Tag Archives: snow

Snow on Kimchi Pots

Something brought the memory rushing back this morning – a smell? a sound? the taste of the air? Suddenly, overwhelmingly, I was back in my small, warm apartment in Daegu, looking out of the window on a snowy morning.

Kimchi pots. Kimchi is the tangy, spicy, fermented-cabbage taste that pretty much is South Korea. It’s an acquired taste, but once you’ve acquired it, it stays with you. Years after leaving Korea, I still crave kimchi from time to time.

Most families make their own kimchi according to old family recipes. Kimchi is traditionally fermented in big clay pots. “Pots” in the sense of traditional African clay pots, not pots you use on a stove. The kimchi pots are traditionally kept on the flat roof of the building during the cold winter months. Wealthy modern Koreans may have a dedicated kimchi fridge for making kimchi. Most people, however, still keep the traditional pots on the roof.

From my window, I look out at the roof next door. Just down the street, the wind is ringing the bell at the little suburban temple. On the roof, a blanket of snow lies heavy and white across the brown kimchi pots. It’s the first thing I look at on a snowy morning, standing here in my little apartment with my morning coffee.

A sudden vivid memory on a chilly early-winter morning.

Snow Day (except without the time off)

This has been a strange week, weather-wise. On Monday, when I checked the extended forecast, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that there was snow predicted for Wednesday. I have nothing against snow in theory, in fact I quite like it, but I’m trying very had to convince myself that spring is on the way, so the idea of more cold did not thrill me.

On Tuesday night when I went to close the windows before going to bed, I looked out at a world sprinkled with pure white snow. I say close the windows here to mean the same as closing the curtains would at home. Houses in Korea, or at least the ones I have lived in, don’t have curtains. There are no curtain rails and no pretty coloured fabric framing the windows. Instead, there are sort of double-windows, the outside layer being proper windows and the inside layer being opaque panes, providing the privacy normally provided by curtains. Oh, and the outside-outside layer being mosquito netting which somewhat annoyingly obscures the view but is essential when Daegu’s super-sized mozzies descend on the city.

As I looked out at the snowy world, I was excited. I didn’t want the snow to come because of the cold, but a wintery world in the dark of the night is really quite pretty. I assumed the snow would melt fairly quickly, as it has the last few times there have been a few stray flakes floating down, which, each time, melted as they hit the ground. This time, however, it was different. I woke up to a world positively blanketed in white.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a great excuse to stay in bed and savour the warm but I was feeling adventurous so, after wrapping up in layer upon layer of warm winter clothes, I headed out to see what Daegu snow looked like. I took my camera, of course, and was taking pictures before I even reached the street.

In spite of my aversion to cold, there is something enchanting about a fresh fall of snow. As I turned up my street, towards the main road, I looked up at the wooded area across the main road. Each tree and fence-post had a layer of snow turning it from ordinary into fairy-tale. I walked along the road towards the lake, enjoying the novelty of the unexpected layer of white.

The lake lay grey and cold as it reflected the heavy clouds, but no rain or snow was falling as I walked towards it. All around me, tree trunk stood out black against the fallen snow. I felt like I’d walked into the stories and poems I’ve read for so many years. The day was warming up a little and water was starting to drip from tree branches and flow in tiny rivulets towards the lake. As I stopped to take a closer look, I saw water flowing in twisted paths between layers of ice. I walked on.

At one point, I found myself confronted with a path dotted with pools of melt-water and piles of snow. On the edge of the path, sitting on a bench, was a little 30cm snowman someone had build. I took a quick picture before picking my way between the puddles and moving on. At the edge of the lake are two trees, naked of leaves at this season and always making a dramatic picture against the sky and the water. This time, the drama was enhanced by a layer of white snow against the trunk and the branches and a dark and foreboding sky for a backdrop.

At the duckboat rental places, the cheerful little duckboats bobbed and splashed in the water, looking chilly and abandoned under a layer of fresh snow. My camera batteries died at this point. I kept walking and drinking in the prettiness. As the path wound on to the pavement, around the waterfront restaurant, the snow was yellow-brown with the mud below it.

I popped into the Family Mart next to the amusement park and bought some more batteries for the camera. I stopped to take some pictures of the amusement park, dark and silent under the steel-grey cloud, the rides silent as the melting snow lay in piles and water dripped and ran in rivulets.

As I walked back along the shore of the lake, I got some stunning pictures of the tree-covered mountains covered in snow. It struck me as I was walking along, that these images, so novel, so enchanting for me, must be ordinary for so many people. Growing up amidst the wide-open grasslands and rolling hills of Africa, it’s so easy to take for granted how beautiful it all is, a fact I’m reminded of whenever I watch the reaction of people who are seeing it for first time. I suppose this is the reverse of that. I’m glad I have an opportunity to enjoy it.

After the invigorating walk, I returned home and took full advantage of the joy of underfloor heating. The rest of the day was warmer and by the time I came home from work, most of the snow had started to disappear, trees were once again bare and grey-brown and pavements were wet but no longer white with snow. Sadly, we didn’t get the day off work. I’m fairly sure that this amount of snow in SA would have resulted in a complete shut-down of productive activities but I suppose the novelty wears off when it happens every year.

By the next day, the field of white in the vacant lot next to the bus stop had shrunk to a thin line of snow against a fence, where small boys threw watery snowballs at each other in the sunshine. The wind was still chilly but the weather had warmed up otherwise and the beauty of sunlight on snow was almost overwhelmingly amazing. I do hope that this is the last snowfall of the season, because I’m holding thumbs that winter will end soon, but I’m glad I got the chance to see it in all its winter-wonderland, enchanting beauty.

Ski trip For The Win: Sunday of stiffness

There is something particularly peaceful about waking up late on a Sunday morning with the sounds of skiing outside the window and the sun filtering through the not-quite-meeting curtains over the sleeping forms of friends huddled under excessive amounts of yellow bedding on the heated floor. Everything was quiet and warm in the room. I sat for a while jotting down thoughts and memories of the evening before, from Zanzibar the ladybird to cotton-producing sheep. At about noon, the first of the other room to emerge, Erin, came and joined me in my peaceful little spot and eventually, as we chatted quietly, other people emerged from their yellow cocoons. The process of 12 people waking up and getting organised tends to be a slow, noisy and sometimes humorous one. This one was notably highlighted by the series of groans as people moved sore arms, legs and asses in their attempts to stand up. It took a little longer to get moving than usual. I wasn’t horribly stiff from the waist down but my arms were ridiculous. It hurt to lift them at all. Even writing caused twinges of stiffness. Reaching for food from the cupboards at home that night was not fun. In fact, by the end of Sunday sitting still hurt.

This did not deter us from heading out, however. Largely because we were in need of food. We had all also reached the outer limits of our capacity to eat KFC or the same five Korean meals even once more. So we took the plunge and headed off the resort in search of lunch. Down the hill and past the cheaper ski rental place we went, all the while enjoying the incredible and for me (although less for those who have seen it before) somewhat breathtaking views of a snowy-wonderland world under the bright lunchtime sun.

A little way along the road, we spotted a galbi place. Just the thing for lunch. We headed inside, took off our shoes and sat at our table. A disadvantage of eating Korean food when incredibly stiff is that it may require sitting on the floor. Actually, sitting on the floor isn’t the worst part. The worst part is standing up afterwards. The galbi was good, with the usual array of side-dishes and some particularly good onion-y-type-salad. The galbi cooked over hot coals in a little braai set into the table. The coals were a little hot so some of the meat caught a little, which was actually particularly yummy.

After lunch, we rose with moans and groans and headed back up the hill through the snow to our warm and cosy youth hostel room. Everyone flopped down on a sleeping mat and/or burrowed under blankets in front of the TV. Some people napped. We flipped through channels, searching for more of the figure-skating which had dominated the occasional TV viewing of the weekend. There was a documentary on rodeo clowns and barrel men, in which inexplicably became enthralled. Then we happened upon the movie Stardust and settled there for a while. Desultory conversation and  laughter drifted back and forth.

At  4:30 we packed up for the last time, gathered our luggage and set off on the trek up the hill to where the bus-driver had dropped us off and would pick us up. After rearranging the seating and luggage set-up, much to the driver’s not-entirely-happy surprise, we squeezed everyone in without anyone sitting on the floor and set off for home. The drive back was long and chilly – except for the feet next to the heater-outlet. Almost 4 hours later, we arrived back in Daegu in the middle of a conversation about super-powers. We were all tired and sore as we tumbled out and gathered our belongings. I was so exhausted I could barely organise myself enough for the last little bit of the trip. Luckily, I shared a cab with someone could give the driver directions – I’m not sure I would have made it home alone.

Finally home in my freezing cold apartment, I had some dinner, checked mail and spent some time just sitting around – blobbing as one of my friends put it. Monday would be back to work in the cold, windy, snow-less wilds of Daegu but for a while it was nice to potter around, downloading photos and generally decompressing in the last glow of what had turned out to an exhausting and stiffness-inducing but truly enjoyable weekend filled with snow, fun people, trying new things and plenty of crazy memories.

Postscript: As is turned out the wilds of Daegu were not, in fact, snow-less on Monday but that is a whole different story.