Saturday, May 31, 2014

Gwangju, South Korea, 5-18 (Day 4) Part II

Image of man in wheelchair in pottery workshop with woman working at table
Mr Kim in the pottery workshop
After the events recognizing the 5-18 Student Uprising from 1980, we returned to the Holiday Inn, the hotel where I stayed in Korea.  Many conference guests left that afternoon, but I stayed until the next morning.  With some free time, my new friend Jin Bread took me to see the Han Ma Um Independent Living Center, one of several centers in Gwangju.  Mr. Kim, who had been around throughout the conference and paid for beer two nights in a row, worked at Han Ma Um, and was waiting to meet us. He toured us around the center.  They make all kinds of pottery there.  From what I understand, they haven't yet, but plan to launch a business, with pottery sales as a way of generating income.  There is also a performance space in the center. Mr. Kim plays the guitar and is in a band. 
Stage at the Han Ma Um Independent Living Center
Stage at the Han Ma Um Independent Living Center
After the tour, Mr. Kim brewed some green tea.  We sat around drinking the tea and talking for a little while, then I returned to the hotel.  I wanted several hours on my own to pack and rest up for long trip back to Chicago.

When I told people I was going to Korea, many people mentioned the food, especially the beef. "You've got to try the beef!" a few people exclaimed.  In the four days I'd been there, the closest I came to Korean Beef was the short ribs at the Holiday Inn Lunch Buffet.  So for my last meal in Korea, even though a conference organizer told me I could return to the Holiday Inn Buffet, I ventured out to the streets of Gwangju.  I wasn't necessarily looking for Korean Beef, but I wanted something new. 
Holiday Inn Gwangju
More importantly, I wanted something that wasn't the Convention Center Buffet or the Holiday Inn Buffet. I walked up a street toward a bar called the "One Shot," where a group of us had been two nights in a row.  I was familiar with the street and it looked like there would be a lot of options. There were a lot of options, but once on the street, and peering through the windows into restaurants, I got nervous.  After four days, I knew about one word in Korean -- Hello.  There was  no guarantee I could communicate with anyone in the restaurants.   I was looking for a place that had a menu posted on the door in English, or places with big pictures of food on the wall.  A few times, I found places that met the criteria, but there were all kinds of shoes piled up at the door and I could see customers inside wearing flip flops.  Concerned I would break some sort of protocol, I avoided those places.  I ended up walking well past the One Shot bar before I bit the bullet and walked into a place. It was a small joint, kind of like a Vienna Beef greasy spoon in Chicago, with a counter, a menu posted above the counter, and about ten tables on a hard tile floor.  Two of the tables were occupied.  The man who greeted me spoke no English and handed me a small laminated menu with tiny Korean script.  There were a few pictures above the counter.  I pointed at one and after a little bit of back and forth with the man who gave me the menu, he went to place my order with the kitchen.

The soup he delivered a few minutes later appeared to match the item in the picture to which I had pointed.  Nevertheless, I had no idea what it was.  It had a thick but translucent red broth, with noodles the consistency of Ramon, cabbage, some other vegetables, some sort product that could have been fake meat or processed meat, and, to my surprise, sliced hot dogs.  I tried to eat all of it, but there was a lot.   After about twenty minutes, I paid, walked back to the hotel, and tried to find the dish I ate on the Internet. My best guess is Hangover Stew.

Image of a red stew in a bowl --Hangover Stew
I hope it was the stew.  Because while I never had any Korean Beef, it sounds kind of cool to say I had Hangover Stew.  

No comments:

Post a Comment