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In one small part of Hoengseong, a county in Gangwondo normally famous for Korean beef, is a coal-burning neighborhood gaining a following of locals and tourists alike for its charcoal kiln “saunas.” This town, called Podong-ri, does not have much besides mountains, and its residents seem to depend mostly on cham soot (참숯, natural charcoal) sales for revenue.

On our way to beef town, my family and I got lost and ended up on a road with two charcoal burning sites, one on each side of the road. The one on the left had a sign reading, “오늘 찜질 하는 곳” (“Sauna open today”) with an arrow pointing downhill, where the kilns were busy burning, puffing dense, grey smoke into the air.

It was almost dinner time when we arrived, so we booked one of the rooms nearby to stay the night and check out these saunas in the morning. The lady who gave us our keys explained that the kilns will be burning all night at anywhere from 1300 to 1700 degrees Celsius and that a few of them will be cleared out by morning for people to go inside and jjimjil (찜질, or sweat in a sauna) in the residual heat. The next morning, 강원참숯 (Gangwon Cham Soot) was to open its soot gama (숯가마, charcoal kilns) for sauna use.

 

kilns

kilns supplies

kilns people

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This is how I prepare for summer:

  1. Clean out closet
  2. Shave legs
  3. Clean out freezer, stock with fruit
  4. Grow mint farm
  5. Make ice

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Now all I need is a good summer read to go with my mojitos. Too bad most of that will be the books I’ll be teaching for the next three months.

Currently writing:

  1. #66, a poem
  2. #67, undecided

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Currently writing:

  1. Issue No. 1’s Letter to the Readers
  2. Two features in the Learning section
  3. #61 (a short story)

Currently reading:

  1. 김애란 – ‘침묵의 미래’
  2. 박완서 – ‘친절한 복희씨’
  3. Kerouac – On the Road
  4. Hemingway – A Moveable Feast
  5. Solzhenitsyn – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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