Friday, May 15, 2015

Cherry Blossoms

(Originally posted on on April 13, 2015)

Cherry blossoms, duh!
I had hoped to write an entry about cherry blossoms about a week and a half ago, and that deadline went by without my writing so much as a single word. I then hoped to write this about a week ago, and that deadline went by without my writing so much as a single word. Then I wanted to finish writing this by this past weekend – April 11th and 12th – and that deadline went by without my writing so much as a single word. Well, today's the day. The cherry blossoms might all be gone for the year, but the annual blooming of cherry blossoms is a pretty big deal in portions of east Asia, and for the second year in a row, I had the privilege of living on the South Korean island of Jeju at this incredible time of year.

The cherry blossoms first began to bloom on Jeju on something like the 25th of March. The next weekend, March 28th and 29th, held Jeju's annual Cherry Blossom Festival. I went to this festival, but didn't bother to bring any camera gear, because in my experience, festivals in Korea are much more about buying trinkets, drinking soju (a clear, Korean rice-wine), and eating street food in tents than about whatever the title of the festival in question happens to be. The Cherry Blossom Festival. The Fire Festival. The Barley Festival. The Flower Festival. Any one of them could easily be renamed "The Drinking Soju and Eating Street Food in Tents Festival." This is by no means meant to be an insult. I love the Drinking Soju and Eating Street Food in Tents Festival! From this point forward, I'll shorten the name down to the D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival.

Several of my friends went to the D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival on Saturday, March 28th, in the early afternoon. I wasn't able to join them until a few hours later, at something like 5 P.M., which gave my friends a bit of a head start on me in regards to liver destruction. I took the bus into town and walked up the hill to the stadium complex around which the Festival was taking place. I was in no way surprised to find my comrades a few minutes later, in, where? You guessed it! A festival-style tent, drinking Korean liquor and eating street food. I promptly joined them and set off towards my goal of having an absolutely miserable Sunday.

After about an hour of playing catch-up, we paid for our food and drinks, and began our trek around the stadium. The stadium in question isn't particularly large, but it is a full-size soccer stadium, and it would probably take 10 minutes to circumnavigate at normal walking speed. Normal walking speed, however, is not something that would have been possible to achieve, even if it were desired, due to the huge number of people – certainly in the thousands – milling about.

I was looking for a new pair of sunglasses, because the only pairs I have are Elvis-style sunglasses, complete with glued-on fake sideburns. The D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival, and in fact all Korean D.S.E.S.F.T. Festivals, are great places to waste money on stupid gimmicky things one certainly doesn't need, and by the time we'd made one full lap of the stadium, I found myself in possession of one pair of admittedly pretty-sweet sunglasses, and four baller-ass pimp rings. Some friends I was with ended up with a toy sword that lights up and makes annoying noises and a matching balloon. Basically, we were super-mature.

Jokey Festival Pictures

This was the state of things when I arrived at the D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival. Throughout this entry, I talk a lot about drinking soju, and while it is THE drink Korea is famous for, and the primary thing I drink when it comes to alcohol, we actually mostly drank maekgolli at the festival. That's the delicious, extremely reasonably-priced, brownish liquid in our little dog-food bowls.

Interestingly, these dudes lived in Geoje, a neighboring city to Tongyeong, the first city I lived in in South Korea, back in 2010-2011. We actually hung out a few times back in those days, too. Now, we both live on Jeju.

Someone's happy.

These dudes don't look all that happy, but they are.

Balla! The total cost of all the rings in this photo was 24,000 Korean Won, or about $20.

My totally awesome, new sunglasses.
 We spent maybe half an hour watching some live music and dance performances on a fairly large stage before wandering back to the tent in which I'd originally found my friends. Another couple hours there, and a night in town left me sunglassesless, and with only three rings. That's pretty much why I didn't take my camera out.

But back to Cherry Blossoms. On the weekend of the D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival, the cherry blossoms weren't quite at their peak bloom, yet. It took another couple days for them to come out, completely. And then, in typical fashion, a typhoon moved in and tore all the petals off the trees less than a week after they first bloomed. But not before I went back to the stadium and adjacent stream upon which the D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival was held, and took a few pictures. Check 'em out.

Good Pictures

A close-up of some cherry blossoms.

A closer close-up of a single cherry blossom. At the time I took this shot, all the cherry blossoms weren't quite done blooming. Notice the pink, unopened flowers on the right.

More cherry blossoms.

A wide-angle (17mm) shot of some cherry blossom trees and the night sky. The lights from the city caused the sky to have a disitnctly purple color.

One of the many roads in Jeju that is lined with cherry blossom trees.

I've lived on Jeju for about two and a half years, now, and until the night I took this picture, I didn't know this street, unofficially called "Cherry Blossom Street," even existed.

A brown-eyed bulbul. I took all the bird photos in this album at the schools at which I teach English.

I like that I finally got a little direct sunlight in this shot.

Full bloom.

A chestnut-flanked white eye. I was able to take the next few pictures from the second story of my school, which conveniently looked out, at eye-level, with these cute, little birds.

Also, on the first through third of April, I brought my camera and telephoto lens to the schools I work at, because both of my schools have several cherry blossom trees in their courtyards. I don't know if it would fly in America for anyone to walk around an elementary school with a fairly paparazzi-looking telephoto lens, but here, not an issue. I actually managed to get some great shots of a brown-eared bulbul, and a chestnut-flanked white eye.

The cherry blossoms are now gone from Jeju, now, and I will be, too, in the terrifyingly close future. And it's very possible that I've now attended my final D.S.E.S.F.T. Festival. That sucks. Oh well. New adventures and new festivals await!

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