Many people (Koreans especially) tend not to believe me when I tell them that I’d never seen snow before coming to Korea. The concept seems just as foreign to them as that of stepping foot outside in anything less than 50 degree weather once was to me.
And to be fair, the above is something I’m still fighting to get over. “What is winter like in Naju?” I used to ask people. They would always release the same heavy sigh.
“Ah. So much snow.”
I’m a Floridian with poor blood circulation and the apt title of Miss Tropical. Getting this as a consistent response terrified me. December loomed closer and every day the sun shone weaker. The warmth around me dwindled, pulling closer and closer like light around a dying candle flame even as I wrapped myself in more and more layers. Meanwhile, my friends from Maine, Michigan, and the other freezing M state laughed. #Floridianproblems became the new hashtag trend.
Then, on Wednesday, I stepped into the chilly corridor outside my office at school, and white diamonds were glistening in the sunshine as they drifted past the window. My friend and I watched. She explained that people tend to feel warmer when it snows, even though the temperature might be the same as a snowless day. I thought about how easily things can be taken for granted; for all that my fingers were turning blue, I felt it a fair tradeoff for the serenity I took with me afterward. I was experiencing snow for the first time in my life, and my friend’s amazement made it all the more potent that life has so much to offer.
I was later to be told that this first encounter “barely counted as snow.” The thunderstorm I walked home in afterwards, with its confusion of pouring rain and gentle snowflakes, didn’t seem to count either. But overnight that storm became a true snowfall. Thursday morning I awoke to a world of white.
This is the pedestrian bridge I cross in order to get to school. I fear it on a typical rainy day because it’s made of metal. Add ice to that, and it becomes a promise for a bruised tailbone.
And this is Geumseong Mountain. My school sits at the base of this.
So now that I have experienced “real” snow for the first time, as my Maine friend has finally conceded, I feel it may be worth sharing my thoughts on it as a Floridian.
1) Falling snow is beautiful.
2) Iced-up snow on hills and pedestrian bridges is not.
3) Flowers can live through snow. WHAT. I can barely do that!
4) Wow, real snow looks just like the fake stuff they put in the shop windows!
5) Fresh snow is SOFT. I was not expecting to put my finger through it and immediately compare it to a cloud, but I did. I also took the opportunity to write “English rocks” on the hill outside my school.
6) The lifecycle of snow would seem to be: fall, compact, melt, refreeze into ice, melt, evaporate, and fall again. This should have been obvious considering we all learned about precipitation in first grade, but being Floridian I’ve never had cause to appreciate it before. This stuff spends a lot of time on the ground.
7) I wonder if snow ever piles up on telephone lines, then melts into icicles and spears people through the head.
My northerner friends find my naiveté endearing. But I feel I’ve come a long way since asking whether one could bicycle in the snow.