It has been almost a year now that I have been living in this ever – changing fast paced city called Seoul. I first stepped my foot in this city in a bleak December evening last year and ever since I have been experiencing and understanding moods of this whimsical city. Of the many diverse characteristics the four seasons of South Korea are beautifully distinctive and truly incredible.
The winter was too long and unfriendly . Coming from the land draped always with a festive mood and with mild musical winters, Indian winters were always cheerful . South Korea was very different. The winter lasted practically till the first week of May.Though, the onset of spring and the much talked about ‘cherry blossom begins showing its colors since early March, but this year there were no such signs.
Having born in a tropical climate and experiencing persistent warm and high temperatures, snowfall was always a fantasy and I experienced my first snowfall during christmas – it was beautiful ! During this phase I started working and going to office dressed in overcoats,which was again an altogether new thing for me but one unacceptable thing was I was never able to move anywhere without thick layers of woolen garments and wind-cheaters. In New Delhi the temperature rarely dropped to 0 degree during the winter months with minimal visibility due to fog,but even then going to a roadside shop to purchase errand items in cotton pajamas are believable.
Strangely,across seasons both men and women are very particular about their appearance in this South Korea – even a small visit to a convenience store will give you an opportunity to see women in their usual high silhouettes, skirts, Louis Vuitton bags and tomato red lips and men in their shiny black or grey suites. I was’t used to this,because my sense of style is more convenience and mood centric and it isn’t pro-trend but it was good to observe these people on the roads and cafes warming up and talking about “what’s new”. Cafes remind me of Itaewon –it’s where I stay and is popularly known as the foreign haven of Seoul. I say this because this place is very popular for restaurants and various cuisines, endless cafes, street side shopping, night-clubs and a bit of almost everything. When I came to Seoul I chose to stay in this place because of its cosmopolitan nature. South Korea is known to be a crime-free nation and even if it existed it is believed to exist in Itaewon but I have not experienced any such thing so far. Walking down the streets of Itaewon makes me remind of the pre-diwali winter evening walks in the alleys of Cannaught place, New Delhi. It’s always a happy mood here unlike other chic and posh localities in Seoul like Gangnam, Apujeong, Timesquare etc. people in Itaewon talk and laugh loud, you can find smoking korean women, crowded streets and more specifically people dressed casually and yet interestingly talks meaningfully and stylishly.
This winter packed with coffee smell and glitz took a long time to fade and was followed by a very short lived unnoticeable spring. Next came the summer. The leaves of the tress suddenly seem to look very green and people have started abandoning their long traditional skirts and grey suites and replaced it with shorts and t-shirts. Unlike the intense faces dressed in black long overcoats in the morning subways, half sleepy on their way to office people were smiling. The heat embraces the monsoon’s extended moisture all season long, so Korea’s summer tends to be extremely hot and humid, raising the discomfort level so high that the broadcast weather forecasters warn the viewers “try not to get into arguments today because they may get out of hand”. In order to strengthen the green initiatives president Ahn encourages the office workers to come in light cotton shirts and half trousers and in order to keep a check on the rising use of electricity air conditioner temperatures are fixed at 25 degree at major offices.I only had a table fan underneath my work station giving relief only to my thighs making my shoulders envious. During this month I dared to visit the Jeju island during my 3 day summer leave and ended up staying mostly in the pension during the day because of the unbearable heat, but nevertheless the evenings were pleasant.
Now it’s the autumn phase of the year and by far I like it the most. I am thoroughly enjoying the growing coolness in the air and the approach of the winter. It’s the home calling time, it’s that happy moment of the year when I feel feverish due to the changing weather and yet want to go for the dinner walks in the quite gardens of the Namsan Tower close to my house. Suddenly it’s not the scorching heat neither the pricking winter, I don’t feel tired to come back home,cook dinner and go out for walk to the Banpo bridge with it’s fabulous light and sound fountain. These days I am not bothered to stay longer hours at work and don’t feel tired to translate and re-communicate every single communication proposal or article I draft. Maybe it’s the effect of the Korean autumn, maybe it’s the takeaway gift at the end of the year – Patience. One last thing the all lighted Namsan tower looks gorgeous at night and my bathroom window gives a stunning experience of the same. I switch off the light while taking a hot water bath looking out of the window at the Namsan tower- the water flows, the shampoo foams melt from my head to toes yet my eyes remain stuck on the Namsan tower.