Time travelling from my sick-bed

I’m pretty fed up.  I was sickening for something down in London, and once I got home, The Virus took a grip.  Goodness it’s malevolent: and it’s not letting go. The only consolation is that I’ve got through an astonishing number of books, including Min Jin Lee‘s Korean family saga Pachinko.

This is the story of several generations of one Korean family with roots near Busan, who emigrate to make a new life in Japan following the repressive occupation of their own country by the Japanese from 1911. It’s a compelling family saga taking us from 1911 to 1989; from poverty to economic stability, with sacrifice and hardship as constant themes.

How could I not be interested, since Emily’s just returned home to Spain from a year in Busan?  And yet the world in which the book begins is not one she or we would recognise.  A time traveller from 1911 or 1930 London, Liverpool or Leeds would find a lot that’s familiar in those same cities today.  A time traveller from Busan?  Not a chance.

The story starts in Yeongdo, which is now part of Busan, but was in 1930 a fishing village on an island set apart from the mainland.

 ‘…..the market ajummas squatting beside spice-filled basins, deep rows of glittering cutlass fish, or plump sea bream caught hours earlier – their wares arrayed attractively on turquoise and red waxed cloths spread on the ground.  The vast market for seafood – one of the largest of its kind in Korea – stretched across the rocky beach carpeted with pebbles and broken bits of stone, and the ajummas hawked as loudly as they could, each from her square patch of tarp.’

Here’s an ajumma, 2016 style, at Jagalchi market.

Well, I doubt if the market is still there – it certainly won’t be on the beach.  Instead, the immense Jagalchi fish market is on the nearby mainland, together with ajummas, certainly, but these days it’s all plate-glass buildings and the ephemera of modern port life.

As for Yeongdo.  No longer is it an island fishing settlement, with small wooden houses surrounded by productive vegetable patches.  I can’t find any pictures, so instead must rely on Min Jin Lee’s word pictures of empty beaches, densely wooded hillsides rich in edible fungi.  Those hillsides still exist – but look down over the settlements and the docksides below. And Yeongdo is linked to the mainland by a bridge.  Sunji and her family  wouldn’t recognise a thing.


Apart from my photo of an ajumma selling fish, all other images are from Wikimedia Commons

24 thoughts on “Time travelling from my sick-bed”

  1. Poor you; I hope you are starting to feeling better now. I’m impressed that not only have you been reading whilst under the weather but that you’ve been reflecting and writing about the books. The pace of change is a scary thing: buildings, settlements, employment, culture – so much change. In the main for the better I suppose, but perhaps not in everything.

    Hope you’re soon properly back on your feet, Margaret.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’ve also been abandoning books like confetti if they didn’t grab me straight away. Haruki Marukami, you know who you are! I actually, fingers crossed, think I might be getting somewhere at last. Shame about the concert I was to sing in tonight. Ah well. Thanks for your good wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh that’s horrible – I hope you get the better of it soon. Interesting and beautiful photos of South Korea. I don’t suppose your daughter is living on one of the Costas, but old photos of places like Benidorm from the 1930s show small fishing villages. Sadly, they haven’t been transformed quite so interestingly and vibrantly as Yeongdo, but they would certainly be unrecognisable to a Spanish time traveller. I suppose one man’s idea of progress is another’s idea of regression.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Get better soon, Margaret! I caught a foul cold at the end of February and it took all of March until I felt it had truly gone. I’m still a little deaf 😦
    I have just read a post written by Jolandi Steven about the speed of change taking place at the moment in the United Arab Emirates. https://dreaminginarabic.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/bayn-the-in-between/ The feelings of disorientation must be awful for those living through these changes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Are you better? I hope so! The change you describe here is stunning–I don’t think it could happen like that in the US. I remember knowing an American civil engineer who worked in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s and his business card said, simply, “City Builder.” I think similar growth was raging there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I’m finally on the way up, thank you. Yes, I imagine Saudi Arabia went through similar times, though without the additional stress of what they already had having been flattened in the preceding years.


  5. I’m sorry, this post slipped by me until now and now I understand what the lurgy was … so glad you’re feeling better. Sorry to hear via the other thread that your daughter’s not doing so well … sincere good wishes for a full recovery. Lx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lurgy’s shuffling off into the sunshine now thanks. As to Ellie, it’s the rather to be expected Chemo nausea that’s declining to shuffle off. She ought to feel better soon, I hope. Thanks x

      Liked by 1 person

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