I returned from Japan on Saturday, and on Sunday a group of us went down to Seoul Forest to watch the Seoul Drum Festival. I knew people who went last year and raved about it, so I was pretty excited to go for an evening of performances. It was excellent, aside from being quite chilly for the first time in memory. After grabbing some food, Lee-Rae, Michael, Shannon, Jamie, Chrissy and I got seats and watched percussionists from Korea, Japan and Indonesia perform. Indonesia also brought some dancers, one of whom was the most off-beat, uncoordinated dancer I've seen in a while. We couldn't stop laughing. Korea was the best for sure, and that is NOT because I am biased...just like in the R16 B-Boy Championship, Korea represented well in their home country.
View of the stage from our seats.
Korean clang-clang-clang troupe representing!
Next, some exciting news: I got my laptop back last Tuesday, thank GOD. They put in a new (bigger, 320GB instead of 250GB) hard drive and installed Windows for roughly $170 USD. I am pretty sure there is NO WHERE in the US where I could have gotten it done anywhere near that cheap! Renee said when she took her Sony in to be looked at they were going to charge her $130 for diagnostics. Anyway, it was like being reunited with a long lost, and sorely missed, friend. It took me a few days to get everything back on it as far as programs go, but thanks to tireless effort from my Dad, it all worked out and I'm back and as good as/better than I was before. So that is awesome.
Last Wednesday night we had a relaxing meet up at 4C Garten, where we just basically got to catch up and vent, as per usual...but this time with multi-story beers! We also got to meet Desmond's fiancee, Serena, which was great because we are all going to their wedding this weekend in Daegu. Look forward to a post about that! Last Thursday night I went with three new girls (Lee-Rae, Erika and Josephine) and Shannon to sign up for hagwon classes for Korean. Yup, I am biting the bullet and learning Korean. We decided to go to YBM Sisa, which is located at the Jongno-3-ga Station, about 30 minutes from our house. It is only 115,000won (roughly $100) for a month with ten classes. We go every Monday and Wednesday, and alternating Fridays. But more on that later. After signing up Erika went to meet her friends for dinner and the rest of us went to an amazing restaurant near our hagwon and had absolutely delicious stew. We will be repeating that often. (In fact we repeated it tonight.)
Last weekend was something I've been looking forward to a long time...no, not my 25th birthday (though that was exciting, too)...the Andong International Mask Dance Festival. I badly wanted to attend last year, but it was cancelled due to H1N1 (so thankful THAT is behind us). Performers come from around the world to showcase their (extensive and varied) talents in this little town called Andong that is in the central part of eastern Korea. Andong is called one of the most Korean places in Korea, and it is one of the few cities where big groups of people still live in traditional style homes and hanoks. Andong also has a number of places you can stay in traditional homes, and I jumped on that as soon as I heard about it. I made us reservations at Imcheonggak, an estate built during the Joseon Dynasty in the 1519. At that time there was a restriction on how many rooms your home could have, limiting the count to 100. Lee Sang-ryong, the owner of the house and later the first prime minister of the provisional government of the Republic of Korea, built his house with 99 rooms. Only about fifty of the rooms survived and the grounds were cut in half by a train line that Japan created during their regime, but it is still REALLY cool. We actually got put into our own pavilion, which was the original home of the family and possibly where Lee Sang-ryong was born. AWESOME! There was a big central room with old wood floors, and two smaller heated rooms with padded floors off to the sides. We had a refrigerator and the lovely woman in charge provided us with water and some drinks. For only 200,000won a night (split ten ways), it was a steal.
Inspecting the main room.
Other buildings on the compound.
Our home for the weekend (please note the terrifying, steep, stone steps...damn you, Asia).
The remaining few on the last morning. Shannon is a self timer genius.
Friday night eight of us (Shannon, Jamie, Dave, Chrissy, Erich, Derek, Julia and I) met up at the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, grabbed some food, and boarded an express bus for Andong. Just about three hours later we arrived, debussed, bought some essentials at a 7-11, and attempted to find a taxi that would take us to our hotel. The website had fairly simple directions: come to Andong Bus Terminal, take a taxi to Imcheonggak. It didn't mention anything about all of the taxi drivers refusing to take us because it was within the base fare and having to schlep heavy bags on a twenty-minute walk based on vague directions. Over it. We arrived and settled in to play some games, drink, decorate birthday sugar cookies Shannon baked, and eat a Hello Kitty birthday cake provided by Laura after she and Dana arrived on a later bus. Let me just say, it was eight billion times better than my last birthday.
Shannon posing with the birthday cookie she decorated for me. It was tasty!
A REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUP CHEERS?!?! Best birthday ever.
Why...hello, kitty. (This cake was surprisingly delicious.)
Finally we all tuckered out and decided it was time to crash. Since I get so hot at night, I do not love sleeping on heated ondol floors. I cook alive. Therefore, Erich and I decided to stay out in the main room for the night. Uh...we knew it wasn't heated, but what we didn't realize until the next morning was that there were big gaps between the floorboards allowing cold air from the open space beneath the building to constantly blow on you all night. The floor boards didn't even retain any body heat...it was FREEZING. I usually sleep in a tank top and pj pants, but I was still shivering in multiple layers including a turtleneck and extra socks! Brr. The next morning we woke up and took turns showering in the community bathrooms. The proprietor brought us over tasty boiled potatoes with sugar, pajeon, and little yogurt drinks. It was lovely and gave us the energy to forge onward! We walked back down to the city and hailed taxis to take us out to Andong Hahoe Village, which is one of Korea's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also VERY cool. Mostly surrounded by a river, this cluster of traditional homes has been inhabited by descendants of the same families for many years. It is full of beautiful little alleys and stunning architecture. The first thing we did when we arrived was settle down and grab some food. We all agreed to try one of Andong's specialties, Andong jjimdak. Made by cooking chicken, peppers, veggies, and cellophane noodles over high heat, this is a fantastic dish and we inhaled it.
Gate in the Hahoe Village.
Ajummas out for a lovely stroll.
You know how enamored with Asian roofs I am.
Posing with our jjimdak.
These guys were CHAMPIONS.
And Erich might have been MVP.
Told you we decimated it.
After our hunger was sated, we headed down to the main part of the village, where the stage was located. Following the sounds of drumming, we quickly found the first performance at a lovely outdoor stage in the pine forest along the river. We sat down and watched a troupe from China give an awesome performance with really powerful, graceful dancing. It was great.
I learned fairly quickly that the faces of traditional Chinese masks are straight out of a NIGHTMARE.
China's girls....so lovely.
After the Chinese dancers were done, we walked down the path a bit and found ourselves on a playground for traditional Korean games. The real draw was neoldduigi (
Dude, look at how high Erich is!
There are two things I know: Jamie was a great launcher...and Shannon's hair makes me giggle.
Tying my wish to the rope.
Lots of wishes.
Beautiful views. I love the color of rice paddies.
Main festival grounds in Andong.
Quick group pic next to the inflatable mask truck.
Excellent taekwondo kids.
Belly dancers...sans belly.
Template and hanji.
Ajumma belly dancers.
Gettin' jiggy with it.
He could be a Jenga commercial.
I bet that headdress was heavy.
I wanted to steal their skirts.
All done by local kids.
Harvest festival performance.
View of the stage from the top row.
Andong International Mask Dance Festival from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.
Dana, Dave, Laura, Chrissy, Julia, Jamie, Erich, Shannon, and Derek, you all rule.
Third Graders Singing from Meaghan Shanahan on Vimeo.