As I was preparing to go to my afterschool class this afternoon, my co-T received a phone call. She turned to me when she hung up.
“The parking lot behind the school. Fire and wheat! And blow!” she said, miming blowing something out of her hand.
“Fire and wheat? I don’t understand…”
“Korean tradition. Go!”
I went. I was going anyway, I had class. But on my way, I swung by the parking lot behind the school. I could smell the fire from the stairwell. When I went out the back door, I simply followed the billowing smoke to find the fire.
I rounded the corner and found that my co-T had been correct: there was fire, there was wheat, and there was a lot of blowing.
The vice-principal, a few teachers and about a dozen grimy children crouched around a large smoldering pile of pine needles. Everyone clutched long stalks of wheat and held them over the fire, presumably to cook them.
They caught sight of me and I was surrounded by sooty, snotty little ones. Desperately I tried to avoid their blackened hands as I was dragged over to the fire.
“Here, Carrie-teacher!” one of my urchins said, handing me a handful of tiny hot grains. “You try!”
“Oh, thanks,” I replied, trying one under the watchful eyes of the crowd. “Delicious!”
They were pretty tasteless actually, just hot and chewy. I had my doubts the wheat was actually cooked. Wasn’t there some sort of parasite you could get from uncooked wheat? Oh well. Too late now.
The children broke the hot, blackened heads off the wheat stalks then rubbed them vigorously between their palms. The little wheat grains popped out and they blew the wheat casings away.
It was amazing. The supervision was sporadic- teachers came and went. There wasn’t a fire extinguisher or first aid box in sight. The children were happily burning things and sticking their hands into the flames to get their wheat. Some of the children were so covered in soot they were barely recognizable.
Good times. 😀