Friday, September 16, 2011

Hyoseok Cultural Festival

       So I finally got myself out of the house and went straight to another rural area called Jangpyeong.  It took me some hours in the bus and even missed my stop.  It wasn't so much a bad thing since I'm out to photograph, regardless of where I'd end up.  A couple of locals started staring at me which made me uncomfortable, so I was only able to take snap shots of a bridge and a river.  It's too bad that I didn't see much of this place.

       So on to the bus going back to my destination.  A taxi ride to where the Lee Hyo Seok's monumental place (I believe it's his birthplace), and a little hike up to that establishment.  I hear music and see quite a number of people taking pictures of buckwheat flowers.  Most of them are families.  But to my disappointment, most of the buildings are but restaurants.  The hike to the museum wasn't that bad.  And I see some photographers along with more families.  The entrance fee to the museum was cheap, but I bet taking pictures isn't allowed, so there's no use going inside (for me and for that moment, at least).  According to info, it's supposed to be a festival.  The fact that it's also Chuseok (harvest festival), you can't blame me for wondering why there aren't many people around.  The beach on a weekday would have even more people than here.  So I'm disappointed.  It's a festival!  I expected much more.

       Of course I have to take whatever's given to me.  But it ruined my mood and I'm not so much inspired.  It shows on my pictures.  I was a bit intrigued with that loud music and someone hosting it.  It seems there's some sort of concert happening.  So I went downhill to check it out.  Again, it's disappointing.  Nothing but 3 entertainers giving everything they got to 3 - 5 people popping in and out.  Sometimes I'm the only spectator.  Despite all that, these three brave souls still go on as if there's a huge audience.  I can't help but appreciate their enthusiasm.  I can relate.  I was once an entertainer.

       From what I've seen, I assumed this was the highlight of the festival.  I may be disappointed but I'm not that picky.  Besides, I'm here to practice on Street Photography.  And here comes my problem again.  I took a lot of shots of them.  My intention is to test out which lens could give me more.  Since I'm planning on buying a new one, I figured I should see what range is most compatible for me.  Be that as it may, I'm slowly getting frustrated because of my lack of skills.  I tried and tried.  Shot after shot, I feel like all of my pictures were snapshots.  Not even close to Street Photography.  It's annoying when I try to implement everything I've learned (though little it may be) and still get bad results.

       I gave up.  The entertainers of course noticed me.  Too bad they know I'm a foreigner.  It wouldn't matter much if it wasn't for the language barrier.  So they hesitate on pulling me to the small crowd and join-in on the fun.  They did try a couple of times.  But not as aggressive as the way they literally drag people to sing (karaoke style... in the open!).  I just accepted what the day offered me so I went in with the audience and to my surprise, my spirits are slowly lifting up.  It's how these people are determined to go forth with big flashing "The Show Must Go On" signs on their faces.  Believe it or not, it's what touched me.  Like I said, I can relate.

       One of them approached me and asked if I'm from the media.  Mentioning popular TV channels in hopes she guessed it right.  I just smiled and shook my head each time.  Then came her sentiments and asked if they're entertaining enough.  Of course I agreed.  It's the reason why I stayed for hours.  But then she asked why there aren't as many people when they try so hard to liven up the place... that broke my heart.  I could only hold back my tears and smile a bit.  I wish I could do more than just sit or take pictures.

       Although I didn't achieve my goals coming to this place, thanks to these folks, I'm still glad that I came here.  For a moment, I felt nostalgic and somehow "at home" in this place.  It's better than Hwaseong.  It may be a bit isolated, but I dig that.  I find it strange (in a good way) that this is a rural area of South Korea, and expected the locals to be inhibited, xenophobic, and mostly rude to people of my color (I've been to many places in this country where this is apparent).  To my surprise, it's the opposite.  The only semi-rude people that I've communicated with were the visitors.  The locals are very friendly.  And this, brought tears to my eyes.

       Time passed and I wanted to go home.  I could stay the night.  I still had time.  But I'm thinking, I'm not really that enthusiastic about it.  So I walked out of the crowd, down the street, looking for a place to hail a cab back to the bus station.

       Passing by another crowded area, I saw a Calesa but with a donkey instead of a horse.  Starting here, I noticed there are more and more people around as I walk down the street.  I finally realized I came to the main place where everything is happening... too bad it's getting late.

       Now battling whether I should stay the night or not, I kept walking and took pictures here and there.  Things are getting more and more interesting.  On the other hand, the sun is setting quite fast, which tells me I'm running out of time.  I finally came to the right stage where a lot of performances are held. I came just in time for the encore.  With other photographers around with their intimidating gears (huge lenses with even more huge flash), I could only take my cellphone and record video.  It's a bad copy but it's all I have.

       After the final performance of the day, it was announced that the show will continue at 7:30 pm.  I'm a bit past 6 pm then.  I have to make a decision fast.  Should I stay?  Should I go?

       Although I didn't understand much of what the announcer said, I think the night will all be about a couple of people singing.  Sure, I might enjoy it.  Sure I might catch a glimpse of some famous Korean singers.  But I doubt I'll make something out of it.  I might as well go back home and download whatever pictures I can salvage.  It's probably best to take a good day's rest before going back to normal life.

       I'm glad I made that decision at the right time too.  At Jangpyeong bus station, there were too many people going back to Seoul (it was Chuseok's closing day anyway) that they won't release tickets.  It'll all depend on whether there's still available space.  At least that was what I was told.  I was thinking of taking alternative routes.  So far, the other destinations were a bit far, I'd rather stay the night in town and try again in the morning.  But I was still keeping my hopes up.  Bus arrived.  The conductor announced there's still one more ticket available.  I approached the bus driver telling him the tellers didn't want to sell me a ticket for the reasons she said.  I was ordered to get a ticket quick 'cause I'm the last guy.  I'm very lucky.  As I was about to get in the bus, some other people were trying their luck of riding the bus despite their tickets are for a later schedule.  And then it hit me: Was that lady teller denying me a ticket?  Sigh.  Typical.

       I got to Seoul but with much disappointment from my performance in Jangpyeong, I really wasn't in the mood to fight fatigue and go out and take more pictures.  Passing by a scene I spotted earlier, I just took some shots and this time, it couldn't get any worse.  Since I'm practicing on Street Photography, I was trying to add a human passing by this bridge.  One of them was riding a bike and I'd really love to add her to the picture.  The moment I clicked my shutter (flash on), she immediately stopped beside me and gave me that look.  That cold stare Koreans do whenever they disapprove.  I've seen that stare a lot of times.  I got those many a time.  But I didn't bother acknowledging it.  Not this time.  I'm just not in the mood.  So she protested, "I'm in that picture."  I promptly showed her I'm about to delete it.  Funny, if it was in a different scenario, I'd have shoved it in her face and even murmur (loud enough to let her hear) "As if you're pretty."  But like I said.  I'm just not in the mood.

       So what can I keep in memory of this day?  I think it's those 3 entertainers.  Doing everything they can and in full energy all the time, just to keep the spirit of celebration up.  To you, my comrades, more power!

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