Day 468

Sunday | June 9th, 2013

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There’s group on Facebook for expats in Gyeongju. Last week someone asked if anyone was interested in helping build a fence. I asked some questions and the poster seemed knowledgeable and holding a grand plan. I thought for a day or two whether I wanted to kiss a Sunday goodbye doing this, but in the end, it seemed more important to make a connection and help out a fellow expat/neighbor who had also put down roots in Gyeongju.

Those roots turned out to be a hanok in a little village and a small farm nearby. The expat, DH, raises goats for milk and cheese and the fence was going on the small farm to grow the goat herd. (At the CEC, KL and I used to talk about quitting and opening a small cheese factory in Seoul, so this whole thing instantly had my heart, beyond just being neighborly.)

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and ate a another great breakfast with Meow and MM. I waited anxiously with my good hammer during breakfast and finally left with MM around 10.00. We said our goodbyes in the street and went our ways.

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I was picked up on a corner by DH, who remarked I wouldn’t need a hammer. Indeed, the fence we would be building was a metal one consisting of pipes (above, left) and clamps. The farm is rented land with a large (like half acre) of vegetables. I met DH’s wife who was filing down the tops of the pilot poles they’d hammered into the ground a few days earlier. With DH, a sledgehammer and a ladder, we had to put the real pole over the pilot and use the sledgehammer to whack it down and into the ground further.

I went ahead and tried the first one of the day. I climbed the rickety ladder and awkwardly swung the sledgehammer down on the pole while DH held the ladder. That first one took forever to pound down, but all the others after it where more like pushing a knife through varied warmths of butter. We spent the first part of the morning like this, taking turns holding the ladder or whacking poles into the ground (above, right).

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Around lunch time we drove up to another farm with a similar pole/pipe fence to see how it was constructed. At this farm had deer and an elk (above, both) were raise for their horns which have medicinal applications in Korea. These were sad, skittish animals to look at. And an elk without antlers seemed very wrong. The flung elk spit at me while I was taking his picture.

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We got around all day in DH’s little van (above, left). I’ve always wanted one of these—as in, if I went back to the States and was going to take a road trip across the great states, I’d want this litte model as both friend and shelter for the trip. Across the way from the antler farm, the rest of the countryside looked amazing (above, right). What you can’t hear in the picture though is the highway with all of the cars and trucks and buses or the railroad tracks even farther off at the base of those mini-mountains.

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At DH’s hanok for lunch, I met the goats. They all have names. When they weren’t coming up to me and rubbing their heads against my leg or hand or seeking pets, they were shitting like rabbits and pissing like cows. I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to a goat. They are very strange animals.

DH’s wife made a great lunch of spaghetti with shrimp and goat cheese, a salad with a things from their own garden, boiled cauliflower and asparagus (from their garden!). They plied me with beer and crackers and more goat cheese and told me that the pay for helping with the fence was goat cheese!

I talked with DH’s wife for a little bit, too. She went to art school in Italy and is a sculptor. Her main work is in marble. She showed me her portfolio when I asked about some of the art in the house.

Back at the farm, with a clearer sense of how the cross pipes would attach to the poles, DH and I set about fencing. I had brought a coat with me, but didn’t wear it. And in the morning, I had remembered sunscreen, but decided it was cloudy enough that I didn’t need it. By the time we caught up with DH’s wife shaping the pilot poles, I was pretty red and a little out of it from being sunburnt.

DH gave me a lift home, but about halfway there we remembered that we hadn’t taken the goat cheese with us. When I got home, all Meow said was how red I was, then she asked for her goat cheese (I’d sent her a message). When I replied I forgot it, she got angry and wouldn’t talk to me. I tried to explain to her that my sunburn was a serious issue and I needed her help but she wasn’t taking me seriously. Very reluctantly, she helped a little.

I got to suffer the rest of the evening myself, the aloe I picked up in Japan in 2005 (the last time I was badly burnt) had finally been depleted and I was able to convince Meow to cut part of her aloe plant, but she still didn’t get how bad this burn was going to be. At night when I worked, I kept spraying cold water on my burning skin, but it didn’t do much to take the heat away.

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