Winter in Korea

December 13, 2011

Well, it's December and the weather is finally starting to resemble something of a winter season. For the past two weeks or so the temperature has been hovering somewhere around 3°C... cold enough in the mornings to bundle up, but warm enough to ward off frostbite. Apparently the average low for Mokpo in December is 0.8°C (thank you, Wikipedia), and the coldest average temperature listed is -1.5°C so I don't see frostbite in my near future! Canadian winter is not something I'm going to miss while I'm here.

Mokpo experienced its first 'snow fall' last week. The snow didn't stick around which is probably for the best since the snow-removal situation in Korea is essentially nonexistent (no plows, no salt, no sand). This doesn't seem too problematic for areas like mine, but a nightmare for counties in the north. On an average day traffic is pretty hectic (red lights are sometimes only considered to be a mere suggestion and car horns are a part of the city's ambience) so I imagine that snow would only intensify the situation.

One of my favourite things about Korean winter so far has been the appearance of street vendors selling 붕어빵 (boongebang; fish-shape cakes filled with red bean paste).

These food venders have popped up on pretty much every street corner to sell their own specialty of warm, winter food: roasted chestnuts, roasted sweet potato, cinnamon-filled pancakes, and of course 붕어빵.

In preparation for Christmas dinner, Patti and I made the trek to Costco. In Canada this is an afternoon errand; in Korea it's a full day, 2.5 hour-drive-each-way event. About an hour and a half into the drive, we were slapped in the face with winter:

Day two of our Korean Christmas Overhaul involved setting up the tree!

Christmas postcards have been sent and shopping is nearly finished.

So, in day-to-day news:
My students have final exams next week so this week is being spent watching a whole lot of holiday movies (I'll be able to recite the first half of Elf by the end of the week). The following week will be a semester wrap-up, and then come the winter classes.
For 3 weeks in January I'll be teaching classes which focus specifically on speaking and writing skills. The details are pretty fuzzy but from what I understand, the students take the classes voluntarily, class sizes will be smaller (~10 students; dreamy), and will only be in the afternoons for a few hours.
After winter classes, Matt will be visiting for three weeks! We had initially planned to travel to other countries but instead we'll probably just travel all over Korea. Once Matt leaves me, I'll be heading to Cambodia with Patti for a week or so before the new semester (and spring time!) begins in March.

Winter months are going to be busy ones!

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