Another revolution around the sun and and we’re back to where we left off — last year. I’ve never quite understood the difference between the first day of a new year and the last day of the year that went by. Morning doesn’t seem any different, the sun peeks when it feels like, clouds drift into empty space, people still walk in single file, skyscrapers stay firmly rooted to the ground, the sounds of my keyboard fight to drown the void, and resolutions I made — the night before — are quick to flee. Yet, in a moment of weakness, I foolishly hope, the magic won’t wear off when the clock strikes twelve. The thought of making amends for the mistakes of the past is alluring. An illusion I like to fall for year after year.
Last year, we spent the holidays in Dharamshala (India). I wanted to spend time in quiet contemplation and come to terms with our move to Seoul. However, no matter how much you think or prepare or try to run — nothing can prepare you for the challenges of a new year. I’ve realised that a new year is like a charging bull. There’s no way of knowing when it will turn or dip or jump or even predict it’s next move. There’s only one way to face it — head on.
Three years back, I’d seen Ki-duk Kim’s movie (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring) tracing the journey of a young boy, under the tutelage of a Buddhist monk, set against the backdrop of Korea’s four season climate. Back then, I didn’t have a clue of what was in store for me. I was spellbound by the change in seasons and how they made the same setting look so different. And though, the plot is hazy, the imagery of the nature’s ephemeral nature is still vivid. As we made the move from three seasons to four, our lives changed with them, just as the buds bloomed and the leaves turned.
SPRING (March – May)
We arrived, in Seoul, at the end of March. Temperatures (after a long cold winter) were still pretty low and the trees were bare. The move had been far more difficult than I had anticipated and it was hard to adjust immediately. Fortunately, within a week, buds started appearing, and dead trees showed some sign of life. As the days passed and temperatures steadily rose, buds bloomed into bursts of pink and white blossoms. When you’re in a state of limbo, spring can feel like paradise, and can put any negativity to rest.
Blossoms last for a very short period of time. They gradually litter the street with white dust and leaves of green take their place. Temperatures continue a steady rise without getting oppressive. We discovered a new park, along old railway lines, and it was perfect for long walks in the evening.
It’s hard to stay gloomy in spring. Seoul lights up with festivals and events across the city. Every weekend can be spent exploring a part of Korea’s past or it’s love for modernity.
In May, the temperatures prepare you for summer. The sun is bright, skies are blue, and almost every visible field or tree is in full bloom with flowers or leaves.
SUMMER (June to August)
We missed the brief monsoon in the month of June. When we came back, in July, temperatures had hit their all time high. It’s not the best time to shift apartments or try readjusting to Seoul. There were moments when things felt so wrong that I felt like abandoning ship. The heat did little to help.
Summer isn’t ideal for hiking (can get quite hot) and strangely it’s when we actively took to hiking. We tried quieter smaller mountains (not frequented by tourists) and were greeted by smiling locals. With every hike, my fear of heights gradually waned and my weak right knee grew stronger.
With a heat wave lashing out and the news of my mum falling sick — August was the hardest month of the year. We tried to distract ourselves with a day trip to Incheon’s Chinatown. Masking as tourists helps escape the pressures of expat life.
FALL (September – November)
Inspired by Incheon, we spent another weekend in Suwon. We climbed walls (in the sweltering heat), boarded toy trains, and sighed at wide open skies. A trip back home helped get spirits high.
Temperatures slowly returned to normal, by late September, and it was ideal to explore paths along the Han River. Exhaustion and the change in climate took a toll on Basil and he fell sick for the first time here. On the bright side, we discovered Korean porridge — suggested by the doctor.
By October, I was desperately waiting for fall. And while the rest of Korea explored fall viewing spots, we finally managed to squeeze in a trip to Jeju. Jeju took us by surprise and its uncanny resemblance to Iceland was a shocker. By the time we came back to Seoul, in mid November, everything was yellow. Within a week the trees had shed their leaves and the sweet smell of decay filled the air.
WINTER (December to February)
The month, I dreaded all along, was finally here. Temperatures started to plummet and we had flurries on one Sunday. The sun keeps playing hide- and-seek and I even found ice on our window sill. When the sun decides to take a holiday, Seoul resembles Gotham city. And it is only the beginning of a long winter ahead.
And as if it wasn’t cold enough, we decided to spend Christmas, in the mountains, in PyeongChang — the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. On Christmas, we walked along fields covered with snow, explored the mountain side, and even managed to attend a service in Korean. Coming back to Seoul wasn’t easy. Temperatures keep falling and yesterday the streets were filled with snow.
We’re at end of the year, but for us, we have two more months before winter is over and spring completes the circle.