I went to Daejeon today. It is about one-and-a-half or two hours by train away from Busan. As it is a central location in South Korea, that is where the National Council meetings of KOTESOL usually take place.
Since I am the area Chapter President now, I am supposed to attend “NC” meetings. There are 27 councilors, and we need half of them present at meetings in order to reach the official quorum required in order to make formal decisions. Less than half were present this morning, so all we could do was hold informal discussion of some of the agenda items and hope that more people would arrive by mid-day. Some did, so we were able to conduct and vote on official business. It turned out that two officers got lost on their way to the meeting venue, and two others had other obligations in the morning. In the end, we completed the meeting tasks and left an hour earlier than anticipated.
The venue, a community center for migrants, is not well known or well marked. Even though I knew it was located somewhere just outside the train station, I could not spot it. I had to consult the police at a local station; they were not familiar with it but we searched for it on an office computer and found the place on a map. As luck would have it, my phone had not charged long enough the night before, and I had not brought the power cord, so I could not access my email to get the address and map on my own phone. You can usually get directions from a police station as they have a complete up to date map of the neighbourhoods.
Though the meeting had to address some tough questions, it went fairly smoothly and without as much wrangling as I have witnessed at these meetings before. It was more lighthearted. During the informal talk, we had ample time to hash out topics such as requests for sizable project funds, more details about the upcoming international conference and leadership retreat, and questions as to how to conduct an organization-wide assessment. By the time we had to make decisions during the formal session, we were ready, despite the steady flow of ideas and late arrivals.
A lot of the faces at the meeting are familiar to me, and some of them are even Facebook “friends” with me, I do not know them well. The small talk does not go very far. We do not eat together, though some council members are good friends with each other. I just grabbed some cold noodles and brought back bean pancake treats to finish my lunch at the table in the meeting room. A few others had done that, so I was able to partake in a little banter.
Our president wants to revamp the organization’s image and structure and I am all for it. He wants to make the activities more useful and relevant, along the lines of the slogan “teachers helping teachers.” I like that. Of course, a concept has to be developed and it has to be worked out by the membership, which will be a big and long process, but we could do it by next year. Planning this year’s international conference is a big step in the right direction, if the ambitious people can be reined in, and kept it well grounded in service. I mean, they have brought in UNESCO and the Ministry of Tourism as sponsors. We prevented them from going kind of crazy with the media and promotions, though. Yeah, growth means opportunities, and there are different takes on what are opportunities and for what purpose, like career and benefit to members.
Daejeon is an interesting city. There is nothing special to see there. Without any invitations to socialize, I had no reason to linger. I got the earliest possible train back tonight.