Alex and Chickpea Do Korea

Winter in Korea: When will my school turn on the heat?

My foot is shaking. My whole body chilled. But my hands actually hurt. The same kind of pain as when you’ve carried a heavy grocery bag a mile or two and the plastic handles have long dug into your skin. My fingers are visibly red. But not numb. If only, they were numb.

I’m typing this as I sit at my desk inside my office at school. Yes, inside.

Cold weather hit Korea about three weeks ago. Temperatures have hung around 40 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, dropping to the low 30s once the sun sets. Yes, anything below 55 degrees is cold to this Floridian, but with no respite for 8 hours a day in a school that, on some sunny days, is actually colder inside than outside, I think even my Iowa friends would complain.

My classroom is equally as cold as my office, but at least there I’m moving around equally bundled-up students. If I get them laughing enough, I reason, it may raise the temperature one or two degrees. But the hallways are the worst. Open windows line the hallways creating a wind tunnel effect that reminds me of the Nor’easter storms I used to experience in Connecticut.

But my school isn’t uncommonly cruel. This is just winter in Korea.

My teachers say the finance office controls the heat.

“When will they turn it on?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” they answer.

The other day, they turned it on. It was glorious. In my classroom, where one huge heater stands guard behind the teacher’s desk, I even took off my coat. In my office, I left it on just so I could sweat a little.

Then, the next day, the heat was off again.