I descended on the forecourt of Chungju Stadium at 6.50am yesterday to join the Chungwon High Educational visit to Southernmost Korea and destination Suncheon. Suncheon is quite close to the World Expo site at Yeosu, as you will no doubt deduct from reading this blog regularly we did NOT go there. The school had an alternative educational visit planned to POSCO steelworks in Gwangyang and an alternative educational Expo in Suncheon. Gwangyang (Gwangyang-si) is a city in South Jeolla Province and is the home of POSCO’s Gwangyang Steel Works, the largest facility of its kind in the world. It presently produces coil used for making bridges, iron structures, cars, refrigerators, and more. Its production capacity averages about 18 million tons per year. This plant is also a tourist trap for many people attracting more than 300,000 people from around the globe……..only someone living in a celestial destination would understand why?
The journey was tedious, we left Chungju Stadium at 7.30am with students casually strolling up to the three coaches right until the last second. Our first detour was to Eomjeong to pick up the school borders, the intention to leave by 8am. Around 8.30am we departed after a mammoth search for one missing student. It transpired he felt angry and so had gone home! After an hour the first piddle stop took place, it was only necessary to wake up around 80% of the students to allow the bodily function to take place. They stocked up on sweets and snacks, returned to the bus and went straight back to sleep. The driver had his foot down but needed to when you consider the distance we had to navigate some 450km. We stopped for lunch, I ordered Teryaki Chicken, which arrived minus any significant chicken pieces but it did taste OK. At around 2.30pm, after being in transit for 7 hours we arrived in Gwangyang.
We were herded off the bus and into a cultural centre for a presentation about the world famous “tourist golden egg” that is POSCO steelworks. The talk and movie lasted around 20 minutes, we were escorted back to the buses in order to be taken to the actual place. Whilst driving to the steelworks the guide informed us “no photo” as it was a danger to national security, she bleated on about the SK economic miracle and how POSCO was a driving force in SK’s move towards world domination. No mention was made of greenhouse gases or the numbers employed at the factory. One interesting observation was that her microphone had its own shower cap and she used her gloves to monitor the vibrations of her mobile phone as it sat inside them. On arrival it was noticeable that the factory covered an area the size of the Isle of White and that we had entered a parallel universe. Train tracks led into each massive industrial cathedral, the finishing hall for the rolled steel was over 1200 metres long! We passed through a number of security checks each of which was memorable for the fact they were manned. Other than at these check points humanity was noticeable only for its absence. We scuttled off the buses and up some steel stairs into this cavernous finishing hall, the temperature outside around 27 degrees, the temperature inside nearer 60 degrees. Perspiration flooded over us as we scurried along desperate to get to the other end, shades of the Great Escape. It was an amazing engineering feat, the shear scale was implausible but along the whole length of this behemoth I only spotted three, yes three employees, everything was automated. Now we know why the British Steel Industry is virtually defunct. On leaving the buses set off for another 30 minute drive to the educational Expo in Suncheon.
The school had a “stall” and frighteningly my name appeared on various exhibits my favourite being a video which helped conform my before and after status on the slimming front, for that I will be eternally grateful. We only had 50 minutes but it was the only bearable time in a tediously tiresome day. There were some great looking schools focussing on animation, music and graphic design amongst other things. I had my piccie taken with two students which one school turned into a badge and very fetching it is to. At 4.50pm it was time to reload onto the coaches and head home, another 450km. Another two stops later we arrived back in Chungju at 9.50pm, an exhilarating day had been experienced by all. Death most definitely was on two legs but with a knackered knee to boot.
The only appropriate destination form there was not home but Groover. Brian had a bout of fisticuffs with some visiting Koreans but other than that we relaxed on the terrace in preparation for todays holiday. I had been invited camping by one of my co-workers but as he had not mentioned it throughout the whole of the journey of death I presumed it was cancelled. I got up early to have a cycle around town and to buy a neoprene knee brace. It was £12 but doesn’t half work, the first pain free day for a while. I picked up some fruit and settled in the park for a couple of hours, pottering around Downtown. At around midday I received a text to tell me camping was cancelled as a good kip was required today! I sussed out some new trainers before coming home to investigate the options for viewing Euro 2012. As everyone knows I have now ditched the telly in favour of Overplay VPN which allows me to watch all the UK iplayers and apparently is the best way to catch up with the footie whilst here. Feels like a bit of a wasted day but after yesterday any day is a joy!
Back to school tomorrow.