Wow, today was a great adventure!
This morning I made it to the local pool just in time to have a quick swim before they shut for their lunchtime break. I cycled home and got changed and then went to meet a new friend at the Gwangju Arts Center, just next to the Biennale park, and just before the Prince Hotel intersection.
I met Ashley and, as it was a lovely mildly sunny spring day, we strolled around the grounds there, looking at the sculptures and at the families of kids playing hiding games on the grass. After a while she said she was thirsty, so as we were walking by one of the entrances to the performance halls, we went inside to get a drink from one of the can machines. In the hall lobby there were some posters and pamphlets advertising some of the performances coming up soon. I noticed one of them because there was a picture of a man playing classical guitar. I love classical guitar, so I said to Ashley: “There is a classical guitar concert tonight! Would you like to go?” She said no. I said: “Oh.”
So, we walked back outside and sat down and chatted for a while, and then we decided to go to the nice cafe across the road called ‘Crema’. We bought a coffee for her and a waffle and ice-cream for us to share (of which I ate about four fifths). It was delicious! As we chatted though, I discovered that she had never tried real New Zealand ice-cream, so, we decided to go to Chonnam National University back gate where we could buy some so she could try it. At first she wanted to walk even in her high heels which I thought was very sporting, but then we realised that the wind was a bit colder, and the big main roads along which we would have to walk were very noisy with all the smelly dangerous cars, so, we just took a taxi.
We bought a little ice-cream and she tried it and seemed to like it, and then we walked around the Chonnam University campus for a while, until we decided to get dinner. We went to a good Italian restaurant I know at the back gate area there, and again she did not eat much, and I ate the rest! We enjoyed chatting for a while, but then she decided to go home to watch TV. I thought that was okay as we were able to chat quite freely about some things but we were really quite different in many ways, so, we said good night to each other happily and went our different ways.
I was walking along the road and deciding what to do next when I saw a couple of foreigners I had met before around Gwangju. They were chatting with another couple of foreigners I did not know. I stopped to say hello to them all. They all had motorbike clothes on and were standing next to their motorbikes, so I asked them if they were going on a road trip. They answered: “No. Actually, our dog has just been kidnapped.” Apparently they had been showing a motorbike to someone interested in buying one there by the Chonnam University back gate earlier in the afternoon, and a little girl had stopped to ask if she could pat the small cute puppy dog. They had happily said she could, and had gone back to talking about the motorbike, but when they turned around the girl had dissappeared with the dog!
“Wow,” I said. “That’s weird!” We all stopped and thought about it for a few seconds. I was about to say something helpful when they all started talking to each other again. They were obviously very upset, especially the other two whom I did not know so well as it was their dog which had gone missing. I told them I was doing nothing right away and would like to help if I could. They said sure, and started talking about contacting Korean friends to help write a poster and pamphlets to give out to local people.
I phoned my best Korean friend but she did not answer. I asked if they’d contacted police and they said they had. Someone had the idea of going to a local pet store to see if anyone had taken it there, so I walked up to two students waiting at the lights and asked them if they knew of any pet stores in the nearby area. They said that there were none. I walked back to the group. They were talking about someone who was going to make the posters when suddenly the other woman shouted “There she is!” and ran straight across the road in front of the on-coming cars, and into the crowd of pedestrians on the other side of the road, just as the lights turned red. We calmly walked between the now stationary cars waiting at the lights, and into the crowd where she had disappeared. She had found the little girl who had walked off with the dog!
The girl was in a hot-food stall-tent by the side of the road. There were two adults beside her who seemed to be her mother and her father. The expat guy I knew from before, and who is very big, started talking to the girl and the man in English. He sounded angry as he said: “Where is the dog!?” They obviously did not understand what he said, so I asked them: “Kangahji odi issoyoh?!” The girl suddenly looked up and showed she understood. She beckoned us to follow her and started walking along the pavement in front of the shops. The other man and I followed her quick steps until she suddenly said to him: “Wait here!” I think it was the surprise of her speaking in English that made him stop dead and wait as she dissappeared into the crowds of shoppers walking along the street. I thought it was dangerous, so I suggested quickly that we follow her some more. We sprinted after her for only another ten or twenty steps before she dissappeared completely! Where had she gone?! She must have gone up some steps into one of the buildings. The big guy caught up with us and was clearly angry at the girl again. He started walking up the stairs looking for the door into which she had gone. The dog’s owner man did not really know what to do. I spoke to him and he said he trusted the girl to bring the dog back, but after a minute or so he went up the stairs, I think to check his friend was not being too angry. I waited down on the pavement as the two women caught up and went upstairs too.
After another minute or two, they came down with the man carrying the cute little puppy dog. They were all very relieved and suddenly happy, but still seemed a bit shocked at the whole event. I gave them a minute to relax a bit, and then told them I was happy to see the dog back, and then I bid them good night. I walked to the nearest taxi and got in, and asked him to take me back to the arts center.
The concert had already started, so I negotiated a discount on a seat near the front center, and waited for a break in the performance. The man gave me a w30,000 seat for w20,000, and I had only missed the first half-hour of a two-hour show! I was quite happy with that. The performer was from the USA, and was a professor of music at Yale University. He spoke English to introduce each piece, and a friend of his translated his explanations. His name was Benjamin Verdery. He was quite funny in what he had to say between each piece, and, his playing was very smooth and accomplished. He also played a big variety of different types of musical pieces, including classical music such as that by Bach, and one baroque-period piece (which was probably my favourite). To conclude, he performed a medly of modern rock songs including ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimmy Hendrix. It was very impressive and we clapped enough for two encores.
As I was walking out of the hall a Korean man said hello to me. I said ‘Annyoung hasshimnigah?!’ to him, and then he asked me if I recognised him. I said I was sorry but I did not, and so he explained that he had seen me at the Gwangju International Center (GIC) two years before. “Oh!” I said, “The GIC! Well, that’s all right then!” I really like the GIC and so immediately relaxed when he told me that. We chatted for a couple of minutes, introducing ourselves and catching up. Even though I still did not recognise him, I was happy to meet him. He, in turn, seemed happy to invite me to the ‘reception’ after the performance. I was surprised as I did not know that there was a reception, but he said he had a special invitation and could invite me too.
I was still dressed in jeans and sneakers. I had not expected Ashley to be dressed up to meet me, and, now all the audience from the concert was dressed up too! Still, it was a kind invitation and he introduced me to his other friends who were classically trained and experienced musicians too. They all seemed very kind and relaxed, so I happily agreed to go along. We went to the small restaurant shared a little beer, wine, and some good drinking snack food until Benjamin Verdery turned up. We all clapped when he entered, and then his friend and tour host spoke very briefly. Many people came up to thank him for his performance and ask for his autograph.
Eventually my friend from GIC said it was time to go, so, on the way out I went to say thank you to Benjanim Verdery for his great performance. He asked me where I was from. When I told him New Zealand, he said: “Oh, I’ve been there! It was beautiful!” I asked him if he went to Auckland, and he said no, and looked down as he tried to remember the name of the city. I suggested ‘Wellington’ and immediately he smiled as his eyes lit up and he said quickly: “Yes, Wellington! It was really beautiful and they have the best coffee there!” His great enthusiasm for good coffee was funny and we laughed at his sudden smile.
We chatted briefly a bit more before it was time to go. Mr. Park Jinsu from GIC dropped me outside my apartment on the way to his home. It has been a long and eventful day!