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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Korean Crash Course

Hello everybody!!! I spent last weekend on the southern coast of Korea in "Dynamic Busan!" Busan (부산) is a large, temperate coastal city bordered by hills that bloom with cherry blossoms in the spring to the north, and to the south, beaches!

Sunning myself at Gwangalli beach

This time I'd like to introduce some Korean words and phrases that might be helpful to anybody who is interested in starting to learn Korean or is planning to take a trip to Korea in the future! I'll start with a brief introduction to Korean characters.

Korean characters were invented and designed to be logical and easy to learn, Korean is nearly perfectly phonetic with very few irregularities.  I'll list the characters with their romanticized letter equivalent and then an approximation of the sound.  Most of the consonants can be doubled to give a stronger sound, and when a vowel is doubled it makes a sound similar to adding a "y" before a letter in English. (ㅑ= "yah").  Vowels can also be combined to make diphthongs, so the vowels ㅜ("oo") and ㅣ("ee") make a sound like "wee."

ㄱ - k/g - "k" or "g" sound
ㄴ - n - "n" sound
ㄷ - d/t - "d" or "t" sound
ㄹ - l/r - "l" or "r" sound, usually more like "l"
ㅁ - m - "m" sound
ㅂ - b/p -"b" or "p" sound, usually like "b" at the beginning of a word and "p" at the end
ㅅ - s - "s" or "sh" sound
ㆁ - ng - placeholder before a vowel and "ng" sound at the end of a syllable
ㅈ - j - "j" or light "ch" sound
ㅊ - ch - "ch" sound
ㅋ - K - hard "k" sound (doubled ㄱ)
ㅌ - T - "t" sound (doubled ㄷ)
ㅍ - P - "p" sound with a little puff of breath, sometimes used to represent "f" in foreign words
ㅎ - h - "h" sound

ㅏ - a -"ah" sound
ㅓ - eo - "aw" or short "o" sound like in "hot," but sometimes like the "u" in "hut"
ㅗ - o - long "o" sound, as in "coat"
ㅜ - u - long "u" sound as in "flute" or "boot"
ㅡ - eu - "eu" sound, kind of like in "good" or the unaccented French "e" sound
ㅣ - i - "ee" sound, as in "feet"

The language is read left to right, up to down and the characters are arranged in syllables the same way. Syllables usually contain 3 characters but occasionally they contain 4. The word for Korean writing in Korean is:

한 글

Many people in Korea speak some English, so most of the time if you are in real trouble you can find somebody who can help you, but here are some essential words and phrases that might aid in getting around and understanding some of what is being said so you can respond appropriately. Adding 요 "yo" at the end of a verb makes it more polite in many cases.


Hello: 안녕하세요 "an-yeong-ha-se-yo" (It sometimes sounds more like "annyeonseyo")
Goodbye: 안녕히 계세요 "an-yeong-hi kae-se-yo"
Yes: 네 "Ne" or sometimes 예 "Ye"
No: 아니오 "a-ni-o", or informally 아니 "a-ni"
Thank you: 감사합니다 "gam-sa-ham-ni-da" or 고맙습니다 "go-map-seum-ni-da"
This: 이것 "i-geo"
Teacher/Sir: 선생님 "seon-saeng-nim"
Really: 진짜 "chin-jja"


Taxi: 택시 "taek-shi"
Bus: 버스 "beos-uh"
Car: 자동차 "ja-dong-cha"
Airplane: 비행기 "bi-heng-gi"
Train: 기차 "gi-cha"
Here: 여기 "yeo-gi"
There: 거기 "geo-gi"
Left (direction): 왼쪽 "wen-chok"
Right (direction): 오른쪽 "o-reun-chok"
North: 북 "buk"
South: 남 "nam"
East: 동 "dong" - be careful, 똥 "ddong" means "poop," usually 동 is attached to something else: 동대구 "dong-dae-gu" - "East Daegu"
West: 서 "seo"
Korea: 한국 "han-guk"
China: 중국 "jun-guk"
Japan: 일본 "il-bon"
Russia: 러시아 "reo-si-a"
USA: 미국 "mi-guk"
UK: 영국 "yeong-guk"
France: 프랑스 "Peu-rang-suh"
Germany: 독일 "dok-il"
Spain: 스페인 "seu-pae-in"
Italy: 이탈리아 "i-tal-li-a"
Greece: 그리스 "Geu-ri-suh"


There's not/don't have/is it gone?: 없다 "eob-da" 없어 "eobs-eo" or polite "eobs-eo-yo"
It's OK, I'm OK, are you OK?: 괜찮아요 "kan-chanh-a-yo"
I am hurt, it hurts, does it hurt?: 아파 "apa", 아파요 "apayo"
Bring me please: 주세요 "ju-se-yo"
Eat/drink: 먹어 "mog-o", 먹어요 "mog-o-yo"
Don't/wait: 하지 마 "ha-ji ma"
No, stop doing that: 안돼 "an-de", 안돼요 "an-de-yo"
Sit down: 앉아 "anja", 앉으세요 "anj-euseyo"
Wait: 기다려 "gi-da-ryeo"


Who?: 누구? "nugu?"
What?: 뭐? "mwo?"
When?: 언제? "eon-je?"
Why?: 왜? "wae?"
Where?: 어디로? "eo-di-lo?
How?: 어떻게? "eo-teo-ke?"


One: 하나 "ha-na" - or for money 일 "il"
Two: 두 "du" - 이 "i"
Three: 세 "se" - 삼 "sam"
Four: 네 "ne" - 사 "sa"
Five: 다섯 "da-seos" - 오 "o"
Six: 여섯 "yeo-seos" - 육 "yuk"
Seven: 일곱 "il-gob" - 칠 "chil"
Eight: 여덟 "yeo-deolb" - 팔 "pal"
Nine: 아홉 "a-hob" - 구 "gu"
Ten: 열 "yeol" - 십 "ship"
100: 백 "baek"
1000: 천 "cheon"
10000: 만 "man"

Foods and drinks:

Delicious: 맛있 "mash-iss"
Rice: 밥 "bap"
Seaweed: 김 "kim"
Spicy fermented cabbage and veggies: 김치 "kim-chi"
Rice rolled in seaweed: 김밥 "kim-bap"
Rice mixed with vegetables and egg: 비빔밥 "bi-bim-bap"
Ramen: 라면 "ra-myeon"
Noodles in black sauce "Chinese Noodles": 자장면 "ja-jang-myeon"
Meat (any kind): 고기 "go-gi"
Chicken: 닭 "dak"
Meat cooked over a flame: 불고기 "bul-go-gi"
Marinated meat: 갈비 "gal-bi"
Stew/soup: 찌개 "jji-gae"
Korean rice liquor: 소주 "so-ju"
Beer: 맥주 "maek-ju"

If you'd like to learn more Korean, there are many free sites like this one that can help you!

And here are some more pictures from my trip to Dynamic Busan!

On a pier with the "Me-World" amusement park in the background

Can you find me?

Enjoying a mocha at "Fuzzy Navel" by Gwangalli beach.

Dried fish!

Did you know I could do this?

And here I am riding the bus back home.

Until next time!

Michael TheMonkey

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Calm but cold in Korea

Hello from the east, everybody!

Outside a temple near downtown Andong, South Korea.

For the next few months I'll be exploring in South Korea(대한민국)! Yesterday, I took a trip to some fantastic historical sites around Andong(안동), a moderately-sized city of about 500,000 in the Gyeongsangbuk province.

A little background on the region:

Often billed as the "Cultural Capital of Korea," the Andong area is well known for its links to Korea's past and its preservation of old traditions. The area surrounding Andong is home to the famous Hahoe Folk Village, a UNESCO World-Heritage site as of 2010, as well as numerous temples, Confucian academies and old family estates. Queen Elizabeth visited Hahoe and other sites around Andong in 1999, bringing further attention to the region as a cultural center.

Many Andong residents have a great sense of pride about their city and are happy to tell stories, share information and even teach traditional dances! Every fall Andong hosts the International Maskdance Festival. The festival lasts for nearly two weeks and draws visitors from all over the world. It provides an opportunity for everyone to learn about and participate in everything that Andong has to offer.

Did I mention that Andong is also famous for its food and drink??? Yesterday I got to try some Andong jjimdak(안동찜닭), yum! But more on that later... There are so many aspects to Andong that it's difficult to even mention them all at once!

It was very cold and windy yesterday, nearly -23 degrees C (-10 F) with the windchill!  Maybe not the best day for exploring, but it was sunny and nice otherwise. The first place I visited yesterday was a functional Buddhist temple near downtown Andong.

I climbed up three flights of stairs decorated with beautiful paintings... reach the very quiet and peaceful main room, filled with sunlight, the dry, woody smell of incense and an elderly man seated on the floor quietly chanting prayers. The floor was wonderfully warm!

A lantern with prayers hanging from the center.


A large painting to the right of Buddha and offerings of food
-- too bad there aren't any bananas! ;-)

The temple's large Buddha statue.

And here's me in front of some lights with devotees' names.

It was hard to leave the warm, relaxing temple, but I decided to go on to see what else I could see!

A few minutes walk down the road, I came upon this pagoda -- the oldest stone pagoda in Korea! It was built in the 8th century as part of a temple called Beopeungsa, but it is all that is left of the temple. Traditionally, pagodas have an odd number of sections from three to thirteen -- this one has seven. The pagoda is Korean national treasure no. 16.

It was too cold to stay long near the pagoda, so I kept walking along the river, past the Andong Dam, until I reached the Andong Folk Museum.

Andong Dam

The museum has an outdoor and indoor area. The outdoor area consists of a collection of traditional houses and buildings, and the indoor area has information about historic daily life and culture. Since it was so cold, I headed inside.

The indoor museum focuses mainly on Confucian traditions related to life cycle events such as coming of age and growing older. The museum has a great wealth of information about life in the past and the influence that certain past traditions and Confucian ideologies have on modern Korean society, as well as many interesting artifacts and reconstructions of past life.

A handsomely decorated funeral box used to carry the body.

At the end of the day I was tired and my hands and feet were cold, it was the perfect time for some yummy, hot Korean food in a warm restaurant. Andong jjimdak is a kind of chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, noodles, peppers, leeks and sauce. It is an Andong original dish -- if you order anywhere else in Korea, it is always referred to as Andong jjimdak. I'd dare anyone to walk past an Andong jjimdak restaurant and not be tempted in by the smell.


Last, but certainly not least, Andong is especially famous for its soju. Soju is a clear Korean rice liquor popular all over the country. Andong Soju (안동소주) is known for its strength (40-45%) and earthy flavor, which result from it being distilled in the traditional way.

Whew, Andong Soju is too strong for a little monkey like me!

I'm tired, I'd better get some rest so that I can get out and explore more of incredible Korea! Until next time!

Michael TheMonkey

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Out of Curiosity

What do we know about Moscow? It is the capital of the biggest country in the world - the Kremlin and Red Square are in the center, there are traffic jams in the streets and Muscovites eat borscht and blini.

Some Russian souvenirs.

I want to share with you some rare facts about my city. When you visit Moscow your knowledge might even surprise a tour guide who might not know that...

if you ride the Moscow metro towards the center of the city you will hear a masculine voice announcing the stations; but if you go towards the suburbs you will hear a woman! This is how the Moscow metro shows its care for the blind passengers. A man announces during my trip to work in the morning, and a lady guides me home in the evening.

...if you visit the park Kolomenskoye you may find 4 massive oaks which are peers of Moscow — they are more than 850 years old!

the annual average temperature in Moscow is 4 degrees C, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy sunbathing and swimming in summer when the temperatures reach 30 degrees C.

...the Tsar Bell inside the Kremlin weighs more than 12000 pood (200 tonne). The biggest Chinese bells do not exceed 3000 pood, the biggest European bells are no more than 1000 pood. If you rang The Tsar Bell, it would be well-heard for 60 km!

...if you look up you will see the soviet red stars on the tops of the Kremlin towers. These symbols are made of rubin and they are actually 3 to 4 metres wide, but from the ground they look like small souvenirs which would be great as Christmas tree toppings.

...the famous Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible wanted to marry the English Queen Elizabeth I and make her a tsarina of Moscow, but she rejected his proposal. 1930s the soviet government decided to destroy Holy Danilov Monastery (Svyato Danilov Monastery) in Moscow and to melt the bells. The American industrialist Charles R. Crane purchased them and donated them to Harvard University. The bells were returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in the fall of 2008 in exchange for 18 replacements cast in Russia for Harvard.

….when you arrive to Moscow you would probably enter through Sheremetyevo - one of the Moscow airports. You might see some rare animals working for the airport security as sniffer dogs -- the Sulimov Dog is a Russian Jackal-Dog Hybrid originating from an initial hybrid between a Lapponian Herder and a Turkmen golden jackal. Quoting Sulimov, the chief breeder, "My dogs combine the qualities of Arctic reindeer herding dogs, which can work in temperatures as low as -70C, and jackals, which enjoy heat up to +40C. They're perfect for our country."

 Me on Red Square, infront of the State Historical Museum.

Feeling more confident in Russian realities? Don't miss a chance to check everything out by yourself! You'll find much more interesting and exciting stuff when you arrive!

Michael TheMonkey

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recipe: Michael's Marvelous Chicken!

Hi everybody! Here's a yummy recipe for chicken I created! It's based on French/European style recipes for Chicken.

Michael's Marvelous Chicken:

1 large onion
1 bell pepper
6 dried apricots or jujubes
1 cup light wheat beer
1 cup water
1 tbsp thyme
1 cup butter
4 medium-sized pieces of chicken

Remove the skin from the onion, cut off the top and bottom and then cut the onion in half. Cut the bell pepper into strips. Take the pits out of the jujubes if necessary and put the onion, peppers and jujubes into a medium-sized pot. Put ½ cup of wheat beer, ½ cup of water, ½ cup of un-melted butter and the whole tablespoon of thyme into the pot. Add salt to taste. Cover and cook on medium heat until the onion starts to get translucent.

The broth is ready for the chicken!

Meanwhile, remove the chicken skin, if necessary, and rub the raw chicken with pepper. Cook the chicken in butter and salt until it is browned on all sides and nearly cooked through.

The chicken should look something like this when it is ready to be added to the pot.

Put the Chicken into the pot and add the rest of the water, beer and butter. Add additional salt, pepper and thyme as necessary and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the broth is brown and beginning to thicken slightly. Taste and add more salt/pepper/thyme as needed. Let cool for a few minutes and serve on a slightly concave plate that will hold the sauce.

It smells delicious!

It tastes great with rice or potatoes!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Russian Winter (and) Poetry

Winter morning (1829)

Cold frost and sunshine: day of wonder!
But you, my friend, are still in slumber--
Wake up, my beauty, time belies:
You dormant eyes, I beg you, broaden
Toward the northerly Aurora,
As though a northern star arise!

Recall last night, the snow was whirling,
Across the sky, the haze was twirling,
The moon, as though a pale dye,
Emerged with yellow through faint clouds.
And there you sat, immersed in doubts,
And now, -- just take a look outside:

The snow below the bluish skies,
Like a majestic carpet lies,
And in the light of day it shimmers.
The woods are dusky. Through the frost
The greenish fir-trees are exposed;
And under ice, a river glitters.

The room is lit with amber light.
And bursting, popping in delight
Hot stove still rattles in a fray.
While it is nice to hear its clatter,
Perhaps, we should command to saddle
A fervent mare into the sleight?

And sliding on the morning snow
Dear friend, we'll let our worries go,
And with the zealous mare we'll flee.
We'll visit empty ranges, thence,
The woods, which used to be so dense
And then the shore, so dear to me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Swiss delight

Also, I really wanted to share the pleasure I had traveling with Swiss airlines. Unforgettable crew, swiss chocolate and the best Alpine tour ever!

Michael loves Swiss!

Christmas in Cataluña

     Christmas time in Barcelona? Sure!
Sunny-warm-dry-oranges-sea-waves-seafood-greenness-! There’s too much said about Barcelona and at the same time, never enough.  You can find all the info you'll need for a trip in many places, I’ll just share some of my impressions and experiences.

Orange season.

     Leave your fur coats, umbrellas and Spanish phrase books at home! Just think what is common to “Amanida” and “Ensalada”? It’s all the same thing! But you are in Cataluña where the Catalans speak Catalan and you will come across it more often than the regular Spanish. Don’t let it confuse you though, people there are pretty nice most of the time and you won’t be forgotten or left hungry.

Fresh fruit salad from a market.

     So, our main destination is Barcelona which is the capital and the most populous city of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, after Madrid. Catalonia has it’s own sponsored top-level domain .cat which is intended to be used to highlight the Catalan language and culture. Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea. Aww, sunny winters and hot dry summers..

Perfect December.

You don’t want to miss in Barcelona:

La Rambla (there’s no chance you'll miss it even if you have no plan to visit it ;-) ) A 1.2 kilometer-long tree-lined pedestrian mall between Barri Gòtic and El Raval, it connects Plaça Catalunya in the centre with theChristopher Columbus monument at Port Vell and is popular with both tourists and locals alike.

Christmas decorations in Barcelona.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria - a large public market with an entrance from La Rambla. The first mention of the Boqueria market in Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat.

La Boqueria.

The Parc del Laberint d'Horta – it comprises an 18th century neoclassical garden and a 19th century romanticgarden. The park was used to shot a scene of the motion picture Perfume by German director Tom Tykwer.

The Labyrinth.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site "Works of Antoni Gaudí" (Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família – the average entrance fee is 10 eur).

 La Sagrada Família

 View from Park Güell

Casa Batlló

A train to Figueres - the birthplace of artist Salvador Dalí – with the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí.

Salvador Dalí's Mae West

Spanish/Catalan cuisine which is quite diverse, ranging from pork-intensive dishes cooked in the inland part of the region (Catalonia is one of the main producers of swine products in Spain) to fish-based recipes along the coast.

Paella. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain's national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), seafood paella (Spanish: paella de marisco) and mixed paella (Spanish: paella mixta), but there are many others as well. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans.

Mmmmm paella!

Jamón serrano (literally mountain ham) is a type of jamón (dry-cured Spanish ham), which is generally served raw in thin slices, or occasionally diced. The French jambon bayonne and Italian prosciutto crudoare similar. A foreleg prepared in the same manner is called paleta.

Tapas is the name of a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid).

Crème brûlée (French for "burnt cream"), also known as crema catalana, or Trinity creamis a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but is also sometimes flavored with lemon or orange (zest), rosemary, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, or other fruit.

Aaah, I'll need to come back at some point, too much pleasure Barcelona offers! My New Year's resolution is: whenever it’s possible make winter shorter by spending a vacation in a sunny and warm country, I'll do it. Anti-depression effect is guaranteed. See you there! ;-)  Happy New Year!