Gwangju Blog

Corner, Rounded.

Corner, Rounded

 

Well, the time has come for the March installment of the Gwangju Street Photography series. It is rather obvious what the subject is in the photo above. Also, the location is simultaneously ubiquitous and region-specific. Han-oak(traditional house)-lined alleyways such as this can be found in numerous small towns throughout southern Jeolla-do. However, their appearance declines drastically the farther north you travel on the peninsula. For a variety of reasons, these areas have been spared the often garish, vertically-driven development projects which have “graced” more affluent neighborhoods.

The colors of the photo are also add to the aesthetic of the scene. Like the houses themselves, their faded pastels show hints of what once was a far more ordinary sight. However, they also retain a connection closer to hues found within the earth itself. The inhabitants of these homes also keep a physical proximity to the earth far different from the high-rise dwellers populating much of the rest of the city. These colors work in oppositional tandem with the large shadow on the left side of the image. The darkened outline of the light pole seems to inversely light the way. It gently guides our eyes to the right while also seeming to provide safe passage for the figure about to round the corner.

Overall, it is difficult to disengage the symbolism which the action of the main subject provides from the momentous political events of this past weekend. As our eyes follow the action off camera, we can only speculate what will happen as the figure, and perhaps this society-at-large turns a corner.

 

 

[Photo taken with an Olympus 35sp shooting Kodak Portra 400. The lightened warm tones of this film, combined with the slight desaturation of colors from this 42mm Zuiko 1.7 lens, work very well together to produce both colors both nostalgic, yet also fitting of the preference for desaturated warm pastels found throughout contemporary South Korea commercial design and photography.]

 

 

(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)

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People You Should Know in Gwangju…Justin Gunn-Taylor

This week’s community member is active in the sports scene in and around Gwangju. If you’re looking for fantasy leagues or looking to play here is a great person to talk to. Here is this weeks person you should know in his own words…

Trying Hanbok on for size

Trying Hanbok on for size

Name: Justin Gunn-Taylor

Occupation…EPIK Teacher

Hometown…Buffalo, NY

Length of time in Korea…4 Years

My hometown is famous for…Chicken Wings

If I could have any superpower it would be…Teleportation

My nickname is…JT, Gunn, Gunner

The show I am most likely to binge watch is…It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

My favorite sport to play is…Ice Hockey

The food I am best known for is…Chicken Parm

The best discovery I have made in Gwangju is…Yeomju Ice Rink

My favorite movie is…The Big Lebowski

Walking down the aisle

Walking down the aisle

How did you end up in Gwangju? I always wanted to travel and teach. Upon reccomendation from college friends who were already teaching in Korea, I used the recruiter Teach Away and took the first placement they gave me, Brighton/JLS in Pungam. The paperwork was a long tedious process, but was one of the best decision I could have made. Gwangju is my second home now.

What is your surefire way to beat the blues when you are feeling homesick? Gwangju is a very close knit foreign community. With many resources to help you when you are feeling homesick. When I am feeling homesick, I try to be as active as possible. From hiking a mountain, to skating along the river, playing baseball, or visiting the local watering hole with friends. Keep yourself busy and homesickness won’t be a problem. Also, Skype makes it very easy to stay in touch with family and friends back home.

What is your favorite game to play? My favorite game to play is Ice Hockey. It is fast paced and takes lots of skill and dedication to be good at it. I thought when I left the US for Korea I wouldn’t be able to play here. However , the first year I was here, I found the ice rink. It is here I made my first friends in Korea outside of work. We used to play every Saturday night, but many of the foreigners left and the Gwangju Saturday night game ended. For the few of us left, we have to travel to different cities (Daegu, Jeonju, Seoul, busan) to get our hockey fix. I also get my fix through coaching on Sunday nights and watching games on TV. I am hoping the winter olympics next year will create more interest in Gwangju, so we can start playing games in Gwangju again.FB_IMG_1484212206689

Do you belong to any clubs or community organizations in Gwangju? Gwangju is a very diverse community. It has many different organizations to meet the needs of almost everybody. You just need to put yourself out there. I am currently part of 3 organizations/clubs at the moment. My buddy and I are the co-coaches of the Gwangju Giants Ice Hockey team. We are teaching kids and adults every Sunday night for two hours at Yeomju Ice Rink. I am also apart of the Gwangju Bombers, an all foreigner (except a couple of Koreans) baseball team. We play games every Saturday when the weather gets warm against local teams. I also have helped local youth baseball teams throughout my four years here. My niches are very sports oriented, but there are many chances to volunteer and join organizations in Gwangju.

What to Do This Weekend: Trivia, a KOTESOL Conference, and Local Baseball!

Hello Gwangju!

It’s a busy weekend in town so let’s get to it.

Thursday, March 9th

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Courtesy of Speakeasy

After a long winter hibernation trivia night is back at Speakeasy! For those of you who are new in town it’s pretty simple: it costs 5,000 won to play, and you can have up to four people to a team. Teams play eight rounds, with second place getting their money back, and first place wins the rest of the pot. There will also be free shots for a perfect round.  For more information, and directions to Speakeasy, please follow the link to the Facebook event page. Trivia begins at 10 p.m.

Friday, March 10th

Live music dominates the night with two great locations to go to. First, it’s the weekly Open Mic Night at Loft 28. If you want to perform for an appreciative crowd, just bring your own instrument (Loft has it’s own sound system and mic). Open Mic Night starts at 10 p.m., but make sure to get there early so you can try some of the delicious food off their menu. For more details, please go to Loft’s Facebook page. This Friday will see the start of a new series of shows at Speakeasy called Gwangju Live. It all kicks off with a performance from Daniel Wallace, a regular at many open mic nights in town. So come on down and enjoy some great drink specials before Daniel starts his set at 10:30. It’s good to see the live msuic options in Gwangju are growing! For more details, please go to Speakeasy’s Facebook page.

Saturday, March 11th

Courtesy of Gwangju-Jeonnam KOTESOL

Courtesy of Gwangju-Jeonnam KOTESOL

The Gwangju chapter of KOTESOL is holding one of it’s biggest events this Saturday at Gwangju National Univ. of Education-it’s annual chapter conference. There will be a plenary by Dr. Eric Reynolds from Woosung University in Daejeon, followed by over a dozen presentations. It will be one of the best ways this year to maximize your professional development skills, and to meet and network with fellow English teachers. For complete details about the conference, please follow this link. You can also get information about the conference by visiting the chapter’s Facebook page. Registration begins at 12 p.m., and the conference will go until 6 p.m.

Before the KOTESOL conference make sure you get down to the GIC for the 7th “Swap, Don’t Shop” event. All the funds raised from this event will go to support the GIC and it’s programs. These events are always successful, so make sure you arrive when the doors open at 10 a.m. For more info about “Swap, Don’t Shop”, please check out their Facebook event page.

Courtesy of the Gwangju Bombers

Courtesy of the Gwangju Bombers

Even though we had snow earlier in the week, spring temperatures are in the forecast this weekend which means it’s great baseball weather. Please support Gwangju’s own local, international baseball team the Bombers by watching them play during the month of March. The field location is here: 광주광역시 북구 동림동 106, and you can park under the bridge near the field. Check out the photo above for when the games begin. Cheer on your team Gwangju! For more details please contact: sprouleinkorea@gmail.com

Sunday, March 12th

Like playing with dogs? Need some exercise? Then you need to join the dedicated group of volunteers who go to a local animal shelter to walk and play with dogs. Please go to their Facebook event page for more info.

I told you it was busy! Next weekend we’ll have details about how you can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Gwangju!

Where to Eat Wednesday: 명화식육식당

In a conversation I recently had with a fellow food enthusiast, I walked away with an interesting point of view. What this person had told me was that while popular Korean dishes like 삼겹살 (samgyupsal; grilled pork belly) and 비빔밥 (bibimpbap; mixed rice) are fine and dandy, one of the best features of Korean cuisine is its soups and stews. It did leave me thinking quite a bit, as I haven’t enjoyed too many other cuisines that place as much focus and care on so many different types of both. I am a little biased, as I grew up being comforted by the warmth from piping hot bowls of brothy goodness, but it has left me wondering why there doesn’t seem to be as much focus on advertising such dishes as there is on meat and rice. Maybe soups and stews don’t photograph well? Either way, the restaurant featured in today’s review definitely offers an experience I think more people should partake in.

FrontInformation

A friend of mine invited me to 명화식육식당 (Myeonghwa Shikyook Shikdang) out of the blue while ranting and raving about just how good it was. When asked what made this spot so special, he told me that this was one of those places that served only one dish after having perfected it. He also informed me that this restaurant was out of the way and would require me to wake up early to make sure we could get a table, but he also assured me that it was worth it. Though those last two bits of intel almost turned me off to the idea, my curiosity forced me to say yes, even if this invitation came a few hours before we were scheduled to meet.

I’ve never been a fan of waking up in the morning on Saturdays, and this was no exception. As the restaurant opened at 11AM, I was told that I would have to be there before then if we wanted to avoid waiting outside. After looking up the address online, I realized that I’d be going out past the end of the subway line into unknown territories. As I drove through Pyeong-dong, it was hard to believe that I was still in Gwangju as the city grew quieter and less populated. It was probably ideal that I have a car, as I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to go by bus.

Due to sleeping in a bit, I didn’t arrive until right at 11AM. As promised, the restaurant was already bustling with hungry customers. Lucky for us, there were still a couple of tables available when I walked in at 11:05. Our waiter didn’t even bother asking us what we wanted, leading me to assume that there weren’t any other options other than the main dish when it came to the menu. Instead, he just counted the number of people at my table and started bringing out tasty side dishes. Speaking of which, our sides were simple, classic, and delicious. We got both cabbage and radish kimchi, soy braised soybeans, soybean sprouts, and pickled garlic.

InsideSides

Though it took some waiting, mostly due to the sheer number of people who had arrived before we did, our food finally arrived. Before I go on, I feel like I should write a bit about the main dish before actually saying anything about the quality of it. This restaurant is famous for 애호박찌개 (aehobak chigae), which can best be described as Zucchini Stew (though some may understandably mistake it as pumpkin). Now, as someone who’s never been crazy about zucchini, I generally looked past this dish at most restaurants. In events where I got try it, I liked it okay. Still, when comparing it to other beloved stews like 김치찌개 (kimchi chigae; kimchi stew), this one was a little too mild and underwhelming. It wasn’t until I came to this restaurant that I realized my opinions had unfortunately come from me going to the wrong places.

What we got was a piping hot bowl of zucchini, onions, hefty cuts of pork, and a long, beautiful mushroom slice that had all been swimming and soaking in a very red broth. I was surprised to not receive a bowl of rice on the side, only to be informed that it was hiding at the bottom of the bowl, absorbing that broth while helping thicken up the stew. With my first sip, my mind was blown. Despite how red the broth was, the amount of heat was surprisingly mild. Though it had taken on a lot of meaty characteristics from the tender pork, the zucchini added a surprisingly refreshing twist, making a properly balanced broth that offered a bright richness. The only thing stopping me from inhaling every drop of the soup upon tasting it was the pork, which this stew had an impressive amount of. They certainly didn’t cheap out on meat or vegetables, making this lunch a filling one. I also liked how well the zucchini handled the broth, getting cooked enough to soften, but not enough to get mushy. I have spent a lot time not being a fan of zucchini, but this wonderful stew has left me reconsidering some of my life choices.

Zucchini StewLine

If there was anything negative that was to be said about 명화식육식당, it’s mostly that it was quite far. Considering how this spot has been around since the 1970’s, the restroom was also a bit of a nightmare. All that being said, I walked away impressed and thankful that I didn’t show up wearing white (so many little red stains..). Was it worth waking up early on a Saturday? Was it worth driving across the city into parts unknown? Is this a journey I would be willing to take again? Too all that, I say yes. For anyone choosing to make the trip to try this place, I highly recommend keeping the numbers down and leaving a fair amount of time to wait. As the restaurant is both small and busy, I imagine larger parties would have difficulty getting seated together, especially since this place isn’t shy about putting strangers right next to each other. Really though, this restaurant is worth it.

Address: 광주 광산구 명화동 225-4 (within the Pyeong-dong Industrial Complex)
Phone: 062-943-7760
Hours: 11:00AM to 9:30PM (closed on Sundays)
Average Price Range: 8,000 per bowl

Looking Up.

Looking UP

 

It is not March, and only two weeks from the Spring Equinox. For parts of Jeolla province, the transition to warmer climes can already be sensed, if not quite yet seen. If in the mountains to the east however, this feeling might still be purely conceptual. As such, I was struck with a slight dilemma this week, namely, to which audience does one visually cater. The indecision such an experience unleashes has the potential to incapacitate or at the very least confuse the photographer slash writer. As such, this week’s photo attempts to find a happy medium by retreating into the metaphysical.

This photo was taken near Go-heung on the southern tip of the peninsula. Yet it could also represent a more urban setting. Pointing skyward, the camera reveals an inner harmony to the lattice-work of the structure. Like pagodas or if on the north-American continent, Giant Sequoias, these towers accent the mountains on which they’re found. This particular structure was perched at the apex of a small mountain, itself the dominant feature on a small island a kilometer off shore. While it is possible to see the structure as merely the messenger, a prop on set for a larger bio-electric show, closer inspection reveals a hidden architecture within. On this particular day, the wind was bitingly cold, much more-so than expected for such a southern local. However, the structure was indeed willing to reveal its secrets. As such, it had just one simple request, one that if met could be applied to a myriad of scenarios. For, where it be chaotic politics or a stubbornly persistent winter, the structure lent a simple reminder to those of us willing to simply look up.

 

[Photo taken with a Fuji GA645 shooting Ilford Delta 400.]

 

(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)

 

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