Archive for the ‘korea’ Tag

01-30-2014 Journal Entry – Coffee Trivia II   Leave a comment

“That’s something that annoys the hell out of me- I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t” ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Yesterday in Coffee Trivia I I had quite a lot to say about my previous addictions as well as my fondness for coffee. Today you’ll receive more useless coffee information that I’m required to supply because of my addiction.  All addictions have a downside and besides tasting wonderful so does coffee.  It gives me that extra energy burst and ability to talk for long periods of time without taking a breath.  Lucky you, your here for the lecture.

My love affair with coffee didn’t start at an early age like you might think. I wasn’t permitted to drink all that much coffee as a kid because my father felt it might effect my ability to play sports. Once I left for college his control over my beverage intake was finally at an end. I found coffee to be that best friend I’d been missing. The love affair began in earnest at that time and I’ve never looked back, not once. At the time I lived with five other guys in an apartment and there wasn’t a minute of the day that the coffee pot wasn’t full,  steaming hot, and available for drinking. We never kept track but I can almost bet we drank more coffee than alcohol during those years and that’s saying something.

I eventually left school and enlisted in the army since the draft board was hot on my heels.  For the next three years both in the United States and overseas I drank enough coffee to float a battleship. There’s nothing like Army coffee, it can almost eat the enamel right off your teeth. I won’t even begin to try and explain how the Korean’s made their coffee, it was indescribable. I also learned how to make instant coffee from C-ration packets and it sucked so bad I was forced to cut my coffee consumption in the field by 10%. For me that was a major concession.

Skipping ahead a few years and all of a sudden I’m a police officer working in a profession that is known for coffee and donuts. I was never too concerned with the donuts but I thrived on the coffee for seven years. I carried a thermos of hot coffee in the car with me and I’d stop when necessary to refill during my shift. Night shifts were another story altogether. My partner and I were never without a steaming hot coffee in the car or during our lunch stops at restaurants.

So you can see how my addiction to coffee has been the one consistent thing in my life for decades. All of my other addictions were just distractions but my love of coffee remains constant and still does. So let’s get this show on the road. I thought I knew a lot about coffee but I really had no clue. Some of these facts are humorous and some aren’t but they’re all interesting.  I’ve found so much information on coffee I may be forced to increase the number of Coffee Trivia postings to four or five.

  • Flavored coffees are created after the roasting process by applying flavored oils specially created to use on coffee beans.
  • Frederick the great had his coffee made with champagne and a bit of mustard.
  • Hard Bean means the coffee was grown at an altitude above 5000 feet.
  • Hawaii is the only state of the United States in which coffee is commercially grown. Hawaii features an annual Kona Festival, coffee picking contest. Each year the winner becomes a state celebrity. In Hawaii coffee is harvested between November and April.
  • The Nicaraguan Margogpipe is the largest of all coffee beans.
  • It takes 40 coffee beans to make an espresso.
  • One coffee tree yields less than half a kilo of coffee per year.
  • A coffee tree lives for between 60 and 70 years.
  • By 1850, the manual coffee grinder found its way to most upper middle class kitchens of the U.S.
  • Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world (oil is the first.)

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” ― Dave Barry

  • Brazil produces around 40% of the world’s coffee supply.
  • A Belgian named George Washington invented instant coffee in 1906.
  • Coffee has been used as a beverage for over 700 years.
  • Coffee as a medicine reached its highest and lowest point in the 1600’s in England. Wild medical contraptions to administer a mixture of coffee and an assortment of heated butter, honey, and oil, became treatments for the sick. Soon tea replaced coffee as the national beverage.
  • Coffee beans are similar to grapes that produce wine in that they are affected by the temperature, soil conditions, altitude, rainfall, drainage and degree of ripeness when picked.

“There are three intolerable things in life – cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women…” ― Orson Welles

  • Brewed espresso has 2.5% fat, while filtered coffee contains 0.6% fat.
  • Johan Sebastian Bach wrote an opera about a woman who was addicted to coffee.
  • There is a way to brew coffee with marijuana in it and it is described as producing a “dreamy” kind of coffee buzz.
  • More than 20 million people worldwide, work in the coffee industry.
  • There are two species of coffee plant: Arabica and Robusta.


08-18-2013   1 comment

Today I’m going to tell you a story that is true. I’ve had a few moments in my life that deeply affected me but this one more so than many of the others. I’m going to tell you this story in as much detail as I can remember and then when I’m finished I’ll have a few more comments to make.

* * *

It’s 1968, it’s summer time, and it’s very hot here in Korea. It’s 5:00 am, the best time of the day to avoid that hot and sweltering heat of the day. I just finished walking a little more than five miles to reach  this valley which is very isolated.  I’m in the northern part of South Korea just below the DMZ.  I’ve been hearing stories about this place since my arrival in Korea with most of the information received from the elders of the village where I’ve been living. I’ve traveled here to see for myself if the many stories of ghosts and apparitions are really true.

I walked the length of this valley before sun rise and have begun climbing into the surrounding hills so I can have a more panoramic view of the entire area. I’m about 300 feet above the floor of the valley sitting on a huge boulder. It is  unearthly quiet, not a single sound to be heard, and there’s a dense fog rolling through the valley not much higher than 10 feet from ground. I’m just high enough above the fog to be chilled by the light breeze and it sends a shiver through my body. No more than 15 years ago a battle took place in this valley and it lasted for days. It will never be known just how many soldiers died here but it was hundreds and hundreds. It’s something of a memorial to the Korean War that everyone would like to forget since the battle included both North and South Koreans, Turks, and Chinese.

I’ve been told by the village elders who lived through the Korean War that this battle was a massacre. The dead were stacked four deep in places and the carnage was indescribable. Within days of the completion of this battle hundreds of Korean villagers with help from others were tasked to bury the dead. In accordance with Korean tradition the bodies were placed in a sitting position on the ground with their legs crossed and arms folded across the chest and then covered with a mound of dirt. It took many days and hundreds of people to complete the burials and it was something none of them would ever forget.

So here I sit on my boulder as the fog slowly dissipates. I can just see the tops of the hundreds and hundreds of mounds filling the valley as far as the eye can see. The fog intertwines in and around the mounds almost like water and as each minute goes by the fog lessens and lessens until the mounds are fully exposed. I climb down from my perch being careful not to slip and begin my walk slowly and quietly back through the mounds. I picture in my mind each of the bodies contained within the mounds and it’s almost like they’re talking to me. I’m not frightened by this experience but I’m certainly affected by it. I can feel the moisture on my skin drying and I turn around quickly because I can feel a presence near me. All I see are my solitary wet foot prints meandering in and around the mounds and nothing more.  

I can picture the battle as it may have occurred and I can almost hear the rifle shots, mortars, the yelling, the screaming, and the dying. I saw no ghosts but I felt the presence of every person who died in that valley on that day.  They seemed to be clustered around me wondering in their own minds what could have possessed me to come here. I’m not sure why myself but I’m certainly glad I did.

Many of the villagers living in this area are of younger generations and remember little or nothing about the Korean War. I only know what I’ve read in books and stories I’ve heard from a few of the career soldiers with whom I’ve been been assigned. It was an ugly time where many ugly things occurred and then were forgotten. As the years go by this place will slowly disappear in the minds of the locals as things like this have been forgotten thousands of times in the past. There’s no big and fancy wall with the names of the dead posted. There is no map to show the tourists where to go and see these mounds, take a few pictures, and then return home with stories to tell their friends. I firmly believe that the great majority of people killed here in this valley had families who never knew when or where their father’s, son’s, and husbands died. 

I’ll never forget this valley, this day, or any of them.

* * * 

I hope you were able to picture that valley as it was during my short but intense visit.  This was just one of many places in Korea where terrible moments occurred causing much death and destruction.  It amazes me that a country can rebound from such devastation to become the beautiful place it is now.