There are two stories I wanted to share before ending the Korea trip blog. Firstly is finding Hanna’s grandma. It was quite the experience. We had just come from visiting her grandparents on her dad’s side; they lived in the mountains on the border of North Korea. We were driving to the ocean and had stopped to buy fishing equipment, because apparently the fishing was really good on the coast. As were driving I look out and see the scenery change from mountainous green to the flat, sand and rock strewn coast.
Eventually we stop and I’m told that Hanna’s grandma works in the morning and we are supposed to go out and find her. She works digging up shellfish. We need to help her bring back her catch of the day – since she is older and has difficulty bringing it back. Once we get out of the car and onto the shore I realize a potential problem. What we see is a huge field of mud with hundred’s of workers bent over digging through the mud with orange vests certifying that they are allowed to work. They all are wearing visors, making it difficult to see their faces. You can well imagine what I was thinking. How in the world are we going to find Hanna’s grandma? She could be anywhere midst the sea (haha) of workers. Yet unperturbed and very confident Hanna’s mom starts trekking through the mud. Hanna turns to me and tells me to follow the roads. I’m super confused as all I see is mud, very much lacking any type of road.
“Look to where the water collects, they make paths and those are the paths you are to follow. Otherwise you sink in the mud.”
Fantastic. So you can sink. But the “roads” started to become clearer as I followed Hanna – the water really did collect in trails that we could follow, steadily making our way through the workers determined to fill their netted-bags with shelled creatures. We followed Hanna’s mom until she yells a greeting to a bent over figure. The figure was indeed Hanna’s grandma but she barely stops to acknowledge us as she continues to dig up clams. I try to make my Korean-bow, which I got pretty good at doing, but I don’t think she even noticed. We were then told to start digging up shellfish of our own and putting it in a net. So we proceed to dig through the mud. It was such an interesting experience, and honestly it was pretty fun. Gave me flashbacks to elementary school when we would play with the ‘gadoue’ which is the french word for mud. We would also get in trouble for it, apparently it wasn’t what proper french kids are supposed to do. But anyway – finding clams was pretty hard. You had to lift a pack of mud and look under it and hope that you found some decent-sized clams. Sometimes you would pick up blobs which you thought were edible, but after cleaning it a bit you would find it to just be mud. Or open clams filled with mud.
After a few hours of picking up clams, and after over-turning a few large rocks and finding crabs, hermit crabs, weird oysters, and an octopus, we made our way to the car. Hanna’s grandma had collected somewhere around 130 lbs of clams. It was incredible. And that was all from the morning. Once we got home we put everything in a pot of boiling water (yes including the octopus) and ate it. That was definitely something that was unexpected. You really just eat everything in Korea.
The rest of the time at Hanna’s grandparent’s place by the ocean we slept and fished. The fishing is totally different from the fishing in a canoe in the American Boundary Waters. We fished off of a long cement dock, with shop fronts about fifty feet away. Not the quite the wilderness I was used to. Hanna’s mom caught eel, which I had never seen caught before. And the bait we used was some type of strange worm. It looked like a centipede except without an exoskeleton, so it was “soft” like a worm.
We made it back from Hanna’s grandparents safely spent the next week visiting old friends and buying presents to bring home. Oh ya – and I forgot to mention but Hanna’s grandma. She would always try and talk to me. Especially when Hanna was in the shower and Sam was sleeping. Cutest and most awkward thing ever. And she made no motions, so I couldn’t really quite make out any body language clues. So it was a lot of nodding, and smiling and “I really don’t speak Korean”. But all in all she told me – and this part Hanna was out of the shower so she could translate – that she wanted to see me again. Very sweet. And she gave me somewhere around 20 dollars while I was sleeping. That was an interesting discussion I had with Hanna about whether or not that was appropriate for her grandma to give me money. Mmhm…but yes. Very nice woman. Hopefully I’ll speak more Korean the next time I end up there.