Incredible Matthanee trip to South Korea and JapanLast update: 15.04.20 First posted: 8.04.20 by Matthanee in
In May 2019, IET had been invited to contribute to the 8th Seoul Urban Agriculture Expo at their International Conference. As a volunteer from Todmorden I went as the IET Ambassador and guest speaker in both Korea and Japan. I was thankful to IET for giving me the opportunity to represent them and both excited and honoured to be able to do so,
Since the age of 12 I dreamed about travelling the world and through giving speeches might change the world just a little bit, through being able to speak many languages, making friends and connecting people together. With the help of Estelle Brown and Mary Clear of IET we were able to contact 300 people for the conference.
My transport costs, accommodation for the three conference days were paid for, plus a Speaker’s fee of £130 which went into IET’s work. At my own cost, however, I stayed in the far east for three weeks.
On 15th May, 2019, my son Hima and I arrived in Seoul, Korea after a 16 hour flight, then we stayed in the HOAM faculty house of Seoul National University on the outskirts of the city. Having two hours free before dinner we walked to the High Street. The weather was between 25-30 degrees C, balmy with an overwhelming smell of KImchi! Within half an hour we found something to eat. Then I managed to find a hairdresser where they spoke a little English and spent 50,000 won (about £30) on a beautiful hairdo! We returned by bus in time for my welcoming party at 6pm. Meeting my hosts in the hotel lobby we moved on to the Old Town Hall, passing a little farm and field on the way.
We were then greeted by Gwanak Ju’s Mayor and the Environmental Governor along with lecturers from many different Universities and guests to the conference. After introductions we were fed with traditional Korean food and drinks. Everyone was so kind and lovely, with professionals from all over the world – Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA and Australia to name a few.
I was fascinated by everyone’s experiences of what they did for the world
for my part I spoke proudly of the ten years in which Incredible Edible Todmorden had made its mark as an established community project which did not rely on money, only people.
Looking around the group of delegates at the conference I could see that most of the activists and alternative revolutionaries had to rely on funding, sponsorship or government aid. Without this it may be difficult for their scheme when some organisers themselves needed to be paid for their work. They had families to support, after all.
Other questions crossed my mind. Why were the tables decorated with plastic flowers when beautiful living ones were growing all around? Equally, how could I justify the carbon footprint of my travel halfway across the world to attend this event? What is right, or wrong?
The next day, after a luxurious breakfast including an omelette beyond belief, followed by a short trip into Seoul with my son, I prepared myself for the afternoon workshop. I showed the film of the Incredible Edible Ideal Festival as about 50 participants came into the room. Then I showed them many ways to use the herbs we have in the UK and discussion followed comparing Korean herbs with British herbs. This was followed with a description and map of our Incredible Tour and details of how to visit us here. The workshop was very well received and the participants took home with them samples of the skin preparations I had shown them how to make.
My favourite presentation was by two ladies from Singapore whose project was funded from a bank to grown vegetables and flowers on the business building in a bust urban city there.
The 17th May was Conference Day. We were warmly welcomed by the Governor of Seoul. Climate change and the world’s food crisis were the main topics for discussion with presentations from Dr Warren T.K. Lee about nutrition and Nick from Australia on a food network project there. There were 11 speakers in all during the day in a very hot and humid Conference Hall.
My talk was at 4pm, by which time I felt drained and saddened by the many problems the world and its people have to face.I determined that I would try to cheer people up!
It’s like a Dharma (religion) Incredible Edible Todmorden – two times a month with positive believers of Good!
I think I lightened up the mood a little with a few laughs here and there and people certainly woke up to listen! The proof of our success being shown not by statistics but by our very existence over a ten year period. The same success could be achieved anywhere in the world. At the end I showed them our little video by Giff Gaff to sum up what we do.
In the evening we relaxed, partied and enjoyed learning how to eat and drink Korean style. (After a few drinks the management team even managed to speak English without a translator!)
The following week I spent time in Korea with family who came over to visit me from Thailand.
On the 26th May I flew to Narita Airport, Tokyo and then on by train to Shiba University with my American host, Sofia. Sofia had lived in Japan for 15 years after studying for a PhD from the University. She had booked me into an eco-house in the middle of the University Campus, surrounded by green landscape. We toured the University, the town of Matsudo and Tokyo before the Symposium where more than 100 people were expected from outside the University, including International and Japanese students.
After my talk I had a Q&A session followed by open discussion,
which yet again gave me more knowledge from those who contributed.
As a result the delegates learned more about our work in Todmorden and gave us both respect and admiration for how we made it happen. Again the questions they raised about us were duly passed on by me to Mary and Estelle on my return.
It was lovely to meet a few who had already visited us and satisfying to know that many more wish to do so. I believe my job as Ambassador was a great success!
So then it was time, at the end of May to return to sunny Todmorden. I have seen a different perspective of the world’s problems and at times these can seem insurmountable, but to pass on our experiences and gained knowledge to the younger generation will prove a great help.
There IS power in small actions.
From little things, big things may grow.
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