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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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Waiting for Summer’s Herald – the Memi

Posted in Animals, Nature, seasons by 노강호 on May 22, 2011

summer's herald

I much prefer the name ‘memi’ for that bizarre insect known in the west as a cicada. I  would imagine that in places with a hot summer and hence a familiarity with this strange animal, places like the USA, there is rarely any confusion about the pronunciation, ‘cicada;’ but in the UK, where summers are cooler and the insect pretty rare, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, mispronunciation is common.

If you’re a visitor to Korea from a country where the song of the memi is simply regular background noise, you probably won’t even notice it but if like me, you are from cooler climes, that summer scream is one dominant leitmotiv in which intense heat, humidity and sticky bollocks converge.

a newly hatched memi makes its journey from the ground to high branches

The first memi to sing are more likely to be heard in Daegu as this is the hottest region of the peninsula and last year I heard the first on July 7th when the temperature was 30 degrees Celsius; the last I heard on September 25th when the temperature was 29 degrees.  The memi starts ‘singing’ from 84 degrees Fahrenheit, 29 degrees Celsius. There are still a few weeks of relative coolness to enjoy before the world is turned into one sweaty, sticky, noisy hell during which life is spent hugging shadows on the sidewalk, taking constant cold showers and recuperating in the heavenly chill of the air-con. As much as I love spring, it is marred by the anticipation of  what lies in its wake and part of my pleasure in hearing the season’s first memi is knowing that I will also hear its last.

SOME INTERNAL LINKS

Memi at various intensities

Fahrenheit  84 (29 degrees Celsius)

Season of the Memi

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Comparing the Intensity of the Memi (매미) Song Across Summer

Posted in Animals, Diary notes, seasons, video clips by 노강호 on November 28, 2010

This is just a boring snippet for those interested in insects and in particular, the memi (cicada – 매미). Suprisingly, my posts on the memi have attracted considerable hits so I have put the three video-clips together. Before watching, I’d advise you turn down your volume, especially if you are wearing headphones. The memi song can damage your hearing!

All vodcasts were recorded in the same location at approximately the same time of day.

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The Memi’s Lament

Posted in Animals, Daegu, Diary notes, seasons, vodcast by 노강호 on October 4, 2010

Last Saturday (25th September), I heard my last memi (매미 – cicada), and with it ends the song that has accompanied the entire summer. The temperature certainly wasn’t much over 84 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which memi ‘sing,‘ and in the slight breeze which  heralds autumn,  it felt cooler. I always find the song of a single memi sad, a lament to summer and suppose they epitomize the lives of many humans who end their days ‘singing’ to no one. Had the memi been around a month ago, it would have been surrounded by others and its voice would have joined summer’s paean, screaming from the trees. Now, it’s a lonely, solitary dirge to which there is no crescendo and no response. I would imagine the best thing that can happen to the final memi, those that have arrived a little too late and missed the party, is an early frost.

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Memi Update – (매미)Continuing my obsession…

Posted in Animals, Daegu, Diary notes, seasons, vodcast by 노강호 on September 6, 2010

Hot...

Two weeks ago (August 23, 2010), when the temperature in Daegu, the hottest part of Korea, hit 36 degrees, the memi (매미-cicadas) chorus screamed from the pomegranate tree and bushes near my one-room. I made a recording in exactly the same location as I recorded the first memiI heard, on July 7th, of this year. There was one day, Saturday 30th of August, when it was refreshingly cool with little humidity and a fresh breeze. That was a strange day as the memi were silent. It’s an interesting feeling to leave your one-room and the sanctuary of air-conditioning, to step out into intense sunlight that actually seems to have weight, and be surrounded all the time by muggy humidity and that incessant scream from the trees. In the two recordings here you can hear the different levels of intensity. In the second recording, on one of the hottest days of the year, the memi  song was verging on painful.

Alternative Links

Link to Flickr video: On Hearing the First Memi of Summer, 2010

Link to Flickr video: Memi in Full Chorus August. 2010.

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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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Migwang Bathhouse on a Sunday Morning

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, Gender, seasons by 노강호 on August 1, 2010

Bathhouse view over city

I’ve been in Cambodia for a few days and today was the first opportunity in over a week to wallow in the e-bente-tang (이벤트탕). I was visiting Migwang jjimjilbang in Song-So, Daegu. Though a Sunday morning at 8.45am, it was the quietest I have known it and quieter than the odd occasions when I have been in the bathhouse at 3 or 4 am.

Today it’s 35 degrees and even at 8.15 the memi were screaming from passing trees. At this time of year, with the screaming in chorus, you can hear them in a taxi with the windows closed. As is usual in hot weather, I head straight for the cold pool once I have had a shower and shave, but today I noticed something very special. I often joke to my friends about the e-bente-pool and tell them how I lay waiting for them to start spinning or jiggling up and down, but they never do. The very term ‘e-bente’ is a bit of an anti-climax and in the English use of the word merely adding a smell to the water doesn’t really constitute an ‘event.’ An ‘event’ implies something out of the ordinary or special. The very first time the complex management added an aroma to the water constituted an event which subsequently became a normal feature and a bit of a ‘non-event.’ Today however, I noticed the water has been coloured deep pink to complement the ‘herb’ aroma. So, by-passing the cold pool, I head straight for some pink pampering. Hardly much of an ‘event,’ but after waiting for over a year for something to happen, anything is better than nothing.

As I’m wallowing, I suddenly become aware of other subtitle changes. The ceiling has been cleaned and new pattern section as been placed above the central baths. In the cold pool, I discover a ledge has been built against the far wall and is big enough to sit on. One this, at intermittent spaces of about a meter, big enough to park my fat arse, are various devices which look like various kinds of fountain; I can’t tell as I don’t think it has been finished yet. Above these are multi-coloured light fittings. It looks like the lights and fitting may comprise a new water feature. Migwang is obviously doing well  financially as every holiday new items miraculously appear. Several months ago the gigantic tropical islands photos surrounding the cold pool were replaced with new ones, the tiles in the high-powered shower replaced with ones of sunflowers, and a long strip of jagged paving stone, to walk on and stimulate the soles of the feet,  a torture Koreans’ seem to enjoy, was installed.

Bathhouse overlooking city

By 11 am, the bathhouse is busier and I’m treated to a display of some guy doing a complete taekwondo workout. Another guy, cooling in the cold pool, directly behind the guy exercising, is treated to a peek up his back passage when, on several occasions, he  stretches   downwards to put his head between his knees and place the palms of his hands flat on the floor. In the e-bente-tang a teenage boy and his dad are caressing each other. The dad is sitting between his sons outstretched legs while his son pummels his shoulders and massages his back. They wrestles in the water  for a while, wrapping their legs around each other and at one point, the boy bites his father’s toe. When they watch the TV together, I notice how close they sit to each , almost like lovers, their heads are almost touching; I notice them later on when they are walking between the pools either hand in hand or with their arms around each other. I wish I could have had such intimacy with my father; I don’t think I ever massaged his shoulders  or scrubbed his back and sitting that close to each other, as adults, even when clothed, would have been uncomfortable.   If you see anything sexual in such a reflection you’re clearly a dirty waygukin with a perverted mind!

Ohhhhh! Summer’s heavenly haven

There is another teenage boy with his dad, probably about 14 and he has got the most enormous dick: if you watch the faces of other men as the boy passes them, you can see them peek at it. When they’re sitting in the e-bente-tang, the boy makes several visits to the ice-room where collecting a handful of ice, he takes it back into the pool and commences to massage it over his father’s head. In typical Korean fashion, his father makes loud noises to express his pleasure at the sensation.

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Season of the Memi

Posted in Animals by 노강호 on July 8, 2010

 

Arrival

 

I’ve been waiting to hear the first  memi (매미) of the season and was particularly eager to note whether my bollocks were stuck to my legs and sweat trickling down my back in rivulets. The memi ‘sings’ from 29 degrees (84 degrees Fahrenheit) and above.  Currently, they will be making their way from the ground up into the trees, ready to start their summer song. I’ve only seen the occasional solitary memi moving up a tree but stumbled across a video of several hundred moving up a trunk. (Link to Korean memi video)

I heard the first memi at 1400 as I was taking a photo of a pomegranate tree  and when I realised what it was, I made a mental note – my balls weren’t stuck to my leg and I wasn’t sweating. Not surprising really as I’d only been out of my apartment for less than two minutes and my room had been fairly cool!

 

Midnight memi

 

I actually managed to capture the very first call  before it finished. You can hear the ‘song’ here but I recommend you turn your volume down as I was surprised how loud the recording is. A memi singing in your ear hole, or through your speakers, can have a capacity of 120dB, enough to cause permanent damage to your sense of hearing.

 

In summer the memi (매미 – cicada) sing with intensity, in actual fact their song begins at 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29.4 C) and dominates the summer. This was a recording of the first memi of the year, I heard on July 8th. When the memi are screaming, you know it’s high summer.

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On Hearing the First Memi of Summer 2010: Flicka Video

On Hearing the First Memi of Summer 2010: MP3

Footnote

From the pomegranate tree near my apartment to my school is 3 minutes walk, and by the time I was half way there another memi screamed from a passing tree. At that point, sweat was trickling down my back and face, my nether regions were stuck to one leg. Summer is definitely here!

 

 

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Faherenheit 84 (29 °C)

Posted in Animals, bathhouse Ballads by 노강호 on May 7, 2010

In the last few days, whenever I leave my relatively cool ‘one room,’  and step into the stairway, I can both feel the rising humidity and smell it. The smell, difficult to describe, is not unpleasant  and if you can ‘smell ‘humidity, that is how I would characterise it. Then, when you step outside you instantly get zapped by both the sun and  its heat reflected off of the pavement. With a little breeze in the air, and cool mornings and evenings, it’s not unpleasant but soon, venturing outside will become a torturous experience reminiscent of being stuck in a sauna-like microwave in which life is reduced to  seeking sanctuary wherever there is air conditioning. As the middle English song goes; ‘Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! Rivulets of sweat trickling down your back and amassing in little crescents under your man-boobs, if you’re unfortunate to have them, as I do, all necessitate keeping a towel in your bag and one of those bright coloured handkerchiefs in your pocket. As a winter baby, I’ve always hated summers but maybe my dislike of Korean summer is shaded by life in a one room before an air-conditioner was a normal part of an employment contract. Sitting around a small fan, clad only in underpants, as it gyrated from you to your flat-mate, granting you intermittent  coolness, or spending the evening  freezing in  MacDonald’s, were the only reprieve from summer’s muggy heat.

A memi (매미), cicada

Spring, which this year seems to have been skipped, as beautiful as it is, is an unpleasant reminder of what is to follow. And then there are the memi (매미). I have never heard cicadas in Northern Europe and associate them with hotter climates and in Korea, as summer’s leitmotiv, whose chirping, an incessant white noise,  will dominant. Memi are bizarre looking things especially if you come from a climate with much smaller insects. I remember, before I’d seen one, you would pass a tree in mid-day and a chorus of memi would be ‘screaming’ at you. I could never see them and if you stopped and walked back to investigate, the ‘screaming’  would diminish, as if they were watching your approach. The sound is so intense, a crazy-crispy buzzing that it would suggest one tree is host to many memi. How many make that intensity of sound? A handful? Thousands? I am no memi expert but I think when the temperature falls a little, in the evenings of early summer, emerging  memi migrate from the ground, either by flight, climbing the trunks, or a combination of both, to find a perch in branches. This is the time when, if you look carefully, you can sometimes see them on tree trunks.  At other times, I have seen them in-flight  as their  bright colours, hidden when resting, flash vividly, probably to warn off predators.   If you’ve never seen one, they certainly look ugly, fascinating and definitely prehistoric.

Not on my pillow!

I don’t know if I like memi or not, that screaming symphony is at its peak at the hottest time of day, usually as I am on my way to work,  scuttling between one air-conditioned sanctuary and another. I don’t know if I like them because they are a harbinger of summer’s heat. My bollocks positively dislike like them! When you hear the first memi you can assume the temperature is approaching 29 degrees and at the same time you will probably notice sweat trickling down your back .  Once their chirping is symphonic, amassed and intense you can assume the temperature is in the 30’s and if you’re male, your balls, dangling in what has now become an E-Mart carrier bag,  are probably stuck to you leg.

Here are some facts to remember when you hear your first memi this summer:

Desert cicadas are the only  insects known to sweat  in order to lower body temperature!

While Koreans often translate ‘cicadas,’  and many Americans term them, ‘locust,’  they are not! Cicadas belong to an entirely different family of insect.

One species of cicada is native to the UK. (Melampsalta montana)

Cicadas lay eggs in tree bark from which hatched nymphs fall to the ground where they live, burrowing, throughout this stage.  Many cicada  species emerge from the ground annually, but some, with much greater life spans, emerge at 13 or 17 year periods.(eg: magicicada).

Should a memi park on you’re pillow and sing in your ear-hole, with a capacity of 120dB, you can expect permanent damage to your sense of hearing.

However, here is the most important fact: Fahrenheit 84, (29 °C), the approximate temperature from which both the memi will begin to sing and a pair of bollocks will start to stick to an inner thigh!

If your bollocks were stuck to your leg when you heard the memi screaming, I’d like to know! It’s a sort of survey!

(Link: for  more comprehensive memi facts and the source of most information here)

An Interlude of Insects

Posted in Animals, Health care, Nature, seasons by 노강호 on April 11, 2010

A memi

The memi; every summer there’s one hiding near whichever window is open. Of course, it could be a cricket type thing.  I always forget which one sings first in the year and which last. Koreans never seem to know either and if I ask I’m even more confused.  I think I generally fathom it out by October, by the time they’re all dead,  but when spring comes back, I’ve forgotten. ‘Listening to the Locust,’ well I like the alliteration but locusts are too much like cockroaches and ‘Listening to the Gweedorami,’ too off track. Last year I remember hearing a memi almost at the end of Autumn. I came over all nostalgic as it must have been the last memi of the year – (but maybe it was a cricket thing!) It’s solitary chirping was quite pathetic as there were no other memi chirping back. I know they’re ugly but what a bum way to go!  Do they hibernate? A  memi is a cicada but I never know how to pronounce the word and of course, we don’t have them in Britain, so they’re a little special.

I saw my first cockroach of the year last week. It was freaking big. It was late afternoon and with the kitchen window open, the warm afternoon temperature, which obviously coaxed it from  its hidey-hole, had dropped and stranded it, almost frozen, on the wall. I didn’t look at it too long as I was expecting it to scuttle away but I saw it long enough to notice that despite its length, about 3 cm, it looked quite gaunt. I rapidly picked up a floor brush and bashed it on the wall but the bristles hit it and it fell to the floor where it lay on its back dazed. Between the fridge and wall, this horrid piece of God’s creative genius, was almost safe, it only need drag itself a few centimeters to be under the fridge, but the fall and cold were taking their effect and I had just enough time to grab my spray can – unused since last year. I pointed the nozzle between the space by the fridge. There it was,  with those revolting antennae bibbling and bobbling, trying to hide behind the electric cable. I’ve noticed the spray works excellent on flies and mosquitoes. The mosquitoes drop almost instantly, dead after a few twitches, while those big fat flies which Koreans so aptly call ‘Shit Flies,’ fly around for a minute before nosediving into the floor where they suddenly go all spastic-spasm and then stop – dead!  Sometimes they’ll lie still for several seconds and then buzz crazily back into life, usually whirling round  on the floor like they’ve been hit by the most enormous dose  of amphetamine. Then, dead, they stop for good. But the cockroaches, you can spray them and they simply run away. Even neat bleach doesn’t seem to affect them. I don’t think the spray really works unless you spray so much on them they drown. If it wasn’t for the fact the spray kills  other insects I might think it simple water. So, cornered and behind the power cable, I spray the thing so hard it’s blown onto its back where it sticks  to the wall, weirdly cruciform. I didn’t stop spraying until I knew it couldn’t escape.  I left it down there for a day, until it had dried and fallen from its sticking place, then I swept it out, chucked it in the sick, and washed it away. Even though it didn’t touch any of the stainless steel, I tipped a whole kettle of boiling water down the sink hole to purge its passage.

Kill 'em! (click-pic for company site)

In class, kids tell me never to splat them as if it’s a female it can deposit eggs and I know they carry an egg sack, even that sounds revolting, an ootheca. They also tell me they can crawl back up sinks and climb out of toilets and that microwaving them is the best method of disposal. Would you want to heat your toasty in the microwave after baking a roach in it?  I’ve now strategically placed roach (Combat)  stations all around my flat. I only saw about 8 roaches  last year and know they were coming under my front door, from outside.What fucking planet was God on when he designed a bloody cockroach?  That’s an animal absent from ‘All things Bright and Beautiful!’

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FURTHER REFERENCES

Useful information on cockroaches and their control.

Combat Website