Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's Daejeon! The return (Day 2) [repost/edit]

Get ready for picture heavy post...
[fixed errors--Feb 2017]

Breakfast at hotel

The hotel had a decent continental breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, cocktail weenies, bread, lettuce, and tomatoes. For drinks, it had (weak) coffee, OJ, and milk. I'm more of an oatmeal man than a scrambled egg man, but the eggs tasted okay and they helped power me through Tuesday's activities. Here's what happened in the morning rains and the afternoon heat:

EXPO Science Park

At long last, I made it. Getting there proved easier than last year. And yes indeed, doing stuff on weekday mornings is enjoyable: I was one of less than 10 non-employees on the grounds. It was almost as though the place was closed, but the lady in the ticket booth waved me in. I found out that the park's more of a pay-as-you go place. It's expansive and clearly designed to accommodate large crowds, so the place felt ghostly with no one occupying the space.

I went to two of the attractions: the giant IMAX dome theater and the LG Technopia Turbo Theater. The dome's screen is massive and immersive. It was too bad that the film being shown, "Journey to the Planets" had dated animation of kiddie-style space aliens riding around in a space ship looking at our universe. The actual pictures of the planets were great, but the 70s-esque animations made the film hard to take seriously. At least there was some footage of astronauts working on the International Spae Station. Still, for 2,500won and being the only one there, it could've been worse.

The Turbo Theater? Impressive setup, meh film. I liked the huge dark corridors. Very mysterious. The roller coaster-esque seats you strap yourself into we're cool though. I saw "Journey to the Center of the Earth," one of Brendan Fraser's lesser films. Again, I was the only one there. Both the Theater and the IMAX had two college age women at the front counter. I wondered if perhaps the place was overstuffed for the time of day.

I figured two things were enough, so I went back into the drizzle and humidity and crossed the street to go to the...

National Science Museum/Lunch

...and didn't stay long. There lots of kids and school groups by now (noon). The campus looked like it was geared toward kids; i wasn't feeling like a 10-year old, so i ended up buying a ticket to a snow I didn't see because it started in the afternoon. Oh well. I only went because it was there. The gift shop had Dokdo t shirts for 20,000won. I walked out and caught the first bus I saw and ended up in the Yuseong Station area. By now the sun was up and the energy levels were flagging, so lunch came in the form of bibimbap (the go-to Korean meal) at Kimbap Nara. While there, I remembered that the Currency Museum close to the Science Museum and EXPO Park, so back on the road I went. 

Sometimes little mishaps bring pleasant surprises, for while waiting at the bus stop, I met a Tanzanian fellow named Albert who's studying in Daejeon. We got to talking and took a quick rise together. He talked of his studies and how he had to reach level three on the TOPIK exam to graduate. He also mentioned that until he'd met a girl from Lousiana, he thought that all Americans had seen snow. Evidently, that's what Africans learn in school. Interesting stuff, especially when yours truly has never gone a year without seeing snow. 

The bus ride took us back to the EXPO area, so we said farewell and I got back on the street. Around 20 minutes and a bus ride later, I was following the signs to the Currency Museum--Not the easiest place to find! It's set back in what must be an office park, but I soon found out why: It's next door to one of Korea's money printing agencies.

The Currency Museum

Cool place! I mean that literally and figuratively: the air conditioning felt great and I enjoyed seeing coins and bills from Korea' history as well as paper money from around the world. Korea's money used to be called 환 before the name got changed to 원 in 1962. The change happened as a part of currency revaluation project.* Learning about that was interesting, but what's perhaps more insightful is this: The biggest Korean bill in '62 was 500 won. Now? 50,000 won. Those two facts illustrate how much the country's economy has grown since the 6.25 War ended 60 years ago. What's more, the 50,000 won bill was only recently introduced in 2009. It's strange to think about new bills being introduced because America has been using the 100 dollar bill for ages now. We've had bigger bills, to be sure, but they were only for official purposes and not for general use.

Korea's money and how it's changed over time.

The Currency Museum also had a room dedicated to paper money from around the world. Gazing at these bills was one of the day's highlights:

Uganda's colorful and eye-catching money makes the US's look drab by comparison. After looking at all of the bills on display, I noticed that America's paper money is all the same size and virtually every other country's money isn't. Also: sorry R, but there was any Jamaican money on display. 

After satisfying the thirst for monetary history, I moved on and wound up getting a ride back downtown thanks to a generous mom who'd visited the museum with her two children. Once again, I couldn't believe the good fortune. Koreans are some amazingly kind people. She'd pulled up as I was leaving the parking lot and said what sounded like , "Where are you going? Get in," in rapid Korean. I'd picked up the gist of what she said** and got in. She asked again, and I said "시내가세요" which means "I'm going downtown." She asked where exactly and I saw Daejeon station because it was the first one that came to mind and because the Education Museum stood nearby.

She ended up dropping me off at Seodaejeon Station, but that a trifling matter compared to the fun Korean/English conversation the four of us enjoyed together. Her elder son was practicing his English, and the mom, while she didn't speak much English, understood everything I said. The son was eager to know what I thought of Korea and I said accordingly, "우리 나라 사랑해요," or "I love our country."*** It's hard not to love The Land of the Morning Calm when the people are friendly and the food is good! When strangers go out of their way to help you find your way back downtown and act as though you've made their day because they can belp you, it's an amazing thing. 

Once at Seodaejeon Station, I got my bearings and caught another bus, got off, and walked to...

The Hanbat Museum of Education

I was gambling on getting there before closing time and while yes, that happened, it wasn't quite enough time to see the place, so told the woman at the front desk that I'd return the next day. The Daejeon trip would not pass without a trip to a museum about school and schooling. There was no rush to leave early anyway.

I'll add the next day's return trip here for purposes of brevity. The Musuem of Education had exhibits stretching from the '90s all the way back to the old Joseon dynasty days. Inside the class cases of its wood paneled rooms laid all number of textbooks and artifacts from school days past. The first exhibit is a replica of a classroom from the 1960s:

Roughly, "Daily school life from 1960-1970."

Note the heater in the middle of the room and the piano in the foreground. Some of the desks were double and some were single. Apart from those things, not much separates this classroom from its modern counterpart.

Middle school English textbooks from the '90s.

School life during the Korean War.

The lottery wheel used for determining which middle school students would advance to high school in lieu of written exams.

For my mother, who maintains that penmanship among US elementary school kids is lacking these days: the Koreans were there decades ago!

Photos from the Japanese occupation. Note the use of child labor in service of the State. Also note that group work or "pod" seating is nothing new.

More child labor for the imperialist State.

Hyundai world map, circa 1920s. I included this picture because it has Korea as being part of Japan thanks to the Occupation.

The caption speaks for itself. The Japanese were evidently equal-opportunity when it came to making their subjects ready to fight for them.

Old time desks and writing tables. In the background: a scholar holds court.

And finally...wearing the black and white robe of a Joseon-era university teacher. It was comfy. Maybe I should procure one of these and start wearing it to school? It would make a good Halloween costume, eh? Special thanks to Mrs. Choi the Musuem representative for giving me this unique opportunity! She guided me around the place and commented on the exhibits. Despite her self-criticism, her English sounded perfectly fine. Wandering the Education Museum provided the perfect end to the trip.

I'll have another post about reflecting on the trip up soon.

Miscellaneous pictures from Day 2:

The Gab Stream [갑천]

For Dick in WI: I figured you'd appreciate a place like this. The Currency Museum was nearby.

--Written in the hotel room and the Daejeon train station as well as the train to Seoul.

*Time to study more Korean history!

*** In Korean culture, "our" takes precedence over "your." Instead of saying "my country," "my house," or "my father," Koreans will say "our country," "our house," and "our father." 

우리 means "our" or "us," depending on context.