Sunday, July 22, 2012


Every July in Korea, there is an annual Mud festival held at Boreyang beach in Daechun. Knowing that this is a huge event in South Korea, my friends and I put in reservations almost two months ahead of time.  Although it seemed like we were anticipating this weekend for so long, it came and went faster than I could have imagined.  I think, from what I had heard and read about it before actually attending, I could say that it lived up to its name. After all, we did get muddy.

Friday, July 14. We all sat in our classrooms for the day, anticipating the journey ahead of us; a two and a half hour bus ride that would finally land us at a rough and rowdy little gathering of muddy drunken waygooks. The day passed slowly, but soon enough, about 14 of us all piled into a guide bus, destination: mud fest. Of course, drinking in Korea is pretty much allowed everywhere, so it should not come as a shock that we all got on the bus completely prepared for a circus bus ride consisting of soju mixers and giant bottles of Cass. Our bus departed from Seoul around 9:45PM and we were expected to arrive around 12/12:30AM.  The bus ride itself was an absolute wreck, although, perhaps a good precursor to the actual festival.  Some bus ride characteristics: everyone standing for most of the trip, the boys drinking too much and crying about not being able to hold their pee (needless to say, I do believe some bottles got emptied and then filled back up),  sharing music, sharing jokes, laughing until we could not breathe.

Upon arriving in Daechun, everyone was nice and toasted.  We had reserved one room for all of us prior to arriving, so about eleven of us bunked up in one room.  The thing about Korea, however, is that most hostels or pensions do not usually have beds. Instead, everyone just stretches out and sleeps in very close quarters on the floor.  We all walked in, set down our belongings, spread blankets and pillows, and set up our room so that we would all be able to leave, come back at who knows what hour and then pass out where we landed. Everyone first made a journey across the street to stock up on more beverages before making our way to the beach.  We had to wait until the following afternoon to actually participate in the mud festivities, so we figured no bed time was important. 

Luckily our pension was literally just across the street from the beach.  As we walked onto the sand, Kimberly and I made our way straight for the water, because after all, there is nothing better than dipping your feet in the ocean at night.  In fact, however, there is something better… dipping your feet in the ocean in Korea late at night.  I could tell that Kim and I were feeling the same way.  The water was absolutely heavenly: not too cold, clear, clean, silent.  At that moment, we both just stood, taking in our breath that seemed to run away with the vast outspread of water before us and the crashing waves at our feet. What an amazing feeling.  We both looked at each other and I could see that Kimberly was crying.  When she hugged me and told me she loved me and was glad she could share the experience with me, I knew that her tears were happy and not at all sad.  Something about moments like that just seem to make you feel full. Not full like your belly is about to burst, but full like your heart will.  Moments like that, when you realize the altitude and the greatness of what you are experiencing… it’s completely irreplaceable.  Just when I wondered if it could get better, someone suggested charging into the ocean fully clothed.  In my head, of course, I knew that I did not have my swim suits on and I was wearing my only pair of jean shorts for the weekend, but you know, sometimes you just do things simply because you’re alive and you can.  Every so often you just have to dive in the deep end, step outside the box, and do something to rejuvenate the soul.  For me, these moments are what I live for, so on the count of three, 5 of us went charging into the ocean with our clothes on and fell right into the crashing waves. We all stood up screaming and playing together in the water and having chicken fights. When I was through, I walked back to shore, stretched my hands up to the sky, and just twirled about in the sand, running the tips of my feet along the ripples and sand.  I felt so alive, so grateful, and so free.  I had my moment of freedom, spontaneity, and appreciation.

We made our way back to the pension around about 3 or 4 am, soaking wet, covered in sand, and pretty much destroyed our sleeping quarters for that night, and the next.  Of course things did not settle when we got back to the room, we had to have been up for an extra hour laughing uncontrollably and behaving like a bunch or rambunctious ten year olds.  When we did fall asleep, it was something of a giant sardine slumber party.  Squished together, we all knocked out pretty quickly. The next day, I woke up before everyone else around 7AM, so I decided to take my headphones and go for a stroll on the beach.  When I got back only a half hour later, Mehdi had everyone awake, due to the fact that it was his birthday, and drinking had already begun. OUT. OF. CONTROL. = the three words I often use to describe my clownish male friends in Korea.

The day started out slow, but at 2PM when everyone had eaten, drank a bit, and got all stoked for the mud, we made our way to the pits.  How can I describe this experience? I’m not sure I can, to be honest.  It’s definitely a, “you have to be there” type of festival. As we ventured into the mud pits, people just went HAM attacking one another with mud.  It did not matter if you knew the person who you were attacking or not, if they looked clean in any way, or were showing their skin in anyway, they instantly got smothered with mud. As soon as we walked in, some guys I did not even know, just took a handful of mud to my face, as they laughed and joked that I was too clean.  The festival was complete with mud slides, mud wrestling pits, army crawls, paint buckets, and LONG LONG lines.  It was raining, so the festival was a muddy, sloppy, goo infested trench.  They say not to bring valuables to the festival because most people lose or destroy things, but I bought a waterproof case and took some good pictures.  There was no way I was going to let this weekend go by undocumented.  The rest of the day was spent playing in the mud, making new friends, eating moving octopus, and playing on the beach. At night, everyone cleaned up, got some food, and ended up drinking in the room.  The rain was good for the mud portion of the festival, but it put somewhat of a damper on us leaving the room at night. 

Saturday night, Grace went home, I did not drink, Kim drank too much, and Holly was suffering from uncontrollable bug bites.  Needless to say, we all called it a night a bit earlier than the guys.  Surely, that was an ignorant idea, since we were woken by their drunken stooper at an unreasonable hour.  Of course James made his way into the room and started rolling around on top of us, all wet and disgusting, while Mehdi did his slurring wake up call.  Oddly enough, it was too funny to be mad and pretty hard not to laugh. 

Eventually, everyone knocked out on Saturday night, and what happened after that is unclear, but it’s like Vegas, what happens at Mud fest, stays at Mud fest!  All I know is that when I looked at my weekend pictures the next day, it looked like the Hangover part III.  So what happens when you ship eleven native English teachers, stressed from a long work week, off to a sloppy mud festival? Things tend to get a little crazy.  But hey, every once in a while, it's okay to be young and crazy... and sometimes, it's exactly what you need.

 A fairly decent depiction of what the bus ride there was like.
 Kimber & Gracie Louuuu<3 love this picture of them.
 Everyone cuddled up close in our bedroom!
 HAHAHA. I love this picture! James' face in the top corner, hahaha.
 Me, Kim, & Grace
 Muddy Me... this isn't even bad yet...
 Alissa, Erin and I... muddy messes!

 The craziness... the crowd of muddy people is never ending.
 This guy was pretty funny, although, I do not know him.
Everyone! :))

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Exploring Dreams

Seoul is such a unique city... third largest in the world, with a cosmopolitan feel, outlined by incredible mountains on all sides.  It's a city that values time, architecture, fashion, and culture.  One of the things that amazes me most about Seoul is that, although it is such a modern metropolitan city, it has the true Korean culture embedded deep in it's bones.  Anywhere you go in Seoul, you are sure to find both the modern dining restaurants, as well as traditional Korean dining.  The king's old historic temples sit preserved next to sky scrappers and the hustle and bustle of a busy city work day.  You see men scurrying to work in business suits, as well as old women balancing large pots on their heads walking down the clustered morning streets.  I love living in Seoul because I have the opportunity to live in the big city, but if I travel just 40 minutes one way or the other, I can climb to the top of the tallest mountains and get a peaceful look from afar.  The things I love so much about this city often send me trudging out into the streets on random explorations.  Here, I am always looking for what's around the next corner... a mountain, a beautifully light night stream, an old traditional village, a beautiful park, or an intense shopping district. 

Last week, one afternoon after school, I decided to grab my backpack and my camera and go wandering in a direction I had not yet taken.  I grabbed all my belongings and off I went through city streets, up and down stairs, across a river, and finally to a point where I was once again reminded of why I love Seoul so much.  What I came across was a beautiful park called, Dream Forest.... a name that I felt signified exactly what I had gone in search of that afternoon.  With eagerness I made my way towards what looked like rolling green fields filled with walk ways, bridges, and some small cafes.  What I found was far superior.  Walking through Dream Forest is surely something of a dream.  Perhaps it is not the dreams that we usually remember once we awaken from a deep slumber, but instead the dreams we think about and see in movies.  A dream where you are in a beautiful place and maybe what some of us expect our heavens to look like.  I walked through swindling paths, surrounded by green grass, and a sky that was confused about whether or not to let out the sun or confine it with the clouds.  The paths I chose took me to different wonders within the forest.  One path took me into a small traditional village that had been preserved and behind it, I found what I would call a miniature bamboo forest. I found a wooded area that had large modern streams running between and around the trees.  A large field sat open and welcomed everyone passing to sit and soak in the natural surroundings. I took another path and made my way to an enormous pond, which was surrounded by a variety of plants. The pond, itself,  was spewing water from five large fountains.  The fountains reached up to the clouds and with a slight breeze, it was just enough to feel a light mist touching your skin.  Looking to the left of the pond, there was a rock encrusted waterfall and a small traditional pavilion.  A path running along the top of the water was made to look somewhat like a floating maze and I watched as people walked down it hand in hand or carrying small sun umbrellas. What I enjoyed most about this spot, was seeing everyone taking advantage of it.  The area was not crowded by any means, but all the people that I saw seemed to be enjoying the space as much as I did.  I looked around and saw other people with their cameras, or just sitting on a bench with the same look of contentment that I knew was evident in my own facial expression.  Here, I thought, this must be what peace feels like.  My mind was absolutely taken back.  Another random exploration proves a success in Korea. Below are the pictures.  This is a place that I'm really glad I was able to capture.

Monday, July 2, 2012