Monday, April 18, 2011

Culture Heritage Tour to Daecheon/Boryeong

April 16th, 2011
On Saturday I took mom with me to 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli. Everyone was really sweet to mom and the 피리 piri player with missing fingers, 주현 on 대금 daegeum and윤지희 Yun Jihee on 해금 haegeum were all there, plus of course 함완식 Ham Wanshik (Nat'l Human Treasure) on the 장구 janggu. So mom was able to hear a lot of awesome playing in addition to watching me dance. For dancers we had only 함승헌 and Ham Sr.'s friend. I really should learn his name. He was very sweet to mom and told her she was much more beautiful than I was and that she didn't look her age. Ham Jr. talked in English to mom, Ham Sr. was his usual friendly self. We did the basic motions, Act 3 (this time I was 먹중 which is the one of the three with a really long speech. I didn't do so badly!), then Act 4 (this time I was the old procuress who doesn't have any lines), then we did 말뚝이놀이 which is Act 10. I played 샌님 Saennim, the oldest of the yangban and the only one with speaking lines. I'd never paid attention to that character before. It was not half as much fun as being the youngest yangban, 도련님, who is a bit retarded and unruly.

After practice we walked a bit in the park there and then looked at the ice-skating rink in Lotte World before going back home.


April 17th, 2011
Policy Director of the Cultural Heritage Administration 엄승용Eom Seungyong invited me to go hiking with him and Prof. David Mason. It sounded like it would be fun—outside Seoul, spring weather, hiking, a temple, things I hadn't seen before… so I asked if it would be okay if mom tagged along and they said yes. A little later Seungyong clarified that we should pay our own ticket there (대천역 Daecheon Stn) but that after that the transpo and lunch would be provided. That sounded even nicer. I bought our tickets –to Daecheon- on Friday but not the tickets home as I had no idea when we'd be heading back to Seoul.

We woke up early and got to the station on time, then took the approximately 3 hour train ride down to Daecheon (this is the train station for 보령 Boryeong a town most known for its mud festival in the summertime. This festival is mostly marketed to foreigners, and I am adverse to it for that reason if not because nothing sounds good to me about wallowing in a bunch of mud with strangers who shouldn't be exposing as much (mud-covered) skin as they are). Actually my friend Eugene did a post about this—read it.  When we arrived the scene I had imagined (of Seungyong, David, some (perhaps English speaking) people interested in heritage and tourism) was abruptly shattered by the reality that Seungyong (undoubtedly incredibly busy) who is from Daecheon had combined our plan with a plan to get together the alumni of his high school. Many of these people were interested in heritage and promotion of Daecheon, Boryeong and the area, but not many of them worked in that area. There were several professors, a high school principal who was quite the cultural expert, local councilmen and other politicians, and more colorful characters amongst Seungyong's high school fellows, and there were also a few younger people (not sure how they got involved with the tour) and officials for Daecheon's culture and tourism department including an English-speaking tour guide (who like many, no let me change that, like most tour guides in Korea knew almost nothing but memorized (or cribbed on notepaper) facts without contextualization and with plentiful errors). She was one of those idiots wearing 3 inch fairly spikey heels on a cultural tour where we'd be clambering around in grass and woods and what not.

View of the Port of Boryeong
I was not in the most social mood and I find large groups of men in their mid-50s a bit much to deal with so I only really talked to five of the Koreans on the tour, they were all very nice. I was most impressed with the high school principal as he was legitimately excited about showing us these sites and had very deep knowledge. I also talked with Chris, a blogger David knows who had come on the tour. He seems interested in learning more about Korea, but hasn't gotten very deep into it yet. I should send him some suggestions for good books.  David who speaks no Korean despite a prodigious memory for Korean terms related to history and culture spent a lot of his time educating the tour guide (I would have done it if he hadn't, but he was much more prepared since he seemed to have brushed up on the local area and what we'd be going to see –and- as a professor of tourism (at Kyunghee University) he has a highly developed idea of how tour guides should be presenting things. Also some (though not all) of our sites for the day were related to his own areas of concentration, specifically religion). Sometimes I disagree with David's ideas, but I have to say I was immensely impressed with how he handled the social aspects of large-group-of-powerful-older-Korean-men. His manners were unfailingly correct and he handled things like an impromptu speech during lunch perfectly—thanking the vice-mayor (who'd joined us for the meal) and everyone else, remembering the names and hitting just the right tone. He really came across well, although he did give a short lecture in English that I thought should have gone deeper, because even though they do not know English well (many of them) they were pushed by the principal to really complex and detailed understandings when he was speaking and I think that David should have pushed their knowledge, not just their ability to understand English.



Really awesome informative principal

Gate to the Commandery

It's spring


Ink stone



As for the sites, well, I am not the type to feel comfortable being ushered on and off buses, into the pose for group photos, to the next stop and so on. Also I felt a little hesitant to ask questions in front of so many people for fear that I had misunderstood what I'd just heard or for fear that I'd garble my question. I did ask some questions one on one, though. The experience of going on a 문화유산답사 munhwa yusan dapsa (Cultural Heritage Educational Lecture/Tour) was interesting though in the context of a book chapter by Robert Oppenheim and as a reminder of another way that Koreans have tried to turn back and learn about their past/culture. Since I like to quietly explore things on my own, I don't normally get this perspective, but it's important to remember it as I write my dissertation.
We saw the site of the execution of several Catholic missionaries, including 5 French martyrs. We went to 충청수영성the commandery for the naval defense force in the region (part is being excavated but it's mostly ruins), and to 성주사지 the site of Seongjusa Temple, which is also now a ruin, but it's one of the original temples for the 9 mountain schools of Shilla Era Buddhism, so it was really awesome to go there—it was the biggest reason I wanted to go on the day trip, though I was also looking forward to hiking which never happened. We got to see a private and very unusual shrine to Sanshin (according to David who specifically wrote a book about Sanshin) and even stopped to see the training center for the provincial human treasure for ink-stone carving (used in calligraphy). We also had an elaborate lunch—almost all seafood including plentiful sashimi in Boryeong Port. The weather was lovely all day.
We didn't get seats for the train home. I managed to keep mom in seats almost the whole way (which was good since she really slept a lot) and Karjam sat between two cars, but I stood up all but perhaps 20 minutes. And my knees were already killing me.

We watched "Hanna" which was a little disappointing before going home. 

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