Elwood 5566

Dragonfly Days (물잠자리)

Posted in Animals, Daegu, Korean language, seasons by 노강호 on August 16, 2010

 

A male 'chili dragonfly' (고추잠자리). This type appear is common in early October

 

Mid August and the dragonflies (잠자리) are hovering over puddles and pools of water. There are several ‘flushes’ of dragonfly with another in early autumn. I suspect these are collectively known as ‘water dragonflies’ (물잠자리) irrespective of actual specie. Sometimes you can see them in large numbers erratically darting here and there. Some are probably damselflies (실잠자리) which are distinguished from dragonflies in much the same way as butterflies are from moths, in that when resting a dragonfly’s wings are 90 degrees to its body, in contrast, a damselfly’s wings rest along the body itself. Dragonflies can fly in six directions, up, down, forwards, backwards and side to side.

 

Bright blue damselflies and deep brown reddish dragonflies seem to be particularly prominent around my area of Daegu at present.

 

 

A damselfly (실잠자리)

 

Clicking this link will take you to David Hasenick’s photo gallery which besides hosting some excellent photos of dragonflies, also has a number of other Korean categories.

While searching for information on Korean dragonflies, I discovered a ‘list’ of the variations in Korean regional dialect for ‘dragonfly.’

 

 

'Dragonfly' - regional variations in dialect

 

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Bathhouse Basics 6: The Wooden Pillow (mok-ch'im – 목침)

Posted in bathhouse and jjimjilbang culture, bathhouse Basics by 노강호 on August 4, 2010

Rest your weary head on a wooden pillow (목침)

The wooden head rest (pillow) is a common site in bathhouses and jjimjilbang. Obviously, a cotton pillow in a sauna would be a little grotty as laying your head on the sweat of the previous user isn’t very appealing. Hence the mok-ch’im (목침). Though they look quite uncomfortable, it is surprising how quickly you can adapt to them and for a little snooze they are perfect.

Bathhouse and jjimjilbang head rests are usually standard blocks made out of a hardwood and very often made from hinoki cypress, however, they do come in a range of other designs and can cost over 40.000 Won. More expensive mok-ch’im can be made to measure.

Various wooden pillow (order link)

 

'Tailor made' mok ch'im.

The antithesis of my memory foam pillow

Okay, they may not be everyone’s idea of a comfortable, but many years ago I learnt to sleep on the floor – without a mattress. When you body has learnt to sleep in positions which distribute your weight evenly across your body, which takes a few months, and which can be transited between subconsciously, sleeping on the floor is amazingly comfortable, far more so than a bed! Maybe the wooden pillow just needs perseverance!

 

 

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© Nick Elwood 2010. This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Feeling a little Dicky

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Food and Drink, vegetables by 노강호 on July 12, 2010

작은 고추가 맵다! Big things come in small packages

I haven’t been to the bathhouse lately as I’ve been feeling a bit dicky after a mild touch of food poisoning and I’ve been giving some thought to the topic of dicks. It’s the fault of the GS 25 convenience store near my one room which has a tendency to hire attractive students who lure me into their domain partly because of the motto worn on the back of their jackets, fresh, friendly, fun, but also because I usually fancy something hot before bed. The latest boy also wears a pink badge which says, ‘I love you.’ They should pay him extra money to wear the jacket and badge. Those kids are crappily paid, something like 4000 Won (£2) an hour, and I’m aware I could probably lure them with some extra won, if I was in some seedy dump like Tangier or Tijuana,  but no one has any free time here and besides, vibrant economies tend to put a damper on the extremes driven to by financial  desperation.

Small and hot

Clacton on Sea in Essex, UK! Now there’s a place as seedy as dirt holes like Tangier or Tijuana. You don’t have to travel with a passport to find economic, intellectual and cultural poverty if you’re British, Clacton provides it all. I’ve taught in most of the senior schools in ‘Clacky,’ an experience enough to terminate any interest in teaching as a career. Here’s a snippet from a diary entry for February 2000.

I don’t enjoy my contract day as I feel responsible for the classes. It’s much more fun when I just do cover. It was an okay day but the lads in my last class, Year 10, bottom set business studies (my pet hate) spent most of the time messing around. There were only four of them and I’m sure a couple of them are prostitutes – Clacton is that sort of place and I believe that the Macdonalds in the town center is where you pick them up. The boys sit with their knees wide apart, one keeps tugging at his dick and their conversation is usually about sex.

‘Do you fancy ‘him,’ Paul?’ asked one boy hitching his head to indicate me.

‘If he’s got the money.’ Later, Paul asked me to sign his report. ‘Go on, Sir, give me a good one. Just a few good comments to keep my parents off my back.  I’ll do anything you want.’ I looked at him and raised my eyebrows. ‘Even that,’ he replied. A few weeks ago I over heard this boy say he’d like to be a male prostitute. His friend asked if he’d do it with men. He told him he’d do it with anybody as long as he got paid.

I could probably pick up a local faecalapod in Clacky with as much ease as you could in Tangier,  except I’m not into dirt or STI’s and the hottest thing I’m going to pick up in GS25  in Song-So is a cup of hot chocolate. The new boy is skinny and he reminds me of a former student. Because of centuries of genetic isolation, Koreans tend to look much more like each other than we mongrel wayukins. Even beyond the black hair and dark eyes, I tend to note similarities in a passing stranger with the features of old friends or former students.  I don’t know if there been any research done on the subject but sometimes I think there must be less than 15 basic appearances from which most Koreans slightly deviate.

Phrenology

The skinny lad won’t last long, the students in the store tend to change about every three months. It must be a frigging bore of a job working through the night and I’ve no idea what’s on their pads ‘n’ pods but some of them seem to spend the whole evening on them and will instantly discard them as they jump to attention, when you walk into the store. Some read books but even then there is usually a pad or pod in sight.

'Peter Peppers' or 'Chilli Willies' - though they may be look-a-likes (Yonhap News)

And of course, it’s chilli season. Talking of willies, phallic shaped chillies are probably a freak of nature in Korea but in Louisiana and Texas, USA, a type of chilli, the ‘Peter Pepper’ or ‘Chilly Willy,’ is renowned for producing  consistently cheeky chillies. The website ‘Chilli Willy®‘ markets the appropriate seeds, provides growing tips and hosts a regular photo competition. Do they have the same kick? I’ve no idea but in Korea it’s a well-known idiom that the smallest chillies are the fiercest (작은 고추가 맵다).  Globally however, Korean chillies are far from the hottest or smallest. For a wealth of information on the world of the hottest chillies visit: http://www.scottrobertsweb.com/scoville-scale.php

A genuine 'Chilli Willi®'

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Curds (묵) – Monday Market

Posted in Uncategorized by 노강호 on July 6, 2010

Stunted by the rocky soil, you will rarely see an Oak as magnificent as those found in England

A few years ago a former boss took  me to lunch at restaurant, the usual formality for talking shop and often a sign that your schedule is about to change or that you’re going to be asked to do something not in your contract. Other than it was ‘Klingon’ in style, I can’t remember what we ate. My first encounter with any form of Korean food was in 1997 when I visited several restaurants in both Hong-Kong and Manilla and I can’t remember too much about those experiences either other than there being many side dishes, one of which was some strange, but inoffensive jelly-like food served in slices.

Acorn curd - 도토리묵

Enjoying many Korean foods are dependent on an acquired ‘taste.’ Kimchi, for example, both stinks and tastes pretty gross to most people first time, but with continued exposure one begins to realise the subtle variations between different kimchis.  Eventually you begin to develop a preference for one particular form of kimchi. In one sense the multi-faceted aspects of kimchi, the combinations of heat (chilli), saltiness, sourness, tartness, sweetness, the viscosity of the sauce,  the fracturability of the cabbage, the blend and persistence of fish sauce, garlic and ginger, the aroma, and these are only some of the features, make its enjoyment every bit as sophisticated as that of wine.

Supermarket curds - more expensive and watery than the market varieties.

While kimchi has taste there are a number of Korean foods which are tasteless and which on first exposure prompt the question, ‘why?’  Most first timers to Korean cuisine, for example, will find those watery soups ornamented with a few strands of bean sprout, totally pointless until you realise the way intermittent spoonfuls cleanse the palate and transform the texture of rice in the mouth.  A few Korean foods initially have no taste at all but if persevered with, an appeal begins to develop. Other foods, such as cold noodles (냉면) require exposure to the energy draining Korean summers to initiate an appeal much in the same way Pimms No 1 does in the UK. I can no more enjoy a Pimms No 1 in winter than I can cold noodles. And then there are those seemingly pointless curds or jellies.

In the restaurant with my boss, and amidst some of the Klingon delicacies, was a plate of what looked like the jelly thing I’d last eaten in a Korean restaurant in Hong-Kong. Sliced into slippy cubes, I remembered the dexterous chopstick skills required  to pick it up; too much pressure on the cube and it is cut in two and too little and it flops onto the floor or cascades down your shirt. My boss was quite impressed, in fact he was very impressed, but not with my chopstick skills, more with the fact that I’d just eaten a slice of raw liver! That too was tasteless but there is a limit to how far I want to go initializing new appreciations and raw offal is not really one of them.

Acorn curd (도토리묵) in the market

Curds or jellies appear in various guises and while they are fairly tasteless, their appeal lies in their texture which in the context of a Korean meal with numerous side dishes, can be ‘interesting.’ The most common curd is probably acorn (도토리묵) and it is often accompanied with a tangy soy based sauce. (도토리묵 무침). Personally, I find the market produced curd both cheaper and tastier looking than the somewhat more watery-looking packeted varieties produced by supermarkets. On more than one occasion I have muddled my Korean words and asked for ‘eagle curd’  (독수리묵).

Buckwheat curd mu-ch'im (메밀묵 무침)

Other curds include:

Buckwheat (메밀묵) which is often slightly heavier in texture

Supermarket seaweed curd (미역묵)

Black rice

Mung Bean (녹두묵)

Yellow Mung Bean (노랑묵 or 황보묵) this version, coloured with gardenia, is traditionally associated with the Cheolla province.

Curds are fairly easy to make and powders can be bought in most supermarkets.

Acorn powder

Acorn curd in particular is seen as a very healthy food and is believed to be beneficial in weight loss. Not a great surprise really as I doubt anyone would want to eat it alone and it’s hardly a food to pig out on! It probably has the same diet potential  and calorific content as water! The Korean company Skinfood market an acorn face pack. If you are keen to start investigating the secret power of acorn, here is a jumping off point….

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Freebies

Posted in Comparative, services and facilities by 노강호 on June 25, 2010

When you frequent a business in Korea it is usually the case that at some point the staff will repay your loyalty with what is known in Konglish as, ‘service-a,’ (서비스).  In a restaurant or bar, ‘service’ may take the form of a free drink or side-dish and in other shops in mat be some small items. For example, in chemists it may be a bottle of vitamin drink and my butcher often throws in a pound or two of free flesh.

Link to Roketship

I would imagine the more Korea becomes westernised the more this custom will be whittled away until like London on a hot summer afternoon, your can of  coke or mountain dew has an extra 30 pence added if it has been chilled. When you’re in the city and parched you’re  hardly going to opt for a warm 7 Up because it’s cheaper than the cold one!  Only a total stingy blades would do that, which is what the shop owners are for increasing the prices on chilled drink in the first place.  A drink should be chilled in hot weather and charging extra is sheer exploitation no different from charging extra for a hot cup of tea or a cold ice cream. A few years ago I ate bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables) at a small Korean restaurant near the British Museum in London. Bibimbap is hardly an exotic meal and I would imagine the only unusual vegetable in it was bracken fern (고사리), if indeed there were any. Regardless, the meal cost me £8 which is an extortionate price. To compound matters, I was charged £2 (W4000) for an extra portion, ie spoonful of kimchi. That’s actually more expensive than a bowl of bibimbap in my local Kimbap Nara. In the UK no shop owner would dream of handing you a bar of chocolate for free and if they did you probably think they were up to no good!

I like the idea of providing ‘service’  especially as in all but the big supermarkets ordinary staff, even the youngest and most junior, are able to ‘award prizes.’ In Mr Big, New York, New York, and Misoya, all chain companies with branches throughout Korea, the staff are able to dish out the goodies to customers they like. Even in friendly, fresh, fun land, GS25, the sexy student occasionally plies me with a bar of chocolate.

In the last six days my ‘service earnings’ have been substantial. I’ve eaten three times in Mr Big where I only ever eat the nasi-goreng and on each occasion I’ve had a free glass of beer (W7.500). In Misoya, there is a sexy lad who two months ago was on the street outside a new mobile phone shop, trying to hook customers. Now he is two doors along working as a chef  and twice this week he’s  served me a complimentary dish of two large tempura prawns (W4000 = W11.500). Next door to Misoya is the chemist where I buy nicotine gum. I stopped smoking five years ago but still chew the gum and here I get W1000 off every time I buy a packet (W13.500). Yesterday my butcher gave me some extra meat which astthe least would have cost W2000 (W15.500). In New York, New York, I am given a complimentary coffee after every meal knowing I like roast potatoes, a rarity in Korea, they always serve me two instead of one (coffee 2x – W2000 = W17.500) Finally, every time I have a green tea latte in my favourite coffee shop, I get a persimmon honey cookie (약과)  for free; they cost W800 each (W19.100).  So, in six days my ‘service earnings’ amount to approx £10 –  enough to feed me for 2 days.

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Bathhouse Basics 3: The Italy Towel

The Italy Towel. (이타리 타월)

Other than water, the Italy towel is probably the most universal item in a bathhouse and in some quarters, “Korea Design Heritage 2008,” has been ranked as number 5 among items over the last 50 years, which have defined Korea.  Apparently, Gil Pil-gon who ran a textile factory in Pusan, discovered the cloths’ ex-foliating properties in a piece of  fabric imported from Italy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Defining icons, food delivery boxes, Nong-Shin ramyon and the Italy Towel.

Though available in a range of colours, the predominant colour is ‘silver,’ which is actually the green one.  In addition, they all seem to be made by the same company, BC Choi and hence, the towels, manufactured in Korea, are 100% Korean! Like sandpaper, Italy Towels come in different gradients and these are denoted by the colour. ‘Pink is the least abrasive, followed by ‘silver’ (green) with the most abrasive and capable of removing the deepest ingrained grime, being yellow.

Other colours are manufactured, including red. The green one is actually described as 'silver.'

Italy towels are not to be confused with the larger version cloth which is also supplied in a bathhouse and which is usually red.

The larger, and milder, ex-foliating cloth

What typifies the Italy Towel is its size. My hand barely fits into it. The cloth is used to scrub the skin, usually in one direction, top to bottom and in straight lines and if used effectively a line of gray, dead skin is produced. The towel is fairly abrasive and needs to be used with caution on the face. Minimal soap is used in order to maximise the towel’s abrasive quality. Koreans will scrub their entire body with this cloth in a process which can last well over an hour.

If anyone accompanies you to the bathhouse, a friend or relative, it is natural for you to scrub each-other’s back. Usually you sit behind the person whose back you a rubbing,  though people sometimes stand. For men, that your ‘partners’ dick is dangling in you face is no  more of an issue than any other part of their body. Between men, one of the defining features of a ‘go-ch’u-ch’ingu’ (고추 친구),  literally translated as a  ‘penis friend,’ basically a close friend, is that penises are ‘acknowledged’ rather than  shunned with fear. It is this tacit, sometimes even verbalised  ‘acknowledgment’ which helps define a close, male relationship.  In the western male, heterosexual psyche, a penis is threatening and  ‘acknowledging’ your male friend has ‘one,’ seeing ‘it,’ talking about ‘it,’ and even being too close ‘it,’   have  the potential to terrify.  It is not at all uncommon to see a row of school boys or students all sat in a chain as they have their backs scrubbed while scrubbing the back of the person in front. Between family members the towel is used  much more intimately and again, it is  very common to see parents and children mutually scrubbing each other’s entire body. This is not restricted to small children.  Mutual cleaning and the intimacy involved are an expression of the concept of ‘skinship.’

How often one should use the Italy Towel is a personal preference. If used frequently, the process can rub-away body hair – though I wouldn’t recommend this as a method of waxing. Some Koreans use it every few days, others once a week. Perhaps the best guide is simply whether or not you have a layer of skin which needs removing. I use a pumice stone on my feet regularly and if no skin is being removed I stop the process – this is perhaps the best guide to using the Italy Towel.

I have noticed that you can scrub yourself meticulously and regularly with the larger, less abrasive towel, the one usually provided free in all bathhouses, and that this does not remove dead skin with the effect of the Italy Towel. I was very surprised when after a period of not using an Italy Towel, a friend scrubbed my back and arms and then made a joke about how dirty I was. It is surprising what that little towel removes.

Unlike the larger cloth and towels for drying, the Italy Towel has to be purchased, costing about 1000 Won. I usually keep one for months at a time and have even seen the odd person use ones discarded in the used towel bin.

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Burdock 우엉 Monday Market

Posted in plants and trees, vegetables by 노강호 on June 7, 2010

Greater-Burdock

Recognize this plant? If you’re British, it is fairly common and though simply a thistle to many, burdock, is a household name to most adults over 40. Burdock is a biennial plant the flower heads of which are burrs. When I was a boy these were infamous for sticking to your clothes and hair. However, since the advent of paedo-paranoia and personal computers, I would imagine younger generations have little experience of them. Incidentally, it were these burrs and the plant seeds that inspired George de Mestral to investigate their properties in the 1940’s and which subsequently led to the invention of Velcro.

Cross section showing the extensive taproot.

Childhood memories

In Britain, Burdock is probably most renowned as an ingredient in Dandelion and Burdock drink which  has been popular in the UK since the 13th century and though it never had the same appeal as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, it joins the ranks of cult classics  such as Tizer and Irn Bru. Burdock has various  uses in herbal medicine. In Britain, it was also used as a food but today this practice lies in the domain of the more adventurous. (Burdock recipes UK)

probably more popular in the North of England and Scotland

a cult classic

In Korea, burdock taproot is a fairly common sight both in street markets and supermarkets and a bundle of whole root (통우엉),will cost around 2000-3000 Won (£1-£1.50.)  The roots are used to make various side dishes and as a vegetable in soups etc.

Burdock taproot

Burdock as a side dish

Burdock root as a pleasant taste, is slightly crunchy with a little woody texture and a nutty-earthy taste.

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Monday Market Ban Ch'an (반찬)

Posted in Quintesentially Korean, Uncategorized by 노강호 on June 1, 2010

Basically, ban ch’an (반찬) is the collective term for the extensive number of side dishes which can accompany a Korean meal. This most noted of these being kimchi (김치)  but of course, there are many different types of kimchi. I used to buy my ban ch’an in E-Marte but have discovered it is much cheaper to buy in street markets, or even cheaper if you make it yourself.

A small selection of what is available

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!

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)