Holy cow! First of all, my layover to Mongolia is at the best ever airport– Seoul Incheon airport fun times are the best! Have you been there? This is my first time, and I had been afraid that it would be another big, loud, and boring airport. Luckily, it’s amazing! For for FREE there is wifi AND fun activities! Who doesn’t love free stuff, when it’s cool?
The Korea Culture Center in my departure terminal is something every airport should have. After wandering through it for a few minutes, I get up my courage and ask if I can participate in the activities. It’s basically kindergarten for adults– arts and crafts!
The water fountains in the airport have water you can drink [potable water]. I found one with a big sign over it in English reading: This Water is Safe for Drinking.
Seoul Incheon Airport Fun: Kindergarten for Adults
Carefully I swing the weight of my big green backpack to the ground in a single sweeping motion. I don’t whack anything or anyone, and the space is narrow. Leaning the bag against my chair, since I definitely don’t want to lose sight of it, I proceed to squeeze into my seat. I’ve read that it’s not always possible to get cash out of the ATMs in Mongolia, so it contains my cash, a secret that I certainly won’t divulge to anyone during this trip. Then, I pass leisurely hours feeling as though I’ve returned to kindergarten.
First I make a
woodblock stamp print of a cat on thin. old-fashioned paper! The nice Korean helper woman is dressed in a traditional floor length, brightly colored robe (and bright yellow nail polish!), which I admire. It’s too bad there isn’t a dress-up room where tourists can try on the clothes.
I digress. She helps me, since the black ink I pound onto the printing block must have the correct moisture content– neither too watery, nor too dry. And, remember, I’m a beginner regarding anything Korean, so she’s basically my kindergarten teacher. I get corrected 100 times, and finally she takes over for me. I’m thankful for this, since I really want a nice cat print.
Kindergarten is Hard Work!
The next step is to lay the old-fashioned paper on the stamp block, and gently pound the paper against the inked stamp block using a fist-sized damp cotton pad. The pounding causes the ink to pass from the woodblock onto the paper. I have to hit the stamping pad harder than I expect, so that the ink comes up properly. However, if I pound too hard, and the paper is a bit too damp, then it tears. It’s very technical, and this is my first time, but it came out pretty well, thanks to my assigned helper woman. I only made a tiny tear, and my helper lady smoothed it out for me.
There are a few of these helper women in the cultural center, but no male helpers. I wonder if most of the kindergarten teachers in South Korea are also women. I am so happy when my cat print is done! Later, when it’s dry she’ll roll it up and tie a pink ribbon around it.
With my cat stamp complete, I move to the woodblock painting art station. I receive (for free!) a piece of smooth wood pre-printed with black outlines, like a page from a coloring book. The picture is a sunset ocean scene, complete with a huge fish leaping out of the waves.
My New Buddy
An awesome 67-year-old Fukuokan (Japanese person from Fukushima) woman sits down in the neighboring seat, and we quickly become buddies while painting our woodblock works of art. We chat non-stop and share contact information. This grey haired smiling woman hands me her pink visiting card imprinted with her name, email address, and phone number, and invites me to visit someday and eat “good” sushi. I will, but not before I’ve been to Mongolia. …Read more about Mrs. F in the next post!
Please explore the Seoul Incheon airport information— there are gardens, musical events, showers, and tours to the surrounding area— ALL for free! Speak with the people at the customs exit area… it’s quick and easy to get a Korea entry visa. I wish every airport was this nice to their visitors!
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Next Chapter: My Arrival in Mongolia
Previous Chapter: Seoul Incheon Airport Fun: Heading to Mongolia
Photographs of Mongolian horses, sometimes with rainbows.
Do It Yourself in Mongolia. Comprehensive Information on Mongolia for trip planning.
A countryside lunch in Myanmar. What do they eat there? Frogs? Snails? Delicious fruit?
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Have you visited Mongolia? Or, would you love a visit? There are plenty of hostels and hotels in all price ranges, in case you don’t have friends with a spare room. Comment below– especially if you have an embarrassing toilet story while traveling. It’s fun sharing funny experiences.