Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Monday, March 4, 2013


Behind the smoking corner I heard one of the first signs of spring: the croaking of the frogs.

They'll often begin their racket when ice still covers a majority of the little pond they've made their own.  This year is no exception, although the ice is disappearing fast.  Besides the frogs, pussy willows are also in abundance.  Today is near balmy compared to the last few weeks, which may explain it.  This year was a cold winter with quite a bit of precipitation, so the streams will be running high in a few weeks, which should bring good fishing later.

Besides the normal routine of checking design specs, dealing with orders, correspondance, and the other bureaucratic minutia that fill my day, I spent some time planning for the first work camping trip in May.  I'll probably head out in late April with the fam, but May is better since I can put more hands to work collecting wild vegetables.  My girls are always keen on collecting piles of the stuff, but as they are smaller they can't quite collect as much as an intern or staff underling.  Besides, we usually end up eating whatever we collect, which won't jibe with my master plan:  this year I'm hoping to get an undocumented immigrant or grandmother to sell off a bunch in the local market.  It is about time I get a new car after all, and with June closing her business and putting ever more pressure to make more money, this could be at least a small source of extra moola. 

I'd train my coworkers to look for pine mushrooms or wild ginseng, but any attempt to pull that stuff out of the woods would almost certainly result in groups of aged countryside pensioners chasing us back to the Wonj, as the mushrooms and wild ginseng can be quite valuable.  Laugh and shake your head if you will, but I do have a story involving a very irate grandfather reproaching me for picking wild pine mushrooms, as they apparently weren't mine to gather.  As far as I knew, I hadn't broken any laws and was not on private property, but this does not change the result: I now know the hunt for those two requires stealth, while the selling of any spoils would need to be done through halmoni brokered secret deals in dirty piss stained back alleys to avoid the harsh scrutiny of the roaming haraboji gangs.  Be warned, waegs!  Korean pine mushrooms and wild ginseng are national treasures 308 and 616 respectively, and can only be properly handled by hands thoroughly seeped in Koreaness!  If the buyer becomes aware that the ginseng was handled by the waeg, the superpower of the ginseng will be tainted, and proper sacrifice will need to be given to the mountain spirit which gave essence to the now corrupted ginseng. 

At least that was the sense of what the grandfather's logic was supposed to lead me to think.  Of course, I could be wrong.  It wouldn't be the first time.  Some of my friends tell me the old guy was crazy, but who knows.

Time for coffee.


Korean Stig said...

You stumbled upon the mushrooms he was hawking for 25,000 won a pop at the local mountain food restaurant. They think everywhere is public...until the next person comes along.

Unknown said...

just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and hope you keep it up. You are one of the few (seemingly) true voices in the long-term expat blogosphere here and I look forward to your posts about the mundane.

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