Everyday, 4:50pm signals the same routine. I leave Seoul Dukeui Elementary to catch the green 6613 bus three blocks down the street. After climbing on, I swipe my “T-Money” card to pay for the 20 minute journey home. I pick the individual seat directly behind the driver, next to the window.
My seat on the bus never changes, but everything whirling past does.
The streets lined in vivid green hold their color far into October, then they slowly begin to fade. My skin can feel the dehydration in the air and the leaves outside slowly show it, their smooth surfaces begin to wrinkle and wilt.
Gazing out the window, the pleasure is simple, but important none-the-less. To most people, trees are a backdrop to the daily routine, but to me, the trees take precedence. I chart their progress everyday, waiting for their peak in color, signaling the brightest of days. The green completely fades, and a whole new color wheel paints the streets of Seoul.
November arrives and the days get chillier. I carry a scarf with me, and trade in my sandals for ankle high boots. My bus swerves and jerks through streets marked by yellows, reds, and oranges. Every street reveals a new color, each deeper than the last, each more vibrant than the day before.
The days pass quickly, each bus ride holding onto less light. I reach my stop, I jump off the bus and my boots slap the curb. I cherish the colorful walk to my apartment, I know the scenery will turn dreary soon. A gust of wind blows the trees above, igniting a luminous snowfall. The leaves flutter through the air, swirling around me until reaching their final resting place on the ground.
Each day, my boots stomp through a thicker layer of leaves while I make my way home. I kick life into them once more with every step.
All too soon the leaves have descended to the ground, a signal for harsher times to come.
I feel sad for fall’s close. Inside, I know the next few months will be frustrating, categorized by icy streets, grey skies, and freezing fingers. I fantasize about December 21st, the day I get to fly home to warm San Diego for a long anticipated Christmas with my family. Then my thoughts go further to February 19th, the day I leave Korea and fly to the western coast of India where beaches, palm trees and coconuts await.
It’s 4:50pm again, December 5th. Time to leave school and catch my bus. I go change my school slippers and put on my knee high boots. I zip up my long down coat before slipping on my mittens. I prepare for the bitter wind to hit my face and I shuffle outside. Today, there is a transformation. The once dirt field is now covered in a rectangular blanket of white. Snow flurries down from the yellow sky. As I walk towards my bus, the students run around me, gathering snow for snowballs and rolling snow for a snowman. They laugh and play and call my name as I walk past.
My visions of dreary, grey and lifeless winter have been altered. Everything is bright and alive within this blanket of white. The trees have traded in their golden leaves for a sparkling white coating on their branches. I’m cold, but right now it doesn’t matter, it’s beautiful.
I reach my bus stop and hear the rumbling of my bus approaching. I climb on and swipe my card, taking the same seat behind the driver. Outside the window pass the same streets and the same stops, this time all of which are covered in the glistening white layer. I think to myself, “Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all. Well, for now anyway…”
Stay warm everyone