Spires of faith competing with bare trees.
Bungundang Shrine – Itaewon

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy

After a long hot summer, I eagerly waited for the seasons to change. And as much as I wanted temperatures to dip, I secretly, dreaded the thought of facing the Korean winter. I had heard unfavourable stories of gloom, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and the freezing cold from friends. My trysts with negative temperatures were few and never lasted more than a week or two — the duration of our trips. I knew, of all the challenges I had already faced, this would probably be the hardest. And as fall came and went, and took every bit of colour along with it; it left behind bare naked trees and emptiness. And strangely, there was a kind of beauty — even in the nothingness of the scenery.

Somewhere in Myeongdong
The LED Rose festival at Myeongdong Cathedral
The stars have descended on the ground.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tau

Temperatures slowly dropped from November and continued to plummet through December. And I seemed to be handling the cold surprisingly well. December brought along a little chaos, but steadied quickly with the holiday season. It’s hard to stay gloomy with all those lights burning up the night. And I learned that festivity can kill any form of SAD. And Seoul is known to be a festive place and almost every season is reason enough to celebrate change.  Sometimes it can be a bit much, but in winter, you learn to appreciate even the excessiveness. You also realise how much the elements can make or break your spirit.

Sights like these make the cold worth it.

“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….”
― Erica Jong

And just when I thought that I had successfully conquered the cold — it was January. The month, when winter makes you realise how low is LOW. Last week warnings of cold winds, from Siberia, made it to the local news. Strangely, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. My Korean friends had already told me about cold winds blowing, from Siberia, through winter. What could be different now? It’s not like I could see snow anywhere. After being unable to feel my face or my fingers, in just 5 mins of walking outside; I realised, Siberia must be very cold and you should take warnings seriously.

Making new friends as old ones leave

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky

Turns out, January is also the month (after December) when most of my friends decided to leave for home. Friends who will now be reduced to names in my contact list. Saying goodby is never easy and in the cold — all the more hard. Sometimes, I feel as if, I have boarded a virtual plane that goes nowhere, and yet, I get to travel the world, through the eyes of my co-passengers who keep hopping on and off from different parts of the globe.

The sun melts with the cityscape.
The moon creeps slowly in the background.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Anna was the last to leave and she wanted to watch sunset, together, at Naksan. I almost cancelled it because of the Siberian winds and, like me, she initially thought it to be a bit excessive. I’m glad, I didn’t, otherwise I would have missed a fantastic experience. As Anna, Andrea(her friend), and I climbed the old Seoul wall, we spoke on a number of topics that plague our world today. Setting the ambience, for our discussion, were the celestial bodies of our sky. In the foreground, the sun slowly dipped towards the horizon and behind us, the moon rose from the spires, of the churches, in the cityscape. It was hard not to feel overwhelmed by it all. The words we spoke, the precision of those heavenly beauties, and the thought of not meeting again melted together. And yet, when you see the elements coalesce, you can deal with anything. A goodbye or even a chill.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

45 replies on “Coping with Change

  1. What a clever way you wrote this post, Cheryl, weaving the cold and the sadness of goodbyes together so seamlessly. If the winds in Korea are as cold as those in Siberia, then it must be cold. Maybe you could use something thicker to wrap around your face when you go out, or a thicker scarf may help :/ I too dislike the cold and when winter comes around here in Melbourne, I am always tempted to stay indoors. But one cold weekend last winter, I went out to the country and walked around a massive lake – less than 10’C the entire time and my fingers felt like ice blocks eventhough I was wearing mittens. But I am sure the weather you are experiencing is much colder…

    Goodbyes are hard. But I’d rather make the effort to say goodbye to someone rather than not saying goodbye at all or a goodbye over text message. There is always something special when you are with someone and they are going off on another journey. Don’t know how to explain it, lol 🙂

    1. Always look forward to your comment, Mabel. I’m so glad you enjoy reading what I write. Means a lot to me. 🙂 The cold winds have subsided and I can feel my face and fingers when I go out. Haha! And at the risk of jinxing my luck — the sun’s out too. Woohoo! I like the way you say that, “There is always something special when you are with someone and they are going off on another journey.” It’s so true. I’ll always remember them — wherever they will be. Hope your new year’s turning out to be filled with plenty of sunshine. 🙂

  2. I am terribly affected by weather, and January/February is when all my efforts to stay upbeat tend to fall apart. The good news is that days are getting longer with each passing week and (sort of!) soon, spring and its signs of renewal will arrive. The friend thing is another story! That’s hard. This year I am the one doing the leaving and my busyness will protect my heart a little bit from the sadness of goodbyes, but it’s still difficult to move on to a new life. Hang in there!

    1. Thanks, Lex. The days are slowly changing here. And the sun isn’t as shy. 🙂 Spring is just two months away. Can’t wait for it. It will coincide with our one year anniversary in Seoul. I do have some friends here (Shelley is one of my closest friends), it’s just so hard saying bye to the ones who you’re not sure if you’ll meet again. Are you moving again? That will be tough. All the best for new changes.

  3. I recently learned that where I live, the sun isn’t strong enough during winter to produce the vitamin D my body needs. A vitamin D tablet a day does help to keep the blues away, but I still don’t smile as much as I do in summer. Siberian winds! Sounds ominous!

    1. I’ve heard of vitamin D deficiencies. Basil has it and he isn’t really bluesy. 🙂 I smile all the more in summer too. These days we’re graced with a lot of sunshine and I’m doing so much better! Hoping it stays that way. 🙂

  4. A beautiful post altogether Cheryl – I too suffered from SAD while I lived in the northeastern US – winters just were too hard for me. Since moving to the south I realize how important sunshine is to my psyche. Just remember spring always follows winter!

    1. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Tina. 🙂 I can’t do without the sun and it really gets me down. These days we have plenty of sunshine, though temperatures are still below o. 🙂 Thanks so much for reminding me of spring. I’m counting the months. 🙂

  5. So beautifully expressed, Cheryl. But unlike you, I love the cold and wish I had been born in a country with four seasons. As for good byes, there is a finality to those words and I am a bit superstitious. So I rarely use the words if I can help it except for relatives whom I do not really like! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Helen. 🙂 I know many (Basil included) who love four seasons and the cold. I love spring and fall. If summer and winter could be less extreme — it would be perfect. 🙂 Haha! I like your thoughts on goodbyes. I’m not really superstitious, but I don’t like saying goodbye so I just say until we meet again in some other place. Trust your new year is going well?

  6. Goodbyes are never easy are they? What a beautiful post Cheryl and I love the way you combined the two themes. Such gorgeous images and quotes. Fear. Change. Two things I feel as though I’m in the throes of. Big hugs my friend xo

    1. You just know how to say it so well, Miriam! I’m so glad I’ve got so many friends from different parts of the globe, yourself included, who have been part of my journey here. Thanks so much for the hug! I could definitely do with one. Although, I hope this post wasn’t too depressing. 🙂 Sending you a big, warm hug back my dear friend! xo

      1. 🙂 I think I need to write more positive posts. Working on wrapping up our Jeju trip. It’s almost 2 months since I started. Good scenery always helps to change the mood.

      2. Haha! We seem to have some ESP thing going on here. I just saw your comment today. Strangely, I added you that day on Instagram. I’m amazed. How does this happen?

  7. The photos were very atmospheric, and fit the contemplative mood of the post well 🙂 And it seems that the fear of change is something that often afflicts us, given how humans are creatures of habit. This was an interesting reflection to read.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the read and pictures. Thanks so much! 🙂 Winter can be quite the mood changer. I was warned. For now, I’m trying to focus on our last trip and hope that spring comes soon!

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