This past weekend Laura and I went to Gwangju. It is notable because it was the heart of the democracy movement in Korea. The first place we went was the May 18th Memorial Park - which was the setting for the 1980 student protest that ended in several civilians being killed. In my mind this is the closest Korea has to its own Tienanmen Square, so I had been wanting to see it. Gwangju is also notable for me because had I not signed my contract with St. Louis, I would have been living here instead.
This is a huge monument, these children are young and unsupervised. It isn't really surprising, in Korea, but I thought it was notable because they were climbing so high and were adorable.
Under the giant triangle the kids are climbing on, there is a list of names, which I am not sure if these are people involved in the democracy movement, or if they were those killed during the protests.
This was a stone carved mural on one wall, and in the middle was a statue of a mother carrying her son, killed by the soldiers in the movement.
This is Laura. These giant metal poles are surrounding the giant triangle.
I am becoming a more and more capable tourist. Lonely Planet is extremely helpful in this endeavor.
Next we went to the Gwangju National Museum. It was a beautiful building.
The most interesting thing to me was the capsule style coffins. The captions were only in Korean, but from the photographs, like the one in the background, I think they tuck one jar's lip inside the other, to create a seal.
Gwangju is also famous for "Art Street." We went pretty late, so some stores were closed, but its all art galleries and stores, selling supplies, original art and pottery. Everything was beautiful and so well done. I was a little sad, because Daegu doesn't have much of an art scene, there isn't a museum or galleries really. This is one thing that has depressed me a bit, and Art Street was a wonderful treat for me.
We stayed in Gwangju, and the following day we went to Damyang.
First, we went to a bamboo forest. It was really beautiful, and it was great to see things so lush and green in fall, where most trees' leaves have already changed colors and fallen off.
When we finished exploring the forest, Laura and I tried to get a cab to a bamboo museum. We realized pretty quickly that Damyang is not Daegu - there were absolutely no cabs. Our only option was to call one, which was difficult given our limited knowledge of Korean. So we stood at the road and looked around contemplating our next move. Luckily, we were in Korea - within a few minutes, we were stopped by a random Korean man, who looked at our map and gathered where we were trying to go. Turns out, he was a tour guide leading a bus around Damyang full of older Korean couples from Seoul. He invited us to join them - for free- and took us on a pretty awesome tour of the city.
Metasequoia Avenue has been voted the most beautiful road in Korea. I can see why.
These little guys were all over Damyang's tourist locations, which I thought were the cutest things ever.
Soswaewon was made in 1520 and it was great to see the traditional architecture.
I'm excited for our tour. The guide communicated what he could in English, and one of the other tourists spoke a little English, and would translate a little more. We got the jist of most of it, and my guidebook helped, too.
In Korea, Autumn lasts months. Its wonderful, the leaves are still changing and colorful. I'm happy to have nice weather still. Of course Thanksgiving isn't exactly a holiday here, we still have to work.
As for the concern about the artillery fire earlier this week... I am not to worried, and don't think you should be either. Life is continuing on as normal here. I am registered with the US Embassy, and if there is an evacuation, I will be the first to know. Yes, it is the most serious threat since the Korean War, but I believe all parties involved will be rational and show restraint. My plan is to be in Korea until next August, and as of now, that is not changing. Obviously, if the situation becomes untenable, I will put my safety first. As of now, thats all I know. Keep Korea in your thoughts, watch the news, and eat some mashed potatoes for me on Thanksgiving!