Written by Jay Deagon PhD
Home Economics Lecturer, CQUniversity
IFHE Member, Asia Pacific Region
This is my story about a recent trip to Daejeon, South Korea, to attend the XXII International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) World Congress 2016, Daejeon Convention Centre (Sunday July 31 to Saturday August 6, 2016). The conference theme “Hope and Happiness: the role of Home Economics in the pursuit of Hope & Happiness for individuals and communities now and in the future”. I loved this theme – it aligns perfectly with my personal, professional and research interests.
Arriving in Korea
My first impression of South Korea was… wow… this is hot! I am from South-East Queensland, Australia, where in summer we experience 35 degree heat quite frequently, but the humidity in Korea was something else. I had just come from a 10 degree winter in Brisbane. Heat haze now clouded the view and sweat poured down my neck.
After finding out I had just missed a train, I made my way to the bus terminal to find a bus to Daejeon. I thought, simple, buy a ticket, get on a bus. Alas no. My bus was not scheduled until 5.40pm. Travel tip – when you buy a train or bus ticket in South Korea, you buy an allocated seat – you don’t just jump on a bus.
The next thing that struck me was how extremely friendly and helpful the Korean people are. After being forcibly removed from 3 busses with several curt “next one, next one” from the bus drivers, two lovely humans asked if I was ok. I was obviously hot and flustered at this stage. It was one of these lovely smart humans who asked where I was from and looked at my watch – my watch said 6pm – “see” I said, “I have missed my bus”. Rooky mistake! The gentleman realised that my watch was still on Australian time. He helped me fix my watch. I still had 30 minutes to wait.
Ahhh, blessed air-conditioning. Finally, riding on the bus, I could sit back and survey the landscape. I have experienced Asian drivers before (Hong Kong and Bangkok), I was not surprised at the speed and swerving; however, going through the bridge tolls at 100 kilometres an hour where the sign said 10 klms made me giggle nervously to myself.
Food growing everywhere
Along the road I saw that every spare space from Incheon Airport to Daejeon, even between the high-rise apparent blocks, was dedicated to growing food – rice, corn, grapes, green leafy vegetables, and cows. Shade cloth domes and open vegetable patches, together with dilapidated 20ft shipping container homes, were dotted every few kilometres. I couldn’t help reflect how lucky I am to live in a developed country. During the 3 hour journey, I think I fell asleep. All of a sudden, bright flashing lights pierced my eye balls from behind closed lids. Daejeon, I had arrived. Alighting the bus, I asked my driver where to catch a taxi. He pointed to a door. I went through that door. I was completely, disorientated. Saturday night in Daejeon was totally pumping! It was 8.40pm. Buses are very punctual apparently.
My special taxi ride
I rummaged in my bag to locate my hotel reservation form because I knew it was written in Korean. I stood in the taxi line. I jumped in a cab and handed over my hotel reservation. My taxi driver said “no, no, out”. I got out of the taxi with a bewildered look on my face. Again, wonderful Koreans came to my rescue. I obviously looked like an intruder – only person with lily white skin, blonde hair and suitcases in the whole street. The passenger in the taxi behind me put his window down, asked if I was ok and where I was going. I handed him my hotel reservation form which he duly gave to his taxi driver. He then opened his door, got out, put my suitcase in the boot of his taxi, and said “have a good stay in Daejeon”. My hero!
My new taxi driver could speak English. He was also wonderful – he knew where the ICC Hotel was. On our way, he made sure that I knew that the American Basketballer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was Korean – in my brain I’m thinking ummmm Abdlu-Jabbar is American? But I let him have that one. He also told me that many Koreans play for the American Major League in Baseball. We chatted and then he realised that I was not American. I was Australian. This changed everything. “Oh, kangaroos, do you eat them?” Yes – but not often. He said that it was very distressing that Australian people didn’t treat their Indigenous people very well. He was obviously right up there with Aboriginal and Torrs Straight Islander news! He also said something about our Prime Minister along the lines of Tony Abbot and stupid. I didn’t argue. I told him that I lived in a special place where koalas lived in my trees. It was my responsibility to look after the wildlife near my home. He was very impressed. I just happened to have some eucalyptus lollies in my handbag. I offered him one – so he could taste what Koalas eat. He accepted my offer and went very silent. I said he could throw it out if he didn’t like it. Quite the opposite apparently, he really enjoy the taste of koala food. 20 minutes later, we arrive at the ICC Hotel. He gets out of the taxi, gets my bags out, opens my door and asks me to stay in Korea more often because I see beauty in everything and that I was a truly beautiful person. I felt rather humbled and blessed and hit by the sound of cicadas!!
The ICC Hotel
I checked into my hotel. My room looked like the builders had finished it the day before. I spied a personal propelling harness and window breaker next to my bed. This didn’t instil much confidence in my new home. At least I only had to propel myself out the window and down three floors. I pitied the people in the Lotte Hotel next to me, in case of fire, they had 20 floors to drop down. I tried to put thoughts of a fiery death from my mind. I was hungry. I went for a walk. The streets were now deserted. It was still HOT and HUMID and 10:00pm! What to eat? I went for a walk and found a…… STARBUCKS. I wasn’t expecting that. Passionfruit and mango smoothie and a cheesy bagel for dinner it was. So much for my promise to my sister that I would eat exotic Korean food at every opportunity. Ooops. Sorry Sis. Exhausted from a long flight, 5 hour stopover in Changi Airport, another long flight, a long bus trip, I slept like log for the next 12 hours.
Catching-up with the Aussies
Breakfast – I hear Australian voices and I see faces from all over the world gathered in the hotel restaurant!! Yay! I have arrived. Greeted by my friends Andrew McVittie (Gold Coast) and Tony Worsley (Melbourne) I had breakfast in good company. IFHE Conference has begun. BUT first thing first, I asked Andrew “where can I get a good coffee that isn’t Starbucks?” The Goat Head became my daily coffee stop before heading off to conference. Excellent coffee, excellent staff.
My first moments at conference was about registration. Quick, easy, paid for and painless. I also registered for the Welcome Dinner, a technical tour and the home visit. I didn’t actually know what any of these things were, I just had spare money, so I booked and paid for them. I also picked up a little gem called “Guide to Korean Cuisine” that I thought might come in handy. In my registration bag, I was given hard copies of the Abstract Book and the Program Schedule. What to do and see first?
Exploring Daejeon – also known as “Heatwave Sunday”
Sunday– Andrew McV and I decided that since we were not involved with IFHE Executive Committee Meetings or Program Committee Meetings, we would go exploring Daejeon. Into a cab to the KTX Train Station we went. Andy’s mobile phone went off with a very loud siren. We ignored it because the message he received was in Korean. That was a mistake. Walking our way down the street, we saw a pet shop with birds in cages on the footpath, I said jokingly “canaries, if they are still alive, the air quality must still be ok”. I found a global ATM so that I had money for a bottle of water. We found an 1909 elementary school museum (which was closed) with pots of growing herbs, fruits and vegetables. We ate a gooseberry each – it was so bitter – I had to spit it out. Andy and I walked down some other random street until I realised that I couldn’t walk anymore. It was too hot and I couldn’t breathe. We hailed a taxi and headed off to the Science Museum.
The science museum was built in 1993 as part of the Expo Science Park. Where once a state of the art expo precinct with monorail, international zone, corporate zone and fun park zone. The name of the World Expo was “The Challenge of a New Road of Development”; unfortunately, the whole area is now in disrepair. The monorail track is falling apart and building have been abandoned or knocked down. So sad. We also realised that Daejeon was not built to receive English speaking visitors. We had a very tricky time interpreting signage. Most of the places in the Science Museum were closed – it was Sunday.
So where do you head on a really hot day in Daejeon? To the kids water park? Yes. To the indoor atrium? Yes. We visited the atrium, where it is nice and humid so that exotic plants and animals could live comfortably. We were reminded that it does also snow in Daejeon. In summer though, luckily the atrium had air-conditioning! We saw all manner of native Korean and imported fish, frogs, beetles, snakes, orchids, figs and plant life. It was time to head back to the hotel for lunch. It was 1:30pm. Right in the middle of the day. We later found out that the siren alert Andy had received on his phone was…. a heat wave warning. I wish I had known earlier. We walked passed a pool installation with about 200 hundred locals and not a single person was swimming. Everyone was sitting very quietly in the shade. Very little noise. No play. Just hot people too hot to swim. That is a heatwave day. Andy and I walked 6.5 kilometres, without water, without shade, in jeans, on asphalt… silly silly silly. My parents had taught me better than that. It was by sheer force of will that we made it back to the hotel without me crying and/or passing out. Shower, lunch, sleep, time for dinner! Back to the Goats Head for ham and cheese Paninis and beer. Beauty!
Friends for Life
Day 2. Conor Fennel, my Irish Home Economics friend, who had fallen in love with Australia and stayed, was at breakfast. I was so excited to see him. I had met Conor 4 years ago at the IFHE World Congress in Melbourne. We were instant friends then and still are now. We share a love of Home Economics. You know when you make a good friend, you meet years later and it feels like no time has passed at all. He is one of those friends. The only thing different was that Conor was taller, or I had shrunk. Let’s stick with Conor being taller. I listened to Conor talk about his Home Economics work with Indigenous kids in a very remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Many Home Economists are passionate and service-oriented people. Home Economists make positive differences and Conor is a shining light of hope and happiness in the world.
Time for the real conference to begin. I sat in as an observer in the IFHE Council Meeting. I listened to annual reports being delivered from the many various sub-committees. I heard
about profits, losses, and staff changes in the IFHE head office in Bonn, Germany. I learnt about United Nations initiatives that the IFHE had been involved in, and read some of the draft IFHE Position Statements on UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The IFHE has special consultative status with the UN and it is good to know that we make a positive impact. I’m proud to be a member of such an auspicious organisation. As an observer, I witnessed a significant moment where after a brief discussion by Donna Pendergast about our official home economics publication, a motion was proposed and carried that the International Journal of Home Economics (IJHE), of which I am on the Editorial Board, become an open access journal. This is significant because IFHE members have now agreed to open our Journal for knowledge sharing beyond our profession. The researcher in me is very excited by this development. Open access to the journal provides a wider reading audience. Another exciting announcement was commencement of the International Certified Professional Home Economist (IPHE) accreditation. This was extremely well received news and I look forward to putting in my application as soon as pilot testing complete. Finally, it was announced that the next IFHE World Congress will be held in Georgia, Atlanta, United States.
At a concurrent session to the Executive Committee meeting, the Pre-Congress Conference was held. Keynote Plenary speakers updated delegates on the current status and future directions of Home Economics curriculum in Finland, Australia, Japan and Korea. Much to the delight (horror) of audience members, Donna Pendergast also spoke about all things Australian, including our deadly spiders and snakes.
Halls, walls and tables
Throughout the entire Congress, hundreds of poster displays were available for delegates to peruse and gain insight into some fascinating and poignant research projects currently underway in Korean and around the world. In the halls, on the walls, in rooms and open spaces, the Daejeon Conference Centre (DCC) was transformed into a Home Economists dream – filled to the brim with pre-school, primary, secondary and university student displays, local textiles, food, equipment, Korean culture and customs. A big hit with the international delegates was an opportunity to be dressed in a Hanbok – traditional Korean clothing and have their photo taken. Delegates were given many gifts, including Lucky Bags filled with cookies, fans, and hand-drawn badges made by local primary school students. It was obvious that the Korean teachers were very proud of their students. Delegates were also encouraged to taste test food and drink from a wide variety of Korean companies including coffee, teas and alcoholic beverages. I particularly liked the banana sake.
I would like to give an honourable mention to all the volunteers at the DCC. They made the conference run so smoothly. Everyone was pleasant and helpful. To the Organising Committee, you should be very proud of every single one of your volunteers. They did an amazing job.
Wow, Daejeon knows how to put on a party and welcome international guests! Congratulations to the Organising Committee. Many dignitaries and honoured guests were present at the Welcome Dinner including Carol Warren, IFHE President (2012-2016), Mee Sok Park, IFHE Vice President (2014-2018) and Chairperson of the IFHE 2016 Organising Committee, The Honourable Eun-hee Kang, Korean Minister for Gender Equity and Family, His Excellency Sun-taik Kwon, Mayor of Daejeon Metropolitan City, Kae-Kyung Chung, President of the Korean Home Economics Association (KHEA), Jaesoon Cho, President of the Korean Home Economics Education Association (KHEEA), and a representative from The Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies. The Grand Ballroom was abuzz with music, dancing, laughter, good and healthy food and friendship. In a very interesting video presentation, delegates were educated about the history of Korean language and culture. The Taekwondo troupe provided some exciting and heart stopping moments.
A Jackman Family Home Economics Adventure
An honourable attendee mention is required. A whole family (except for the oldest brother who couldn’t make it) adventured together to Korea for Congress. Anita Jackman and her three sons Mitch, Lochie and Billy, are all very involved in Home Economics in South Australia. At the Melbourne IFHE Congress in 2010, they made a promise to each other to adventure as a family every 4 years to attend World Congress. Such an inspiration! Well-done and congratulations Anita for inspiring your boys to become the next generation of Home Economists.
The opening ceremony didn’t disappoint. We were woken by a drum troupe and dancers. Each delegate was provided with a translation device. I must take a moment to congratulate the translators. They were of exceptional quality, nothing was lost on translation and they ensured that everyone at Congress enjoyed all the speeches and speakers. It was wonderful to hear the Mayor of Daejeon, Kwon Sun-taik, state that “happiness and peace in humanity begins with a happy family.” My favourite quote from the Opening Ceremony Keynote speakers was that the IFHE Congress 2016 was the Olympics of Home Economics. Carol Warren’s opening address was an inspiration where she encouraged Home Economists to use social media to spread the word and work of Home Economics via hashtag #IFHE2016. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were certainly alive with messages before, during and after Congress.
Hope: Because We Must
After he gave us all an opportunity to stretch our arms and clear our minds, we were honoured to hear Professor Peter O’Connor from the University of Auckland, Faculty of Education and Professional Studies, speak about the Pedagogy of Hope. I do not believe there was a dry eye in the grand ballroom. His inspirational story about the “A Tea Spoon of Light” project which was conducted with primary school students and teachers in the wake of the Christchurch Earthquakes was hope personified. Exceptional action research that engages people and provides hope in the worst of times. After congress, Peter and his wife headed to the Syrian refugee camps to use drama with refugees. A truly inspirational human.
After the Opening Ceremony delegates broke out into concurrent sessions.
Technical Tour Option 2: Korean Folk Village & Korean BBQ
Finally, I was going to have a Korean BBQ. Everyone keeps talking about it. We drove about 2 hours from Daejeon to first visit a Korean Folk Village. We made traditional Korean masks (male or female). I made a man mask for my son. We didn’t really get much time to look around the Village before we were off to the museum. I love history. The story of pottery making and written documents were most fascinating. I found an old Singer Sewing Machine and portraits of the Kings. Next we travelled to a back street, I don’t even know where we were, and ushered up some unlikely narrow stairs. My companions and I took our shoes off and entered a banquet room. We were treated to kimchi, blueberry mayonnaise salad, stingray kimchi, bulgogi (beef), glass noodle salad, sesame seed and rice soup, roast pork, tempura pumpkin, octopus and potato omelette, seaweed and mushroom soup, and burnt rice in hot water for dessert. It was truly and amazing culinary experience. I enjoyed every mouthful.
Keynote speaker Professor Robert Mayer (I’m sorry I missed this one) spoke about lessons in humility and hope from the perspective of consumer policy. Donna Pendergast then led the Best Paper session where it was announced that after a double blind peer review process, authors Ji Hyun Kim and Julia Torquati from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, USA were the successful authors with their paper entitled “Does Parental Financial Assistance assist Young Adults to be Financially Healthy? Effects of parent-child relationship qualifiers on financial outcomes and happiness”.
Chaired by Amanda McCloat from St Angela’s College, Sligo, Ireland, I then sat in on the Young Professional Network (YPN) session to hear several speakers provide a glimpse of the future of Home Economics. This group of young professionals (young in age and the young at heart) is a bright hope for the future – we are in good hands.
Wednesday afternoon – my time to present had come. Room 104: Home Economics Education for Happiness Block 4 13:30~15:00. I presented with amazing company. First, Kathryn McSweeney from St Angela’s College spoke about her research into perceptions of Home Economics in Ireland and how these perceptions impact student outcomes. Donna Pendergast surprised us with a formula for Happiness – yes – there is a formula. Dr Jay Deagon (that’s me!) spoke about spiritualty and its links with crisis, hope and happiness in the content of Home Economics, and finally, Mary Magdalene Stevenson-Yong from the National Institute of Education in Singapore talked about how Home Economics can fulfil its mission of empowering individuals to experience, create and contribute toward happiness for all. I was honoured to be in this company.
I heard from many delegates that the Home Visit was the highlight of their World Congress experience. I sat in a big room and waited for my family to find me. I was left sitting on my own for about 15 minutes. Then a young lady asked me if I was Jay Deagon? I said yes. She was surprised. She was expecting a man. SURPRISE! I walked to the carpark and met her father. He was also surprised to see that I was a woman. SURPRISE! Again! We drove to their apartment complex about 15 minutes from the DCC. I was immediately struck by the sheer number of high density housing that surrounded me. Approximately 20 x 15 story apartment blocks in neat rows. In the between buildings were playgrounds, schools, walkways, gym equipment and convenience stores. My family’s names were Jang Eun Young (daughter), Kang im-seon (mother), and Jang Jae hun (father). They had written me a “Welcome” sign on the table. I felt so blessed to be in their home and sharing a meal.
Jang Eun Young translated most of our discussion. Kang im-seon was very interested to hear about what we ate in Australia. I showed her a photograph of a Pavlova – she loved it. My host family put so much food in front of me – I was nearly bursting. I told me hosts that my “belly was full and so was my heart”. I got big hugs and presents from them. I am honoured to have spent time in their company and promised to send them a gift from Australia – a bottle of vegemite and one of my Father’s painting of a beach with waves from Queensland.
Thursday – going home day for me.
Concurrent sessions were all busy and full. Unfortunately, I had to leave to come back to Australia before the Closing Ceremony and final day of the conference. I watch Tweets on my train ride back to Incheon Airport of my friends having an amazing time. Everyone on
stage. Everyone represented. I was pleased to see my Nigerian friends awarded for their cultural performance. As I sat in a very empty airport, I felt full in my heart at having experienced such an amazing journey. Many wonderful memories, created by many wonderful people. Thank you IFHE for another life changing experience.
I arrived in Brisbane on Friday night to my family waiting for me. I was so happy to see them and tell them of my adventures. 6am Saturday morning I was back on the road for CQUniversity to attend my local Home Economics Institute of Australia Queensland (HEIAQ) conference. I cannot get enough of Home Economics! I am proud to be a Home Economist at this time in history.