January 11, 2003
Where is the Cold Weather I Was Promised?

If they don't turn the heat down around here, I'm going to go mad! I was promised cold weather in Seoul, and so far I've been overheated many more times than I've been shivering. Last night was the true exception, when my shoulders ached from hunching them against the chill, but almost every other moment I've been here, I've been hot.

Today may be my hottest day yet; it's probably in the upper 40s out right now (as opposed to the mid-twenties that Seoul experienced in the days before we arrived), but indoors, it's in the mid-eighties. We have our room thermostat set to 59°, but it feels warmer than that, and in the corridors and lobbies it's stifling. I had a mid-weight turtleneck sweater, stockings, and a skirt on, and I could barely breathe. The stockings are now gone and I'm down to a thin t-shirt. Whew!

I was going to walk around outside and then come back for a swim, but I don't think I can take the pool area, which is hotter than the halls. I'm also a little weary of trying to make myself understood, and of jostling for elbow room. I walked to Naemdemun Market (quickly shedding my coat on the way), which is like a permanent street fair. Lots of stalls with socks, sweaters, pants, and shoes; several with handbags, backpacks, baskets, boxes, and utensils; and a few with snacks (several had something that looked like boiled bugs, but they might have been a nut that I'm not familiar with).

I didn't buy anything because the phrase Al gave me at breakfast for "how much?" didn't stick in my head, and I wouldn't have understood a reply in Korean anyway. I didn't take any photos because there really wasn't any room to get out my camera and stand still without offending someone or getting jostled. (I didn't realize that 12m people lived in Seoul until Sung Won mentioned it on Friday; that would explain the lack of personal space.) I'd also have to say that it's difficult to pick out specific things to photograph, since everything's so crammed together, and many buildings are the same color as the sky (gray).

Nevertheless, it was good to get out on the streets for a little bit; we've had very little time to just walk around, and what little we've done has involved returning the way we came so we didn't get lost. I like having enough time to allow for getting lost—that's part of the fun, and you get to see different things if you go in a loop than if you go straight there and back.

Posted by Lori at January 11, 2003 11:12 PM