Imgye and Jeongseong

Trip Start May 09, 2007
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Trip End Jun 15, 2007


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

We were up and out by 8:30 with a quick stop at the resort office so Jon and I could check our e-mail.  We really are in the wilds of South Korea and Internet access hasn't been readily available in most of the places we have stayed. 

We stopped by President Han's grocery store, where his wife gave us drinks and we took a photo.  We would have loved to spend some time in there looking at all the groceries.  We had a traditional breakfast of soup and sides including little tiny shrimp and anchovies.  We found out the Imgye Rotarians had been delayed by car trouble so we did a little more sightseeing in Taebaek.  We first stopped at a Memorial for men who had died in the coal mines and then drove high up a mountain to a windfarm.  We had a wonderful view of the valley below.  We are constantly amazed at where our hosts will drive this big van we are in.  Most secondary roads are one lane and we had to pull over a number of times on the side of the mountain as we passed farmers and others picking herbs along the way.

Soon we were meeting Director Koh and said goodbye to Mr. Ham.  We had lunch near the soybean paste farm we had visited a week ago - I enjoyed the buckwheat pancakes and little rolled dumplings - I can hang on to them with chopsticks.  The downside is that these places also offer fermented rice wine which I don't like.  Oh well, good with bad.

More Rotarians joined us here and we were off to an experimental farm with many blooming azaleas, lilacs and three little barking dogs.  We walked down the long driveway enjoying the quiet afternoon and then drove to a private senior citizen home in Imgye.  We sang our Korean song to the residents who were gathered in the TV room and Amy offered them a box of mints.  It was very different from the home in Taebaek - with no planned activities for the residents and many of them were in bed. 

We next drove to a PC room so we could check and send e-mail for the first time in five days.  We had an hour and then went next door to visit a pharmacy.  Jon was in his element, quizzing the pharmacist about his credentials and practices.  He offered us all a vitamin drink and then we left for our host home - a community center owned by our host, President Kim.  We met his son, Jay, who had spent four weeks in Toronto studying English and soon he had made plans with Amy, Jon and Paul to hike near his home.  Susan and I stayed at the center and unpacked - Susan cleaned the bathroom and washed some clothes out.

We had dinner at a restaurant owned by a Rotarian - the first President of the Imgye club.  We had bulgogi and  pork which is grilled in front of you. I love how you get tongs to turn the meat and scissors to cut it into bite-size pieces.  We have yet to see a knife here.

After dinner we went to a singing  room, a noriban, with Jay and his mother.  We practiced our Korean song and sang many old favorites (Amy and Paul are on an ABBA kick) while Jon talked to Hee Sun.  Typical snacks in a noriban are dried squid, fresh fruit, snacks and beer.

Next day, Sunday, I was up at 7 am so I could call Kelly (it was 5 pm  in Alabama).  Jon had finally figured out how we could use our calling cards so I was anxious to make contact - thanks to Amy.  At 9 am we started the morning with a delicious homecooked breakfast at the home of our host, which sat just down the lane from the center.  Mrs. Kim made many favorites including beef ribs and many dishes with fresh herbs and plants grown on thier farm as well as some she had picked the day before on the hike. 

Susan, Amy and I went to church while the men caught up with downloading photos.  Mrs. Kim sang in the choir and the minister announced our presence during the service.  We met the men and a new batch of Rotarians from Jeongseong.  We drove the 20 minutes to Jeongseon with Director Koh and then had a traditional lunch of fish and soup with bean sprouts.  Apparently I'm not doing too good with metal chopsticks as they brought out some wooden ones for me.   

After lunch we walked to the Rail Bike station and looked around and then drove to the starting point to wait for our 3 pm reservation. While there a group of college students asked if they could interview us for their journalism class.  It was fun and made us feel like celebrities.  Soon the train pulled in not unlike the O C & T - with an open air car loaded with people and a number of strange-looking contraptions with two seats on the back.  These were the rail bikes and we were going to ride them down the track about four miles to the other end. 

Soon we were each claimed by a Rotarian and strapped in to our seat.  Then we were off.  We had two to three families in front of us in which only one adult was peddling so we didn't go very fast but it was an exhiliarating ride through the Korean countryside.  As anyone  knows who bikes, you can actually see things better than if you are flying by in a car.  We passed newly planted fields of rice, potatoes and other things I didn't recognize.  We went through three tunnels and stopped part-way for ice cream.  Too soon it was over - what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Paul and I began discussions about its feasability between Oil City and Titusville. 

After the trip we viewed our photos (did we learn from the Koreans or did they learn from us) taken by a professional photographer near the beginning of the trip.  I believe it was a Rotarian who owned the photography business.  Next we drove to Mt. Gariwangsan, a recreated Josean Dynasty village.  We trooped around, read the story, took photos with the bronze figures and played on the swings and see-saw.  Dinner was served in a traditional Neowa house where our hosts passed out our Rail Bike photos.  Dinner included fish and potato pancakes and many side dishes and soup.  Mr. Koh kept us supplied with the dishes we liked.  It was a lovely setting for dinner. Dessert was "Korean coffee" - a cold rice tea with flakey dried rice floating in it - very tasty.

Home for the night was with President Choi in his 18th floor apartment.  His family lives in Seoul so he graciously invited us to spend a night with him.  As soon as we entered he turned on his big screen TV and put in an American movie - Rules of Engagement.  Next he brought out beer and fruit.  When we asked him about Internet, he allowed us to use his computer which is why you finally have photos to see.  I was able to get all the photos through Taebaek on before leaving his place.  While I was busy on the computer the rest of the group watched the movie and ate take-out chicken and beer that Mr.Choi ordered up for them.  They begged me to join them and try the chicken - wow - a blast from home- finally. 

Mr. Choi talked with us - most of our hosts will talk when one-on-one and we speak slowly enough.  He talked about golf and his business and soon the group had made plans to hike at 6 am the next morning. 

While they were hiking I took the time to finish uploading photos and shower.  Soon we were on our way to a traditional breakfast of soup and sides but we sat in chairs for the first time in ages.  At 10 am we met our new hosts for the day, three Mr. Lees from Sabuk. 

Before we were far out of town, we were called back to meet with the Chairman of Jeongseong County Council.  He talked with us about their hope to sponsor the Olympic Games in 2014 and gave each of us a pin to wear in support of this.  He also gave us a package with literature and other small gifts. 

Soon we were on our way and stopped for a traditional lunch of bibimbap - which is when you mix the items together in a bowl and eat it.  This was at a poplular tourist area with a gold mine and cave.  After lunch we stopped at a mineral spring for a taste - tasted like rusty pipes to me.  Susan took some along to wash her face with. We soon stopped at Mr. Lee's (our driver) grocery store, the post office to mail cards and a larger pharmacy for Jon.  He spent the better part of an hour touring it with his host and learning about Korean medicines both herbal and prescription. 

Next stop was Gangwon Land, our home for the night.  It is the first casino in South Korea that South Koreans are allowed to use.  We toured the casino, had a free drink and then toured Adventureland and had a free 3D amusement ride.  We walked the grounds where the water show takes place every night and then drove to an overlook of the golf course.  Soon it was time for dinner at a Rotarian-owned restaurant.  We ate in the traditional way and enjoyed bulgogi - grilled beef and mushrooms eaten with a shredded cabbage salad.  Every meal ends with rice and soup and sometimes fresh fruit.  Koreans like their coffee or "ko pe" which is always served from a machine in little paper cups.  Coffee, milk and sugar are added automatically and I find that I'm enjoying it.  This group of Rotarians really enjoyed sitting, drinking and smoking after meals so we sat for quite a while before heading back to the hotel for the night.

I had a bed for the first time in a week!  It was wonderful but I felt guilty because Susan and Amy took a room where they had to sleep on the floor.  The room had a wonderful bathroom with a bathtub which I think everyone took advantage of.  Let me explain here that Korean bathrooms don't have shower stalls or tubs but are made entirely of tile with a drain in the floor and the shower hose hangs from the wall.  When you bathe, you use the hose and a big bucket or dishpan.  In some ways it is very efficient, but for big,clumsy Americans, it has its drawbacks.  No doubt about it, I had a very good night's sleep!
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