Sunday, November 03, 2013

walkabout 2

I finally did that campus walkabout. It started around 5PM, which meant the sky was well on its way toward evening, but the cool air and the low light together lent a strange charm to CUD's campus. I veered away from the Admin Building and St. Thomas Aquinas Hall to continue uphill toward the smallish St. Paul Hall. Just across from the hall, I discovered a square area, bordered by a low wall, that held ranks upon ranks of hangari, heavy clay jars into which Koreans often stuff kimchi for the kimjang season.* Beyond the hall's coffee shop (with its convenient Daegu Bank ATM) and the hangari, a platoon of dorms stood at attention. In the midst of the looming dorms, a small pond brooded—lily pads and all—surrounded by landscaping and park benches: a fine place to sit and think, even in the cool. It was a part of campus that made me feel more at home than the part of campus I knew.

Turning right, I went behind some dorms, and found myself by St. Catherine and St. Cecelia Halls. Along the way, I passed a few more benches as well as plenty of sculptures: stone worms wrestling each other in some eternal cosmic struggle, a three-dimensional Picasso-like image, a human heart, a woman's ass, two disembodied hands that cupped dripping water frozen in time, a severed foot with a wristwatch wrapped around it, a giant earlobe lying on the grass (Keep your ear to the ground!), a massive spider that would have scared the piss out of Ron Weasley, and a human head with no cranium, symbolically leaving the mind open to the wondrous whisperings of the universe.

As my path curved back downhill, I walked by an art hall; I decided that I should visit that place later when it was open. Eventually, I ended up at the rotary where the Admin Building stands, with St. Thomas Aquinas Hall just off to the side, vigilantly shadowing the Admin Building like a bodyguard. I walked past Admin and Thomas, past Paul Ri Library, and went as far as the street would take me. I passed an IT center on my left and ended up in a parking lot next to what looked like a hard-top tennis court, but which was in fact a fenced-in, brightly lit soccer field. Two teams banged a ball back and forth; the ball sailed dangerously high, almost clearing the fence on several occasions. I turned around and walked back toward Aquinas Hall; from there, I took my same, familiar route home, realizing that I had explored only about two-thirds of the campus.

Instead of going home, however, I lumbered over to the Palace of Infinite Meat and had myself two heaping platefuls of dead-animal flesh, plus a plate of fresh vegetables, all for the low-low price of W9,000. It was after 6PM and the buffet was crowded: Southeast Asians, South Asians, and Korean clientele were in abundance. Three Korean kids, perhaps no more than three or four years old, ran gleefully about the restaurant, cute as buttons, screaming their heads off and perfectly heedless of all the dangerous table corners, gas lines, and hot metal griddles. Patrons smiled patronizingly. Two South Asian guys sitting close to me occasionally gave me disbelieving looks, openly wondering whether one man could down that much food.

Yeah, bitches, I thought. One man can.

*How on earth do you translate kimjang in a quick one- or two-word phrase? The word refers to that time of year when Koreans make piles of kimchi, place them in jars (the aforementioned hangari), and bury them in the cold, hard earth to ferment. This custom is slowly fading away, in part thanks to technology: the kimchi naengjanggo (kimchi fridge) provides a decent enough simulation of the kimjang process to obviate the need to do the real thing. And as real estate becomes ever more precious on this crowded peninsula, it makes a sad sort of sense for kimjang to fade away: it requires a significant surface area. (Not that kimjang is anywhere near moribund, mind you: the custom is still going strong, but its ubiquity is slowly, inevitably being chipped away.)

But back to the question: how do you translate kimjang concisely? I can think of morbid expressions like "kimchi interment," a term that, while accurate because literally true, sounds rather lugubrious and insulting and doesn't do this bright, happy custom justice. Besides, we normally only inter human remains. "Kimchi planting" also fails to describe the custom, since the kimchi's already dead. You don't plant dead things; ce serait la folie. Google Translate is no damn help at all: for kimjang, it suggests "kimchi" or the untranslated "kimjang"; the latter may, actually, be the best way to render the word in English. Some words simply don't translate smoothly.



John said...

I have feared for the future of homemade kimchi because I have yet to meet a younger Korean woman who actually knows how to make her own. That includes my wife. I know her mother and aunts maintain the kimjang tradition(using the kimchi naengjanggo method) and they provide the extended family with a years supply. When I ask what is going to happen when the older generation is gone, I get a shrug and a "we'll buy it in the store" response.

This year I placed a jack-o'-lantern atop the hangari on our front porch.

And now I have used all three of the new Korean words I learned from this post!

Bratfink said...

I found out about burying jars to make kimchi from watching M*A*S*H.

Thought you might find that interesting.