Winter was my favorite seasons while growing up. (Korea has four equally divided seasons.) I remember one winter we got so much snow, I felt like swimming. We went ice skating, snow and ice sledding, and made lots and lots of snowmen each year. There’s a great photo of my mom and my brother posing with their snowman. Three months of winter is enough time to do all that activities.
Winter in Korea is an experience. Even though our winter is harsh, it is enjoyable because of the exquisite ondol (central floor heating system) and all the comfort foods. A lot of Korean dishes are served hot, which is perfect for the cold days. Our old place used to have a traditional stove and ondol. It used briquettes for cooking and heating the floor at the same time. The proximity to the kitchen decides how hot your floor gets, and half of my room got really hot because if was right next to the kitchen, and balcony on the other side. The air was cold, but I always went under the bottom blanket as soon as I woke up (we didn’t have a bed). The floor was so hot as it could melt my body, but I relaxed me every time. My obsession with hot shower may started from there.
Snow, it’s the best thing, isn’t it? It starts as crystalline water ice that falls from clouds, but it is much more than that when it reaches the ground. It has power of changing the entire scenery, and brings joy that makes dogs jump up and down through snow.
My relationship with winter was fragile for last couple years. Yangshou (China) in January changed my opinion entirely, and made me realize what is important in winter. It was in the middle of winter in China, I knew it was cold, but what I didn’t know was the lack of heating system. The room we had in Yangshou only had a small electric heating pad on the bed that was barely working. I have a high tolerance to cold temperature, but I couldn’t handle the fact that there was no place to heat my body at the end of the day. Winter in Seoul gets as cold as -17 Degree Celsius (1.4 Degree Fahrenheit) but I was okay because our house had a warm floor. Because the experience was so harsh, I escaped to Laos and decided to avoid winter since then. Except a couple months of holiday season here and there, the plan was successful. Most of the places I’ve been last year were all tropical: Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Northern India (in Summer), Philippines, Mexico, and so on.
Sometime in Malaysia, the feeling suddenly hit me ‘I miss being cold’. Part of it was because I was sick of wiping off a bucket of sweat every day, I’m sure. Maybe because I was so used to change of seasons, or because I was in love with the lovely winter for so long, I just missed it. As much as I enjoyed watching sunset on the beach with a cold beer, but it couldn’t fill the void of fluffy and fuzzy sweatpants and winter coat.
Not as cold as Seoul’s, but winter here in Virginia brings me joy everyday. The weather has been changing a lot for last couple weeks, but it sprinkled snow yesterday and formed beautiful ice covered trees all over the neighborhood. I had to travel with a winter coat through Malaysia, Namibia, and South Africa for this moment, and had to buy a few more long sleeve shirts, but it’s a wonderful feeling. The sharp wind against my cheek, I love it.
It’s just like life. We all walk on different paths by choosing different things in life, but eventually we will come back to what is really important at the end. It’s just interesting to realizing new things that are not really new, and getting to know more about myself day by day.