Elwood 5566

The Chang Ma Arrives in Daegu

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on June 22, 2011

watching the chang-ma under the cheong-cha

I always find it strange how Koreans know almost every adjective to describe the weather apart from what I consider one of the most important and certainly one of the most impressionable. And as I write, I can already recall as song I taught years ago entitled: ‘How’s the Weather? It’s Sunny…’ etc, etc. There are probably numerous versions of this but the one my inner ear is currently playing has a particularly memorable tune. Apart from not rhyming very well, ‘humid’ would have fitted but when it comes to learning the weather in Korea, this manifestation is usually ignored. And come to think of it, the weather that produces this condition is also absent from the average Korean lexicon.

Chang Ma in Daegu

I can tolerate the heat but once the Chang Ma (장마 – monsoon) arrives, as it has this afternoon in Daegu, and Korean weather becomes horribly humid and particularly uncomfortable. Arriving in Korea in August, ‘humidity’ (습기) was one of the first words I learnt and being British and noted for their obsession with the weather, it is one of my most frequently used words through the sticky, muggy months.

cherry blossom festival - Korean blossom is more predicable than its British counterpart

When it comes to the change of seasons in the UK, they have a mind of their own and winter, for example, might arrive in November one year and January the next. British seasons tend to be technical and the season it is supposed to be is not necessarily representative of the weather you are experiencing. Several years ago, I attended a Korean spring festival in a school I had previously taught in and it has been scheduled for the weekend when the cherry blossom was supposed to be at it’s most spectacular, on this occasion, April 13th. I arrived to find the blossom so prolific, when the breeze blew it fell from the trees like snow. That same year I had been in Britain in January and a cherry blossom and magnolia spasmed into bloom in the street in which I live. Days later, a frost viciously wreaked decimation.

for a Brit, warm rain is quite strange

Back to the Chang Ma; several people told me it would arrive on Wednesday, and that is exactly what happened and as I write, the rain is beating down outside. Though the Chang Ma has been hanging in the air for around a week, it now seems to be fully here and so,  from which ever date you take as its arrival in Daegu, they fit within an 8 day window of  2010 (June 17th) and 2009’s (June 15th)  Chang Ma. That’s a fairly consistent pattern!

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

FURTHER REFERENCES

The Rainy Season Arrives (June 2010) Bathhouse Ballads

Hanyeoreum Evenings (정자)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on September 8, 2010

Waiting for winter...

Summer is drawing to a close and outside Daegu is on the edge of typhoon Kompasu. Last night, was the first in many weeks that my air-conditioning wasn’t active. The rain was constant and woke me several times and like most one-rooms, a view of the world beyond is limited, but the concrete walkway between my window and the next building isn’t flooded. Further north, the story is quite different.

an isolated chong-cha

And once the sun reigns in the sky, the humidity is going to soar. Hanyeoreum (한여름), the Korean term for midsummer which is the period between the chang-ma (장마) monsoon season and its brief reappearance in September when it returns from Manchuria, isn’t over and though it’s probably peaked, the afternoons are still hot and humid and the evenings balmy and uncomfortable. In the heat of the sun people amble rather than walk, always picking out a path via shaded areas. Only boys seems to run and hurry and in classes it is a regular sight to teach lads with sweat trickling down their faces and spiking their blue-black hair.  I can’t recall teaching a girl soaked in sweat! At road crossings people will stand in the shade, even that provided by a meager lamp-post. And all the time fans are fanning faces, parasols, only ever used by women, are open and school boys walk about with one trouser leg rolled up, sometimes both or  lift their shirts to cool their stomachs. In the city, hanyeoreum evenings take on a lazy, laid back atmosphere. Around the haggwons (private schools), mini bus drivers crouch in groups in doorways or sprawl over seats  in their buses, dozing in the sultry heat and outside cafes people sit chatting or watching the world float by.

summer chong-cha

In the small parks between apartment complexes and larger parks around the city, people exercise,  stroll or laze in the arbors (정자).   Arbors are as synonymous with Korea as are kimchi or taekwon-do and in the fierce sun they offer sanctuary and in the evenings a small enclave which traps even the slightest breeze. They are home to little groups of men playing traditional games, gaggles of gossiping women, student sweethearts, small children and those seeking solitude. In hanyeoreum evenings, when the air is still and stifling, they are a place to stretch out and take a nap – especially after a few glasses of soju or makgeolli.

Hanyorum evenings - sitting out the sultry weather

and after a makgeolli, chong-cha are great for a nap

Chong-cha are always made of wood and designs vary from simple, functional structures as found in small parks between apartments, to the more elaborate and traditional  ones, made without nails, with intricate inlaid art work and bowed roofs and with which Korea is associated. These are usually built in places of significance, on mountain summits, or isolated areas of natural beauty.

A great place to gossip

The majesty of a traditional chong-cha

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