Most everything in Korea froze this month, from the foot of the lakes to the leaves on the trees. I’m included in this count, as it got colder at the beginning of December than it did at all last winter. Perfect time for the Olympics and a touch of bird flu, eh?
Days Danced: 0
Days Sick: 0
December’s first days brought with them a weekend bonding session with Seoul’s premiere chocolate people, its chocolate saram (초콜릿 사람) if you will. While there used to be just chocoholics in the world, there are now also chocophiles and chococreators and chocotasters. This diverse subset of humanity is scattered across the globe, and I’ve found myself a group of them in Korea. In Seoul especially there are enough chocolate shops and chocolate makers to warrant a club of some kind to connect us all together.
I have the misfortune to be unable to speak good Korean, but the luck to be surrounded by people patient enough to listen to me struggle through half coherence. I spent the first two days of December finding these people around Seoul, visiting 9 chocolate shops in less than 48 hours. Yes, I know; my dedication astounds you. It really took all day for these visits, and a few of them stood out. I’d been to three of these shops before, and had unsuccessfully tried to go to another two on a previous weekend. But I don’t know if it’s just the holiday season or what— I made some great connections with strangers through chocolate. People who have chosen to dedicate their lives to chocolate are my kind of my people, my kind of saram.
P.Chokko and Chocolatique’s names bubble to the top of my mind, but such dedicated people abound in Korea, and I look forward to their rise to everybody’s conciousness. As soon as I returned to my apartment on Sunday night, afyer such a stupendous weekend, the light bulb went out. My bathroom was plunged into darkness for a week as a few setbacks prevented me from changing the bulb. This anecdote is here to remind Future-Me to STOP PROCRASTINATING UNTIL WINTERTIME WHEN YOU KNOW YOUR DELICATE COMPLEXION IS SO RAW.
Set My Mouth on Fire, Please
Considering my thin skin, I want to eat more kimchi. I mean, I should eat more kimchi, because these kids ain’t gettin’ me sick this time. Eating kimchi is how I protected my weak body from the flu raging through school this month. My motivation to do most anything went down as we neared my vacation time (I’m in Japan as I post this), but I still managed to have a few big bites of kimchi with most every school meal in December. To mitigate the fermenty flavor, I doused eat bite in gochugaru (고추가루), the Korean chili powder that already colors kimchi. It burned my mouth just enough that I couldn’t taste much of anything.
Firey foods became worthy of an entire chapter of my month, from our staff dinner to meals with my sister to lunch meats at school, bites of kimchi came alongside everything. With snow coming down every other day, another pastry shop opening up in town and my weakening resolve to exercise, I knew I had to do something extra. Hot foods speed up your metabolism, right? Time for another bite. During the last week of the school year, all classes after lunch were cancelled; apparently it’s a severe case of bird flu sweeping across the region. Even my sister got sick when she visited for Christmas, though admittedly she just had bad dehydration. So I bit the cabbage bullet, and chewed and swallowed again. I ate my kimchi.
Frozen Lakes and Paths
This month, I often found myself babbling confidently and loudly about how fast I will fall in this weather, largely in an attempt to make it not happen. Like if you expect something, it won’t come. Sometimes I take this approach in large swaths of my life, but I saved this avoidance tactic solely for snow, this month. The lower the temperature, the louder I became, with the -15 degree Celsius mornings coming up as the worst.
Logically I eventually chose to ski in this weather. Embrace the numb feeling in your toes, right? Well, I took the same preventative-expectations approach to this sport as I took to my daily walk to work. It worked (with just one exception) on all of the beginner slopes, and even the first intermediate one. My sloppy skiing technique improved and that feeling of being so sure that I would fall skiing was slowly lifting. I was wary, but took on a steep intermediate, anyway. It was our last run before leaving. But after four falls & a nasty bruise I still left with a good impression— skiing has taught me that I thrive under pressure. Even when I fall on my ass and tumble down a hill, I’ll still get up and figure this shit out.
Korea became the land of frozen lakes and frozen smiles a bit early this year. But I keep saying that it’s an omen for a good Olympics. Last year actually made me worry that it wouldn’t be cold enough for the Para-Olympics in early March, though that seems like a pipe dream now. The entirety of last year’s relaxed winter seems like a hazy dream. It was a real struggle with my students this month, as everyone was ready for a break, and nobody was immune to the below-freezing daily highs. So I want to remember this pain, to know that next time we have a prematurely cold winter, it’ll usher in seven weeks of torture along with a white Christmas. Though maybe I just got off easy last year. Either way, now it’s a new year now; Hallelujah.
What are your resolutions for this year?