A 600 year old tree (same age as the town), the 2nd oldest confucious academy in Korea, a 100-year-old restaurant, a soybean farm, a magic water well and pear blossoms-what better way to welcome the spring season?
I took a trip to Naju this past weekend. It’s about an hour-long bus ride from the downtown of Gwangju. I am friends with a guy named, Warren and he is an English teacher at a Dongshin University in Naju. Many people here, just like me, were smart enough to say no to the private schools and landed themselves nicely with a cushy job at a university. They get tons of vacation as you can imagine, great students, great co-workers…ah the list could go on and on.
It’s not as easy as I make it sound, though. You should be a great teacher and have the credentials. Many of them prefer hiring people with at least a masters degree in some area of study. And Warren isn’t teaching Koreans at the university, he’s drinking Korean tea, learning Korean, learning about Korea, teaching about Korea-I’m starting to wonder if he’s really not from Boston?
He’s lived in Naju for about three years now and he’s built up a great information bank of knowledge about the old small town. He must have felt it was important to share this knowledge with other people, so he invited us out for a tour with him. It was set up by the Gwangju International Center. We paid $20 and that covered our transportation and lunch.
I really couldn’t go wrong. How else was I going to spend my Saturday? Warren started the tour instantly and explained about Naju on the way there. Apparently, Naju was a very important city in Korea before the industrial revolution. Before that, areas of Korea with fertile ground were more important than others, because of their ability to produce rice and other commodities.
Nowadays, people in the city are starting to realize this and in about the past 10 years, they’ve been trying to preserve their history. The city recently restored this ancient gate. In the past, Korean towns were surrounded a wall and there were several gates within the wall, which one could enter through. Here is one.
After hearing about this gate, I learned that it was recently restored and until about 10 years ago, the people of Naju have been interested in restoring certain things such as this.
The next stop on our itinerary was a museum dedicated to the history of Naju and the important things involved there. There was a great picture of the city from above and a neat model replica of the old Naju.
Can you see the wall and gates surrounding Naju in the model? Pretty cool, eh? I don’t know why Korea changed that, but I think it’s seems only fitting that cities are surrounded be walls and gates. It doesn’t make it so easy for criminals and such to enter. I will suggest this to the mayor in York, Neb.
It’s probably a good idea that Warren introduced this museum, because not only was it interesting, but it was kind of sleeper for some, but I think the most interesting thing about this museum, but was standing outside. Check it out: a 600-year-old tree. It’s as old as the towne.
Here’s a couple different pictures of it. It looks like any other tree. But it’s probably seen a lot of different kinds wars, gates destroyed, walls destroyed, many different kinds of kimchi, the introduction of singing rooms to Korea and the introduction of Korean pop music. If only it could talk.
But there’s not only one interesting tree, if you’re paying attention to both of these pictures, you can’t help but notice a cherry blossom tree hanging out with the old tree. It’s probably also old. This is standing inside the courtyard of a now-guesthouse, but former traditional house.
The pre-Korea Mark Hayden wasn’t really into such things as Cherry Blossom trees, but really, anything can fascinate me in this country. You know what my student at Samsung was telling me last week? The pretty island south of Korea, Jeju, is famous for good pork. Why I asked. Because back in the day, farmers used real human feces to feed the pigs. People would actually go to the farm and relieve themselves. Crazy, huh?
Anyways. I’m a big fan of the floor heating systems in Korea, so I was excited to see that the guesthouse was under construction, so I could see what it looks like underneath the floor. This kind of heating system is getting really popular in the world. In China and the U.S.A is getting popular and rather expensive. Here, it’s just normal. In the traditional Korea, people would use real fire underneath the home to heat the place. Accidents were sadly common.
That’s what a torn-up modern floor heating system looks like. I knew you were wondering. After this, we proceeded onto lunch, but coincidently, and luckily, there was a pear blossom festival going on at the same time. So we enjoyed some great stuff.
That instrument below the girl playing the pipa is an instrument indigenous to Korea.
Lunch was had at a 100-year-old restaurant. Ate some awesome beef soup.
I have made in Korea for 1 year and 2 months mainly by eating bulgolgi meals with my favorite sauce, samjan. It’s a spicy red pepper sauce and it’s delicious when it’s combined with beef or pork. We visited a farm where the soybean base is made for samjan. It was quite interesting.
The 2010 Naju Yeongsangang Culture Festival will be held from Oct. 29 to 31