Friday, March 6, 2009

namsan - a night of drumming and dancing

october 19~

the next day i headed into seoul again (if only i could have stayed the night instead of having to travel 1.5 hours back into suwon) to meet my friend youngmin. actually, she called me sunday morning saying that she was in suwon for her friends' wedding and would be driving back into seoul, so she asked if i wanted to catch a ride and hang out that afternoon. i met youngmin and her two friends who were driving at the entrance to suwon station, and we rode into seoul together. it turns out that her two friends were planning their own wedding (youngmin introduced them, in fact) and were looking for places to by engagement rings (this happens after the proposal in korea so that matching rings can be selected together by both fiances). we met at her mom's workplace near jongno. both of youngmin's parents are jewelers and this part of seoul is famous for its jewelery and wedding supplies. i was really glad to meet one of my korean moms again (i stayed at youngmin's house for nearly a month when i was in korea 2.5 years ago).

[outside the wedding mall - the dresses on display outside are korean traditional hanbok]

after browsing the ring selection for a while, we said our goodbyes to youngmin's friends, and youngmin took me to 남산 ('namsan'), a mountain in south central seoul whose peak is a public park and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding cityscape. namsan tower, at the summit, is a breathtaking pinnacle, and apparently a popular spot to 'pop the question' at twilight. when we got there we noticed an event taking place - part of the 'hi seoul festival', a strangely titled cultural promotion created by the government to attract tourists from other countries. upon closer inspection, we discovered that it was a traditional korean drum and dance performance! what luck!

[our curiosity becomes aroused at the percussive sounds coming from this distant sight]

[the performers - at first we thought this was the performance, but later, after the drummers got into costume, we realized it was only the warm-up]

[i thought this lone drummer staring at the girls dancing was deserving of his own photo]

[the dancers, after putting on their hanboks]

[youngmin told me they were traditional korean culture students from the nearby ihwa woman's university]

in a classic 'korean moment', during the intermission, a drunk 아저씨 ('ajosshi' - literally 'uncle', similar to 'ajumma') came up to the stage, scrambled up onto the platform, interrupted the MC who was in the middle of interacting with the crowd, and requested permission to sing on the stage acapella. another classic 'korean moment' - his request was granted; how could the younger man hosting the performance refuse his elder? without further ado, the ajosshi launched into his slurry, out of rhythm oldie which had the effect of inspiring another drunk ajosshi to come up to the stage and begin to wobble and swing about, flapping his arms in a manner that apparently he considered 'dancing', until he was eventually escorted away by security, but not before he managed to slink out of the securities' grasp and back onto stage a couple times. (again, how can a young, twenty-ish security member make a big fuss over an elder and chase after him?) i considered this entertainment the most insightful into korean culture, coincidentally.

[the 'star' of the show - that's the MC on the left, trying to save face]

[some little girls got on stage during the middle of the performance to do their own routine; it was quite adorable... i later saw them all piled into a van after the performance holding ice cream cones and still wearing their hanboks :)]

later youngmin and i decided to try to check out the namsan tower, but to do so, we would need to ride the cable car or take a bus to the summit. this option we later abandoned in lue of wanting to eat dinner, and we satisfied ourselves with a view from below, reassuring ourselves that 'someday we'll make it'

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