Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gaeunsa Temple in Anam-dong, Jogyesa Temple, National Museum of Korea, Cross-cultural Perspectives

Hello, readers!
In this post I'm first going to tell you about and show you photos of the Gaeunsa Temple in Anam-dong right down the hill from where I was staying.

As you may be able to tell from these photos and my description, this temple is right smack in the middle of an urban, university-centered neighborhood, namely Anam-dong. The only separation between this temple and my own dorm, in fact, is a small hill and a flight of steps. That is it. As you will see soon, compared to other, "grander" Buddhist temples in Seoul, Gaeunsa does not seem to be much to look it, but for me, it has a simple beauty, serving as a beacon of spirituality for the Buddhist inhabitants of Anam-dong. This actually brings me to my next point, which is that Gaeunsa is not a tourist destination whatsoever; in fact, the only other people I saw there (aside from my friend Kyra and myself) were locals (mostly middle-aged and older women), going about their daily business of praying and meditating. This was not Buddhism on a pedestal as a show for foreigners, this was Buddhism as it is still practiced in the urban landscape of 21st century Seoul. In a way, I felt like I was intruding on something private and sacred, perhaps precisely because I was.

In these next three photographs, you can see Jogyesa temple, the central building and authority over the
Korean Jogye sect of Buddhism. Jogyesa lies in the cultural tourism hub of Insa-dong, where the famous Joseon Dynasty castle-palaces stand. I visited Jogyesa on a Sunday evening and there was still a fair amount of visitors, practicing Buddhists and tourists alike, a testament to this sites importance and popularity. The actual temple part of Jogyesa consists of three large buildings, two of which are shown above. My roommate, Taewon, accompanied me, and using his body as a reference, you can really see the great size of the temple building in the second photo. Yet, despite its status as a tourist magnet, Jogyesa still remains a vital aspect of Buddhist life within Seoul, as well, as can be seen from the bottom two pictures. There we see first  an intricately sculpted column on whose bottom rim were hung prayers for ancestors and deceased relatives. Most of these prayers and messages were written in Korean, but some were also in Japanese, Chinese, even Thai. In the bottom picture, I have captured the image of a woman light a ritual candle in prayer. Based on the number of lit candles at the site, there must be people just like this woman lighting ritual candles rather frequently. All in all, it was touching and humbling to see how Buddhism influences not only the community of Anam-dong but also Seoul and beyond.

Before, I left you go, I'd also like to take the time to show you the celadon pottery pieces found in the National Museum of Korea. The first picture is actually the museum's beautiful exterior, complete with its glass windows and glinting gold finish. The building's facade alone was breathtaking, but it contrasted deeply with the simple elegance found in the traditional art and pottery housed within its walls. For me, the most striking example of this sort of subdued beauty was the celadon pottery. My HTC Rezound's camera hardly does it justice, but the nuanced blue-green coloring of the celadon was particularly poignant, to my mind speaking volumes on sadness, perseverance, even life and love (in Korean, this concept is called Han "한"). Korean celadon was actually renowned within Asia as the finest sort of porcelain pottery for centuries; in modern times, unfortunately, the method to make this beautiful and enigmatic celadon color has been lost. However, the process behind the pottery itself was actually revealed step-by-step on the museum wall! This was very cool to read (I forwent a picture of it because it was essentially a wall of text with tiny pictures.) I purposefully included the last picture to show that the key feature of celadon pottery that accentuates its beauty is its simplicity, which I felt was undermined by the overly bombastic design of the piece in the last photo. If you compare this to the smooth curves, slight floral pattern, and, of course, classic celadon blue-green tint of the pieces in the second photo, it simply doesn't compare at all.

Overall, I hope that this psots leaves you, my precious readers, with a sense of what traditional Korean culture is like and how it has been carried over into the modern city of Seoul.

As ever, thank you so much for reading!

Andrew Frenkel, B.A. Asian Studies 2015, Japanese and Korean Language and Literature Minor
Sigur Center 2013 Korean Language Fellow,
Korea University, South Korea

Han River and Namsangol Folk Village

Hi, everyone! It's Andrew, just checking in to show you a view of the famous Han River Waterfront in Seoul and a brief video tour of the Namsangol Folk Village!

I hope you enjoy the views of these unique and fascinating spots in Seoul!

For those curious souls, the songs in the background are "Loving You" by Sistar and "Light and Shadow" by Patti Kim.

As always, thanks for watching!

Andrew Frenkel, B.A. Asian Studies 2015, Japanese and Korean Language and Literature Minor
Sigur Center 2013 Korean Language Fellow,
Korea University, South Korea

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tokyo: Ebisu Garden Place & The Museum of Yebisu Beer

Thank you for watching. -S.Y.

Ebisu Garden Place is located in Shibuya Ward of Tokyo. It's called a little slice of Europe due to its strong European influences. It's a nice refined place where you can relax with your friends on the weekend. There are usually events, everything from farmers' markets to beer festivals. 

What fascinates me about Japan isn't simply this pristine area in Ebisu. Instead, it's the juxtaposition of an upscale western part of Tokyo to other more traditional areas that are also within the boundaries of Tokyo. 

If you take a short subway ride toward the east, you can find yourself in Tsukishima, where there is a single street that known for a particular cheap eats called monjyayaki. There you can see shops with low entry ways and smoke fuming from the teppan grill. 

If you find yourself in Tokyo, please take advantage of being able to experience the old and the new in such close proximities. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Manager, Global Shark Conservation (Asia); The Pew Charitable Trusts

Job Title: Manager, Global Shark Conservation (Asia)
Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Job Location: Washington, D.C.

Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but their long reign at the top of the ocean food chain may be ending. The onset of industrial fishing over the past 60 years has drastically depleted their populations and approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. In general, sharks are exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion. As key predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems.
The Global Sharks Conservation Campaign is designed to reverse this global decline of shark populations through public education, advocacy and research.  The campaign is engaged in activities to educate and mobilize the public, media, and policymakers in international forums including RFMOs, CITES and the United Nations, and to secure precautionary, science-based protections for sharks within countries targeted for nation-based action. Additionally, the campaign is initiating work in Asia and this position will oversee these efforts.

Position Overview
This Washington, DC-based position will report to and work closely with the project's Director to manage the campaign’s efforts in Asia. This campaign is designed as a long term effort. It is expected that this position is for a term period through June 30, 2014, with the possibility of an extension pending the success of the program, funding sources and board decisions on continued support.


  • Assist the project director in designing and implementing campaign strategy with a particular focus on activities in Hong Kong and mainland China.
  • Manage activities around at least one of the campaign’s core deliverables with a large focus on project efforts in Hong Kong and mainland China.
  • Help the project director coordinate a team of media, government affairs, and organizing professionals to implement campaign activities internationally.
  • Work with the campaign team to develop effective outreach material, including fact sheets, briefing materials, and content for the website to reflect efforts in Asia.
  • Work collaboratively with the campaign’s coalition of groups committed to securing precautionary policy protections for sharks.
  • Manage campaign consultants and their activities, in support of meeting campaign objectives.
  • Assist in fundraising efforts for the campaign, including drafting donor materials for the campaign.


  • Bachelor’s degree required; graduate degree in public affairs, public policy or environmental science preferred;
  • Eight years of professional outreach experience helping shape the way the decision makers and the public perceive and respond to environmental and natural resource management issues. Specific experience with marine wildlife or fisheries issues is preferred;
  • At least two years of previous supervisory experience required
  • Prior to commencing employment with Pew, candidates for this position who were registered to lobby in any jurisdiction must certify termination of previous registration(s) and provide copies of termination notices with said jurisdiction(s) to Pew.
  •  Communication.  Excellent written and oral communications skills, including an ease in briefly summarizing the essence of issues and means to address them.  Strong oral, presentation, facilitation, and written communication skills such that complex ideas, thoughts and concepts are clearly articulated for a general audience. Clear, effective writing style. Mandarin and/or Cantonese language skills preferred.
  • Managerial skills.  Seasoned judgment, able to make decisions, justify recommendations, and be responsive, clear, and firm with consultants, colleagues, and partners.  Able to adapt to a complex working environment in which influence is often exerted indirectly rather than through traditional chain of command hierarchies. Successful experience in leveraging ideas and implementing projects that produce measurable results.
  • Strategic planning.  Able to set short and long-term planning goals in line with program strategy.  A task-oriented style with a focus on achieving clear and ambitious goals. Demonstrated ability to meet multiple deadlines by maintaining a high level of organization. Able to develop and move projects forward with a high degree of independence and autonomy.
  •  Analytical skills.  Ability to synthesize large amounts of information and to focus quickly on the essence of an issue/problem and identify the means to address it.
  •  Interpersonal skills.  Able to develop and manage productive relationships with consultants, partners, and others.  Excellent listening skills.
  • Availability.  Must be available outside normal business hours when essential to project priorities, including the ability to travel internationally and domestically. 

We offer a competitive salary and excellent benefits package, including a generous 401(k) plan, four weeks vacation and flexible benefits options.


International and domestic travel for the position is required, including scoping and site visits for international shark conservation efforts and attending international meetings.
Pew is an equal opportunity employer

Touristy in Seoul

Hi Asia on E Street Reader!

This is Selina once again :) I realize that I have yet to post about all the fun touristy things to do in Seoul. Here I will highlight some of the beautiful places to visit! And if you're ever in Seoul, I highly advise visiting these places!

I found that I got really in tune with nature throughout this trip. Above is a shot of the Secret Garden (Biwon) within Changdeokgung Palace. Having visited all the palaces in Seoul, I think this was the most beautiful of them all. 

 As a seafood lover, this was one of my favorite places! When my mom was still with me in Seoul, it was the only place she visited twice! Above is Noryangjin Fish Market. Its one of the largest seafood markets in Seoul. What's cool is that you go around the market and pick your fare. I got fresh fish which could be cut up into sashimi, shrimp to be grilled, and octopus raw. Having watched the Korean Movie Old Boy, I had to try raw octopus! Unlike the movie, they do cut it up! Though I can't guarantee that it will not continue to squirm. 

Raw Octopus called Sanakkji (산낙지)

In front of the National History Museum of Korea. Entering the lobby, it felt like it could fit in two Smithsonian Museums. Below is a pillar from one of teh exhibits. From behind you can see the explanation as a kind of height check.

Cosplaying Lee Soon Shin, A Joseon Dynasty Naval Commander

In Changdeokgung Palace.
Eating what the Royal family would eat during the Joseon Dynasty at Korea House.

By Kimchi pots within the Korea House Dynasty. This particular spot is famous for being the backdrop of some famous Korean Dramas.
By Cheongyecheon Stream. a massive urban developed stream that flows through the heart of Seoul.  

At Yangneyongsi Market, the oldest traditional oriental medicine market. You can find all sorts of things here. I even bought medicine to prevent balding for my cousins. 

In front of Gwanghwamun, the largest Palace in Seoul and located right in front of the statues of King Sejong and Lee Soonshin

Trying on a hanbok, the traditional Korean Dress at Namangol Hanok Village

On the way to the cable car to Namsan Tower. 
With huge teddy bears at the Teddy Museum inside Namsan Tower
Watching the light show at Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower), the highest Point in Seoul

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reflections on Taiwan

Kristian McGuire, M.A. International Affairs 2014
Sigur Center 2013 Chinese Language Fellow,
National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan

My time in Taiwan has come to an end.  In my typical fashion, I decided to leave most of the “must do,” touristy activities for the last couple weeks of my stay.  For Taipei, this meant going to the top of the Taipei 101 skyscraper; visiting Shilin Night Market, the National Palace Museum, the Eslite 24-hour bookstore; and eating an oyster omelet (蚵仔煎).

I usually try to avoid the most touristy activities a city has to offer not because I dislike them, but because they often require more effort than I deem necessary or worthwhile.  Nevertheless, I always end up doing these activities, and in retrospect I’m always glad that I did.
I knew that there was no way I could spend a summer in Taipei without ascending the heights of Taipei 101.  The price of making a trip to Taipei and not visiting its most famous building is years and years of having to explain to people why you didn’t make the requisite pilgrimage.  (This reminds me of a saying they have in China: 不去長城, 非好漢, or If you [go to Beijing and] don’t visit the Great Wall, you are not a real man.)  Therefore, not wanting to have my future travel stories tarnished by a deflating response to the Taipei 101 question, and a little curious to know what Taipei looked like from so high up, I decided to do the prescribed activity during my second to last week in the city.  Despite having my first effort to scale the building 

View from Taipei 101

frustrated by an exceedingly long line, I eventually made it to the top on my second attempt.  The view, although dimmed by cloud cover, was great.  Much like my first trip to the top of Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai, I felt like a chess piece finally catching a glimpse of the entire chessboard.  It was amazing to see how well Taipei has structured itself to fit the contours of its natural environment.  Taiwan’s most populous city is situated in an environment that is sort of like a combination of San Francisco and Pittsburgh with hills dotting the outskirts and rivers cutting around the city.  The view and the peace of mind I gained from checking a trip to the top of Taipei 101 off my list of things to do made the outing worthwhile.

Shilin Night Market was a fun but less important item on my to-do list.  Few people outside of Taiwan, including myself prior to planning my trip to the country, have ever heard of Shilin Night Market.  Therefore, unlike a visit to Taipei 101, I knew that no one would grill me for not visiting it. I actually didn’t have a firm intention to go to Shilin, I just stumbled upon it while wandering around the northern part of Taipei one day.  As much as I enjoyed looking at all of Shilin’s interesting shops, the novelty of the market was lost on me since I had been to several other night markets earlier in my stay.  In essence, Shilin felt like my neighborhood night market just on a grander scale. 

In contrast to my lackluster experience at Shilin Night Market, my trip to the National Palace Museum exceeded my expectations.  For years I had heard told of the National Palace Museum and its collection of some of China’s most prized artifacts which were spirited off to Taiwan while the Nationalists fought in and eventually evacuated from China.    Going to the museum, I expected to see an amazing collection of Chinese artifacts, what I didn’t expect was a museum that matched the splendor of the artifacts.  My brother-in-law, who is a photographer, has explained to me the importance of choosing a suitable frame for a photograph.
National Palace Museum Day

A similar rule, I believe, also applies to artifacts and museums.  The National Palace Museum is situated amidst the lush greenery of Taipei’s northern hills.  The building itself is impressive to say the least.  With rows and rows of stone steps leading to a magnificent imperial style structure, the museum’s majesty befits its cherished contents.  Of course, I didn’t have time to see all of the artifacts on display in the museum.  However, those that I did have time to see left me wanting to return to the National Palace Museum the next time I make it to Taipei.
National Palace Museum Night

Before coming to Taipei, I never would have guessed that visiting a bookstore would be one of the main items on my Taiwan to-do list.  Since arriving in Taipei, I have heard countless expats and locals alike tell tale of a wonderful bookstore chain called Eslite that has at least one 24-hour store in the city.  A Taiwanese friend told me that this bookstore chain is the pride of Taiwan, and that, when the company opened a store in Hong Kong last year, a Hong Kong newspaper proclaimed that Hong Kong finally had culture.  Eslite lived up to all the hype.  Coming from a country where bookstores seem to be on their way to extinction, I was pleased to see a bookstore chain that isn’t just surviving, but thriving.  Even though Eslite is primarily a Chinese language bookstore, its selection of English language books and magazines is large enough to put many American bookstores to shame.   If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was flying back to the States in less than a week and I already had enough things to pack my suitcase to the gills, I definitely would have bought a few books at Eslite.  Anyway, I know for future trips to Taiwan where I can stock up on books and magazines. 

Jiufen Day

Jiufen Night

Monday night I finally tried one of Taiwan’s famous dishes, an oyster omelet.  The incredibly diverse food selection in Taiwan makes Taiwan very similar to the U.S. in that it is hard to identify any single dish among the multitude of tasty dishes available as truly indigenous to the country.  Fusion cuisines, and spin-offs of other countries’ traditional dishes seem to comprise the bulk of Taiwanese cuisine.  The oyster omelet is no exception.  I have seen similar fried creations in China, yet I have only tried a handful.  When a friend suggested that I try an oyster omelet at a little snack shack that is especially well-known for them, I decided it was better to follow a friend’s recommendation than to take my chances with a restaurant I might find on my own.  I wasn’t disappointed with my friend’s recommendation.  The oyster omelet was a great choice for one of my final meals in Taiwan.
A Street in Jiufen

There are plenty of things that I will miss about Taiwan and plenty of observations I would like to share (I might do so at a later date).  Above all, I will miss the peaceful atmosphere, and the value Taiwanese seem to place on constantly improving their quality of life.  Granted Taiwan has its problems.  This summer, the country has had to cope with the death of young soldier who appears to have died from torturous punishments inflicted upon him by his superiors.  Rabies has appeared on the island for the first time in more than a half a century.  The government has come into conflict with thousands of its citizens over a land requisition project in Miaoli county that has entailed the forced demolition of four houses.  Yet these problems have been met by government and civic action with an eye toward moving Taiwanese society forward.  Where Taiwanese citizens feel that their government is failing them, they let it be known.  Where the government feels justified in actions or positions, it states its case.  I have been astounded at the willingness and enthusiasm with which so many Taiwanese participate in political life.  Their activism gives me hope that the Taiwan that I will return to will be even better than the Taiwan that I left.
My Neighborhood at Night 1

My Neighborhood at Night 2

My Neighborhood at Dusk

Quite Possibly the Coolest Catholic Preschool in the World, Yilan City

Taipei, A Truly Green City 1

Taipei, A Truly Green City 2

Taipei, A Truly Green City 3

Keelung City Sign
A Street in Keelung

Bust of Douglas MacArthur, Chiayi
Taipei Graffiti 1

Taipei Graffiti 2

Taipei Graffiti 3

The Reaction