Monday, January 21, 2013

Hwacheon Ice Fishing Festival Pt. 3: I've Been Colder

So there was this pool of freezing water with fish in it.
Like so.
For about eight bucks (for foreigners), you could have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of wading into the knee-high water and trying to catch fish with your bare hands. I say once-in-a-lifetime because most people only want to do it once.

Did I want to do it? You bet. Adam, Katelyn, Ammy, Maggie, and I all decided to take the plunge together, so to speak. We went into the locker room to change into the uniform of shorts and an orange t-shirt. We were supposed to tuck the t-shirt into our shorts, I soon learned, because the only method of storing fish after catching them was inside the shirt. Suddenly I began having doubts. And then we stepped outside, onto the ice, and I began having more doubts. And then I put my feet in the water and dang, it was cold.
I gave my camera to a bystander. I'm the one in the orange shirt, yelling something incomprehensible.
It was so cold when I stood on the ice that my feet hurt, so I sat down. And then my butt was so cold I couldn't wait to get off of it and into the water. But the water was so cold that my feet instantly went numb. I couldn't feel them after a few seconds, and it was all I could do to stay standing. My feet felt like blocks of ice, and they suddenly seemed very loathe to move where I wanted them to. The whistle blew and everyone was shouting and splashing around, and very soon people began catching fish. But I was just standing, hunched over and peering into the water but unable to see any fish, let alone catch them.

I felt excited, frustrated, and insane all at the same time (that's adrenaline interacting with the "flight" response). Adam and I kept yelling at each other, "WHERE ARE THE FISH? THERE ARE NO FISH!" Neither of us was successful in snagging anything, although Ammy and Katelyn caught one each. I figured out later that the trick was to "corner" fish up against the wall of the pond and then grab them, while I was out wading in the middle of the pond, looking stupid, no doubt.

Getting out of the pool was probably the worst part, because we had to walk on more ice to get to the hot tub that they'd prepared for the participants. I had to hobble over as if I had stumps for feet. But as soon as I warmed up, I was totally fine. It was too bad I didn't catch any fish, but I had an unforgettable experience all the same. (Plus, I'd already caught three from regular ice fishing before.)
Bare-hands ice fishing: this man caught a few fish. They're in his shirt.
Especially great was the fact that this was a shared insane experience with my friends. For the rest of winter, we decided that we were no longer ever eligible to complain of the cold. Whether we be skiing, stuck outside at night, or shoved into freezer naked, we can now say without uncertainty, "I've been colder." Adam insisted that there was a certain thrill to experiencing the most extreme of anything in one's lifetime, and for us, I guess this was the extreme of cold. You know, what, though... I might do it again. It may or may not have been good for our health, but it was a great way to remind ourselves that we're alive, dangit, and still young. Unlike the fish we caught.

Lastly, I need you all to see the excellent photo captured by the bystander to whom Maggie gave her camera, a moment that really tells you what the water felt like upon entering:
Maggie and Ammy begin their bare hands fishing adventure. Courtesy Maggie.

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