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Note #92: Old Man Winter (2014.12.6)

A while back, I watched the first season of Game of Thrones when one of HJ’s students lent us the box set. They talked a lot about how winter was coming. I vaguely remember that winter could sometimes last for years, and it would only show up every once in a while. Not really sure how that works, meteorologically speaking. And we haven’t seen any of the seasons since then, so I don’t know if winter has come yet in whatever that world is called.

What I do know, though, is that winter has come to Korea. To say that winter came suddenly would be an understatement. This winter snuck up behind us in a dark, third-world alley, clobbered us over the back of the head, and left us unconscious in a bathtub full of ice, minus one kidney.

We saw a little rain on Sunday, and then on Monday the bottom dropped out. Temperatures plummeted below freezing, and they haven’t seen the sunny side of zero since. It’s not that Korea has never been this cold before. Winters here can be quite bitter at times. I think it was just the suddenness of it that made it seem worse. I remember a few cold days after getting back from my trip to Santa Fe, but then the weather warmed up again and we were lulled into a false sense of security. Little did we know what the first of December had in store for us.

It snowed a bit on Tuesday, and then a little more on Wednesday. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to signal that winter had indeed arrived. This was the view from my office on Wednesday morning.

The snow is all gone now, although there are a few patches of ice left here and there.

There is a phrase used in Korea to describe winters here: sam-han-sa-on (߲; these characters will probably be broken if you do not have the page set to Korean encoding). Literally, this means “three cold, four warm.” It refers to a cycle of three cold days followed by four warm days. In other words, it should never be really cold for too long. According to this folk wisdom, we’re a bit overdue for some (relatively) warm weather, but according to the Korea Meteorological Administration, we should finally be getting a little relief tomorrow—the forecast high is 1 degree Celsius. That may not seem too warm, but it will be the first time we’ve been above freezing in a week. Monday is supposed to get up to a balmy 4 degrees, though we’ll probably see a dip back down after that. Hopefully not by too much.

So: Winter is here. Now comes the long wait for spring.

Send me your thoughts.

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