Hanok vs. Winter

Friday | March 8th, 2013


The Hanok versus Winter was much different from the other battles of the year known as Caleb & Meow Constantly Fight Winter and Frequently Loose. The Hanok versus Winter was more enigmatic because the Hanok has been around for about 70 years already, while Winter is as old as Demeter and Persephone and those naughty pomegranate seeds.

As a house, the Hanok faired well. It was exposed to tumults of rain and several sherpa burdens of snow. The roof held fast and did not cave in, nor did I vault up in the middle of the night to hear any of its ceramic shingle breaking in the courtyard. No icy tears came dripping in through the ceiling to interrupt the long days of staycation hibernating. For a basically uninsulated home, we managed to make it just warm enough and put up enough plastic for the simplest heat retention.


The damages were slight and came in less predictable places. The one of the wooden railings above the outer wall has warped across a knot (hero image, top) that a self-respecting carpenter wouldn’t have allowed to be there—Reno-guy is to blame. The courtyard stones have been poo-pooed with all the winter washout from the roof and whatever the ominous clouds of China brought with them to dump on us (above, left). Some of their luster is gone to decay with the rest of failing Gyeongju. The outside bathroom’s toilet froze solid early on and it was funny to ponder how much would melt in a single piss. But as things began to warm, then freeze overnight and warm and freeze and continue on like that, eventually we woke up one morning to find gallons of water running out of the tiny gate room. The tank had cracked from all the ice (above, right). How, exactly, without daily usage, could we have prevented that??

At the hardware store we asked this very question a couple of weeks ago. There was a long discussion in Korean while I stared and drools at the assortment of levels. Basically, everyone drops a little heating coil into the tank which keeps the country folk happily shitting in their working outside toilets which sit in the equivalent of meat lockers all winter. Now we know … for next year. Yes, forgetting to pee at work and being able to dash through the gate and hop into the outside water closet to relieve myself is a reality, not just a dream. (Incidentally, this happened, and that’s how I know for certain that the toilet bowl was frozen solid by mid-December. I had to disarm ADT, go to the side of house, unlock the back door, climb over two overly excited dogs, make my way past them, through the laundry room / pantry door, go through the pantry kitchen door, strip off all the layers of winter protection that would allow me to access my penis, and finally crouch down to get through the Hobbit door to the proper bathroom. If there is to be a next time, peeing in Meow’s snowed over garden will probably work much better.)


While we were pretty lucky, the neighbors (whom we’ve never met) on the corner were not. Their wall cracked all the way through on both sides of the corner. It really looks like you could yank this chunk out into the street with very little effort.

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