Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Saturday, September 21, 2013


A few of the chestnuts
Happy Harvest Moon Festival all, here's hoping you are drunk, eating ridiculous amounts of delicious food, and not doing any work whatsoever!

This waeg's family decided to get out with some friends and have one last go camping near Gapyeong, outside of Mogog, along the fabulous Hongchon river!

While there was stoopid amounts of grilled flesh, a live jazz band, fireworks, swimming, and gallons of whiskey and beer, this year will forever be known as The Great Chestnut Bonanza.

By chance, we found a quiet little spot surrounded by chestnut trees. Within minutes of arriving, the girls had excitedly amassed a nice little pile of the delicious nuts. This proved to be nothing compared to the massive pile we've collected over the last couple of days. We've become chestnut crazy, running off as soon as we hear some hit the ground, creating fantasy worlds where we explain how all the spiders, wasps, worms, and beetles are golden colored due to living off glorious chestnuts.  The chestnuts have become everything, including a reason to stay an extra night, as the amount of nuts we will collect will certainly cover the cost of our site fees.

The only issue now is the husking of the nuts: they will only keep for a couple of weeks if refrigerated, so they'll need to be cooked, husked, and frozen if we want to enjoy chestnut deliciousness come Christmas. I figure I'll run a Craigslist ad and hire a couple of Chinese workers. I'll pay them in damaged nuts, kimchi, and of course, husks.

A number of people have shown up hoping to pick up nuts, but generally have left disappointed at how few there are.  The disappointed ones were far more numerous when we had the nuts squirreled away inside our tent, ostensibly to keep them in a cool dark place.  The pile began to take up the whole entrance way, and as I mused aloud on what to do, the owner of the place told us to take as many as we wanted, give them to our friends and family; this wasn't something she needed to tell me twice, so out they came as we no longer had to hide the fact that we'd been picking up nearly every single nut that fell.  I moved them all out into the hammock, so I could move them around more easily: chestnuts lose up to 50% of their weight in humidity within days of being picked, and if you pack them in too tightly without proper ventilation, mold will soon ruin your entire batch.  No longer having to pretend to simply pick up a few stray nuts here and there, the collection took a serious turn, as first we decided that we needed to fill a cooler, then a Costco bag, then the cooler and the Costco bag.

However, once the chestnuts were out in the open, someone pretty much needed to stay at the site all the time: not that any one would steal our chestnuts, I'm sure, but best to remove temptation.  Several people came over and gaped at the sheer nut insanity that filled the hammock; the oddest being a woman who left with a 'now I've seen everything' look on her face after she had asked me why I had collected so many nuts, as if it were strange that someone would want to pick up free money lying all over the ground.  I merely replied because they're delicious?  I couldn't bring myself to admit that I'd be parking my mother in law down at the local market first thing Monday morning to sell them off at about 150 Won per nut.  That seemed cruel.

The worst situation was when a neighbor came to visit, and loudly exclaimed that the owners should have called him right away as soon as the nuts started falling, so he could have come over and collected a bunch before they had all been scooped up.  That we were standing beside our massive golden pile I'm sure wasn't lost on him, but we simply pretended to be so at peace in the awesomeness of our wilderness surroundings that we couldn't possibly begin to register the presence of such a bore.  I have to give him credit for really trying to get our attention, by walking past our site several times stating to the world in general how he hadn't been called and missed out on the mass of the harvest.  As this didn't get any reaction from us, he then took to sitting at the end of the campground chugging bottles of soju and bemoaning his lot in life.  The way I looked at it was he could have come over and tried to actually start up some small talk, work the facts he had stated nicely into the conversation; I probably would have given him some, although I get the sense the couple of kilos I would have offered him wouldn't have tempered his indignation.

On the way home, I wondered if perhaps the lady had told us to take as many as we wanted to deny this neighbor his chance to mooch off them for the 26th year in a row; when you live in a small village, with the same neighbors for years and years, sometimes the relationship can be akin to an abusive marriage, with one party putting up with the shit to maintain some semblance of peace while the other works at the destruction of not only themselves but all those around them.  This way she would have a chance to laugh at him later, while being blameless for the reality of the situation.  He did seem the type, wearing a wife beater and all.

But now I've just heard another bunch drop, so best get to them.  I do need that second kimchi refrigerator after all. 


Anonymous said...

Gapyeong is a great little place to visit.

Chestnuts seem encourage large blog posts too.

F5Waeg said...

Glorious chestnuts!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You're just like a Korean now. Take as much as you want and screw everybody else.

F5Waeg said...

Aw are you trying to hurt my feelings? Mission accomplished.

Unknown said...

We grow lots of Korean pears-what I usually see is someone comes wanting to pick "just one bucket"-they end up going home with 12. lots of creative balancing to get that last pear into the pyramid stacked up far beyond the edge of the bucket,too. Something about these pears makes Koreans crazy.

F5Waeg said...

haha. . . we went to a friend's place a few weeks back and they had a ton of peach trees. . .they said pick as much as you want, so we took about a dozen. They then insisted we take another dozen. Awesome peaches they are! Can I come pick some pears? :)

Unknown said...

you'll have to come to Michigan to pick 'em.....

F5Waeg said...

dang. . .maybe next year

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