In the air there’s a feeling of frostbite…

18 Dec
A snowy view from our veranda.

A snowy view from our veranda (with the beginnings of our Christmas decorations).

It’s mid-December and – I shudder to say it – winter’s almost in full swing. I’m told by many that I’m a wimp (usually not in so many words, but it’s implied). Whenever I start to complain or shiver or otherwise act cold, it seems there’s always someone there to point out the fallacy: “but you’re Canadian!” Let me be the first to stress that a Vancouverite is not the same type of Canadian as a Winnipegger. We may all love mooses and maple syrup, but weather makes for a different story. So when people complain about rain I may roll my eyes; in the fall, when people suggested I buy an umbrella to use as well as my raincoat (which is from home and totally waterproof), I laughed that idea off as a trifle. Now the tables have turned, however, and my two fellow SALTers from the ‘Peg are turning their noses down at me. Side glances abound as I shiver away at the bus stop or wherever; “she’s cold?” rings out derisively as I pull my toque on tighter.

Okay, so it’s not quite that bad. Jess and Alex don’t actually look down on me, I’m sure. I’m just poking fun (and maybe I’m a little jealous of their hearty constitutions). But nothing is funnier (or more tragic) than my latest disease. If it’s weird and rare, I’m bound to contract it, and the rule still rings true in Korea. Are you ready for it? I’m allergic to cold weather. It’s a real thing! Turns out the seemingly never-ending case of hives that’s become a part of my daily life is actually because my body is going into revolt. So, as I type this, my fingers are slightly itchy, splotchy and sausage-y, but at least my knees, lips, bum, and (worst of all) the bottoms of my feet are still their normal shapes. Fun times!

This past weekend was the bi-monthly “YALTer” reunion, which means I got to hang out with Cindy, Alex, and Jess for a weekend. We spent the Saturday at the office, using the small oven to bake 5 batches of Christmas cookies (1 pan at a time!). Now I have a proper stash of soft spice cookies, Nutella , shortbread, peanut butter kiss, and sugar cookies at my disposal.

Cookie chaos!

That afternoon we went skating at the indoor sports complex here, which was pretty dramatic for Cindy especially, since this is her first year ever seeing snow, let alone experiencing ice! She was a great sport though. The wall and Alex’s patience were very helpful to her. I think in the end we all had fun.

Time to skate!

In the evening the four of us were treated to a great evening of potluck, carol singing, and stories at a church member’s home. Their “cell group” decided to do a nice evening for us as service to the foreigners and aliens around them. (It’s strong language, but while here I’m actually called a “foreigner” colloquially, and an “alien” officially.)

People look on as I'm the first one to get poked (of course).

People look on as I’m the first one to get poked (of course).

A funny part about that evening was the casual mention that one of the cell group members is actually a doctor of oriental medicine. Offers for acupuncture were thrown around, and I jumped on the wagon pretty quickly. Before I knew it, he’d gone down to the car to fetch his needles, I was shown to a couch where I was to lay on my stomach, and I was being stuck methodically and specifically. 18 needles protruding from my flesh and clothing, I was ordered to relax for ten minutes (as members of the cell group floated in and out of the room like it was a spectator sport). When I was finished I looked around the room only to realize everyone was getting poked. Strewn about the floor were victims willing participants with needles poking out of knees, ankles, and foreheads. I had to laugh at the casual everyday-ness that was the prevailing attitude.

Why yes, I do have a needle sticking out of my head.

Why yes, I do have a needle sticking out of my head.

Another winter highlight so far include another movie theatre experience. This time it was a 3D matinée, and not in my language of choice. Another situation where my foolishness astounds me, I wondered how all the poor kids at Rise of the Guardians, the new Christmas-ish film from Dreamworks, would understand a subtitled movie. I mean, most kids can’t read that fast, right? It took about two seconds for me to realize that would be the only one not understanding, since animated kids’ movies are the first to get dubbed in this country. (Sometimes I really wonder how I got a degree with honours.) But hey, despite that, I had a great time. This was part of my own cell group’s service afternoon: we all had lunch and saw a movie with a group of orphan children grades 2 to about 6. They were great fun despite their terrible behaviour! I am definitely a sucker for any little Korean girl with glasses on a string, even when she’s so keen on pressing buttons on the way to the theatre that we’re all driving along in -5 degree weather with the windows down and the hazard lights flashing (and trust me, it felt like a hazard)…. So, the movie starts and now I’m on the adult end of the experience, watching all the little kids grab at the snow that appears to be falling on us. So cute. Also cute were the tooth fairies and elves that stole the show in Guardians. I only understood about 5% of what they were saying, but the point is I understood 5% more than I would’ve just four months ago. Progress!

Doogii and I having coffee and waffles with some unpictured friends.

Doogii and I having coffee and waffles with some unpictured friends.

Other winter experiences so far have included coffee dates with church friends, Doogii and I decorating the apartment in colorful festivity, slipping on the ice on the way to work, covering the windows at the office with plastic so that I no longer have to see my breath when I arrive in the mornings, and ingesting at least three cups of tea, hot chocolate or coffee a day. This Wednesday is a national holiday, since it’s also election day. Taken at Kyong Jung’s suggestion, my only plans so far are to “stay at home and relax…and pray”. Saturday, Doogii and I are hoping to host a little Christmas dinner and games night. Not sure what I’ll make yet, but I’m already excited.

Look at me go! Learning to make tangsuyuk, or sweet and sour pork, from scratch! (Using chopsticks!)

Look at me go! Learning to make tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) from scratch! (Using chopsticks!)

Then, next week, I have a whopping 5 days off! Most people here only get the 25th off (peanuts, I know), but thankfully I have a boss who’s lived in Canada and knows the value of some time to veg (something this workaholic country could benefit from)! I plan to watch lots of movies (The Hobbit! Les Mis! Life of Pi!) and possibly go visit Alex in her community for a couple nights. And, in case you were worried; I am actually sort of double-booked for Christmas day. Our cell group wants to hang out, and I’m invited for Christmas dinner with the Kims (Kyong Jung’s family). So yes, it feels different this year, but Christmas isn’t a feeling (unless you count freezing my tooshie off). It’s about Jesus – he’s the “reason for the season”, and a year away from my people and regular traditions is helping me see that. I’m not homesick (praise God!), I’m just very excited to keep learning from and experiencing this new life. For, through Jesus, we are “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Love and prayers to you this season,



4 Responses to “In the air there’s a feeling of frostbite…”

  1. alyssa301 December 29, 2012 at 5:42 AM #

    I almost died in Calgary cold, yet still consider myself a true Canadian 🙂 Hope you had a swell Christmas!

  2. Carol Wiens December 19, 2012 at 3:34 PM #

    Tell me, did the acupuncture work? Were the needles sterilized? Don’t fret about your inability to handle the cold – a true Vancouverite (such as you) goes beserk with snow and cold (as evidenced today), but thrives in the rain. I am so happy that you are embracing your new life and experiences in Korea.

    • Deborah December 19, 2012 at 9:49 PM #

      The needles are new when used, and are thrown away after. There was nothing really wrong with me, so I don’t know if I felt “better” afterwards, hahaha!
      Thanks for the encouragements, Auntie!

  3. Mama December 19, 2012 at 1:32 AM #

    Loved this! Love you!

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