Have a fabulous 2012


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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

BBC URDU: Grammatically Wrong Urdu

BBC Urdu used to have very high standard a few years ago. Their team included famous writers, poets, intellectuals and journalists but now, that has not been the case. I often hear funny pronunciations of the national language of Pakistan, Urdu and not just that one woman newscaster even changed the grammatical structure of the sentence to object-subject verb - can you believe it? Me neither!

Today's entertainment headline says here about the seperation of Tom Cruise and Katie Holms: "Tom Cruise aur Katie Holmes talaq lay rahay hain"
...this sentence gives an impression that both are divorcing each other but the fact is Katie Holmes filed for a divorce on Friday. Correct Urdu version of the headlines could have been: Tom Cruise aur Katie Holmes main talqa ho rahi hai.

I guess BBC Urdu must get a professional Urdu language editor to have the news correctly written in a well deserved manner. A foreign friend who is studying Urdu was quite confused especially if it comes from organizations such as BBC Urdu.

K-Food (A glimpse at Korea's Epic Meals)Crab Stew

Crab Stew

Kimchi Chigae

Sea Food Stew prepared for me by my host family (Ms. L is one of the best housewives I've come across)

Doushirak Lunch


Fruit Dessert by my incredible host family

Prawn Pasta with mixed vegetables

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bikini to Burquini

Burqini n. [Blend of burqa and bikini.] is a swimsuit that conforms to Islamic dress code, particularly one that covers the entire body, except the face, hands, and feet.

Burqini has made quite a stir when Nicole Kidman and a famous British chef Nigella Lawson were spotted wearing the full-body suit for nonreligious reasons. Inspired by these trendsetting celebs, here are five reasons to don a burqini (and don't fret French women, since it doesn't cover the face I doubt it's included in the French burqa ban).

  • It protects your entire body from the sun, which is why Lawson and Nicole Kidman wear the suit.
  • Feeling bloated? Not ready for bikini season? The burqini covers any and all unsightly bumps and bulges.
  • If you're trying not to be recognized by the paparazzi or an ex-boyfriend, pair the burqini with sunglasses and a hat for an incognito beach or pool outing.
  • You can be a modest role model for skimpy-bikini-wearing tweens.
  • It's timeless — you can wear it for years to come.
Source: Read here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

McChicken @McDonald's Islamabad (Pakistan): A Bastardized Version of a Burger

Even the packing is not made in Pakistan, all packages had Arabic on them instead of Urdu

What is popular as a burger these days used to be a bun-kebab for decades in Pakistan when not many knew of McDonald's even in the US. McDonald's has come a long way and has presence in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda and Burundi. Pakistan is also in the list (nothing to be proud of though).

Despite all controversies, these fast food chains have survived. Actually flourished and they are very popular with children and young people around the world. I will also add students because it is one of the cheapest meals you can get in many of the European or North American countries where a proper meal costs more than what McDonald's charge. It is a budget meal indeed and many a times, it is a food for low-income families in OECD countries.

I have to confess that it is addictive however, at McDonald's Pakistan (in Islamabad )- get ready to have the worst burger of your life. I'd no choice but to buy one during my stay and I regret it and my advice is: please if you have to eat a burger, get a bun-kebab instead or get anything but DO NOT EAT AT McDONALD'S (F-9, Islamabad). I opted for McChicken (take out) and the rest was nothing short of a nightmare.

First, price tag is heavy in a country like Pakistan where it starts at about 5USD with NO DOLLAR MEAL which is being offered in the US. My question is, we beat the bush about poverty and a dollar a day income levels of a large number of people in this region so how come we do NOT offer a dollar meal in Pakistan (and other such countries) and why???
Chicken patty was ridiculously thin with no taste

Second, quality of the McChicken is substandard and it's nutritional value is vague compared to the international standard McChickens at McDonald's elsewhere such as Sweden, France, USA, Canada, Korea, China, Japan and the West Indies to name a few places where I tried it) Pakistani McDonald's bun as we call it or the sandwich was stale and it smelled old and super dry. On top, it had no lettuce or pickle inside it but simply a patty slapped with mayonnaise and a cheese slice - there you go, try lovin it!!. The patty was ridiculously thin and insipid and wasn't fried properly - it was chicken mixed with God knows what and it did NOT tasted as chicken at all, with 70% of batter and breadcrumbs that were the actual taste of it and 30% chicken with other ingredients was quite a shock and a disaster for me. Come'on, not in Pakistan was my first thought - a country where a kilogram of chicken boneless sells for 2USD, 500gm Mayonnaise sells for 80 cents and a cheese pack of 12 slices sells for 1.2USD. I had high expectation for all these reasons but I was too naive. Before choosing an awful burger my advice is: think before you eat. Please.

I have spent a whole week living under a dollar a day in Islamabad (this deserves a separate post) and I assure you that I didn't missed a thing when it comes to food in my dollar a day budget: I'd cherries, strawberries, mangoes, yogurt, milk, bread and pretty much everything I wanted to eat. I fail to understand why people in Pakistan wanna eat a low quality McDonald's burger starting at Rs.435/- (about 5USD) when they have so many great choices. Last time, we went to Marriott for a dinner - it cost me Rs.2000 for 3 persons with great service, ambiance and really great food that was served. Now, if I have to decipher it at McDonald's then for the same money that is Rs. 2000, all one will get is 4 substandard burgers. Viola!

If one would ask me where to eat in Pakistan then I will highly recommended eateries known amongst labors, bus drivers etc. called dhabas or roadside restaurants that sell mouth watering, finger licking full meal set that includes a curry platter, salad and chapattis right out of the tandoors for merely Rs.45 or 50 cents. If we bring it down to local burgers we have really fantastic choices by these nameless, small shops or stalls making great burgers that can compete with any foreign franchise...so why these stupid Mc burgers?

I don't think that I'd ever eat at McDonald's of Pakistan but I'll continue to explore them elsewhere around the world. At the same time, I'm happy that I tried McChicken only to know what crap is being served in McDonald's franchise of Pakistan which if tested overseas will surely turn out to be of a dubious quality. I fall sick with it and I'll never recommend anybody to visit F-9 McDonald's. At the same time, I feel pity for all those families who were munching on it quite happily not knowing what they were eating.

I have to make a confession that I'm fine eating McDonald's once in a while but my first ever experience in Pakistan left a very, very bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to complain and tried their website and it was equally lame. There is no number where I can register my complain or ask for a refund.

McDonald's Pakistan can do a better job and for the sake of Pakistani children I strongly believe that the patty and the buns - both should go through high/intense quality control before it is served to our kids and the rest.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Dance and Music Concert for Foreigners in Seoul, Korea

Korea Foundation's Summer Concert is scheduledtoday and tomorrow (22 and 23 June).
Usually such a concert would cost you between 20 dollars to 40 dollars which is offered for free. For more information click HERE.
The venue is Namsan Theater, Namsangol.
Do NOT miss!

Meet Saudi Arabia's Culture and Life Style at Korea Foundation Seoul

South Korea and Saudi Arabia have a relationship that spans over 50 years. Saudi Arabia is the third largest trading partner of South Korea after China and USA. In commemoration of that Korea Foundation Cultural Center is holding an exhibit that will display Saudi traditional lifestyle or let us say Bedouin life style and how Korea is complementing in it through its technology and innovation.

Get a taste of Saudi Arabia without leaving Korea at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center (2F).

Display: 20th. - 26th. June 2012.
How to get there:click the picture above.
For more info. call:(02)2151-6520 or email:kfcenter@kf.or.kr

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hasukjib: Accomodation for Students in Seoul (Korea)

If you are you a foreign student coming to Seoul for the first time to study here and do NOT have an accommodation then how about considering to live in a Hasukjib. Hasukjib is a traditional Korean boarding house, popular among college/university students for their cheap monthly rent and less deposit or simply no deposit/key money option. Hasukjibs are ubiquitous in university neighborhoods and one such famous spot is Sinchon where Yonsei, Sogang, Ehwa and Hongik universities are at a walking distance from each other and has a student population of roughly 200,000 but since these student's and their network and former alumnus also gather there hence Sichon must have no less than quarter of a million people at any given time. So anyways, Hasukjibs are run by an Ajumma (middle-aged women) and sometimes an Ajushi(the Ajumma's husband) or both - who are usually the owners and take care of you during your stay from preparing meals and helping with homework.

(UPDATE on  HOMESTAY - April 2014): Stay is with a Korean grandfather and grandmother visit this post  and contact the email for details. Female students are preferred since other residents are all females).

 A cheap hasuk starts with 275USD or 275,000 won a month with different size of rooms from really spacious to really small, windowless bedroom with barely a space to stand. They are  usually equipped with desk, bookshelf, cable TV, a small refrigerator, and free internet. There is not much space in the rooms but  it varies from location to rate of the room.

Breakfast and dinner are served quite frequently with weekend BBQs but if you wanna have 3 meals or no meal or do your own cooking then they can arrange for that too with extra charges.

Your mates can be Korean and foreign students. I have personally never lived in a hasuk but some friends of mine from Germany, Canada and Japan have stayed in Hasuks and when I visited them, I kind of liked the environment except one of the hasuks.
Since many foreigners do NOT know Korean and thus can NOT visit Korean language forums therefore they miss out on a lot of good opportunities for accommodation but what is available in English forums is not very bad either.
I think that living in a hasuk is a very unique and interesting experience and if you do not have many options then this is a cheap and safe choice.

I did a comprehensive post last year on accommodation in Seoul with a listing of  few choices so check it out HERE if you are looking for a place to stay in Seoul.

For those interested to know about Goshiwon (고시원), it is quite similar to a jail cell with no windows and every window, no matter how small adds 50-100USD in your rent but still people live there and I wonder what sort of psychological and health hazards it leaves on people for years to come. Anyhow, an ALL ENGLISH WEBSITE for Goshiwon and Hasukjib hiring is HERE and HERE (gosi1.net).
 Try  this website (Goshipages.com) for both Hasukjib and gosiwon search - besides English it is also available in:

photocredits@ A Hasukjib  in Sindorim where a friend stayed for a while.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From Stockholm to Seoul

(Stuffed) Princess Pippi

Souvenir from Sweden (a tray).

My halal kebab wrap at a Moroccan restaurant

Much discounted stuff sold in trucks /farmer market style

Farmers Market in Vallinjby (near Stockholm).

The Store

Cheese Variety in Stockholm made me very happy!

Lemons and Lime in Stockholm's Grocery Store

Cinnamon rolls in Stockholm

Bulgogi at Insadong (Not a good experience and over priced).


Street Food Kiosk at Seoul Station

Mr. Kim's organic farm's produce )did you noticed cilantro/coriander?)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Feng Sui (风水), Geomancy (ふうすい) or Phung-su (풍수)

Korea Times published a very interesting article by Janet Shin on 'How to Live Healthy' and you can read it here. It mainly focuses on giving importance to and being aware of the external environment around our homes. Feng Shui is an ancient art and science developed over 3000 years ago in China based on Taoist principles. It is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune for people inhabiting it.Yin and Yang as well as 5 fengsui elements such as wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the basis of it.
Janet wrote that:
 " ... it is better to be aware of them than to be ignorant. It is a matter of how you develop your powers of awareness. It would be ideal if you could repel the harmful elements perfectly. If not, you should learn how to live wisely with them.Buildings are more harmful than other objects. The larger and sharper the buildings are, the more misfortune you will suffer. Tall and hostile buildings facing your front door hurt most. Those who live in this circumstance are more likely to experience distress and tragic consequences, so you should try to avoid them or learn effective ways to neutralize those destructive energies. "
She further wrote that:
" There are productive feng shui cures to dissolve an unfriendly environment. Depending on specific circumstances, you need wisdom to choose the most appropriate measures. Metallic or wooden fences are often used to block killer energy aimed at your house. Shrubs may protect your house from an unfriendly environment."

Wood can shield your place from poisonous causes, such as rocks, concrete and walls. Metal can hinder any harmful energy from plants or other structures in green or blue. Fountains can also be used to neutralize killing energy from angular or triangular shapes. Fire energy comes from those pointed shapes and the water element can reduce their perniciousness. "

Some of the important colors of Feng shui are:
  • Color Green: excellent for improving health and balancing family life when used in  your home.
  • Color Blue is a very good feng shui choice to support the energy of your carrier growth
  • Have some strong Yellow leads to happy gatherings and good times.
  • Pure White  will bring supportive energy for all your creative endeavors.
Before using specific colors, study the light patterns throughout the day in the room.

Personally, I think that neighborhoods and houses were much more wisely built in olden days than now. I still remember, how much a south-facing, brightly lit house was my other;s preference. Her priority was that it should be properly ventilated. All houses whether in an urban or a rural locale - used to have yards, plants, trees, small kitchen gardens, terraces but when I look at architecture, the aesthetics are gone - huge concrete structures with rooms upon rooms, and no sense /awareness of imprortance of bright and well ventilated rooms is more prevalent.

I still remember when I did a research project on Phugsu-jiri (풍수 지리) or geomancy with respect to burials in Korea - the importance of it and extreme care to even minute details with respect to burying the dead. So whether living or dead geomancy is a very important fact of life or even after-life...


A golden opportunity for Pakistani Youth to experience Korea. If selected everything from round trip airfare tickets, accommodation, meals, and transportation will be paid by the Korean government. For more information contact the Embassy of Republic of South Korea in Pakistan and also visit the MOFAT website here.
If you’re between 18 to 24 years old, you can join the Youth Camp hosted by the Ministry of Gender and Equality of South Korea. 
The Youth Camp will be held in Seoul, Yeosu and Jeju from August 6 to 20 this year. 
Application is only until June 15. Seven participants from each of the following countries will be chosen:
Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia.

Slogan: “Asian Youth, Stay in Touch with Korea”
Period: August 6-20, 2012
Venues: Seoul, Yeosu, Jeju Islands
Sponsorship: Round-trip flight ticket, accommodation, meal, transportation and program
Main activities: Welcome ceremony, Korean cultural lessons and experience, cultural exchanges, teamwork activities, farewell ceremony.
Host: Ministry of Gender Equality & Family, Republic of Korea (MOGEF)
Organizer: National Council of Youth Organizations in Korea (NCYOK)

1. Youth born between 1988 and 1994.
2. Proficient in English communication
3. Interested in international relations or Korea
4. Priority will be given to applicants who:
a. Have no previous visit experience to Korea;
b. Have achieved award/s from any contest related to Korea;
c. Have studied Korean/Korean studies (or in a related field);
d. With a letter of recommendation from the relevant HoD ; and
e.An ability to present a traditional performance on stage.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Korean Tomatoes from Mr. Kim Paek-neon's Farm

Mr. Kim's farm produce. I guess that I tasted one of the juiciest and aromatic tomatoes of my life in Korea. I Mr. Kim's passion and handwork brought this texture to his produce. I always waited anxiously for summers to have fresh supplies of it, these veges are in supply from June to mid August. Mr. Kim's family has been in this neighborhood since Joseon dynasty- about 400 years - isn't it amazing.
They grow a few other vegetables like cucumber, pumpkin, eggplant, garlic, onions and some flowers too.

I was given these for free usually a kilogram costs about 4USD or 4,000 won approximately. I had to give him and his wife token money which they were very hesitant to accept but finally they did. I missed them both, very much when I left Korea, they took really good care of me. People have a beautiful heart in Korea and these farmers have really big hearts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pictures of the Day: Korea

Yongsan Base to look like this in a couple of years.
Child Monks chilling out!
Friend's home.
Mr. Kim Paek-neon's green house and farm where I get my organic/garden fresh vegetables

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Korean Memorial Day (June 6th.)

June 6th is to be observed as the Korean Memorial Day to remember those killed in the 1950-53 Korean War. This day is also called 현충일 (顯忠日), Hyeonchung-il. The national flag (Taekuki/태국기is flown at half-staff all over the country and also on all the major portals of Korea.

Usually, people go to the National Cemetery of Korea located at Dongjak station, Seoul. The relatives of these fallen heroes put apples or pears, soju and rice cake as an offering to the dead. All tombstones are decorated with flowers and there is one minute of silence. School children also pay respect by visting the gravesite.

This time around there is a big event taking place at the War Memorial in Noskapyeong. If you are free and want to wintness the Memorial Day in full spirit visit War Memorial in Noksapyeong at Yonsan Base.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

World Environment Day (June 5th.)

Today is the Environmental Day and if we look around our self we will see that "we the people" are one of the catalyst of damaging the planet earth.

If we zoom in and look at Pakistan there is widespread insanity to experience. We have seen history's worst earthquake (2005) and then one of the deadliest floods of the century but have NOT learned our lesson. Majority have contributed in converting Pakistan to hell.

We as citizens do NOT obey the laws of the land. To start with, an important example 's
our lifestyles. Particularly in Islamabad we play by very different rules and havesimply destroyed the city's landscape and what is left of it. I grew up here and it is my hometown. After a little over a decade I could NOT recognize Islamabad. The first thing I noticed was disappearance of trees and less and less green belts than we used to have. Second, was the increase in population of this city that has lead to shortages in everything. Sanitary conditions, water supply, power and so on.

If I look around I have seen that almost every other house in this city has dug there own tube well thingee thus decreasing the underground water levels. I called the municipal department and was told it is illegal. We have 8 mosques in just one sector and 80% of them have a tube well and almost all of them have a madrassa with entire student body from Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa - I am totally against the idea of bringing under age children and keeping them like chicken or goats in one big hall...which is what I have seen so far. Then we have power shutdown of 8 hours minimum but then people are using UPS or generators that are a good source of noise and air pollution.

According to a recent report“A UPS can consume as much electricity as a ton or ton-and-a-half air conditioner,” said Director General Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) Asif Shuja who described the most popular alternative to loadshedding as one that costs people more than they could save.A UPS could easily consume 700 to 800 Watts of electricity and installing UPS units and generators offset the very idea of loadshedding and reducing consumption of fuels.

According to the report, about 60 to 70 per cent people have UPS in their homes. It destroys indoor air quality because the acid inside the lead battery gives off vapours and fumes that collect in one place which can cause serious health concerns such as increased chance of illness during pregnancy, harm to a fetus including brain damage and even death, fertility problems in both men and women, high blood pressure, digestion issues, nervous system disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle and joint pains are some of the diseases caused by lead in adults. In children, lead was most damaging when they are around six-year of age and younger.

On this day, I question why people in Pakistan don't make noise to have better alternatives. Everyone here loves tow watch TV almost 24 hours and indulge in dirty, useless politics and loves trashy TV shows but do NOT invest in how they, their children and their environment can get better. People and neighbors are more into harming you then giving you a helping hand on any issue as simple as growing tress in your street or how to keep the neighborhood parks clean, how not to indulge in public urination and throwing of garbage bags outside their homes.

How can we recycle and reuse?

How can we make our environ a better place and how to join hands for a more united and a beautiful Pakistan?

It doesn't take a lot of money or even time or energy to do so but all we need is motivation to live in a better place that we share together. I read an interesting piece and I quote a part of it that:

"If countries take the route of limitation and separation, t...hey will harm themselves and everyone else, which means they’ll harm themselves either way. The only chance they have of developing positively (instead of through suffering and war) is by taking all people, economies, and countries into consideration."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Getting a Korean Driver’s License

What do I have to do to get a Korean driver’s license?

There are two ways of getting a Korean license. You can exchange your homeland license for a Korean license. The other way is by acquiring a Korean license.

First, in the case of exchanging a foreign license for a Korean license, foreigners are allowed to exchange their local license for a second class Korean license after passing physical exams. However, the license laws vary depending on the foreigner’s nationality and visa status.

Following documents are required:

Foreign license
Embassy certificate
Translated and notarized copy
Alien registration card or domicile registration card
Three photos (3cm X 4cm)
Fee 11,000 won

※Please note that a second class Korean license is only allowed for driving a car with less than 10 people and a motorcycle below 125cc.

Second, in the case of a foreigner who doesn’t have a driving license, he/she must acquire a Korean driver’s license by following the procedure listed below.

Acquisition of a new driver’s licensing procedures:

Step 1.Traffic Safety Education

Step 2. Physical Test

Step 3. Aptitude Test

Step 4. Technical Test

Step 5. Acquiring Practice License

Step 6. Road Driving Test

Step 7. Acquiring actual Korean driving license.

Source: Seoul Global Center

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Treasures of Korean Cinema (Lecture Series by Korea Foundation)

The last of the lectures on Korean Cinema will be held on June 4th. 2012.
One of the most classic of Korean films, my personal favourite - 봄날은간다(One Fine Spring Day), directed by Hur Jin-ho(2001) will be shown at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center. It will be preceded by a lecture from Earl Jackson.
If you are around and want to be a part of it register at Korea Foundation website. The event is free.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Korean Flute Concert (Free Tickets)

Korean flute concert by Ahn Eun Gyeong is to be held on June 8th at 7:30 pm at Naru Art Center:(http://www.naruart.or.kr)
Those interested in this concert, can pick up the tickets for free from Seorae Global Center.
(Reservation by telephone is not available. Please visit in person. First come first served basis.
Monday to Friday between: 9am-6pm