Monday, December 21, 2009

For a few days I was a 농부 in Pyeongtaek

In South Africa we have a saying that is originally said in one of our native languages, I am just not sure where it originates from. In English it goes something like “you can take a ghetto child out of the ghetto but you can never take the ghetto out of the them” something similar to that can be said about me and that is: “You can take her away from the farm but you can never take the farm out of her.” My grandmother used to own huge corn fields and I would sometimes go and help out during harvest time. The time that I spent at the farming area reminded me of the good old days when I still had a grandmother. The weekend started with me being stuck in traffic and getting lost for almost three hours. At some point I was even thinking of going back home. Luckily I do not usually entertain the part of my brain that gives off negative messages; I do not easily quit. As loud as the negative voice in my head kept telling me to turn back, I kept going forward. Going forward almost landed me in Choenan; which is way past where I was supposed to be at. The story of my journey is that I got stuck in traffic, got lost and had to ask a taxi driver lead me to where I was supposed to meet up with some of the people I was going to spend the weekend with. I eventually found my destination – the small farming community's community centre. The community centre was our home for the weekend. When I arrived I was offered dinner and I dug in because I was really hungry plus it felt like a reward for not turning back home on my way. We had rice, kimchi and chige(soup) for dinner. The food was very good, it put a smile on my face. Half way through my dinner, my Korean farming partner came to introduce himself. He is a very kind and knowledgeable young man, I really enjoyed his company. So we had dinner and talked and talked some more. A few other people joined us and we talked and talked. After almost two hours of non-stop talking and meeting new people, we were instructed to group ourselves and get ready to play games. We played the chicken game and then later went on to playing drinking games. Those who made mistakes during the games had to drink “makoli” – Korean rice booze. Makoli reminds me of our own African beer called “umqombothi”. Their tastes are almost similar and umqombothi's is usually drunk by people working on farms. All these things confirmed to me that Korean culture is not very far from African culture. When I got tired of taking part in the games I went off to sleep in a container. I must say, I was one of the lucky ones because some of my companions could not sleep because others were still playing games where they were supposed to sleep. Some told me that the games went on until the wee hours of the morning. The main room was also very cold so I was indeed very lucky to have slept in the container. When morning came, we all had to wake up and get ready to meet the farmers. Our “weekend home” only had two bathrooms for all sixty inhabitants. Trying to take a shower in the morning was a mission, so I ended up just brushing my teeth and rinsing my face; I had taken a shower before I went to bed the previous night. For breakfast I had a truly Korean breakfast; namely rice and kimchi. It was what I needed to have enough energy for the work I was about to do. The farmers came and we all dispersed to different directions. My teammates and I went to a nearby egg plant farm. our first task was to prune eggplant leaves. The farmer gave us instruction on how to prune. He gave the instructions in Korean and I was the only one in my team whose Korean was not so good. I thought I understood the instructions anyways. So we started working. I had interesting and value-adding conversations with my teammates while working. At eleven o'clock the organisers of the trip brought us food. I do not think the food was totally Korean. It was a fusion of Mexican and Korean, I think. Whatever it was, it was very very tasty. We took a very long time eating and chatting to the farmer and his wife. The farmer is a very knowledgeable person. He knew a lot about America and South Africa. What impressed me a lot about him is that he did not only know just about Mandela and the upcoming soccer world cup, he knew about the Gautrain, the fact that we have a lot of land and diamonds and a lot more. We went back to work, we continued pruning till the proper lunch time. During lunch we just went back to eat more food. I could hardly eat lunch as I was still very full from the food we ate earlier on. Lunch was over in no time and in no time the farmers came to pick us up. My teammates and I had to walk to our farm because it was only two minutes away on foot. I was looking forward to working again, only to find out that our task had changed. We had to weed! Very funny because a few minutes earlier I had told one of my teammates that I hoped not to weed. Alas, the farmer told us to weed! Off we went to start weeding. I bent and did what I was told to do, bending became too painful for my back. I am a tall person; I had to bend a lot in order to do a good job. I tried kneeling but kneeling was also a lot of work. Trying to be comfortable and doing the actual job was too much work for me. I weeded sitting down on my butt, but I think that's the lazy people's way of working – working on your butt. The farmer came to my rescue after a few minutes. He brought us small stools to sit on while weeding. The stools made such a huge difference, I think they even helped in accelerating the rate that we were weeding at and in helping us do a clean job. I am sure I was not the only one struggling to work comfortably. Thanks to the farmer, the struggle became history, we had loads of fun weeding and conversing. I found out a lot of interesting facts about my teammates. Working with my teammates was very very pleasant. I was sad to be separated from them the next day. Time to head home and have fun came very quickly. I was still enjoying weeding. We went to some of the farmers homes to go get ourselves clean for the night of fun. In no time we were all clean and ready. We had dinner – boiled pork, Korean pancake/pizza also known as pajeon 파전in Korean, tofu and of course kimchi. The dinner was also very delicious. A very funny thing that happened is that they brought rice to the tables an hour after we had started eating. Here I thought rice had to be the main dish, but no, I was wrong after all. This time rice was desert. Along with rice came the first lot of makoli (Korean tradition alcohol). We were supposed to have a concert but for some mysterious reasons, the concert was cancelled. The cancellation of the concert did not stop us from having fun. We had a lot of makoli at our disposal, the only natural thing to do was to play drinking games. Some of us had missed them the previous night. The games started after dinner. When I was tired of playing, I made my way to the container but on my way to the container I came across some of my companions. Just like me, I think they were tired. They were sitting outside having a guitar jam session. I joined in on the jam session. I sat outside under the moonlight singing and talking to very interesting people. I still wanted to do more of what I was doing, unfortunately my eyes were starting to see in doubles and my body could not take it any more. I had a very hectic day, so I went to sleep. Sharing sleeping space with others is never a pleasant thing. When I finally got into the container, it was full and someone had taken my sleeping spot. I did not mind because I am a small person, I managed to squeeze myself in. To prove that I was very tired, I slept right away, I was not bothered by my roommates' loud talking. I could not sleep for a long time though, unlike the previous night, the container was freezing cold. The next day was another working day, I was still tired from the previous working day. All I wanted to do was to go home and sleep as I hardly slept the previous night. I went home, showered and slept. Thanks to Wooriwa and the MeetUp groups, I had a great Korean farming experience. However, I need to come clean and say it myself; I cheated big time during the drinking games. I have lived through the unpleasant near- death consequences of playing drinking games and I did not want to go that way again. IT WAS ONE OF MY BEST WEEKENDS IN KOREA!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can imagine what ull be missing.. A place away from home.. A place u got to call home.. Friends who became family.. students who bought joy..and a culture you got to apreciate. Meautiful memories were created and I envy you for all the experiences, the opportunites, the fun, the excitement and even the cold. You got to do things u never thought u would, eat a live octopus, eat DOG meat, see beautiful places, met interesting people. You grew as a person, overcame challenges, were tested and u rose to all occassions.I for one am so proud of you and as sad as all this is coming to an end, I am happy and ready to welcome you back home... All good things have to come to an end!