The ondol of life

whenever and wherever you need ondol

To balance the many times I dipped my fingers in the hot spicy saucy plate of Korean reddish street food, there are the many times I’ve cherished the way a country has made its young eager visitors so much pleasure and surprise when it comes to a good sleeping experience.

It was late February when we visited Korea and I could feel the spring had touched the kimchi land through the way people dressed, or just we were so blessed to stay right in a youthful happening neighborhood. Young hearts, young minds, less cloths! It was not a surprise for me, as at least they still did coats, not as almighty as the British girls I once awed with lots of admires on some fun nights in Leeds. Legs. Legs. Legs. Just another normal scence. The guys were right. It’s a “wow” to show your slim tally legs in Europe, yet it’s slutty to show your cleavage there.  And the opposite situation was on show in Asia. Why? Coz what the point of carrying coal to Newcastle? We all have our own strength ladies.

I talked spring yet I love to feel that winter still lingered a bit longer in any touches of life. We didn’t have to pretend a lot indeed because simply it was freezing. I can recall anytime how we burst into laughter and relief when we first touched on a Korean famous ondol/gudeul . It originally is the underfloor heating system using hot water running in pipes to heat up during winter, the system that is similar to the old water-heating pad in Europe.  Yes everywhere was just so warm. It soothed our tired and freezed feet. It heated up the evening mood. “I don’t mind sleeping on the floor”, said sleepy Ollie. Dear neither did I. I felt both strange and happy again to be able to put on my all-time favourite indoor winter clothes- singlet and shorts. I was not afraid of the cold. I was all warmed top-to-toe.

Koreans are the kind of very thoughtful and smart people to the fact that they bring their ondol everywhere. Seats on metro. Portable sleeping mat. Even the shabby-looking wooden benches in Kwang Jang market offer to warm up the a** while more and more soju and toppoki are serving the hungry tummies. However, there is one thing to warn about the benches. Please so not wear short skirt or mini shorts with tight or thin-fabric pants when all you want is to glue to those seats and enjoy your food. I lost my count on the times we had to stand up and let the cold air cool off our sitting part before carefully sit down again. It’s really hot hahaha. The ondol also goes straight to the bathroom. I used to dream of using the magic toilet once advertised on TV when I was a kid and now so fulfilled I was. A young friend of mine told me that his most fearful moments during winter were going to the loo and taking a shower. Too many layers to be stripped off and too cold to be naked at some parts. Well don’t you dare to tell the Koreans that as they have everything to cater your needs. The magic toilet was heated and installed with all sort of “water entertainment” for you. Hot or cold, shower and bulk… My friend Lan told me it took her quite some time to learn to use it.

From the bathroom to the sauna, there is just a walk. Well westerners often say that Asians keeps so many rules and norms on social dressing-up but here in the sauna at some point, the westerners become more Asian than the Asians themselves. In a Turkish bath in Budapest, there were topless and lots of swimsuits. Here in the middle of a so-called conservative East, I didn’t see a sight of cloth!  Yet a lot of tough scratchy gloves. For that I’m young and well-adapted, it took me more than 5 minutes to calm me down at the scene. The British took it with ease and enjoyment but I have to say it my dear French statue a real hard time. I had no doubt why the British made it all over the world back to their glorious days :D. However it proves our eastern strength when the night dragged us all the fomentation room. Well the British can go up till the bath, yet a hard wooden floor really put an end to their empire. I am, indeed, good!

Sleeping in a basement studio is another experience that I missed. It was not really a basement as when you are in, only half of you is considered under the ground floor. Some steps down, my friend’s studio does have a run-down look and a non-Korean humid atmosphere. Big enough for a girl to live her life and of course it has ondol!

In a Korean modern house, there is one thing that remains as much as the same as in the past- the women’s roles. Only one night in Soo’s house and I really could sense how much love and warmth a woman could bring to a house. We, youngsters from all over the world with the thankful hearts, were pampered again, not by our mums. A late night tea, a morning wake-up and a home-cook breakfast kept us feel home again. Lots of hugs for farewell made us torn of going away. Is it that one and only power that a woman has to strengthen the family root? Or is a woman the real ondol of the family after the door shuts? Has someone destined us women to be life bringers?

Hope you all have a good night in Korea.

Kate

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s