First day in Taebaek
Trip Start May 09, 2007
21Trip End Jun 15, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Soon we met the Taebaek Rotarians and Director Ham took over the driving. It seems that each division has a director and they are usually one of the people who accompany us while in their area. President Choi, who recently sold her Japanese restaurant, from one of the two women's clubs also joined us in the van. Apparently there are no mixed clubs in this district. President Choi immediately asked for our waist measurement and shoe size for tomorrow's coal mine excursion. I knew I was in trouble!
Another note, District 3730 has rented a van for our use during the exchange. Each division goes to a prearranged site at the end of our stay and exchanges drivers - a very efficient way of doing things and easy for us to pack the same car each day.
The trip to Taebaek took an hour and we are beginning to feel like we are going in circles. We see similar signs and places - some of them we have seen before since we are crisscrossing the province not unlike the teams who visit our district. I now have a keen sense of sympathy for them!
We drove in to Taebaek and immediately stopped to drop off our laundry at a shop in the downtown area. Then we arrived at the city community building. We were visiting our second senior citizen luncheon in a week. May 5 was Parents Day in South Korea and the month is actually full of celebrations of all parents. At this particular luncheon, we walked in on the entertainment. Soon they asked us to sing our Korean song for them. Our reputation is preceding us. After the middle school boys' dance routine and the women's choir, we were ushered up on stage and after a few remarks from me, we launched into our song. The crowd loved it and joined in. Immediately after, we were given lunch and met more of our new hosts
Next stop was a nursing home where a yearly festival was in full swing. We were met by the director and one of her board members. All of the residents who were able were in the courtyard to partake in a number of booths and activities. They had been given money and were able to buy items at some of the booths like candy and small items. A bean bag toss was in progress with volunteers, nursing students from the local college, assisting the residents. After walking among the booths, we went inside for a one-on-one meeting with the director. At each of these meetings, we are immediately served some kind of drink and here we were served big platters of fresh fruit. Paul, being our social worker, asked a number of questions, and then we were treated to a tour of the facility. We were amazed at how clean and bright it was and the number of activities for the residents was astounding.
Next up we drove to the Olympic training facility for the Korean Athletic Council. It was placed here due to Taebaek being 1500 meters above sea level. South Korea is hoping to host the 2017 Winter Olympics near here too. From here we saw a new ski resort being carved out of the surrounding mountains. Taebaek has been the center of coal mining for South Korea but only seven mines are still open. The country has decided that coal is bad for home heating and has curtailed the mining operations. Taebaek is now looking to become a sports capital. Next we drove to Hambaek-san, the only mountain in the area that you can actually drive to the top. We had a wonderful view of the valley below. Along the way we saw many people along the side of the road picking the spring herbs.
Next stop was Mountain Pond which is the beginning of a riiver that flows through most of South Korea and a nearby Rotary monument
Soon it was time for our meeting with the mayor. We were ushered to his office and sat at a huge conference table. He addressed us and told us about his city and his plans for the future. Then he brought out a bag of gifts for each of us - literature on the city, a set of pins, a heavy paperweight and an 8 x 10 framed print of a local mountain scene. I immediately started planning to send a box home soon. After our meeting, tour of the facility (where we were applauded by the city workers in each department, who were still working at 5:30) and photos with the mayor we went next door to meet the Chief Councilman. He also offered us a drink and spoke with us and took photos with us.
Out next stop was at a restaurant which looked like an ancient traditional Noa House. After we sat down in the traditional way (on the floor) 26 plus dishes came out and were placed on the table. Drinks were poured and a toast was made. All resound with a cheer, drink and clap. Koreans never pour their own drinks so will pour for you in order to have a drink poured for themself. The team is enjoying this practice much to the delight of our hosts.
Our host tongiht is Mr
I woke up at 5 am and heard our host, Mrs. Kim, preparing breakfast in the next room. Her home is a typical farm home, small and compact. We saw a similar home in the movie "The Way Home". After a hearty breakfast that included fresh ham and vegetables from the garden plus bread from the local bakery, we said our goodbyes and headed off to the nearby raceway.
The coal mine tour was next and as I had feared, my outfit didn't fit. I went with the team to the entrance to the tunnel and then spent a wonderful hour and a half with a young secretary who enjoyed using her English with me.
Once the team returned from the mine, they showered and we were off to a special needs school. Amy delighted in handing out Hershey kisses to the children and we all sang "Twimkle, Twinkle, Little Star" together. One of the women's Rotary clubs helps here at lunch every week
Next up was the Coal Museum, who's director is a Rotarian. He had us to his office for drinks and then we had a guided tour of the museum. It was exciting and interesting for us since coal has played a big part in most of our lives.
This night we spent at a new resort. We dragged all of our luggage in to repack while our hosts set up a number of barbeque grills. It was especially fun to see Mr. Han, who was in the choir and always impeccably dressed in a suit and tie, show up in casual clothes and building a fire.
Many new Rotarians came including three older men in suits who were introduced as "retired" Rotarians who had formed a retired club. They presented us with small gifts - similar to the mask boleros we had received from the Donghae club. Meat, whole squid and long fish were placed on the grill and the picnic began. Drinks were poured and all enjoyed the evening. We eventually moved inside when all the meat was cooked and it had started to rain. The Rotarians were very interested in our thoughts on their country and after pouring drinks for all, the elders took their leave. It was a special evening.