Korean Dramas & Air Quality in Massachusetts

How did watching Korean dramas get me thinking about air and water quality in Massachusetts? Let me tell you.

During the pandemic, I dove into the treasure trove of Korean dramas on Netflix. After watching several, I started recognizing the sounds of certain words. I began matching them up phonetically with their English meanings from the subtitles and keeping a written notebook. I wondered about the daily lives of regular South Koreans and wanted to expand my vocabulary beyond written scripts.

YouTube provides an easy gateway into people’s lives. After watching many videos, I learned that South Koreans are very aware of fine dust. The first few times I heard it mentioned, I didn’t think anything of it. However, it was repeated so often I could no longer ignore it. I wondered, “Is this a thing?”

The vloggers I’ve watched check daily dust levels, wear masks outside, and often keep their windows closed. A Korean vlogger now living in the UK, remarked on the clear skies without fine dust. It’s definitely a thing.

Now that I think of it, I don’t recall any dramas mentioning fine dust. Sometimes you find what you’re not looking for.

A not so quick search revealed an article giving insight and noting the health hazards when fine dust particulate matter (PM) reaches certain levels. Since I’m interested in visiting South Korea at some point, I’ll probably do what the locals do and wear a mask.

In my normal daily life, I hadn’t thought about PM levels too much. Then early this summer, because of the wildfires in Canada, the Boston area received air quality warnings and advisories. Was this like the fine dust in South Korea?

I’ve been very COVID cautious compared to most and only stopped wearing a mask indoors this past winter, after the numbers dropped. Rising numbers still have me reconsidering.

As I’m writing, I looked up the air quality in Quincy a few times. Over the course of about 15 minutes, it changed from moderate to good. The moderate PM2.5 reading is “2.9 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value.” Should I be wearing a mask? I don’t know. I’m doing what the locals do and that appears to be nothing. Overall, we’re mask averse in this country and seem to live in perpetual denial.

But it’s not just air quality causing concern. It’s also the ocean. This summer, it seems like far more beaches than usual in Massachusetts have been closed for extended periods of time due to high levels of dangerous bacteria. That’s not even considering microplastics found in the water.

Then we have extreme heat causing wildfires. This record-breaking heat forcing people to remain indoors could be impacting mental health as well. Most of us have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and how it impacts some during winter months. A summer version exists too. With wildfires in Hawaii forcing so many to lose their homes, some don’t even have the luxury of being indoors. Heat is becoming increasingly deadly, yet FEMA has never issued a disaster declaration due to heat.

Climate change is real. It’s happening now and seems that it will only get worse unless everyone in the world gets on board with solutions.

Hadassah Margolis will teach a new course at Brandeis University this fall called Climate Concerns: Eco-Anxiety, Grief, and Resilience. It will focus on wellness in the face of eco-anxiety. I’m glad I’m not alone in my feelings of environmental angst and that more people are talking about this. Misery may love company, but that doesn’t help the bigger problem. I wonder what solutions may be found in this classroom.

I’ve heard people describe the years we have left in our lives as the number of summers. As I inch closer to the end of my 50s, thoughts like this are more on my mind. How many summers do I have to enjoy carefree days out in nature? A walk in the woods by a pond or a simple beach picnic. How do we stay optimistic?

Some recent news inspires. In Brazil, the Wari’ people sought help protecting the Komi Memem River. Legislation passed giving the river personhood protection rights as a living entity. It’s a step in the right direction.

Michael J. Fox said, “With gratitude, optimism is sustainable.” Which feels like grounding in the present moment. And remembering that there are still a few more days left in this summer.

My Korean Drama Playlist

Korean Drama Playlist

This Korean Drama playlist has changed over time and is a constant work in progress. Songs are always being added and a few were deleted too. I started watching Korean dramas when the pandemic started and I’m hooked!

Many dramas that I watched had really good music that I wanted to hear again, so I started researching the songs and created a playlist on Amazon Music. I’m not sure which song was first and my favorite songs don’t necessarily correlate with my favorite dramas. But some do!

All the titles are in English, but most of the songs are sung in Korean. The last song on the list is from a Taiwanese drama that is in Mandarin. A few of the songs are in English, so I can understand the words. The others I don’t understand the words, but can feel the emotion. Which is one of the reasons why I loved the songs so much while watching the dramas.

Like the Bruja Full Moon Magic playlist, I mostly listen to this one while I’m driving. I have other playlists, but these two are much shorter. This one is definitely a different mood! Romantic and dramatic, like a Korean Drama. Below is a list of the songs, the artists and the dramas featuring the songs. If you’re looking to watch a few, I saw all of them on Netflix and this list is a good start!

+ + +

1. So Hard For Me by Jeebanoff (Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol)

2. Sing My Song by Gu Keunbyul (Revolutionary Love)

3. Shine Your Star by 03ohn (Mr. Sunshine)

4. I’m Here by Yang Da II (Memories of the Alhambra)

5. Memories of the Alhambra by George (Memories of the Alhambra)

6. La La La by Rachael Yamagata (Something in the Rain)

7. Something in the Rain by Rachael Yamagata (Something in the Rain)

8. We Could Still Be Happy by Rachael Yamagata (One Spring Night)

9. But It’s Destiny by 10cm (Crash Landing on You)

10. Sweetest Thing by Seventeen (Chocolate)

11. Tree by Car, the Garden (Chocolate)

12. Is You by Ailee (Memories of the Alhambra)

13. Just Like A Dream by Ben (Another Miss Oh)

14. What Is Love by Park Yun Ha & Yu Seung Woo (Another Miss Oh)

15. The Song You Picked Saves Me by A-Lin [feat. J.Sheon] (Memory Love)

16. Quando, Quando, Quando by Moon (Our Blues)

Time Travel With Merriam-Webster

If there’s one genre that gets me every single time, it’s time travel. I absolutely cannot resist the concept.

So I was thrilled to recently read that a physicist came up with calculations that eliminate the paradox problem. You know the issue when someone goes back in time and has to worry about changing something and destroying the present? Apparently things would all work themselves out somehow. Yay?!?!

Not only is the time travel genre fun, but it’s a great way to learn some history. I find myself wondering if certain parts of the story lines are true, so with some quick research, I’m able to find out.

Recently I enjoyed a couple of time travel series on Netflix. Since I also love foreign films, the variety of time travel shows available exponentially increases with more languages included. Back to 1989 is in Mandarin and placed in Taiwan. Live Up to Your Name is in Korean and takes place in present day South Korea and goes all the way back to the Joseon Dynasty.

So why am I bringing up time travel today? Because Merriam-Webster is playing along with the idea. They have a link you can go to and travel back. Pick the year you were born or any other year. You’ll find out when certain words were first used in print. The earliest year you can go back to is 1500, then by century and generally before the 12th century.

I went back to 1964 and it surprised me to find some of these words used so early. They seem more modern! Others are interesting in that the terms have changed and are used differently. It also makes me think about how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Below are a few.

AAA, black hole, carryout, colorism, condo, drink-driving, endangered, fentanyl, garage sale, gender identity, gigahertz, grandparenting, graphic novel, gun control, homophobia, hydrocodone, mack daddy, minicam, miracle fruit, mitochondrial DNA, naloxone, pants suit and pantsuit, point-and-shoot, precalculus, precooked, quinceañera, rat fink, red bush tea, retribalization, reverse discrimination, skinny-dip, slow-wave sleep, street hockey, table sugar, tostone, triple jump, xanthan gum, zip-code

If you have a few minutes, take a trip back and let me know what you think!

+ + +
Screenshot Image: Merriam-Webster

Recently Watched: Chocolate ~ A Korean Food Drama

Chocolate Korean Food Drama

If you’re looking to escape into another world for a while, there’s a lovely place you can go on Netflix. To the world of Lee Kang, a neurosurgeon and Moon Cha Young, a chef who eats chocolate to center herself when she’s suffering. They live in South Korea, but the story takes us to other countries as well. The show is in Korean, so unless you speak it, you’ll be reading subtitles.

The two meet as children over a shared meal at Kang’s family restaurant. Kang asks Cha Young to come back later so he can make her a chocolate sasha, which I don’t really know what it is, unless he means this Japanese snack.

But because they are kids and her family had other plans, she isn’t able to return. He waited for her and was devastated when she didn’t show up. A year later she came back to find him, but his family had moved away.

They never forget each other and are fated to meet again. Repeatedly. Their lives are forever intertwined through a series of serendipitous meetings, but there are so many misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It’s dramatic and romantic. So much longing. And filled with food. The food scenes are stunning. I could practically smell it watching them cook.

The food is a third main character and made me want to get some Korean food. Then I was zapped back to the realization that I’m living in the middle of a pandemic and can’t go to a restaurant as easily anymore. Then I got swept up in the story again and relished the recipes. The precision and beauty. Colors, sounds and textures.

There is a depth to the characters lives that makes it easy to get caught up. We come to know their inner lives. There are painful family stories, intrigue, disasters, war, and some humor too. I found myself getting really aggravated at certain points, but couldn’t stop watching. I was so hooked! Chocolate is a real love story and they get me every time.

The music is haunting and sets the tone for the series, further increasing the tension and emotion. I definitely recommend you give a listen. The cinematography is captivating too.

I’ve been a fan of Korean dramas (K-dramas) for several years now and have been finding a lot more on Netflix recently. I’m surprised there isn’t more buzz around this series. I really enjoyed it and was disappointed to read that there won’t be another season. There’s a lot to like about Chocolate, but it is basically a soap opera. So if that’s not your thing, this probably isn’t for you. Otherwise, enjoy this series and get a respite from the day to day of quarantine life.

+ + +
Image Credit: YouTube