Amy’s rabbit (which, I should point out, actually belongs to her friend Laura – Amy’s looking after him while Laura does some travelling, which, like mine, could end up taking a very long time indeed) continues to delight and entertain us. He has an excellent selection of rabbit food (two types), hay, greens (three types) and sundry vegetables (carrot) but still prefers to gnaw on a cardboard box, sending echoes around the apartment (it’s two-ply corrugated and quite sturdy). He also has a penchant for books, and, having been dragged away from important volumes like Amy’s Korean dictionary, seems happy with the Supreme Master’s Guide to Instant Enlightenment and a Hare Krishna recipe book – paralleling Manny’s encounter with The Little Book of Calm (from Black Books, which Amy introduced me to – are there any brilliant shows she doesn’t know about?), we’re going to have one spiritual bunny on our hands.
Back on the farm, the pumpkin field seems to be full – though I’m wary of more baby plants being produced from somewhere. As I was busy planting, my host produced a weed-whacker which didn’t resemble a trimmer so much as a sharpened helicopter tail rotor complete with a backpack-mounted supercharged engine, and proceeded to ruthlessly cut down all vegetation within two metres of the field. Apparently, potatoes had been growing underneath the greenery and it was now time to dig them out – a job made difficult by the lack of any visible potato plants. Therefore, I had to carefully dig up every square foot of the row with a homi (Korean trowel; like a small, sharp, triangular hoe) until I hit a potato seam and then extract the potatoes without damaging them too much.
It started to rain again in the afternoon, so we headed into town for “shopping” – and actually did none, unless one counts buying dinner. First of all, we met some council employees and drove out to where the city is building a new road. My host pointed out some kind of plant (it looked a bit like heather), and everyone tasted some. Then they uprooted it and took it away – I can’t figure out whether it was rare and needed protecting from the road work, or just delicious and able to be cultivated. After this, we went to the local supermarket where my host negotiated to get his pumpkins on the shelves (with some success, I believe). A florist was next on our to-visit list, but this was just a social call (I was given some books on Korean paper crafts – in Korean – and a tea box), as was the junior school football match we went to afterwards. By this time, we were getting a bit hungry and my host made numerous calls to local eateries to try and find something vegetarian – he succeeded, and (of course) when the food came it was full of shellfish. The junior school football coach joined us, and we went to pay a call on the mayor of Hwaseong afterwards but he wasn’t in. I seem to be something of a minor celebrity.
Friday came round tolerably quickly, and I zoomed back to Yongin and Amy’s amazing lasagne (two types – one tomato; one aubergine) and desserts (two types – one chocolate courgette cake; one chocolate tart). We ate, played with the bunny, had a quick round of backgammon and made some weekend plans. Saturday was initially mooted for a half-day in Seoul shopping for various electronic goods, but we went straight to meet Amy’s friend Tommy in a yoghurt cafe in Chungju for a game of Killer Bunnies. This is a complicated card game, devised by engineers and full of science fiction references and nerd-friendly quirks. Despite playing brilliantly (for a total newcomer), unleashing such horrors as the Cyber Bunny, Trojan Bunny and an earthquake, the Magic Carrot wasn’t one of mine. We filled in the time until the next bus with a round of Condottiere (a Risk-like conquest game set in renaissance Italy, which I won) and, due to me mixing some times up, missed the last bus to Yongin. This necessitated a diversion via Icheon, but we got back with a logical puzzle and several Puzzle Quest quests under our collective belt.
Sunday dawned bright and sunny, and (at my suggestion) we cleaned out Amy’s fridge – giving, as ever, a fine sense of achievement. We then headed out to Yongin Multi-Cultural Festival, a fairly large event to celebrate the culture of the various Asian migrant workers in the area (one vendor took me for a Russian, adding to the long list of nationalities I’ve been wrongly assumed of being). There was little vegetarian food, but we did get some excellent Bangladeshi rice, samosa and yoghurt before heading into the event proper. Each country had a small area stuffed with traditional artefacts and clothing, and after painting a fan (nominally an activity for children) we wandered around for a while watching some of the goings-on and taking the opportunity to try on some Mongolian clothing. The cultural performances mainly centred around music and dance, but the Korean taekwondo demonstration stole the show with a Michael Jackson-themed display of energetic gymnastics and precision choreography.
Back at the farm, my tenure was renewed until the end of October (and possibly later – talks will recommence nearer the time) and I went back to digging potatoes (my kingdom for a garden fork). We went out to Hwaseong City Hall one morning to (presumably) check out planning regulations and plans for an area of fields (again, I think I was there to add credibility to the farm as an international institution), which seemed to go well. On the way out, my attention was grabbed by a large display entitled Mars Belongs to Hwaseong City, with concept art of Mars after terraforming and settlement by (presumably) some of Hwaseong’s adventurous population. This is not a joke.