Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the road's edge - Mermaids of Jejudo

one of the special things about traveling by bicycle is that movement takes places on the outside the places between the places.   it's not so much about machu picchu or angkor wat but the unexpected bits tucked between the folds of the journey.  over the years, I've met some of the most interesting people because i was moving at a pace that allowed for two-way observation.  

i've decided to share some of my encounters with the people I've met on the side of the road in a regular blog entry called the road's edge
First up--the living sea goddesses of South Korea's Jejudo Island--haenyeo.  
Jejudo Island is a tropical paradise just south of South Korea's Austral coast. It's a haven for world class golf courses and nature reserves.  It's also one of the only matriarchal societies in Asia. 

Why? there's a marginal water supply on the island so land-based crops have not managed to offset harvesting sea life as the primary food source (abalone, sea urchin).  Free-diving is how it's done.  Women tend to be more resilient to cold water temperatures and often make the best divers--and, over time, they have become the primary bread winners on Jejudo.  

It's a fascinating story.  The haenyeo have even been credited for leading Korea's independence from Japan. Follow this link to learn more.

I was lucky enough to meet some while cycling around Jejudo Island earlier this year. 

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