Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Baby, it's cold outside.

Winter is upon us. It feels like overnight, the temperature dropped and what was a lovely autumn became a bitterly cold winter. I like winter as I love snow and lots of snow related activities (although I have yet to do any skiing ever or ice-skating in ages). However, sometimes it is a struggle just to poke your nose out of bed. That Siberian wind doesn't help either!
Keeping warm: Layers, accessories and hot water bottles
Photo credit - Rucy -

I have a pretty thick skin and it takes a good bit for me to be really cold. I blame my mother, she's from the American Mid-West, and she can pretty much withstand any weather. She and my dad have the most epic battles over heat. My dad wakes up and comes down complaining about the cold and turns on the heat. 10 minutes later my mother walks in, realises the heat is on and turns it off. The minute my mother leaves the room, my dad turns the heat back on. It's a never-ending amusing cycle!

When we were little, and would complain about being cold, my mam would tell us to put on some more socks and a jumper (sweater). Her pet peeve was that in the evenings and weekends us children would drag down our blankets and duvets to the sitting room.We'd then sit curled up watching TV, playing games or reading books. The amount of Christmas photo's that we have where we are wrapped up in blankets is hilarious. The peeve probably wasn't related to the duvets coming down but that they stayed downstairs! So, as you can tell, I got used to layering up and curling in blankets to keep warm! (This makes it sound like my mother never had the heat on - she did, and we never were so cold that it was ever an issue when she didn't!).

When I went came to Korea, I was in for a shock. I really thought that college in Nebraska and life with my mother had prepared me for the Korean winter. I packed two coats, plenty of leggings and tights.I even brought some scarves and boots. And then, winter 2012 came. I thought I would die. It was so cold. That wind could cut you. It was so sharp, it felt like knife points. It was much colder, too, than I was used to experiencing in Ireland and the ice gave me nightmares for days! In Ireland, mostly, when it rains the slush disappears. In Korea when it rains, it freezes (sometimes) and instead you have a sheet of ice to skate to work on. Which....takes hours!

I was so sick last year, I even went deaf for a couple of weeks. I could still hear but everything was muted. So, this year, I started preparing ahead of time. I put a second blanket on my bed from the middle of October and by the end of the month I had proceeded to a hot water bottle as well. For the last week, I've topped my bed with a third blanket and I now wear socks. I need to get some more long pj's this week. Stocking up on thermal underwear, hot-packets and woolly socks is a necessity.

So without further ado, please see some things that I recommend for surviving Korean winters (please note, you can still get sick and still feel cold even with these measures but they CAN help):
  • Layer up.That way no matter the temperature in the office you will always feel just right!
  • Bring a cardigan or extra jacket and leave it in school along with some cosy slippers and (maybe) a little blanket. Works like charm!

  • Have a winter emergency supply in school. I prepared my one last week for both my schools: tissues, wet wipes, chapstick, Vitamin C drink (replaced everyday), hand-sanitiser (no matter how much you want to disbelieve it, schools are germ-infested!), and hand lotion to prevent your hands from chafing.
  • Waiting for the bus? No problem! If you are lucky enough to be waiting beside a convenience shop, get one of their honey drinks or a coffee. If you prefer something less sweet, invest in a travel mug and bring your own! (Also, warm drinks like honey tea or ginger tea are a really good idea if you have  sore throat!)
  • Buy a hot water bottle. You can get them in HomePlus (I have two from Ireland) and use it at night. I put my one in my bed about 30 minutes before I want to sleep. Korea also has these little hot-packs which I have seen teachers put on the sole of their feet and students stick in their gloves. Invest! (Another choice is to bake/steam a potato and then carrying it in your pocket - my granny used to do this in the old days and I just got fed this potato today).
  • Hats, coats and gloves are all a necessity. Also, a lot of earmuffs even have vents so you can still hear what's going on around you. I couldn't find a hat I liked last year and that fit over all my hair, but luckily my sister made me one. Scarves are a godsend, use them!
  • Thermal underwear, slippers (for home and school), and a nighttime ritual are all essential. My own nighttime ritual has become a cup of tea, a hot-water bottle, thermals and slippers.
  • Eat soup and rice porridge on a frequent basis. Not only are they hot, but they are also healthy, nutritious and delicious.
  • If you want to try and avoid a huge gas bill, get an electric heater or an electric blanket. My brother gave me this one and it's brilliant. No idea what the costs are to buy can always sell it on when you leave! 
  • Lastly, it's winter, not hell on earth! Get out and enjoy it. Whether it is to take a small walk or have a snowball fight with your students, you won't die!.

So, you might think I'm mad to have so many emergency items at school. You might think I'm mad to wear (and recommend wearing) so many layers. But "if you caught pneumonia and died," I bet you'd wish you'd stayed inside, layering up as per my advice! 

PS This post is inspired by the Tom Jones version of "Baby, it's cold outside".

PPS This post was meant for last week but I got a cold on Saturday so I didn't finish the photos until today. Sorry!

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