Hello, 안녕하세요, it’s Jiwon. Today’s post will be more personal and informal than my previous posts. It is mostly my sentimental reminiscence of spending spring in Korea, but I have also included bits of information about Korean culture that I hope you will find interesting and useful.
I came to Canada about eight years ago, a bit after my elementary school graduation. I visited home more often in high school, but now I go home once or twice a year for either or both summer or/and winter breaks. In high school, for March breaks that were only two weeks long, I mostly spent time with my family at home. Therefore, most of my memories of enjoying spring in Korea is from my elementary school years or older.
In Korea, spring typically beings in March and fades away into summer in May. March 6th as I noted in issue 03 of The Attic Playlist is called 경칩(Kyung-Chip). It is the day animals wake up from their hibernation. 입춘(Ip-Choon), which is about February 4th, is actually the official starting date of spring, but February is still cold with the last cold snap.
1. First day of school
For the past several years, I spent my March in Toronto. In Toronto, there is little to no sign of spring in March when we still get snow even until the end of the month. There is the occasional sight of fresh green sprouts, but they soon freeze from the cold wind. Looking at big fluffy snowflakes falling outside my window right now, I miss walking to school on streets covered with flower petals. Even the act of walking to school is nostalgic because I didn’t really have to walk to school while I was at a boarding school and then in on-campus residence.
Image 1: Ewha Women’s University in spring
Whereas Canadian schools start in September, first day of school in Korea is in March. I remember it was a great achievement for me in first grade to be able to walk to school on my own by remembering the street names and crosswalks. I didn’t walk to school so often, but when I did, I liked to look at the trees and flowers. Trees on the roadside used to look far bigger to me than they do now. I would stop under a tree as spring breeze dishevels the branches, and flying flower petals fell on me just like the snowflakes I see in Toronto, gently and quietly.
Every school day began with a group morning exercise in the playground. Through the warm spring air the music floated out of the speaker. The exercises are called 국민체조(Gook-min Chae-jo), the national physical exercise that most schools adapted, and 리듬체조(Ri-deum Chae-jo), meaning rhythmic exercise. Because there were flower petals scattered on the playground as well, my friends and I gathered them with our hands during the exercise and blew them to each other. A teacher would notice the flower petals on our hair and scold us, but we would still have smiles on our faces.
Image 2: 국민 체조(Gook-min Chae-jo)
2. Buskers on streets of 홍대(Hong-Dae: the neighborhood near Hong-Ik University)
As a grown-up, I have been to many more areas of Seoul, but in my elementary school years, the scope of activity for me and my friends was confined to taking sticker photos, eating sweets, and walking around areas near our school. 홍대(Hong-Dae) was one of the neighborhoods within walking distance from our school.
There were far fewer foreigners in the neighborhood, but come to think of it, 홍대(Hong-Dae) had a free and relaxed atmosphere for artists, which I find is very similar to that of Kensington Market in Toronto. 홍대(Hong-Dae) and its neighboring areas are still famous for welcoming artists to perform, hold flea markets, and share their artworks on their streets and parks.
Image 3: 홍대(Hong-Dae) 프리마켓(Flea Market)
Over the years, I have grown more familiar with stopping by buskers and listening to them, but when I first saw them in 홍대(Hong-Dae), the idea of busking instantly gave me a new feeling of freedom. I played piano and violin, but my performances were always in a concert hall confined to a program. Until now, I still haven’t tried busking, but with my fairly new love for playing guitar, I have plans to bring my guitar to 한강(Han-Gang: a river called Han that flows through Seoul) and enjoy some good tunes with people.
3. 영등포(Young-deung-po) 여의도(Yeoui-do/Yeoui-island) 봄꽃 축제(Spring Flower Festival)
I have a sketch of me that an artist drew at 영등포(Young-deung-po) 여의도(Yeoui-do) 봄꽃 축제(spring flower festival). The pencil drawing looks a bit faded now, but I still clearly remember the beautiful cherry blossoms I saw. Besides the festival, I have many fond memories of 여의도(Yeoui-do) and the park area alongside 한강(Han-Gang: a river that flows through Seoul). My favorite memory there is the day my parents taught me how to ride a bicycle. Also, my childhood friends and I often went to have fun rollerblading in the park.
Image 4: 여의도(Yeoui-do) 한강 공원(Han River Park)
I liked the Seawall in Vancouver for it reminded me of the park, so I often spent time walking along the Seawall to clear thoughts whenever I missed living in Korea and going to 한강(Han-Gang).
Image 5: The Seawall in Vancouver, BC
When I went back to 여의도(Yeoui-do) two years ago for an internship, I missed the festival because I could only go back after exams were over in May. I reminisced about the past and really hoped that I would be able to see the cherry blossoms again someday. I know it will be a while until I revisit the festival because I will continue schooling in Canada for a few more years, but I recommend those of you who are currently in Seoul to visit the festival.
Image 6: blooming flowers in 여의도(Yeoui-do)
This year, the festival is from April 10th to April 15th. If you want to avoid the crowd, then you may go a few days before or after the festival, but regardless of when you go, as long as it is while the flowers are in bloom, the streets are simply beautiful. Generally, the riverside park is a nice place to have a picnic.
Here is a link that has information about the festival: http://korean.visitkorea.or.kr/kor/inut/where/festival/festival.jsp?cid=525755 If you need translation for parts of the website, I am willing to help. You may comment below with your question(s).
Thank you for reading! I had a good time thinking back on some lovely memories. I look forward to spending spring here in Toronto this year. When the weather is warmer, I will make a post about things I like about spending spring in Toronto.