Wednesday, December 15, 2010

cold and windy, clean and dirty

It's cold and windy where I am, and not so long from now I'll be out in the middle of that freeze. Guess I'd better bundle up.

My apartment isn't drafty, but it creaks whenever the wind blows. I'm still getting used to my new residence's various quirks, most of which are innocuous, being little more than noises and odd shadows. A major problem spotted by my buddy Mike, when he helped me move some heavy items in a few weeks ago, is going to be worked on soon.

With below-freezing temperatures now here, I often wish I had an ondol floor, but it's the rare American residence that would think to install such a creature comfort. In the States, a floor is something you walk on or place furniture on, and which you sweep or vacuum every once in a while. It's not the first choice for sitting, eating, or sleeping: that's what couches, chairs, tables, and beds are for. In Korea, unless you're pretty well off and have a mess of chairs and couches, your floor is where you perform all the activities of daily living. You clean your floor every day; you keep it free of dust bunnies, food crumbs, nail clippings, skin flakes, stray pubes, and pit hairs. A random inspection of a Korean versus an American floor would show a striking difference in the level of schmutz.*

Still, what I have now isn't bad, and since I've only recently moved in, it's not all that verschmutzt yet. The apartment may lack an ondol, but it's warm and comfortable, and what's more, it's looking better by the day as I continue to arrange and organize my possessions. Too bad I have to leave it in a couple hours to brave the harsh cold outside.

*I'm not holding myself up as a paragon of Korean cleanliness, here. And yes, there are exceptions to the Korean rule. I've been to some slovenly apartments and houses in and around Seoul, and don't get me started about the skankier yeogwans.


1 comment:

Charles said...

Current temperature in Seoul: -11C (not factoring in wind chill or anything like that)

In about an hour it will probably be so hot in my apartment that I will have to open up the windows, as I do every day.

We've got the ondol cranked as low as possible without shutting it off, but they still run it so hot that the place turns into a sauna during the day. Talk about wasted energy.

Then again, I grew up in a house in upstate New York where the temperature was regularly kept at a balmy 18 degrees. I suspect that I will never get used to hot houses.