Have a fabulous 2012


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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Il Volto Cancellato (Book by Fakhra Younus and Elena Doni; 2005)

Books by Women, an organization for women writers in its tribute to Fakhra Younus, author of Il Volto Cancellato wrote:

 Book by Fakhra Yousnus: Le Visage Efface' (2008) in French which was originally written in Italian: Il Volto Cancellato (2005) - Buy this book and raise awareness towards such crimes and pressure governments to change laws that supress women.

"When a woman tells her story, writes her memoir, she becomes an author. In writing her own history, she becomes visible to history, part of the human narrative. She tells her truth, shares her experience and wisdom. She leaves a written legacy.

When the life lived hurts too much… it’s hard to write, and hard to tell.
And when the story told hurts too much, it’s hard to read and hard to share.
Hard too, not to share.
Fakhra Younas’ story is one of those memoirs. Her life was one of those lives. And we must share it."

News of her death was reported here in Italy and around the world.

"On March 17, 2012 in Rome, Italy, a Pakistani mother, ended her own life, after 12 years that none of us could imagine or endure. Fakhra Younas was in her early 30s, has one son, and one memoir, Il Volto Cancellato, written with Elena Doni.
While it is her death that brought her life to my attention, it is her life that has left me in a state of shock. Her story is very hard to know about. Yet we need to know, as we are able to, so it can inform our lives, our focus, our voices, our writing. We need to know, because what happened to her happens to thousands of women. And the threat of it threatens any one of us."

Elena Doni, an Italian writer, worked with Fakhra Younus on her memoir which was published as a book in Italian as Il Volto Cancellato in 2005, and reportedly translated into Spanish, Le Visage Efface in French and, Das Ausgeloschte Gesicht in German. Fakhra's book is not available in English yet.

Who will step up to translate Il Volto Cancellato by Fakhra Younas for the English speaking public, or to make it available? Contact: booksby women.org

Fakhra Younas had a courage few of us might have to dare to live after the violence against her left her without a face to comfortably show in public. Who knows what degree of pain she had to endure in her skin, and what further pain in her spirit. The devastation of jealousy.

Let us remember Fakhra Younas’ name and her courage and use our writing to raise visibility, and put pressure on the governments and people of countries that perpetuate crimes against women. Hard as it is in America, to have definitive proof of those who commit violence against women that leads to conviction, it is harder still in countries where women are not considered equal to men.

Vote with your reading and writing and commenting power. Ask that her book be translated into English. Let others know in your own voice and your own way, that though we may be living without fear or threat of harm, many are not free in their own homes.

Buy Fakhra Younus's book here and become her voice so that governments can be pressured to change laws that repress women.

Fakhra Younus and her son: Nauman

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Politics of Acid Attacks in Pakistan

Ahsan Butt wrote: "Something is definitely wrong with this picture - literally and metaphorically.
One acid-burn victim leaped to her death. One acid-burn perpetrator sits comfortably in his home. And one-acid burn perpetrator’s cousin is presenting prizes to a documentarian whose Oscar-winning film was about acid-burning women.”
According to Washington Post, Fakhra Younus, a prominent acid attack victim in the country has committed suicide in Italy. Tehmina Durrani, who helped Fakhra wrote that:
"... she (Fakhra) also felt forgotten."
Fakhra's death has brought her life back into the discussion and has uncovered many of the ills that the Pakistani society holds dear. Her life is actually the real story of Pakistan - which shows how the system plays with the lives of common people. Fakhra is a window to look at the life of women ( a common woman , that is). Fakhra's life tells us how women are manipulated at every single stage, mercilessly by hypocritic and shameless Pakistani elites in particular and men in general. Fakhra's life also cries out loud for the survivors of acid attacks, these women have been used again and again by the rich and famous - a good source of money making via so-called philanthropy to attract foreign donors and that is exactly what happened and what continues to happen in Pakistan.

(left) Fakhra before acid attack, (right) Fakhra with Durrani (Photo:Times Magazine)

Fakhra Younus, was attacked by her husband Bilal Khar - who had spilled acid on her face after they split up. Her husband Bilal is from one of the most influential families of Pakistan. He was an ex - member of parliament (the Punjab Assembly), the son of famous Pakistani politician Ghulam Mustafa Khar (who also married and divorced 6 times), brother of the super model Aaminah Haq and the cousin of Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar - an interesting combo - isn't it??

Bilal Khar maintains that he was not behind the attack (this is what all attackers say in Pakistan and get away with it too), though it is widely believed that he used his political influence to evade arrest, according to the Asian Correspondent. Most important aspect is that the victim - Fakhra Younus, claimed that Bilal Khar threw acid on her and never changed her statement until her death . All she ever wanted was justice but justice was denied to her because justice serves the rich here. The accused is a free man like many others who share the same background with him (power, politics and money). We must NOT forget that criminals roam free in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and are also hailed as heroes (may be due to the shortage of role models that this country could produce). Pakistan is not just a heaven for domestic/home-grown criminals but terrorists/ criminals of international fame ( the Most Wanted by inter-pol with heavy bounties on their head) live happily ever after in this land of the pure. Money has replaced God to quite an extent and hence 'God-fearing' is more of a mythical concept here.

When it come to acid attack victims - one famous name is that of Musarrat Misbah -a beautician who was under criminal investigation for misusing donations of the NGO - Depilex Smile Again Foundation (DSAF) - set up to help acid attack victims with its parent NGO: Smile Again - Italy. Maybe at some point her heart would have been at the right place but down the lane her mind was NOT. This project , DSAF - was embroiled in mismanagement of huge donations from foreign countries. The Italian NGO, Smile Again - Italy - have annulled all ties with DSAF-Pakistan. Massive fraud in millions of dollars is the reason of the rift. For more read here at Foreign Policy and here. The author, Nikolaj Neilson writes:

"Masarrat Misbah....[turned out as] a fraud who pocketed the money she collected to help these women. In 2006, she received over $3 million to build a hospital specialized for acid burn victims. An altruistic landowner gave her, without charge, the land to construct the hospital... but nothing had been done in this regard.

Manzar Mian, a former coordinator at the foundation, began to suspect something was up. The money continues to arrive in cash only. There is no trace. Mian says over $ 1 million is missing. Authorities ask Misbah to hand over the accounts. But the books are gone. Stolen says Misbah."

This story of Musarrat Misabah has a lot in common with the story of Greg Mortenson author of "Three Cups of Tea" fame - set in Pakistan. How Moretenson's NGO - Central Asia Institute - (mis)used donations for the personal gains/ advertising/travelling etc. solely for the author in question. Interestingly, both Misbah and Mortenson have been awarded Pakistan's highest civil award for their services to Pakistan. Well, Greg Mortenson's saga deserves a long/separate post but what is common between his work and Depilix's Smile Again Foundation's work is the faces and images used to collect money. Moreover, the donations rarely reached those nameless, faceless girls - in both the cases.
Good causes are bound to lose their character when only ONE PERSON is on the driving seat, money is involved and where transparency is little or non-existent. This is Pakistan's tragedy that in its entire history we lacked transparency everywhere. People like Misbah and Mortenson - who became the voice of the voiceless and face of the faceless actually never tried to empower the people who they were representing, never provided them a platform to raise their own voice and face the world. Probably, maladfide intentions may be one of the reasons. Class action suits have been filed against Mortenson in USA BUT Musarrat Misbah - in Pakistan - well, she will get away with everything - by just pulling strings of those in power but I wonder:

  • when will justice be served to countless Fakhra's of Pakistan?

  • what will shake and wake Pakistanis up if not this Fakhra?

  • will these horrific lives only become another interesting media story but will continue to fail to garner the real sympathies of the masses, outcry from them or change the mindset of the people?

  • what will outrage Pakistanis if not this OR is seeing is unbelieving here?

  • when will these voiceless and faceless women will be empowered to uncover the faces of ugly Pakistanis?

  • how long do we have to wait to exist as a visible woman with respect in Pakistan?
As for Fakhra - death end her miserable life in Pakistan and Italy. I wonder why for 13 years she could NOT meet her sister (whom she was desperate to see) or any other family member? Arranging such a trip was not a big deal but definitely the socio-political implications of such a meeting could lead to drastic results for the Khars (may be). What is the real role of Haji Allah Din in Italy - was he the neighbor or was he a watchman over Fakhra? Who is this Haji Allah Din Rome-walla? Why Fakhra had to request her neighbor Haji to call somebody in the media in Pakistan and why she did not acted by herself, as Durrani wrote in her article that Fakhra was fluent in Italian - she could call-collect? Fakhra was indeed a warrior against injustice in Pakistan and if she kept fighting for 13 years what lead her to commit suicide? What circumstances, threats and fears made her lose her life? There is much, much more than that which needs investigation!!!
All this will be buried soon and will be forgotten as if nothing happened - ironic!
May Fakhra Rest in Peace - she lef behind a son, Nauman and her book: Il Volto Cancellato ( a must read).

For further reading:
The Woman who Died Twice (by Reuters' Myra Mac Donald)
Life and Death of an Acid Attack Victim (by The News, Tehmina Durrani's article).
The Evil that Men Do (by Times Magazine, Hannah Bloch)
Misuse of Funds by Deplix - Smile Again - Pakistan.
Smile Again Pakistan Controversy (Criminal Investigation) - Videos.
Musarrat Mibah Misused Funds in Millions for Acid Attack Victims (by The News, Umer Cheema)
Whither Justice (by Dawn, Ishtiaq Mehtri tells how Bilal Khar, the absconder/main accused of acid attack dodged the justice system ) this article was written on Feb.28, 2002).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Separating Religion from Politics

According to the polls conducted by the Religious Freedom Policy Research Centerin Seoul, South Korea, 7 out of 10 South Korean citizens were against religious people participating in political affairs.

The Religious Freedom Policy Research Center announced the results of their poll at the Manhae NGO education center during the 2012 Manhae festival symposium entitled “Can the Church and State be separated?” on March 6th, 2012.

The Research Center published an abridged version of their results on March 5th.

According to the polls, 67.2% agreed that the church and state should be separated, 12.9% disagreed, and 20% answered “doesn’t matter.”

The polls were taken on February 27th 2012, from 1,000 randomly picked males and females through the ARS system. The reliance level was 95%.

The Religious Freedom Policy Research Center stated, “Most of our people would like to have the church and state to be separated so these results should serve as an caution to the recent religious people who stated that they will participate in Politics, or to the politicians who use religion as their campaign tactics.”

Source: Buddhist Network

Thursday, March 22, 2012

바름이 분다 (Lee, So-ra / 이소라))

Song of the Day!

Lee So-ra is one of my favourite singers.  This song 'The Wind Blows (바람이 분다)' was first introduced to us in our Korean language class by our professor. Ever since, haven't stopped listening to her. In one of the top Korean TV Show in 2011: 나는 가수다 - we saw some of the best performances and one such memorable performance that will be remembered for a long time is in deed by Lee So-ra. 

바람이 분다

바람이 분다 서러운 마음에 텅 빈 풍경이 불어온다

머리를 자르고 돌아오는 길에 내내 글썽이던 눈물을 쏟는다

하늘이 젖는다 어두운 거리에 찬 빗방울이 떨어진다

무리를 지으며 따라오는 비는 내게서 먼 것 같아

이미 그친 것 같아

세상은 어제와 같고 시간은 흐르고 있고

나만 혼자 이렇게 달라져 있다

바람에 흩어져 버린 허무한 내 소원들은 애타게 사라져간다

바람이 분다 시린 한기 속에 지난 시간을 되돌린다

여름 끝에 선 너의 뒷모습이 차가웠던 것 같아

다 알 것 같아

내게는 소중했던 잠 못 이루던 날들이

너에겐 지금과 다르지 않았다

사랑은 비극이어라 그대는 내가 아니다

추억은 다르게 적힌다

나의 이별은 잘 가라는 인사도 없이 치러진다

세상은 어제와 같고 시간은 흐르고 있고

나만 혼자 이렇게 달라져 있다

내게는 천금 같았던 추억이 담겨져 있던

머리 위로 바람이 분다

눈물이 흐른다

Credits@ Daum뮤직

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Korean Singer: Insooni (Being Biracial in South Korea)

Kim In-soon who is popular as Insooni is one of the most acclaimed singers in South Korea and if you have never heard of her just click the link above, she has a soulful voice, really!

She was born in 1957 to a Korean mother and an African-American father (who left them), serving as a GI in the American army. She was raised single handedly by her mother and went through many difficulties and constant discrimination mainly for being biracial and dark skinned - that too in 1960s when women marrying foreign men wer e looked down upon and had a very low social status. She discontinued her schooling after completing high school because of the discrimination and bullying she constantly faced. In her teens she was helped by a USFK member and his friends who gave her food, clothes and a shoulder to cry on. When he moved back to the US, the contact/link broke. However, the good news is that she was reunited after 40 years with that American GI who helped her when she was very young and was struggling ...READ HERE.

There are quite a few stories of biracial kids from South Korea who have made headlines around the world. Hine Ward is one of them and within the Korean context,  no discussion on biracial families/children will be complete if we minus Hine Ward's saga.

Actually, the issue of biracial Korea came to the limelight when Hine Ward (also born to a Korean mother and an American GI ) - a pro-football player and a household name is the US - visited South Korea in 2006 for the first time and drew nationwide attention. On that visit, he talked with the President about the sufferings of biracial children/families and their status in Korea and that led to a new phenomenon (also known as the Hine Ward Factor).

James J. Na wrote in Seattle Times in 2006 wrote about Hine Ward's saga that:

"... Some multiracial South Koreans, especially those with dark skin, expressed bitterness at all the attention Ward garnered. These mixed Koreans, who still struggle with daily discriminations, think that the Ward story is essentially an American one, impossible in South Korea, despite the rhetoric of Korea's globalization. They fear, probably accurately, that the new awareness will subside shortly.
Underneath the glitzy exterior of economic success and high-tech development, South Korea is still a clannish society that values family ties and ethnic purity. Women who marry American soldiers are derided as "GI princesses"; those who marry blacks are scorned as little better than prostitutes. Mixed children, especially those with African or Southeast Asian ancestry, face taunts, impolite stares, spitting and other indignities. Many drop out of school and become unemployed."

Since then, many new laws have been introduced such as: "Basic Law regarding the Better Treatment of Foreign Residents in Korea (2007) and Support for Multicultural Families Act (2008)" and wide ranging research is carried out on academic level on multiculturalism etc. Korea's 2% of the entire population is foreign born and multicultural families and their children make up 20% out of these 2 million. Children born out of such marriage (also referred as international marriages ) are now coming of age where current laws, rules, regulations and the way things are done in Korea will do them more harm than good.

For many readers, it will be interesting to know that there is a separate school: Multicultural School in Gyeonngi-do for biracial children. This is very discriminatory in a way. If that is how one can assimilate the biracial children in a country then it is definitely a matter of concern. Every now and then, we hear that children of biracial backgrounds can NOT and DO NOT speak Korean well and have a long way to learn 'things Korean'....and this is a narrative that the government (and many pure Korean people) has and is not letting it go but I have met many pure Koreans who can NOT speak Korean either for one reason or the other so are they any less or any more Korean?

Furthermore, a lot has to be done in the policy of assimilation of these multicultural families (or 다문화가정) in South Korea. Current government policies have undoubtedly improved the conditions but urgent measures are required on many fronts so that multicultural families feel as equal citizens in Korea.
Back to Insooni, she has done a lot of social work including constant support of orphanages and orphans etc. in Korea and has been a sort of a spokeswoman of all those with bi-racial background. She is a living example of the good, the bad and the ugly of being biracial in Korea.

By the way, Insooni is coming as a judge in a new program called Super Diva 2012 and for more detail check out this superb website on K-POP: allkpopdotcom.

Further Reading:
In Korean language, a fantastic blog post on H. Wards and his mother. It has great photos.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

3 -Mountaineers Missing in Pakistan

Missing climbers: Göschl (right), Nisar Hussain (center) and Cedric (left)

The three mountaineers an Austrian Gerfried Göschl, a Swiss Cedric Hahlen and  a Pakistani Nisar Hussain Sadpara - were just short of a summit of Gasherbrum 1(G-1), also known as Karakorum 1 (K-1) or the Hidden Peak, when they went missing. Winter ascents of the eight-thousanders is considered as one of the most prized achievement in climbing and it is the first time that two Poles of the same team, trying a different route, became successful.

Pakistan Apline Club had to drop Hassan Sadpara, M. Nazir, and Ali Raza to the base camp for search operation of the missing mountaineers but bad weather didn't allowed that. Helicopter rescue operations are also called off.

Gerfried Göschl's website and his last post from G-1 is here: http://www.gerfriedgoeschl.at/?p=1573#comment-1098

Though the rescue mission is called off but we all hope and pray that some miracle happens.

All three of the climbers were very experienced: Nisar Hussain Sadpara was the first Pakistani to have summitted 5 eight-thousanders including K-2 (without supplent oxygen) whereas Göschl (see his profile here ) had summitted this same peak last summer in 2011  and 8 eight-thousanders. He succesfully summit K-2 twice and Everest as well and many other peaks in this region. Cedric had K-2 summit under his belt and was equally very experienced (Cedric Hanlen's website here). This accident is undoubtedly a very big loss to the Apline Community and to their respective countries.

Aside from being mountaineers these brave men were great humanitaians as well. During the earthquakes and floods in Pakistan Gerfried Göschl rallied in Austria and brought relief aid for the Pakistanies. He and his family also opened a primary school called: Pakistan-Austria Primary School in Besham for the children.

Pakistan-Austria Primary School, Besham
A gift from mountaineer Gerfried Göschl and his family.

What can be a better gift for any community that children get an opportunity to go to a school. May God bless them.

Göschl said to his home team on 25th Feb. 2012: "I must confess something I’ve never experienced before. Not even the severe storms of last winter were only close enough to the circumstances here."

Temperatures were close to minus 70 Celcius and the wind was blowing at a speed of 175km/h. He stated in many of his posts: "please, let us keep our fingers crossed" and here I repeat that let us cross our fingers that a miracle happens!

Göschl with his wife and two daughters

I am feeling so bad about these brave mountaineers and especially the families that have been left behind.

Friday, March 16, 2012

2012's First Foreigners’ Flea Market in Seoul

The Seoul Global Center presents: The Foreigners’ Flea Market for expanding exchanges between the foreign residents and Seoul citizens. Vendors must be foreigners. Korean citizens may participate as vendors when accompanied by foreigners. Please register first. It’s totally FREE of charge.

When and Where?
Ø Date & Time: Saturday, March 31 / 13:00~17:00
Ø Venue : Seoul Folk Flea Market, Sinseol dong - Near Dongdaemun Station
Ø Donation: Voluntary donations from the profits will be accepted and will be given to charity organizations.

Public Transportation
Ø Subway : Exit no. 6, 9, 10 (Sinseol-dong Sta. of line no.1 or 2)
Ø BUS : NO. 2013, 300 (get off at Cheonggye 8-ga Sta. no. 3)
NO. 2221, 2219, 721, 2112, 303, 9403, 370 (get off at Sinseol-dong Sta.)
NO. 9403, 721, 370 (get off at Dongdaemu Post Office Sta.)

How to Register
Ø Tel/Fax: 02)2075-4130~1 / 02)722-2108(Fax) Visit the page: http://global.seoul.go.kr/
Ø E-mail: chrismo07@sba.seoul.kr

Ø Parking: Every Saturday is designated as a ‘NO-CAR’ day in the Seoul Folk Flea Market and its adjacent area. Please make sure you do not bring your car to the event venue.
※ Seoul Folk Flea Market: You can enjoy traditional things, everyday goods, tour products, folk products, and raditional foods all together at the same spot.

Also visit Seoul Folk Flea Market's Website here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Consumer Goods in Korea Most Expensive in the World

Sale: the price of Korean beef here in his photo is almost 49USD per kilo at E.Mart and people swarms in to buy it...

According to Consumers Korea (CK), consumer goods in Korea are the most expensive in the world. The detailed article is HERE at Chosun Ilbo which is supportive of my argument in this post on: how to do student friendly (on budget) shopping in Seoul?

According to CK:

"...retail prices of 48 items from electronics to food in Korea were higher than in any of the 17 countries surveyed. The countries included the U.S., the U.K., Japan, China, India and the Philippines."

The idea revolves around the fact that Korean made goods are often cheaper abroad than in Korea. Some of the interesting examples include Korean TVs which are sold at home for almost twice its price if bought in China. Samsung's 46-inch LED TV D6400 is priced at W2.91 million (US$1=W1,121) in Korea but in the US it its price is 2.16 million won which means almost 800USD extra if you buy it in Korea BUTin China the price is W1.72 million.

If we look at smartphones which are the most popular gadget and almost everybody including school children have it is pricier in Korea. Samsung's Nexus S is sold for W700,000 in Korea, but W630,000 in the U.S, almost 70 USD more than the US. :-(

The reason Samsung and LG can get away with exorbitant prices in Korea is that they occupy over 95 percent of the market share. LG claims that goods sold in the Korean market have higher prime costs because the materials used are superior and the price includes delivery and installation costs...really??? I paid extra 70USD for the delivery of our fridge, though.

Other products include: jeans, shampoo, beer and sun screen. A pair of Levi's 501 jeans cost W168,000 in Korea, second only to W195,585 in Japan. The same jeans cost W71,394 in the U.S but I bought Levi's 501 for 45 USD in Philadelphia.

Another interesting product is beef.  Australian beef sirloin, is sold at W49,800 per kilo, the second most expensive followed by Japan. These are still good times that beef is sold for 50USD per kilo but we have seen times when it was over 150USD. If the beef is Korean, you can find price tags as high as 700 USD per kilo of certain beef portions. Especially during Chuseok and Seolnal.

Accroding to Consumers Korea:  "The reason for the high price of imported beef is the unreasonable logistics and distribution structure where middlemen take a huge profit."

FTAs and opening of the Korean markets have surely brought prices down compared to what they were 10 years ago. Apart from CKs research, we all know that Korean people are willing to pay extra money for "kook-nay-san" (국내산) meaning made in Korea products. Kook-nay-san is the best in the world - you will get to hear it from every single Korean person. That is how it should be for other nations and their products but then we must not be beating the bush about free market economies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Treatment with Animals and Animal Rescue in Pakistan

Cat (above) is Kelly (he is a look-alike of my stolen kitty -  Kelly, who  in 2001 was stolen and thrown away by our neighbors and so I named this fellow Kelly and sometimes, I think that its him - he's very friendly) had a 3 inches long and 2 inches deep cut on his left thigh from barbed wires of one of the neighboring houses. Later, when he tried to untangle from  barbed wires he further injured himself - got 2 more cuts one on top of his neck, not so deep but 6 inches long and then another 3 inches long cut on his left front paw...
Dog (below) is Chingu: he used to sit in front of a home and was very very friendly and playful but somehow - is gone.

I am very lucky that I grew up in a family that hold life very precious and here in particular I mean: life of animals (all living things en masse) who can't speak for themselves and are helpless. Many times we have brought them home, cared for them and in so doing faced opposition and anger here and there.

In Pakistan if an animal happens to be a dog then there is a certain stigma attached to it but then we also see an ever growing population of pet owners here. As I always say: Pakistan is a country of great divide, hence in owing a pet, a lot of affluent families have expensive and rare pure breed cats and dogs. Armed forces personnel (retired army officers in particular) who are always seen walking their very favorite breed: German shepherd, is a common sight. 

If you will go through a local newspaper, it is hard to ignore the advertisements on the sale of all sorts of pedigree canines, vet clinics and pet hotels. On the other hand, there is a huge population of local stray dogs and cats whom everyone seems to ignore, detest or show any signs of concern or compassion about. This indicates that though canines are kept as pets but there is hardly 'real passion to care for animals' found amongst people whether its their own pets or the rest of them.

Sympathy is dying in Pakistan and patience is also running out on all counts. We are moving backward as a society but everyone seems to be in a race of some sort in this country and I fail to understand what this race is about but amidst all this people are surely losing the 'human-side' of them.

Chingu : He used to be so delighted but then he disappeared - strange! 

Not long ago, many houses used to keep bowls full of water and leftover food on their walls for birds etc. but not any more. Instead, all those walls are adorned with sharp/broken/pointed glass or barbed wires - one of the main killers of birds and animals in many ways. I have personally treated 4 cats in really bad shape due to the deep cuts from barbed wires. There are cases where these animals have accidentally or intuitively jumped over a wall that was littered with sharp, pointed glass as protection against thieves.
At other times, I have seen reasonably old and intelligent children stealing puppies of the stray dogs from areas near dumpsters or uninhabited nooks and corners of the neighborhood (hardly 10 or 15 days old) to consume them as a toy, pulling them with ropes in their necks etc. These puppies reach near death stages due malnutrition,exhaustion and dehydration etc. and usually die. These kids then leave them on other people's yards thus getting rid of the guilt of killing a living thing which in later years make them more of a barbarian. These kids are capable of doing good acts and show responsibility but then we do NOT teach any compassion to our children these days and hence, these are the consequences - a wild society that we live in.

NGOs and Animal Rescue Organization in Islamabad and also in Pakistan are few and far between. I tried calling three of them which I found through  google, they had facebook page but emails and phone numbers never responded. It was frustrating but it was not totally hopeless. I found one of the NGOs based in Karachi  called PAWS - PAKISTAN quite helpful. At least they have a comprehensive website from where I got phone numbers of vets. 

Amongst them was Brigadier (Retd.) Gardeezi. The day I called him, I had an emergency - a stray cat was struggling with flu (at times it is quite deadly) and was in serious condition. He gave me free advice and tips and also offered me to treat her at his clinic. I did NOT expected that but I was very happy to have found him. He is based in Rawal Pindi near Race Course Ground - very far from where I was based. He gave me a good news that he and some volunteers are trying to set up a shelter for stray dogs and I was very glad to hear that. Pakistan does NOT have any proper animal hospitals and simply "no law" preventing cruelty against animals. I guess more people should join vets like Brigadier Gardeezi in his efforts. Islamabad 's Dr. Faisal's Pets and Vets (F-7/3) and Dr. Rana's Clinic (E-7) were NOT quite helpful.

With my vast experience of meeting vets in different parts of the world, I was fortunate enough to have met some of the best vets around. Amongst them, I will always hold in great respect,  Dr. Mufti (head of veterinary section of National Institute of Health, Islamabad), who was also a close family friend and was trained in Villayat (UK), one of the best vets in the country. May his soul rest in peace.

Another great veterinarian is in South Korea in Seoul. His name is Dr.Seo Jeong-ho - it was  like winning a jackpot. Dr. Seo speaks very good English (which is a rare) and he told me that 40% of his income goes for the welfare w.r.t. stray/abandoned dogs and cats in Seoul. Believe me. Dr. Seo is one of those people who respect his patients and their owners both. He told me that he is thankful to the people involved in animal rescue - who give love to these animals in this time and age when many of us are preoccupied with ourselves.

Kai Kai: Another stray who used to come for food and milk, she died of feline flu epidemic - all over the city. This cat was  kept in a warm room for a week and was treated but she couldn't make it. She could barely walk but still she managed to get to our place because she trusted us and this has happened  many times.


 Actually, you can do a lot...just be compassionate, it doesn't cost a penny.  OR

April 4th is celebrated as the World's Stray Animals Day: So show that animals matter to you too, at least once a year, don't stone them-  and visit THIS site. OR

Educate your children about care and love for animals and there is huge literature for that. Introduce short stories from around the world or from your religion.
Animals are a big part of discussion is Islam, right??
There are so beautiful stories of love and compassion in Islamic history and also Hadith (S.AW.) that revolve around animals.
How to deal with sentient beings is NOT only the domain of Buddhism but of all religion, I believe.  OR

You can also help achieve recognition and protection of animals around the world by signing your support for a campaign to achieve a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare at the United Nations. Do that.

Do you know what WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) and Pakistan are doing together?? If not then READ here. AND finally....

....Remember that animals and our treatment of them are important.

For Further Reading:

Read here : Dogs Rescue: Another Challenge to Pakistan and US Relations

Rescue story of dogs in South Korea (in Korean Language) is HERE with amazing photos ( it is about a woman who is a mother of 350 dogs that she rescued).

How to treat cat flu?

Cats losing fur, read here at Pet Education.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Favourite Korean Webtoon online

Well, if one knows Korean or some Korean than I am pretty sure they will enjoy this webtoon...which is my favourite...follow it here.  It is called 어쿠스틱 라이프 (Acoustic Life) by 김현철 - who thinks that : 서울도 비가오면 괜찮은 도시.
Have fun!

Note: Other series can be easily downloaded or simply read here and on Naver.com

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nasim Zehra's: From the canvas of consciousness

I am posting this article "From the canvas of consciousness" by Nasim Zehra without her prior permission but I hope she will forgive! It was published in 2007 after the Lal Masjid episode.

From the Canvas of Consciousness

It is hard to recall another event in Pakistan's non-war days which captured the hearts, minds, time and attention of the entire nation, as did the 10-day-long Lal Masjid siege and operation. It was one event which suddenly flared up so much around us and within us. There are countless questions.

What are our values and principles as a nation, where have we journeyed, who is managing us, where are we headed, our we destined to be divided, who is the enemy, was the one that killed 45 innocent people in Karachi less deadly than the one inside Lal Masjid, why do we insist on calling these armed militias Islamic militants, why don't we see their politics as an extension of the failure of our politics, why don't we understand the processes by which these militias were eased into the power fray in our public spaces by all those who now want them extinguished, can we extinguish the 'other' let alone our own? No matter how dangerous and deadly they were we cannot deny that they were our own. Yes we punish even our own too when they go astray, but we must be cautious in the application of force when they are our own.

Will we ever know the extent their deadliness beyond the completely illegal vigilante actions they had taken turning the mosque into a small time arsenal and keeping many boys as hostages. Standing outside Lal Masjid on July 7, a group of four men from Peshawar, Taxila, Mardan and Dir said their sons had told them on the cell phone that they wanted to come out but feared the men inside Lal Masjid would shoot them. We will never know how deadly the men inside were. The ferociously bulleted insides of the Lal Masjid and Madressah Hafsa only tell us about the weaponry and the attacking force used, not what those inside used.

There was never any doubt that the Lal Masjid group seemingly led by Marhoom Rashid Ghazi had to be reined in. For far too long they had been given free rein. Ghazi sahib was a stubborn and finally a self-destructive man. In the narrow and correct definition of law he qualified as the enemy of the state. What remains unclear is if all this blood had to be spilled to get him. Did it have to end this way, could he not have been defanged, de-weaponized and de-linked from his group and his base? Perhaps mindful of all these questions the state had opted for negotiations -- as if a Waziristan kind of accord was underway. Shujaat, the man of peace whose instinct was overruled like earlier in the case of Bugti, was against the final assault. He wanted a settlement. Finally what was a hasty retreat from the negotiations seemed incongruent when the state backed by three cordons of varied but lethally armed forces had been so wisely patient for all those days. The death of a commando officer and maybe the fear that the Supreme Court would issue stay order on the operation the next morning triggered the haste.

The media brought as much transparency as it possibly could in this combat. Maybe even too much. If Marhoom Ghazi was being elevated as a brave rebel, if not a hero, through television interviews it was because the government was ok with it. Why else would the government not jam Ghazi's cell phones? Thos attacking the media must ask the government what its rationale was for letting the dialogue carry on till the last day.

Meanwhile we were never shown the deadly tribe inside. Throughout the seven days we were told about the 'wanted foreigners' inside. Figures ranged from 40 to many more. Some "terrorists" with even head money were inside. But now the foreigners seem to be missing. The two earlier identified by the state have been claimed by Pakistani families. Some tunnels earlier identified have also disappeared. How long did the operation last no one knows. We were told almost 48 hours.

Many untruths had come from Marhoom Ghazi. From July 9 onwards, he was claiming there were almost 200 dead bodies inside. It is unlikely that those were found. He said there were hundreds of women and children. While we don't know how many bodies disappeared or were burnt in the ghastly grenade shower, not too many parents came to claim their lost, certainly not the numbers that the opposition was claiming. But equally, there is no doubt that some collective burials in haste and in secret were also done. We will never know too many facts too soon. But many will speak from all sides.

The journey of the men inside Lal Masjid and the women and children inside Hafsa leading them to this end will have to be traced, truthfully. They could not have defied nature's most fundamental rule. You must reap what you sow. Apples don't grow when mangoes are planted. Peace, tolerance and compassion don't flow from lessons in intolerance, self-righteousness and exclusive piety. But what caused these original inputs into their minds and hearts, what caused the lovely young girls to lose their childhood to that tough and harsh worldview? The apartheid in Pakistan between the rich and economically disadvantaged extends across the entire spectrum of existence; from respect and dignity, to basic amenities, to job availability, to access to food, the exposure to art and culture, the list is endless. Lal Masjid will not go away easily. It will symbolize the worst-ever manifestation of the saying that 'chickens come home to roost.' But they were our people on all sides. The most frustrating of all is the realization that some of this, if not all, was inevitable.

The Supreme Court did well by intervening to ensure that Ghazi's sisters go for his funeral, that the state return the mother's body to the sisters and, even better now, it will stay its course on overseeing the human rights situation of whatever is left of the Lal Masjid case. The moral authority of the state, that is drawn from justice and fair play, has been on the wane for a while. And now in the non-compartmentalized, all encompassing consciousness of the Pakistani citizen many scenes play in her/his mind and heart: the orchestrated killings of May 12, the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Waziristan accord with Nek Mohammad, the release of many Al-Zulfiqar fighters by Zia and Nawaz Sharif's exit after having been convicted by the Supreme Court. All these are different instances in different circumstances, so the comparison may not hold. But how do stop the mind seeing the hypocrisy of the state, its double play.

For long the margin of error has not been available to the Pakistani power players. Every error extracts its own cost. The action, however tragic, against Lal Masjid was inevitable. In the minefield of contradictions and controversies this too will extract its cost. We can only pray that it does not go beyond what we have already witnessed. Lal Masjid has let out many messages. One, the state means business. Two, in its language the state confuses religion with politics (Lal Masjid was in fact a challenge to state authority by militias, originally patronized by the state. In Pakistan militias have been allowed to challenge the state and society in the name of justice, religion, ethnicity and national security). Three, it has deepened the suspicion between the state and the people and the state can no longer take its authority over the society for granted; it is lost and has to be reclaimed, on the unfolding canvass of the Pakistani consciousness.

In Pakistan the attempt to label society as good Muslim and bad Muslims will prove to be the country's undoing. Neither the society, nor the army, nor other institutions of the state will find this acceptable, no matter who authors this divide, w Marhoom Ghazi sahib or the top general in the maze of challenges. The only valid divide is the lawful and unlawful Pakistanis, those who live by the law and those who live by breaking the law. This alone is the touchstone that a diligent Supreme Court must promote and protect.

The writer is an Islamabad-based security analyst.

Email: nasimzehra@hotmail.com

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Topics of the Day : Madness rules in Pakistan!

I will have my own two cents worth of comments on the topics below for which some great posts have already been linked-in and highlighted. I will highly recommend readers to go through these blogs/vlogs to get the whole picture. These events highlight what has been happening in Pakistan and where are we heading? I think we all know the answer..

1. Ahmadies in Pakistan

Just a week ago, this happened. All Pakistan is silent on the issue. The perpetrator of this act, S.Mir, must be thrown in the jail for terrorizing people (Ahmadies in this case)and not letting them pray violating the Constitution of Pakistan: 20(b) which stipulates that:

"Every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions."

..but oh, I forgot that we are a country where killers are hailed as heroes and criminals can, in the name of Allah and Rasool, have the licence to do whatever. A very sad side of this act is: an Imam of Satellite Town Mosque is an accomplice to this businessman - S.Mir. A very enlightening post by Saroop Ijaz entitled "Why Speak for the Ahmadies" can be read here.

What a shameless act...ahhhh!

Pakistan is a place where most heinous of crimes and acts happen and nobody even want to say a word about it and people get away with everything. Here people have hijacked Islam and are busy making mockery of it. A little hint is: Islam has its roots in the Arabic word 'salum' meaning PEACE. There you go my fellow Pakistani muslims... and Bravo for your actions against other Pakistanies in the name of religious intolerance and distrubing the peace.

Well, this had to happen when illiterate mullahs and imams made their way to mosques by pulling politico-religious strings. Before I forget, have to add that even Imams in mosques etc. are a part and parcel of a long chain of father-to-son successions which is NOT only in politics here but it is in every profession in Pakistan, even clerks,  peons etc.. This attitude has damaged our society to the core because it has marginalized the really talented and deserving candidates and have thrown them out of the race to get "any" position is any sort of public office/ religious/political organization on merit. One such example is that of Lal Masjid's first imam(Red Mosque) in Islamabad, one of the oldest mosques in the capital of Pakistan with Qari Muhammad Abdullah who was succeeded by his son Maulvi Abdul Aziz (of escaping in burqa fame). That is pretty much the criteria every where.

It is a reality that mosques in Pakistan can single handedly fight the country's army for days and weeks. No kidding.

So, in short, seeing  an imam of Satellite Town, Pindi collaborating with this man, S.Mir - a businessman in the area, I was thinking will oppression, humility and destruction of other religious groups is what Islam teaches or what an imam must be doing - I am even more ashamed of this imam who seems to have more knowledge of Quran, Hadith and also of Islamic history (he ought to have but...)????

At this point, I pray to God in hope that this hate campaign against the Ahmadies in Rawalpindi MUST come to a halt and madness must stop! For me every Friday is a sad day as it is a reminder of what many Ahamdies, a minority group, have to go through -  fear and terrorism by these so called muslims of Pakistan, an overwhelming majority.

2. Rape of female students at the International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan was reported by Dawn Newspaper. Yes. you read it right. The cradle of Islamic learning. On this issue some very valid points were made by a blogger Syed Nadir El Edross in which he rightly points out that:

"This case is shocking because of the International Islamic University Islamabad’s indifference to these cases and its efforts to cover it up. Further, they have tried to justify their actions by claiming that they hushed up these allegations to protect the parents of female students and the reputation of the institution."

No wonder, such a horrific state of affairs has to be tackled on urgent basis. Right!
Wrong, actually. As far as I know, the said university has been unable to tackle other evils big and small in the past few years. Unfortunately, nothing of sort seems to be in the university's agenda hence, how will anything improve? Cancer only spreads unless it is treated as soon as possible - cancer is engulfing our society in the shape of countless immoral acts but hell, it's OK, it's just fine, take it easy because this is Pakistan...
On the other hand, I also wonder how the victims and their families "also" let it go! This is a reminder that same acts will happen again and again and again!

3. Last but not the least, I read a few times here and there on the Internet about a "debate" between this man named Hamza Andreas Tzortzis an atheist who converted to Islam and Professor Hoodbhoy (a Pakisani intellectual). This dork, Hamza, was not just blatantly disrespectful but also haven't had his facts straight, a very very confused person, very stubborn to the idea that he is 'always' right about everything (but he isn't) - can be indentified with a type that we have in hoards in Pakistan. I am saddened that Professor Parvez Hoodbhoy entertained him in the first place. Idiots like Hamza need to be ignored. I wish that the professor must NOT have listened to his students but then he is a humble man. The entire debate between Hamza A Tzortzis and Professor Hoodbhoy can be seen here and by the way, this man - Hamza, is such a waste of time, honestly (warning!).
However, I have to say that in a country like Pakistan, people such as Hamza A. T can sell their theories pretty easily and make a million man fanclub, nevertheless, we are a country with a history where terrorists were hailed as heroes and logic does not mean much. We have been hosting many such kind of varieties lately and have also paid the price but then we as a country will NOT learn any lessons from our past mistakes.
Having said that, I believe that Professor Parvez Hoodbhoy will be careful in future when such schmuuugs will try to approach him to get a few minutes of fame and a repertoire that he/she actually sat down with him and will throw whatever analogies and accusations.
Professor Hoodbhoy as I said before, is a very humble person and has genuinely spent his entire life in Pakistan trying to make a difference even though he could easily get a job in Harvard or MIT his Alama mater. BUT he chose Pakistan over the rest of the world. He left every comfort but he preferred to come back (how many Pakistanis with such an education and achievements return to Pakistan? Hardly any). He is really one of the best intellectuals that we in this country have. I am really proud of Professor Dr.Parvez Hoodbhoy for his enlightened op/eds, his books, his discussions and see him as one of the best teachers this country has seen. A selfless Pakistani. May God bless him!
Professor Hoodbhoy's interview after the debate can be seen here.

Website for: The Constitution of Pakistan etc.

For those who want to have a look at the Constitution of Pakistan so here it is: Constitution of Pakistan and also Pakistan Penal Code(Act XLV of 1860) and Hadood Laws etc.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Women's Day Today!

It's Women's Day today and in many countries of the former Eastern Bloc and the former Soviet Union - it is one of the most important of holidays and is celebrated in a big way.
It has been over 100 years that this day is celebrated but times, situations and regions have brought different meaning to this day.
It was Clara Zetkin who first organized the Women's day.
What does this day means for a Pakistani woman?
In my view she is harrassed, abused and struggles to survive with honour - every day of her life, in Pakistan. What these women have to go through can be read here in Urdu.
Accroding to a report in BBC, crimes aganist women in Pakistan have doubled in a year. So have the cases of violence against women such as acid attacks and honour killings.
No wonder in a society where killing a woman in the name of honour is seen with respct and is considered an honourable act - where are we heading in Pakistan?
Pakistan has over the years become one of the most dangerous place for women to live and I can't agree with it more.
Anyhow, I salute all the women and particularly women in Pakistan who inspite all odds are moving ahead and making a much needed difference in many ways and are inspiring us around the world.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ice Fishing at Han River (Crica 1920)

Yonhap News had these photos of Ice Fishing at Han River in Chuncheon and the year is 1920. Amazing!

How ice fishing for subsistance has moved to ice fishing as a sports that we see now in Korea.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Religious Minorities in Pakistan Face Forced Conversions

Pakistan since it's independence has failed to protect the religious minorities in Pakistan. They are killed ruthelessly, burned alive or have been discriminated on daily basis and a new chapter in recent days (but actually many years) is the forced conversion of Hindu young girls to Islam. Psycho and jahil (illiterate/ignorant) on a mass scale as a nation(crowd, actually), nothing can beat this.

Short cuts to heaven is what many muslims in Pakistan seek at a larger scale. Well, convert her, blow him up or chop their heads off...this is the beauty of it all. Though Islam does NOT allow any of such acts but past few years in Pakistan and Islamic countries have knocked out all sense out of Islam. When was suicide permissable in Islam? Where is forcing people to convert to Islam is justified in Quran? Is that what post Ghazwa scenerioes in Islamic history indicate? NO. Not at all. It was Akhlaqe Hasana and Haqqoqul Ibad, morons. This is why Islam spread like a wild fire not because it was imposing, forcing people to do this or that...

I strongly condemn the madness at large in Pakistan and the obsessions with beheading and forcefully converting people to Islam which in fact has 'no room in Islam' per se. I feel ashamed as a muslim because of such acts. Thank you Ziaul Haq and Bhutto for using religion as a tool for staying in power and fooling people, may you rot in hell!

As a member of a minority community (a muslim) overseas, I strongly condemn this violence against Hindus, Christians, Sikhs etc. and more so against women of minority religions in Pakistan.

A report on minorities published in 2002 also highlighted this issue back then but I am pretty sure that nothing was done to tackle the problem which has swelled over the years and is getting out of control. According to some estimates 20-30 girls are abducted and forced to convert to Islam every month, for more read here. Sadly, nobody would open their mouth in this land of pure called Pakistan that probably believes that silence is gold - on all issues big and small.

I wonder when was the last time majority in Pakistan was ever willing to give equal rights to minorities or were tolerant towards them...when was it?????? Hmmmm....never, yes. Believe it or not, this is a fact. So my suggestion is: please change the flag of Pakistan and remove the white color and dye it green - will you??

네팔 식당 (Nepalese Resturant)

I do NOT know how many people associate Yongdongpo with anything but flower market but as far as I know, it has a modest Nepal Street, and a few meters (700 m) away is a Mongolian neighborhood.

There is a wonderful post by a Korean blogger Aburan here, so check it out for the wonderful photos and what can you expect? Aburan of the blog: Day-dream believer has mentioned two resturants: Mount Everest Resturant (which has been around for almost 8-9 years) and then Pooja resturant. Nepalese food and Indian food is pretty similar. Hence all those who are looking for a new place to eat Indian style food can check these places out!

Prices are very low compared to other places such as Itaewon etc. moreover the neighborhood is no less interesting.

Check out this Korean blogger for fantastic places serving Korean food and foreign food.
영등포의 인도 음식점!

주소 : 서울시 종로구 창신동 148-1

전화 : 02-766-8850

영업시간 : 11:00~23:00 (월요일은 14시 오픈)

전철역 : 동대문역 3번출구(나오자마자 길거리 집은 아님, 골목안에 위치)
How to get to Mt. Everest Resturant
1. Dongdaemun Station
2. Take Exit 3 and go staright for 5 minutes.
3. Call them to get directons on the phone number above.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Foreign Communities of Seoul (서울의 외국인 마을)

Seoul has changed incredibly in the last 10 years. Seoul has the highest concentration of foreigners in Korea. There are several areas within Seoul that have become the foreign enclaves such as the Japanese enclave can be found in Inchon dong, French enclave is in Seorae, Banpo-dong, Muslim enclave is in Itaewon, English teachers enclave (there is no such thing as English teachers enclave)  is in Haebangchon or HBC, Mongolian and Russian enclave is in Dongdaemun, the Nepalese have their enclave Yeongdong-pho, Filipinos have their enclave in Hyewha and so on...

I saw this interesting article in Chosun Ilbo and thought that posting it here would help many foreigners in Korea or Koreans as well to discover some not so famous foreign enclaves of Seoul.

The best part about these enclaves is that you can find just about anything from your country or region there and thus it is very convenient. They also have some wonderful restaurants and it is always a welcoming change that we all need from time to time while living as an expat.

Chosun Ilbo's article is  here (in Korean). However, I have also tried to insert meanings for the difficult Korean words and will probably translate it at some point when I'll have time. Enjoy the read, it is very simple.

일요일 오전의 한남동 갈보리(Calvary)교회. 아프리카 가나에서 온 흑인(black people) 30여명이 미용실 건물 지하의 좁은 (cramped/small/narrow) 방에 모여 예배(service/worship)를 보고 있었다. 가나인 폴 멘세(55) 목사가 "가나의 안녕과 두고 온 (misplaced) 가족들의 안녕을 빈다(wish/pray)"는 기도와 설교(sermon)를 끝내자 예배를 드리던 흑인들이 6~7명씩 돌아가면서 찬송가(hym)에 맞춰 (adjust/tune to)온몸을 흔들 (shake)며 격렬한 (violently, intensely, severely) 춤을 추기 시작했다. 한국 교회에선 찾아보기 힘든 이 '춤추는 예배'는 2시간 넘게 (pass/go beyond) 이어졌다(continued).

이태원동•한남동•보광동 경계가(borderline) 만나는 곳에 총(gross) 600여명의 아프리카계(가나•나이지리아•수단 등) 흑인들이 모여 사는 마을이 있다. 다세대주택(multiplex housing units)이 모여 있는 마을의 좁은 (narrow) 골목(alley, backstreet). 벽면엔 (on wall surface)흑인들이 그려놓은 총천연색(decorate sth in full colors) '그라피티'(벽에 낙서(doodle)처럼 긁(scratch)거나 페인트를 분무기로 뿜어(via spray paints) 그린 그림)가 요란하다(loud/gaudy). 그래서 '흑인마을'로 불린다. 골목에 들어서자 키 180㎝가 훌쩍 넘는 큰 체구(frame)의 흑인들이 휴대용 카세트를 손에 들고 힙합에 맞춰 어깨를 들썩이며(excitedly) 악수(handshake)를 청해왔다(requested/asked for).

서울 속엔 이미 '세계'가 들어서 있다. 가나, 네팔, 일본, 프랑스, 몽골, 러시아와 이슬람 국가들까지…. 지난해 서울에 살고 있는 것으로 집계된 외국인은 28만여명. 이들은 나라별로 자신의 '마을'을 서울 속에 만들어가고 있는 중이다.

'흑인마을' 골목을 따라 3분쯤 걸어 내려오면 다른 풍경이 펼쳐진다(stretch out). 무슬림(이슬람 신자believer/devotees))들이 예배를 드리는 '이슬람 서울중앙성원'으로 이어지는 것이다. 성원을 중심으로 이란, 터키 등에서 온 무슬림 2000여명이 이 일대에 산다.

'금요 합동예배'가 있었던 21일 성원으로 줄지어 들어가는 수백 명(several hundred )의 무슬림들 사이사이로 근처 수퍼마켓에서 생수를 구입해 얼굴과 귀, 발을 부랴부랴 (to rush)씻는 사람들이 보였다. 무슬림들은 예배 전에 반드시(certainly) 몸을 씻는데, 미처 씻지 못하고 성원에 도착한 이들이다.

30년간 이곳에서 고깃집을 운영해온 김영숙(여•55)씨는 "특히 매주 금요일이면 정말 여기가 한국인지 중동인지 헷갈린다(confusing)"고 했다.

오후가 되자 터번을 쓴 (turban wearing) 구릿빛 피부( brown skinned males)의 남성들과 검은 차도르(black chadors)를 두른 (wrapped in)채 눈만 내놓 (put out, bring forward)은 여성들 1000여명이 예배를 마치고 거리로 쏟아져 나왔다(o spill all over/outburst). 이들은 성원에서 이태원소방서로 이어지는 200m 남짓한 거리에 늘어선 무슬림 정육점(meat shop)과 식당, 식료품점에 들어가 장을 봤다. 이곳에서 무슬림 식품점을 운영하는 (manage/run/operate) 시라지(44)씨는 "이슬람 신자들은 신에게 기도를 올린 뒤 단칼에(in one stroke of knife) 도살한 '할랄 고기'만 먹기 때문에 한국의 다른 지역에선 구하기 힘든 할랄 고기를 사러 하루 100명 넘는 손님이 찾아온다"고 했다.

이태원에서 버스로 20여분 떨어진 동대문시장 일대. 여기는 '제2의 이태원'이라 불릴 만큼 다양한 외국인들이 무리지어 (flocked together) 살고 있다. 특히 지하철 6호선 동묘앞역 부근(vicinity/neighborhood) (창신동)은 네팔인들이 운영하는 레스토랑과 무역 점포들(stores)이 밀집(concentrated) 해 '네팔 거리'로 불린다.

이곳에서 마주치(to face eachother)는 네팔인들은 처음 보는 사람에게도 두 손을 모은 채 "나마스테(안녕하세요)"라고 인사를 건넸다. 무역상점엔 '쿠그리'라는 네팔 술과 '짐부'라는 네팔 카레 원료가 진열돼 있고, 네팔 음식을 파는 식당에선 그들이 즐겨 먹는 빵인 '난'을 굽는 냄새가 고소하게 풍겼다.

여기서 700m쯤 떨어진 곳엔 아예 몽골인들만의 '건물'이 있다. 이 10층짜리 건물의 원래 이름은 '뉴 금호타워'이지만 주민들은 모두 '몽골타운'이라고 부른다. 지하 1층을 포함해 모든 점포의 이름이 키릴문자(몽골•러시아 등에서 통용)로 표시돼 있다. 주말마다 몽골인 200여명이 몰려들(swarm/gather)어 몽골 신문이나 몽골어 자막의 영화 DVD를 사간다.

서울의 외국인 마을도 본국과 (one’s native country) 한국의 경제 교류 (exchange/interchange) 상황(state of affairs/situation)에 따라 부침(浮沈)(twists and turns)이 뚜렷하다(distinct/clear). 1997년 말 한국이 외환(foreign exchange)위기(crisis)를 겪으면(experience, suffer, meet)서 원화 (Korean won) 가치(value)가 급락(plunge, fall) 하자 네팔•몽골•러시아 등에서 '보따리 (whole sale/bundle/package)상인'들(merchants/dealers)이 이전보다 값이 싸진 의류(clothing/garments)와 이불, 전기장판 (electric heating mats) 등을 떼어다 본국에 팔기 위해 동대문시장으로 몰려들었다(swarmed). 이 과정에서 시장 인근에 외국 상인들의 주거지가(dwelling, residence) 만들어졌다. 이들을 위한(to care for) 식당, 환전소exchange booth 등이 들어서면서 상권(trading area)도 함께 형성됐다(developed).

몽골타운은 원래 러시아•중앙아시아인 타운이었다. 1980년대 후반 공산권 (communist bloc) 국가들의 붕괴로(collapse) 한국에 들어왔던 러시아•중앙아시아 보따리상들이 광희동 부근에 먼저 '마을'을 조성했다. 몽골인들은 1990년대 후반부터 많이 입국했는데, 같은 공산권 국가 경험을 가졌기 때문인지 이 일대에 자연스럽게 (naturally)자리잡았다.

이곳에서 10년 가까이 원단 무역을 해온 김모(48)씨는 "조용한 성격의 러시아인들과 거친 기질의 몽골인들이 서로 문화가 달라 잘 융합되지 않았는데, 결국 터줏대감 (for the longest time) 이었던 러시아인들이 많이 떠났다"고 말했다.

프랑스인들이 모여 사는 서래마을(반포4동) 역시 국내에 진출했던 프랑스 기업들의 철수로 마을에 사는 프랑스인 수가 크게 줄었다. 5~6년 전까지만 해도 프랑스 고속철도 테제베, 대형 마트 까르푸 등이 국내에 들어오면서 프랑스인 유입도 최고조에 달했다. 빌라 월세는 최고 1100만원까지 달했다.

그러나 고속철 사업이 끝나고 까르푸가 한국에서 철수하면서 서래마을도 예전만 못하다. 지금은 월세가 평균 250만원대로 크게 떨어졌다.

외국인 마을 형성 (develop)은 지역 재개발 (redevelop) 과도 연관(relation) 이 깊다. '흑인마을'의 경우 3~4년 전쯤 한남동•보광동 지역의 재개발 예정 소식이 알려지면서 토박이들이 비싼 값에 집을 팔고 떠났다. 그 뒤 집을 사들인 사람들이 싼값에 방을 내놓으면서 원래 이태원 일대에 거주하던 흑인들이 몰려들었다. 구로동의 '조선족 마을' 역시 이들이 원래 모여 살던 가리봉동 지역이 재개발되자 집값이 싸고 전철역이 가까운 구로동으로 옮겨와 최근 3년 사이 '마을'이 형성됐다.

외국인 마을의 외국인들은 대부분 사업, 유학 등으로 3~4년 정도 단기 체류하는 사람들이 많다. 이 때문에 한국인과 어울리면서 한국에 적응하기보다는 같은 나라 출신들끼리만 뭉쳐 지내다 본국으로 떠나려는 경향이 강하다. 주민들과 외국인들 사이에 문화 차이로 인한 갈등도 자주 빚어지고 있다.

아프리카계 외국인이 많이 사는 이태원동에선 "흑인들이 쓰레기를 아무 데나 버린다" "한밤중에 거리에서 시끄럽게 떠든다"는 민원이 동사무소로 자주 들어온다. 경찰도 야간 순찰을 강화했다. 그러나 이 마을에서 실제 아프리카계 외국인 범죄가 발생했거나 한국인들과의 갈등이 표출된 적은 없다.

가나에서 온 마카시 콰슬(44)씨는 "낯설고 말이 통하지 않아 친해지기 어려운 것뿐이지 흑인이라고 해서 무조건 피하거나 고함을 질러대면 기분이 많이 상한다"고 했다.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Flower Festival in Jeolla 2012

Our grad school, it is not Jeollanam!

Spring is around and the best attracions include the plum, cherry flower festivals in different cities in Korea.

One such Plum Flowers Festival is taking place in Jeolla-nam do, Gwangyang-si, Daab-myeon or Maehwa Village a.k.a. Seomjin village between March 17th - March 23, 2012. It is famous for having the highest number of plum tress (Japanese apricot tress to be precise) which is apparently a little over 100,000. Imagine what will you witness?

For more information check the link out and enjoy your day in this scenic area.

For more inforation on how to deal with issues such as transportation and what you expect to see click here.

Bon Voyage!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Jeon Ji-hyeon marrying the son of Lee Young-hee

Jeon Ji-hyun

When we first arrived in Korea and turned on the TV we saw Jeon Ji-hyun and  when we started taking Korean language courses she was one of the actresses we saw most clips of  and our discussions used to revolve around her in class - one of the teacher's favourite.

It has been 10 years and the heroin of  'My Sassy Girl' is finally getting married this year in June with the son of Lee,Young-hee - a famous Hanbok designer who has given hanbok (Korea's traditional dress) a new look and people saw it on ramps around the world.

Advance congrats & best wishes to Jeon, Ji-hyun

The Hanboks by Lee, Young-hee

Lee Young-hee (fashion designer and the mother-in-law)
The designer, Lee Young-hee with a model.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

10 Minutes meal

Ingredients and Method

1. Bread (it can be French, Afghan, Indian/Pakistani, Italian, Mexican or whatever)

2. Cheese (the one you like)         

3. Any combination of vegetables that you can eat raw
(I used lettace, spring onions, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, capsicum, lemon etc.)

3. Any combination of fruits is fine
(I used, orange, papaya and pomegranate)

4. Salad Dressing
Olive oil (2Tbs), Oregano (1/4 tsp), Salt (to taste), Black pepper,Vinegar/Lemon juice (2 Tbs), Honey, (1 Tbs)...mix well and drizzle on your salad.

Salad, Cheese and Nan

5. Roll in your salad and cheese in the bread and enjoy!
Preparation: Time: 10 minutes