The New Luxury Travel

The New Luxury Travel

“There has been a dramatic change in how we define the concept of luxury travel over the past few years, largely due to the current economic climate," Engi Bally, Public Relations and Marketing Manager of SilverDoor, told A Luxury Travel Blog. "It has pushed consumers away from conspicuous consumption towards more authentic, simple and genuine experiences that incorporate elements of environmental awareness and social responsibility."

Living With Aloha

Aloha was the first Hawaiian word I learned, long ago. As a kid, it was funny to have one word mean both “hello” and “goodbye”; in my young mind, those two things were very different.

Over the years, I’ve heard much reference to the “aloha spirit”. Like this 2013 Politico article that ponders whether Hawaiian native President Barack Obama lost...

Konglish Poetry

A Konglish notebook (photo credit:

A Konglish notebook (photo credit:

Most schedulers, diaries, and notebooks in Korea covered with English quotations, usually about love, or inspirational messages. The imperfections of the writing tend to give these quotations a beautiful lyrical quality. I spent some time at my local Artbox store, writing down some of this "Konglish poetry," which I've included here.

What is life if we have no time to stand and stare No time to see and feel, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night

Love is here and there.

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach our eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

inventions and recipes, anger and sorrow, letters sent to not knowing... this is the real part, is yours. Write fast. ...write over them, paint over them. and let go.

Promise yourself to be strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

The stars in the sky, the fish in the sea, the animals on earth everything has many secrets.

A good day is expected to begin! Wishing you a garden full of happiness, today and Everyday!

Are you doing good lately? Open now, don't delay! This could be your lucky day, you know what I mean?

Look under your feet. The great opportunity is where you are. Every place is under the stars. Every place is the center of the universe.

Imagination is more important than knowledge Memories with you is not lost. I do not want to forget. However days and months may flow, the time spent with you does not fade. You are still alive there. A photograph can also shut up small temperature there. It is memory accumulation equipment which the human begins to forget various things produced.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Please always know that I love you more than anything else in the world. Being with you makes me feel so happy. Ever since I met you, things are looking pretty good.

The best and most beautiful thing in the world cannot be see nor touched but are feet with the heart. Happy the man, whose wish and care a few paternal acres bound, content to breathe his native air in his own ground. Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, whose flocks supply him with attire; whose trees in summer yield him shade in winter, fire blest, who can unconcernedly find hours, day and years slide soft away in health of body, peace of mind; quiet by day.

Happiness There is only one happiness in life, to love and to be loved. Time The busier you are, the more time you need to take time to do things right. Record We need to record words for our learning. Future Have you given any thought to your future? Let's do one thing at a time. Hero Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story.

Life is a beautiful journey. It is with great pleasure that I impart my inspirational stuffs. I desire nothing else but you'll be richly blessed and powerfully inspired by the thoughts and perspectives as journeyer in life.

The quiet water of a lake Love is like the ripples on a lake ever widening

Feeding Seoul's Homeless

I started volunteering at a soup kitchen for homeless men a few months ago and recently began showing up every Friday evening as a regular thing. I have different tasks every week. Sometimes I wash cutlery (here that means spoons and chopsticks, of course) and sometimes I serve food; this week I served the soup. As the soup-giver is at the end of the line and therefore the last server the men meet before they head to find an empty seat at the tables, I asked a Korean co-worker how to say, "Enjoy your meal" so I could say it to the men as they received my soup.

"Mashi-kay juseyo!"

At the end of our service, when the line had disappeared and our soup had become a lifeless broth, I asked my Korean friend to explain what the sentence actually meant. I'm always curious to know how sentences translate in other languages, like how in Twi (one of the main indigenous languages in Ghana), the expression equivalent to "come back" (ko bra) actually translates to "Go come." Or in French, Bonjour ("hello") literally means "good day."

"What was I saying to everyone? What does that actually mean?" I asked.

"'Enjoy your meal,'" he said.

"No, no. I mean, what does each of those words mean, individually? Because I know 'juseyo' means something like 'want' or 'give' so"

"'Duseyo' means 'eat,'" he said. "Oh! No, no! Not 'juseyo.' 'Duseyo!'"

"What? Oh...oops."

"'Mashi' is 'deliciously' and 'duseyo' is 'eat' so the sentence is, 'Eat deliciously.'"

"But I was actually saying, 'Give me deliciously'?" I asked. "We're giving food to homeless men and here I am saying, 'Give me your food!' That's a pretty awkward and unfortunate mistake to make!" We had a good laugh before my friend told me that the men probably didn't hear the difference and if they did, probably understood what I was trying to say. But, other than that little speed bump, I'm enjoying volunteering at the soup kitchen.

It's interesting to see the different characters who stop in. Some are regulars, some come only once. Some are pushy and others polite. Some practice English by saying "thank you" to me, while others don't even look me in the eye. Some are disheveled and dirty. Some look like they just came in from the officewhich maybe they did.

Co-workers at the kitchen tell me that, with the economy the way it is now, there's a number of people who work during the day and then have no where to go home to. I still don't understand how someone can have no one to turn to, no where to go in their tough times. It's just something that will never make sense to me, I guess. Just shows how lucky I am, how much I have to be thankful for.

To volunteer with PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect), check out the group's Facebook pages here or here. Among other projects, the group continues to organize the "Feed Your Seoul" event each Friday and Sunday at a soup kitchen in the city from 6 to 7:30 pm. 

Hearty Meals for the Homeless (Korea JoongAng Daily) detailed PLUR's Friday service in September 2009

Hangeul Day

Today is Hangeul Day, a holiday that celebrates the Korean alphabet. Hangeul ("Korean script") is special because, unlike every other alphabet in the world, it was created---"created" as in someone sat down and carefully thought about each and every sound in the language, then designed a symbol to represent all those sounds, and then, when it was ready, unveiled the new writing system to the population. Isn't that amazing? And the person who did all this is a man known today as King Sejong the Great.

King Sejong the Great was the fourth king of the Joseon Period, reigning from 1418 until his death in 1450. He was a King who genuinely cared about his citizens, creating loan systems for farmers who had a bad season and grants for students' education. He sponsored the development of many scientific tools, like the rain gauge, water clock, sundial, and some astronomical maps. Because his reign was so plentiful in its achievements, it's now known as the Golden Age of Korea.

While he's known for many achievements, his greatest was definitely the design and creation of Hangeul. Before Hangeul, Korea used Chinese characters to represent the sounds of the Korean language. This was called Hanja. The same symbol was used in Chinese, Japanese (where it was called Kanji), and Korea to represent the same word, but all three languages would have different pronunciations. It was very awkward, however, because Chinese grammar is very different from Korean and the symbols didn't always represent the Korean sounds and structure accurately. The script was also very complex and therefore difficult to learn. Only the educated were literate. King Sejong, recognizing the need for equality, decided to create a new writing system so that all his citizens could read and write. It's not sure of King Sejong created the script himself or simply organized and managed scholars to do the work for him, but King Sejong, nonetheless, usually gets the credit for this linguistic invention.

King Sejong unveiled the writing system in 1446, supposedly on 9 October, in a book called, Hunminjeongeum, meaning "The Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People," which at the time was also the name of the language. It had 28 symbols to represent the sounds of the Korean language, though now the alphabet stands with 24 symbols: 14 consonants and 10 vowels. The elite, threatened by the thought of educated commoners, fought against the script at first, though King Sejong prevailed and the script was adopted for official use.

hangeul  art at the National Museum of Contemporary Art

hangeul art at the National Museum of Contemporary Art

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts are quite different from each other. The Chinese script is logographic, meaning each character represents a morpheme (a word or affix).  The Japanese script is syllabic, so each character represents a syllable sound. The Korean script, according to linguist Geoffrey Sampson, is featural. This means that each character represents the featural elements that make up phonemes---which sounds complicated, but just means that each character represents the shape of the mouth when making each sound. This is the only alphabet in the world to do so. Try this: make an "n" sound---the tip of your tongue hits the roof of your mouth at the front, just behind your teeth. This is represented in the Hangeul symbol for the "n" sound: ㄴ(King Sejong pictured the speaker facing left). The "m" sound in Hangeul is represented as ㅁ, which is related to the Chinese character for "mouth" and loosely represents the shape of the mouth. But the greatness of Hangeul doesn't stop there. Each character is combined into syllable units to ease pronunciation, thus combining two different alphabet systems into one.

I taught myself how to read Hangeul by riding the subway: each stop is announced on the speakers and written above the doors, so I would listen and read and repeat the names quietly to myself, trying the match the sounds with the symbols. It was a slow process; it was months before I could read with confidence. But, with the more efficient education process of reading a textbook, learning to read Hangeul can take just one day. Now I read all the Hangeul I can find, even though I rarely understand what I'm reading.

I find Hangeul to be a much clearer writing system than our English alphabet. Sometimes, when reading signs or product names that are written in the English alphabet, I get confused over pronunciation: Is that a long a sound or a short a sound? Hangang: is it han-gang or hang-ang? I look for the Hangeul version to help, knowing that there's one pronunciation for each character and the syllables are divided for me. (It's han-gang with short a sounds, by the way, and it means "Han River.")

After the Japanese colonization in the early 20th century when the script was banned, Hangeul has emerged as Korea's only written script. (The only place I see Hanja is in the subway, where it's written on station signs along with English.) Most Korean personal names can be written in Hanja, but this practice is quickly fading with the younger generations, who are choosing native Korean names for their children. In 1989, UNESCO has recognized the uniqueness and importance of Hangeul. Every year, a prize of $20 000 is awarded to people fighting illiteracy with the UNESCO King Sejong Literary Prize. This year, the prize went to People's Action Forum in Zambia, which uses the local language to educate rural women in its literacy programs.

Today, Korea has one of the highest literacy rates, and modern linguists sing Hangeul's praises as the most scientific language in the world. Hangeul Day, celebrated each year on 9 October, reminds Koreans how special their language is, not only to their country, but to the world.

"Fighting!" to Run

It has been a busy few days for me as I ran not one, but two 10K races this weekend. Running is new for me; it's something I've just picked up since being here. I did my first 10K was in mid-May. As it was my first race, I was told just to finish, just concentrate on running every step, and not worry about the timing. No, I wasn't anywhere near the front of the pack, but I did manage to run the whole thing.

The run started at World Cup Stadium and ventured off along the river. It rained a little bit---just enough to cool us down, but not enough to make the trail slippery or make it uncomfortable. At first, we were all running as a big group; it was hard to find space for my feet. But it was exciting to be racing a clock, actually running for a purpose instead of just to move somewhere. After a while, when the real runners found their way to the front as us amateurs slowed down, there was finally some room for all of us.

Running along the river trail was beautiful. The Han River is a view that I will never get tired of. I live really close to the river, so I did all of my training runs on the trail near my house. I discovered that running from my apartment to the 63 Building in Yeouido is about 10 kilometres (well, it is according to my caveman-basic calculations, anyways), so I run there and back for my weekly runs.

This amazing view of the river reflecting all these lights just opened up in front of me all at once.

I remember one of my first runs, when I was running towards the river under a bunch of overpasses and I just stepped onto the river trail, and suddenly the view of the river opened up to me. It was late, maybe 10 o'clock, and so the sky was dark but the tall apartment buildings across the river were full of light. So this amazing view of the river reflecting all these lights just opened up all at once. I actually gasped out loud---a full, deep intake of air, and then a "Wow." That was then followed by some quick sideways glances to make sure no one heard me. It was just that beautiful, I couldn't help it.

DSC_0668 (3).JPG

And so I was running along the river once again. I was running to the sound of my feet hitting the pacement, counting each kilometre marker as it went by: 1, 2, 3...that went by quickly...4, 5...halfway done...6, 7, 8...almost there...

I was trying to find the ninth kilometre marker when I first saw the spectators. They were standing along the edge, pumping their fists in the air and shouting something like "Whiting!"  or "Piting!" The people kept coming, more and more were standing at the sidelines cheering, "Piting!" to everyone running by. Even though I wasn't sure what they were saying, it pumped me up and I kept going, now with a smile on my face. Then I turned a corner and there, suddenly, was the finish line. With a quick burst of energy and a few dozen "Piting!"s, I crossed the line.

It wasn't until later that I found out the crowd was yelling, "Fighting!" (pa-ee-ting or hwa-ee-ting, in Korean)---the Konglish expression for encouragement. It doesn't really have a direct translation, but it's meant to be like "You can do it!" or "Go for it!" or "Don't give up!"

It's come to be something I look forward to when I race; I know that I must be nearing the end when I hear it, and it gives me that one last burst of energy I need to cross the line. It's what I needed to hear this morning, as I was nearing the finish line at Olympic Stadium. "Keep going!" they said. "Don't slow down, just keep fighting!"

And I crossed the line with my best time yet.

Korean Greetings: Are You Peaceful?

To greet someone in Korean, say "Ahn-nyung-ha-say-yo?" It's always spelt with a question mark because you're actually saying, "Are you peaceful?" It's a much sweeter greeting than our boring "Hello!" (But, answering a phone is a little bit different. In this case, you say "Yuh-bo-say-yo?" which translates to "Hello?")

As for goodbyes, it depends on whether you're staying and saying goodbye to someone who's leaving or the other way around. If you're staying and the other person is leaving, say "Ahn-nyung-hee-gah-say-yo." If you're the one who is leaving, say "Ahn-nyung-hee-kay-say-yo." Ahn-nyung (peace) is found in these expressions, too. Instead of a simple "goodbye," you're saying "Peace go with you" or "Peace stay with you," respectively.

It's no wonder that flashing the peace sign is such a popular pose in photos!

How to Pose for Pictures in Asia

If You Want to Learn English...

My Year 3s were practicing the modal verb "should" in class one day, so we practiced giving advice for different situations. For a group discussion, I asked them: If you want to learn English, what should you do? They came up with some great answers. If you want to learn English, you should*...

  • memorize a lot of words and Idoms.
  • practice pronunciation.
  • recite vocabulary.
  • memorize many word phrases.
  • do preview, review.
  • try to copy native speaker's pronunciation.
  • study English and Korean grammar.
  • learn English hard in the school.
  • hearing teacher's talking.
  • prepare for the next English class.
  • listen to what the teacher says.
  • be interested in the class.
  • not chatting with your friends.
  • participate during class.
  • go Academy (cram school)
  • quiet in the classroom.
  • pay attention during class.
  • do the class activities.
  • do the homework hardly.
  • read English newspaper.
  • listen to English CDs.
  • watch English channels on TV.
  • watch the CNN channel or animation (like shimpsons (?))
  • play English game.
  • read a lot of English books!
  • watch English movie without translation.
  • listen to English songs.
  • listen English very much.
  • read books about English.
  • speaking English.
  • have English talk time.
  • try to write things in English.
  • write down important things.
  • be friends with people who speak English well.
  • do penpal with another country friends.
  • meet lots of foreign people.
  • try to talk to foreign people.
  • go to foreign countries.
  • go abroad.
  • go to America.
  • speak louder.
  • be brave to use English.
  • try to like learning English.
  • have a positive attitude.
  • get a confidence.
  • do effort always.

* Taken directly from my students' work, mistakes and notations included!

Travelling & Speaking the Local Language

No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby — so helpless and so ridiculous.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson


If I followed his advice, I would miss out on half the adventures, half the chaos, half the fun.

But Mr. Emerson does have a point.

While it makes travelling more difficult, it also could make it more valuable. It's (sometimes unfortunately) really easy to visit and even live in Seoul without knowing Korean. But there are times I wish I could communicate deeper with people. I'm lucky; my friends from work are able to translate a lot of their and other's conversations for me. But there's more to communication that just simple translations. It's meanings. It's understanding what's not being said. That's what I'm missing.