Elwood 5566

Park Life

Posted in Photo diary, seasons, Sport, video clips by 노강호 on July 24, 2011

I visited Warayong Park, Song-so, a few weeks ago.

Saturday afternoon in Warayong Park

soap making stall

frienship bracelet making stall

escaping the sun under the arbors (정자)

giant swing

6 week old baby girl

cute

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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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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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Beating Boknal (복날) 1. My Wooden Wife (죽부인)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, seasons by 노강호 on June 30, 2011

Who needs this? (Joo-Hee Kim, Miss Korea 2006)

When you can have this!

(Originally published August 5th 2010) I’ve just got myself a ‘wife.’ Rather than travel to the Philippines or Thailand, and spend a fortune on one who might be mouthy, problematic, dump me the moment she has a British passport  or demand too much, this one was bought at my local E-Mart at the amazingly cheap price of 9500 Won (£5). I didn’t have to pay a pimp for acting as middle-man and she even came in a bag.

She is incredibly skinny and all ribs but being mute and pretty lifeless, I neither have to suffer nagging and can easily boot her out of my bed should she fail to please. And though I know it’s a bit misogynistic, the bits I don’t like are missing. The down side? She is fucking lazy. I left her on the bed this morning and she is still laying there eight hours later.

Cool sleeping

Unlike real wives who are apt to raise your temperature in more ways than one, my new Wooden Wife, lowers my temperature and reduces my stress levels. In Korea, she is known as a chuk-bu-in (죽부인) and  is used as the traditional method of keeping cool on hot  and humid evenings, especially during the hottest time of year (boknal –  복날)).

My wife about to undress and go to bed

Made of bamboo, the wooden-wife is used to drape your leg or limbs over, to sort of cuddle, and in doing so body heat trapped between limbs and torso is reduced. Using the wooden-wife  allows air to circulate around the body. Last night, I spent my first evening with her  in my bed and I must say, it was cooler than sleeping alone and definitely cooler than sleeping with a real human – if not somewhat more boring.

making a wooden wife (죽부인) Often called a 'wooden lady.'

The bamboo is very smooth and there are no rough edges. I also noticed that the bamboo is much cooler to touch as it doesn’t retain heat so with my air conditioner blowing down onto it, it even felt a little chilled.

Wooden-wives come in children and adult sizes and are also made in different colours. Though usually made of bamboo, other materials can be used. You can also buy attractive covers for bamboo chuk-bu-in.

Making wooden-wives

Wife on bed - waiting patiently

You get the gist...

UPDATE JULY 30 2011

She is absolutely fantastic in hot weather and I couldn’t do without her. I’ve been sleeping on and off with her for the last year though when the weather cooled last year, I kicked her down the side of the bed, between bed and wall, and that’s where she lay most of the winter. I’ve recently stuck one of those hooks on the wall and that’s where I put her when she’s not needed. Hanging about where she is, she’s within easy reach but during the summer she’s constantly on my bed. I cannot stress how fantastic wooden-wives are and mine has become a crucial item throughout hot summers.

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The Chang Ma Arrives in Daegu

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

watching the chang-ma under the cheong-cha

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

Chang Ma in Daegu

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

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

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

for a Brit, warm rain is quite strange

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

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FURTHER REFERENCES

The Rainy Season Arrives (June 2010) Bathhouse Ballads

Where Nature Fills the Air

Posted in Animals, bathhouse Ballads, Nature, seasons by 노강호 on June 17, 2011

The Korean Jay - 산까치

Podcast 84

Maybe it’s the nature of the information and blogs I read but there seems to be some agreement that Korean young people have less interest or awareness of the nature around them than their British peers. I have met so many Koreans who do not know the name for the beautiful Jay (산까치) that flashes through the trees on the slopes of mountains, do not know that there are several species of woodpecker (딱다구리) or do not know which tree produces an acorn. Subsequently, it has taken me years to grope my way to knowing the correct names for a bumble bee, wasp and a hornet. Because many Koreans are not reliable at classifying and differentiating wildlife, I’m often forced to use photographs on the internet but I have learnt to be cautious as even here anomalies can appear. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a British kid who hates butterflies – but I know several Korean teenagers who positively detest them.

The smallest of Korean woodpeckers - the pygmy woodpecker (쉬딱다구리)

(산호랑 나비) The swallow-tail, 'mountain tiger,' terrifies some boys I know

Living in the city, as I do, it doesn’t take long to forget the beauty of the countryside and worse, to begin to generalise that Koreans, all Koreans, are ignorant of nature. The ignorance, I now realise, is solely mine and having hung around the city too long, where most of my students and friends have been born and bred, I have forgotten that a significant part of the population live in the country. I rarely meet any enthusiasm for wildlife among those Koreans I know and even though they love hiking, the mountains are not really conducive to walking ‘off trail,’ or random exploration. The mountain trails are always busy and as the borders between the human world and the ‘wild,’  provide only a window into the diversity of  Korean nature.  However, ask Koreans about the camel cricket (곱등이), thread worms (연가시) or cockroach (바퀴벌레) and you elicit animated, revolted responses.

for many Koreans, the camel cricket (곱등이) is probably more revolting than the cockroach partly because of the thread worm it is often believed to be infested with (연가시)

I recently saw a bumble bee (호박벌레) while with a Korean friend and it terrified him. The sight of it actually caused him to step backwards. It was on the floor and suffering the common bumble bee problem, of not being able to take off. It was at the start of spring and in cooler weather they need to ‘warm-up,’ much like cars or humans in the cold. I put my hand down and let it climb on my finger and raising my arm skywards, it was able to launch itself, first plummeting before finally gaining altitude and eventually soaring away on the breeze. My friend was shocked I had dared let it on my hand, not because it could have stung me, which bumble bees rarely do, but because it was ‘dirty,’  but he’s city born and city bred. To date, this is the only bumble bee I’ve seen in Korea. In the UK, one often hears rumours that some of London’s inner city kids have no idea where potatoes come from and have never actually seen a cow. However, I wouldn’t be fool enough to make generalizations from such myopic observations as I seem to have done in Korea where I have prejudged  most Koreans to be disinterested in nature and wildlife.

Hwa-won clan village

The main building of the complex

Last week, I spent the morning no more than a  twenty-minute car drive from bustling Song-so, in the area of Hwa-won. I’m with a friend whose teenage cousin lives in the area and who is able to tell me the names of wild life not just in Korean, but English. Although the city is blocked from view by one mountain, and the fact it lies only a few kilometers away, the distance might as well be a few hundred kilometers and our teenage guide is definitely more rural than high-rise townie. When I spot a preying mantis in the grass, only a few inches long, he deftly picks it up between finger and thumb, in a manner which seemed practiced and was as excited with it as I was. Okay, I know this is one Korean and that my perception of the relationship between Koreans and nature is being radically transformed by him, but there is farmland as far as I can see; is  it really possible to live in such an environment without imbuing some knowledge of and passion for, the surrounding beauty?

one of the quaint side streets

The number of times that Korea evokes in me a heightened sense of reality, where I am reminded of the uniqueness of my experience and how amazing it is to be in a culture thousands of miles away from my own, has diminished.  Not only is Korea crawling with other waegs, myself included, but it has gradually become home from home. The internet, Skype, messenger, and a foreign EPIK teacher in every school has tamed the  ‘Hermit Kingdom’ and brought it much closer to West than it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. And a browse across the Klogosphere tends to dampen the numinous when it is stirred because a zillion others, just like myself, are having a similar experience. But I remember the times I was inspired by my first glimpse of the Milky Way from Korea, my first rice paddy and experienced the break of dawn from the top of a small mountain. Such moments were uplifting, somewhat mystical and quite moving and all the more so in the absence of the internet and an army of fellow foreigners, both of which dull the uniqueness of your experience.

locals chilling under a chong-cha

Hwa-won clan village, main building and former yang-ban residence

In the base of the Hwa-won valley, the rice paddies are flooded and newly planted with crops. In the distance I heard not just the first cuckoo in late spring, but my very first Korean cuckoo per-se; and all around the air frantically buzzed with busy insects. Of course, the season of the memi has yet to come as the weather is still cool. What was most incredible however, was the air; it was alive with the scent of grass, wild flowers and the humidity of the paddy. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an alive and pregnant smell and it was so heady and rich I snorted it loudly, laughing to myself in what was almost giddy glee. I suspect, if I were to spend more time in this environment, I would quickly discover locals with a love for and knowledge of the nature around them. There was far more to discover here in the broad valley than up the mountain manacled by a trial frequented by an army of hikers.

And I am gradually coming to realise that perhaps Koreans aren’t as ignorant of nature as I had at first thought and now suspect I have been drawing conclusions about them based on the assumption that a bumble bee or hornet are universally significant. If I asked British people about camel crickets and memi, I could arrive at exactly the same conclusion…

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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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Bathhouse Basics (13) – The Ice Room (어름방)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics, Daegu by 노강호 on March 11, 2011

chill!

I don’t use the ice room (어름방 or 어름굴) much during the winter but in summer it is a heavenly sanctuary. An  ice room, which can appear in both a jjimjilbang (찜질방) or in a bathhouse (목욕탕), is a bit of a specialty and many do not have them. However, the chances are that one exists in your area. In the Song-So area of Daegu, Migwang (미광) has ice rooms in both the jjimjilbang and bathhouse (mogyoktang).

In the summer months ice rooms are usually iced up and scrapping off the ‘snow’ and rubbing it over your face is an exhilarating experience more so when you appreciate that outside the temperature is that of a muggy sauna.

a large jjimjilbang ice room

chilly

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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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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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