September 27, 2010

Andong Mask Festival

I have to apologize, this is going to be a long post with lots and lots of pictures! Luckily, you can click the picture and it will open it up much larger, if you would like to see better details. Just click the "Back" button to return to the blog.

This past weekend Laura and I went to Andong's Hahoe Folk Village for a Mask Dance Festival. The village is a beautiful and set in the mountains.

Hahoe is notable because it features preserved Joseon Dynasty architecture.

The first performance was a traditional Korean dance, which was similar to a play - the characters had masks on but microphones underneath. It seemed like it was supposed to be funny, as everyone was laughing, but it was entirely in Korean.

The masks are rather simple, but have very exaggerated facial expressions.

The next two performances were drum ensembles. They were younger students, and very talented. The video below is the older group, six girls and two boys.

After performances with masks, it was interesting to see the young students perform with the masks pulled up on their heads. I could see their concentration and fear easily, but they did wonderfully.

Next was a Thai group; it is an international festival. The rest of the pictures will be from their company. I didn't stay long enough to see the next group, which was Malaysian.

As far as I could tell, the focus was primarily on subtle movements of the hand and feet, rather than rhythmic movements one imagines when they think of African traditional dances. It was all quite precise, and technically impressive.

These guys were awesome! When I go to Thailand (with Tricia, Mom, and Dad) I hope we can see some of these performances while we are there.

Laura and I met with them after and got some pictures with the Thai performers. Laura actually bought a wooden sword and battled one of the guys! haha!

I love the totem poles in Korea. I am still on the hunt for miniature ones that I can get as a souvenir, for now I will settle with my two Korean masks.

September 24, 2010

Chuseok Adventure Part 2

Busan is the location of the United Nations War Memorial
(for the Korean War, or as its called here "The War").

The UN Guards were very interested in me, why I was there, and where I was from. Their English was impeccable and if I had the time I would have wanted to stay and hear their story, what lead them to the UN, what it was like working at such a historically significant site.

They had a huge list of causalities listed by country (and in the US section, by states).

The cemetery was set up by country, and had a section for unidentified fallen soldiers. It was rather busy because of the holiday, but was quite a solemn affair nonetheless. A few countries had statues by the graves, one in particular had "We will never forget you fallen sons of Canada" inscribed on it. There were very few graves for American soldiers, although was one of the longest lists of deaths on the Wall of Remembrance.

I had enough time to see the National Museum of Busan (remember the National Museum of Daegu from a few weeks back?). It was a pretty interesting place, actually. I liked exhibit about the folk masks best. They have me pretty excited about the Andong Mask Festival that I am going to tomorrow.

There was a tribe in Busan that intentionally flattened their heads and removed their front teeth. The skulls were shocking. I wish I read Korean, and could have read more about the history, the English explanations were lacking.

I went to the Beomeosa Temple, which is located just outside of the city, partway up a mountain. This is in the temple entrance, protectors of the temple.

This is one of the "bad guys" by the protectors' feet.

The temples color's were more based on yellows than the other temples I have been to. I loved the colors and paint was elaborate and beautiful.

I love the bells handing from the corners of the temples, I finally broke down and bought a small one for my apartment with a little fish hanging from it.

These are slabs that you can write prayers or wishes on, for a price, and the monks will pray for you. For Chuseok, I assume, they allowed people to paint on them.

I left the temple, having taken a taxi there, without really knowing how to get back to the city. I ended up walking about 20 minutes down a one way road looking for a bus or cab. Unplanned travel is exciting and open to change. It was nice to not be on a schedule.

It was a great vacation. I spent some time at the beach and in the hotel pool, I greatly appreciated having a bathtub again. A friend joined me for a day trip, we checked out the bars around the beach, and attempted to go to the world's largest department store, which was closed for the holiday. Even just wandering around the place was interesting though - they have a movie theater and an ice rink inside! As fun as it was in Busan, I am happy to be home and back with my cat, who seems needier than ever since I've come back!

September 23, 2010

Chuseok Adventure Part 1

Chuseok! Its a Korean holiday for the harvest, similar to America's Thanksgiving. It means Tuesday to Thursday off work, and great deals on holidays in beach resort towns because most Koreans are with their families and September marks the end of beach season here, supposedly. So I packed up my luggage with clothing appropriate for wherever the week would lead me and a few bottles of wine and went south. Busan is beautiful, my hotel was on the beach and lovely. I was traveling alone and felt invigorated by the freedom.

Busan's Museum of Modern Art was having its Biennale, which is a biannual exhibit. This year's theme was Evolution, which, from my understanding, isn't a contentious issue in Korea. There seem to be references to evolution in every museum I go to here, actually.

This was the exhibit featured on the advertising campaigns, and it really captured my interest. Everything was set up on sand and was about as thin as a sheet of paper. The images really popped against the background and I spent a lot of time trying to guess their connections to one another.

This is a representation of how much blood the human heart pumps in one hour and twenty-eight minutes. Its a mind-blowing amount.

I miss my bright orange Buddha.

This reminds me of Rebekah. Also, its been installed in a handful of pretty cool places. You can see the pictures at the bottom of this shot, of abandoned apartment complexes and houses, a pile of rubble - the bird cages and broken dishes have been hung there, too, which would have actually been a much cooler location to view them.

I love aquariums, so of course I had to go here.

But the main pull was the fact that I am going to go swimming in this tank later this year! I discovered that you can, without a diving certification, dive in the shark tank for a really reasonable price. I checked out the aquarium and made sure it seemed worth the trip - it totally does, check out this video:

I tried to get a picture with a shark, but couldn't. I am really excited regardless.

I took a ton of pictures, and will look through them and update more soon - I also went to the UN Memorial Cemetery, the world's biggest department store, and Beomeosa Temple. You can expect more soon :]

September 19, 2010

Apsan Park

This weekend Corinne and I decided to go hiking. As I am sure most of you know, I don't hike. It was an experience. In Korea, there are no switchbacks - you don't hike at an angle going up, but instead it is straight up. As some points it is stairs, other times just large rocks with uncomfortable points coming out of them. Needless to say, we stayed out far too late the night before, and went anyway.
We were quite the troopers.

Reading the Korean signs, we basically just walked towards the arrows on whims. Our goal was to to hike up and see a few temples and then walk to the cable car and take it up to the top. We ended up hiking 2 km in the wrong direction, but ran into the temples regardless.

(The rest of these pictures were taken by Corinne, because my camera's batteries died, and her camera is awesome.)

At some point we decided we must be going the wrong direction, and double backed. Luckily we were right, and found the way to the cable car.

It was a pretty amazing experience.

This should give you an idea of what hiking in Korea is like. These are not smooth cobblestones, but sharp, pointed rocks I could feel through my sneakers. And of course the stairs.

Random playscape items on the side of a mountain.

The pictures really cannot capture how amazing this was. We could see the entire city of Daegu from the top. We arrived at the perfect time to see the sun setting, it was worth the sore legs the next day!