Have a fabulous 2012


Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Postcard to Myself

The day I was leaving Stockholm, I sent a few postcards and one of them was addressed to myself. I know, it is funny but then who else will send me a postcard? This is the first time and as I received it today, I kind of liked the idea. It brought back many moments. Me and my postcard left Sweden the same day and it took it 9 extra days to get here in Seoul.
I love the stamp and seal which says 'Happy Easter', (I hope you had a good one) - everything was about Easter while I was there -bunnies or the easter eggs - loved it. I hope that I manage to do this on all my trips to all the cities I visit!

Actually, when I was in Pakistan last year in January, I bought a few post cards from the museum bookshop at the Lahore Museum. I must send them back to Pakistan and will request someone, if they can post them to me. It will be a very nice souvenier from Lahore. So this is my next project...

This post was edited on April 30, 2011

Korea: Food

Salad with roasted sesame!

Nan Mix: Korean style ( I failed somehow with the nan project but the curry mix was great!).  A Korean food blogger has done a great job here with this mix. I have to say that this mix is NOT enough for one person. I need about 2 of these packs to be full and satisfied and ready for siesta.

Moong Dal (Moong - Lentil Soup)
Dal (Lentils(this is moong) with a tarka of onions, dry (whole) red pepper and cumin seeds.
5 Minutes Stir Fry
Stir fry topped with lemon, oregano and seasoning mix.

Pakkoray ( potatoes and spinach fritters; Cooking time: 15 minutes)

Pasta and sauce made with home grown /organic tomatoes given by a farmer in the neighborhood. My farmer friends in Seoul have provided me with the best produce of the country, the year round and I'm thankful to them.

Iced Apricot drink (Maeshil cha)!

Cooking comes handy and takes me 10 to 30 minutes to come up with any of the dishes pictured above or almost anything except for dal (lentils) - which, if we start from scratch, here it means- soaking, boiling and the whole process- it is a half day labor ( without pressure cooker use)! This dilemma led to rely on red/white canned beans and chickpeas - easily available in the stores in Korea!

Whoever misses home-made meal, pick up a knife, chop and fry...this is al it takes and is a good change too, once in a while.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring in Korea: Plums replacing Cherry

Plum trees ready to bloom!

Stands out!

Plums and in the background are the cheery trees...


This flower made me so happy! ^^

Last of the cherry blossoms from afar!

Spring indicators!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Applications to participate in the 5th World Taekwondo Culture EXPO

All those interested in Taekwondo can apply for this wonderful event taking place in Jeolla Province, South Korea. Application period is : May 1 to May 31, 2011. Participation fee is only: 150$. If accepted, boarding, lodging, meals ad everything will be covered by the organizers. Details are below!

▣Event name : The 5th World Taekwondo Culture EXPO

▣Slogan : An EXPO in which the dreams and friendships can coexist within the participants

Event Period : 2011. 7. 8(Fri) ~ 13(Wed) [6 days]

▣Place : Muju-gun (district), jeollabuk-do(North jeolla province), Korea

▣Hosted by : Jeollabuk-do / Muju-Gun / Korea Taekwondo Association / Taekwondo Promotion Foundation

▣Organized by : World Taekwondo Culture Expo Organization Committee / Jeollabuk-do Taekwondo Association

▣Event scale: About 1,000 people from 30 countries

▣Registration for participation : From May 1st, 2011 to May 31st 2011 (participation fee : $150 / \180,000)

▣Provision : -lodging, meals, transportation, event participation (including competitions), souvenirs, T-shirts, a certificate of participation, medalls, etc.

Reception desk and information : The World Taekwondo Culture EXPO Organizing Committee
- Tel : +82-63-250-8350
- Fax : +82-63-278-7024
- E-mail : wtce2013@hanmail.net

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where to Eat HALAL in Seoul

In parts and as a whole!

Seasame Leaves

Wild Strawberries

Kebab and stir fry veges!


Anchovies or Myeolchi ( (멸치): A great source of Vitamin E.

Somebody asked me to recommend a few places (within the budget of 20-30$) where one can eat HALAL in Seoul, South Korea. I would say just come to Itaewon -there is a wide variety of restaurants run by Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalies, Moroccans, Jordanians, Turks and Egyptians to name a few।

I know that people on short visits suffer the most because they do NOT have enough time to get to know the place well. I went through this crisis myself. Visiting a new place we want to experience something new including food but within our confines. Korean food is great but if people are vegetarian or have other reservations in terms of food - it can get a little difficult in particular, when they do not know the Korean language or have little or no knowledge of what Korean food is all about? Things have changed but it is hard for short time travellers!

In case of halal, one can order seafood and vegetable combo...at any place. It is not only safe but is halal too. The safest and nicest choice in Korean food would be "Bibimbab" (mixed rice with vegetables) or Dolsut Bibimbab 비빔밥( mixed rice and veges in a stone pot) - very impressive, hearty, healthy and tasty!

So these are the places where one can try stuff "halal"...but they must stick to seafood and vegetables throughout

The list of restaurants include:

1) Mogul Restaurant (Pakistani/Indian Style food). This place is behind Hamilton Hotel, Itaewon Station exit #2. (this is rather expensive with 10% tax and will cost 35-40$/person)

2) [Deleted]

3) Sea Food Ocean: They have a huge variety of food ranging from 20-35$ ( need reservations or have to wait for 30-40 minutes). This place is specialized in seafood and one can choose from 20-30 different dishes as main course, about 15-18 desserts and a variety of drinks such as fresh juices, slush, soft drinks, teas, coffees etc.. It is worth a try. Their website is: http://seafoodocean.co.kr/. This is a chain and can be found in all the main areas. In Seoul one of their restaurants is located in Gwanghwamun area...near the palaces and the American Embassy.

4) Pizza Hut is another option where one can order vegetable pizza or pasta etc and it can be accompanied with a wide variety of salads when there is no other choice. http://www.pizzahut.co.kr/

5) Sultan Kebab is place specialized in Turkish food and BBQ. This place is also located in Itaewon - exit 3 ..go straight for 3 minutes...next to Dunkin Doughnuts (Price 5$ -10$)

6) Jessica's Kitchen /Italian Style food ( yet another chain which offers buffet for up to 23$. Their website is: http://www.jessicakitchen.co.kr/ . They are found in all the places from Yonsei University area to Gwangwhamun and Seochu gu. Korea Times article for detail can be read here :http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2009/10/146_17930.html

7) Thai Orchid (Thai Food) in Itaewon. Across from Hana Bank exit 3 ....go straight down to Itaewon Hotel ..It is across from Hana Bank and Itaewon Hotel.
8) Dubai Restaurant ( Middle astern Food such as couscous , falafel etc.) , Location Is Itaewon: exit #3. Next to Starbucks...second floor.

9) Sanchon Restaurant: Buddhist Food (100% vegetarian) http://www.sanchon.com/english/ . It is a beautiful combination of what they serve. Must be an interesting experience. A bit far but worth an experience.
For more on food in Korea please read this blog...

10)Pasha Restaurant (Turkish/Halal)in Gangnam

11)There are some very cool places to eat in a traditional set up in Bundang especially in Unjeongdong near Pangyo.

Hope this helps!

The liberating power of technology by Ruby Gropas

‘Digital democracy’, ‘Cyber-Activism’, ‘Twitter Revolution,’[1] ‘Facebook Freedom Fighter’[2] – such phrases have flooded news reports, commentaries and analyses over the past few weeks.
Everyone seems to agree that social media are shaping global political action in new ways and, that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are altering the dynamics of the public sphere. This is by no means a new phenomenon. Over the past centuries, the printing press, the telegraph, the radio, the television, have each contributed to changing, shrinking or “flattening” the world; it is now the turn of the ICTs. ICTs are increasingly being referred to as “liberation technologies” since they have become powerful tools through which to facilitate the flows of ideas and information in authoritarian contexts and beyond, at a speed never before experienced by humanity.
Examples have been multiplying: from the case of Sun Zhigang in China in 2003 and the weiquan movement,[3] to the role of the Internet newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda in the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, to the role the internet played in informing the world of the violent government crackdown against the Burmese Buddhist monks in 2007, to the dynamic turn of events leading to Iran’s Green Movement or election-related political unrest Kenya in 2009, and the recent popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and across the Middle East in 2011. In all these instances, many have declared the amazing ability of “liberation technology” to empower individuals and strengthen an emergent civil society.
So what is ‘liberation technology’? How has it actually empowered civil society? And, what are the challenges ahead?
Defining liberation technology
Liberation technology is any technology that transmits political information, that is accessible to a large segment of the population (or at least to a segment of the population that is large enough to be able to function as a critical mass), and that allows for private un-traceable use in order to maximize activist safety and minimize surveillance capacity.
In practice, it is all modern, interrelated forms of digital ICTs; it is the internet, computers and mobile phones mainly. The rise of Internet-enabled smart phones however has taken it all to another level and has gradually opened new possibilites as the advantages of mobile phones are combined with the capacity of computers and with instant audio-visual and text connection with the global community. These devices are easily accessible and affordable and offer activists a greater capacity to use digital infrastructure for their goals of political and social change.
How has it empowered civil society?
ICTs have offered a powerful tool to civil society actors that has been used in multiple ways and for multiple objectives: they facilitate independent communication; provide a platform for free speech and political criticism and opposition; act as instruments for transparency and accountability; enable easy documentation of abuses of human rights and democratic procedures; facilitate immediate and real-time international visibility of these abuses; challenge electoral fraud; mobilize protest; and, maintain an information lifeline with the outside world.
In short, liberation technologies challenge authoritarian regimes’ control over information and political debate in the public sphere, and make their repressive techniques and actions visible both within the country and internationally.
The internet, SMS messaging, blogging, Twitter, Youtube and other new media platforms are being used by NGOs, civil society actors and simple citizens – or ‘netizens’- in increasingly creative ways. They provide a growing generation mainly under the age of 35 who are technologically savvy, with the tools to coordinate their protests, attract support (both domestically and internationally), voice alternative opinions and dissent, and circumvent censorship in authoritatian regimes.
Human rights abuses have been filmed on mobile phone cameras and immediately posted on YouTube; Facebook has been used by online activists to launch campaigns against police brutality with truly global outreach, such as with the ‘We are all Khaled Said’ Facebook page; crowdsourcing (combining SMS text-messaging, emailing and other forms of online communication) is being applied by grassroot organizations like Ushahidi[4] to map protest, electoral fraud, or human rights abuses. Tellingly, Wael Ghonim, Google’s Marketing executive who was arrested during the protests in Egypt, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “If you want to liberate a government, give them the Internet.” A comment streamed on Twitter last week summarises it all: “A revolution is tweeting soon to a tyranny near you…”
What are the challenges ahead?
Now that the potential of social media outlets and information technology is evident, authoritarian regimes are developing impressive means to filter and control the Internet and mobile phones, censor web-content, monitor cybercafés, identify and punish internet-based dissenters and activists.
Against this background, we are faced with two core sets of challenges for active citizens in authoritarian contexts and for policy makers in democracies.
The first involves how citizens and groups in authoritarian states can get around state censorship and monitoring? And, how can they turn their mobilization into democratic change? Social media and ICTs can be valuable tools in mobilizing citizens to protest, to express dissent and to defy authoritarian rulers. As Gene Sharp has argued in an extraordinarily influential manner, if people can develop techniques of withholding their consent –particularly non-violent techniques – and gradually of expressing disobedience, then dictatorships loose their grip over the people they govern and regimes will eventually crumble.[5] Thus, for change to materialize, smart civil resistance strategies need to be formulated and implemented. Activists must organize themselves in order to be able to offer political choices to citizens once mobilization starts rolling into liberation in order to avoid that the opportunity for change is ‘hijacked’ by populists or illiberal actors.
The second set of challenges involves the role of democracies. How can democratic states react against authoritarian regimes’ attempts to restrict and punish the use of ICTs for political purposes? What ought democratic states do?
As a first response, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the US would put up 45 million dollars in a venture-capital style approach to help technically-savvy activists fight internet repression.[6] In addition to providing funding a lot more needs to be done in terms of securing freedom of access to ICTs, providing technical assistance, and developing an international regulatory framework.
The transformative potential of liberation technology is significant. Indeed, the new technologies that are available today (or that are in the making), offer new possibilities for human freedom and for political action. ICTs can expand freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they can promote knowledge, transparency and the pluralism of ideas, they can contribute to deepening democracy and improving governance, they can empower civil society actors and enhance economic development. There are of course limits and costs. As Larry Diamond has pointed out, there: “There are fine lines between pluralism and cacophony, between advocacy and intolerance, and between the expansion of the public sphere and its hopeless fragmentation.” [7]
Nonetheless, if liberal democracies support internet freedom then tough choices lie ahead in order to develop more effective, more intense and more elaborate policies to stand up for the protection of activists and citizens who turn to the internet as a tool through which to fight for their freedom and democracy.


Early Spring in Stockholm

Flowers were everywhere and particularly daffodils..

These were very beautiful but I don;t know there name....I saw them for the first time...

More flowers......

Wild pensies.....

Wild tulips...

Make-shift Flower shops....the owners bring everything loaded on trucks and set up out-door stalls....where one can find anything at a price much less than that at the stores. I really liked these open markets...

Daffodils were sproutting all over the city....we have them in Pakistan too and their size is much smaller & are found in the shades of off-white and yellow BUT they smell just great(that's the big difference) .....one flower is enough to have a beautiful scent - good enough for almost half of the day.....but I've noticed that these daffodils had no smell. ;0)


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stockholm's Street Musicians

Sweden gave the world pop bands like ABBA, Roxette, Army of Lovers, Ace of Base, Alcazar, A*Teens, E-Type, The Cardigans to name the few. If we look at the solo permormers then names like Meja and Carola Häggkvist made it the top in the international music scene.

Love and passion can also be seen on the streets of Stockholm where musicians entertain the crowds. I personally think that they were excellent and wondered how come they haven't made it to the charts yet.

My suggestion to them was to try their luck in a country other than Sweden and use it as a launching pad for their careers. It is not a bad idea. I have seen a lot of fellow classmates from the US, Japan and Canada making niche in the Korean music scene and now taking it seriously as a profession rather than hobby. These guys must try Korea where love for music has opened a whole economic sector that furthered the idea by creating the Korean Wave which is a multi -billion dollar industry. Through ever evolving changes with respect to multicultural forces, foreigners are creating vibes and are well accepted in the industry "if" they have the talent.

I wish each and everyone of these singers - success!

A very entertaining duo!

This guy played a very beautiful music music through glasses half empty and half full!

A real talent!

Very young group of musicians and they were just too good, I would say the best so far!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Flowers all over!

I've this uncomfortable feeling to walk on these petals...

Magnolia and Cherry blossoms

On my way to the library...

Sunlight filtering through

My favourite tree


An old cherry tree.