Seoul in the winter: A brutal, bone-chilling beast. The kind of cold that attempts to freeze one’s eyes open and makes you feel as if your teeth will turn to icicles and make a nice clinking sound, like ice cubes dropping into a glass, as they shatter in your mouth.
To illustrate: I wore a layer of leggings with knee-high socks pulled all the way up, and on top of that wore a pair of jeans, and on top of that a pair of boots. Three layers, two sets of gloves, one thick coat, a scarf wrapped all the way up to my eyes, and a beanie completed the ensemble. Within 15 minutes of walking outside I could no longer feel my legs. They were so frozen that even after returning to the warmth of our hotel room they remained ice-cold and numb for nearly an hour.
We followed the weather reports obsessively hoping for minute fluctuations in temperature as if that would somehow make much of a difference. The thermometer fell into the negatives but our trusty phone apps told us that with the combined wind chill the weather felt more like -20° F which, in my head, was a temperature usually reserved for Arctic places that received at minimum, ten feet of snow.
In other words, it was cold. Very very cold. When the weather finally rose above 0°F, it felt downright tropical.
“One of the coldest winters we’ve had in a long time,” or so they said. At some point in the not-so-distant future I imagine I will be telling some poor, bored kids, being forced to listen to an old lady ramble on about ‘back in the day,’ about the coldest winter I ever experienced.
“It was so cold … we bought hot roasted chestnuts from street vendors to keep our gloved hands warm.”
“It was so cold … my eyes turned to snowballs and my teeth turned to icicles.”
“It was so cold … we ate nearly every meal bundled in a million layers and huddled over a blazing fire.”
It was so cold that all I could think about — dream about — was that hot, sticky, humid, non air-conditioned mess that is known as summer in Korea. In several months I will pay for thinking such thoughts.
By then I will be dreaming of January in Seoul.