Episode 8 - Holidays Abroad
We've spent a good amount of holidays abroad during our travels and felt it was necessary to dedicate a podcast discussing them.
2014 - Thailand
Our first holiday abroad was Halloween in Thailand. We found ourselves in Koh Samui with other folks in the program we had eventually gotten scammed in. We bought some beer and drank while we walked to a bar that had a live band playing English cover songs, which was lovely and comforting to hear. After spending some time there, it got very packed very quickly, so we headed to another area with a plethora of clubs.
While out and about on Koh Samui during Halloween, however, we noticed that no one was really dressed up in costumes at all! We weren't, the people we were with weren't, and the people on the streets weren't either.
2015 - South Korea
In South Korea, we found ourselves not doing anything in celebration because Matt wanted to stay in so he could watch the World Series early the following morning. However, our job was decorated for the occasion and students were dressed up, too. We were also basically forced to wear costumes. And Matt, being the rebel that he is, didn't wear a costume! He enjoyed protesting things at that job.
2016 - Taiwan
During this past Halloween, we landed in Taipei, Taiwan on the Saturday of Halloween weekend. So, we dressed up in quick street-bought costumes (I was a bunny and Matt just wore a mustache with glasses) and took a cab to Club Mystique. Upon waiting on line in the street to get into the club, we immediately noticed that the hundred or so people on the street were all dressed up in extravagant costumes! It was clear that Halloween is a big thing in Taiwan, specifically Taipei. I mean, I posed with a guy wearing the absolute PERFECT Darth Maul attire! Make-up, head spikes and all! And Matt posed with a guy dressed perfectly as Deadpool! It was a ton of fun celebrating Halloween in Taipei!
2014 - Thailand
During this Thanksgiving, we got together with a few other teachers from our school to have a small dinner. We congregated in one of our apartments (with no kitchen, by the way) and everyone brought something. Matt and I, being that we had no kitchen or any appliances, brought a mountain of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because why not! Other people brought a rotisserie chicken (sorry, no turkey in Thailand), macaroni salad, potato chips, beer, and an assortment of slices of cake.
This was our first experience with cake in Thailand and we were blown away. It was easily the best cake we'd ever tried!
2015 - South Korea
We planned to have a Thanksgiving Day with some friends from our job, but we ended up all cancelling because we got out late from work and didn't feel up to it. So, we all got together to celebrate a couple of weeks afterwards. I made mashed potatoes and someone else brought hot dogs and potato chips. So, basically, we had a picnic indoors for Thanksgiving...a few weeks after Thanksgiving! Afterwards, we all rode our bicycles in a nearby park.
We had an Italian restaurant across the street from our apartment, so being that our families are Italian and celebrate Christmas Eve as Italians do with lots of pasta, wine, and fish, we went there for dinner! While we were eating, one of our friends/fellow teachers from our school saw us eating through the window and came inside and sat and ate with us, which was lovely as well! It was a very comforting meal.
2015 - South Korea
We did a whole lot of nothing. Oops!
Being that it was on a weekday, we had to work on Christmas Day. However, it was very relaxed and festive! Everyone--including the students even!-- was wearing red and Santa hats! One teacher even dressed up in full-on Santa Claus attire, which made the kids so happy!
During the day, we had an assembly that everyone had to attend where the students performed songs and dances in celebration of Christmas. I remember one act that was my favorite where these three nine-year-old girls (one of them was actually my student) danced extremely provocatively to Christmas songs and random hip-hop songs! I mean, they were literally twerking and ripping off clothes like strippers! It was hilarious! And, for whatever reason, the entire assembly was going wild with cheers and applause for them.
We really didn't mind working on Christmas Day since it was such a fun and exciting day! That, and we got let out early. ...Also, we probably would've just stayed in our room anyway if we didn't have work.
This was also our first Christmas where it was blistering hot and humid! We are used to snowy and cold Christmases because we're from New York, so this was definitely a totally different Christmas for us. Our school did decorate a lot with Christmas trees and various decorations throughout the school which helped make it feel more "Christmasy," but the fact that it was so hot and humid definitely made it feel far less Christmasy than we were used to!
2015 - South Korea
Matt had a nasty cold on Christmas Day, so we stayed in once again! We played a lot of video games and relaxed. But, I made some mashed potatoes in celebration and set up some Christmas lights around the living room and kitchen, which added a nice homey touch! We exchanged some gifts as well, of course.
New Year's Celebration
2014- Koh Chang, Thailand
We were given a vacation of about 5 days, so Matt, a few fellow teachers, and I headed to the island of Koh Chang to celebrate New Years. It was a beautiful island that was about a 5 hour trip using various modes of transportation from Chonburi, where we lived. Regardless of the distance, we had an amazing time! We were on the beach, drinking, and dancing. We remember counting down on a beach with a ton of people and a DJ. There was a Christmas tree next to the DJ too, which was nice, and once we got to 0, there were fireworks above our heads in the clear, starlit sky. It was one of our favorite New Years by far.
The following day, we rode elephants with an extreme hangover, too!
2015 - Busan, South Korea
We went to Busan with another couple. There weren't many people there during New Years, which kind of put a damper on our time there. On New Year's Eve, we had some beers on the beach and let off a lantern into the sky, which was lovely! Then, we went to a random bar and counted down with the few people that were there.
Fun fact: Koreans don't exactly celebrate New Year's Eve, but when the sun rises on New Year's Day. So, we woke up extremely early-- maybe around 4 or so. Matt then decided that he still wanted to sleep, so he stayed in the hostel while the three of us headed to a somewhat nearby beach via the subway-- with hundreds upon hundreds of other people!
When we got to Haeundae Beach, we were in a large crowd, waiting for the sun to rise. When it did, people let off hundreds of balloons and lanterns, played music, and took tons of pictures of the sun! It was extremely beautiful and a wonderful experience, even with my exhaustion! Then, we immediately headed back and went back to sleep.
Now, for a couple of interesting foreign holidays we celebrated....
Peppero Day in South Korea
Peppero is basically Korea's version of Japan's Pocky, which is a pretzel stick covered in chocolate. It comes in other various flavors as well and is incredibly delicious. On Peppero Day, which is basically their Valentine's Day as well, everyone exchanges the Peppero candy and eats it all day long! During this day, we worked and received some (but very few!) Peppero from our students. They were a bit stingy with sharing them with us, at least. How rude! But, it was a cool and unique celebration to witness.
Father's Day in Thailand
Father's Day in Thailand is celebrated throughout the entire month of December for the King's birthday. It's not so much a celebration of fathers, but mainly of the king. We also learned the hard way that on the actual King's birthday, they don't sell alcohol to anyone! Anyway, throughout the whole month of December when we worked, we were forced--along with the rest of the country-- to wear yellow! There were also some basic festivities during the main day at our school.
Chinese New Year's in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
During this holiday, everyone heads to their hometown, so there was hardly anyone in the entire city! It was completely empty. It was such an interesting experience, especially since Ho Chi Minh City is usually so loud, crowded, and stinky.
We also heard lots of music blasting in the streets and fireworks at random times as well.
...but what about holidays when we returned home?
While we're abroad, we feel a bit homesick during the holidays. We felt the most homesick in Thailand, but after that, we didn't feel too homesick. We got used to it really quickly and made the best of it.
But, now we're experiencing the holidays at home for the first time in two years. We feel that the holidays are actually not as magical as we made it up to be in our heads. The holidays seem a bit too materialistic for us. We aren't incredibly materialistic people, so it's a bit difficult for us to thoroughly enjoy. We also just don't know what to buy for people either because they always seem unhappy by our gifts anyway! We realized that we actually prefer to be abroad during the holidays. It's been so much fun experiencing them differently every year!
Also, winter totally sucks and we forgot about that until now! So, that doesn't help.
Piece of advice: if you get the chance, you should experience the holidays abroad at least once. It is such a great experience! Homesickness may occur, but we think that it's so worth it to see how other countries celebrate holidays.
What were some holidays that you experienced abroad? What was your take on them? Let us know!
Wine: Lab - Red Wine (Lisbon, Portugal)