Here now and now here or nowhere

The title of this blog comes from a play on words that "now here" is also the same letters as "nowhere" just with a space added in the middle. I am always trying to get better at being in the here and now, and I've always been a bit of a joker so that is why I chose this name.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From Seoul to ChungcheongNam-Do to GyeongsangBuk-Do

Using an online bus or rail scheduler is really easy in Korea, that is to say it's easy if you read and speak korean. I, unfortunately, am not able to do either of those things. I left Seoul with much help from Eunhye on how I should get to my next farm in Hongsung-Gun. Luckily for my sake it was an easy train 3 hour train ride. Below is a picture of my travelmate, the lady sitting next to me.

She seemed rather perturbed that I was sitting next to her, but that's what my ticket had for it's seat number. I sort of wonder if seat numbers actually matter in Korea, as half the train car was empty. After a little bit she warmed up to me and even offered me some of her cake/cookie things she was eating. I wish I had something to share back with her. I think what won her over was that I was watching "Oldboy" on my iphone. Oldboy is a korean movie that came out in the early 2000's. It did pretty well in the US (I remember when it came to the NYC theaters and Chester really wanted me to see it with him. I never did, and I apologize to you now Matthew). If you haven't seen it and you enjoy great plots with lots of action, suspense, torture, blood, sex, and one of those endings that really makes you go "hmmmm" then definitely see this film.

I love train rides. Bus rides are ok, but train rides have this sort of draw for me. The rural countryside and the sound of the train on the rail, it just has something for me.

The Gwangcheon train station in all it's beauty.

I got off at my station, Mr Kim arrived shortly and we were off to my next farm experience. I think I could tell before I even arrived how my stay here was going to be. There was maybe something in the air, besides that lovely korea farm smell that has a mixture of cabbage and manure.

The farm was bigger than others I had previously worked on and there
was a little compound of sorts for the other farm workers there. There were small mini houses which each had two single room units in them. The room was the floor, a sink, small fridge, and then the bathroom. (picture below). The heated floors make sleeping on the floor really nice (as mentioned in previous posts) but I sort of felt like I was at methadone or other withdrawal clinic. Having small bugs in the room crawling on my yo (traditional korean mattress like pad you sleep on top of the heated floors with) didn't help add to the picture at all. :)

But beggars can't be choosers, and this was essentially free housing with free food. Though food may be an overstatement. Those who know me, know I LOVE kimchi. I've never met a kimchi I didn't like... until now. Almost all the ferments here had this similar taste and it was a taste I couldn't quite grasp the love of. They did have a great rice though. no joke. it had what i think were red beans and soy beans in it. Very tasty. Also, the good thing about kimchi, is it still usually makes a good kimchi chigae. Also, the good thing about not tasty food is that I won't really eat it. And that means my stomach could take a break after the good over eating in Seoul.

There was NO english spoken here. Occasionally a word was fumbled around with and we could sort of make out what was happening, but usually it was grunting, pointing, and odd hand gestures that never really made out what was trying to be conveyed.

The people were nice but what a rag-tag crew. There were two old men (one of whom had his 76th birthday while I was there. Soju and eating cake with chopsticks... count me in!) There were two blind guys. There was the guy with odd eyes (cataracts maybe?) who also was missing the top of one of his middle fingers and the sewing together chop was sorta narly. (luckily I sat across from him every meal so got to see it NUMEROUS times.) There was another older man who was also a hunchback with his back in basically a permanent half moon shape. Then there was Mr Kim, his wife, his daughter and a few other people. All very nice, in as much as pointing and grunting can prove for niceness sakes. But the lack of communication and lack of internet for me to communicate to others proved to be a very hard week for me. also, I ended up doing a lot of rock moving. Load big rocks into a wheelbarrow and wheel that to a tractor to unload them there. Repeat till the tractor is full. Have tractor driven to a different spot, empty tractor load. Move rocks from dropped spot to a spot around there. Repeat. I seem to scream heavy manual labor to these farmers here, maybe it's because I'm like frankenstein to them. Or Frankenstock, maybe? I did get to do a little farming one day, where I pulled a bunch of scallions up that were ready to be picked and sold at the market. woohoo.

one of the scallion fields I picked at.

This farm also had some other different, to me, aspects.

Deer! (which I found out were raised because their antlers are used for chinese medicinal purposes. so sad)

Besides chickens and roosters they had a turkey. These things are UGLY in person.

Being out in farmsville it was quite removed from city life which meant incredibly gorgeous skies.

The sunset on, i believe, my first night.

It's hard to see as it was shot from my iphone, but this is a star and the line to the right is a sliver of the moon. It really looked beautiful in person.

Sort of a bummer to me was that I picked this farm because they made soy sauce and gochujang (think korean chili sauce but a little more sweet) from their own home grown products. However, I guess they only do it in autumn, so I missed out on learning how to make these both, which is something I was very interested in. :(

After about a week I left this farm to go to another. I wanted to head back northernly as I plan to go back to Seoul to make that DMZ tour. So with the help from Jade, the WWOOF Korea manager, I was able to get on at a farm in Mungyeong. I just got here tonight but I have good feelings about the place. It appears to be part farm, part resort of sorts. There is a pool, a restaurant, little cottages (of which i am staying in one and it's pretty sweet) and two cute little friendly dogs. There were guests tonight in the restaurant so I was asked to help and be one of the waiters for the evening. Below is a picture of just part of the crew of people I helped wait on.

They seemed really excited to have me wait on them. At one point one of the gentleman had me sit down, made me take shots of Makoli (a korean rice alcohol. like soju but not distilled) while his wife force fed fresh cooked meat down my throat. I wasn't complaining, it just seemed a bit odd. Alas, they had fun, I had fun so everyone's a winner.

There is internet in the guest offices so expect me somewhat online this week. Last week being offline was really refreshing and I'll try to be more like that. But having nearly completed season 4 of The Wire I now need to download season 5, so will have to have some online time. Plus I love your emails (like anyone reads this...) and I owe a bunch of people phone calls (thanks skype). Most importantly, I hope to have an overdue video chat with a special talented cat and her more special owner/caretaker.

night night folks

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