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Friday, May 21, 2010

WWOOFing, part 2

A goat, some flowers, some kimchi, and me convincing a 55-year-old farmer fella to take a picture of him pulling me around in a Korean wheelbarrow. Erh?

Welcome my week of May 7-12th. Gupo, just outside of Busan. What to say?

WWOOFing stands for "WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms." It exists in many, perhaps even most, countries. The essentials are that you join the organization buy buying a membership (the money goes to support WWOOF infrastructure, personnel costs, publications, etc), and then you receive a directory listing various organic farms and farm-like places where you can sleep and eat for free in exchange for a few hours of work. Sounds like a fauxbo's dream, right? Cheap food and lodging, a chance to interact with locals on a non-financial level, stuff to do other than visit famous places and fatten up your scrapbook (I know, I'm no saint in this respect), a real opportunity to learn something non-trivial about life in foreign lands.

Blessed with 2 weeks of vacation (interrupted by one mandatory school festival) in the middle of May, I headed down South all full of fantasies. Mmhhmm. This WWOOFing trip is going to get me jump-started on my PATH TO SUSTAINABLE AND CRUELTY-FREE LIVING (TM). I am going to learn all about permaculture and independence and the ways of the ancients and what the world was like before plastic. It will help me to begin to find a way out of this lifestyle in which almost everything I do requires or presupposes or causes or encourages environmental damage, violence in and occupation of 3rd world countries, and other big, vague nasties.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it turned out to be more like a pleasant week spent with an aunt and uncle out in their country home. Highlights include:

- Wandering around looking at all the wonderful edible-bearing vegetation. Pear trees, fig trees, pepper plants, tomato houses (next door), herbs out the wazzoo.
- Sitting in the gazebo reading Derrick Jensen (A Language Older than Words) and smelling rosemary.
- Seeing for the first time a flourishing rosemary shrub. Did you know that they have periwinkle flowers, shoot their limbs all out from one central spot, and make branches about 3 or 4 feet long?
- Rearranging and partitioning raised herb beds with Elder Sister, who says to me, more or less out of the blue, "I don't think I could become friends with someone who can't appreciate a fart."
- Sitting down in twilight silence with a goat on a back country road for about 30 minutes.
- Barefoot mountain-strolling. After our descent, Elder Sister points to the summit and says "Our little feet took us all the way up there! How cool!"
- Nearly fainting from the splendid smell of Thyme while weeding.
- Putting two and two together and coming to understand that the Korean word for" weed" actually means "miscellaneous plant." I don't like our word "weed," which seems to me to demonize a plant for just trying to grow. What else do you expect? At least the Korean word reflects the fact that "weed" status is subjective, dependent on what people are trying to do with a certain piece of land.
- A moment straight out of Quine's Two Dogmas of Empiricism (forgive the ostentatious reference) (also forgive the subsequent subtle philosophy of language pun that I'm not expecting anyone to get.) While hanging up some netting related to making a Chicken coop, the farmer asked me to go get the "sadari" (four-legs). I didn't know what it meant, so he pointed to the ladder. It had five rungs, so I thought it was pretty cool that the word for "ladder" specified how tall it was, though slightly odd that for some reason the top rung didn't get counted. There was another ladder that we were also using, with only 3 rungs, so I kept saying things like "Do you want me to bring the samdari (three-leg) over?" He kept correcting my pronunciation, telling me to say "sa" (four) instead of "sam," (three) until it dawned on me that actually the name had nothing to do with rungs and everything to do with...well...the ladder's 4 legs. (It's a great joy to explain something like this to a Korean, who will then often say something to the effect of: "Oh, my. Korean is much more complicated than I had realized!")
- Listening to Elder Brother go on and on about the virtues of Makkeoli, a type of Korean rice wine that in the past was referred to as "Farmer's Booze." Supposedly keeps you cool and content while you're out working. A cup at breakfast, a cup at lunch, a cup at dinner, a cup on the way up the mountain, a cup at the summit, a cup at the restaurant. I asked him if he drank so frequently while working in the government tax office, and he said that it wasn't allowed. So I asked him if he had become a farmer mostly to give himself an excuse to have rice wine at breakfast and lunch. He very much enjoyed my snark!
- Observing a pair of ducks that the farmer kept in a pen. The lady duck always follwed the dude around, even though their pen was only about 3 x 4 feet. They would just waddle around in circles, or back and forth, but she'd almost never lead.
- Noticing that the the sound of ducks drinking water from a wooden bowl and the sounds of ducks defecating their are almost indistinguishable.
- Eating eggs for the first time for the first time in the while. Thanking the nice, happy-looking ducks. Surprised to think about how I really don't miss eggs as much as I thought I would.
- Picking chives from the garden and making enough chive pancakes for 3 days. Picking some little greens from the garden, adding some red pepper and vinegar paste, and having great salads for the next 10 meals.
- Chatting at mealtime about meat, farms, the environment, health, the good life, eating out of the same dishes, and more.
- Having enough time to read Derrick Jensen's "A Language Older than Words." Wow. Moving stuff.
- And probably some more.

The only disappointing thing about the visit was that I didn't get to work hard enough. Elder Bro and Elder Sis aren't aiming at self-sustainability, they're just looking to have a nice, quiet life in the country. Grow some nice herbs and other decorative plants, just for the love of watching nature run its course ans sniffing nice stuff. So I haven't quite learned everything I need to know to renounce the civilized world. I guess that means more blogs for the time being. Lucky you!

3 comments:

mumfowse said...

I like WWOOFing because it takes an acronym and turns it into a noun or verb. Check out that guy NAACPing in the corner!

AZ said...

It sounds like a pretty nice life. Your post was the perfect way to begin my day of working on weird, un-important, academic-y things inside an old office building in the middle of a city (albeit a relatively great city...) If you were here, I'd pull you around in an American wheelbarrow, if you wanted.

Mike said...

AZ, your comment reminds me of the Flight of the Conchords song "If You're Into It!"

http://vodpod.com/watch/142603-flight-of-the-conchords-into-it

Jeff, I never told you this, but I always fantasized about WUSTLing you. (Isthatthekindofthingthatyouthinkyoumightbeinto?)