Wednesday, December 12, 2012

4 Seasons of Korea

You get a lot of odd questions in Korea. Sometimes you can justify them, sometimes they are just random no matter how you look at it. Being from Africa, I get the "why aren't you black?" question (cue Mean Girls quote). I've been asked if we have rice in South Africa and if our sky is the same (?!?!). But one thing that has been consistently asked of me is if South Africa also has 4 seasons? This usually follows an explanation of how Korea has 4 seasons, like it's something very unusual. At first I really thought this was strange...duh, of course we do. We are 'same same'. But it's taken living here and experiencing all of the seasons to actually understand what they're on about.

Korean seasons are VASTLY different. Like chalk and cheese. Maybe it's because back home we don't get snow in Winter and we have a lot of evergreen vegetation so things never really lose their lushness completely during the colder months, but I never expected to see such noticeable differences throughout the year.

Spring is beautiful...the cherry blossoms bloom and there are new shoots and green buds everywhere. The sky is blue and the air retains a chill, cooling the nights down nicely. Rice paddies begin being prepped for planting, bringing new life to the dull brown fields. As with everywhere, Spring hints at new life and beauty and combined with the cherry blossoms, it was a really pretty time of the year. Temperatures are mild and life is good. (I seem to not have taken many pictures of nature during this time though)

My pictures don't do the blossoms justice
My favourite tree, with blossoms as big as your hand with thick pale leaves 
Summer hits you with a hot and humid slap in the face. I have never been so hot and uncomfortable in my life. I'm used to a dry heat back home, but this was the kind of suffocating heat that made you feel wet all day and never clean. I complained about the heat, a lot. However the landscape during summer is beautiful. I work out in the countryside surrounded my mountains and rice paddies...the drive to and from school each day were stunning. The mountains were vivid colours of lushness, the rice paddies growing green. Later on in the season the apple trees would dot the scenery with rich red patches. Everything was just brightly alive. The summer meant lazy evenings outside 7/11 drinking beer, and not wanting to leave the beauty of my air conditioned room if I didn't need to. School was ghastly when all you do is sweat and want to sleep, but days in the strawberry fields and the beautiful scenery made up for it. Although I expected a ton of rain, I really don't think it rained all that much. We had the odd monsoon type major rainfalls but in general the rain was quite spread out among the seasons and didn't really dampen (pun intended) the Summer fun.

I think it's interesting to note how the rice paddies changed over the year...starting off dead when I arrived, they were being turned and prepped and planted in Spring and really looked like big ponds, and throughout the Summer, as they grew, the water got less, the shoots got bigger and they looked like real plants!

Strawberries and beer to keep the Summer heat at bay

Hiking in Summer was hot as hell but very rewarding too

Jecheon rice paddies from up high

Watery rice paddies

Autumn came and took my breath away. The days finally got a bit cooler and slowly the leaves began to change, setting Korea ablaze in reds, oranges and yellows. Koreans say that Spring and Autumn are the best seasons as they carry the mildest temperatures but that they don't last long. They don't lie. It didn't felt like we had much of an got pretty chilly pretty quickly, and by chilly I mean South African Winter temperatures. My teachers laughed at me as I brought my coats out pretty early but I was cold dammit! But back to the colours...I got really carried away with taking pictures of the leaves as I really wanted to try and capture what this looked like. I failed. You have to be here. It literally looked as though the mountains were on fire...reds richer than I've ever seen in nature, yellows so golden they glow. I tried to get some pictures of the mountains but my camera wasn't giving it justice. The rice paddies were now ready for harvest and held bright, golden yellow plants that seemed to reflect the light. The apple orchards were ripe and big red apples were being picked daily. Everywhere you looked there were changes in colour that I've never seen before and I was captivated by it all. The changes seemed to begin slowly but it got to a point just before the temperatures really turned cold where everything was changing. It was around this time that I went on a hike with my main school teachers, and spent ages taking pictures of the leaves. It was beautiful (have I made my point yet? haha). Autumn in Korea is something I will never forget.

Rice paddy colurs - pic courtesy of a fellow Jecheonian, Jamie

Rice paddy colurs - pic courtesy of a fellow Jecheonian, Jamie
And now we have's only the beginning and already I can tell it's going to be rough. Korea is expecting its coldest Winter in something like 15 me to be here when this happens. We've had a number of snowfalls already, which is very unusual, and my teachers love reminding me that Jecheon is the coldest city in Korea. Eish. But it's magical! I've always considered myself more of a Winter than Summer person as I hate being hot, and although I might eat my words come January (the coldest month), right now I'm coping with the cold and in love with the snow! I've done a post on the snow so not going to repeat my self, but Winter in Korea is apparently not something to joke about. Going anywhere in this weather is a mission and it's really just making me want to become a recluse. But I'm grateful for the snow as Winter in Korea can be really ugly. When I arrived in Feb, we hit the tail end of the cold and everything just looked dead and dreary. I wont lie, I was rather disappointed, and wasn't all that enthralled with what I saw. The same happened before our first proper snow: the rice paddies were now dead and brown, laying bare until the next season of planting; the leaves have fallen and the colours have been drained from the landscape. But then the snow came and covered it all in a blanket of powdery whiteness and my faith in Winter was renewed. The rice paddies are now pockets of what I call 'virgin snow', untouched beauty that I just want to roll around in, and it sounds as though one will be turned into an ice-rink of sorts in Jecheon!! We'll see if I actually survive my first 'real' Winter without losing a limb to the elements, but for now, Winter aint that bad.

So okay Korea...maybe South Africa does have 4 seasons but they are nowhere near as diverse as yours..I'll give you that. South Africa may change its coat or put on some fancy jewelry to dress up, but Korea goes all out with 4 different outfits each time the seasons change. I dunno why I used that imagery, let's just go with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment