Pastoral in Busan by Steve Chang

Labors

What was a stream splitting the heart of the city, the 온천천 has been dug out and widened into a sunken recreational area, a brown flood channel hemmed in by bike lanes and walkways, winding for miles, bordered by concrete embankments.

 

By its marshy banks, old women stoop among the stones, picking young bitter greens and mugwort. Wearing visors and sun-bleached neckerchiefs, they fill plastic bags to brew teas, to flavor rice cakes and soups.

 

Whole city blocks of high-rise apartment buildings tower above as they work, but the women are oblivious to that world, to the trains rattling by on the elevated rails of Line 1 that here will follow the shaded water for a few more bends.