July 19th is considered the first day of summer in Korea, which came as a surprise because I’ve been sweating my butt off since May. Ever since the temperature started climbing in the spring Koreans have been telling me that Daegu gets unbearably hot. Oftentimes, I would brush it off and say that we’re used to hot and humid weather in South Florida. But as we progressed into the middle of summer, and I began walking into school in the mornings drenched in sweat, I realized I had really underestimated the heat.
In an effort to think cool thoughts, I’ve posted pictures of the overnight snowstorm we got in March along with the rest of my post.
To make matters worse, the principal refused to let anyone turn the air conditioning on in order to save money, and advised us to drink iced-tea instead. So I would sit each day in the teacher’s lounge, incapable of coherent thought and drinking cheap iced-tea. Or I would fight through an after-school lesson with my lazy 3rd graders only to have them lift their foreheads from the desk, look up at me red-faced and yell, “teechah hot! Teechah, aircon!” It only took a few of these before I would lose it and yell back, “if you want aircon go tell the principal we’re dying!!”
Eventually, we were allowed to turn the AC on at certain times, which according to the EPIK grapevine is because of a law requiring schools to do so once the temperatures reach a certain level. I’m confident this is true, otherwise you would have kids dying of heat stroke all over Korea. Although South Florida summers can be brutal, it at least benefits from direct access to the ocean and a nice sea breeze. Daegu is landlocked and surrounded by mountains, effectively turning into a steamy cauldron of kimchi and sweaty Koreans.
So naturally, when a coteacher mentioned that on the first day of summer they traditionally eat a special food, I thought of all the refreshing options they might have. Would it be patbinsu, a delicious treat of fresh fruit, ice cream and sweet red bean over shaved ice? Iced rice noodles with some fruit tea? Perhaps the some of the fresh watermelon that has become the standard afternoon snack in the teacher’s room? No, the traditional food for the first day of summer is chicken ginseng soup. That’s right, a pot of boiling water with a whole chicken in it.
Lady, it’s 100 degrees outside, we can’t turn the air on, you’re scared of fans, we’re eating soup…SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE!
“It’s good for stamina.”
We’re approaching the six month mark in Daegu, and I still experience culture shock on a weekly, if not daily, basis.