School finally had a day off so we went to visit a friend of Ji’s. Immediately off of the train something about it felt different from Seoul. When nearing the exit of Dejeon’s one subway line, you didn’t hear that beeping noise like a grocery store checkout scanner as people make their way through the gates. In Daejeon they have the tone set to the peaceful sound of various types of birds so you feel like you are hiking in the mountains.
I was in Daejeon for a few days when I first arrived in Korea. All new EPIK teachers had a week long orientation and training that had us going non stop so I really didn’t see anything of Daejeon so it was good to come back on a more leisurely pace.
We walked down wide uncrowded streets and passed some historical site pegged between development. On the site some primitive, tribal Koreans had once made their homes. They reconstructed several of the homes to teach about the old ways.
Back in Seoul Flowers were starting to bloom but a South of Seoul in Daejeon they had a head start and the trees and bushes were bursting with color. Maybe Florida has flowers year round making them unnoticeable or maybe not and I just never paid much attention back home or maybe the dead grey winter gave a stark background giving the flowers a big contrast making them stand out.
Daejeon was host of the Expo ’93, which drew 14 million people and focused on sustainability and green technologies. The city constructed many amenities including museums and a theme park.
It was simultaneously funny and disheartening to see that over 20 years later we have come full circle to the exact same message and yet have made very little progress in getting those technologies into the mainstream. Sure more people are using solar power and there are some hybrid cars out but then again we have to look at the backwards thinking of places like my home state which is mandating that you can not be disconnected from the electricity grid even if you are energy self sufficient. Spain has taken similar but more drastic measures, and the ideas are spreading.
The Expo area’s Theme park was rusty, abandoned and being dismantled. The Electric and hybrid vehicles that were once show pieces have been sun beaten and the humidity bred mold has taken them over. The Tower of Light’s exterior, built 1,993 meters high, with a base constructed of 1,993 stone blocks is still visually interesting but upon entering it is as if time has stood still. Nothing has been renovated or updated. Note the original 1993 park Sign.
I am not suggesting that everything must change, in fact it is really interesting to see it this way. What is wrong though is that due to the lack of adaptation and change the park and museums fail to draw visitors. Ji and I went to one of the museums dedicated to current technological and Scientific advances. it was comedic, they had some cheesy robots that danced, although they did change the music to Gangnam Style, but the majority of the “advances” were outdated by at least 10 years. On the plus side it was free, which might be the reason for the slow updates.
Having left Seoul at 6 in the morning we were both tired and although the weather wasn’t frigid we were still under-dressed for the mild cold. We checked out the Biosphere, went upstairs to the Arid plants section, found a bench and we both fell asleep for an hour.
Feeling refreshed we walked across town to KAIST, The Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, sort of the Korean MIT. One of the most interesting things to come out of KAIST is the Online Electric Vehicle . Basically a power cable is laid just under the road surface. The vehicle has a plate on the undercarriage that picks up electricity wirelessly. It should be noted though that this is not new technology, Nikola Tesla patented a similar system for tram cars in 1894.
There we met up with Ji’s friend who works in one of KAIST’s administrative offices. We stayed the night with here and in the morning went to visit Gyeryongsan National Park. I took the opportunity to plant another Letter box in Korea. If you don’t know about letterboxing you can read about it here. I you know what it is you can see the clue to the Letter box here. We couldn’t do much exploring due to a constant downpour so we spent most of the afternoon in a coffee shop with a great view of the mountains. Finally the rain slowed enough to run to the bus stop. We switched to the metro, getting one more chance to hear the simulated bird chirping as we went through the turnstiles. we switched one more time to the train, which was full, offering standing room only for our 3 hour return trip.