Shortly after Erin left for work this morning, she sent me an email. It contained a lot of exclamation points, and a photo.
Erin was somewhat nervous about her carpool this morning, which is understandable. It doesn't help that her school is in the mountains, along winding roads with lots of steep drops, or that even in good weather, the driver has a somewhat carefree attitude toward things like "lanes."
Thankfully, she got to school just fine (though a bit late).
Snow that's heavy enough to stick is a rare occurrence in South Korea, except at higher elevations. When it does come, it's usually a light dusting that melts as soon as the sun hits it. Winters in South Korea are far more likely to feature freezing rains and miserable, humid chills. Since the odds were good that I wasn't going to get another chance to enjoy a nice snowy day, I decided to take this opportunity to hike down to the grocery store.
I quickly discovered that while the city may salt the main roads, they certainly don't bother with the ones running through the residential neighborhoods. They also don't plow, really. Not that I blame them. I wouldn't want to try and fit a snowplow down there.
While I was in the dense, narrow residential neighborhoods, walking involved picking my way over icy, packed terrain. When I finally reached a main road and found a sidewalk, I discovered that shoveling wasn't really a thing here either.
So the sidewalk is a deathtrap, but I've still gotta get to the store and all I've got are my feet. Well, if I was from South Korea, I'd take this opportunity to walk in the street.
This, of course, brings me a terrible choice. Do I walk on the sidewalk and risk slipping, falling and cracking various bones into tiny, splintery pieces? Or do I walk in the road, where I'll have to dodge Korean drivers AND avoid slipping, falling, etc.
I opted for option "c" and got away from the main roads, back to the narrow neighborhood alleys. Yes, they were icy, but there was virtually no automotive traffic.
When I finally did get to the store I discovered another interesting snow-related dilemma. If you are a business owner in South Korea, and you have a parking lot, you've got a lot of pavement that you're going to want to clear so your customers can access your store. And since snow in quantity is a freak occurrence, there aren't any local plow agencies to help you dig out. So what do you do?
Well, if you're a grocery, you go to the home and garden section and commandeer a pile of coal shovels. Then you grab a couple heavy bags of salt from the aisle with the baking supplies. Then, you put these into the hands of every stock boy you've got and point them at the parking lot.
I felt a twang of sympathy for these guys. One of them spent a lot of time walking around with an expression I can only characterize as a pout, before taking desultory swipes at the concrete with his thoroughly inadequate shovel. Still, in a country without snow-blowers, someone's got to clear that pavement.
I'm just glad it isn't me.
P.S. Apparently, snow men are popular here, and true to Korean stylings, adorably quirky.