I woke up Sunday morning and I really did not want to go to the gym. I was still sore from climbing earlier in the week, and “going to the gym” is not as simple here as it is at home. To go to the gym is a commitment: a 15-minute walk to the bus terminal; a 40-minute bus ride into the city; a 45-minute walk to the gym (or another bus ride, if the timing is right, but we usually opt for some cardio). I longed for the days when we could hop in the car and be scoping our routes 20 minutes later.
But my choices were to stay at Joey’s place and stare at the wall like I do all week—I am staying here while my schools are still out of session—or to go to the gym with him and get on a real wall. I begrudgingly changed out of my sweats.
As the bus pulled out of Gimje, it started to snow: nearly imperceptible flurries in the air. By the time we reached Jeonju, “the city” as it were, the flurries had matured into a swirling blizzard. We got off the bus and fat flakes landed lazily on our hats and backpacks, disappearing instantly. I smiled at Joey, filled with the calm delight that a novel snow brings.
I walked to the gym in a childlike state of amusement and wonder, the snow transforming the dirty, hectic city with its silencing flakes; the mundane turned new and beautiful again.
All winter, amid the freezing temperatures, my teachers have been telling me how strange this snow-less year is; usually, there is lots of snow! A human Popsicle already, I was silently thankful for this anomalous season. Knowing how relentlessly humid summer had been, I had no doubt that Korea was capable of dishing out a formidably bitter winter.
But this snow was peaceful. It was calm. By me, it was welcome. With its tardy February arrival, and an optimistically sunny weather forecast later in the week, it felt ephemeral in a way that made its presence thrilling. The fleetingness compelled me to peek out the gym’s fourth story window every so often, confirming the flakes were not yet finished falling, each assurance bringing me a renewed quiet joy.
We woke Monday with enough snow on the ground to cancel school back home (not a high bar to clear), with temperatures indicating that by Tuesday it will have all turned slushy and grey—its magic mixed with mud and sucked down the sewer grates. My first, and perhaps last, Korean snow here and gone, reminding me that time is passing; reminding me to pick my head up and be delighted.
I realized while writing this piece that I may have been subconsciously predisposed to feel delighted after listening to a podcast this week, at my friend Andy’s recommendation: This American Life: The Show of Delights. Check it out.