, and at a Japanese restaurant yesterday with my family.

Part Two: Holidays

Thanksgiving is one of the few uniquely American holidays, and I wanted to explain it beyond “we eat a lot of food and watch TV” (which I think is an apt description for most days in America) for my first graders (equivalent of 7th grade in America). I sat down and tried to make a powerpoint, but struggled to explain the history in a way that made sense for ESL students, was sort of interesting, and would not shame Native Americans or the Willamette history department. I don’t know if I succeeded in meeting any of the goals, but by the time my fifth class rolled around, I had my dialogue down: “I am from Europe! This is my first winter in America. I cannot find food. I am hungry and cold.” “I am Squanto. I am an Indian. I have lived here a long time. Most Indians don’t speak English, but I do. I am special. I have an idea to help you. You should plant corn.” “Oh, thank you. Good idea. Now I am not hungry. I am happy because you helped me. So, please come to my house for dinner.” I think the students were the most impressed by the pictures of Thanksgiving food, though. Pictures of a big turkey, pumpkin pie, and, interestingly, baby carrots were huge hits.

As for my own Thanksgiving, I went with most people from my program the weekend before to the Ambassador’s house in Seoul for a big dinner that I will never ever forget. There were at least 20 different things I had not had since I left America and they were all beyond terrific.

Part Three: PopTart Days

Home: I miss it more than normal. This is evidenced by two consecutive PopTart Days last week. PopTart Days are the days when I miss the U.S. enough to toast one of the carefully rationed PopTarts from the box my mom sent (thanks, mom).

Part Four: Winter Break Plans

I still need one more plane ticket, but for the most part it's booked-- one week in Japan with my college friend, two weeks teaching special English classes here in Seogwipo, 20 days in Borneo, Malaysia with my older brother... and a little over two months' worth of paychecks going to pay for it. Minus the money, though, I am pumped.

Happy winter, all!


Steve said...

mmmm... poptarts! What's your address so i can try to mail you something??? :-)

Allie said...

You sure you cant come out to Washington/Oregon instead of Malaysia?
Just wanted to say I love reading your blog, I miss you and love you, and Fireside wont be the same without you!!!!!!! CTFU :)

Casey said...

Thanks for the kind words, Elizabeth.

Anonymous said...

Liz, i am so glad that you were able to enjoy some american food! i totally understand american food cravings... though mine were limited by weeks and not months. i think you win :)
i so enjoy reading about your life! with much love, beth
i will miss you at fireside!

Aaron said...

yay sister! yay trip! yay poptarts! yay tangerines!

Reid said...

tangerines are one of my favorite things in the world. i average about a box and a half a week when they're in season.

Elizabeth said...

steve! i'll email you my address.
beth, allie...i already miss fireside. please play backup and keep the donut tradition going. i miss you both a lot.
casey, welcome back!
reid, if you need a second home, i recommend jeju island.