Have a fabulous 2012


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

Monday, December 31, 2012

 It's the last day of 2012 and so I wish everyone a smooth sailing into the 365 days of 2013 and beyond. Actually, I think that this year (2012) came and slipped away without being noticed. I can't believe how fast it has passed compared to all other years and how much has changed and yet remained the same.
A lot of things happened, some significant, some good and some painful. That defines life. Many people that we knew through family, friends or otherwise left us - they are no more but we'll miss them a lot in years to come for nobody can fit in their shoes or fill the huge gap that their untimely departure has created.
It is this year, that I've completed my 10 years of stay in South Korea and honestly, it just seems like yesterday when I first came here. I'm still struggling, I still suck at Korean language and I still have no clue what future holds for me here. I still feel that as a woman of color I am gonna be left out BUT one thing is for sure...I FEEL SAFE IN KOREA. Even though I'm living here alone for a little over a year and for the first time in my life - I feel SAFE. When I go out and about, I know that nothing will happen. NOTHING. This makes Korea -  heaven on earth, at least for me. It is wonderful that women are given some space here - I carry no burden of fear, of harassment or of abuse. I value it more than anything!
When I look at women in South Asia in particular - those living in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal etc. it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because we all have to fight for mere basic survival as a 'normal' woman. It breaks my heart because we are living in some of the "most protective" of societies in the world but we are the least protected once outside our homes. 
Whether we are young or we get older, whether it was yesterday or it is today, whether we are at school or we are at work, whether we are poor or rich - we have NEVER felt safe and probably will NEVER feel safe!  The way women are treated by the "significant others"(and here I mean men) in our societies - it makes me sick. They may not hurt the women with whom they are connected through blood or tribe or social position etc. but every other woman is at a huge risk of being harassed by these men - men of honor and those who can go as far as killing for honor. These men come in all shapes and varieties - just like onion - layer after layer after layer and you will will never know  what you are up against!
I hope that we, as women, could some day go to school without the fear of being harassed and insulted in one way or the other. Just because  we are women. I hope it stops and I hope that the mothers of today teach their sons basic ethics and moral values for without them - this world is indeed a dangerous place -every day and every hour until we are no more. 
Women were the biggest losers of 2012 - they were shot down, raped, kidnapped, abused  around the world but particularly in South Asia. I hope that 2013 and beyond turns out to be a good one for them. I hope that we start to feel safe in our homeland - our homes and our neighborhoods. I hope that we can call our country of origin - a safe heaven too.
I really hope that people and especially men - irrespective of their age - learn to respect - it doesn't cost anything.
I wish everybody a safe, peaceful and a progressive 2013.
Loads of doas for Pakistan - may 2013 be a better year for the country and for its people!
  • 새해복 많이 받으세요!
  • Nay-ya Saal Mubarak Ho!
  • Bonne année!
  • سال نو بر شما مبارك *

Pictures of the Day: Random

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Outside the Window Right Now and Right Here!

These are the photos taken from inside the room - at different camera settings. It has been years and years using cameras but I really can't take a descent photograph.

The snow wasn't heavy but it has been non-stop and after 15 hours, the scenery has completely changed............everything is covered in a blanket.
I can hear ambulances or emergency sirens from a far, hope everything's fine!

Wish everybody a safe return back home!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ttukseom Hangang Park Snow Flower Village

Woke up to a rather grey and dark morning and I had a feeling that it may snow, I hardly finished my breakfast and it was snowing already. I have a conference to attend at HUFS also called 외대. It literally sucks if one has to go out in such a weather - brutal cold and killer winds!

Anyhow, the situation isn't that bad. One can still enjoy winter in many ways and for the kick start, read this article here. I liked their last option of a spa in Asan.

By the way, Ttukseom Hangang Park’s outdoor swimming pool is transformed into a Snow Flower Village and it is going to operates until February 20th. 2013. Just like Lotte World, your entry ticket will allow you to various activities such sledding, watching a 3D movie and other winter activities. You can also play Tuho, Korean badminton and all sorts of traditional Korean games that Koreans love to experience. So for getting a feel for the traditional folk games of Korea - take a trip there....and have fun.

Address: Seoul Gwangjin-gu Gangbyeonbuk-ro 139
Phone: 02-761-8204
Homepage: http://www.supiapark.comHow to get there: Ttukseom Resort Station (line 7) exit 2 or 3
Period of operation: Until February 20th, 2013
Hours of operation: 9 am-6 pm
Cost: 8,000 won

Thursday, December 27, 2012

on Muslims and Islam in Korea -1

Seoul Mosque

A lot has changed in South Korea in the past one decade with respect to Muslims and Islam. On and off, we see articles, columns and essays briefly touching on Muslims in Seoul and its satellite cities or Korea in general.

When we first moved to Seoul, I still remember taking part in anti-war rallies, against the war in Iraq, held in Jongno with YJY, my Korean friend.  We lit candles and threw paper doves in the air. At the time, daily doze of such protests was seen outside the American embassy and the Yongsan base which is sandwiched between Itaewon and Samgakchi. Public was really upset about Korea's involvement in America's war in Iraq.

Then we saw Roh, Moo-hyun, a newly elected president at the time, who came to power solely because of the young voters, committed sending non-combatant forces which later comprised of 50% of the combatant forces to Iraq. Protests that were peaceful in the beginning turned into fierce fighting between the riot police and the protesters. Water canons and road blockades near Insadong, Sejong-ro and  Tapgol 's vicinity in Jongno is what I clearly remember until today. My first Korean vocabulary aside from greetings and daily survival Korean included words such as 전쟁 (war),  반대 (against), 평화 (peace), 지원 (support/aide), 집단 항의 (mass protests).;-) I know it is crazy but that was how things were back then and yes, this was the support of Koreans for Iraq at the time.

Then in 2004, we heard about the kidnapping and then beheading of a Korean, Kim, Sun-il, a young man working as a translator in Fallujah. Kim was fluent in Arabic, holding a graduate degree in Arabic from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS/외대). He also had degrees in English and theology and  I still remember how tense that whole month was - before and after this horrible incident. Every day, at the university entrances and at various places all over the city I saw the banners and Kim's photographs, candle light vigils and Citizen's Groups visiting the embassies of Muslim countries in and around Itaewon. Extra police force was deployed at the diplomatic missions from Muslim countries and also their residential areas alongside Seoul mosque to counter any attack by locals but nothing of sort happened to the Muslims living in Seoul.

Among other significant events was the kidnapping of Korean missionaries in Kandahar, Afghanistan in July 2007. Pakistan was one of the central countries at the time helping in negotiations etc. and every day people used to gather in front of Pakistan embassy demanding the release of those missionaries held by Taliban because they thought (and rightly so), that some groups in Pakistan have had strong ties. Unfortunately, two men among the 23 hostages were beheaded by Taliban however, the rest of them were released. Not just that Korea called its military personnel back but it is said that they paid about 20 million dollars as ransom.  Huge rallies were held all over Korea to call troops back but Muslim community was not attacked per se.

Actually, 2 years ago, I met a lady from this same church, Saemmul Presbyterian Church, in Bundang and she told me that she often goes to Afghanistan and honestly, at that moment I was thinking that isn't  it still a very dangerous place for anyone irrespective of their religion or country.

So, what has actually changed over the years with respect to the perception of Koreans towards the Muslims? I think that Koreans had a very positive image of Muslim countries and Muslims in general. Historically, it's said that interaction between Koreans and Muslims can be traced back to the 7 Century A.D during Shilla Kingdom, however others claim that Muslim merchants came for the first time in the 9th Century A.D. and overall, there is nothing negative on that but then the history of Muslims or of Islam in Korea is not a well researched area. It never could garner enough interest of the locals to dig deeper and there are very few people and universities that offer studies and courses on Islam. Nevertheless, in recent years, for several reasons, young Koreans are quite interested in the Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic language, Islamic studies and Islamic law. I hope that things will change fast. Recently, one of my friends asked me if I could help her getting a loan from some Islamic bank for the mere fact that there is 'No Interest' on the loan.See. How things work these days and how certain ideas and ways of doing business create interest.

Last but not the least, if we look at the contemporary history of Korea, then the participation of Turkish forces during the Korea War (1950-1953) has a great impact on Koreans. It earned a lot of respect for Turks in particular and Muslims in general. Turkish soldiers fought side by side with South Koreans under the UN with the second largest contingent after the Americans.
Turk soldiers on front-line during the Korean War

 The Turkish Brigade” also known as the Anatolian Lions entered the war in late Nov 1950, at almost the same time as Communist Chinese Forces started fighting on the side of North Korea. They lost 741 men and 2, 246 men got wounded, 237 were made POWs  and 175 missing in action - it is the highest combat casualty rate of any UN unit involved in the Korean War. Some of the accounts can be read here.

Another reason for Koreans to have interest in the Muslim world and having have a positive image is via  a large number of Korean construction workers who have lived and worked in the Middle East in 1960s and 1970s during the oil boom that the region saw. Middle East's oil booms was Korean  construction companies boom too and that is how these workers ended up there. I have met a couple of taxi drivers who told me that they have worked in Saudi Arabia and UAE and also shared their experience of living in those countries and they only had positive things to say.

10 years ago, people in Korea upon hearing that I'm from Pakistan used to talk of Field Hockey or of mountaineering in Pakistan but now, the first thing I hear are the words such as:Taliban, jihad, Osama bin Ladin or terrorism. That is indeed sad. I think that the main reason is that the images they see in today's world of media either electronic or print - what they hear with respect to the Muslims or Muslim countries or Islam is strongly overshadowed by the American influence on Korean media. Korean media never made any effort to liberate itself from the shadow of the mainstream American narrative. America is at odds with the Muslim world hence, what can one expect.

Moreover, in recent years some very unfortunate events have also happened and I've already highlighted a few of them. With all these ups and downs, a couple of my Korean friends from Yonsei are now happily working in Dubai for joint venture companies and believe me that they have no plans to return to Korea. Many of them have memorable trips to North African and other iddle Eastern countries and they loved it. I'm not saying that the Muslim world doesn't have problems but what I mean to say is that generalizations and stereotyping is not a good idea.

 I'd suggest visiting Itaewon - a Muslim neighborhood of Seoul, it has a lot to offer - a cocktail of diverse but rich Muslim culture right in the heart of Seoul. How about taking a trip down there and witness it yourself?

Anyways, all we need is a platform where we can exchange views, share our thoughts and  try to understand each-others point of view. That can make a hell of a difference.

Back to School...

Learning a language is a lifetime process. It takes a lot of patience and dedication. It's true that knowing about another language can make one understand their own language a bit better too. But learning during holiday season and that too in freezing temperatures (such as -18C or -15C) is in itself a tough task.

Here is my take on it: go take classes if offered and then practice it in your daily life else it is useless. I'm taking a course on "한국어 어휘.문법 or Vocabulary and Grammar" Korean. It is an interesting course yet demanding.

UNIQLO/유니클로 Shopping!

So that's what I got!

Check it out here and hey, the price isn't bad either.

1. Swaeter (It is made in Bangladesh)

2. Fleece Top

3. Check it out here, if you need s.th from UNQLO

Sunrise Festival in Korea on New Year

Uido or 우이도

With the clock ticking towards 2013, many festivals and events are being planned all over Korea. For Koreans, one of the most important of ritual is watching the first sunrise from an island at the Eastern coastline of Korea means a lot.

There are some 33 islands that one must visit at one time or the other and since, it is New Year so how about doing it the Korean way.

Recently, Korea Times also highlighted some events taking place so check it out here.

By the way, Star and Stripes, Korea also put up list of events taking place in the last week of December 2012  and lastinng until January 2013. These wonderful festivals such as Boseong Tea Plantation Light Festival (Dec.14 to Jan.27th) or Pyeongchang Trout Festival (22 Dec. to 3rd. Feb) can turn out to be quite a treat so try to be a part of one.
By the way, Jeongdongjin Sunrise Festival - which is a site for a famous drama "Sandglass" is one of the must see spots so check the list here.

Last but not the least, don't forget to checkout the list of Korea Tourism Organization who have also tried to give pointers to travelers and enthusiasts on festivals taking place at the end of 2012 for New Year and also for Januray 2013 - all over Korea.

Wish you all to round up 2012 safely and start 2013 with a big bang!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hongdae Guest Houses

Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has released a map of guest houses in the Hongdae (Hongik University) area, a trendy cultural and shopping district.

Titled “Hongik University Area Guest Houses”, the map contains information on 35 guest houses, as well as nearby community facilities like hospitals, pharmacies, banks, convenience stores and bus stops, and cultural facilities like museums, exhibition halls, movie theaters and cafes. It also features basic Korean phrases, and Seoul Subway guide and map.

Meanwhile, the “Hongik University Area Guest Houses” was put together by KTO after a year of research and field-checking with the help of the Soongmoon High School Youth Travel Volunteer Team. It is currently published in four different languages (English, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese), and distributed at the Mapo Tourist Information Center located near Exit 5 of Hongik University Subway Station (Seoul Subway Line 2 or Airport Railroad).
More info

< New Publication by KTO: Hongik University Area Guest Houses >
☞ Pick-Up Location: Mapo Tourist Information Center (Hongik University Station, Seoul Subway Line 2 or Airport Railroad, near Exit 5)
☞ Homepage:
Mapogu District Office www.mapo.go.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
Visit Korea (Korea Tourism Organization Official Website) - www.visitkorea.or.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Spanish)
☞ Inquiries: +82-2-334-7878 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ 1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Related Column
Hongdae, Day or Nigh


Best News from Pakistan...

Well, there is one good news, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, renowned Pakistani scientist and a former professor at Quaid i- Azam University, has been appointed as member advisory board on dis-armament matters at the United Nations. He is one of the nine member board which includes representatives from Jordan, South  Korea, Ghana, Philippines and Egypt. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has confirmed his appointment.

Members of advisory board are selected on the basis their personal profiles and cannot represent their governments. Dis-armament board members are appointed for three years.

He is one of the best professors Pakistan has seen and a scholar way ahead of his time. Unfortunately, we in Pakistan will never be able to give due respect to people like Hoodbhoy,  Eqbal Ahmad or Dr. Abdus Salam.

Anyways, in these couple of weeks, we saw a controversy of how Dr. Hoodbhoy's contract was NOT renewed by a university where he was teaching for all the stupid reasons that one could think of and that too when that private university's VC is no other than Adil Najam. ..it came as a shock and a disappointment.

Anyhow, people like Eqbal Ahmad, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr. Abdus Salam, Dr. Akbar S. Ahmad are the people that Pakistani bureaucracy and military would love to get rid off!

I am happy that he has been chosen from Pakistan to do this important job. I hope he stay strong and stay safe. Amin!

Pervez Hoodbhoy's columns can be found HERE.

Mass Dating Event at Yeouido a Failure!

I did a post on "Mass Dating in Seoul"  HERE (6.th Dec) which was also featured in Buzz Korea and finally when the day came, entire world covered the event  including the Korean newspapers and media. South Korea's battle of the singles was flooded by men reported BBC and they have some fantastic photos too on that link.

This event got viral when two young men floated the idea on SNS and over 10,000 people in Seoul alone signed up for the event.

Somebody brought a dog and the ply card says:" Na do solo or I'm single too" - it is so hilarious!

The venue was changed from Gwanghwamun to Yeouido Park due to security reasons.  1000 police force was deployed but not a single incident of harassment was being reported.

Christmas is considered as yet 'another- Valentine -  of - a - sort' in Northeast Asia and people spend time not with family members but with their girl/boy friend. The event made headline in Korea Times.

The newspaper wrote:
There were fewer people who participated than expected. The organizers had expected more than 10,000 participants as 22,000 had initially expressed their willingness to participate online. However, the police estimate as of 4 p.m., was about 3,500.

In most of the other regions where the same event was held, hopes for becoming a couple also were in vain.

The event in Daejeon was cancelled, the one in Cheongju also ended with low participation. On Jeju Island, only three turned up on the scene _ all men. In Busan, 500 participated but most of them were men so the event turned into a wrestling competition, according to those at the scene.

Chosun Ilbo reported that the Yeouido Park administration has decided to ban the event and threatened to sue the organizers if it goes ahead but they were not successful.

Aljazeera's coverage on speed blind dating in Seoul is HERE.

Hankyoreh reported that somebody on twitter wrote: the event was more about pigeons, police and men!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kaiser Khan at FLICKR

Hunza in Autumn

Do you want to see the beauty of Pakistan then visit the Flickr page of Kaiser Khan. 

I took shots of one of his images of Hunza Valley, from where he hails, to give a rough ideas of what to expect?

Some of the most beautiful images!
Hunza Valley

Transforming faith by Sadaf Ahmad

 I'm reading Transforming Faith by Sadaf Ahmad. The best part is that I personally know many from whom this entire idea of Al-Huda kicked off....and a lot of those working there and no doubt it is an amazing story

Transforming faith by Sadaf Ahmad Dawn 10 01 2010 doc free ebook download from www.qal.org.pk

Meray Bachpan kay Din (Old Pakistani Song)

This is the song "Meray Buchpan kay Din - (My childhood Days)" sung by Afshan Ahmad and Muhammad Ali Shehki in 1983 is one of ammi's favorite songs and so I played it for her. She really enjoyed it!

This song was directed by Sahira Kazmi, one of the most celebrated TV directors of Pakistan and a former TV actress.

Wiki Buzz: Best Answer!

I have got the 'Best Answer' tag from Buzz Korea for a question on how to get a driving license in Korea?

Korea Tourism Organization's "BUZZ KOREA" has a very useful application on their website : WIKI BUZZ - where you can ask "any" question and then through SNS or blogs people can share their thoughts and experiences.

If you are planning to come to Korea or you are already in here and you have questions regarding life in Korea, studying in Korea or anything about Korea - feel free to ask away at Wiki Buzz on iBuzz Korea dot com!

Blog Giveaway Result!

My blog giveaway winners are:

  1. Aika (CD)
  2. Atchemkulova (T-Shirt)

Congratulations to the winners and thanks a lot to everybody who visited my blog and participated in this event, I'm thankful to you with the bottom of my heart and hope that there will be another chance where you can win!

For the winners please send me your postal address at:

Thanks once again!!!

Importance of December 25th.

Heavy snowfall has just started....!

I remember a friend of mine from Finland used to miss the White Christmas of Finland while based in Seoul. This year, for a lot of people, it is a good news that there will be a White Christmas in Seoul.

At this moment it is snowing heavily!!

T from Vietnam organized a get-together at his room and that's how it look..

Wish everyone a GREAT Christmas!

Aside from Christmas, it is also the birth anniversary of the founder of Pakistan - Mohammad Ali Jinnah also called Quaid - i -  Azam.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

I hope that in Pakistan we learn from his life, his dedication and hard work. I hope we realize the importance of faith, unity and discipline.

Last but not the least, it is my mother's birthday - so I want to wish her health and quick recovery.....ammi, app bohat yaad attie hain...!!