SNOW: Changing seasonal associations

photo-3I woke up this morning to my host mom calling for my host brother and I to go eat. As I groggily shuffled my way to the table, blinded by the light after only waking moments before, I saw my host mother standing by the table. She stuck her arm out, pointed to the window, and, with a look of horror and a tone of disgust, said:

“Jon! SNOW.”

I haven’t experienced a “real” winter in four years. In college, the sun was quite literally always shining and temperatures rarely dipped into the 40s. My only brushes with the cold came during winter break; each year I would board my plane home to DC and, without fail, arrive just days before a snowpacolypse would hit. At that time, going from 70s and sunny to teens and a foot of snow was almost comical; an amusing escape from SoCal weather. My trips home came without transition, instead coming as immersion that left no time to reflect on the feelings that come with changing seasons and environmental shifts. I haven’t experienced a transition from summer to autumn to winter in four years.

Some of my strongest memories are associated with fall—cooking applesauce from scratch with my mom, picking pumpkins and apples, and decorating the front yard for Halloween with fake gravestones and putting dry ice in a plastic cauldron with my dad. I associate autumn and the transition to winter with particularly strong memories. I’ve only just recently come to the conclusion that Fall is perhaps my favorite season. In college, the weather did not trigger any of these feelings. I remember talking to my parents about their fall plans back at home, but Southern California continued to feel the same; perhaps there was a little bit less dry heat than usual, but nothing resembled autumn in DC. I rarely got homesick in those 4 years.

In Fall 2011, I spent the semester abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China. China was perhaps the most homesick I have ever felt. While I missed my family a lot, the more intense feeling was that of sensational confusion; I felt the temperatures dropping and I saw the leaves changing color, but none of the other things that I associated with fall were present. In a disjointed state, I found myself craving all of the trappings of autumn to fit with the environment. Sweater weather is powerful.

Korea is giving me those feelings of confusion and wanting again. As it gets colder, I find myself craving apple cider, hot chocolate, and, somewhat embarrassingly, pumpkin spice lattes. I want fall traditions. However, unlike China, where I was living in a dorm and could only reminisce, in Korea my homestay is helping me form new associations with autumn. Now, I think of coming home from my school and eating roasted chestnuts fresh from the oven, of hiking the foothills near our apartment, and smelling sweet potatoes as I wake up on Sunday mornings. They aren’t replacing all of the things that I associate and crave when fall comes around, but these experiences do give new meaning to the season.

“Jon! SNOW.”

It was surreal looking out the window and seeing the trees covered in white. All day at school, snow continued to fall. In between classes, students reached out the windows to catch the snowflakes. After dinner tonight, my host brother, mother, and I took out the trash and ended up having a snowball fight, bringing back more memories. Even now, snow is still falling. As the transition from fall to winter continues, I know that I will leave with redefined associations for each season and that come next fall, wherever I am, I will be craving these memories from Korea too.


About Jonathan Rice

Fulbright Fellow, Pitzer College alum, and communicator passionate about telling stories that make an impact.

Posted on 11/18/2013, in Fulbright South Korea 2013-14, General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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