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The Goodheart and Whitecorn Adventures "I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." Rosalia de Castro

Jeju WWOOFing style

SOUTH KOREA | Thursday, 30 April 2015 | Views [1185]

Hello! I promised you a post on WWOOFing on Jeju Island in South Korea and that is what I will give you!

For those of you who don’t know- WWOOFing is volunteering on a farm in return for room and board. Typically you work anywhere between 4 and 8 hours a day, depending on what your host family needs. This is a program that has posts all over the world. The average stay is about 2 weeks, but if the farm is flexible you can stay longer or shorter. Jeju Island is a small island off the southern coast of South Korea. It is touted by Korea as the “island of the gods” and the “Hawaii of Korea”.  It is a volcanic island that is known for its peanuts, oranges, and shellfish.  It seems, however, just about anything edible that is grown on Jeju is worth a pretty hefty sum on the mainland.

We chose to spend our time on a small farm on the southeast of the island. This organic farm is run by an absolutely lovely woman named Sungboon. She has two children- ages 6 and 3 and her husband is an archivist for Jeju City. The farm grows several different kinds of foods including tangerines, lettuces, and root vegetables. She also makes her own vinegar, soy sauce, and kimchi.

We arrived at night on a Monday. Without a phone we were a little nervous about being stranded or lost, but Sungboon pulled up to the bus stop in her truck within 3 minutes of our arrival and greeted us with a giant hug. We were immediately set at ease and she immediately prepped us for the following day. On Tuesdays she has several neighborhood children over that are around the same age as her oldest son. She tries to do cultural activities with them and when WWOOFers are visiting this means having the WWOOFer cook something that is traditional to their home country with the children and teach them a game. Well hello to you too! Haha We were given a private room with a traditional Korean bed…two foam mats on a floor. While we never got to truly experience this, the cool thing about said floor was that it is actually the top of a fireplace of sorts. In the winter families light a fire in a chamber underneath the house (in this case under our bed) which heats the floor and keeps you and the house warm. Pretty nifty no? Assuming we were hungry, our dear hosts set about heating up some food for us, we ate, and retired to our room.

Goodheart and I thought hard about what to cook the next day but let’s be real- what else do you consider “American” food besides hamburgers and hot dogs? Those were off limits so…Whitecorn stepped up to the plate and decided to make…Indian (Navajo would have been too confusing) Tacos. Yay! This turned out to be a bit more of an interesting process than expected as the cheese selection in Korea is fairly limited and there were no pinto beans to be found on Jeju. Also, chili translated into bell pepper but whatever. We also decided to teach the children the game Duck, Duck, Goose. We passed night one peacefully and got to work right away the next morning. The children weren’t scheduled to be at the house until 2pm so Sungboon sent us into the tangerine trees. Our job was to essentially seal off parts of the trees that had been cut off recently due to a fungal infection of some sort. We spent the morning painting orange goo on the trees while Sungboon ran off to meetings. In the afternoon when the kids came Whitecorn got their assistance making frybread and they all got their own little Indian taco. The verdict? “Tastes like heaven!” I kid you not, that is a direct quote. Well, they said it in Korean and Sungboon translated anyway. But it HAD to be true because Sungboon requested Whitecorn make them for dinner too. The downfalls of being a good cook. Haha The kids also loooooved Duck Duck Goose which was hilarious to watch and participate in. After the kids left Whitecorn prepped the dough for dinner which ended up being a huge hit with the kids, father, and neighbor who stopped in! So, it’s official folks- rez food had made it to Korea!

We were given the next day off (we were shocked too!) and we took a trip to a little island called Udo which is just off the northeast coast of Jeju. This island is small enough that we were able to walk the entire thing in our day. The real highlight though was the incredible ice cream served just below the lighthouse on the island. Udo is known for its peanut ice cream and the place we chose served mandarin ice cream as well. WOW.  Pricey, but so worth it.

Honestly the rest of our time on Jeju was a bit of a blur. Our work on the farm included cleaning out the two open and two closed greenhouses, planting taro root and two other mystery vegetables that we kept forgetting to ask about, and helping with housework. Off the farm, but still considered “work” was gosari picking. Gosari is a Korean word for bracken. In case you don’t know (and we didn’t) bracken is essentially a fern. Gosari is used in Korean cooking- it is picked while still young, boiled, dried, and later thrown in soups, salads, or fried up. Naturally, Jeju gosari is a big deal on mainland Korea and we went on several trips with Sungboon to go picking. This was probably our favorite job on the farm. It’s a bit like a scavenger hunt but with only one thing to look for. We picked A LOT of gosari.

Aside from working Sungboon insisted on giving us a decent amount of time off to explore Jeju. One day she took us to climb a big hill about a 30 minute drive from her home. It was a great hike and we got an incredible view of the island. Another day she sent us to Micheongul Cave located in the cheesy but pleasant Ilchul Land grounds. No, this isn’t an amusement park…it’s sort of garden-esque but certainly nothing spectacular. The cave was small and interesting, but I admit we were a bit spoiled cave in Vietnam. Jeju also has walking/hiking paths that go around the entire island. One day we took route #8 and saw Cheonjeyeon Falls, Yakcheonsa Temple, Jusangjeolli cliffs, and Seonimgyo Bridge among other smaller sites. Sungboon also gave us a private tour of sorts of a Folk Village where we learned about old Jeju customs.

If you couldn’t tell, Sungboon is an exceptional host. We felt like we should have done more work for her but she insisted on helping us see the island. Our final day there she prepared a huge barbeque for us (and I mean HUGE) which we shared with the WWOOFer replacing us and two women who stopped by for a visit (one woman was the mother of a WWOOFer who had stayed on the farm last summer). After dinner we were invited to her neighbor’s house where the neighbor’s 10 year old son played the drums for us. It was a perfect end to our stay.

I know everyone is always anxious for more but that’s really all I have time for now. We miss you all!


Tags: wwoof



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