Yesterday I got roped into attending a festival in Incheon with Vicky and one of her coworkers. I say “roped into” because it was in Incheon, and there’s really no reason to go there unless you are headed to the airport. (Sorry Incheonites, but it’s the truth) I went though, because A. I'm a good friend, and B. I wanted to play with my new camera.
It took us several hours to get there because of transportation mishaps. This is my second visit to Incheon and both times, it has taken a ridiculously long time by bus due to horrendous traffic. If you’re ever Incheon-bound (again, not to the airport) then it’s actually faster to take the subway.
The entrance to the festival was a good example of how freaked out Koreans are about the whole swine-flu thing. We waited in line first to be spritzed with hand sanitizer, and then to pass through the so-called “Flugun” gates where a machine doused us in some kind of germ-fighting mist.
A tad extreme, but I didn’t mind at all. As far as I’m concerned, the whole H1N1 scare has been a blessing in disguise. In the last month or so, hand-sanitizing stations have popped up everywhere; at my school, in office buildings, etc. I think it’s great, because most public restroom faucets are either lacking hot water, or instead of a soap dispenser, there is a bar of soap attached to the sink that everyone is supposed to share!!! Ish. Cold water does not kill germs, and that bar of soap has everyone's bathroom hand-germs on it! I try to have hand sanitizer on me at all times in Korea, but these days, thanks to H1N1, I don't need to pack my own because it's everywhere.
Hand sanitizer stations at Chungdam H.S.
Along with hand sanitizer stations, Koreans are now practicing such germ-fighting techniques as covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze! Amazing! Hopefully this trend will last beyond the H1N1 hoopla. Oh, also those medical masks that are ubiquitous in this country anyway, have doubled in wearage.
But they still hock loogies all over the streets (and stairs at my school). I don’t know if that will ever go away, despite my giving death-looks to every ajushi who does so in my presence.
Back to the festival. I think the point of it was to highlight Incheon's plans to become "the city of the future," but I was more interested in the "International" stuff. My favorite was the “World Cultures Street” where they had food, shops, and exhibits from around the world. We browsed a Moroccan bazaar, ate Turkish ice cream, drank French wine and saw Brazilian Carnival dancers all without leaving Korea. It really made me want to travel; everywhere. Unfortunately, like the rest of the general population, I have limited vacation time and funds. Most of my vacation days for this contract are already shot because of the trip home for my sister’s wedding, but I do hope to squeeze some trips in this Spring before I go to Japan. (Topping the wish list are India and Nepal and/or Vietnam)
It was also really humorous to see the Teddy Bear Museum, where they had teddy bears depicting highly stereotypical scenes from different countries. A few examples:
Germany = teddy bears in lederhosen drinking beer
New Zealand = teddy bears acting out a battle from "Lord of the Rings"
The United States = teddy bears dressed as cowboys fighting Indians
Sweden = teddy bears dressed as Vikings. (No mention of Norway; my ancestors are now rolling in their graves)
Central and South America were lumped together as one unit, represented by teddy bears acting out a soccer game between Brazil and Argentina, with Mayan and Aztec ruins as a backdrop. Hmm...wonder how they would feel about that.
I guess it's no different from people in the Western Hemisphere thinking Korea, Japan and China are basically the same. And...they were teddy bears.
Here are a few pictures. I really need to figure out how to use my fancy new camera, because there are so many cool functions and I only know how to use Auto and Landscape mode. Where is Dan Thai when you need him?
The Incheon of the Future (really I just wanted a pic of the little girl in the swine-flu mask)
Brazilian Carnival dancers scandalizing a Korean man (although he didn't seem to mind)
Teddy Bear Pope
Lazer/Fireworks show. Incheon..."Lightening Tomorrow!"