HERSTORY

on Mt. Bukhansan, Seoul in 2009
UE, the hostes
  • is also a publisher of Alternative Culture and edited Do You Like to Travel?.

  • likes traveling, walking and cooking

  • traveled in Western Europe, Nepal, Japan, and Eastern and Southern Africa.

  • walked all the way to Santiago de Compostela from Le Puy-en-Veley in 2007.

  • speaks Korean, English and a little little bit of French.

  • SLEEPING STRAWBERRY is also her american native name.

 

We are trying to reduce our carbon footprint!

  • We wash my face with rice bran.

  • We wash our hair with hand-made shampoo bar, and rinse with a couple of drops of vinegar.

  • We  wash our clothes by hand, with a couple of drops of vinegar or EM (effective microorganisms) instead of washing powder, spin and dry them. (We can also use the 24 hour coin laundry service near the guesthouse.)

  • We use the electric fan instead of the air-conditioner. When using the air-conditioner, we follow the recommended setting temperature, 26 degree C.

  • We are serve vegetarian and local foods.

  • We have a water purifier by red clay ceramic ball, so we don’t have to buy bottled water.

​​A Travel specialist who wrote a travel book runs a Female-only Guesthouse

By Park Young-cheol, Chosun Weekly, No. 2169 (2011.08.15)


A publishing company, Alternative Culture is located near Sinchon in Seoul. UE, the CEO of the company has been carrying another name card that says ‘the host of Sleeping Strawberry Guesthouse since last January.   

  As traveling overseas had become a lot more common among Korean people, the English expression ‘guesthouse’ is now familiar to them and guesthouses for foreign travelers have been opened one by one. There are few guesthouses for women only and Sleeping Strawberry is the first female-only guesthouse which is run by a publishing company.

  I visited Sleeping Strawberry Guesthouse last 9th August. UE welcomed us to the place where there were no guests at the time. “They are all out for their own business.” She answered to “Where are all the guests?”   
   
She herself has travel overseas since 16 years ago.
   
She gave us a tour. There are three bedrooms for guests placed in parts of the row house (which is also used as the office of Alternative Culture) on the third floor and in its attic. one of the rooms has two sets of double-deck beds and another room has three, which are to have a maximum of 4 or 6 guests each. The ondol-style bedroom (where there is no bed and you sleep on a Korean style mattress and bedding on the floor that can be heated) in the attic is for a single guest or a group of 2-4 people to stay. The ambiance of the room with two double-deck beds is simple and the one with three is cute and feminine so you can choose what you like. There is a bathroom with a toilet and shower, of course.   

As the introduction of the facilities seems enough, let’s hear how UE, the elegant CEO of a publishing company had become the host of this guesthouse, too. 

  “Since I myself have traveled quite a lot, I understand what kind of inconvenience female travelers can experience. In Europe such as England, Ireland and Germany, there are lots of guesthouses run by elderly people in their family homes with empty rooms once used by the children who’d grew up and left.      

  She is well-know as a travel specialist in the publishing world. Since she went backpacking overseas in 1995 for the first time, she’s kept traveling whenever time allowed. She enjoys traveling on foot; collects guidebooks; leaves on trips during long holidays. She visited Frankfurt Book Fair in the first overseas travel, and in 2007, with a friend, she hiked 1,600 kilometers of roads from the south central France to Santiago, that included the famous pilgrimage route. She went trucking from the east to the south of Africa last January. Before this, in September 2006, she’d written and published ‘Do You Like Travels?’ that is a guidebook of overseas travel for women.  

  She got the idea of running a guest house from the occasion with a French woman who stayed in Korea for two months since the day of Chu-seok last year. That woman how was introduced by a Korean friend home-stayed in UE’s house at first. UE’s house is 10-minuite walk from her office. “I live with my mother and at the time her condition wasn’t good enough to take care of a guest. So I asked the woman to stay in the attic of my office.”

   From that experience it occurred to her “What if I run a guesthouse?” The idea of making better use of the space was appealing, too. “The office is empty anyway before and after working hours and that’s when the guests use the place. In the same sense, during the working hours the guests are out anyway for sightseeing or their business. So, it’s mutually beneficial.         

  She aims for running a safe, cheap and clean guesthouse with the knowledge from her own experience. Sleeping Strawberry Guesthouse has similar aspects with the ones in advanced countries. Firstly, the charge is 25,000 won a night per person, which is low. Also, it’s safer as it’s the female-only guesthouse. UE takes special care of the hygiene. “I hate the musty odor from bedding in accommodations.” She bought cotton cloth and had it made into bed sheets which she replaces for every new guest. There are PC, wireless LAN, maps, a hair dryer and towels for guests to use. 
   
The publisher’s office during the day, the guesthouse during the night

The guests can fix themselves breakfast in the self-service kitchen which is the common type of serving meals in guesthouses internationally. In Sleeping Strawberry Guesthouse, there are bread, steamed potatoes, sweet potatoes, tea (Solomon’s seal tea, green tea), fruits, homemade fruit jam and peanut butter for you to fix your own breakfast. I tasted a piece of toasted bread with some jam and it was great. They can do their laundry at a coin laundry place in the neighborhood. 

  Her day job is publishing. Alternative Culture is specialized in publishing books about women, youth and alternative education. It was registered in 1989 and she’s been the CEO since 1993. It had published about 90 titles so far. From the number of titles and the main field, we can see its priority has been ‘quality over quantity’. Last August 5th, it brought out the title Paige which is the translation of We Are All Welcome Here written by Elizabeth Berg and also is the third title of Alternative Culture’s youth book brand, ‘Attics’. 
    As for the books that are more special to her, there is An Anthology of Poems by Go Jeonghee which is a two-volume set compiled with the works of the late poet, Go Jeonghee. There is also Menarche Party: A Girls' Guide to Happy Menstruation which is a sex education book for children. “The book is written with my hope that we could ditch the negative ideas about our period and appreciate it as bless.”

  She is also especially proud of Our Bodies, Ourselves published in 2005. This Korean version of the original title written by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective Inc. which is an American nonprofit organization for ‘women and health’ education can let you know how to take care of your health at home and work place and more information about hormone, sex, pregnancy, delivery and etc.     

   Various people have been to this Sleeping Strawberry Guesthouse. The ratio of Koreans to foreigners has been about 9:1. As it is now being introduced on international guesthouse info websites, gradual increase of foreign guests can be expected. 
    I asked UE if it wasn’t hard to manage her two jobs at the same time. “It’s been fine so far probably because the guesthouse is not that well-known yet and there weren’t many times when the rooms got full with guests. I’m enjoying myself as the host since I do it for, rather than money, the pleasure of providing accommodations where female travelers can feel safe and cozy. I hope Seoul will have more female-only guesthouses, inspired by this place.”   

 

translated by Naeun Kang

Copyright ⒸCHOSUN NEW PRESSW - CHOSUN WEEKLY, 2011 

 

SOURCE: http://weekly.chosun.com/client/news/viw.asp?nNewsNumb=002169100027&ctcd=C09