I awoke on Monday to find that we had our first snow of the season on Monday. Now it’s Wednesday, there’s ice on the ground, and the doors are wide open. Chilly breezes slice through the open windows and ripple down the hallways. Students huddle in their North Face bubble jackets and schlep along in the cold.
Welcome to a Korean high school in the winter.
The doors never close here because the school buildings have no central heating. The open windows and doors supposedly help with airflow, or so I’m told. Scott, a former Cheorwon teacher, said recently that we’d have big mold problems here if the doors and windows weren’t kept open, so perhaps that’s the part of it too. I suppose that makes sense, but then again, the doors have gaps at the top, bottom, and (sometimes) middle to let air through anyway. I don’t know. I thought I’d get used to this after a year, but frankly, I haven’t. Perhaps it’s because I’m dreading seeing ice in the hallways again.
Meanwhile, the individual classrooms and offices have their own heaters that get jacked to near-sweatbox levels. As I write this, the office heater says 25 degrees Celsius, or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Most classrooms hover around similar temperatures, so in other words, I’m either sweating or shivering when the winter comes here. The office gets too warm for comfort because the heat gets stifling.
The classrooms are the same way. Every time class starts, someone has to futz with the heating controls, especially during the first class because the heaters get turned off at night. It never seems to occur to the students that heaters need time to warm up to deliver the heat they want. And invariably, the students will set the heater on 30C, or 86F—while wearing winter jackets. All of the fuss over the heat’s starting to get on my nerves—yes, teenage students will do these things, but even so, it seems as though they’d have gotten used to winters here by now.
This cold/hot dichotomy makes things a bit unpleasant here. It’s certainly trying my patience to walk out of the cold into a similarly cold school in the morning or to constantly put on and take off my winter jacket.
*Funny enough, I’ve found that people will crank the heaters to 78 in cold weather, but will run for the AC when the outside temperature hits 78. Strange stuff