Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Big Burst of Cloud Fluff

Winter came this year in a blast of snow. At 2am I awoke to the creak and groan of cold water pipes in my apartment building, a rather uncanny noise to awaken to. Feeling wide awake I thought a quick stroll outside in the early morning air would put me back to sleep more quickly than if I stayed inside and listened to the creaks. Outside it wasn't as quiet as I had imagined. Yes, no creaks from cold water pipes but surprisingly at 2:30am there were a few people around, and in the little area that I walked, I saw two large tent kiosks open for business; one even had a massive blaring plasma TV, which I'm sure cost more than the vinyl tent that housed it. Of course there were the all-night 24/7 convenience stores but also another mom-and-pop shop that stayed open all night and had quite a number of clientele (men only) drinking and watching another large TV. The night was snowless - clear, cold and crisp. And there was a peace on the streets that can't be heard during the rush of the day.

At 8am I was ready to leave for another day of work ... but the clear, cold and crisp night of a few hours before was replaced by a foggy whiteness - a delightfully beautiful but definitely unwanted snowstorm was descending on unprepared Seoul. In the 3 hours since it started, the world had turned to a robed whiteness. Cars were sliding, traffic delayed, subways packed, and scheduled overruled. While it was beautiful to some, Seoul was in a quandary about how to deal with the continuously increasing blanket of "heavy" snow [ultimately only 6-8 inches]. For being in such a northern country, Seoul as a heat island in recent years has had little snow and so to clear the streets, front-end loaders served as the impromptu snow plows, janitors and service men and women, as well as a number of youngs guys serving in the mandatory two years of military service were part of the road and sidewalk clearing teams.

Unfortunately for me, some of those creaking pipes heard in the early a.m. were mine and they didn't augur good fortune. The piping along the water meter broke so pipes froze and my water was cut off for an indefinite period of time. The indefinite period of time, as observed by a friend, is related to a response of 'endurance' rather than 'adaptation' to the wintry cold known to strike every year. But perhaps there is some kind of adaptation to dealing with the no-water crisis: 2 guards in my apartment complex were concerned about me and so uncoiled the apartment fire-hose to fill my tub and provide me with some water while I 'endured' .... unfortunately for that plan, even the fire-hose didn't work; those pipes were frozen too. Yep, it was a time of 'endurance' until the pipes could be thawed, a solid four-hour experience of me 'adapting' my cold environment with a space heater and a hair dryer to one more conducive to the convenient life-style I'm accustomed to.


  1. Happy New Year, Cheryl!! Refreshing to read your posts, wish I could write like that. Great perspective from a world traveler like yourself.

  2. Big thanks, Korean War Baby! You've got a lot of interesting perspectives yourself, and a lot of cultural mixing on your theme topic!