Each new place and experience has those things that imprint themselves on us. In a new culture, they end up being the things you’ll always remember clearly and long for years later as you travel to new places. They are the things that will make you smile and be grateful for your time spent in that place, whether you recall it as a wholly uplifting experience or not. As we prepare to leave, I have been reflecting on the best bits about this strange land and the last year in it. For me, there are 8 things that stand out as really awesome.
Ask me what my favourite season is and I will tell you it’s summer every single time. I live for flip flops and sundresses and slurpees, and long, lazy evenings. I have even taken to perpetually chasing summer as much as I can, in the form of vacations during winter and life abroad in warmer countries (fortunately (!?) nearly everywhere qualifies as ‘warmer’ when you hail from Canada!).
But this year I am really, super digging fall. Fall in Korea is unparalleled. It’s picture-book-perfect fall. Busan sees temperatures as high as the mid twenties through until early November, with the evenings pleasantly dropping to the mid teens. You can wear a tee during the day and go for a splendid hike, then switch into jeans and a light sweater to get through the evenings (I know some of you crazy kids long for “sweater weather”!). Furthermore, this slow descent into winter allows the leaves to lazily change colour. They’ve been turning for weeks, now! BIt by bit, golden hues into orange and red flames, against a still-green backdrop.
I’m surprised to admit that I am enjoying fall here in Korea so much more than I enjoyed the summer. Summers with 80% and higher humidity most days really are just too hot. Believe me, I am as shocked as you to hear myself utter (write) those words. But it’s true. It feels like you are slogging through a mud puddle everywhere you go. Decidedly UNsexy and also a bit exhausting. Fall, by contrast, is exhilarating! For starters, it’s red wine season again! (I’m kidding. NO I’M NOT.) The nature is beautifeous (I’d like to make that a word), the weather is resplendent, the days are not too short yet, baseball games abound (and they are FUN), I daresay the Koreans themselves are at their best – they love fall, too – and there are festivals nonstop.
Did I mention that? Fall is festival season in Korea! There’s a festival, big or small, every week (or at the very least, weekEND) from September through early November. There’s the famous Jinju Lantern Festival that I wrote about last week, there was the Sea Art Festival before that, and there are countless other festivals big and small, dotted throughout the country. Busan has one every weekend, somewhere! Two weeks ago there was the Jagalchi Market festival and this weekend Book Alley is having one. I’m not lying when I tell you there’s a festival for everyone.
To sum: I love fall in Korea, fall in Korea is fabulous, and if you plan to visit Korea, fall is the time to do it. Trust me on this. Spring is good, it’s true…but fall is the Korean season to fall in love with.
We left the house this weekend, so I’m gonna go ahead and put that in the ‘win’ category. What with our impending departure and lack of plan after Korea, we’ve been laying low and stocking the coffers, so to speak. Anyhoo, we left the house and ended up having a wonderful, art-filled day. The weather was fine and it also happened to be the opening weekend of Busan’s Sea Art Festival 2013 held at Songdo Beach (very near to us), so we hopped on the bike and set out to discover it. As an added bonus, we also finally found Taegukdo, or the “art village in the hills”. Major score!
The self-proclaimed art village is an area of Busan, up in the hills above Toseong-dong, offering a side of the city often missed. (For more info on the area and how to get there, check out this link). The streets are winding and narrow, and the boxy homes a variety of colours with meandering alleyways between them. It’s fun and funky, with cute coffee houses and paintings on walls and the odd bit of sculptural art. It’s also quite quiet and filled to the brim with old people. Which is awesome. It seems that it used to be more of an artists’ enclave but is less so nowadays. No doubt because of the semi-tourist attraction it has become. Regardless, the art is kept up and they offer you a decent amount of cutesy kitsch at no cost, so it’s a good time. Here are some of my favourite photos from Taeguk Village:
Next, we headed to Songdo Beach to check out the art exhibit. Apparently the Sea Art Festival is an annual Busan event, and the art was of the sculptural variety. Sculptural art plus a walk on the beach?! Suits me just fine! I wasn’t expecting much, honestly, but it piqued my curiousity and man am I glad we went. There were some really beautiful, thoughtful installations. See some of my favourites (and/or better photos!) below. Wherever possible, I have recounted a bit from the signs explaining each artists’ intent or vision for their piece (some are a bit paraphrased in the name of grammar).
This first piece “addresses the transformation which has taken place at Songdo over time…in the form of a rainbow-hued tornado…the work serves as a symbol of past devastation, change, and the hope that such devastations may ultimately lead to a brighter future”.
I did not catch the sign for this one…but I feel confident that it is a representation of Busan…
This was my favourite installation. Dragonflies and bees, made with many shiny materials. Difficult to capture the beauty in photos – they threw fractured light and looked as though they were glittering – and they made soft tinkling and whirring noises. Per the artist’s plate: “Lee’s work aspires to create harmony between the natural and human environment and to unravel stories about the sound of nature and natural energies in the air.”
- This is a cello. I think. 🙂
“‘Choppy Castle’ collapses past and present in abstract form. Giving shape to the past and to ephemeral memories in our present time and space, Cho uses the color blue to express a diversity of experiences, individual memories, and a multiplicity of lived lives.”
- This was Jon’s favourite installation. The picture didn’t capture how wonderful it really was. “Resonating Forest invites viewers into a complex sensory environment. Audiences hear not only various bell sounds, voices and the sound of wind, but also encounter a space filled with soft sand and the scents of the sea, creating an experience that activates multiple senses.”
“Sally” – a classic Korean animated robot character, popular from the ’70s to the ’90s. “It is an image of the future, rooted in the past, recreated and experienced in our present moment.”
- A robot fist smashing into the ground. They’re trying to tell us it’s to do with a child’s dreams…sounds terrifying to me.
“‘Wind horse’ refers to the fate of people, floating around like a wind. It is conducive to convey and fulfill the desire of the god. It is a banner of luck.”
A mechanical body builder.
“A sculpted tree hung with thousands of wind chimes. The work offers a moving message, one that combines hope and melancholy, growth and loss.”
There were a lot more, but these were the ones I fancied the most 🙂 It’s definitely worth checking out if you happen to be in Busan. The festival runs until October 13, 2014.
Which is your favourite from our day of art!?