Princeton Lions Club member Dave Thompson and his wife Mary got a taste of South Korea last month when they attended the international Lions convention in South Korea’s southern coastal city of Busan.
He was among the 276 Lions Club district managers from around the world being trained for their district governor job and being installed into the position.
Thompson, who manages the Princeton Public Utilities Commission, has worked his way up in the Lions organization since joining the Princeton Lions Club in 2002. He has served on many Lions Club committees and served as the club’s second vice president and president. Later he became a zone chairperson on the district level and then was elected governor of Lions District 5M-8.
The district comprises a chunk of Minnesota with 76 Lions Clubs, six Leo Clubs and three Lioness Clubs. The district has its northern border along a line even with Finlayson and Staples and extends south to Belgrade, Hopkins, and Eden Valley as well as to the Pine City area. Thompson’s duties during his one-year term as Lions District 5M-8 governor will be to visit all the district’s clubs to check on how they are doing and to inspire them about the work of Lions.
The Thompson couple left Twin Cities International Airport on June 16 and stopped in Toronto and Bejing before arriving in South Korea the morning of June 18. They lost a day going there because of the change in time zones, but gained it back when returning home June 27.
Observations about South Korea
Dave Thompson said it was an “intense and exhausting,” but “enjoyable” trip for him, noting long days in training in the five days before the convention. Mary got in sightseeing time while he was at the Bexco Convention Center, with one of her trips being to the 18-story Busan department store, the largest such store in the world, he said.
One of his first impressions of Busan, South Korea, came during the couple’s bus ride from the Busan airport to the Novetel Motel where the couple stayed. Thompson said that as the bus driver was going down the street, the driver got a call and made a U-turn right on the road to return to the airport.
The U-turn lanes are in the middle of the road and buses, scooters and taxis have priority, he said.
The taxi rides didn’t seem to be any better, according to Thompson. “The first taxi ride we took we swore we would not take another,” he said. During the half-mile taxi ride from the motel to the convention center, he said, the taxi driver was going over 100 kilometers per hour, while the speed limit was 40 kilometers per hour. “We were on narrow streets and no one seems to want to drive in their own lanes,” he said, noting that drivers honked a lot and that many vehicles parked on the sidewalks.
Busan, population close to four million, lacks parking lots and most people dwell in high rises, Thompson observed.
While the motel had modern toilets, it was common elsewhere to just find a hole in the floor to squat over in the toilet stalls, according to Thompson. He said the conventiongoers are warned in advance to bring toilet tissue as it isn’t always in the rest rooms. Also, the city sewer lines are relatively shallow and have grates instead of covered manholes so “all over you could smell raw sewage,” Thompson said.
But Busan, the second largest city in South Korea next to the capital of Seoul, is otherwise modern, with construction going on and fast food places including Caribou Coffee, McDonald’s and Sharkey’s, Thompson observed.
He said he didn’t care for the common food there that consisted of a lot of raw fish, explaining, that he didn’t know what it was and that his digestive system wasn’t adapted to that diet.
Busan is picturesque, surrounded by mountains on three sides and the ocean on the other.
Also, the South Korean people are “very hospitable, and very happy to see us,” Thompson noted.
Now that he is back home, Thompson said, he is looking forward to visiting all the Lions Clubs in his district. Besides that task, he will be in charge of the district’s annual budget of about $100,000.
Thompson is also working to help areas in his district hit by severe flooding in June by applying for $10,000 in Lions emergency grants for them.
Thompson said he joined the Lions Club at the urging of his predecessor in the PUC manager job, Dale Dunham, and has embraced the Lions organization’s many missions, including helping the needy with eyesight problems.
If traveling to South Korea wasn’t enough of an adventure, the Thompsons get one more international trip as part of his job next year. That is when they go to Hamburg, Germany, where Dave will turn over the reins of his Lions district governor job to someone else, and where he might feel more comfortable with the native food.