Kent, a friend of ours, has befriended some Korean college girls with very very good English. They guided us to this tea place. It sells all kinds of tea pots and accessories in the front and serves tea in the back. For only $3 per person we sample, sipped, and enjoyed three different kinds of tea. A green tea called "jaksul", which means "sparrow's tongue" because the leaves are so tiny when they are picked. We had matcha, a powdered green tea mixed into hot water with a bamboo whisk, and what was described to us as a "yellow tea", but I'd never heard of that before. I was able to spout a bit of my tea knowledge and impress those who hadn't worked in a tea shop before. It was really cool and there are a few other tea places I'd like to try on Art Street.
On Sunday we went to the Gwangju Biennale. A biennale is a large international contemporary art show that happens every two years. The most famous of these exhibitions is in Venice, but our Gwangju holds its own. This exhibition is huge and takes place in several locations throughout the city. We bought season passes because it was way too much to take in on one day. Out five very large galleries in the main exhibition building, we looked at one and half on Sunday. Good thing it runs into November! We saw some cool stuff and I plan to go back one of my mornings before work when it won't be full of Korean children and tour groups. Koreans in a gallery setting are borderline awful according to what I'm used to in America. When we are in galleries or museums at home, we are respectful, quiet, and give space to others also viewing a piece or reading the plaque next to it. Koreans are all things that are not the qualities or behaviors I just mentioned. They are loud, stand right next to you, in front of you, in the doorway, let their children run rampant, yelling through the gallery, and are generally unwilling to take a step aside so that you may walk by or also enjoy what they are looking at. All of these things happen everywhere else in Korea, but in a major international art exhibit?!? I'm foolish to expect anything different, I know.
Aiigh, but it is a really cool thing to have in Gwangju, just a medium sized city in a tiny country. Jim Sanborn, the sculptor I worked for during senior year and the summer after graduation, was in the Gwangju Bienniale a few years ago. When I told him I was thinking about coming to Korea he recommended Gwangju to me. He says that Gwangju has this event because there is a lot of cultural guilt surrounding the May 18th Gwangju Democratic Uprising in 1980. Over 150 were killed in a protest against military rule. A lot of cultural importance is put on Gwangju in an effort to outshine the democratic uprising and massacre.
Strange fate twist- student uprising ending in massacre causes cultural guilt causes cultural importance in Gwangju causes Gwangju Biennale causes Jim Sanborn to come here causes him to recommend the city to me when I ask about Korea causes us to be here teaching English. Well.... maybe that's stretch, but not too far. Ok, this post began as a description of our weekend and ended as the history of how we got to Gwangju.
Next weekend, I'll take some pictures.....