Gwangju Blog

What to Do This Weekend: Stage Cycling Performance Edition

Photo courtesy of Gwangju Cycling Club.

Photo courtesy of Gwangju Cycling Club.

The Gwangju Cycling club is holding two events this weekend. Aug. 29 from 9 A.M.-3 P.M. is an 80k intermediate ride from Gwangju to Damyang and back, including a stop in Damyang for lunch, and requires you to be pretty fit. Aug. 30 from 4-7 P.M. is a 40k entry level ride from Gwangju to Naju and back to get into the swing of things and requires only a basic fitness level.Both rides will start from the Kia Champions Field in the usual meet-up spot. For more information check out the Facebook event pages for the 80k and 40k and the Facebook group.

Calen Cygan will be the presenter for this week’s GIC Talk titles “Responsible Tourism,” Aug. 29 at 3 P.M. at the GIC downtown. Cygan is a well-traveled expat who will share her tips for treading lightly and responsibly through another country.

Photo courtesy of GPP.

Photo courtesy of GPP.

The Gwangju Performance Project is hosting a stage makeup workshop August 29 from 3-5 P.M. at the GIC. This tutorial is for beginners and will cover stage makeup techniques for both men and women. There will be plenty of demonstrations and chances to practice your new knowledge. Participants must bring their own makeup including foundation, brushes, eye-liner, mascara, etc. For more information check out the event page.

The 6th Annual Gwangju International Music Festival takes place this weekend Aug. 29 and 30 in downtown Gwangju at several outdoor stages at the Asia Culture Complex. For a detailed schedule of performers, check out the event website in English.

Photo Courtesy of Gwangju International Music Festival.

Photo Courtesy of Gwangju International Music Festival.

The Adopt a Child for Christmas – Gwangju folks are hosting a Scavenger Hunt Sept. 5 starting at 2 P.M. to raise money for their December gift program. Bring your teams of 3-5 people downtown to the Speakeasy starting spot, and get ready to solve clues to win awesome prizes. Cost is 10,000 per person, and all the profits go to Adopt-a-Child for Christmas in the endeavor to purchase Christmas gifts for the orphans of Gwangju! Check out the event page for more information.

Photo courtesy of Salt Art Gallery.

Photo courtesy of Salt Art Gallery.

Salt Art Gallery is hosting artist Gim Gwang Cheol on Sept. 5 from 8-9 P.M. performing his Romantic Material : 7 Hours (No.6) piece. This is the 6th part of his performance project, depicting “in real time” the 7 hours that lasted from the sinking of the Sewol and the first official statement by the President of South Korea. Admission is free. Check out the Facebook event page for more information.

The Gwangju Book Club will be having their first meeting of the Fall semester Sept. 9 at 7:30 P.M. downtown. They are reading City of Thieves by David Benioff (one of the writers from the hit TV show Game of Thrones). For more information about the Gwangju Book Club, check out the group’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of GPP.

Photo courtesy of GPP.

The Gwangju Performance Project is holding the “Make it Great in 48” film competition 7 P.M. Sept 11-7 P.M. Sept. 13, in conjunction with the third Annual Alleycon event. This international film challenge gives you one weekend to write, shoot, edit, and score a short film for submission. You and your team will be given a genre, a prop, and a line to be used in the production of your film. Winners will be chosen through an online poll and a “People’s Choice” screening Sept. 19 at Alleycon, from 1-2 P.M. Participants and audience members must pay the required Alleycon admission price of 20,000 won for this special viewing. For more information, check out the Facebook event page, email the organizers at, or to register your team use this Google docs form.

Photo courtesy of Alleycon 2015.

Photo courtesy of Alleycon 2015.

Keep cleaning out your closets!!! Gwangju Freecycle is hosting the 4th “Swap, Don’t Shop!” event on Sept. 19 from 10 A.M.-4 P.M. at the GIC downtown. Until then, you can drop off YOUR items you want to donate for the swap at the GIC. Acceptable items include clean and gently used clothing, household items, appliances, books and more! Rules for the event will be revamped this time, so look for new guidelines about takeaway limits, raffles for bigger items, etc. in an effort to help make this a FAIR  and SHARING event. Dropoffs are accepted 9:30 A.M.-6:00 P.M. Monday-Saturday, 10 A.M.-5 P.M. on Sunday on the second floor (traditional Korean room) at the GIC. ** Please do not drop off during a time when the GIC is closed ** For more information about acceptable donations and directions to the event, check out the Facebook event page.

Registration for Alleycon 2015 is open for the Sept. 18-20 event at the Gwangju Design Center in Bukgu! To register follow this link. For those new to town, you are lucky enough to live in the Geek capital of Korea, and we are looking forward to this third annual celebration of all things geek-related. There will be tabletop games, D & D tournaments, special musical performances and more! Here’s the first look at the official Alleycon poster to the right, with the event mascot Allie created by local Gwangju artist Jen Lee. For more information about the event, check out the Alleycon website.

People You Should Know…in Gwangju: Calen Cygan

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

This week’s person is another one of those people who’s always involved.   Teaching, fundraising, GPP…and smiling all the while!  But why don’t I let her tell you all about it?  Here, in her own words, is Calen Cygan…a person you should know in Gwangju.


How long have you been in Gwangju?

I just hit three years at the beginning of July!


What do you do here in Gwangju?

Teaching English is what brought me here-I currently teach at an after school academy, and before that I taught at a kindergarten for two years. Aside from teaching, I am involved with the Gwangju Performance Project as the Event Coordinator, as well as getting on stage with some GPP productions, and I helped direct the Vagina Monologues production this past spring. I also coordinate the Adopt-a-Child for Christmas campaign, which strives to provide Christmas gifts for children in the orphanages of Gwangju. Last year, we were able to get over 600 children Christmas presents through the initiative!


What did you do before you took up your current job?

Before coming to Korea to teach, I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh (HAIL TO PITT!), where I majored in Anthropology and Global Studies, with minors in Linguistics and Italian Language & Literature.


What has been your most rewarding achievement?

I won a full scholarship to study abroad in Sicily the summer between my sophomore and junior year. It was an amazing way to complete my Italian minor, getting to practice the language with natives every day. It was also the first time I traveled abroad by myself, and if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have been so keen to move to Korea! Plus, I got to travel through Europe-hitting Rome, Athens, Berlin, and Barcelona with two of my best friends at the end of that summer and those memories are absolutely priceless!


What do you do for fun?

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

I love going to Kia Tigers baseball games! During the summer, I really love going to the beach! Scuba diving is also a hobby of mine-I’ve been diving in some really gorgeous places. Rock climbing is also a fun hobby!! In my free time, I enjoy studying different languages-I’m currently struggling through Korean grammar, working on keeping up with my Italian, and learning Latin and Esperanto.


What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

In March of 2014, after completing my contract teaching kindergarten, a friend and I went traveling through Southeast Asia with only our backpacks and our passports, with no real plan. We ended up hitting eight different countries together over three months. We had a beer on the Great Wall of China, attended a Full Moon Party in Thailand, went tubing in Laos, lived on a boat off the coast of Malaysia, got to experience a Muslim holy day in a mosque in Indonesia, and so many other amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I will remember and cherish forever!


Any family?  Pets?

In the States, I have my mom and my brother, Zachary, who is 22.

In Gwangju (and various other places around the world), I’ve got a group of amazing friends that have become like family to me!


What is something you wish you could do?



Any embarrassing tales for public consumption?

I do a lot of “embarrassing” things, but don’t often feel too embarrassed by them. However, when I first moved to Korea, I went to the grocery store to get myself some basics for my new kitchen. I barely knew any Korean, but I could recognize a handful of words I had picked up. A male employee in the grocery store really took a liking to me, following me around and showing me all sorts of random products. He kept trying to talk to me, but his English vocabulary was just about as good as my Korean. Finally, he conveyed that he wanted to know my job. He asked if I was a “hak-seng.” I didn’t know that word, but I did know the word for school (hak-gyo) and teacher (sun-seng-nim), so I just assumed “hak” + “seng” meant school teacher! I enthusiastically nodded and responded with something like “nae nae nae nae nae! Yoo-chi-won hak-seng!!” He giggled and patted me on the top of the head and proceeded to show me other items I may be interested in purchasing. I was so proud of myself, I had my first semi-conversation in Korean. I continued to frequent the grocery store, and this man was almost always working-usually in the meat department, where he was wired up to a microphone, advertising the specials, and of course greeting me with “annyeong yoo-chi-won hak-seng” every time he saw me. I thought it was so nice, until about six weeks later, when I learned the conversation I had with him did not mean what I thought it did. I had told him I was a kindergarten STUDENT, not a kindergarten teacher. Even after explaining myself to him, I was still greeted by “hello kindergarten student” with a sly little giggle for the next two years, anytime I walked into the store.

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Is there any person you admire?

Tim Whitman and Derek Hannon for providing two establishments that make Gwangju feel even more like home. And for being so generous and kind when I come to either of them with all sorts of fundraising ideas!

People who are passionate and ambitious about worthy causes.

And above everyone else, my mom. She always made sure my brother and I could have all the opportunities we wanted, even though that meant her spending countless hours driving to ice hockey, dance, cheerleading, taekwondo, and soccer practices. She has always been my biggest fan and my best friend. I’m so thankful I can be so open with her, and she supports all my decisions, even the ones she doesn’t necessarily like or agree with. I wouldn’t be half the person I am now without her guidance throughout my life.


Any personal code you live by?

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”


What’s your “perfect” day in Gwangju?

I’m going to cheat a little and take “day” as 24 hours. So my perfect 24 hours would start at dinner Saturday evening, with a big group of friends, maybe celebrating a birthday or special event-whatever brings us all together! After dinner, we’d go to Speakeasy for drinks and dancing, followed by watching the sunrise and going home to sleep for a bit before Sunday brunch at the Alleyway. After brunch, we’d sit by the river or watch a film in a DVD room or ride Disco Pang-Pang (even though it’s terrifying!). My perfect day in Gwangju is any day where I’m surrounded by friends!!


Is there any place in Gwangju you recommend?

I’m always really surprised at the number of foreigners who do not take advantage of the amazing services provided by the Gwangju International Center. They have great Korean classes, cultural excursions, and an awesome library, along with great resources that just help make living here a little bit easier! I’ve taken some wonderful French cooking classes there, and I’m currently studying Latin through the GIC. There are so many opportunities to make your time here in Gwangju even more fulfilling!


What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life? 

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Photo Courtesy of Calen Cygan

Do something that is completely out of your comfort zone. Something that you would never normally consider doing! You’ll surprise yourself and I really doubt you’ll regret it!


Any advice you want to give the people of Gwangju?

Take advantage of the amazing community you are a part of! Get yourself out there, meet people, get involved! There are so many awesome groups and organizations, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people with similar interests. Teaching may be what brought you here, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the defining thing you do in Gwangju.

Where to Eat Wednesday: Kebab Plus Gwangju

As much as I would like to support small, local, expat run businesses, I’ve seen too many of them shut down after a short time. Whether people move, lose interest, or just get too busy, it’s not uncommon to see a personal home business close as quickly as it opened. As a result, I’m afraid to say that I’ve become a bit jaded, and have even gotten to the point where I hesitate to give such places a try. Why fall in love with something, only for it to disappear, right? It’s possible that I may be acting a little too sensitive, but because of those less than hopeful expectations of mine, it’s refreshing to see such businesses lasting and thriving, especially when it’s one that specializes in delicious food.

Though I had known of Kebab Plus Gwangju in name only, I had shrugged it off after first hearing about it, assuming it would go the way of other kebab and burrito services I have seen come and go during my time here. It wasn’t until I spoke to the owner, Ulysses, that I grew interested in seeing what set this business apart from the rest. Raving reviews from previous customers certainly helped.

All The SaucesMenu

One aspect of this place that really caught my attention was the fact that it delivers. The fact that I could possibly have Middle Eastern food delivered to my home seemed like a concept that was too good to be true. Another unique aspect was the fact that the entire menu is vegan friendly. While I do eat meat, I know life in Korea can be quite difficult for vegans who struggle to speak the language and aren’t familiar with the local cuisine. When I see how limiting something as simple as eating can be for some of my friends, I can’t help but sympathize.

Ulysses requested I give him at least a day or so notice (two to three days for large orders) before I placed my order to give him time to make everything. Despite him going on vacation later that week, he managed to work around our awkward schedules to make sure I could get my food the day I placed my order, giving me something to look forward to when I got home. Excited, I mistakenly looked through the menu on an empty stomach. Options ranged from Hummus (available in all sorts of flavors), Falafel, Kebabs, and a wonderful selection of sides, and I wanted them all. As much as I wanted to order one of everything, I held back as much as I could and ordered two K+plus Kebabs (filled with both falafel and hummus), the Hummus Tasters (which came with four hummus flavors), Falafel Balls, a Falafel Snack Pack (mini Falafels with vegetables and sauces), Salsa, and Regular Tzatziki (this version is the only thing on the menu that’s not vegan). Yeah, I still kind of went overboard.

Despite my ridiculously huge order, Ulysses was nothing but kind and professional, making recommendations on Hummus flavors while letting me know what to expect. After a long and tiring work day, he arrived outside of my apartment with a bag filled with my very convenient dinner. We spoke for a bit as I ignored my demanding stomach, and I found out that everything that been made fresh that day. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this business was doing well enough to where Ulysses was able to make this into a full-time position.

K+plus KebabFalafel Balls

After running back up to my place as fast as I could, I went through each and every container in my bag of food, wondering what to try first. Since my guy was hungry as well, we both dug into the K+plus Kebabs first. Filled with hearty pieces of falafel, creamy hummus, and fresh vegetables, this was both delicious and substantial. Though I usually prefer meat in my wraps, I didn’t miss it at all with this one. My guy found it to be a little on the spicy side, but I found the spice level perfect for my tastes. Those who can’t handle much heat, especially from jalapenos, should definitely be warned. As with most wraps, the only thing to worry about was how quickly the tortilla itself was getting soggy. While it was perfectly fine when I ate it, I’m glad I didn’t choose to leave it in the fridge for later consumption because of this reason.

Falafel Snack PackLemon Garlic Hummus

Being the proper lady that I am, I dipped my finger into each of the four containers of hummus from the Hummus Tasters pack for tasting purposes. The flavors I chose included Traditional, Garlic Lemon, Jalapeno, and Spinach Avocado. Each one was delicious and stood on its own, offering different experiences for different taste buds. My personal favorite was the Garlic Lemon, which was the perfect balance of savory and tangy. I later learned that the Spinach Avocado, while tasty, suffered like any other avocado based dip and turned into an unpleasant brown in my fridge the next day. While the flavor was fine, this would be something to consider if presentation is a factor, as the others held up just fine.

Spinach Avocado HummusSalsa

The Falafel Balls, which came in either Traditional or Jalapeno (I chose the latter), were nice and flavorful. Due to the nature of delivery, they weren’t quite as crisp as I like them to be, but a bit of oil and a visit to my cast iron skillet fixed that right up. I loved how dense and filling they were, and the tahini dip they came with was lovely. The Falafel Snack Pack, which came in much cuter balls with cucumbers and carrots on the side, wasn’t nearly as good. I feel like due to the size differences, the smaller falafel balls were more prone to drying out after sitting out for a little while. They were still delicious, but they needed some help from the many sauces I ordered to stay as moist as the Falafel Balls.

Mango SalsaRegular Tzatziki

The final part of my meal consisted of trying the Salsa and Regular Tzatziki. Because he’s awesome, Ulysses threw in some Mango Salsa (along with some other snacks) as a gift. I’m glad he did, as years in Korea almost have made me forget that Mango Salsa is a delicious, wonderful thing. The regular Salsa was spicy and refreshing, but the Mango Salsa added a lovely sweetness to it. Both salsas were a bit on the watery side for me, especially once I got closer to finishing them, but I found that a bit of straining definitely helped with that. The Regular Tzatziki, which was the last thing I tried, was creamy, savory, and delicious. Though I’m a little more used to my yogurt sauce being a little more heavy on the cucumbers, this sauce was extra tasty. If anything, it kind of reminded me of a less guilty Ranch dipping sauce. Due to how light and flavorful it was, I ended up putting this on every solid part of my meal.

To say that I was impressed by Kebab Plus Gwangju would be an understatement. Delicious food combined with kind, professional service and the added convenience of an English menu and home delivery? What isn’t there to love? As I have stated before, it would be wise to place orders at least a day or so in advance to guarantee availability. To get free delivery, you will need to spend at least 10,000 won, which is still a pretty amazing deal. Also, be sure to have cash ready, as that appears to be the only form of accepted payment. I will certainly be placing another order in the near future, and will be sure to have extra chips and vegetables on hand for dipping purposes.

Phone: 010-5744-2287
Hours: Deliveries Available Monday-Thursday During 10:00AM to 1:00PM & 8:00PM to 11:00PM

Essentials with JD # 199 **PEAK MUSIC FESTIVAL**


Planning ahead for this week might be good especially since we will also get the tail end of Typhoon Goni. Yes it is that time of the year but don’t worry this one is said to be passing by the Far East of the country. Just remember to keep your umbrella and raincoat handy.


Now moving on to the weekend which looks to be brighter with the Peak Music festival happening at the concert theater on Sajik Park. (This is the building to the left of the main entrance of the GFN Building if you are planning to attend)


The event happens this Saturday 29th and has some of the best Korean ‘Indie’ groups you can have including OKDal, Peppertones, Thorn Apple, Galaxy Express and Goonam in the line up. If you didn’t know Sajik park and the theatre have become quite busy with amazing musical performances and the street going up to GFN also has numerous venues to enjoy life music and you can possibly even play some if you bring your own instruments. So check it out!


The concert starts 18:00 and check out their facebook site for more information and youtube links to some of the bands performing. It might also be in your favor to book tickets in advance.





WEEK 16 - cookout


If you’re living in or around Gwangju this summer, then the emotion(s) laden within this image promptly speaks for itself. We are now in the latter days of our shared summer, with the heat no longer forcing us, but rather giving us a firm prodding to sit, catch our breath, and let the summer be more than an intermission between air-conditioned cubicles.

The news came last week that this past July was officially the hottest month on record for our planet. Sure, El Nino did its part in helping this, but in any case, such news works in tandem with the heat in causing one to sit, and take a breather. In this photo, a man does just that under the shade of a willow adjacent to the Yeongsang River. His thoughts seeming farther away than his smartphone suggests, he also simply waits. There is not much else to do on a day like this. As the sun slowly comes down off of its midday hysterics, the shadows of the willow extend ever longer, horizontally across this scene. These shadows provide shelter yes, but one feels from this photo that gravity lies heavy, yet to be fully comprehended. Of course, this is a convenient projection on the part of the viewer (me), and if not given the news of truly how hot our world has become, this photo might be relegated to quaint platitudes about ‘summer livin’. However, given what we know from the news, and from our own experiences this summer, this projection can be justified.

This photo exudes the experience of digestion, either of some emotion or an experience. Perhaps this lies within the emotions or relationships in the man’s life, or could this feeling have deeper roots? Either way, the nearly breezes nature of the ‘nature’ surrounding him provides an ideal local for such an experience to occur. In doing so, he waits like a man who has just over-eaten, trusting time and the body (life) to work itself into a workable form. This photo gives this feeling of digesting, while simultaneously being digested. Perhaps, our human existence is in earth’s pressure cooker at the moment, waiting to see which form we will take after this process runs its now seemingly inevitable course.

(Thanks to my Bronica Sq-ai for taking this wonderful contrasty shot.)



Words and text by Martin Miller