Elwood 5566

Kerbside Crap – Korean Style

Posted in Comparative, customs by 노강호 on October 4, 2011

and this is on a good day

Saturday evening and I was really feeling like I wanted some company. None of my friends were home and so I was forced to go out trawling the streets in the hope I might bump into an acquaintance that I knew well enough to have a coffee or dinner with. I would even have settled for a student but really wanted a makgeolli but drinking in their presence is taboo. Eventually, I was forced to sit outside a convenience store and make like some of the blog authors I read about who seem so acquainted with this ‘hobby’ and write so entertainingly about it (The Supplanter).

I’m not quite comfortable with this pastime and am forced to either sit at the GS25 near my one room, which is secluded but boring, or sit a little further where another GS25 is on a main crossroad and there is plenty to watch. I choose the latter. And the root of my discomfort? First, I’ve just bumped into the local vicar who has been accosting me at least once a week for three years. Despite the fact he always tries to encourage me to attend his church, I quite like him. He’s a music-major and likes Handel, one of my favourites and we seem to agree more than disagree about the political issues we’ve touched on. On this subject, he is the first Korean I met to describe their views as ‘socialist.’ He’s with his teenage son and in the process of going to cancel a contract for a Samsung Galaxy S which he’d only taken out a contract on that morning. It was a reward for his son’s doing well at school but when mum found he hadn’t ‘won the prize,’ that is achieved 100%, she insisted the contract be broken. The boy, who’s about 14, is looking noticeably glum. We’re standing directly outside the entrance to their church and Dad starts telling me about their new Saturday morning Bible class. All I have to do is look interested and mutter the occasional ‘maybe’ and he’ll give up. He offers an incentive, free breakfast, and immediately bacon, sausages, egg and toast spring to mind. Then, I remember a church ‘feast’ I once attended with a friend and the utter disappointment at finding it consisted of seaweed soup, five grain rice and some kimchi. Some sausages might have lured me but tofu beanpaste soup I can make at home. Sitting at the GS25 on the cross-road is bad as I’ve met him there only a few weeks ago, drinking makgeolli and I don’t want him thinking I’ve a problem.

Second, it’s been a hot day and the plastic street furniture is hot. Around a year ago, just after getting comfortable in one, a leg snapped off. It has been an old piece of ’furniture,’ its colour having faded and I guess over a long time they bake in the summer sun and become brittle. One moment I was enjoying myself, the next I was on my back, my arse still in the chair. Worse, I couldn’t get up and felt like an upturned tortoise. I flayed my limbs a few times, aware of the faces looking down at me. Instantly, I rolled over and got straight up, dusted myself down, moved the broken chair against the window and briskly walked off. I didn’t walk on that side of the street for the next six months.

My other discomfort stems from the fact I want to drink makgeolli and there is a sort of taboo with doing this in public and a few of my Korean friends will quite happily sit outside a convenience store with a beer, but not makgeolli. So, I eventually buy a few cans of beer and cautiously settle down in one of those horrid blue chairs, selecting as I do, one that looks new and robust.

Ideal for when you’re caught short

As I’m sitting watching life, a small boy steps out of the adjacent restaurant, his mum follows. Mums guides the boy to a tree with a patch of earth at its base upon which he proceeds to vomit. It’s only a small vomit, the boy is probably only 4 or 5 and he’s quite skinny but despite this mum takes a wadge of tissues out of  her handbag uses it to soak up what sick hasn’t already been absorbed into the thirsty ground. Next minute, another little boy comes out with his mum and he pees into a small bottle she has which she subsequently puts in her handbag. On this issue, I note that E-Mart now sells small piss bags exactly for this purpose. Apparently, urine or vomit is turned to a lump of gel once in the bag. Meanwhile, on every other street corner are small to large piles of trash. Trash on the road side, at designated points is the usual manner in which refuse is disposed of and it’s collected on a daily basis. I can still remember the song that refuse-carts used to play, a custom that stopped in Daegu well over 6 years ago. I never did get an accurate translation of the lyrics but was told it gave instructions for putting out rubbish and how plastic and glass needed to be separated. Few things about Korean culture annoy me but one that does that a significant number of the population dispense with the obligatory waste disposal bag and simply chuck their garbage, un-bagged, onto the designated area. Milk cartoons, egg shells, plastic bottles, bits of vegetable and food are all left to blow about. It’s hardly surprising how many Korean visitors to Japan comment on their clean streets. It seems quite strange that one should mop up a slither of sick destined to be absorbed by the soil, or to allow a toddler to piss in a bottle rather than in the gutter when littering is almost a universal custom. Only a few weeks ago, I watched an elderly man empty the rubbish from a cardboard box he wanted into the gutter before walking off with it.

unsightly and unhygienic!

In so many ways I prefer Korean life and culture to that back home but if there is one area where a massive improvement is needed it is in littering and bagging refuse appropriately. The correct bagging of refuse doesn’t just mean using designated disposal bags, but that it can also be publicly stored safe from the many cats and pigeons prior to collection.

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Pray it’s a Foreigner Serving Your High Tea

chocolate fingers – as British as high tea

(Originally published March 15th 2011) Here’s something to ponder. You’re going to be forced to stick your nose up someone’s butt. They might be clothed, they might not. The only choice you have in the matter is what nationality they will be.

Podcast 75

When I used to train and teach taekwondo in the UK, sweaty sessions often produced brown watery stains on the butts of students’ white suits. I used to refer to it as ‘bum lick’ and basically, after rubbing shit around your arse  smearing it clean, residue remains which when mingled with sweat produces shitty water which then stains your pants. Despite the hideously hot summers in Korea, I have never seen ‘bum lick’ on kids taekwondo pants probably because their diet is substantially different. The moment you convert to loading up on pizza, big mac, bread and pastries plus a churn load of milk, cheese, butter and cream and it takes five minutes and half a roll of toilet paper to smear yourself clean.

Now, I’m not into backsides but if I were forced to stick my nose up someone’s crack, but could choose the nationality of the backside, it would most definitely be Korean. I base my choice on two reasons, firstly: a Korean diet leaves less mess and secondly, Koreans are simply more fastidious about personal hygiene.

guess where they’ve been?

With a culinary repository heavily based on soupy type recipes, Korean food never hangs about in the gut too long and when it is expelled it is ejected with such force that suction drags out any loitering debris.  Typical British food however, loiters in the intestines and has to be squeezed out of the body like toothpaste.  It passes through the body at such a slow pace that the entire intestinal track contains one enormous fecal sausage, a gigantic colonic conga which congests the entire gut like an enormous traffic jam as it slowly worms its way downward. Kimchi jjim, or a bowl of bean curd soup however, is ingested and processed at such speed that by the time it is blown out not only is the consistency unchanged but so too is its temperature.  With such force is it ejected from the body that it cleans your backside as it departs.   And I have to say, cleaning-up up after a Korean meal is not much different to dabbing your mouth after a drink of water whereas a British diet can only be compared with trying to smear-up a muddy hole.

despite what you might hear, most Koreans do shower before getting in a pool

And you know most Koreans wash their backsides thoroughly because  you can watch them doing it in a bathhouse. Many people in the UK still use bathtubs as a primary source of personal hygiene but how can you wash your arse in a little swaddling tub that binds your knees together and prevents easy access. Worse, the same water than cleans your body, that contains dead skin cells, hair, and other scud, the same water that rinsed out your backside and crotch, is then wallowed in. Yew! What a filthy habit and one almost as revolting as fitted carpets or cotton handkerchiefs. British showers aren’t much better being taken standing in restrictive bathtubs or in shower cubicles that provide as much freedom of movement as would a coffin.  Have you ever seen a westerner clean their backside?  And how do western kids learn how to clean themselves in that area? Are they just left to learn for themselves or do they simply let their underwear soak it up? I assume most westerners clean out their arses but I’ve never seen them doing it.

Nothing annoys me more than those who condemn Korean bathhouses, especially if they’ve only been a few times, and consider them places of moral and physical corruption or seething with rampant contagious infections; or those who like to bash Koreans because they use chopsticks in communal bowls of food or because they once had to use a crappy toilet.  Yes, of course somethings in Korea seem ‘dirtier than they do back home but traveling shouldn’t just spotlight the inadequacies in your host country but should also expose ones you hadn’t considered back home. Last year I came across a commentary by a westerner who complained:

And my 02. worth. Korean bathhouses? Dirty. Think about this for a minute.
The hot and cold pools. The water is NOT filtered. You have people who scrub their body and DON’T rinse off and still jump into the pools. I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have also. Leave the sauna, sweat pouring off you and hop into the cold pool! I have never seen a sauna in Korea that filters the water. It gets changed once or twice a day. Japan? Yes the water is filtered and cleaned. Not Korea. I know a few people who caught the crabs in these saunas. The blankets in the sleeping rooms are not washed daily. The towels that the saunas give you to dry off usually are not washed in hot water. I’m not bad mouthing Korea saunas, I have been to a few but most are dirty. Even the fancy looking saunas that are expensive to enter do not filter the hot/cold pool water. People are peeing in them also. I’d think twice. The saunas are good things but many are lacking customers who use good hygiene. If you are lucky enough, you might have been using one when it was being cleaned. I was and never did return.

Actually, I don’t totally disagree! People, me included, go from the various saunas into one of the pools, bodies sweating, and occasionally I see kids get straight in a pool without showering and some bathhouses are cleaner than others. I’m sure some people must pee in the water and I’ve certainly seen people pee in the showers. Is the water filtered? Well, I know water is sucked in through vents and in other places blown out. Is this filtration? I’m no more aware of filtration systems than I would be in British swimming pools where people often swim without showering, and if they do it’s only in a cursory manner, and in which they do urinate. I’ve even seen a turd floating in a British swimming pool but most of us aren’t too bothered about pool hygiene because chlorine sanitizes not just the watery environment but mentally as it leads us to believe the environment is biologically sanitized.  British pools might be bug free, but are they clean? Would you wallow in a cesspit if it were purged with a bottle of chlorine?

with a chlorinated pool one can wash their muck off in the water

Without doubt some infections are passed in bathhouses, ‘red eye’ (conjunctivitis) being one and possibly a nasty infection of the testicles but even a mild infection of the bollocks is nasty as it results in them needing to be groped by your GP.  Personally, such risks I consider small and I’m happy to gamble infection for the pleasures bathhouses provide.  In years of using bathhouses I only ever had one infection and it’s debatable where it would have been contracted. I can identify a number of practices I consider unsavoury in Korea, some examples being how individuals might dump garbage at collection points which isn’t bagged, or dipping odeng (오댕 -fish cake snacks) into communal soy sauce bowls, a habit which I think might actually have almost phased out.  Then there is the habit many kids have of coughing in your face without covering their mouth with a hand.

beware the communal soy sauce dip – great for herpes

Some restaurants, especially small ones, have dubious cooking areas but once again I’ve seen just as bad in the UK where kitchens are usually hidden from public view.  Several years ago I attended a course which was hosted in a prestigious yacht club. When the caterer didn’t turn up, we took it upon ourselves to use the kitchen to make tea and coffee and what we found was alarming; filthy fridges containing curdled milk and atrophied onions, meat placed above vegetables and shelves tacky with sugary residue on which cups were stored upside down. I made a complaint to the local authorities which resulted in the restaurant being fined several thousand pounds. The head chef, who was subsequently sacked, had previously owned a swanky sea food restaurant in the same village.  Though lots of westerners will bemoan the state of many public toilets, I’ve seen far worse examples in the UK. I taught in one school where kids would deliberately urinate on the toilet floor, and even, on occasion, defecate beside the toilet rather than in it. There’s good and bad in all cultures but I will admit to being more lenient in terms of standards when I am eating something that costs next to nothing than I am when confronted with bad practices in an expensive, pretentious eatery. When eating out is expensive and an exception rather than the rule, as it is in the UK, I don’t expect Faecal Fingers or dirty anything.

an ultra-violet sanitizer in my last Korean high school

Generally, I do not think standards differ too much between Britain and Korea except in terms of personal hygiene, which unfortunately is one of the most important criteria. It’s great having no rubbish lying in your streets or chlorine in public bathing water but it makes little odds if the community around you are filthy fuckers. Several years ago, research by a British University revealed that between 6 and 53% of city commuters had faecal matter on their hands. (BBC News 2008) Apparently, the further north you go in Britain, the higher the rates of contamination.  This is especially alarming when you consider British people will usually fully unwrap a burger before eating it and are much more likely to put things like fingers and pens in their mouths. I’m the first to admit I unwrap my burger fully in order to consume it and find comfort in fingering the bun but Koreans always eat it from the wrapper even after washing their hands.

my students find this a dirty habit

A person’s hands are the prime tools of first contact, they touch people, open doors, activate buttons and knobs, finger and prepare food and much more; they are the tools which, with an opposing thumb, not only define us as primates, but facilitate and make possible our interaction with the physical world.  You can have all the brains in the world but without thumbs – you’re screwed! At the other end of the scale, your bum-hole does very little and generally spends a large proportion of the day sitting on its arse. If a person fails to sanitize their hands after a dump , if they can’t even be bothered to keep clean such an important tools, what horrendous microscopic offenses are lurking in that dark and humid crevice. And then there are the peanuts in bars which in the UK are usually contaminated with multiple traces of urine.   My Koreans students often call me ‘dirty’ if I stir my coffee with a pen or put a pen end in my mouth and they are unaware that so many Brits have faecal fingers.  Now I know why a number of British confections focus on ‘fingers.’ I have rarely met a dirty Korean student and the pissy urine smell that I’ve noted in numerous infant schools in Britain certainly never existed in the Korean kindergartens in which I taught.

I suspect much of the animosity towards bathhouses is simply the result of nudity; some westerners clearly perceive bathhouses physically ‘dirty’ because they consider nudity morally dirty. As one commentator wrote: I’ve also been here since 2001 and have never gone to a bathhouse. I’m not into sausage fests. I work out every day and shower at home. The room of soapy Koreans just doesn’t appeal to me. For some westerners, all it takes for a clean environment is a piece of cloth over a cock and buttock and suddenly the environment is clean; splash a bit of chlorine around and we will happily swim in each other’s neutralized dirt. In 2008, when I first read how widespread faecal matter was on the hands a large chunk of its population, I made a resolution to be extra vigilant in terms of personal hygiene and not only do I wash my hands after using the toilet, but I sanitize them with a spray or anti-bacterial hand cream. I have not once broken this resolution!

 

there are times when nudity is undoubtedly preferable (Borat)

It’s pointless getting defensive about our lack of hygiene, for years the British have been the butt of jokes about bad teeth. I once meet an Australian who told me he’d been taught Brits changed their trousers once every few weeks and I’ve seen the skid marks in changing rooms and smelt the effects of using underwear as blotting paper, in British schools. If you’re British at least, observing how fastidious Koreans are about personal hygiene should prompt you to realise your own cultural failings. What’s important is that you learn from such observations and of course, the process goes both ways. Koreans are also fastidious about dental hygiene and I recently read that brushing teeth three times a day over decades can lead to receding gums. A number of sources now suggest only cleaning teeth with a brush, twice a day.  As I said, there are good and bad practices in all cultures.

to contract -E-coli!

Okay, so now you’re going to be forced to stick your nose up someones butt. It’s time to choose. What nationality are you going to pick?

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Who’s Pissing in the Pool?

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, podcasts by 노강호 on June 4, 2011

pissing in the pool

Podcast 83

Here are three Korean habits which I find displeasing: spitting, littering and pissing in public. Now, before getting on a cultural high horse, all three habits can be observed in Britain and certainly, in my hometown on most evenings of the week, you can observe both public spitting and urinating. I have even seen a teenage girl squat against a shop door and urinate without even pulling her jeans or knickers down. A month earlier the Queen herself had walked through the very same doorway (William and Griffith’s in Colchester). Not only can you see the displays of public urination, spitting, as well as vomiting, but in the daytime every recess oozes the reek of urine. And then there is a habit among British teenage boys and low-class men which you will not see in Korea, and which was taboo when I was a boy, of one or both hands down the front of ‘trousers’ toying with genitalia.  I’m sure this habit has evolved along with the spreading popularity of ‘trackie’-type trousers where an elasticated waistband provides ease of access. I once watched a young man in a supermarket constantly first contacting his tackle intermittently touching fruit and vegetables and worse, other people!

there is even a Facebook for this practice

It has taken me a while to ascertain how common urinating is in the bathhouse. I’m afraid I don’t go for those waygukin (foreigners) who claim Koreans golden shower all over bathhouses, piss in the pools and constantly gawk at their nudity. Such accusations are normally levied as a means of excusing yourself the bathing experience because you fear an unclothed environment. Of course Koreans stare! They stare everywhere you go but if you have any cultural awareness you will know that all you need do is look around busily, instead of lowering your gaze which you naturally do when embarrassed, and make eye contact. Koreans will instantly look away because starring is considered rude and eye contact exposes this. Better still, make eye contact and smile. Nothing dispels the tension caused by starring quicker than a smile and instantly, a stressful encounter is made friendly. As for accusations about pissing in the showers, from my experience, they are exaggerated.   Firstly, it is not easy to determine if someone is pissing at the same time they are showering. Indeed, from my own ‘experimentation’ it seems that if you stand in a certain position you can actually manipulate the flow of water so it appears you are urinating. How you determine someone is urinating while in a pool eludes me. With considerable bathhouse hours clocked-up over a long period of time in many different bathhouses, I have only witnessed a few people who were definitely urinating in the shower.

One such occasions occurred a few days ago when a teenage boy entered the complex with his friends. I immediately noticed him as he spat onto the pile of used towels by the entrance. Teenage boys often spit as they enter the bathing complex and I perceive this a territorial act an animal might make when it urinates on ‘its patch.’ Then, as he stood in the shower, he arched his back and pissed as high as he could up the shower wall. In the meantime, he is busy talking with his friends. I am also reminded that not too long ago, I watched two boys larking in the showers during which boy golden showered on his friend’s leg. Considering it is deemed dirty to blow your nose in a handkerchief and rude to even blow it in public, I would have thought pissing on your friend’s leg totally taboo. However, they found the act highly entertaining.

as long as I don't see it

I have no problem with snorting or spitting in the bathhouse provided it is expelled in a gully and not on the areas walked over. For most cases this is what happens, often with a spray or douse of water to speed the emission on its way. However, last week a man bathing next to me, noisily coughed up a projectile and spat it onto the floor. He did this several times and without the usual habit of throwing water over it to wash it away. This was particularly revolting especially as I was about to eat breakfast.

Yes, Koreans have some grotty habits but so do most cultures and teenage boys aren’t the best candidates on which to judge a nation’s hygiene. Personally, pissing in the bathhouse, by which I mean pissing on the floor or tiles doesn’t bother me if it’s done discretely; in other words don’t let me see you doing it or if you do at least make the act ambiguous. Blatant disregard of protocol is more an act of disrespect than of pollution.  I’m sure people sometimes piddle in the pool but I am not that bothered unless I see them doing it when I would be angered, not by urine contaminating my bathing water, but by the perpetrator’s gall at pissing in front of me and hence challenging my adult authority.

As for the third offence I began this post with, namely, littering,’ there is no doubt Koreans excel at this anti social habit. Korean refuse collection leaves much to be desired both in terms of public provision and personal standards. It is one thing to put out garbage in the legally required bin-bag, and quite another to simply empty the contents against a lamppost, as many seem to do.  In terms of littering the street, teenage boys are the worst offenders and seem to assume that rubbish can be dropped anywhere and cleaned up by someone else – which it generally is. This isn’t much different to the misguided attitude many British school kids have, that you can drop little on the floor because cleaners are paid to pick it up. Now that dog muck has been largely banished from British streets, and ten years ago it was tolerated, it is only fair to say British streets are far cleaner than their Korean counterparts and littering is clearly anti-social and illegal.

(2002) in around eight years it has become anti-social to let your dog foul the pavement

So, how prevalent is pissing while in the pool?

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Bathhouse Intimacy – Fathers and Sons

Podcast 82

I never really enjoy writing about some of the intimate moments I observe in bathhouses or even in everyday life as many western readers have a real problem with both the authors of such texts, whom they perceive as a perverts, and with the nature of its content, which they categorise, as ‘gay’ and ‘sickening’.

When fathers and sons are mutually washing each other I don’t like to sit and stare but over the last six months and through discussions with Korean friends I have managed to piece together how this process, which might possibly be defined as a ‘ritual,’ functions. At times of the week, usually the weekend, many fathers and sons visit the bathhouse and while for some the cleaning process is the prime function of the visit, for others it is simply for relaxation. I regularly see fathers and sons who will spend as much time cleaning each other, as I might in the pools and it is not in the least unusual for some to spend well over an hour cleaning either cleaning themselves or, in the case of a father, their son.

The process begins with showering under the stand-up showers and entails much the same as a standard ablution – washing the body, shampooing, shaving and brushing teeth. We have now reached the point at which most westerners would consider themselves clean but which for the majority of Koreans is only the preamble to a meticulous ablution. After the stand up shower some visitors go straight to the sit down shower units while others will spend some time enjoying the various pools and saunas. For younger children, this often means playing while older boys are content to sit with their fathers. Most of my Korean friends will soak and sweat in the various facilities for anything up to several hours, at which point dead skin cells and callouses have absorbed water and are easily removed.

the bathhouse, where ‘skinship’ is taken to the extreme

Between friends, scrubbing each others’ backs is an accepted intimacy and it is not unusual to see peer groups, especially school boys, university students or even monks sat in a line each scrubbing the person in front. Several years ago an advert depicted young boys doing exactly this and attracted some  negative and hostile comments from foreigners living in Korea. Unless you opt for a scrub down by a bathhouse attendant, the scrubbing of backs is probably the most intimate extent to which friendships, even between the closest friends, goes and seems much the same as from son to father. However, from father to son, the level of intimacy is much greater and certainly, into middle adolescence, a boy is often totally passive in this procedure. Indeed, there isn’t much difference between how some fathers clean their sons, and how you might wash a car, care for a baby or invalided person.

The cleaning process reflects a close bond between fathers and sons

The procedure often takes place in silence and begins with the boy bending over and supporting themselves on the ledge that runs under the mirrors so that their father can vigorously scrub their back with an Italy towel progressing down their buttocks, backs of thighs and calves. For anyone who has visited a bathhouse and seen for themselves this type of ritualistic cleaning, the process isn’t brief or cursory. The Italy towel is used with only the smallest amount of soap, not enough to even produce a lather and in a rough enough manner to produce a visible line of dead skins cells. Once an area has been ex-foliated, it is showered after which the Italy towel is again used, this time with a generous amount of soap.

Next, the boy sits down facing his father and puts each leg, in turn, on his father’s thigh and the same process is repeated from the soles of the feet to the thighs. Then the boy sits with his back,  neck or shoulders supported over his father’s knee so that his chest and stomach can be scrubbed. It is not in the least unusual for boys or even their fathers, to hold their genitals to one side while scrubbing the groin. Finally, with head resting on their dad’s thigh, their face is scrubbed even to the extent of cleaning noses and ears. The meticulous process ends with a session under the stand up shower. Sometimes the procedure is organised slightly differently, for example if the boy is not very tall, he might stand for much of the ablution. What is most bizarre for the westerner is the proximity between the face and genitals or backside of another person. Even between friends, if someone is standing and someone sitting, as for example might sometimes be the case when one person is scrubbing another’s back, there is no concern about the distance between the face of one and the genitals of another.

the Italy towel in action

Often the process is performed by a bathhouse attendant and every bathhouse has an area with one or several couches on which you lay for this purpose. I rarely see young children receiving a scrub down but older boys, sometimes unaccompanied and at other times with their fathers, will subject themselves to this ritual. A scrub down from an attendant is every bit as intimate, and for the westerner, invasive, as the one between fathers and sons. Koreans are so used to the cleaning ritual, they subconsciously place their limbs in the required position or require only the briefest prompt, for westerners however, the process is awkward and the body, unaccustomed to the procedure, is antagonistic to the attendant’s manipulation. And yes! They do hold your ‘bits’ to one side as they’re scrubbing. However, the experience is invigorating as well as liberating.

Clearly, father-son, as well as mother-daughter bathhouse rituals are an integral expression of ‘skinship’ and undoubtedly provide the most extreme example of intimacy between individuals in a platonic setting. On several occasions I have witnessed a father bathing his severely mentally and physically disabled son and much that was sad and tragic in the procedure was nullified by the close bond they clearly shared. But it is also possible to see such parent-child intimacy as one aspect of a broader cycle and sons can often be seen tending their aged fathers in the exact reversal of the father-son ritual.

Koreans do not carry the same cultural baggage as regards the body as many westerners either in terms of prudery or propriety and appear much less  judgmental about the bodies’ of other people. I recently read a very interesting article by a Korean grandfather who was approached by  a little girl in a bathhouse who wanted lifting into a hot pool, because she was cold (link). In many other cultures, racked with obsessions which perversify any contact between minor and adult, such intimacy, and many other intimacies observed in a bathhouse setting, are taboo. It would also seem that what is observed between those of the same gender remains private. To discuss or gossip about the body of another person would be highly inappropriate and improper and certainly, between males and females, would constitute a cultural taboo. And one of the greatest Korean attributes, especially when you’re naked and vulnerable, is that they are excellent at complimenting those parts of your body you don’t like. I wouldn’t wish my body on anyone but even naked many Koreans are able to make you feel very good about yourself.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

At Least it’s not a Cockroach – Rice Weevils (쌀벌레)

Posted in Food and Drink, Health care, seasons by 노강호 on May 11, 2011

apparently, you can eat them

Over the long humid summer, one problem with rice is infestation by rice weevils. Their presence is noticed by small black additions to otherwise white rice. There are several means of keeping them out of your rice container, one of them being to place dried chillies and a head of garlic in the same container. Others are the use of airtight containers or placing your new bag of rice in the freezer for 24 hours. This method isn’t the best if you buy rice by the sack.

Home Z Rice Worm Repellent (쌀벌레). Naturally made

The best deterrent is a packet of ‘Rice Weevil’ (쌀벌레, by 방충선언), which costs about 4000 Won and is widely available. You simply snip open the packet and it sticks on the inside of your container. The smell is pungent and very similar to intense wasabi (horseradish) but it stays in the container and doesn’t flavour the rice. One packet gives 3 months protection.

deters nasty visitors

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Bathhouse Basics (12) – The Salt Sauna 소금방

Posted in Bathhouse, bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on February 8, 2011

purging the skin

Salt saunas can be found in both bathhouse and jjimjilbang and they are one of my favourite destinations. They tend to be a slightly specialist facility which means you won’t find them in every establishment. You will find the salt experience differs between that offered in a bathhouse and that in a jjimjilbang. Jjimjilbang salt saunas often have walls and or ceilings made from rock salt or they have a large area filled with coarse rock salt in which you can submerse your limbs and body and enjoy the radiant warmth. In a bathhouse, a salt sauna usually has large pot of salt which you rub over your body allowing the salt to  both scrub and purge you skin clean. The bathhouse salt room is often combined with other properties as it may, for example, have jade or bamboo charcoal walls walls.

these salt saunas contain rock salt walls and large grain, pebble size salt on which you lay

a salt sauna with walls made of rock salt

a typical jjimjilbang salt sauna

The bathhouse salt sauna is one of my favourite places and you really do feel clean after rubbing your body with salt and then allowing it to dissolve as you sweat. I usually take a small bowl of water in with me as this helps to make the salt cling to your body and don’t forget to take a towel or large scrubbing cloth in with you as often the seats are wooden and they can burn your backside.

a bathhouse style salt sauna

As a point of interest, salt is very useful at removing smells and in a Korean market you can buy fresh mackerel which has been sprinkled in salt which you then wash off before cooking – it reduces the smell of the fish as it cooks. I’m not sure however, how well this works on body odours!

 

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Tissue Trauma

Posted in bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on October 19, 2010

 

Not suitable for pumpkin people

I was cooling off last night in the cold pool at the bathhouse. With the evenings still a little warm, at least if you’re western, the cold pool is still not too cold. Many Koreans started wrapping themselves up three weeks ago. The memi (매미) only had to stop singing, at just under 29 degrees, for some to start complaining about ‘the cold.’  The last memi I heard was on Saturday 25th of September and given Daegu is one of the warmest parts of Korea throughout the year, I would imagine the Memi stopped singing earlier, further north.

The following week, was still warm and I sweated in class despite the use of air conditioning and a fan but already some students had begun shimfing about it being cold. ‘Teacher! Teacher! I cold! Turn off air-con!” They whined. Like it’s fucking 28 degrees Celsius!  That week I really enjoyed walking home in the evening because there was just the tiniest touch of coolness floating in the air.  Suddenly there were only a handful of people on the street in short-sleeved shirts. And now it’s mid-October, I notice my shower is a little too uncomfortable to use without increasing the temperature. For the last few months even the coldest setting had become warm. And in my school some teachers have already started that typically Korean custom of wearing a coat all day long.

 

cooling off

 

So, in the bathhouse the cold pool (냉탕) is empty. Six weeks ago it was at its busiest. A friend I haven’t seen for a while came and spoke to me. He’s slightly older than me and incredibly fit. He has a short stocky body and is a regular in the gym where he runs for 45  minutes on the treadmill, at a fast pace. He has this habit of entering the cold pool, which you can just about swim in, by springing over its side and into the water. Most of the schoolboys don’t do that and instead enter by the steps or climb into the pool.

 

tissue trauma

We chat for a while, me draped over the pool ledge and him standing. Then he takes his leave and tells me he wants to have a shower and will come back and join me. As he turns around, I notice a white flash from his buttock and walking into brighter light realise he has a few inches of toilet paper dangling out of his crack. I grin to myself and then momentarily ponder which is the greater embarrassment, a bogey hanging out of your nose or residue bog paper clamped between your checks like an insistent napkin.? Instantly, I choose the bog paper because you can so easily tell someone they have a bogey hanging, you simply touch your nose in a particular manner, and they will understand; it’s a discrete and universally understood hand sign. But how do you convey to someone they have paper hanging out their arse? There’s no universal ‘sign’ and I wouldn’t want to risk saying anything in Korean which might compound the problem. Do you discretely touch your buttocks or point around to them?

Without actually verbalizing the problem, I would imagine the only way you could draw attention to it would be to tug on it, like yanking a doorbell or pulling the chain of a toilet!  You  wouldn’t want to tug on it too much or it might pull out and who knows what’s on the other end or how much might  be dragged out.  Best is probably a small tug, just enough to announce a presence  rather than raise an alarm.  By the time I’d finished pondering, the dilemma was over and he was  safely in the shower where the offending bog paper, sloughing down the backs of his legs, started its voyage to the drain. And luckily for him, I don’t think anyone else noticed.

 

 

envirnomentally friendly method

 

 

all too often the problem in Korea

 

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Nancying in the Powder Room. Bathhouse Ballads

 

 

A Bathhouse Ballad

In this particular bathhouse (목욕탕) you can sit in the ebente-tang (이벤트탕) and watch the men and boys nancying about in the little ‘powder room’ that are provided in all bathing establishments. This particular ebente-tang doesn’t have any added aromas  or coloured water and you might be forgiven for wondering why indeed it is even called an ‘ebente-tang,’ until the pool starts frothing and chomping quite crazily. The jets of water from inside the pool, should you be unfortunate enough to be sat over  one as it starts and you fart, are powerful enough  to  administer a surprise enema.  As I’m being buffeted by the jacuzzi jets, I’m busily watching  three middle-aged men in the ‘powder room.’  All are stood, independent of each other and two are in straddle stances, or in what martial artists would recognise as a  ‘horse stance.’

 

A 'wushu' version of the 'horse stance'

Traditionally, this stance is used to strengthen the legs and as a position from which to practice  various blocks and strikes. As a combat stance it is redundant as it renders a male a potential gelding should a strike to the groin be forthcoming.  Don’t forget, the men in the ‘powder room’ are totally naked. Rather than blocking and striking, feet rigidly anchored to the ground, both men are drying their  sack and crack with hairdryers. I’m thinking they must have studied at the same school because despite all the variations of horse stance,  both are in identical style, technique and positions. Most likely it’s a taekwondo derived stance as it is much higher than in the Chinese version above yet not as high as the one featuring Bruce Lee (이소룡), below. This version is in-between.

 

이소룡 (Bruce Lee) practicing the sack 'n' crack stance.

The accompanying arm movements are identical: first the dryer is held pointing at the sack ‘n’ tackle before being swung  between the  legs to windy the crack area.  The latest event in the tub, an eruption, has quelled and I’m chuckling to myself as a third man in the  ‘powder room’  demonstrates his technique. Clearly, he has been trained in a totally different school.  After fiddling with one of the big fans on the long dressing table, angling it into the required position, he turns, get into a straddle and bends over, parking his exposed  butt in the fan’s stream.  The technique is very different but the stance is identical to that of the other two men and with head almost touching the floor, the fan is probably capable of drying his sack ‘n’ crack all at the same time.

Jeez, Korean men are such ponces! That’s why I like them. Back in the UK, a room such as this would terrify most westerners not just because you nancy about in it naked, but because the purpose of the room involves preening oneself. Actually, I much prefer the safety of the ebente-tang to watch how different men occupy themselves in this task. I never stay long in the ‘powder room,’ not because I don’t like being naked in front of other men, but because I don’t like being naked in front of myself, and like most ‘powder rooms,’ the walls are covered in mirrors.

All the flaws of being western are magnified in the array of mirrors and bright lights. Our skin tone tends to be more varied; my face is slightly ruddy, my buttocks lily white, my forearms as tanned as any Koreans and my neck brown. The rest of my body is whitey- pink, like a giant maggot. Then there’s the hair; back hair, chest hair, arm hair and leg hair and it’s all different in colour, texture and shape. My arm hair is smooth, my chest hair a little coarser and the hair on my back is somewhat like the hair on the backs of my arms, long and straggly and the sort of hair a neanderthal might have. I can’t stand looking at myself in those mirrors and always find the ‘powder room’ a little stressful.

 

All that hair. Yuk!

I touched on the subject of body hair several months ago, in relation to living in an environment free of carpets. It’s only in this type of environment that you realise just how much hair we shed. I am not especially hairy and I sweep my floor everyday with one of those magical wipes to which hair and fluff adhere. Despite this, I find hair everywhere. I’ve found them in the fridge, freezer and only a few days ago I was eating a slice of water melon when what I thought was a little crack on my plate, was in fact a pubic hair. I’m 54 and have a full head of hair non of which I see anywhere, but pubic hair, chest hair and those unsightly, straggly back of arm and back hairs, get everywhere. Korean bodies are so much nicer, more alike in proportions, colour and apart from having pubes that are long enough to perm and which often seemed to be straight rather than curly, are usually pretty hairless. Hair, its antediluvian and barbaric! As I get older I notice my eyebrows becoming wilder and if I don’t trim them I start to develop antennae. Nasal hair is a bugger but is kept at bay with regular burst from a cigarette lighter. And I dread getting ear hair as that looks especially alien.

 

No hairs in his fridge!

 

In the ‘powder room’ a couple of men and a boy are preening; an old man is methodically combing his hair with a brush from the selection  of brushes and combs which are always available.  I’ve never seen any hairs on brushes and assume they are cleaned regularly and in many ‘power rooms’ are small steam boxes similar to those used in doctors surgeries and dentist, to sanitize such items. A boy is cleaning out his ears with cotton buds (q-tips), an item as standard as towels and soap. On the long dressing tables, there is always a collection of face creams, hair gel and skin brace.   As with everything in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, no two places are exactly alike.

 

Fart Pants (방귀 바지) 코딱지

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Ballads, Comparative by 노강호 on May 12, 2010

rubus coreanus (복분자) 'wildberry'

In the E-bente Tang (이벤트 탕) today was a an aroma I’d not encountered before, black raspberry, or wild berry (복분자).  Translating is always a problem. First of all, the ‘information board’ advertising the aroma had a picture of black and red berries and so too did a bottle of berry ‘wine (more like liquor) I subsequently bought (복분자 주). To compound the problem, I suspect in the UK we call these berries blackberries and raspberries and these are quite different in taste. When I looked up this berry on the internet, I noticed the red and black berries were growing on the same stem. So, I discover that the Korean berry, bokbunja (복분자), is actually a member of rose family and of the genus rubus of which there are hundreds of species divided into 13 sub-genera, one of which contains 12 sections. (more rubus info) Indeed, if you want to be pedantic, bokbunja is rubus coreanus. Interesting, but all academic as from the scent emanating from the pool I couldn’t tell whether I was wallowing in blackberry, blackcurrant, or indeed, rubus coreanus.

I’ve been meticulous in bathhouse ablutions today as I am feeling particularly dirty. The source of this dirt is both mental and physical;  increasingly I come to realise that by socialization westerners are dirty species both mentally and physically but also,  short of being showered in shit,  I was fouled upon. Not having used a bathhouse for 4 days, and yet despite showering twice a day, I was amazed at the scum that washed off my body into the gutter. As I was on the end of a row of sit down showers, I could see it collecting in the drainage grill and it was  gray and creamy, more like sludge than scum. Neither was my ablution particularly stringent and was made using the normal, mildly abrasive bathhouse towel than by the rasp of one of those little green ‘Italy towels.’

Once lovely and clean, and basquing in my favourite patch in the hot pool, I got thinking…

I’ve recently had a new pupil called Fart Pants (방귀 바지) who is currently sitting on the fence between the kids who have a brain and the ones, and there are not many, who I deem ‘hobaks’ (호박). Hobaks are pumpkin head kids who are just incredibly slow and tiring to teach. Most professional teachers, back home at least, will castigate the practice of pigeonholing kids in such a derogatory manner and will certainly condemn me for printing her name except of course, it is not Fart Pants. But let’s not get holy, holy, most teachers pigeonhole kids in one form or another but  usually deny they do so and as is the case in Korea, you can still call one kid intelligent and another a mong without offending the silly sensibilities of political correctness that demand all kids are equal.

definitely worth licking

I’ve always maintained that if ever I had to lick a bum hole, if I was forced on pain of death, if I couldn’t choose a baby to lick upon, it  would be a Korean. Of course there’s a ranking system: all babies first, followed by males (preferably younger) females (preferably younger), old men, old women.  I would think this ranking would be a fairly common for anyone forced to comply but given some preferences. Personally, I think a hierarchy  much different from this, for example, preferring to lick ancient butt to baby butt, a truly rank  preference, would be  suggestive of some sexual perversion.

Although I wouldn’t want to lick any bum, not even for pleasure, if I had to my first choice would be that of a baby. Anyone other than a baby I could probably never look in the face again ether from a sense of guilt or revulsion. A baby would no more remember the act than having its  nappy changed. As a baby has  no personality it’s not like  licking the arse of a real person, and once out of its nappy it’s not much more than a dirty doll.  Denied a baby, I’d select a Korean.  Perhaps some Koreans don’t scrub their butts out but I know lots do because I’ve seen them. On the other-hand, I’ve never seen a westerner clean out their arse.

Koreans must have the cleanest arse holes in the world. I doubt you’ve ever seen a westerner scrub out their bum hole so you don’t really know if they do. I suspect most westerners just flush their butts with a blast from the shower which isn’t very hygienic considering its a deep, dark, dank, dirt dump  which we sit on all day and despite its catalogue of offenses is subject to significantly less scrutiny than our mouths and teeth. There is a veritable arsenal of mouth wash and gargle to both freshen and kill oral bacteria but nothing of a similar nature with which to douche your arse.

Like most arses, Pluto has been exiled

With an arse hole as distant as Pluto, the first time I saw a bide abroad, I assumed it was either for bathing a baby or washing your feet.  And even though its design should have announced its purpose, the idea was repugnant. A device for washing your arse! A filthy idea!  To have deduced the purpose of that alien bide would have required a morally degenerate mind and the inclinations of a pervert.  You dump out of a bum and after mopping up you forget the filthy offence. Poohing is a sin and a sin of such gargantuan proportions that even though ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness,’ the Bible avoids any mention of that dirty orifice. You don’t talk about poohing, you don’t share the experience and you certainly don’t make devices to clean it. If there’s one reason, why westerners are so distrustful of Islamic culture it’s because their poohing customs, ie. mopping up with a hand wetted with water from an old baked bean can, force  infidels to confront the one place we hate to go.  For the westerner forced to muck-out a la Mohammad,  having to touch that unspeakable place, especially when adopting the most undignified of postures, is a  significant form of first contact.  Touching down in that dark and alien cavity and being compelled to blindly explore it contours without the comfort of a wad of tissue, is something you never forget.   It is a first contact not just in that you are forced to acknowledge that  there is life on Pluto and that is not as nearly as far away as you thought, but that in all the years leading up that significant event, you staunchly upheld the prime directive of non-interference  (and if you were interfering with one, even your own, you never talked about it!)  A working definition of a seasoned traveler? Someone who has had first contact with their own arse hole.  Hence, I imagine most arses, especially non Korean arses, have permanent bad breath and while you can have the pseudo medical condition ‘halitosis,’ there is no corresponding medical term for a smelly bum.  Unfortunately, considering their propensity for filth, bum holes are sorely neglected.

But of all Korean butts in Korea, there’s one exception, Fart Pants! Fart Pants (방귀 바지) is the dirtiest Korean to date I have met. And though her parents aren’t poor, her dirtiness has more to do with her habits than being physically dirty. Admittedly, her favourite coat, salmon pink, looks like it has been used to clean the floor but this didn’t bother me until she started farting in class. The pink coat, being padded, has insulating properties and a fart is always more unpleasant when heated. I don’t know how universal it is in Korea, but I’m told that teachers rarely say anything to  a kid who farts because it draws attention to them which of course, they don’t like. In common with the rule of vile farts, hers are silent but I  know  they’re hers  because her eyes will be sparkling and she will be salivating heavily in a manner that suggests she’s either been fingering her own butt or  sucking a turd up and down her back passage. Either way, there is an intense look of pleasure and glee on her face.

The smell, still warm, then looms up from under the desk around which we  sit and it’s truly hideous. As the foetid guff engulfs me, I sit up, then press my neck as far back in my collar as possible, before moving my chair back after which there is no escape.  A few days ago, after trying to hold my breath  I knew  was going to retch and had to leave the classroom.  Betty, who is sat right next to her, must have had her nasal passages cauterized as she doesn’t seem to notice a thing.  Fart Pants lets one-off in most lessons. When she first started classes, nerves probably clenched her butt  shut but now she’s in the swing of things and relaxed, she blows  off with as much ease as someone with a prolapsed rectum.  I find her farts incredibly intense and personal  and being subject to them is a form of abuse. Apparently, she farts in other teacher’s classes but no one has heard her which makes me suspect she might have a punctured colostomy bag.  If she moves about too much, even a considerable time after issue, a residual smell, loitering under the lagging of that pink coat, will waft up.

If this hasn’t been bad enough, there have now been a number of occasions when I have noticed her toying with a bogey  (코딱지) between the tips of her index finger and thumb. She seems to keep  a bogey in play for several minutes, massaging it around like a piece of sticky glue or a grain of cooked rice.  Then her hand goes under the table and I anticipate it being dropped. Moments later however, it re-emerges only this time its on another hand. It’s  magical! Not in the sense she can keep amusing herself with one bogey for so long  or that it seems to matter transport from one digital location to another, but because the things are so moisture retentive. A few days ago,  she must have forgotten about one of her nasal playthings: it had been rolled, stretched, palpitated,  passed between various fingers and hands. Suddenly she went still which was quite noticeable because she is always fiddling and tears welled in her eyes.  Another fart was being primed! The intense pleasure its production provided distracted her enough to evaporate that offensive entity being entertained predominantly between her fingers.  When I asked a question which necessitated pointing in a book, her hand reappeared from under the table. From this stage on it’s a guessing game; which hand? which finger? When she pointed to the page, on the end of her right  index finger, perched a pale green bogey still looking fairly fresh despite the copious palpitations. Next moment, her hot fart smacked me  in the face.

Over the weekend I bought some anti-bacterial hand cream, the choice was amazing as this item is currently very fashionable. I also bought a bottle of Febreeze as I noticed that the farts clung to my clothing like fried food or tobacco smells.

Monday afternoon! First class of the week and Betty is on her own. Fart Pants has left the school and I shalln’t miss her!

Sausages and Shit – Comparissons in Smut humour

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, No Pumpkin Category, podcasts, Westerners by 노강호 on April 30, 2010

podcast 15

Around a year ago, I wrote several mini plays for my younger students with the intention of encouraging stress and intonation and injecting some emotion into what was often flat and dull dialogue. Out of this came an idea to write something using those words which Koreans always mispronounce. I  trialed I’m Pine’ in a small class and quite scared the kids as I was the only one laughing, indeed I was hysterical and all red-faced and coughing. Meanwhile, the kids looked on without the slightest clue what I was laughing at. I abandoned the project when I realised that fnarr fnarr, innuendo and smut, work as effectively on Koreans as sarcasm. However, if you pronounce sarcasm more like ‘sharcasm’ or ‘sharcashi’ it will elicit a response as this has something to do with oral sex. If you use this word on Kindergarten kids you’ll need to explain it more graphically, perhaps by way of eating a banana or sausage.

I mean! Its a cock! Isnt it?

Have you noticed how you can have a roomful of Korean kids eating bananas or sausages and no one ever makes a joke or gesture about sucking a cock? In a class of British kids there will always be one who makes the connection public. My sister and I can never eat phallic food  without making jokes or obscene gestures and many a time one of us has deep throated a banana after using our teeth to quickly groove it a suitable helmet and meatus.  A banana might not strike one as a suitable replica of a cock, but one advantage is you can embellish it with far greater success than for example a sausage, which like cosmetic surgery, often  results in a simply ghastly mutilation. Bock-wurst sausages, the most realistic of phallic foods are particularly amusing  as like truly big cocks, no matter how hard you slurp, they remain bendy. Bratwurst too, can slip in and out of the throat provided not too hot or over grilled, when the skin splits and they can scratch your throat.  Westerners are much more apt to defile items resembling a cock in terms of texture or shape and pepperonis, lychees, strawberries, bananas, the entire gamut of sausages, marrows, courgettes, cucumbers,  etc, etc, are all the butt of our crude humour.

All the fun of a saveloy! (1982)

The herculean efforts required to suck away a stick of seaside rock provide an extension to, and memory of, holiday joys

Can we westerners eat a banana or saveloy in public without a fleeting association of it being a cock? Is it possible  for us to eat a banana without some awareness that we mustn’t lavish our lips too long on the tip or caress it fleetingly with a tongue.   We must certainly never suck it like a lolly, that’s a cardinal sin. And what about rock, the great British seaside tradition? Rock, and things like barley sticks can all be vigorously sucked without ever offending the sensibilities as can corn on the cob, the eating of which is never passive and certainly reminiscent of nuzzling along the girth of a bloated shaft.

Infinitely more gratifying, are the girth and grease of a sausage

In commercials, it is permissible to suggest oral gratification provided the object being ‘sucked,’ or more usually poked between pouted lips (of a sexy woman), is something lifeless and hence lollies and cream eggs are often subject to titillation. For the British juvenile commercial, fellatio is epitomised by the Cadbury’s chocolate flake  in which the references are all cock but the moment the tongue probes  that  helmet-less stump the thing either melts or flakes apart. There is an unspoken rule that sucking or licking something in public or  alluding to  the oral stimulation of a penis is acceptable provided the phallus in play is hard, unyielding, cold, fragile, brittle, and basically void of any life.  Once all the qualities of life are removed,  all potential threats nullified and nicified, you can lick it and suck it as much as you like. This is why it is okay to suck a lolly, the rigidity and cold reminiscent of a cock with rigor rather than one with vigour, but not a banana.  This is the reason you can never suck on a saveloy or nuzzle up the shaft of a succulent sausage, holding it in daintily between your fingers and it is why, in your favourite bistro, you never dip the head of your Cumberland  in the creamy mashed potato, lube it up with as smidgen of thick gravy,  and commence to lick it like a lolly.

All the characteristics of a beefy cock

A Walnut Whip

Such associations are lost on Koreans  and to me at least, with my filthy western mind, it seems as though such humour should be universal, I mean, a sausage, especially a long bendy one, it’s a cock, isn’t it? Six inches plus of warm meat, firm but not unyielding, broad enough to gnaw  like a sweetcorn, slightly oily and let’s not forget, juicy. They even have a skin! How could such characteristics not remind you of a cock? But give a Korean a turd, especially one whirled like an ice cream, and they’ll be highly amused. Seriously, one of the first words I learned  to recognise was ‘ddong,’ (똥). In those first few weeks  in Korea, I was quite intrigued by the appeal that many kids had for drawing ‘ice cream’ whirls on desks and walls. Why ice-cream, I thought? Are they hungry? There was a Baskin Robbins opposite my school but their ice-cream wasn’t whirled. And the whirls, expertly drawn, were literally everywhere: on desks on the wall and  even in notebooks.

Naturally, such visualizations are culturally informed. I shit quite differently back in the UK where my turds, and those left loitering in toilet bowls which I’ve had the misfortune to see, are rarely whirled; a whirled turd probably symptomatic of a bad stomach. No! Western poohs are more like yule  tide logs, bulky, loaded, substantive and sticky. If you’ve lived in Korea for any amount of time, and your diet is predominantly Korean food, you may have noticed how long a toilet roll lasts. I mean, two wadges are ample to clean your arse because you shit so fast  any residue left loitering  in your dirt track is dragged out by suction. If I had to calculate the time it takes to sit down, shit, and mop up, then on an average basis the process is far quicker on a Korean diet. Living in Korea actually adds time to your life because the moment you sit down, ‘hwang,’ and it’s out. Two little dabs with toilet paper, wash yours hands  and you’re done! You have to wash your hands if your from the UK as research by a British University discovered that 15-53% of British people  have  traces of shit on their hands.  Apparently, the further north you travel the shitier the hands. Since being made aware of this, as an act of both sanitation and disassociation,  I now use anti-bacterial hand-wash after every dump.

A national icon. Mr Whippy

A National icon. Mr Whippy!

Mr Pooh

Poohing Korean Style can take place in less than a minute. Korean faecal flurry can’t wait to get out, indeed your body blasts it into the loo in one atomic fart. But the moment you hit western food, the pastries, bread, burgers, potato, pizzas, and copious amounts of meat,  and every fibre of  your lower intestine is fighting to keep that clotted log contained in your gut and it’s so gargantuan in girth and solid in consistency that expelling it, like birthing, takes not just considerable will power but  a  highly rubberous ring piece. In its wake, a trail of muck, always sticky, pasty and clingy and which can only be removed by massaging it around your butt, sort of rubbing it off,  with half a roll of paper.  No wonder we need extra ply shit paper, and little lotioned wipes to prod our butts because an English diet, and this is the worst part, involves having to  manually dredge yourself. With all that poking,  and a paper draped digit, even double ply,  is never a reliable defense,  I’m not surprised many Brits have shit on their hands.  And I wonder how much psychological damage is done having to finger around the flesh of that dirty clam on a daily basis. How much of our national psyche is  shaped by those ‘turdy’ experiences. No  wonder we don’t like to touch each other and seldom shake hands, no wonder we are so unfriendly, no wonder pooh is taboo! Fingering shit first thing in the morning is a vile and shameful way to start the day and knowing that everyone else has been digging the dirt is hardly conducive to community spirit!

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