one of the best days/nights here: pt. I

to be in a country where everything is new and unusual it would be pretty special to have a day/night combo that would stand out. this is especially the case for me, a chronic optimist stuck in 5th gear because everything new seems to be, to quote a very special mexican friend, "really amazing. really, really amazing." jump for more...


so let's start with the andong mask festival. angela and i met up with good friends ann, ryan and kristan to take the 100km bus ride from here in daegu to andong. we started successfully enough by walking 15 minutes south to the subway, heading east for 20 minutes on the red line and then finally taking a 20 minute taxi ride north and west, effectively making a really nice looking circle around the busy part of the city. we found these directions and took them as read without doing any sort of research thus were led to spend 950won on the subway and 9000won for the cab. we ended up at the bukbu (literally "north area". buk: north. bu: area) terminal, a place only 10 minutes, and 3000won, north of my apartment by taxi.

the bus stations here seem to be easy to deal with. after being ruthlessly queue barged and cut-off a few times by citizens of dynamic korea i was able to walk up to the ticket counter and get two tickets to andong with relative ease. there are a lot of places in korea that look like they should not accept bank cards that do, the bukbu terminal being one of them. the tickets there were 6900won with buses leaving every 40 minutes. on a sidenote, there is something to be noted here about the architecture in south korea: while the city centers develop and become notably glassier, suburbs and outskirts become more and more derelict. many buildings here are eerily reminiscent of a time when this area, daegu specifically, sat on the precipice of the PROK war line. daegu was within the pusan perimeter so was never actually breeched by the communist forces in the korean war but was definitely under threat of siege or bombardment. the older buildings of the region reflect military architecture. most are grey tiled or concrete slab constructions, squat and void of any character.

angela enjoying some of the more edible snackyfairefoodz. can't go wrong with fried dough and sugar.

it seems the mask festival itself serves as a massive boon to the area's local market economy. as we approached the festival's center we had to walk through a huge row of vendors that were slinging wares and goods not often associated with traditional cultural events and celebrations. next to the fried dough/elephant ear/churro vendor was a booth selling tools and household hardware. a few booths down from them was a sale on cheaply constructed leather shoes. strings, electric wires and tattered canopies were strung every which way. pungent smells of wildly differing levels of appeal wafted in and out like listening to seven different versions of puccini's nessun dorma by a norwegian death metal band, sigur ros, 2PM, et. al: some were good, some were very, very bad. beware the fool that keeps walking while taking in a brainful of sweet dough smell because the boiling silkworms will sneak up on your blissfully unsuspecting olfactory receptors. it's like getting hit in the face by a 2x4. on fire. with a nail on one end. the end that his you, to be more exact.


a vendor selling bibimbap, a classic korean rice dish.


but there was a mask festival behind the thick curtain of strange korea fair food. a traditional mask festival that had a free beer wagon and a massive stage and a pop music concert replete with pyros and smoke. the grounds the festival was being held at appears to be a permanent installation. the shape of a stadium but about 10 times the size and without the bleacher seating, the andong mask festival was massive. there was a mask dance stage, vendors and mask making booths. the latter was probably the best part about the whole day for me. ann, ryan, kristan, ang and i bought a blank paper mache/cardstock mask for 3000won. with this we got a 5-color pack of floam, that stuff you had as a kid and always wanted to eat but if you had you would've died because the shit's probably more toxic than the columbia river near hanford.

raw materials.

the five of us were crowded around a small little workbench under an awning. the day was plesant and we spent an hour and a half on mask making and talking. i can't say i would have had a better time doing something else.

finished product.

playing in the bubbles area.


perhaps one of the strangest things we bore witness to over the course of the fantastic day was on the stage. the barbecued squid, the strange fair food, the green spiders the size of my palm, all of this was more or less expected. the day took a turn for the surreal, however, when we were in the main plaza area with our backs to the stage. i was procuring a cup of disgusting coffee while the other four stood in a circle contemplating our next move when we heard something, to understate the point, unexpected. not traditional korean chanting or pansori...

...but something totally different and, dare i say, perhaps not exactly the most true expression of the rich culture the land of choson has to offer. no, what we turned to see were korean elementary schoolers yodeling. i can't really offer any more explanation or vitriolic remarks to make that clever or, at a long shot, humorous. there was an oompa band consisting of a tuba, stand up bass and guitar, all played by the kids the same age.

stunned, i wandered away nursing my cup of wretched coffee.

more to come.


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