Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Grandmother on the Sled and 맛조개

In the northern hemisphere of this orb that is home, it is hot.  Thanks to that wobble, it's summer time, and it's supposed to be hot...and humid...and sultry.  It's that time of the season when a lot of people just stay inside.

So, I was surprised when my wife said she would join me on the trip to west Suncheon Bay.  I suppose my offer of paying for dinner at the octopus restaurant was too good to pass up in spite of the weather.  There is a dandy octopus restaurant right on the coast on the west side that serves up different dishes of cephalopod mollusc -- from the tame non-spicy soup that we order due to my ulcer to the metal melting spicy dish that not only exacerbates an ulcer, but opens it up to bleed for days on end.  My doctor would nod in approval my choice to eat the non-spicy delicacy.

My wife went into the restaurant while I strolled along the coast to photograph a rather large fishing vessel and a barge.  Along came a grandmother pushing her own wheelchair.  I made her smile when I spoke a few Korean words.  She stopped to chat.  She told me that she learned to say "hello, hello" in English.  We both enjoyed a good chuckle with that one.  

Grandmother then performed the almost obligatory frisking and patting that would made any US cop proud; I probably should have started a count years ago when I realized that those about a decade younger than I to the near deathbed grandmothers will want to made some sort of contact.  I had to learn not to flinch and not to become flustered.  Anyway, after a while we said our good byes and she continued along the road pushing her wheelchair.

Shortly afterwards my wife called to say that the meal was being served.  I walked to the restaurant, and we enjoyed a lovely meal.  Scissors are an essential and necessary utensil during almost any meal in Korea.  Scissors are used to cut all manner of different foods from vegetables to meats.  I haven't become used to the ink pouring out of the head of an octopus when I scissor it to bite sized proportions.  It's tasty, yes, but I can't shake that feeling that I'm chewing on a Bic pen.  

While eating our meal, a Korean family entered the restaurant.  The youngest son saw me, and he stopped in his tracks.  He bowed and began to speak in English.  His older brother was all smiles, though he didn't join the conversation.  The parents and the grandmother smiled, too.  I shall refrain from comments and any judgment about education costs and time, but I will say the young boy was conversant and delightful.

While the earth continued its non-stop rotation that marks the days for humanity, I walked the seawall after dinner.  In the distance I saw one of the mud people I've come to enjoy photographing.  During the low tide on Suncheon Bay, the harvesters will kneel on a wooden sled and leg it to the seafood farms that frequent the coast.  The west side of the bay has extensive and large farms.  The person in question was returning to shore after collecting a basket full of seafood.

The distance was too great for me to see any detail, but the photograph below is the person returning to base.  I walked to the top of the stairs while this person was using a bowl to rinse off the mud of the bay.  I was completely caught off guard when I saw the harvester to be a grandmother in her late 70's or early 80's.

She was weathered and bowed down, but was smiling while we talked.  She waved me down the concrete steps, and asked if I wanted some 맛주개 -- razor clams.  She had quite a large amount in her basket.  I said yes, and she gave me a mesh bag to hold as she scooped some of the shelled creatures into the bag.  I then helped her carry her gear up the stairs all the while my camera was dangling from my neck.  She had a hand dolly waiting at the top of the seawall so she could wheel the catch home with ease.  

Grandmother on the Sled
© Mark Eaton

The haul was very heavy, and I wondered at the number of years this woman legged to and from the belly of the bay on a mud sled to harvest that which a large majority of us take for granted.  And she was smiling all the while during our chat.  She was soaking wet from her trip into the bay and from washing herself down after returning to her base.  Worn black leggings so popular with Korean women, an outlandishly designed shirt so favored with the elder generation in Korea, a cap that protected the ears from the winds, and a pair of plastic shoes that I often have seen worn by the inhabitants of fishing villages -- the attire of a grandmother whose work feeds countless people.

This is what grandmother gave to me.  All I could give in return was a helping hand with her gear up the concrete stairs.  Maybe that was enough, but I don't feel it.

 맛조개 -- Razor Clams
© Mark Eaton

No comments:

Post a Comment