It’s not just about December 25th.

Christmas starts a month or two beforehand, or at the very least, in the first week of December.

Christmas is hearing the songs you’ve heard every year since you were born, over and over again until you can’t think of anything else.

Christmas is seeing the lights twinkling every time you go into town.

Christmas is sitting in Starbucks with a friend, drinking Gingerbread Lattes and eating cinnamon cookies.

Christmas is visiting the Christmas market and drinking mulled wine, or whatever they call it in your part of the world.

Christmas is enjoying a Bailey’s on ice with your best friend in front of a roaring log fire in a local pub.

Christmas is listening to little kids learning to sing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Christmas is sitting in your parents’ living room watching The Snowman with The Sister and a box of Quality Street.

Christmas is getting thrown out of a local pub for singing Fairytale of New York too loudly whilst draped in tinsel.

Christmas is a carol service in an echoing, candlelit church.

Christmas is giving what you can to that homeless guy outside the subway station.

Christmas is watching your Granda make his novelty slippers do a happy dance to the tune of a Slade song.

Christmas is helping tiny little children to write letters to Santa on decorated stocking-shaped cards.

Christmas is sitting in a karaoke room singing Last Christmas and Oh, Holy Night with your friends.

Christmas is walking home in the snow.

Christmas is not just about December 25th. It’s a whole season, and for the first time in three years, I am travelling home to spend it with my family (and Kat the Cat). I’ve had to mostly bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut about it here in Korea, since I know that all my friends would love to be going home for Christmas, and I’m trying not to make them sad by rubbing their noses in the fact that I am*. All I want to do, however, is shriek in a girlish, high-pitched squeal: I’m coming home for Christmas!

See you soon. :)

[*The one friend in Korea who does faithfully read this blog will have to bear with me through the excitement… you know I would love for you to be coming, too!]

What to do when your friend is kidnapped by a psychotic bus driver.

Jump in front of the bus! I yell, breaking into a run and then diving into the path of a moving bus.

It is shaping up to be a strange sort of day.

Our problems began when we filed off the bus only to discover that the driver was standing at the door collecting our tickets – as opposed to the more usual system of checking them before the journey. (In fact, we showed him our tickets out of habit when we got on, anyway, so he definitely knew we had paid.) Most of us still had our tickets to hand, but South African Friend Four has been unable to find hers, and has spent the past minute or so scrabbling around in her handbag and pockets with no success. The bus driver is not a very forgiving character. In fact, he may actually be a tiny bit insane, if his sudden explosion of total rage is anything to go by. While South African Friend Four returns despairingly to her seat to search for the elusive ticket, he stands at the door with steam pouring from his ears and nostrils, and then launches into an unprovoked and somewhat alarming attack on the rest of us.

We look at him in bemusement. All we are doing is standing near the bus waiting for our friend. We have all obediently given him our tickets and stepped off the bus. We are not doing anything wrong. And yet for some reason he appears to be as angry with us as the average person would get at, say, a stoned teenager breaking into their house and raiding the kitchen for snacks, leaving the place covered in crumbs and empty crisp packets. He is yelling at us in rapid Korean, and we have no idea what we have done.

Why are you shouting at us?! demands South African Friend Five, understandably indignant. Psycho Bus Driver continues his unfathomable rant, jabbing at us with an accusing finger. Don’t you push me! says Irish Friend One hotly. South African Friend Three and I back away nervously, being the two least confrontational, most peace-loving individuals present, but the other two, tempers roused, square up to Psycho Bus Driver, their anger rising to match his. Interested bystanders are staring. SAF3 and I are mortified, and cowering in the bus station doorway. The yelling continues as SAF4 reappears on the bus steps, still sans ticket, but she seems to have been forgotten about as the battle outside rages. I only turn to look when I hear Irish Friend One yelling Don’t dare touch her!, just in time to see him blocking Psycho Bus Driver’s raised hand from striking SAF5 on the face. Good grief.

It is at this point that the Psycho Bus Driver tries a new tactic, hops back on to the bus, pushes SAF5 in with him, closes the door, and drives off with her standing there next to him looking bewildered. The other two are pounding furiously on the doors as they close, yelling “Let her off the bus!”, and that’s the point at which SAF3 and I run back and fling ourselves in front of the vehicle.

There is never a dull moment, seriously.

[SAF4 was allowed off the bus when we thrust money at the driver to pay for the lost ticket – he took double what she’d already paid for it, and wanted even more, but we walked away from him into the station. Irish Friend One demanded that the police were called, and there was a whole big scene, and many angry voices, and interpreters on the phone for communication with the police officers… oh, dear Lord, what a morning. SAF3 and I hid in a corner and sang “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…” in subdued little voices, trying to block out all the madness. I don’t think we’ll ever find out why the driver was so crazily angry and aggressive towards us, but I for one will never, ever let go of my ticket before the end of a bus journey for as long as I live… ]