Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hwacheon Sancheoneo (산천어) Festival/It's Really Cold Here

Back in July, Korea was disgustingly hot. I would dread the punishing 5 minute walk to work, where I would quickly sweat through whatever shirt I was wearing before arriving at stuffy, poorly ventilated Swaton.

I remember talking with the teacher I was replacing, RJ, during my training time. I asked about the winters in Korea--Were they cold? How long did they last?--more to show respect for how long RJ had been here than out of any personal interest. I was surprised when RJ's expression darkened and he said "It's unlike any cold I've ever know," as if he were talking about some icy purgatory or the worst ice-cream headache ever. Surely, I thought, this guy is full of shit. He is also from Tennessee, and therefore wimpy in the ways of winter. Not like me, resident of Colorado and survivor of multiple Oklahoman ice storms.

Well, it is now January, and I now understand what RJ was talking about. It is effin' cold here--so cold you can feel the life draining out of you after standing outside for more than 10 minutes. Though temperatures do get as low back at home in the winter timez (anywhere from 0-32 ° F), something about Korean cold sucks extra hard. Maybe it's because it blows in from Siberia. Maybe because it's more humid here. I don't know.

I have gotten really sick of talking about how cold it is here, though, because it makes life feel miserable, and it isn't. Far from it, actually--life here remains quite awesome. Subsequently, I have recently decided that I shall refuse to sit on my hands indoors and wait until Spring. The Hwacheon Sancheoneo (산천어, "mountain trout") Ice Festival is the first event of nearly a month's worth of exciting SAD-busting activities I have planned.

Well, I suppose I really owe the "planning" credit for this past weekend to my friend Breda and her boyfriend Song. They were able to arrange for us to go up to Hwacheon this past Saturday, a small town in Gangwon-do Province up near the DMZ, with a Korean tour group. Here:

It was insanely crowded. There were hordes of people, swinging hordes of little fishing poles, crowded around hordes of holes in the ice, which surely wasn't naturally able to support the weight of all these folk. Witness:

Song maning up/gorging holes in the ice

Photographic evidence: there's fish in that there river

Not even Jenny Teacher caught a fish

Breda and Meg succeed at looking adorable, if not at fish-catching.

Fortunately, there was plenty of non-fishing related stuff to do, too. Not pictured: an awesome lunch of makgeoli (fermented rice wine) and trout (in raw, cooked, and deep-fried incarnations).

I didn't pay to do this, though I probably should have. It looks like good, clean, safe fun, no?

Giant bear snow sculpture, BOY AM I EXCITED

Jenny Teacher and Madeline Teacher, on ice



  1. ARE THOSE ATVS ON ICE!? wtf! i am having heart palpitations at the potential rescue911 situations that could cause! (err, rescue119?)
    also enjoyed "teacher on ice" - v cute.

  2. ahh... "teacherS on ice", ie. the pic of you and jenny. way to be coherent, alex.

  3. how did i miss that awesome warning sign?!

    ps, i'm so glad you came, it was a blast!

  4. baha. Based on the last line of this post, my new plan for your future career is meteorology. That's a line even Mike Madson (?) would envy.
    Also. Very nice boots. Much nicer, indeed, than the webpix you posted earlier.

  5. Hello, I'm Emma Jang from WorknPlay in Seoul, Korea. I read about your interesting Sancheoneo Ice Festival experiences in Korea on your personal blog. Would you consider also sharing about this festival on WorknPlay's website? You could use this opportunity to publicize your blog, by include a link to your website. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail .
    Thank you.