On the way to work

The field in the foreground belongs to another house, but it isn’t as photogenic as this place. Or as well placed for a photograph. You can’t see it in this photo, but behind the break in the hedges is a doghouse where a small dog lives. When I first started using this road the dog would come out of its house and look at me while wagging its tail. If no one was around. If the home owner was about, it would bark at me a few times. Very human in that regard. When the boss is around you have to look like you’re working, right? Lately the dog has started barking at me even when alone. I wonder if it has anything to do with the disppearance of Baduki, a neighbourhood dog that used to roam freely, visiting his chained friends and greeting me enthusiastically every time I passed his home. Last year his owner started chaining him up and keeping him inside. That seems to be about the time the dog at the house above became less friendly. Maybe the dog is just getting old and crusty.

Doggy Update!: I went for a walk today up over the hill and on the way back I met a chainless Baduki wagging his tail at a very nervous woman and her little black dog with their backs up against a tree. Poor Baduki. He just wants to be friends but he’s misunderstood. I stopped to say hello to him but he was only interested in a potential new doggy friend. So I walked down the hill. By the time I got to his house he was running down the road after me. So we had a nice little time with much head scratching, rubbing, and wagging of tail. Nice to see him again.

Two Ways to Enjoy Eating

I sometimes try to connect the photos in a post in some way. Sometimes it’s a stretch. These two photos are from a walk downtown earlier in the month.

Mom’s Touch menu and delivery scooter, downtown Gangneung.

When Mom’s Touch first opened up, I’m sure I read that they were somehow affiliated with Popeye’s Chicken. They had Cajun fries, fried chicken, and chicken sandwiches. Maybe I dreamed that? I didn’t see any mention of it on their website when I checked yesterday. Maybe someone said “Mom’s Touch is the Popeye’s of Korea.” It’s a common phrase here. “Ahn Cheolsu is the Bill Gates of Korea”, “Mureung Valley is the Grand Canyon of Korea” (it’s lovely, but they are completely different), “Lee Jeonghyeon is the Lady Gaga of Korea”, and so on. Another delivery scooter, by the way. You’re welcome.

CU convenience store patio, downtown Gangneung.

This is a non-smoking street and there are no-smoking signs up outside the convenience store, but as sure as there’s shit in a cat, some arsehole will show up to have a fag just as soon as you sit down to enjoy a tin of coffee or something. However, when there are no smokers about, the patio of the convenience store is a decent place to take a rest while out making photos.

Emart 24

Emart convenience store, Wolhwa Park

Emart 24 is not open twenty-four hours a day. Emart 24 is the convenience store version of the hypermart Emart, which is owned by Shinsegye Department Stores. Shinsegye is owned by the daughter of Samsung’s founder. She is the younger sister of the president of Samsung Electronics. All in the family, what?

Cat, Church, and Cat Again

It’s a cat

For every relatively in-focus photograph of my cat, there are five or six pictures with blurred turning heads, flicking tails, massive yawns, or his rear end exiting the frame at warp 5.

In my last post I joked about joining a cult to paint alleyways. It later reminded me of another experience I had with a church member. I was exploring the city of Anyang one day in 1996/97 when a smiling woman approached me. Our conversation went something like this….

W: Hello.
M: Hi.
W: Where are you from?
M: Canada.
W: Oh, that’s very nice! What are you doing here?
M: I work at an English academy here in Anyang.
W: That’s nice. Do you have many friends here?
M: No, not really. One of my co-workers.
W: Oh, you should come to our church. You can meet lots of people.
M: Well, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t think I would fit in.
W: No, no! It doesn’t matter if you’re not Christian. You can come to our church!
M: I’m not really interested.
W: You know, two of my brothers-in-law are American. They weren’t Christian, but they started coming to our
church and now they are Christian!
M: Well, that’s very nice for them and their wives, but I’m not interested in attending church services.
W: We have lots of foreigners at our church so there are English church services and you can meet other
people.
M: Yes, that’s very nice for foreign Christians, but I’m really not interested in going to church. I’m not
a Christian.
W: (pause) There are lots of girls at our church . . . .

She almost had me, haha. The encounter was weird, annoying, funny (in hindsight), and uncomfortable all at the same time.

She definitely would have had me if she had mentioned the church was full of cats.

Alley Art

Some neighbourhoods have recently been trying to brighten up their alleyways. Usually in areas where tourists are wandering away from the coffee shops and beaches to explore the narrow lanes. I often wander into the narrow streets and spaces between buildings to get away from the madding crowd.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

A downtown neighbourhood called Myeongju started its rejuvenation some years ago with the conversion of a church to a theatre and performance centre. Then came the remodelling of nearby old houses into coffee shops. Some private houses even tore down their high, crumbling garden walls and planted grass and flowers to brighten up the neighbourhood. Most recently, an area on the fringes of the neighbourhood painted parts of the alley walls in rainbow colours. The writing above says, “Myeongju Rainbow Covered Streets”. Out of frame are the names of the local residents who contributed to the project.

Myeongju Neighbourhood

This drain pipe is cleverly disguised as the centre of a flower. Loose stones around the alley are painted in bright colours.

I once joined a cult to paint walls in knackered neighbourhoods. Well, not exactly. I wrote it like that for fun and shock value. What happened was, I was in a supermarket trying to choose some tea when a lady approached me and asked if I spoke Korean. Then she asked if I would be interested in helping to brighten up some poorer neighbourhoods by painting alley walls. As a hater of the “grey is okay” city aesthetic, I certainly was interested and we exchanged contact information. Some time later the lady rang me and I met up with her and about a dozen other people in a neighbourhood not far from my house. It turned out that they were from the Shincheonji Church, a group previously mistrusted by the public and now reviled as the cult (a professor of religious studies at university once told our class that a cult is any group mainstream Christians don’t like) responsible for the first wave of covid infections in Korea. But I met them long before the covid business. Anyway, nobody mentioned God or Jesus to me and they were all very pleasant people. I enjoyed my time adding colour to the neighbourhood and I got a couple of free lunches out of it.

But I digress. Another neighbourhood dolling itself up for visitors to Gangneung is Anmok, probably the most famous tourist area in Gangneung because of its beaches and coffee shops that overlook the sea. Many of the alley walls were whitewashed and painted with scenes of fish several years ago, but in the last few months someone has painted the alley pavement.

Anmok

When I first came across these lines I thought that some businesses had put them there to lead customers to lodging houses or restaurants, but there were no signs explaining the colours and they didn’t seem to have any particular starting place or destination. I guess they are just there to look nice.

Downtown?

It’s great that some neighbourhoods are trying to spruce themselves up a bit. Even a simple coat of paint over breeze blocks and concrete can make alleys much nicer places to walk through. I can’t go around with a bucket of paint trying to beautify the city (unless I join another cult), but I try to make the lanes and ugly architecture at least pleasing to look at in photographs by careful framing. You might not think the curled wire photo above is interesting or good, but it’s probably not making you feel miserable like a walk through that alley might.

Stay Here

Or else . . . ?

The name would suggest this is a hotel, but it’s a coffee shop that’s just opened next to Wolhwa Park in downtown Gangneung. I made this photo before the interior was completely finished, which is why the curtains are drawn. The sign, the curtains, and the colour of the wall reminds me of something you might see in a Fred Herzog photo of 1960s’ Vancouver.

Gate and Window

Red Gate in Alley, Gangneung
Shinyeong Cinema, Gangneung

I was fortunate enough to pass the red gate at a time of day when the two lions’ heads were framed neatly in sunlight. There was an element of luck in the second photo as well. The open window makes the photo and it’s probably not open all the time.

Scooters

Cars are expensive and it’s difficult to get around the crowded areas of the city. And parking is a nightmare everywhere. So many people who need to be mobile for their work use scooters. The most common models by Daerim have automatic transmissions, are cheap to run, only weigh 100 kilogrammes, and you don’t need a special motorcycle license to drive them. Parking bad? Park on the sidewalk! Roads congested? Drive on the sidewalk! The postmen do! If you’ve got a bit of extra money and you like colours other than red, you could buy a Honda Super Cub, which comes in a number of different colours. And looks cool.

Most restaurant delivery is done with these scooters. Lotteria is a Korean/Japanese version of McDonalds and they have home delivery service. So does McDonalds, if you order quite a lot of food.
This scooter was parked under the outdoor stairwell of Shinyeong Cinema.
Honda Super Cub with a delivery box on the back. Parked in a bus lane pointing the wrong way.

Every now and then the police put up banners around the city saying that they are going to crack down on scooter traffic violations. But the banners must take up their whole scooter-busting budget because you never see anyone pulled over and the scooters drive where they like as normal. Maybe the police need scooters to chase these guys down . . . .

Drying Bamboo Mats

Downtown Gangneung

I think these drying mats were in the same alley as yesterday’s bicycle, but at the entrance. They look like placemats, but Koreans don’t usually use placemats. Maybe they are blinds, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to hang them up in a window. Whatever they are, I was glad to notice them and their shadows.