You’re not telling me that potatoes actually grow here? I ask no one in particular, in disbelief.
I am standing in a ploughed field on a typical Korean farm, cityscape and traffic on one side, majestic mountains and beautiful natural scenery on the other. We have come here with the kindergarteners to plant potatoes on this fine April morning, when the weather is similar to how it usually is during the better weeks of summer in Ireland.
Terri follows my gaze towards the dusty, dry earth that forms furrows at our feet. She doesn’t look all that surprised by it, and gives me a patient “I don’t really see the problem here” sort of shrug.
But… but… it’s sand! I tried to explain. It’s like planting potatoes at the beach! You don’t plant things in ground like this!
I admit, I’m no farmer – I’m not even a decent gardener – but I do know that planting soil is supposed to be rich and dark and moist. I kick at a bit of the ‘soil’ in a dissatisfied way and watch in dismay as the clump my foot touches immediately disintegrates into fine sand and dust.
Oh, of course! says Terri, understanding suddenly coming across her face. You’re from the land of potatoes!
Well, yes, I suppose I am. I just never realised before that this meant I had naturally strong feelings about such things as the quality of soil. I remember the days of “helping” (I use the term loosely) my mum or my granny in the garden, when the best bit was getting covered in soil that could more accurately be described as ‘muck’. Muck to the eyeballs, they’d describe us afterwards. It smeared across your clothes and your face, stuck in clumps to your shoes, and packed itself tightly underneath your fingernails in a way that meant it took you forever to scrub it all out. Things in Ireland are, to sum it up, wet.
The differences in terms of nature here never really jumped out at me until now, watching the kids scrabbling around in the sand, and the farmer in his sun hat scraping diligently at the crumbly, sun-scorched earth.
But Korea’s not devoid of natural beauty – far from it! I’m getting excited about the nice weather now, because it means I can head out and explore (and photograph) some of the beautiful places I’ve so far only seen in pictures or from the window of a moving vehicle. Starting with the cherry blossoms on Saturday. Hooray for spring!
And summer can hold off for a very long time, as far as I’m concerned…