Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Korean Queer Festival!

On the day I had already delegated to go to the aquarium, I discovered that the 14th annual Queer Festival was happening in Hongdae. Needless to say, I quickly changed my plans and my friend Katie and I met up with Danielle to get our queer on.

The parade was a giant progression of people who were lesbian, gay, queer, or straight supporters of the LGBTQ community. There were pride flags, elaborate costumes and fabulous drag queens galore.

The main drive were several trucks blasting dancing music that kept the energy incredibly high, and lots of happy people walking for a good cause.

Being gay in Korea still has a huge stigma, so having so much support from so many people was a great sight to see. Same-sex marriage is still not recognized in Korea, and I have been told that it is a popular belief that homosexuality is a "Western phenomenon". Movies and other mediums are making this issue more visible, and it is slowly becoming more accepted. Several K-Pop stars have revealed themselves to be gay, which seems to be helping to sway public opinion. Kim Jo Kwang Su, one of Korea's first openly gay film directors, plans to marry his boyfriend Kim Seung Hwan on September 7th, 2013. He will be wed in a public ceremony that will not be legally recognized in the hopes it will push for the legalization of gay marriage.

If you want some more information on being gay in Korea, check out this blog post.

At first glance, you might think this is a close-up of a conservative Korean man.
But look closely.
In the background was one of my favorite people that I saw that day.

After a while of watching the progression, we decided it would be more fun to join in. Danielle was the first to join with the crowd, and Katie and I soon followed. It's the second parade I've participated in in Korea, and it was definitely more fun to be marching with everyone!

Danielle, happy to be part of everything!

View from within the crowd marching.

At the end we saw these Smurf-type characters.
No idea who/what they were, but I thought they were cute.

Random, Wonderful Korea

I had a pleasant surprise last Thursday outside of school--a fair! Well, a fair on a very small scale. Apparently, they set up in the park outside about once a month during the summer. I was just able to glimpse at the start of work, and it was (thankfully) still going strong by the time I finished up at 9.

Dan and I enjoying a walk through.
We were, of course, greeted by a flailing inflatable tube man!

There was quite a bit of food on display. You could go through and buy bags of different chips, wafers, and candies. Nothing looked especially appetizing.

There were lots of games that could be played too. Some were familiar, like the good old balloon popping game. Below is a picture of children trying to scoop up goldfish. This did not seem to be a game, it was more of a free for all of little kids trying to catch fish with one of the little green nets people use to catch them in their own fish tanks back home. It was cute to watch, and the kids seemed to be really excited to do it.

There were not any rides for the kiddos, but it was a beautiful little scene to walk through. Everything was lit up (though that happens absolutely everywhere in Korea), and there adults and children alike enjoying themselves. We did run into a few kids that we teach, who were eager to say hello!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shootin' Guns and Stuff

Despite the fact that guns are illegal in Korea for non-military citizens, there are gun ranges here. Which is something I delightfully discovered when I opted out of ziplining during a trip due to my completely irrational fear of heights.

I'm glad I did, because it was tons of fun shooting a hand gun for the first time and trying my aim at an air gun. I now completely understand why people think BB guns are so fun!

They were extremely safety-conscious, and it seemed like it was virtually impossible for there to be any sort of accident in which someone got hurt.

A posting of the rules.
Basically, don't touch other people's guns
and don't point yours at people.

I have no idea why, but the are where you could shoot clay pigeons was called the "American Trap".

Boom, tickets to shoot guns!

The official office where we purchased our tickets.
TONS of spent cartridges.

This was the hand gun shooting area. For a pretty small fee, we each got ten shots. The gun was in a harness, so it was basically hanging there the whole time and gave us no chance to accidentally point it someone. An instructor stood next to me as I shot, and cocked the gun for me and gave me some pointers on aiming.

I hit the target with all ten bullets, so apparently I am an amazing shot. I had 63 out of a possible 100 points, so not too shabby!
Charles and his target.

Katie and her target.

Posing with my target in front of the window
so you can see how awesome my shots were.

 Charles at the air gun range. This part was huge. There were tons of targets, but unfortunately they were only using about 10 of them so it took a while to actually get to shoot.

Once you shot one of the little pellets, you could hit a button and the target traveled down the wire to you so you could adjust your shot. This was pretty sweet, and it was fun to be able to adjust your aim using a close-up view of what you were shooting at.

Below is a picture of Katie and I posing with our targets under the cherry tree. I had told everyone I wanted a picture with our targets under this cherry tree because of "the juxtaposition with the beauty and the violence of having just shot guns" and I still haven't heard the end of it. I still think it's a great photo, despite the haters.

The shooting range was located in an absolutely gorgeous area. It was set in the midst of some mountains, and it being high cherry blossom season, the trees were all in full, impressive bloom. I took more than a few awesome nature photos here.

Gam Wine Tunnel

On one of the trips I took with WinK, we stopped at a beautiful wine cellar tunnel in Cheongdo.  It tunnel was gorgeous. Lined with empty wine bottles and featuring many brightly lit wine-related exhibits, it has a very unique feel.

The wine cellar opened its doors in 2006, and its claim to fame is being the world's FIRST persimmon wine cellar. Located in the middle of a mountain, it is an impressive 1,000 meters long. It maintains a constant temperature of about 60* Fahrenheit (15* Celsius).

The picture to the left is the entrance to the tunnel, complete with a persimmon sculpture.

The tunnel was originally named Namseonghyeon Tunnel, and it was built in 1898 during the Joseon Dynasty as a railroad tunnel. Its original structure was altered about a hundred years ago when persimmon growers put red bricks in the ceiling, reinforced the tunnel walls with natural stone, and turned the railroad tunnel into a fantastic place to store wine.

Lighted canopy above the picnic tables that served as a cafe
in which to enjoy your glass of wine.

The winery exclusively features persimmon wine, which is made through fermenting seedless persimmons. Many cities in Korea have a special regional delicacy, famous mountain, or time-honored tradition, and Cheongdo is no different. This city's pride and joy is the persimmon, or gam, which is why the cellar holds exclusively persimmon wine.

In addition to racks upon racks of wine bottles, the cellar also has exhibitions, wine sampling, and a wine market where you can purchase glasses of wine to enjoy right away. The persimmon was was good, but strangely tart and sweet at the same time. There is also a gift shop that features persimmon goods such as lotion and chocolate made with this interesting fruit.

They also had these fantastic cardboard cutouts for photo ops.
Which, of course, I had to take advantage of.
The tunnel itself was beautiful, but the walk to it was also quite scenic. Coming from Wisconsin, for some reasons mountains and the majestic views they afford never cease to amaze me. I can't stop taking pictures of them, even though they are absolutely everywhere and their novelty should have worn off by now! But seriously, check out these pictures and tell me my fascination isn't warranted.