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I Will Work For Korean Food

It’s that time of year – the vineyards are lush with succulent grapes awaiting to be picked and soon to be eaten or carefully crafted into tasty grape juice or wine. And with my love for anything to do with vineyards, grapes, and wine, I pounced on the opportunity to help Jin, my best Korean friend, and her family during prime grape harvest season at their vineyard in Daegot, South Korea.

Jin’s vineyard – Daegot, South Korea

Having worked an entire grape harvest season in France exactly four years ago and several small grape-harvesting stints at small wineries in northern California during my tenure at Chico State, I am quite experienced in dealing with the demanding workload during harvest time. In France, the work was super demanding to the point that I injured a knee somewhat severely on the last day and I endured pain for a few months afterward, however, I luckily had a thick wad of under-the-table cash to show for it.  Despite getting injured, it was a super enjoyable experience and one the most rewarding periods in my life.

Now I met Jin within a month after my arrival to Korea almost two years ago, and during our first outing she explained that her family had a vineyard after I elicited mighty enthusiasm for wine. Even though grape harvest season had recently passed,  I offered my free assistance for the following harvest season. Well, I then unfortunately missed out on last year’s harvest because I was in Japan at the time, but I didn’t lose hope, I knew the opportunity would arise yet again.

I kept tabs on when Jin’s family would begin their grape harvest, and when the time came, I offered a hand during an entire Saturday (and perhaps a few more Saturdays this month) in picking grapes and doing whatever may need to be done around the vineyard and their small grape facility in exchange for a pleasant homemade Korean dinner with her and her family after the day’s work is completed. With how I already genuinely feel about vineyard work, the Korean dinner was a definite bonus.

So the day was filled with multiple tasks:

Picking Grapes

Picking Grapes – Photo 2

Hauling Grapes

Carrying Grapes

Examining Grapes

De-stemming Grapes

Cooking Grapes

Squeezing Grapes

Making 100% Grape Juice Packets

Some grapes will be used for wine, but Jin’s family does not make very much of it as their business primarily relies on making this specialty “Gimpo Grape” juice that sells out very quickly. Now, I haven’t really had a good Korean wine yet that I’d like to drink regularly, but I this grape juice was fantastic and I’d drink it every day if I could.

Amid working the vineyard and inside the juice-making facility, I caught myself several times pondering the prospect of owning a vineyard and living in the countryside. Most people probably wouldn’t look at Daegot and see it as paradise, but I surely see it that way. It’s beautiful. It’s peaceful. It’s simple. What more could a person ask for?

In addition to a number of simple, far-off countryside places I’ve visited and worked in around the world, I’ve always found I have a connection with nature and the countryside, a somewhat God-given connection that cannot exactly be put into words. I essentially have a deep fondness for the solace I always feel when I’m in the countryside, especially surrounded by vineyards amid profound silence.

Even though working the countryside land is rather peaceful, it isn’t easy. It requires much diligence and discipline as one’s livelihood depends on what the land grows, and special care and daily attention must be given to what is being grown. In addition, every day is a gamble regarding the weather, which can make or break one’s crop in a matter of days regardless of any precautions that had been made. However, amid inviting me to their local Korean church on several occasions, Jin’s family appeared so content and happy in their daily work, and this reminded me of a verse in one of my favorite books in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20 “This is what I have observed to be good: that is is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink, and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them – for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”

While working the vineyards I was reminded of this verse, and I realized that although the work was quite hard and demanding, I found huge satisfaction at the end of the day and was filled with gladness of heart given from God… in addition to a generous portion of my favorite Korean food.

Vineyards – Daegot, South Korea

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This entry was posted on September 4, 2012 by in South Korea and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.”

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