SEOUL: Winter is coming

Seoul breathes. Despite being one of the world’s largest and most sprawling metropolises, the city does not seem to be quite as suffocating as other major cities.

The neighborhoods of Seoul are not very condensed and form more of an intricate spiderweb than a patchwork quilt. Rather than being a heaping mass of concrete and asphalt, the city is pierced and invaded with green mountains and preserved parks that dwarf the impressive skyscrapers and other more urban sights. The air is fresher in these areas and one never really loses themselves in a sense of encroachment.

This has led for me to enjoy something that is entirely new to me: autumn. This is a season and concept that is largely leafed over in central Texas, land of evergreen trees and mild Octobers. The red and yellow leaves are a novelty  to me and I have to admit that I have fallen victim to bombardments of leftover autumn rain still clinging to their leaves in the morning as I stare up at them in wide-eyed wonder.

There are also aspects of the fall that can be quite irritating in Korea. One is the the gingko tree, or eun haeng as it is called in Korean. These trees are very common in my portion of town and have even been planted daringly along the sidewalks. In the fall their leaves turn a stunning golden color and a walk home from the subway station can feel as if you are walking through a street lined with 20 foot golden torches. 

All this sounds rather pleasant but there is an issue: the berries. They begin to fall like mad during this time of year, leaving the sidewalks littered with these marble-sized fruits. They are near impossible to avoid stepping on and when you do they release an odor that is so foul it can not be described without obscenities (and thus I wont).

Another issue is one that is much more personal to me. There are no pumpkins. While Koreans have an alternative, it is not quite the same and they don’t equate it with the season the way the west does. Nothing says Autumn to me like pumpkin bread, pie and anything else that can take on the flavoring. I admit that a part of me feels amiss without it. 

However, overall the experience of really getting to see the changing of the seasons has been very comforting as they are things that I am only familiar with from television. Not all will be easy though. Winter is approaching and I’ll admit I have had a few bouts of nervousness. I was born and raised under the Texas sun and, though I have visited cold places, enduring months of snow and its inconveniences is something I have yet to deal with. This year I will have to brave my first white winter.