The Haenyeo Diaries: Day 19

After my brief trip to Seoul, it is nice to be back in familiar surroundings with the ocean in full view and the haenyeo, not surprisingly, still doing their daily dive. When I saw them earlier today, they asked where I had been, with the middle-aged haenyeo telling me she was worried that I had moved without giving them any notice. I chuckled and apologized to them while at the same time making a mental note to tell them of any future absences just in case.

Going out farther than any time before (well over 1km), I barely spotted the haenyeo and their orange buoys this afternoon. As they reached closer to shore, I could finally see them, so I made my way out to the paved walkway where they usually ascend from. Tourists and local fishers were also there to greet them. It was fairly routine procedure from there, but I did find it peculiar that the middle-aged haenyeo saved her two impressive muneo (octopus), which would have fetched well over 50,000 won. More than a few local buyers were ready to buy the coveted muneo. She later told me they were for the upcoming family chesa (ancestor ritual) that she had to prepare for on the weekend. For those unaware of the tradition, family members gather to honor and bow to their ancestors in front of an elaborate tabled filled with ancestor portraits, incense, and special dishes. She added that Jeju’s chesa rituals are more elaborate and laborious than mainland because Jejuites are descendants from nobility. It was nice learning something new today.

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