Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gwangju

Ugly shoes on...


...and we're off!


We get off the bus in Gwangju and as a security guard where north is. It kinda went like this:
"Where is north?"
"Where are you going?"
"Seoul"
"The bus station is here" (Where we just came from)
"We are walking to Seoul"
"Ugghhhh?!!"
Kerri pats her legs.
"Your legs are sore?"
"No, we are walking"
So, he points towards north and we start walking along the river, greeted by cheery waves. After about an hour we decide to check our direction with an adjosshi.
"Where is north?"
He points in the direction we just came from. Uh oh. We need a compass.


We find a business with a huge map of Gwangju in it. We tell the owner we are walking, he tells us we are crazy. We decide to take a taxi to the top of Gwangju so we don't spend 4 days walking around in circles around the city.
This was a moment where fate happened and led us to have an amazing day. All because of this fantastic taxi driver. He started to drive us to the Gawngju Memorial and we told him our plans as we are driving. He thinks we are really, really crazy but is really interested in why we are in Gwangju and wanted to visited the memorial. (Side note: It is AMAZING traveling with Kerri - her Korean is actually getting us through this trip.)


Pulling up at the memorial, we all get out of the car and the taxi driver looks at our map - there is also an older married couple there and they all collectively talk about how crazy we are. "Take the bus", the woman says, "You can be in Seoul by tonight!"
The taxi driver tells us to look around the memorial and he will wait for us.

In 1980, Gwangju had a huge, horrific political incident that lead to the massacre of almost 5000 civilians. The civilians of Gwangju rose up against the military dictatorship but were squashed by the South Korean Army.
There were 4 major incidents over 7 days:
- Student riots
- Troops reaction
- Gwangju City rebellion
- Official revenge
You can read more about it here.


This is the Mangwol-dong cemetery.


This memorial is absolutely stunning. It is so large and while we were there, completely void of people except for a few gardeners. The gravestones with photos of the murdered were absolutely heartbreaking - most of the civilians were so young and all the graves have the same dates. Such a waste. Kerri translated a sign as, "Hold the memory of each lonely death as your observe these photos." And this is what we did.

We came back to the car and our driver was waiting for us with cold water. He wanted to take us to another place and we were easy with that (the meter was well turned off by now.) We drove up to an amazing ancient garden called Seosewan. It was completely surrounded in bamboo and is where scholars and poets came to study 1500 years ago.
Taxi man bought us some fans and came for the walk with us.


We sat under a traditional shelter where this adorable guide told us about the area.


A group of adjummas joined us and we all sat around listening (well, I didn't understand but it was okay) and it was so peaceful, quiet and welcoming. I felt so comfortable.


We told our taxi driver we to buy him a meal. So we had some incredible boribap in a restaurant nestled in a hill and some coffee. He would not let us pay and there was nothing we could do.



At 5pm we were dropped off where we started but we had the most amazing, unexpected afternoon which is exactly what this trip is about. I can not believe how generous this man was with his time and it seems like his only motivation was to show how proud he was of Gwangju. Our hearts are filled with booming warmth at the moment and it is just the beginning!

The next stop is Gochang, which is an hour north. That is all we know.

2 comments:

Alex said...

what a decent fellow!

Jenna said...

I wonder if a NZer would do that?!!