The rain thrummed down on the roof of the bus like an African drum beat. The gray sky, and abnormally florescent green plants illuminated by the rain drops foretold a dreary weekend. I watched gloomily out the windows as we passed beautiful Korean countryside. The rolling hills glistening in droplets were beautiful and yet depressing. We were on our way to the famous, or infamous, depending on who you ask MUD FEST and it was raining. "Rain makes more mud" was what one of my friends had said before we left. "But it also makes me shiver!" I retorted.
The bus parked alongside the road in Boryeong, the location of the festival and the bus driver impatient with our hesitance to leave the bus while rain pounded down on the unfamiliar streets shooed us out.
"what do we do now?" I asked Kyle.
"Walk in the rain? Let's try and find our friends." was his response
The umbrella did little to prevent the diagonal rain from attacking our rain magnetized bodies. We eventually, after finding our friends in the rain, parked under a tent for drinks while attempting to wait out the rain. I should just say that had it been warmer, the rain wouldn't have been such a deterrent, however accompanying the rain, a significant drop in temperature created a discomforting stage.
But as luck would have it, our entire weekend would not be plagued with the disarmingly cold rain. After lunch, the sun broke through the overcast sky, shoving the clouds from their menacing positions and smiling on all the party goers of the weekend. We quickly changed into our swimsuits and clothes that we didn't mind getting dirty- possibly permanently and headed out to the festivities.
Walking through the mud deified gates, I realized that I had walked straight into an anthropologists dream. Mud covered humans, barely distinguishable from mud covered pigs, ran, slid and jumped into mud. Ghosts of humans walked past, each and everyone dripping in mud, laughing. A large slide made out of the same material you would find in a moon-bounce, stood erect in front of us. Screams of delight echoed in the air as passengers slid down the muddy slide. A prison in which people voluntarily submitted to being splattered in mud was at the front of park. A mud pit with mud wrestling gleamed behind it. When we had signed up for a mud festival, I hadn't imagined this. (a very strange old man dressed as a woman who didn't play his instrument well)
Korea, by all measures is a country that idolizes cleanliness to such a degree that when you ask just about any Korean why they liked traveling to a specific country, their answer is almost always "it is clean." Why do they not like China, "because it is dirty." Singapore, a country that has made chewing gum illegal for cleanliness sake, is a favorite of Koreans for that sole reason. And Korea, this clean-obsessed nation, has created a festival surrounding the idea of getting muddy in public. And the goal isn't just to get a little muddy. No. The goal of this festival is to be covered in mud from head to toe your entire weekend. A nation of clean freaks are getting down and dirty in the mud, on purpose. As I stood in the background with my mouth agape at the muddiness of it all, a thought struck me. It is not in our nature to be clean. When children play in the mud, and they are reprimanded, they are socialized to be clean. But after witnessing this event and the exalting of the mud, I have come to the conclusion that our nature is not to be spic and span as is accepted in polite society, but to be dirty if allowed. That if being dirty was part of society, we would relish it. Maybe my theory has flaws, and maybe you disagree, but after witnessing and participating in the Boryeong mud fest, this is the conclusion I have come away with. It should be noted however, that although this began as a Korean festival, it has become so popular amongst the foreigners, it has nearly been taken over. I have been told that the Koreans mostly go during the week while the foreigners swarm to it on the weekends.
To be continued...