“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” -Anne Bradstreet
It’s technically still fall, but I woke up to five inches of snow on Wednesday and declared it winter. That means I’ve entered the fourth season of the year in Korea, and I think this one might be the most difficult. I really dislike being cold, and that’s particularly unfortunate in a country where I’m a teacher and heating is not generously provided in public schools. This week the temperature has been in the upper teens and low 20s (Fahrenheit) which feels particularly harsh when I just can’t warm up. The hallways, cafeteria, and bathrooms are not heated at all, and the heat (which was finally turned on two weeks ago) is stuck at a very low setting in my classroom. I will remain bundled up in my coat, scarf and gloves all day long for the next several months.
Being so far away from loved ones during the holidays also makes this time of year a bit of a struggle. I worked through Thanksgiving (although I did eat some turkey with friends from around the world a few days later) and for Christmas I have the day off, but I will have to go to work in the icebox they call school the day before and after. The good news is I have underfloor heating in my apartment and lots of yarn to knit with so I can improve my knitting skills. I also recently found Christmas lights to string around my apartment which means I don’t have to use the hideous overhead fluorescent lighting all the time! It’s certainly not the same as curling up in front of a cozy fireplace, but it does add a little bit of warmth to the atmosphere that I’ve been craving since getting here.
Thankfully, I have some delightful students that love winter and know how to cheer me up on bleak winter days. I also know that I can look forward to next year when I’ll be closer to my dear friends and family. Until then, I’m going to eat a lot of kimchi jjigae, teach myself how to knit a hat, and continue to be grateful for the opportunity to experience a year in Korea, even if it means missing the holidays and constantly shivering.