The snow also does wonders for making the most ordinary scenes look like a postcard. And I certainly proved the theory about my staying cooped up wrong; I spend just as much time out of my apartment as I did before the cold came in. So, when my friend Aaron stated a desire to go ice-fishing, I agreed we shouldn’t pass up such an unusual opportunity.
Just as we started doubting that fish were in fact being released into the water, an older woman, clad in high heels and texting on her “hand pone” (as they say in Konglish) next to us pulled up a nice sized trout. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the hook was not in the fish’s mouth, but rather in its side. As more people around us began reel fish out of the holes, I saw that all of these fish were caught by being snagged. It was the most bizarre thing. The three of us were pretty quiet, and slightly pissed that we weren’t bringing in anything.
The old ajhussi near us must have sensed our sadness, as he brought us a gift- his most recent catch. This raised our spirits and we soon became determined to catch at least one. With the sun beginning to set, the air growing colder, and Aaron’s line broken by what must have been a really big one, we tried and tried. I almost caught one as I caught sight of it in the crystal clear water, but almost was not good enough (I think it may have been dead). The kind old man brought us another one- a bigger one- and we decided this was enough for dinner.
We located a tent where a man scaled and wrapped our fish in foil. We found a BBQ grill and cooked our dinner out in the clean, brisk air next to the frozen lake. It felt a bit surreal, but it was the highlight of the day. As the sun finally went down for the evening, thousands of multi-colored fish-shaped lanterns lit up as far as the eye could see. These lanterns are apparently made by the small town’s grandparents throughout the year and this year, Hwacheon attempted to set a Guinness World record. The fish were good, the atmosphere was inviting, and the families and friends that surrounded us were happy. It was one of those really cool moments that makes sitting out in the cold really worth it.
We made our way back to Seoul the next morning, still full from the night before, not needing to eat any more fish for a while. I did have high hopes of catching something, as I’ve never managed to catch a single fish EVER in my life, but I suppose catch or no catch, it was a great experience, one not to be forgotten. No doubt I’ll be returning to Hwacheon, as I hear they have a pretty crazy tomato-throwing festival in the summer. Oh, Korea.