Etiquette in Korea

Cherry Blossoms Busan

Korea is one hell of a densely packed nation. More than 50 million people are squeezed into an area of about 100,000 km2. We’re talking India density here, higher than China density. And roughly half of the country is mountainous and not suited for maintaining dense populations. So with all these people about, how exactly does Korean society turn out to be so friendly and polite? Continue reading

First days in Busan

busan homeIt’s been two weeks into my new life as a teacher in Busan. First I want to say how much I’m loving my new job. My young Korean students are absolutely amazing. They are so respectful and polite. They may still get bored and distracted like young students back home, but on the whole they are better behaved and well mannered. And the students here are required to take care of the their own school. They actually sweep and clean the classrooms and floors. They even sweep up in the teacher’s office room. That is just amazing! Continue reading

On Anticipation

DSCN0019I’d like to say a few words on my experience of anticipation. The 48 hours leading up to my scheduled departure to Korea brought me very close to this complex feeling. I would soon start a new chapter in a new country with a new job. I left a position in banking and finance, a lucrative career I had invested 5 years into plus the years of my university education (both undergraduate and graduate). This was big. Continue reading

Cameron Highlands and Penang

July 7, 2014

One of the favourite weekend destinations of Malaysians is the cool air of Cameron Highlands. It’s named after the British surveyor that “discovered” this serene getaway around 130 years ago. The climate in this hill station is temperate and constant and the landscape is heavenly. Given the presence of the British, it may not be surprising that it wasn’t long before this area was transformed into a large highland tea plantation, with farming and production continuing to this day. Continue reading

Kuala Lumpur

June 24, 2014

The first thing that struck me about Kuala Lumpur was the humidity. And when I say struck me I mean it came down on me so hard and fast I could feel the weight and thickness of the air as I breathed, with my breathing becoming heavier with every breath. I was sweating just standing within a minute of stepping through the airport doors and waiting for the taxi to pull up. Temperature wise Dubai was hotter, but the humidity put KL on a different level. Continue reading

Northern Iraq and Erbil

Beykhal SpringsMay 30, 2014

It was refreshing to spend some time in the cooler mountain air and scenic beauty of Northern Iraq. Many Iraqis take summer holidays in the North or will go up for weekend family outings to one of the many resort villages or natural parks. Vacationers are also drawn to a relatively new Western import which can be found in the cities of the North like Erbil and Sleimaniya – the shopping mall. (Recently a small mall opened in Baghdad and another will be opening soon.) Continue reading

Holy Karbala

May 17, 2014

Karbala is one of those few cities on the planet steeped in religious and spiritual significance. Around 20 million descended on this small city during the annual commemoration days of Ashura and Al-Arba’een. For a cross-cultural comparison I would liken Karbala to India’s Varanasi – the City of Shiva – or to the Old City of Jerusalem. At the center of Karbala are the two magnificent shrines to Imam Hussain and his brother Al-Abbas. This is where people come to be inspired, to rejuvenate their faith, and to have their prayers answered. Continue reading

Baghdad First Impressions

Almutanabbi Statue

May 15, 2014

The Emirates Airbus A330 airplane flight EK941 began its descent into Baghdad International Airport around 9:15 am local time on Wednesday. Looking outside my window I saw the familiar city pattern of an agricultural belt around the outskirts of Baghdad. From my birds-eye view I noticed that the earth beneath me looked fairly beige. There was not a lot of green. Google earth images checked out. Continue reading