Benny plays Korean Farmville
In 2018, my parents announced that they were tired of the American rat race and moved to a traditional (really old) hanok home near Yeosu, South Korea. There’s a lot I want to share about why they decided to move here and the hardships they endured to get to this point, but this post is simply to share the simple life and the daily routine.
3am: Get woken up by a rooster making a god awful noise. I looked up why they do this and it’s because they have an internal clock that helps them anticipate sunrise and establish their territory for the day. Isn’t nature amazing? Unfortunately, one of the roosters in the neighborhood is an idiot so he starts 4 hours early which makes every other rooster wake up and crow too. Again, nature, amazing.
7am: Wake up for real and turn on the water boiler so everyone can have hot water to wash up. If the day looks really cold, I’ll go light a fire for the ondol (heating system) in the agungi (fireplace).
An ondol heating system is a traditional Korean architectural design that heats stones under the floors of the home. Korean people are culturally inclined to sit and lay on the floor for eating, sleeping, relaxing, etc so heated floors make a lot of sense here. My appa (dad) said that the idea that heat only moves upwards is very Western and that heat can travel sideways and can heat up the whole floor. Because we’re heating up stones, it takes a bit longer but the heat can hold all day. And I will say there is something about having a warm butt and a cold head that helps concentration.
8am: There were a few daily chores I had to take care of while staying here to help out my umma (mom). Most often, I’d have to chop up wooden pallets or trees for firewood to be used for cooking and eating. I also dug the garden quite a bit so my umma could bury food scraps and plant roots and vegetables. Sometimes I’d help with setting up for breakfast if we were eating a big meal.
9am: Take the dog out for a walk. Take some photos of the village. Pretty great views around here.
FAQ: OMG, so cute! What kind of dog is it?
A: We have no idea. It’s a country dog. It’s a mutt. We wish we knew so we could breed her and make more cute puppies but alas.
10am: Do some reading, watch the clouds. The nearest town is an hour by bus so not much else to do. You reading this is probably the same level of excitement I felt while being out here.
11am: Lunch prep. Appa works at a kimchi factory here so we usually have a lot of banchan (side dishes) that he brings home but umma still likes to do some of the stuff herself. I’d clean and prep radish, cabbage, and other vegetables for fermenting and turning into side dishes.
12pm: If the sun is out, I’d usually bundle up and set up on a camping chair to do some reading or watch some TV outside. If the blankets hadn’t been aired out in a while, I would take all our blankets and hang them up on clotheslines. Sometimes hung up laundry if there’s any.
1pm: Take a nap. Again, there really wasn’t much to do out here and I never said this routine would make you a millionaire or anything like that.
3pm: Clean out the ondol and light the fire again. Another added piece of our agungi is that it also doubles as a cooking fire. Sometimes I’d make rice or noodles in a huge pot and other times I would boil some mulberry bark which umma swears can cure cancer and other diseases (apparently there is some research to back this up but nothing substantial yet).
5pm: Once the waters boiled, I can use it for a half shower, half bath. Korean bathrooms typically don’t have a separate shower and you usually just stand next to the sink on the tiled floor to shower. But the water here never gets hot so I bring over boiled water to just pour on myself. Peak Glam.
7pm: Appa comes home and we eat dinner together. Sometimes we would cook a stew in the agungi which would last us at least a day or two worth of meals. Other times we grilled meat on a wood-fire grill. We always had some fresh fruits from the other villagers who see my parents as the babies of the village since the average age here is 85.
9pm: Lay down the blankets to get ready for bed. By now, the fire I had lit around 3–4pm would have heated up the floors for a nice, warm floor to sleep on except sometimes appa would wake up sweating because I never knew how much wood to burn.