Odds and Ends in Gwangju - Part #1
Sports reporter Bobby Nightengale and I don't have a lot of free time to experience Gwangju and Korea beyond our daily Team USA basketball coverage. It's unfortunate, because as we ride our shuttle buses between sites, I'm spotting so many photo opportunities and places I'd love to check out. Beautiful, small gardens are squeezed into the tiniest city plots, trees are well tended and trimmed, everything seems very clean and this place is the epitome of high tech. They are well wired but also very energy conscious. When I first opened the door to my hotel room, I couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights. No amount of pushing buttons would help. I finally figured out that slipping the room card into a wall slot turned on the room power. This means that when you leave your room, no matter what lights or devices you have on, as soon as you pull your key card, everything shuts down. It's a great system, but it makes it hard to charge camera batteries when I'm not in the room.
Our first day at the Convention Center, where the Main Press workroom is located, we noticed the escalators were not working, so we took an elevator. Later we watched someone approach the non-moving escalator and as they stepped onto it the stairs starting moving. Brilliant. Except you do need to pay attention that you are approaching the correct up or down escalator. I was about thrown backwards trying to go up a down flight. Guess I couldn't translate the arrow logo with a slash through.
Even our buses have the latest tech gear. On our ride to Muan today, a 40-minute ride to the basketball arena, the wide-screen TV was showing a local Korean TV show. There were only 3 of us on the bus, but a Korean gentleman and I were enjoying the show. Unfortunately, he was also the driver so I decided I better put on my seatbelt.
Speaking of buses, we had a difficult time locating our media shuttle bus after the opening ceremonies. Thousands of people streamed out of the stadium and headed for buses. Since we couldn't spot the media bus we were pointed to a bus that would take us to the city bus terminal and from there we could catch a taxi to our hotel. We got in line and as I squeezed into the bus stairwell a Korean woman snuck between Bobby and I. We were already overpacked. I had just witnessed and photographed another packed bus where police yelled at the driver and for passengers to get off because it was overcrowded. I was worried that would now happen to me. Our bus driver tapped my shoulder and pointed out the door. I pointed to Bobby, who was ahead of me and said. "I'm with him," hoping that what I said sounded like "No way I'm getting off this bus," in Korean. I managed to keep my camera bags around my shoulder and push forward. The driver closed the door and we were off.
I may have mentioned this already, but it's worth repeating. Everyone here is so kind and helpful and they speak English, as much as is possible, to communicate with us. I can't reciprocate speaking Korean so I bow often, smile a lot and thank everyone profusely. We were informed that you bow to approximately 35 to 45-degree in Korea and a 90-degree bow in Japan. It's now become a routine and I'm afraid I over do it. But I've also noticed a similar action by Koreans offering a gesture of respect toward us. It's the two-fingered peace sign and a big smile.
It only gets slightly annoying when I'm trying to take a natural, unposed photograph. I really hope my bowing technique isn't just as annoying.
Bobby and I got an hour of free time recently and we went in the golf driving range just down the street. It's basically a city block of green artificial turf with giant nets maybe 100 feet or more high on all sides. You can see these driving ranges from miles away in several locations throughout this city of 3 million. The clubhouse has two levels to tee from with maybe 50 tees on each level. You pay approximately $8 for 40 minutes - all the balls you can hit. After hitting, a new ball is delivered from below ground. Neither of us really golf, but it seemed like a quick way to experience this unique cityscape and apparently very popular Korean activity. All 100 tee spots seemed full.
That's all I've got for now. Here's a photo of Wayne Selden Jr. from today's 106-41 Team USA win over Chile.