More appropriately, I left my dignity in Seoul before I even came to Boryeong. Actually, to be blunt, my dignity is probably still in Kingston, or worse, College Park. Regardless, there was no shred of dignity left in me by the time I returned from Mudfest last night.

What is Mudfest, you ask? It’s a gigantic festival held in the area around Daecheon Beach in Boryeong, about a three-hour drive from Seoul. TIME had a nice little article about it a few years ago. I first heard about it soon after arriving in Korea, from coworkers who attended the festival in 2008. Ten months later, there was no doubt in my mind–I was going to Mudfest. Having secured the weekend off, five of us booked seats with Adventure Korea. This was my second time on an AdKor trip (the first being a DMZ tour), and I was slightly more impressed this time around, mostly because of the free beer they gave us in an effort to make up for getting to Boryeong a few hours after the time we should have arrived.

As soon as the buses had parked and all 230 of us disembarked, we were told we were going to do a military training course and were given camouflage pants and long-sleeved shirts to change into. I left my camera on the bus for this part of the trip, but luckily Mimsie had hers on hand to catch some of the absurdness that was to follow.

James, Jeanette, myself and Mimsie--before being covered in mud

James, Jeanette, myself and Mimsie--before being covered in mud

Once everyone had changed, the group shifted down to the mud pits, where we were divided into two teams and forced to compete against each other. The first event was, of course, mud wrestling. Jeanette took me down as soon as the whistle was blown, and before I knew it, I was slathered in wet dirt. The second event was rugby, which was completely successful, given that most of the people on the trip were American and Canadian and knew how to play the sport (can you sense the sarcasm?). The third event was a 5k run, which was totally how I intended to spend my mini-vacation (again, sarcasm). Mims and I settled down on the rocks with some friends and enjoyed watching everyone else tough it out in the mud. The warm-up was led by a surprisingly muscular, fit Korean man who didn’t really speak any English and left us all dying with laughter.

Also stolen from Mimsie. This pretty much sums up my Saturday afternoon.

While we waited for the runners to finish, someone had the brilliant idea to make a mud slip-and-slide. Game for anything, I slid face-first through the mud, gashing up my elbows in the process. Helllllllo, battle wounds! When everyone got back from their death march/5k run, we headed to Daecheon to get settled and enjoy the actual festival.

Boryeong is an adorable beach town on the Yellow Sea. It reminded me of the Jersey shore, though any place with a boardwalk and ocean reminds me of the shore. After arriving at our guest house and cleaning up a bit, nobody could be asked to go back out in the mud. We opted for some soju at a local hof, followed by dinner at a Korean restaurant on the boardwalk. After dinner, we checked out a big hip-hop concert going on nearby, but puddles of mud, gross humidity and the occasional drizzle eventually coaxed us inside a small club, where we met up with friends from Seoul and met some fellow ‘festers.

The next morning we woke up to a clear, blue sky and warm weather–amazing for monsoon season, no? We headed out to the festivities around 10, but not before stopping for breakfast at…no joke…

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After a breakfast of cheeseburgers, fries and Coke, we dropped off our bags at the “Lockers for Foreigners” and headed to the beach, which was swamped with Koreans. Koreans in Korea!? What? I really was surprised, but mostly because it seemed that the Mudfest events, at least the weekend ones, were marketed to foreigners living in Korea. I saw photos from when a few of my Korean coworkers went down to the beach during the week, and the place was empty. But come Saturday morning, Koreans and foreigners (and a significant number of American GIs) alike pack the beaches and “Mud Experience Land.”

Our first stop Sunday morning was the Mud Prison, where James and I stood behind bars as strangers flung mud at us. With the exception of the mud wading pool, this was probably the fastest, easiest way to get mudified.

 

Another photo stolen from Mimsie...the mud prison in all its glory

Another photo stolen from Mimsie...the mud prison in all its glory

 

After the prison, it was a short walk to the colored-mud stand, where Koreans painted us with whatever color mud we desired (assuming, of course, that our desired color was red, blue, white or green).

 

Jeanette getting painted

Jeanette getting painted.

 

We looked so fantastic that random strangers wanted to take pictures with us. Fancy that!

We looked so fantastic that random strangers wanted to take pictures with us. Fancy that!

 

Speaking of taking pictures, I now know what it’s like to be a celebrity. There were dozens of event photographers, snapping away at foreigners all day long. It didn’t matter what we were doing–sipping water, waiting in a line, anxiously looking for the restroom–the ‘razzi were everywhere. As annoying as they could be (for example, telling my new Korean friend to move away from me until he got his shot), it was pretty cool to constantly have cameras focusing on me as I made the most ridiculous faces and exaggerated poses. I think I’d get sick of the cameras fairly quickly if they followed me around all the time, though. There are only so many outlandish gestures one can make before getting bored of the whole camera thing.

The highlight of the day had to be the mud slide ride. (If only they served mudslides yesterday. What would have been more fitting, I ask?) Bex and I waited in line for nearly an hour, only to tumble down a mud-covered slide for about 20 seconds. Though the line was long and the sun brutal, those 20 seconds were completely worth it. We were in an essential free-fall until we hit the bottom wall, knocking us back into reality, and gravity. While in line we met two Korean girls who had both lived for some time in the UK. One was a student in university there, and the other was a performing arts major now working as an English drama teacher in Seoul. We found a vendor on the beach to take what is definitely my favorite photo of the day:

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After rinsing off down at the beach and then again in makeshift showers, we boarded the bus back to Seoul. I don’t think I’ve ever needed a shower more than I did last night. Even now, a full day after getting back, I don’t feel completely clean, but I’m hoping a few more showers will change that. For now, I’ve got a few nasty mosquito bites on my feet and neck, awesome battle wounds on my elbows and a few sore joints, the last physical remnants of an amazing weekend.

 

The beach

 

Some Korean version of Capture the Flag...in mud, obvs

Some Korean version of Capture the Flag...in mud, obvs

Also stolen from Mims...the top portion of the mud slide

Also stolen from Mims...the top portion of the mud slide

 

Jeanette, James and I...completely filthy, yet happy

Jeanette, James and I...completely filthy, yet happy

 

Korea wouldn't be Korea without something completely random. In this case, an elephant ride located on the main road, a good 20-minute walk from the festival area.

Korea wouldn't be Korea without something completely random. In this case, an elephant ride located on the main road, a good 20-minute walk from the festival area.

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