Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here Fishy Fishy Fishy!

This weekend I went to Korea's #1 fishing festival...or at least that's what the brochure they gave to me said. All I knew was I was going a tour that promised ice fishing, snow hiking, and an excuse to get out of Seoul.

But since we don't have really cold winters in Seattle, my sole source of ice fishing culture consists of watching Grumpy Old Men. So I expected shacks on the ice and fishing poles. Oh ho, not so!

The picture you now see before you is the ice fishing section. There were thousands of Koreans huddled around their holes. The were no shacks. So I, along with the rest of the foreigners, borrowed the giant crow bar / ice hole digging tool and proceeded to attack the ice we were standing. After the hole was dug and scooped clean of snow-cone shavings...we whipped out the fly swatters that the tour company gave us. I mean technically they were fishing poles, but if you glanced in a'd think it was a fly swatter with a bit of fishing line and the saddest, most unappealing lure you've ever seen in your life.

How sad was it?

The Korean in the hole next to us, who had caught several fish using a real lure...communicated to us thru broken, borderline non-existant English skills...(so gestures really mixed with words we didn't understand) that no fish would even bite on our lures.

But yet somehow, almost all of the foreigners wound up hooking a fish.

How? With our pathetic poles, unalluring lure and thousands of other hooks to choose from?

Maybe a little technique that I learned from Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street?

Simple. A reporter with a newspaper wanted pictures of foreigners catching fish. So he came by with a bucket of fish. He set one on each of our hooks and we had to pose surprised, excited, and awed for the camera. He got his picture and we got our fish, so everyone was happy.

Later that evening we drove out to the woods to a ring of cabins. Behind the cabins, thru a brief hike in the snow, there was a bonfire that leaped 20 feet in the air. Such acts of primitive beauty inspired in my soul the immortal words of sages from my teenage years. "Fire is cool!"

At the cabin, 10 of us spread out on the floor and fell asleep.

Korean's don't really do beds. I mean, beds are creeping in as part of the western influence, but most Koreans don't have them. They prefer to sleep on mats on their floor. They don't really have central heating either, but they do pump heat out of their floors. They call it ondol. The room was quite chilly, but the floor was quite toasty. While I lay on my back on the thin mattress pad provided, I could see my breath...but I as everything from my neck down to my toes was being heated...I felt perfectly warm.

Koreans believe in the heated "ondol" flooring so much that apartments are measured in pyeong...or how much space a person would take up sleeping on the floor.

So while I attempted to catch so sleep, the other 2 guys were sawing logs with such window shaking force that it made me miss my grandma.

The next day we went hiking in snow that was loose and powdery, perfect for skiing and sledding, but poor for snow balls and hiking. Many of our motley crew had to turn back do to inadequate footwear.

After the hike, we drove into town, ate lunch and headed back into Seoul... a little wetter, a bit colder, slightly bruised, but all smiles.

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