Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Eumseong Experience Part One

On the weekend of April 19th and 20th we ventured out of Seoul with some friends and a tour group through Adventure Korea. Hokunani and Dana asked if we wanted to go with them for a weekend in Eumseong which featured a festival and then the next day, hiking up Mount Worak. We took a look and the price was right (85,000 won/person including meals, transportation and accommodation) and off we went. Brace yourself because there are a lot of pictures. Oh if you look on the Adventure Korea site you can find the trip report for the "Eumseong Busker Festival" where you can read someone else's account and see a group picture.

It was an interesting morning since we were all supposed to meet at a certain location and time to get picked up by the tour bus but unluckily, Dana and Curtis miscalculated and were thisclose to missing the tour. I was sweating bullets for them. I actually can't believe they held the bus since they were pretty late but someone was smiling down on them and they managed to make it. The bus ride was pretty uneventful and then we arrived at the festival.
It was an amazing day- probably about 27C and not a cloud in the sky. Something I noticed as soon as we got there... Our group consisted of the only non-Korean people at the festival. And we were sort of herded off from one event to another. Don't get me wrong, I had a brilliant time, but it was clear that we were there to provide entertainment to the Korean people. It was a bit like being an animal at the zoo. First off we all dressed up in beggar/busker clothing and lined up to have our faces painted. I took some time to mash the ddak (Korean rice cake) with a mallet so as it turned out, by the time I got to the front of the line there were no more beggar costumes left. Oh well. Like I mentioned, it was a sweltering day and adding an extra layer of clothing wasn't that appealing anyway.
As you can see, everyone looked really cute. Dana and Hokunani both ended up with "Chief" beggar costumes, while Matt was a measly underling. Hahah! Everyone was painted up to look really dirty and pathetic. Lots of tears, wacky mouths, scars and snotty noses. Well, not everyone ended up like this. I sat down to get my face painted even though I didn't have a costume (neither did Curtis for that matter) and the lady wordlessly went to work. Next thing I know, I am getting a few strange glances. She finishes up and lo and behold... I am a watermelon!
Something I forgot to mention. Apparently the mayor decided there would be a festival photography contest so everyone was trying to get the best shot of the festival activities. I honestly feel like I know how it is to be hounded by the paparazzi. Seriously. It was a gong show. And I found myself going through phases. Like at first I was more than happy to pose and ham it up. Hence the picture where Matt is trying to eat my face and I am attempting to look terrified but doing a terrible job because I am laughing so much at the paparazzi. But as time went on it wasn't quite as fun and near the end I was a bit annoyed with it. Like, I just want to live a normal life!!!
Check out those huge lens!!! And they would beg you for just one more picture. They followed everyone around and would sometimes request you to pose a certain way or to pose with their relative. It was so crazy! Or they would sneak up on you when you were talking to your friend in order to get a "natural" picture. But it was so distracting! I can't help it, if I have a massive telephoto lens in my face I cannot carry on a natural conversation.
Then it was lunch time. They filled a giant wooden box with bibimbap ingredients and stirred it up with huge paddles. It was tasty but the photographers went nuts trying to capture pictures of insane foreigners wearing crazy costumes with painted faces eating Korean food. It was a bit much.

Then Dana made a friend. I love this picture of her busting a move with this tiny, adorable old lady!!! Let me tell you, she had moves (the old lady... haha!).

We were given a bit of a break so that they could liquor us up. Hey, it was free, so whatever! There was makkoli for everyone! This was another brilliant ploy- get the foreigners drunk and then corral them on stage to dance and be silly in the guise of a dance contest. Again, it was fun but it was a bit of evil genius to get us all to pay to be the entertainment. I wonder if the tour group was getting a cut or something for providing us to the festival. Sort of like sacrificial lambs or something. Everyone who participated did get a box of red pepper powder though. Go-chu power!
The next stop was to learn a bit more of the performance art of busking. Some of us got to try out the instruments and we all really enjoyed watching a professional show us how it's done. I took a little video of it and I will make a separate post with it later.

Afterwards we were shuffled off to another location and everyone who didn't get to try the instruments were given a chance. I sucked it big time. I was trying and then a Korean guy pushed me out of the way. Bwhahah! Oh well, I have other talents! This was pretty much the end of our scheduled festival activities and after we took a group photo we had time to browse around the festival.
We ate ice cream, watched some performances, took pictures, bought souvenirs, drank more makkoli, and Matt even tried his hand at a shooting game and won a yo yo! There was a beautiful flower and cactus exhibit too that we meandered through admiring people's hard work (this was a competition too and you could also buy other plants). The festival was really amazing and I am glad I was able to experience it. Who knows, maybe my watermelon face will be in the winning photograph!


Carter said...

Wow!! I can't believe the people with their cameras. Don't they see foreigners there??
No one else dressed up??

Anonymous said...

BAHAHA They painted a watermelon on your face!

ambearo said...

No one dressed up except the professional performers... It was a total set up!

Yeah, do I look like a watermelon? It's my inner fruit coming out I think.