Monday, March 13, 2006

March madness (not about basketball)

I spent all day yesterday sitting in my breakfast nook (maybe I should rename it my "all day nook"), enjoying the view of blue sky and occasional clouds around Namsan and Seoul Tower. When I talked to my dental student friend down in Kwangju, she said that it had been snowing all day down there. Of course, that's 320 kilometers (200 miles, for those of you in Rio Linda) south of here, enough for them to have a different weather pattern.

Well, it looks like the snow has just now made it up to Seoul. I'm staring out from my seventh-floor window, and the snow is really starting to come down. Well, not exactly down: a lot of it is moving sort of horizontally, with a lot of it not hitting the ground at all. Maybe it's the same snow flakes touring the country and, without benefit of the 300-kph KTX express train, it took them all night to get to the capital.

Oh, now the flurries are sort of moving in a circle, some of them even moving upward. I could probably make some money by mounting weather equipment off my veranda window.

It's an odd thing to Seoulites, this mid-March snow. But it is still winter, for another eight days, I think. Most Koreans tend to think of winter as ending when ipch'un (입춘) comes, in late February (not sure, I have to check a calendar). The word means entrance-spring, and I think a lot of people take it as meaning they have entered spring. These are the people who break out the skirts and the short-sleeved shirt and then endlessly bitch, bitch, bitch when the temperatures don't comply with theirsheer will of making it warmer.

[photo: This is Kwangju covered in snow, but not the snow from yesterday, which wasn't as thick as this. Yonhap didn't have pictures of that, so I got this from the Korea Times. Okay, confession time, this is actually New York in the aftermath of the horrific Stay-Puft Incident of 1984.]

To me, "entrance-spring" means that we can begin to see that spring is upon us, but that we're not actually in it. Sort of like all these subway stops named ~대 입구역 (~dae ipku, or "entrance to such-and-such university"). Like 숙대입구역 (Sookmyung) near my neighborhood, 이대입구역 (Ewha) an area I used to frequent when I hung out at a certain Jesuit University, 서울대입구역 (Seoul National University), 홍대입구 (Hongik University), etc., etc. None of these stations are right next to the university, and in fact Sookmyung and Seoul National are a looooong trek away.

So anyway, while I'm not surprised by a mid-March dusting in the center of Seoul, I am fascinated nonetheless. I'm from Orange County, California, after all, where a light white dust will get you arrested. — Oooh, now the sun is out but it's still snowing! — In SoCal cities, snow is something we see every day of winter, but it's way the heck over there, in the mountains that are a couple hour's drive away. (When I was a kid, a few times we had serious brush fires in the mountains that blew in large pieces of ash, which looked a lot like this dusting of snow.)

March 13 is by no means the latest snow I've ever seen in Seoul. I've seen it snow in April at least twice, once as late as April 10. The earliest I've ever seen it snow was the end of October.

But for me the weirdest time to see snow was June 25 — the beginning of summer — in the mountains of Yosemite National Park in California, at about 7000 feet elevation.

Okay. Enough trivia from me. I shall make breakfast now.

It has stopped snowing, but the sky has gone completely overcast, with dark, ominous clouds. I think something's up. Mother Nature can't be trusted.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently (as Space Nakji is aware) it has been very cold in SoCal, too, with some of the higher elevations also some serious snow (see all fifteen pictures for full effect).

    Funny how people who have no need for a big four-wheel-drive vehicle buy one any, "just in case you might need it," and still manage to get stuck in the snow anyway.


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