The end of summer is here. Here in Korea, the summer has been very strange due to a late rainy season and cooler than normal temperatures. This past weekend, we dipped down to 19 celcius, which is abnormal for August. I must admit, though -- it felt AWESOME. If we are indeed slipping right into fall, you won't find any complaints here.
This summer was a busy one. We had two weeks of Summer English Camp, and we also had my grandparents visiting. On top of this, both James and I had some major accomplishments with our creative projects. It was a productive and fulfilling summer.
The strange weather here also included major flooding a week ago. This was the first time I'd experienced a flash flood up close. Luckily, we live on a mountain, so there wasn't much water trapped...but there was crazy amounts flowing everywhere. It was bizarre seeing water - like actual churning, frothing water - pouring over areas that are normal tiny hiking paths or sidewalks. Two of the roads near us looked like muddy, fast flowing rivers. There were a couple of small landslides, though nothing that ended up causing our building any damage.
Roiling storm clouds: a constant sight these past 4 weeks.
In our neighborhood, which is quite hilly, many of the sidewalks are lined with trees and paved with bricks. A couple of days after the flood, as I walked through our streets, I stepped carefully as many of the sidewalks were bumpy and distorted from swollen roots and major amounts of water flowing underneath. Many of the pavers were pushed up and twisted. Today I noticed that a crew had come through and pulled up all the bricks, dealt with any issues underneath and then re-laid them.
In other parts of our city water became trapped in underground roadways and along river fronts. Fourteen people across the city ended up losing their lives and Koreans across the peninsula can't help but cry out and question what the government has done to improve safety protocol since the sinking of the Sewol in April.
Most of the water has now drained, but there is evidence of the fast-flowing water everywhere. Dirt has been left on every street. Rocks and even boulders have been swept away leaving large, gaping holes on walking paths. In other parts of Busan where actual flooding occurred, there are mounds of dirt and trash, which has transformed some neighborhoods in the matter of hours.
However, if there is one thing I'm sure of it's that these neighborhoods will not look like this for long. Koreans are extremely efficient. At almost everything they do, they excel at efficiency. Look at what they have done with the shipping industry or internet service. I constantly marvel at the rate that old buildings are torn down and new buildings are built in their place. I try not to get attached to any restaurant or store because tomorrow it might literaly be gone.
So, I have no doubt that these areas, too, will soon be put back to how they were before, possibly even with some improvements and "modernization."
Oh, and we also discovered a new foreign snack shop this summer. This one seemed to appear overnight. And it has the best. sign. ever.
With Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) coming this weekend, a holiday most Koreans spend at home with family members, many whose homes were flooded are hurrying to figure out what they will do for the holiday. Some hang their heads with grief.
I did not write about the Sewol sinking back in April, mostly because I had no idea what to say. It felt very strange being an outsider here while Koreans grieved together and bowed their heads in shame as one. Not that I sat by dispassionately, but as one of my Korean friends told me once, Koreans are like professional grievers and it is best done together. Devastating grief is not unknown to this country and although Koreans often operate as a unit in their every day lives (as opposed to many Westerns, especially Americans, who usually operate on an individual basis), their unity as Koreans was palpable during this tragic time. There have been hints of this over the past week.
Of course the flooding was not nearly on the scale of the sinking of the Sewol, but it did put a sad and strange end to a strange, though fulfilling, summer.
I am continuing my quest to master several Korean dishes. This is one of James' favorites: ddeokbokki (pronounced: duck-bo-kee). It consists of noodle-type chunks made out of rice (they call them rice cakes here, but in America, rice cake is something completely different) in a spicy sauce. I also added some fish cake, sausage, carrots, onion and sesame seeds.