Friday, May 18, 2007

Korea (Kimchi, Pul-go-gi, and Mechu) vs. Japan (Slimy Octopus)

Vanessa Smith, currently in Korea on a cultural exchange program with the Rotary, sent in the following entry about Korean cuisine and dining etiquette .


Lots of Fish. Pork. Chicken or Duck. Tofu. Ocassionally Beef. Lots of Vegetables. Spices. Dipping Sauces. Our host Rotarians have been treating us like Kings and Queens, taking us to the best restaurants for lunch and dinner every day. They feed us so much, we feel like we are bursting at the seams all day long! But the food is DELICIOUS.
We often do not have a plate: you just use chopsticks to grab the food you want, dip it in a yummy sauce, often place it in a lettuce leaf which acts as a wrap, and stuff it in your mouth! No mini bites allowed. If you are not completely into double-triple-quadruple-...-dipping, then Koran-style dining is not for you! Kimchi (fermented cabbage in a spicy red pepper sauce) is served with every meal. Often the meat is cooked on a grill in the middle of the table, while you are dabbling into the huge variety of veggies and sauces and appetizers with your chopsticks. Always is lots of mecha (beer) and Soju (potato wine - 20% alcohol) served with every meal. "Con-bay"! (Cheers!) So so messy, and the spicy food induces some sweat and tears - those clever Koreans thankfully have a tradition of placing a wet towel for every place setting. Fave Food of the Week: Pul-go-gi, which is broiled beef marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, sesame salt, pepper, grilled onions, garlic, ginger, rice wine; all broiled together. Dessert: tea (Korean, ginseng, or green), coffee, and fruit. For breakfast, no cereal, toast, eggs, or croissants (except for those families who have succombed to unhealthy Western influence: they have the same foods (with an occasional egg thrown in for good measure).

Dining traditions and etiquette:

Shoes are always left at the door. Sometimes, slippers are provided for us to wear. Seating is on the floor, either on a cushion or a chair with no legs. It is difficult for us Westerners to sit cross-legged for 1-2 hours without developing leg cramps. We're managing though...the food is so worth the formalities! It's fun, anyway - learning and respecting their traditions. Metal chopsticks are used for every meal - at home or in the restaurants. Slurping and burping is polite (indicates satisfaction in the food), but using your fingers and leaving food on/in your plate/bowl is not. Pouring your own drink is a no-no: it is tradition to pour for one another. The pourer holds the bottle with the right hand and grasps his right arm with his left hand. The receiver holds his glass in the same manner. It is considered polite to always be on the lookout for empty glasses and remedy the situation in short order! Then, "Con-bay!" And "Con-bay!" And "Con-bay!" some more!

The Group Study Exchange (GSE) program of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early years of their professional lives. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.
To learn more visit:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thinking about Traveling Alone?

Traveling solo can be very liberating.

Start with a short getaway:
If you’ve never traveled alone before start off with a short weekend to somewhere not too far away and not too unfamiliar to get comfortable with the idea. Do a weekend in New York City or visit a nice resort town on the coast.

Once you realize how much fun it is to be someplace new all alone-do a longer trip to an international destination. You may want to start some place where English is spoken like Ireland or England, but there is no reason not to venture off to Italy or Greece or what ever destination you have always dreamed of visiting.

Before you go:
Where ever you decide to travel to, learn about the customs of the country before you go.
Culture Shock Books, although some are a bit dry, can be very helpful.

Be sure to visit the US Gov travel site for women traveling solo provides helpful tips on safety:

Also the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has a helpful consumer site with recommendations for solo female travelers:

Learn the language before you go. I like RosettaStone. Another good option is taking an Adult Ed course, they are usually inexspensive and offer the “popular” foreign languages, Greek usually isn’t among the offerings. Check with your local high school to find out about classes.

Before booking you airfare plan your itinerary.
So often people book round-trip air and end up spending extra time and money getting back to their starting point, whereas it might be cheaper and more convenient to fly home from a different city.

Rick Steve’s travel guides have good well planned out itineraries and the hotels selected are unique smaller places.

So if traveling to Ireland, instead of flying in and out of Dublin, fly into Dublin and then return from Shannon if it works better with your itinerary or visa versa.

In Greece if you are visiting the islands get a flight that connects to your international flight from the last island you visit rather than doing an additional night in Athens (its is an expensive city).
Check with the national carriers. You may need to call them if not doing a round trip.

As far as hotels are concerned, I recommend pre-booking at least the first and last nights of your trip. So when you arrive jet lagged and tired you know where you are going. You may even want to splurge on a transfer to the hotel from the airport. On the return it is nice to know you have a hotel booked from where you can conveniently get to the airport and catch you flight home.

If you do want to pre-book all your hotels in advance make sure to allow yourself at least two to three nights in each city/town. You’ll need one day just to get to the destination. Another to see the “must-see” sights and it is nice to have at least one day to just explore and people watch. Do your major sight seeing at the beginning of the trip and finish up at a nice relaxing place so when you return home you’ll feel rested and happy. have great prices on larger hotels and I would also check reviews on sites such as Fodors and Frommers. Smaller hotels can now be found online and booked directly by guaranteeing a room to a credit card. Be sure to find out what their cancellation policies are, should you decide to change you itinerary.

Getting around:
In Europe train travel is a great way to get around and provides opportunities to meet other travelers as well as locals. Click here for Rail Europe fares and schedules.
For different types of passes check the lisyting of different passes

Car travel can be expensive and can make it more difficult to meet people. I have occasionally rented cars for a day or two to go see places that can not be reached by public transportation, but I prefer not to deal with driving in foreign countries.

NOTE: it is cheaper to rent a car here in advance than overseas. Autoeurope provides great rates and also offers airfare and hotels.

Another option is to join a group tour. I recommend smaller companies that provide a more personal experience than the large mass-tourism companies (although these can be cheaper than smaller companies or than traveling alone). To get an experience of traveling as one might traveling independently rather than being herded around on motor coaches-look for tours that are limited to 12 to 14 maximum and that have unscheduled time to explore and discover and that do not include all the meals so you can try different types of restaurants.

Travel insurance:
Be sure to have travel insurance. Many homeowners policies include travel medical, but check with your insurance provider and also be sure to have trip interruption and cancellation insurance.
Free Travel Insurance Quotes from AIG Travel Guard.
You can book directly online.

Have a great time!
And drop us a line to let us know about your Solo Travel Adventure!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SAVE Single Supplement-Share accommodations!

Greek Island Hopping for Women Sept 7-21, 2007

Room share available.
$3649.00 including transatlantic airfare to Greece.
(After June 2 a late booking fee may apply)

Friday, May 4, 2007

A hike in the Samaria Gorge in Crete, Greece

This monologue was inspired by a hike in the Samaria Gorge on the Island of Crete in Greece (and there really was someone wearing platform shoes hiking in the gorge!). Learn more about image

By Marilyn Malone

(Eurynome is walking and talking. You can only see the top half of her. She is wearing an over one shoulder toga. She’s walking behind a wall with forest scenery painted on it)
You can imagine my father and mother trying to feed the whole Greek water nymph family. What with 2999 sisters, and 3000 brothers. Maybe you’ve heard of my sisters? Metia was the first wife of Zeus, and Amphitrite married Poseidon. Yes, they’re the pretty ones.
We’re not gods, exactly, although a couple of my brothers think they are. And basically, we like humans, except that war thing of yours is getting a little old. I’m Eurynome, the patron nymph of wandering around. And I’m not aimless, no matter what you heard. Sure, I had a little fling with Zeus that led to my beautiful three Graces--- Splendor, Festivity and Rejoicing. But Metia was well over Zeus by the time we hooked up! The Graces are grown now, and thank Gods, all employed, bringing peace and happiness to Aphrodite on Cyprus. Zeus pulled a few strings to get them the job, but it was the least he could do! They do some weaving of her robes, and bathe her while she waits for her husband. He’s always at war too.
It’s too nice a day on Crete to rehash all that again. Let’s just enjoy the walk down to the Iron Gates, where the rocks almost completely close off the Samaria Gorge. Of course, if we get that far, we might as well squeeze through and walk the rest of the way to the water. Yes, I know it’s really rocky, and takes most of the day to get from the mountains to the sea, but the sky is so blue and the sun so bright. (Looks to her side.)
Watch out! Let those skinny Italian tourists run past on their platform espadrilles. They’ll end up being carried out of here on the back of a donkey.
(jerks slightly, reaches forward and turns off treadmill. Comes around the wall in workout attire, her toga top is her towel which she swings off of her shoulder.)

Whew, seems like half an hour on the treadmill takes all day!