August 05, 2011


Around this time last year I was hobbling around Seoul. I spent my days on crutches, and evenings with my leg in the air. For those of you who are new, I dislocated my knee playing beach volleyball. I wrote about the experience in a three part series (read! pt.I, pt.II, pt.III). The hospital visit was atrocious, and I think has subsequently seriously hampered my recovery. While I have improved by leaps and bounds, my leg is only 85% a year later! I can run short distances, although not in the gym yet. I also have yet to receive any clearance to participate in sports.

Anywho, lets go back in time, the weekend after I dislocated my knee was the somewhat infamous Mud Festival in Boryeong. At my last school there was only one other teacher who missed the event (12 of 14 going). I couldn't attend because I could barely walk, let alone enter a slippery mud world. My fellow outcast was able to walk, she just hated white people at that point in time. Once my friends returned home I heard a somewhat scathing review of the event. I had heard that it was nothing but a bunch of infantile drunk expats, gallivanting around in the mud. I believe that some of the people included in last year's tour attributed to the review, but it was still awful enough to almost dissuade me from attending this year.

The event wasn't on my mind, or on my calender this year, and I was fine with that. My plan to skip the event was thwarted when an offer I couldn't refuse entered my Facebook inbox. I got bus, accomodation, and food for less than the price of a return train ticket to Boryeong. The Mud Festival self is held over two weekends (well I'm sure it's also on during the week but I'm sure it's lame), and my Korean class was headed the second of these weekends. I was hoping that a different weekend and crowd from the aforementioned review would change the outcome. My current co-workers went to the first weekend, and actually complained about the expat infusion.

I arrived excited, like a child at a carnival (There were actually some carnival rides in Boryeong, I stumbled upon them at 2am, and decided the Viking ship sounded like a good idea).  Every fifteen feet along the highway there were flags promoting the event. When I finally hit the boardwalk some dissapointment set in, I witnessed very few mud people. I mostly saw Korean families strolling around the boardwalk eating ice cream. What I didn't realize was that the beach was huge, it spread across most of the horizon. The Mud Festival, while much celebrated, was tucked away at the far end of the beach. Almost as if it had been hidden there, like an over advertised embarrassment to the community. Yet there at the end of the beach, an inflatable kingdom celebrating mud stood. It wasn't as big as I was expecting, (that's what she said) but it was neatly confined and ruling a small segment of the beach.

Outside of the venue you could paint yourself in mud (literally), this was completely free, although not really invigorating. In order to truly become a mud person, you had to pay admission to enter the inflated kingdom. Inside there were many attractions where you could fully cover yourself with little effort required. My favourite of these sites was the prison. The basic idea was to stand inside this (non inflated) room and get buckets of mud thrown at you. I went in multiple times, and at one point got mud inside my eye. An event that required a 3/4 of a bottle of visine to 'save' my contact lens. I was however, happily covered head to toe in mud while standing in front of the bathroom mirror!

I stayed away from the inflated activities due to my knee. I love bouncy castles, but the possibility of slipping was immense! I would visualize a mistep that would land me back into another ER nightmare. I wish I didn't have to worry about shit like that, but without having a fully healed knee I didn't really want to take the risk. I did watch as several of my friends partook though. They would line up patiently and wait for their opportunity to battle each other in obstacle courses, or elaborate tug o war competitions. Or they could line up for mud fights, and mud pits, which were over-sized inflatable pools.
My first day at the event I didn't really notice that there were Koreans everywhere taking photos. I walked around oblivious to their presence. It wasn't until the second day that I noticed, and remembered their attendance. I don't know why but I somewhat found it creepy, first off, they were inside the entrances (so they paid admission). Second, They stuck to the perimeter like a paparazzi mob.  I can't really comment to negatively as I was there on my second day taking photos myself, but I thought their presence was a little extreme.

In the end, my review differs greatly from the one I received. Although I did mention before that I originally thought the crowd involved was a large part of the scathing review. I was also surprised to see that the event was much more family oriented than I orgininally believed it could be. While alcohol is always present in Korea, it wasn't a centerpiece. I didn't run into drunken idiots, although I wasn't on the look out for them. My group was respectful and the event was as amazing as you could imagine being covered in mud could be, rich in vitamins.

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