Ian and Potato’s Gwangju Cultural Field Trip (Part Two)

Up next was the Gwangju Art Museum.  There we appreciated many exhibits of posthumanism, virtual reality painting, and the calligraphy of apricots.  At that point, I was a bit museum-weary, so memory evades me.

Except for the ink droppers.  My goodness.  There were an absurd amount of ancient ink droppers in even more absurd shapes.  Ink droppers shaped like teardrops.  Ink droppers shaped like dragons.  Ink droppers shaped like the Buddha himself.

Before the wonderful invention of the ballpoint pen (or even the fountain pen for that matter), one had to write with a quill and inkstone.  In this pre-office-supplies era, one had to grind an ink stick onto a stone and mix it with a precise number of water droplets to create the desired consistency.  Too few drops and your ink was black acrylic paint.  Too many and you writing with watercolors.  The droppers were egregiously expensive, reserved only for nobility and well-do-dos, and yet this museum had about 200 of them.

Eventually, it was time to meet up with Nightmare back at NC Wave.  The challenge was finding a taxi.  We searched high and low and eventually resorted to asking a Korean attendant in a yellow vest for assistance.

“Teck-shi-oh-di-ee-seo-yo?”  (Where are the taxis?)

He spoke Korean.  Neither of us understood.  He pointed.  We stood our ground, aloof and confused.  Finally (with a Korean generosity I have lately taken for granted) he walked with us for 500 meters to confirm the location of local taxis.  We thanked him profusely, bowed deeply,  hopped in a taxi bound for NC Wave.

The gregarious nature of our taxi driver blew my mind.  I understood nothing, choosing to look at him intently, nod my head, and interpose some “nays” into his soliloquies.  He pointed to the Kia Tigers baseball stadium and talked about what I can only assume was the team’s next 14 scheduled games.  I’m not sure.  I lost count.

Regardless, his friendly nature (despite my woeful lack of understanding) provided positive vibes as we exited the cab at NC Wave.

There we met up with Nightmare, grateful that he didn’t end up in police custody as we had unflatteringly predicted.  From there, Potato suggested a kalbi (Korean grilled short ribs) restaurant begrudgingly recommended by her seemingly apathetic co-teacher.  By this, I mean that her co-teacher tends to speak negatively of Gwangju aside from many local restaurants (for which he provides tepid reviews at best).  

To save money we took a local bus to the Gwangju outskirts.

I was impressed.  Whether it is due to differences in opinion or my completely unrefined Korean food palate, I loved that restaurant.  We enjoyed a decadent meal of kalbi, cold noodles (I ate most of the noodles because I am food waste intolerant), hot soup, and many banchan (like fermented radishes, fish cakes, fried vegetables, and egg patties).  We were completely stuffed satisfied.

That is…until we boarded the bus back to NC Wave.  Nightmare complained of stomach pains.  He later attributed blame to a Lotteria burger eaten hours earlier.  Where was a bathroom?  The matter was urgent.

“Let’s wait until a stop with many commercial spaces,” I suggested.

We waited nervously stop after stop in front of schools and apartment complexes. Finally, we disembarked at the U-Square bus terminal.  Nightmare sprinted for a bathroom like a bat out of hell.  Potato and I (both known to be quite uncouth) laughed our asses off as I stopped by the – Eleven for a quick snack.

“We’re terrible people.”

“I mean…as long as someone gets a laugh then Nightmare’s pain wasn’t senseless.”

I did feel pretty bad about it though.  Schadenfreude is only fun up to a point.

Eventually, we meandered back to the bathroom and met up with Nightmare.  He felt just enough relief to continue.  We returned to 7-Eleven for medicine just to be safe.  Remedies in hand, we re-boarded another bus and made our way back to NC Wave.

We then made our way to the Enter Motel.  Nightmare, though gastrointestinally functional enough to walk, was in no condition to go out.  We acquired an ondol (floor) room for only 17,000 won apiece – a small price to pay for the inconvenience of sleeping on a relatively soft floor.

Once we settled into the room, Nightmare’s stomach was still in bad shape.  Once we laid out our bed pads, he collapsed against the wall like a homeless man in need of alms.  Potato precipitously photographed this.  Nightmare took offense and gave vehement protest against its public posting.  He erupted in an anger that I once thought beyond his temperament.  Potato and I were weak of laughter (because we’re still terrible people).  In retrospect, I should have been more empathetic.  In further retrospect, I was an asshole.

Although we initially wanted to hit up the arcade, We decided it wasn’t right to leave Nightmare alone in such a state.  We elected to pick up some snacks at a nearby Mini Stop and settle in for sleepover mode.  It was an excellent decision.

We spent the evening snacking, catching up on juicy gossip (by Korean foreigner standards) and watching a televised Korean talent show.  While I was looking forward to arcade games, the sleepover far exceeded my expectations.  I would now prefer a night with friends on a heated floor over blowing 500-won coins on carnivalesque basketball games any day. 

We even tried to play King’s Cup (and promptly gave up because I was the only one actually drinking).  Regardless, I was grateful.  A taste of Korean museums turned into a cultural knowledge buffet.  I also laughed enough to tack ten minutes onto my lifespan and reignited my love of sleepovers.  It was all I could ever ask for packed into one weekend.

Photo Corner


This sculpture is titled “Confrontation.”  Set with the backdrop of a cityscape it makes me think about how urbanization has contributed to problems with interpersonal conflict.  We live around more people then ever yet we feel lonely, beset by strangers from all sides.


“Baby it’s cold outside.”


Did you think I was lying?  Granted, this is in Celsius (but still).


This is the view of Mokpo from the top of Yudal Mountain.  It’s strange.  The city feels so much smaller when I am in it.  From this view, it looks much larger and denser than I would have predicted.


Mokpo has its own version of “Christ the Redeemer.”


With clenched fists, The Bard can hardly contain his sheer excitement over the most decadent cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever seen.


This little guy hangs out in front of Sayou Market in Mokpo.  I thanked him very much for watching my bike as I shopped around.

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