Happy belated new year for 2013. I hope this year has been treating everyone well. It certainly hasn't been very kind to me but we’ll get to that soon enough. It’s been quite a while since I've gotten around to writing this blog. I had every intention of doing this is December but then life became rather complicated and somehow I found myself putting it off.
Winter in South Korea has been a rather unpleasant experience. I’m pretty sure that everyone around me has felt thoroughly uncomfortable with the actual weather but then add to that the expense of winter clothing and the astronomical heating bills and you get a bunch of very grumpy waygook. Now most of my friends here are Canadian and somehow those guys are built for the cold, perhaps it’s all that maple syrup flowing through their veins, but for South Africans like me, anything below 16’C is too cold. Unluckily for my sissy South African hide, this last winter dropped as low as -20’C. Prior to moving to Korea, the coldest weather I had ever experienced was around 2’C which is still above freezing point and I had a warm fireplace to ease the chill then. Winter has certainly been a shock to my system. Furthermore was the realization that I was completely unprepared for the cold. My warmest coat in South Africa wouldn't even be an autumn coat here so I had to stock up on the essentials (coat, boots, scarves, gloves, beanies, earmuffs, thermal underwear, etc.). Once that was done, at least I wasn't at constant risk of catching hypothermia. I also eventually figured out how to use my heating in my apartment and bought a nice warm comforter. That just left one hurdle and a major hurdle at that… snow.
Now snow was at first a novelty. It’s beautiful to watch, it’s all sparkly and makes that delightful crunch when you walk on it BUT that novelty wore off very quickly once the snow turned into ice and slush. The winter boots that I had ordered from eBay weren't exactly cut out for Korean weather seeing as they were neither waterproof nor had any grip on the ice. I can’t even recall the amount of times I fell down but I vividly recall my painfully bruised hip (for some reason I always landed on the same hip every time I fell). Eventually as a result of sheer desperation I walked into a shoe store in my sodden boots with a very pathetic look on my face. No verbal communication was necessary. The store assistant could clearly see that I was in need of proper snow boots. She was really nice to me and even gave me a pair of dry socks to wear. Those bright purple ‘ugly as **** boots’ (now fondly known as my Barney boots) may just well have been the single smartest investment I've ever made. While they went a long way in keeping me warm, they did not however ease the fear of ice and snow that I had developed prior to the purchase of the boots.
I was so incredibly terrified of falling down and killing myself that I literally refused to leave my apartment unnecessarily. I went to work (usually in tears and holding onto anything I could find to stay upright along the way or walking on the road itself where there was less snow/ice), to the grocery shop (which is on the way home anyway), back to my apartment and that was about it. Now I am not completely crazy, there is a name for this condition; chionophobia. Whilst I didn't have any severe traumatic incidents related to snow and ice to develop this fear, I suspect it was because I had never been exposed to ice or snow like that before combined with a horror story I heard of a woman around my age needing hip replacement surgery after falling. I’m fairly accident prone so this was a legitimate fear. After an argument with a friend in which she pointed out my somewhat irrational behaviour, I decided to brave the elements. I eventually got somewhat comfortable walking on the snow and ice, even if I looked like a bandy penguin doing so, and I did have quite a few close calls. At least I ended up enjoying some of the winter and did actually leave my apartment for some social interaction. I’m just glad that spring is on the way. I doubt I’d ever want to endure another Korean winter. I will NEVER take Durban’s beautiful weather for granted again.
For the record, I did throw a snowball and make a snow man just to say I've done it.