This weekend I found myself in a familar place – Cheonggyechong stream in the midst of downtown Seoul. This time, however, it was for the 2nd annual BBB International Friends Day. BBB stands for the Before Babel Brigade, and is a network of volunteers who offer a free interpretation service over the phone. Their goal – to break down the cultural and language barriers that impede communication. Although only available in Korea, I sincerely hope their organization is able to expand to other countries to assist more foreigners.

A fun way of drawing attention to your cause – make a costume out of balloons. Hey, at least it’s light for the person that has to wear it…

The event began by registering (something I had already done online). After arriving in-person, I received an orange towel (complete with the BBB logo) and a brochure with schedule and map. The brochure encouraged us to get a sticker at each of different stops to show we’ve completed the walk – partially for a souvenir and partially for a free sandwich :) The main event was to walk the Cheongyechong stream for a couple kilometers, then turn around and come back on the other side, walking and talking with people along the way. Total walking distance: 5.8 kilometers (2.63 miles), but as you can see below, however, there were quite a few other things to do:

Before we got started with the walking, a group doing Taekyun warmed the crowd up for a walk with basic stretches. Described as “Korea’s true ancient martial art”, it’s considered a predecessor to Taekwondo, which I’m sure you’ve heard of.

We started at Cheonggye Plaza walked alongside the upper portion of the map, although it was a little slow going at first – something about several thousand people swarming an area that usually sees a fraction of that traffic will do that :)

Belly dancing was exactly as you’ve seen in the United States – and they were pretty good too. They didn’t seem distracted or fazed by the throngs of Koreans gawking or foreigners taking pictures (I, of course, was taking pictures for, um, for the blog, YEAH, the blog…).

A water screen serves as a built-in tourist attraction alongside Cheonggyecheon. If you don’t mind getting wet or have an umbrella handy, there’s plenty of room on the other side to look at other people!

A little later, my attention was drawn to a small group of women doing yoga poses. While the crowd of walkers were encouraged to stop and enjoy the performances, only a minority did so, and most for just a few fleeting moments…

While walking, I enjoyed some conversation with a few different Koreans, one of which offered some advice on getting a Master’s degree while here in Seoul. It’s something I’ve been considering, and would offer an opportunity to teach English at a university or elsewhere in the world, if I chose to travel.

After arriving back at the finish / start line (Cheonggye Plaza), I collected my sandwich and a prize (a tanso, or Korean flute), then found a seat to enjoy some international music and dance performances. The first one I saw was a group of Indian dancers:

Spanish dancers:

A Polish mazurka (link goes to a description and music samples):

The belly dancers from earlier made a repeat performance (which of course meant more pictures):

Some Japanese dancers – showing us that guys can dance too:

A B-boy group (very popular here):

Some traditional Korean musicians:

A fusion of the B-boy and the traditional Korean musicians – definitely something you’ll never see anywhere else!

The performances ended as the Korean drummers paraded around the Plaza and eventually retired to their tents. The crowd didn’t quite know to do, as if they were waiting for the next performer to come out on stage! A very fun event, and I’ll be looking forward to the 3nd annual BBB International Friends Day if I’m still in Seoul.