Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Seoul Drum Festival The Seoul Drum Festival was scheduled on several days during Chusok week, at the end of September. Besides local performers there were also percussion teams from France, China and Japan. I went to see it with some friends on Saturday afternoon. It was held it a large park in the city called Seoul Forest, Lawn of Dream Forest. After we came up from the subway we only needed to follow the people to find out way to the park. There were two large areas that had stages, and there were many smaller tents, reminiscent of booths at the fair. They were set up for interactive activities for adults and children to enjoy. One could bang on a wide variety of drums. The children were having a ball. The noise was intense after awhile so we went to one of the stage areas to watch a number of Korean rock bands play. They were pretty good and so we were enjoying the warm afternoon, sitting on the grass, and people watching. We saw some other Americans there and it was interesting to us to note how much we miss the distinctive style that especially the young people have in our style of dress, walk, and “hanging out.” That made us all think of having some food to eat. American junk food would have been great, but we would have probably eaten kimchee straight since we were so hungry! We looked around, but there were no food or drink booths! I felt that someone was really missing an opportunity to make a bundle, however Koreans are rarely seen walking around with food or drink. The only exception that I can think of is during the summer some people will have ice cream bars. Even where street food is sold I don’t often see Koreans eating it on the street. Of course, when we realized there was no food we were immediately starving! We decided to go outside of the park and back to the street vendors that were by the subway stop. As we were leaving the park we realized that the parade was just beginning a few blocks away. Of course there was a lot of drumming, but there were many groups of local people who wore traditional costumes and did dances to the drumming. It felt exciting to be a part of the parade, even if we were only spectators! As the parade eventually passed we were back on our mission to find some food. There was a tiny restaurant across the street and so we ran across the street to check it out. We discovered that it was a chicken restaurant, which we had all wanted to try. Some people were getting takeout while some sat at tables outside and were clearly enjoying the food. I went over to a friendly group of younger men at the next table to see what they had ordered. They let me taste what they had ordered so we ordered the same things. The food tasted great! Food always seems to taste best when I am very hungry, and if I don’t have to prepare it myself. We ordered beers too and so we were feeling quite festive. After we finished eating, we took turns going to the bathroom, each unrolling some toilet tissue from the holder just inside the entrance of the restaurant. This is very common to see in neighborhood restaurants, and now I know the benefits of two-ply tissue over one-ply. Then we visited with the men at the table next to us a bit more. We didn’t speak any Korean and they knew only a few words of English, but we had lots of fun taking photos and visiting. We wanted to get back to the park so I ordered a round for everyone, we took ours “to go,” and headed back to the park. We went to the large performance area and saw a great traditional performance with the large wooden drums. Then to our surprise the US military gave a performance that was just fantastic. We were clapping our hands off. After a few more performances I mentioned to my friends that I was really getting cold. This was the first time since I had arrived in Korea that it was cool at night. My friends seemed relieved because they were feeling cold as well. We had really enjoyed our afternoon and evening but were ready to get on the subway and head home.