Monday, January 10, 2011

Something Wonderful Every Week

Here is a new blog, a weekly photo journal for the year 2011:

We invite our friends, fellow travelers, and photographers to submit 1 photo to "Something Wonderful" every week by Sunday at noon. Photos will then be grouped according to location and published on our website by Monday or Tuesday of the following week. We ask that if you join this blog community, you consistently submit 1 photo EVERY WEEK for the year 2011.

An important caveat is that photos should be taken and submitted in "REAL TIME," which is to say that each photo you submit should be taken at some point during that same week. For instance, all photos submitted the second week of January should actually be taken within the second week of January 2011. This allows viewers to see what different people in different places in the world are doing at roughly the same time.

Any photo can be "wonderful" -- a photo of you, your friends, your cat, a good meal , a famous landscape, or something close to home. Even if it seems ordinary to you, someone across the world might see it and be amazed. Your everyday life, whether or not you know it, is wonderful.

You, the photographer, retain the copyright of any photo you take.

Please submit 1 photo by Sunday at noon, EVERY WEEK, to our e-mail address:

The e-mail should include your name, city, country, and a brief description of the item/people in the photo, as well as an attachment with the photo (JPEG preferred).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Korean Mask Dancing and the Traditional Ways


{Lindyhoppers at Dosan Seowon}

Hey, that isn't traditional dancing! Or rather, it is traditional dancing, but it's traditional American dancing. My friends and I (all lindy hoppers) pose in the American "swing out" at Dosan Seowon (도산서원), a Confucian academy, before we reach the reach the autumn maskdancing festivals being held at Hahoe and Andong.

{Dosan Seowon, circa 1574}

{Just a Social Butterfly}

Hahoe and Andong are noted for their hand-carved wooden masks. The regional woodcarving artistry extends to tall wooden figures with carved faces, such as the one pictured above. They are about the size of small lamp posts.


Hahoe Village overlooks Nakdong River, which borders much of its perimeters. The word "hahoe" means "laughed at by waters."

I'm just bluffing. It actually means "surrounded by waters."

Some of the villages in Hahoe live in huts thatched with straw; others live in wooden hanoks with curved tile roofs. The countryside is surrounded by fresh air and the environ is surrounded not only by mountains by also by wildflowers and crops of growing food.

I could wile away the hours
Conferrin' with the flowers
Consultin' with the rain
And my head I'd be scratchin'
While my thoughts were busy hatchin'
If I only had a brain

We see a traditional maskdancing performance in Hahoe. The setting is brilliant ~ an outdoor stage set under tall, ancient pines. Craggy cliffs rise dramatically in the background.

Some foreign visitors don't enjoy the maskdancing. It's all in Korean, and neither my friends nor myself can follow the plot. I love it, though. Most days in Korea, I can't understand most of what's being said ~ so it's just like that, only with bright costumes, music, and candy.

Hahoe Village one of the loveliest places I've visited in Korea, and it is considered by most people to be the most authentic of the Korean folk villages. Sure, electric wiring runs through many of the houses and Hahoe has some tourists, but nonetheless, it is a place where real people live, farm, and raise their families. The government supplements the locals' income to insure they preserve the old ways.

{Walking Through the Village}

{600-Year-Old Tree}

An ancient Zelkova tree has an enormous trunk and many sprawling branches and roots. For over 600 years, it has stood as a guardian to the villagers of Hahoe Village.

{Tying Wish to a 600-Year-Old-Tree}

This ancient tree is perfect for providing shade (in the summer!) and fulfilling wishes (year round!).

{Traditionally Confused}

If you visit the Korean countryside, you, too, will most likely want to find traditional Korean lodgings. To determine the authenticity of a place it should: 1. provide all bedding as thin mats on the floor; 2. the people-to-bathroom ratio should be roughly 60 people for every 1 bathroom. This rustic lifestyle gives outsiders the chance to experience the purity of country living. Why be cooped up the entire morning while readying for the day when you can brush your teeth in the fresh outdoors with a garden hose serving as both sink and shower? Queue up early, though, as there will even be a line for this.

{Hahoe Traditional Fireworks}

For a traditional firework display, ropes are strung across the river and then set on fire. Groups of people sometimes yell things in Korean, and shortly thereafter, a large object is set on fire on and tossed over the mountain. It's dark and confusing, unclear as to what's being tossed off the mountain, too ~ unwanted pianos, sacrifical virgins? I didn't understand it, didn't even understand that it WAS the actual fireworks festival until I asked someone when the fireworks would start.

After returning home, I did research on the web about it (and by "research" I really mean snooping through another traveler's Facebook comments about the festival). Here's what I learned: The blurry shape beneath the ropes is a boat containing poets. Whenever they finish writing a poem, everyone yells "drop the fire" and then a burning pine is tossed from the mountaintop. I'm a very slow writer, myself. If I were on the boat, fireworks would only occur every other week or so.


Andong has a bigger maskdancing festival, with an interesting variety of shows, but it's a modern city, large and charmless compared to Hahoe.

The inside stage at Andong, which must be entered by walking through the mouth of a giant mask, features a variety of performances from dancers across the world.

{"Buy a Pretty Flower" Korean Maskdance}

{Chinese Magician Maskdance}

{Traditional Korean Maskdance}

{Thai Dancers "Cock Fight"}