Elwood 5566

Arrival of the Memi 2011

Posted in Animals, Nature, seasons, video clips by 노강호 on July 18, 2011

memi (매미 – cicadas) are more colourful in flight

Has the weather been a little strange? Until a few days ago, especially with the arrival of the boknal period, on July 14th, it hadn’t been particularly unpleasant and as I haven’t lived in Korea long enough to notice changing weather patterns, less the fact that copious hours sat in steam rooms and the number of years I have spent here, may have resulted in my being somewhat acclimatised, I haven’t really being splashing sweat all over the place.

Last year, I heard the first memi (매미 – cicadas) on July 22nd. Of course, this is not the first memi to sing in Daegu per-se, but the first I heard and I am consistent at standing in a small park everyday in the lead up to their appearance. Last year, the temperature was scorching as I heard what was actually a solitary song. This week, on July 14th, it seems cooler, though certainly above the memi song threshold of 29 degrees Celsius, and I heard my first song for 2011 and it was a full, if somewhat half-hearted chorus.

Memi song can damage your hearing and I advise you to turn down your volume if you activate the video!

The memi will continue to sing into the hanyeoreum (한여름) period, which occurs in August and by which time the rainy has fully moved north and the evenings are hot a balmy. The chang-ma (장마) rain reappears in early September, only for a few weeks after which the memi song will gradually fade away as the temperature decreases.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence

Beating Boknal (4) 2011

Posted in Food and Drink, Health care, seasons by 노강호 on July 10, 2011

Boknal (복날) is coming!

The hottest period of Korean weather will begin in mid-July when the chang-ma (장마 – monsoon season) has begun to move north towards  Manchuria. The hottest period, lasting 2o days, known as boknal (복날), begins on ch’obok (초복) which this year is July 14th. 10 days later is chung-bok ( 중복 – July 24th) followed another 10 days later by mal-bok (말복 – August 3rd). The three days, ch’o, chung and mal, (초, 중, 말) are known as sambok (삼복), ‘sam’ being the Sino-Korean for ‘three.’

Two add confusion, there is Hanyorum (or hanyeoreum, 한여름) which is basically ‘midsummer’ and this begins once the chang-ma (monsoon) has fully moved north. Hanyorum, usually in August, is typified by hot days and balmy evenings. Though the monsoon has gone, it is still humid but perhaps I notice it more being British.

Boknal is supposed to be uncomfortable but personally, I find the humid monsoon season just as horrid. I suppose with boknal you know the end of summer is in sight.

Ways to beat boknal – or at least make it bearable:

sleep with a ‘wooden wife’ – she’ll only cost you about 10.000 Won and apart from being lazy she’s totally mute!

Korean teas, chilled are wonderfully refreshing if not a little ‘just’ in terms of taste.

iced coffee

wear silver summer trousers – I’ve heard the material these suits and trousers are made  sometimes called ‘kal-ch’i (갈치) after the silver cutlass fish seen in markets. I’ve had two pairs of these made and they lower body heat considerably.

brilliant at lowering body temperature

handkerchiefs and towels – in cheapo ‘dollar shops’ you can buy handkerchiefs for about 1000 Won. I usually find Koreans regard sweat almost as nasty as urine – which is basically what it is!

ice rooms and cold pools –  a brilliant way to cool down.

cold showers – pretty obvious, really.

hand fans – plenty to choose from

Then there are a range of foods for combating heat  known as bo-yang-shik (보양식). Fight heat with heat (이열치열); Ginseng chicken, and stews including dog stew (보신탕), are the foods typically eaten on three days marking boknal and chicken ginseng is a big favourite right through summer.

Alternatively, fight heat with cold and cool down with patpingsu (받빙수),  naeng myeon (cold noodles) and plenty of water melon.

Green tea patpingsu

Chill out in one of the numerous cheong-cha (arbors – 정자), they are great at capturing what little breeze is in the air.

Best of all, get naked and lie in the blast of the air-con!

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

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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Hanyorum – High Summer (한여름)

Posted in Animals, Diary notes, Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on August 25, 2010

Hanyorum in Daegu - stifling!

Hanyorum (한여름) is the period of high summer and generally occurs in early August when the changma (장마) has moved North into Manchuria. Hanyorum is typified by high temperatures, reaching 38 degrees Fahrenheit, (100 degrees Celsius), in the afternoons and hot and humid nights.

One characteristic of hanyorum is the appearance of crickets (귀뚜라미), though you are more likely to hear them than see them. I both saw and heard  crickets yesterday (August 24th), though they may have been chirping earlier than this. Crickets differ from grasshoppers (메뚜기) in that they are nocturnal and the song of both differ from the omnipresent scream of the cicadas (매미).

A cicada - or memi (매미). The sound of summer!

Grasshoopers (메뚜기), which some Koreans enjoy eating, are diurnal insects and their chirp is often drowned by the memis’ summer shriek, so you need to listen carefully to hear them. Their chirp is more noticeable when there is a lull in the memi scream. They are bright or vivid green, have antennae which are always shorter than their body, and long wings which when in flight are often coloured.

Grasshopper - (메뚜기). Mmmm- delicious!

Crickets (귀뚜라미), are nocturnal and as such require darker camouflage, usually pale green or brown. Their antennae are often the equivalent length of their abdomen and have atrophied or even absent wings and hence, do not fly. They also have ears located on their legs in the form of a white spot or mark. In hanyorum, the chirping of crickets (귀뚜라미) fill the evening air and as such they chirp at lower temperatures than the memi. While memi (cicadas) start screaming at 29 degrees Celsius, the cricket will chirp at cooler temperatures, as low as 13 degrees Celsius. Using Dolbear’s Law (based on Snowy Tree Crickets), it is possible to work out the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit by counting a cricket’s chirps over 14 seconds and adding 40. An interesting if not useless equation unless you happen to have a cricket in isolation, but on one or two occasions, I have had one chirping inside my ‘one room.’

Cricket (귀뚜라미). The clearly visible ears, located on the legs, and absence of wings distinguish it from the grasshopper.

Interesting links and sources:

Telling a grasshopper from a cricket

Fahrenheit 84 – the memi

Grasshoppers

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The Rainy Season (장마)

Posted in Diary notes, seasons by 노강호 on June 15, 2010

The rainy season, known as the changma (장마) has arrived and will last most of June and July after which the hanyorum (한여름), the hottest period of summer with high humidity and temperatures reaching 38 degrees, will set in. The changma will produce 60% of Korea’s annual rainfall in less than 2 months. This period is typified by torrential rain which provides a momentary coolness before the humidity rises uncomfortably. Daegu is the hottest part of Korea during the summer.

Rainy season chaos

Start of Chang ma June 17 2008, Ch'eonan

Rainy season over the basketball courts. June 17, 2008 Ch'eonan

Start of the rainy season, Daegu, June 15th, 2010

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.