This weekend wrapped up the Uljin Songi Festival (송이축제) in my corner of Korea. Uljin is famous for three things: big mushrooms, snow crabs, and unstable nuclear reactors… little bit of hyperbole. In any case, the festival was a good chance to stay in town for the weekend and chill with the locals. The day after the fact, I even had a stranger recognize me at Home Mart, saying he had seen me watching others pick the choice ‘shrooms.
There’s nothing magical or otherwise about this local delicacy. Just plain mushrooms. Though a little bigger than you’d expect… and pretty expensive; a small box was going for ₩100,000 on the last day, and that was marked down from ₩130,000. I’ve been told they’re quite tasty, but I wasn’t willing to risk my wallet to buy something I have no idea how to prepare. Will just have to wait for another day, another ‘shroom.
Like every year, this festival was held about a kilometer outside of town, at the Wangpicheon Expo Park (왕피천 엑스포공원), “The Uljin Eco-friendly Expo Park”.
In addition to hosting the Songi Festival, the park is home to Uljin’s famous Organic Food Expo. It’s really one of the greenest open places around Uljin-gun, despite the low population and development. The Uljin Aquarium and animal farm are on the property, as are greenhouses and aviaries.
During the festival, there are a variety of booths with face painting, photography, ikebana (sorry, don’t know if the Korean name is different), demonstrations of Hanja writing (above), and, of course, a live stage with dancing and awards.
In other news, I’ve become pretty numb to the world as of late. It seems like the time I spend in the “American” world of my apartment is becoming more and more distinct from the time I spend outside. Not that I’ve spent the majority of my days inside, it’s just starting to feel as though South Korea only exists when I want it to exist, that’s it’s just too easy to block out with my comforts. This may just be due to my less-than-sudden realization about my effectiveness as an English teacher, or simply a result of living abroad for… well… just too long. To those just starting out in their journeys this might seem impossible. But I believe, given enough time, almost all experiences abroad become too commonplace to excite travelers. Maybe I just need to try a different country, a different job, a different area… but it’s that kind of thinking that makes some stay on the road forever without finding any one place to be truly happy. That’s what I want. To be happy in one place, for a long, long time.