Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mask Dance

After a short stint in Japan, Korea wanted to welcome me back with open arms. How, you may ask?  By giving me some beautiful fall weather chock full of festivals, that's how. To kick it off I ventured up to Andong with Sara and Amanda for the second (and final) weekend of the International Maskdance Festival.  Andong is just over an hour north of my town but I've yet to travel there, I guess part of me was intentionally saving the visit for this festival. Having just gotten back into the country the Wednesday before the three of us opted for a Saturday departure, arriving in Andong around lunchtime.  We found our hostel (The Peter Pan Guesthouse)  with ease and then made our way towards the festival, which was conveniently only a short walk away. The walk was made even shorter thanks to a shouting Ajumma who, we thought, was trying to shoo us away, when in reality she was leading us down a great shortcut. 

Once we arrived at the festival we were presented with row upon row of tents with vendors selling a variety of Korean goods, souvenirs and of course, food.  We were all a bit hungry and decided that 패전 would hit the spot, and what goes better with  패전 than some 동동조 (traditional Korean rice wine).  After lunch we made our way deeper into the festival grounds to see what else was in store for us.  There were row upon row of random booths selling everything from jewelry to traditional Korean snacks and of course hiking gear.    We spotted a group of Koreans dressed in blue vests holding "free hug" signs, feeling adventurous we decided to approach and see if we could get a hug. Turns out their signs had nothing to do with the booth they were working at, and to be honest i'm still not sure what their mission was.  We answered a few trivia questions (actually they gave us the answer to two of them) were awarded some free ice cream, and were then on our way laughing and wondering what had just happened.  After making our way past all these tents we found the main stage and more of the traditional mask displays.  The afternoon heat was wearing on us so we decided to sit and take in a few performances.
creepy mask puppets 

After a few performances and more roaming we decided to make the trip to the Hahoe Village on the opposite side of town. The village is about 40 minutes outside of town but is famous throughout the country as it offers a glimpse into traditional living with tile-roofed and thatched roof houses from the Joseon Dynasty.   This weekend the village was host to the second half of the festival, and that evening there was traditional fold music and fireworks on the schedule so we didn't want to miss out.  Before heading into the village we stopped for dinner, eager to try to local dish 안동 찜닭 [Andong Jimdak] which is a spicy chicken dish with vegetables and "glass noodles", basically delicious. (Although if I could be picky for a second - it'd be nice to have this in a boneless version, picking meat off unidentified sections of chicken parts is getting old).

안동  찜닭
Unfortunately by the time we got to the village the sun was already setting so we didn't get a chance to explore much, guess i'll have to go back for another visit sometime.  The fireworks were completely different than anything I was expecting, I guess I should've known given the traditional naming for them.  There were three different kinds. To start was the hanging fireworks which were bags of charcoal lit on fire to create massive sparklers, basically.  There were five rows of these strung across the river, reaching up to Mt. Namsan, more impressive with lots of them. Second were floating fireworks, kind of link lanterns on the river; and finally the third type was basically balls of fire being thrown off the cliff.  I forget what they called this type, but really it was just a massive ball of flames hurdling down the mountain, interesting to say the least. The fireworks were interesting and somewhat mesmerizing but I wasn't quite as blown away as the Koreans surrounding me with their oooohs and aaahhhs.  Among my favorite was the women who had to shove past me so her and her dog could get a better view and then proceeded to stand there talking to her dog "ooooh yepuda!  aaaaahhh yepuda?"  (translation: oooh beautiful! aaaaaaaah beautiful? yeah I wanted to slap her. 

Seonyu Julbul Nori (Traditional Fireworks)
The night came to an end as we stood waiting for the bus contemplating how hard it would be to hitchhike home.  Unfortunately we were too chicken to test our Korean ability and friendliness of the patrons but the bus came sooner than expected so we were soon on our way back to town.  A bus ride is never a simple ordeal in this country and despite being some of the first on the bus with a comfortable seat, we were soon surrounded with a stench that can only be described as putrid. Apparently the man next to us though deodorant wasn't necessary that day, we fought a 40 minute struggle of freezing with the window open or suffocating with it closed.

The next morning we made our way back to the festival, but not before finding a good spot for breakfast.  High on our list was coffee and good bakery, we found both - despite the fact that our coffee was served in what appeared to be a dixie cup. Back at the festival we decided that we should test our creative ability and make a mask of our own.  I wanted a souvenir from the weekend so why not put some effort in rather than buying the pre-made, overpriced masks the loads of vendors were selling. Much to my surprise my mask turned out awesome and is now hanging proudly on my wall.

After our mask making we did one last loop of the festival, checking out the Bonzai exhibit, more traditional performances, and taking a minute to pose with some of the sculptures.  Before heading back to catch our bus we wanted to see the Taekwando performance. We got a short glimpse of the kids the day before and were eager to see more.  They were scheduled to perform on the street stage so we headed that way early as there really weren't any seats and we wanted a good view.  There was a group doing some weird choreographed dance when we arrived and before we knew what was happening we were being pulled in to learn, much against my will. I was seriously annoyed as these people proceeded to pull us to the front of the group, insisting that we follow along, like no, i'm not laughing let go of me. After a good 10 minutes of dancing it all seemed to be over and we started to leave, nope - time for round two and this time we got to be in the front row! By this time I was just laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and couldn't even be mad, in the end we were highly praised and given some Shike (sweet rice drink) as our reward. Eventually the Taekwondo performance started, including a choreographed dance/skills demonstration to Gangnam Style - I really can't escape that song, it's everywhere. 

sucked in 


  1. I like your mask. It's a heck of a lot more creative than anything I've ever done. Also, now you've both sang and danced with Koreans now! It seems like there is always something to do over there. Wisconsin is boring and it sucks. I've got to make it out there!!!

    1. Yeah I guess it's true there's never really a dull moment over here. Winter got a bit slower but I still managed to have a great time and now the weather's warming up again. So many festivals, all the time. Save your pennies!