We are nearly a whole week away from home, and I am still tired and confused. I think anyone who has been to South Korea as a western tourist will agree that it is not your usual, relaxing get-away location. The language barrier in itself creates many misunderstandings, if you then add on a cultural barrier you have South Korea (and maybe the rest of East Asia?). It stuns me how culture can impact communication to such an extent. It’s the small things that surprise me the most: the host moving our soup bowls to the right of our plates, as well as the limited existence of proper drainage from bathroom sinks and showers… Maybe this is just the two houses we have visited as of yet, but it does make for a few soggy socks, and the plastic shoes in all bathrooms indicate this is the norm.
Today we worked. We both enjoyed the jobs… we were starting to feel a bit useless; sleeping in their house and eating lots and lots of their gorgeous food. The work itself wasn’t easy but we had more than enough time to recover after every task. First we helped move three and a half van-full’s of styrofoam boxes from the chicken pens to the storage room. Through a conversation lead by handgestures and lots of guessing we learnt that farms in Korea are not allowed to have live chickens during the winter season because of viruses. Seeing as we are working on an organic chicken farm, there will be very little actual farm work, but lots of packing products and cleaning. I quite enjoyed this, it was very rhythmic work: pick up bag, put chicken in bag, set bag aside for sealing and so on. Not as exciting as rearing baby chickens, but for all we get in return it’s a small fee.
Louise and I spent most of our day in the farmhouse livingroom talking, drinking hot sweet tea and instant coffee and watching korean TV… which, although we couldn’t understand a word of, was really interesting and everything you would expect of Korean TV: lots of colours and exclamations and (more importantly) very melodramatic moments.
We had lunch with our host… again a table full of rice and soup and meat and kimchi and God knows was else. It was delicious! Louise’s chopstick work is improving, she will be an expert by the time we leave.
Our last job was the same as yesterday’s. We were taping the styrofoam boxes together after he expertly filled them to the brim with organic chicken. Throughout this day, it was difficult not cringe at all the waste that would produced from purchasing chicken meat from this organic farmer… I dont want to know what it would be like elsewhere. But the positive side of that is that everything is as sterile as can be.
As I am writing this I am getting the most wonderful performance from our young friend. While Louise and I are about to collapse with exhaustion she dances and sings through the house; better than any TV.