We go to the Otherworld ['jeoseung'] to earn money, and return to the earthly world ['iseung'] to save our kids.'
And when I emerge from the water, all of my worries and cares have somehow disappeared. “But the sea is turning white. There is no more seaweed left. The marine life is much less than it was in my youth. When a typhoon damages the farmers' crops, they are compensated by the government, but we are not compensated for the destruction of the sea by climate change—because the damage is invisible to those who do not enter the water.This is a haenyeo proverb. When I'm in the sea and the weather is bad, the water unclear, I often wonder: why am I doing this? But when it's a good day and the catch is in sight, my mind is completely empty except for my goal.
Government officials should get out of their offices and come down to the sea – to see for themselves the damages brought on by pollution and climate change. “We are a community. We fight at times, yet we are like a family.
Among ourselves, it's simply 'eonni' [sister] or 'samchun' [lit. 'uncle' but used generically for one's elder]. We hold our breath, go into cold water, and raise our kids...and we are brave, and we survive.”
Excerpted from "Portrait of a diving woman" by Anne Hilty
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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