I can't feel my toes

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Feb 25, 2013

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , South Chungcheong,
Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sometimes there are things that people forget to mention about living in a country. Apparently "Koreans don't heat things in the winter" is something that people neglect to mention. Now, all cultures have little quirks about their beliefs. In America we have the belief that being cold will make you sick. That's not really true; being exposed to a virus makes you sick. Granted, being cold lowers your immune system, and being stuck indoors makes it more likely that you will be exposed to a virus from someone else, but being cold in itself doesn't make you sick. Well, Koreans are not concerned about being cold, they are concerned about dust. Fresh air is super important in Korea... so important that Koreans love to open the windows up in the middle of winter to let in fresh air. 
The middle school that I work in has long hallways with great big windows that are always open. Always. The hallways are the exact same temperature as the air outside, which today is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The same goes for the bathroom... 45 degrees in the bathroom. No hot water. As for my English classroom, it does have a heater. This heater doesn't actually get turned on until I get to school in the morning so when I arrive I come into an icy cold room. So, if course I go into my room and crank the heat to the highest setting in an effort to make my room more bearable. Unfortunately it takes hours for my room to heat up properly, especially with the way the students behave. The students love to prop my classroom door open to let all of the cold air in, or they are happy to open the windows to yell at their friends in the court yard. I try to explain to them that they are quickly letting all the warm air out, but it falls on deaf ears. The students enjoy to rush in and out of my room over and over again and with every time they open the door, a little bit more of my precious warm air is lost. This makes my days long and tedious as I struggle to retain some of the warmth in my room.
The students and teachers spend their days wearing full winter jackets all the time. Many of the students carry little fleece blankets with them as well as the disposable hand warmer packs that are popular with hunters and campers in America. I have invested in long johns (but I have to get more) and fluffy socks in order to try to keep warm. I had absolutely no idea that I would spend my days trying to breathe warmth into my fingers while teacher students who are huddled in winter coats and blankets in my school.
Thankfully my apartment has ondol, which is under the floor heating. It is like a radiator, but under the entire floor. This isn't a bad system when you consider how hot air works and how Korea works. Heat rises, so starting at the floor isn't a bad way to distribute heat evenly through the entire room. Besides, a lot of Koreans spend a good amount of time sitting and sleeping on the floor, so wanting a warm floor does make sense. It does tend to get a bit expensive heating my tiny, shoe box of an apartment that way, but whatever. Also... the kitchen only has a bit of the floor that is heated and, of course, the bathroom is not heated at all. With heat from the rest of the apartment, the bathroom isn't as cold as it is outside, but it isn't all that warm either. So, this weekend is going to be another shopping trip for additional long underwear and fluffy socks to try to keep warm. It is going to get colder...
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Carlo on

Too bad the toilet seats don't have ondol. :(

Stay warm, B!

beckiablaze on

My second school that I go to only on Wednesdays has heated toilet seats but my main school (and my apartment) have regular toilet seats.

Mom on

It's amazing how different things are in Korea, compared to the U.S. - and how much we take for granted. You're seeing in real life what you learned in your anthropology and sociology studies. Stay cozy - hopefully the cozy socks we sent for Christmas will keep your toes warmer :)

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