According to my guide book, Daegu doesn’t have much to keep tourists entertained. However, it may well be my favourite city of this trip and I end up spending five nights here. I spend most of my time wandering the main shopping street browsing the outdoor shops and eating Baskin Robbins ice cream. There are fortune telling shops everywhere but I am not tempted (partly due to the language barrier). But maybe the best part of my stay in Daegu is my time spent speaking with a worker at Empathy Guesthouse. The guesthouse is actually a refuge for North Korean defectors and the worker is an American-Korean lady who has chosen this as her place to work. We discuss politics and the global refugee situation.
The Samsung Lions baseball team are playing in the championship pennant game while I’m in Daegu. Samsung Lions are the home team and there’s only one ticket left in the stadium – I manage to buy it with the help of the manager of Empathy Guesthouse. It’s my first ever baseball game. While baseball isn’t a sport I can get excited about, the experience of being at the game was amazing. Fried chicken vendors hawked their food. Super cute mascots supervised the players’ warm ups. The white coated Samsung choir sang the national anthem. A male cheer leader encourages the crowd to engage in choreographed cheers and dance moves. Scantily clad cheer girls excite the (mostly male) crowd while the ladies in the crowd go wild about player number 7 in the Samsung Lions team. In the good seats spectators had tables on which they ate whole meals of rice, pizza and fried chicken washed down with copious cans of beer. There is a beer sculling competition between the fifth and sixth innings, which was shown on the big screen. Three men went head to head to see who could scull a mug the fastest.
Women in War photo exhibition
I knew the Women in War photo collection as part of the 2014 Bienniel Photography Exhibition would be moving. Jane from the hostel had told me about it after we spoke the other day and she suggested I might be interested to see it. But I wasn’t quite prepared for how deeply it would touch me. So I will just share with you the thoughts I wrote as I stood there in the gallery:
Extraordinary photography. Some haunting others stunning. The contrast between the horrors of war and magical colours makes it all the more harrowing. I wonder how I could ever return to the life I once had after seeing all that I have seen this past year already.
There is no rushing here. No glory to be seen. Just the cold realities of war through the lenses of female photographers. The exhibition makes me more sure that all who can should travel to cure their minds of hatred based on fear. For pain and loss are human experiences, not something any group owns exclusively. No matter the side, the flag, the religion, the race or the gender: tears mean sadness, blood means pain and death is forever.
The exhibition ebbs and flows. From the jungles of Vietnam to the soldiers of the Balkans. From death in Africa to uncertainty in the Middle East. A female US marine plays with a child and mothers try to maintain normality in Afghanistan. Acid violence disfigures faces and women are taken to “comfort” men.
Humanity on display both in and out of the photos. An older Korean man sits crying openly. Young couples move slowly with reverance. A teenage girl touches her mother’s shoulder. A raw heart wrenching exhibition not to be missed and from which I pray we will all learn.
Rene, a cycle tourer I met in Seoul arrives in Daegu and we go out to try makchang together. Makchange is a Daegu delicacy that consists of pig’s intestines cooked on a coal grill at your table. When raw it looks rather graphic. But then you (or, if you are a foreigner who seems to lack suitable BBQ experience, your host) cooks it up at the table until it looks just like any other sort of fried meat. You dip the fried intestines in a delicious sauce, place it on a lettuce leaf, add marinated bean sprouts, raw garlic slices, onion and this delicious paste, roll the leaf and eat. I was skeptical at first but found it to be one of the most delicious Korean foods I have eaten so far.
I find myself at Dalseong Park. There is a pagoda up on a hill and a miniature zoo where animals from all over the world are kept in small cages. This vulture is huge and keeps charging the people looking at it. I feel a bit sad for the animals; not in a judgmental way but just because I think it must be boring to be wild but caged. Small school children play on the grass as teachers watch vigilantly. Some teachers wear small microphones like those used by tour guides so their class can hear them. The uniforms vary from sporty to cute little suits and ties worn by five and six year olds. But no matter the uniform, one thing is the same: the brightly coloured shoes.
My next stop is the Seomun Market where clothes, traditional medicines, groceries and street food are sold at small stalls, many of which are marked by brightly coloured umbrellas. Old women fall asleep at their stalls while middle aged women work hard to entice customers to their’s. The enticement here is not pushy and rude like in some other countries. Rather, it is courteous and apologetic; always with the promise of a free taste and discounted price