Saturday, June 8, 2013

"Haeundae Sand Festival Hooray"

At the 해운대모래축제, in front of a big sculpture featuring PSY! The word I'm blocking is "만세", which means "Hooray".
After a last-minute change of plans, I took a day trip to Busan today for the Haeundae Sand Festival (해운대 모래축제). I woke up at 7am and met up with friends from Changwon, and then we drove straight to Haeundae Beach, one of the most popular and well-known beaches in Korea. By some standards, it's not the best beach (and this is partly because it is one of the most popular -- and consequently the most crowded and most polluted during peak season), but it's still a great spot to spend a nice, summery day.

My friends and I wandered up and down the beach, admiring the large sand sculptures that were the main attraction of the festival. This year's theme is movies, so we saw Marilyn Monroe, E.T., Superman, Iron Man, and a host of other superheroes, and the iconic scene from Titanic. The sculptures were great, but I admit feeling a bit let down because I had imagined them to be flat-out amazing. I mean, just Google "sand sculpture", and then Google "Haeundae Sand Festival", and you'll see what I mean. Nonetheless, I enjoyed strolling along the beach and admiring the sights, and I was also glad that we were there early in the morning so that we could take photos in relative peace. Later on in the afternoon, the beach became insanely crowded.
One of my favorite sculptures was this one, based on Le Petit Prince.
We then settled down to play in the sand and water until noon. I got to work building a castle with a moat, trying only to use my feet since I don't like getting my hands dirty. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy building sandcastles. It's funny; I'm not really into creating a beautiful structure or even finishing the project. It's not about the end result. What I enjoy about sandcastles is the mindlessness of the endeavor, it seems. I dig and dig, and every so often a large wave rushes in and sweeps away half of my work. Well, no matter. Just keep digging. It's simple, meditative, and admittedly fruitless, but as long as I don't physically tire myself out, I could continue for hours. The castle was a purposeless project: water kept demolishing the walls, and eventually my friend's five-year-old came and rampaged all over the tower itself. But I quite enjoyed it all the same.

I will only mention in passing how this may or may not be a metaphor for life.
Andrew, Ben, and Ashley made a giant sea turtle with a volcano on its back as part of the amateur sand sculpture competition.
When Fulbrighters began to arrive on the scene starting at noon, we walked around the beach and enjoyed the sculptures, made one of our own, and watched beautiful people walking by. I also got some blueberry 빙수 at a cafe and watched bits of an airshow by the Black Eagles. Mostly, though, we just chilled under a beach umbrella. There were attempts to sunbathe, but Korea is generally conservative when it comes to beach attire, so I would have felt awkward about taking off my shirt. The beach became extremely crowded in the afternoon, yet ninety percent of the beachgoers were completely covered up, even if they were sleeping in the sun or dunking themselves completely underwater.

The thing about Korea and its no-shoulders, no-midriffs rule is that it's unspoken, enforced passively or subconsciously. An 아줌마 might give you a death glare or even some comments about your exposed shoulders, but nothing's really stopping you, unless you have an aversion to sticking out like a sore thumb. It's partly about modesty and partly about avoiding a tan at any cost, since fairer skin is generally considered more beautiful here. That doesn't mean there weren't some Korean women in bikinis or some Korean men so dark they looked Cambodian -- this is Busan, after all -- but for the most part, any person you saw less than fully clothed was a foreigner. And there were plenty roaming around the festival today, including my friends and me!
Fulbrighters at the beach! (Side note: I'm getting pretty good at this dSLR selfie (or 셀카/selca, as they say in Konglish) thing.
After lazing on the beach for a good few hours, it began to get colder and windier, so we headed inland to get dinner at a barbecue place. (I forget the name, but it was a forgettable restaurant, so no matter.) For dessert, we joined a very long line for 2,000₩ 32cm ice cream cones! That's $1.75 for an ice cream cone over one foot tall. They were great, although they began to melt very quickly, so we had to eat them quickly, so we all got brain freeze because it was cold and we were eating ice cream quickly. Ha! Good job, guys.

After dessert, I took a bus back to Changwon (the bus actually departs from the neighborhood, so I don't have to cross town to get to the main bus terminal first) -- for future reference, the ticket is 5,900₩ -- and arrived home at around 10pm. All in all, a great day. It really ushered in summer!
Anna, Ben, Katelyn, and Lizzie with giant ice cream cones!
Some vocabulary:
모래 (moleh) means "sand".
모래상을 쌓는게 명상적인 활동일 수 있어요. Building a sand castle can be a meditative activity.

바닷가 (padatga) means "beach" or "coast".
오늘 바닷가는 매우 복잡했어요. Today, the beach was very busy and crowded.

일광욕을 하다 (ilgwang-yogeul hada) means "to sunbathe".
제가 반나체에 대해서 많이 자의식이 강하지 않고 일광욕을 하면 좋겠어요. It would be great if I could sunbathe without being self-conscious about being half-naked.

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