Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Andong Mask Festival, Round 2

After attening the Andong Maskdance Festival last year, I knew that I wanted to go again this year.  Andong is only a little over an hour away from Jeomchon, but the buses stop pretty early in the evening.  Since we wanted to see a bit more of the festival this year, we decided to head to the festival Saturday morning and spend the night in Andong.

After arriving in Andong Saturday morning, we found a decently priced motel and then got some delicious jjimdalk for lunch. Jjimdalk is the famous food in Andong and a must-have when you're in town--it's one of my favorite dishes in Korea. Following lunch we were stuffed, energized and ready to explore the festival a bit. 

The Mask Festival is one the most famous festivals in Korea, and is therefore quite the HUGE event.  There's tons of food to eat and you can buy just about anything because there are never ending rows of vendors.  And of course, our favorite part of the festival is the arts and crafts! Since it is a mask festival it's completely necessary to not only watch the mask dances, but to also make your own mask.  To fulfill this duty we started with the masks that use the hanji (Korean paper).  I would say overall we did a pretty good job putting our skills to work.

After we finished our masks we caught the bus to Andong's Hahoe Folk Village. This folk village is a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty and gives a glimpse of what is what like to live in Korea before the neon lights and plastic surgery took over.  I've actually been wanting to go to Hahoe, but since it's one of those things that is so close to Jeomchon, I just never took the time to go see it during my first year because I knew it wasn't really time sensitive and I could easily go at any time.  With that said, I'm very glad that I finally went because it was absolutely beautiful.  The rice fields surrounding the village are now turning bright yellow, which is quite the stunning sight (as an aside for those who aren't familiar, the rice is green during the spring and summer and turns yellow in the fall before the harvest).  The village as a whole was really peaceful and a cool place to walk around.  

As it became darker we made our way down the the river to get comfortable before Seonyujulbulnori, the fire show, which turned out to be my favorite part of the entire night.  There were long lines of pine needles hanging across the river and as they were lit on fire small little pieces slowly dropped, creating a twinkling effect that is difficult to describe, but almost looked like there were tons of fireflies falling to the ground.  I tried to video it since it's hard to describe how it works, but it didn't show on film. While this was going on there were also flying lanterns being released into the sky and some sort of poetry/play type thing being performed on a boat that was floating along the river. Then, one of the most interesting parts of the show was when burning logs were thrown off of the cliff that overlooks the river. The crowd would count down and huge logs were thrown off the edge of the cliff to tumble down to the ground. This actually looked really cool, but again is a bit hard to describe the effect.  Finally, the night ended with an awesome fireworks show.  All around, it was quite the combination of fire-related events and made for a beautiful and relaxing evening. 

After the night's festivities were over, we went back to the main site of the festival for some food then went back to our motel to get some rest after a long day.

Sunday morning we slept in a bit, grabbed some breakfast and headed back to the festival.  This time we wanted to make the other kind of masks (we are just all about the arts and crafts!)  The masks took a while to finish and afterwards we took a taxi to the bus station to get back to Jeomchon.

Being at the Mask festival really made me realize how different it is being in Korea for a second year.  Last year when I went to the Mask festival everything was new, exciting, and sometimes really perplexing and strange.  My first year in Korea was full of new sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. As I walked around the festival this year I realized how ordinary it all seems to me now.  I know what the food is and I know how the games are played.  When I ask how much something costs, I don't have to sit there and process the long list of numbers--I just know now (well, usually).

My first year in Korea was exciting and overloaded with amazingly fun memories.  So far this year has been much more calm, but I appreciate the way it's giving me a chance to look at Korea in a different way.  I find myself feeling much more desperate to communicate with others this time around, and this is fueling my motivation to study in a way I had a difficult way doing last year.  Now that the first year excitement has worn off, I find myself having an experience that is in many ways completely different, but teaching me new things nonetheless.

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