It’s officially monsoon season here in Jeolla. When we got here we thought a monsoon was a big storm. Turns out, we were wrong. A monsoon is a season with a fairly specific, Wiki-accessible definition. Sometimes there are amazing storms (Typhoons) with 90mph winds and torrential downpours that knock out our neighbors windows and push me down. Some times there are bright, hot, clear, sunny days where there is no escape from the sun. Many days there is a constant foggy drizzle that saturates everything, bloats your books and frizzes your hair. It is 100% humid all the time.
100% humidity, isn’t that rain? you ask. Or fog? Not necessarily. 100% humidity is washing the dishes at night, sleeping 8 hours, and waking up to wet dishes. 100% humidity is having the dog nap on your bed while you’re at work and drool on your bedding.
Then, the drool spot is still there when you get home, still there when you go to bed, still there when you go to work the next day (I’m calling Guiness soon.) 100% humidity means never straightening your hair, cause it will be a spring factory an hour later.
Generally speaking, Monsoon season is a soggy mess of heat and wet. The air stays misty and damp, the mist slowly getting heavier until you’re walking through huge mist droplets that begin slowly settling to the ground, then growing bigger until you realize they’re raindrops, which continue to get bigger, and heavier, until you’re trapped in a steady rain that will last all day. Or it will build into a huge gully-washer with thunder that makes the kids (and some teachers) scream in the halls of school.
It also has interesting side effects re: sweating. I (Mike) wore a nice orange shirt in to work the other day. By some miscommunication, my co-teacher had to leave a class unattended, and I was forced to fill in. This nervousness, combined with the humidity, left me with definite sweat-rings about the size of dinner plates under both arms. I was doing pretty well until I had to raise my arms to point at things, and noticed the kids were pointing at their armpits and laughing. They were also pointing at me. And laughing.
Here’s one lesson to take from this: if you ever want to amuse a room full of Korean third graders, try some sweaty armpits. Endlessly entertaining. It made discipline a challenge, though. I had to turn mean for a minute, giving them the meanest face I have, and when they’d settled down and when I resumed teaching I had to do it T-Rex style, elbows pinned to my waist. And nothing’s cooler, or classier, than that. And no, there are no photos.
How does Remi like the monsoon season? Well, last year we learned the hard way that heavy fur six inches long can carry an extra five pounds of monsoon water after a decent walk in the rain. So this year, we’ve shaved him nearly bald. He HATES gettting shaved, in fact when we approach the groomers he tries hard to go the other way. But he’s much more comfortable now, though he looks a bit like a pointer/dalmation.
When the monsoons end we will be enjoy the ripe juicy figs, pods bursting with sesame seeds, persimmons, pumpkins, rice, and gourds galore, and it will be good.
There will be cool breezes and drier air, though we know the ‘death heat’ is also just around the corner. But until then, bring on the moisture.
We don’t have air-conditioning, just 3 fans that push the air around and two awesome doors to create a pretty decent cross breeze. Sometimes we go hide in air–conditioned restaurants, but mostly we just suck it up. Put on a pair of galoshes, grab an umbrella, and go for a hike.
There is are two summer foods that we just LOVE to beat the humidity. Mul Neng Mien (ice water soup) and Pat Bing Su. Mul Neneg Mien is the best cold soup ever! It is made
with soba noodles, juilianed cucumbers, Asian pears, and white radish. The broth is made of kimchi juice. It is frozen and half defrosted, then the boiling hot soba noodles are tossed in, leaving little chopped icebergs floating. It is served with half a hard boiled egg, mustard, and rice vinegar. It is crisp, tart, filling, and refreshing. Oh, and it is served in a metal bowl, so it cools your hands too.! My other big favorite is Pat Bing Su.
Traditional Pat Bing Su is a big bowl filled with shaved ice, sweet red beans, little rice cakes, gummy candies, and a scoop of ice cream. Umm, yeah. I’m not a big fan of the original. But there are a million varieties. Choco banana Pat Bing Su has chocolate shaved ice, banana slices, chocolate ice cream and syrup, oreos, and fancy rolly cookies.
Most of your fruits have a Pat Bing Su. Blueberry Pat Bing Su, Mango Pat Bing Su and the mother of all Pat Bing Su: Mixed fruit Pat Bing Su has juice shaved ice, a medley of fresh and canned fruits, gummies, sweet rice cakes, berry syrup, and berry ice cream. So good. It’s like diabetes in a bowl! If that doesn’t beat the heat it is time to move home.