Monthly Archives: October 2012

kelseydo Spinning Thread

In one of my classes at Ritsumeikan, Service Learning, we learn about social issues, community and not-for-profit organizations (NPO). The course is taught half in the classroom and half through field work in Ritsumeikan’s neighbourhood and the local community in Kyoto.

Last week I got the chance to visit a local community radio station, Radio Cafe, which in part is an actual cafe where they do live recordings, and also a conventional radio station. The cafe was really cool and had this amazing sliding door made out of some kind of crazy soap stone mosaic (at least that’s what it looked like to me). The people in the cafe seemed really down to earth but also quite hip- kind of like Main Street in Vancouver but not trying as hard.

Radio Cafe Paraphenelia

We took a look at the radio station and got a run down from the head honcho and our teacher about their recent work on staying connected with people and stories from the areas and communities affected by the 3/11 natural disaster in Japan. Because they are a community based radio station and not in the mainstream media, they were able to do more personable interviews with survivors, researchers and experts on the subject of the disaster. When the natural disaster occurred on 3/11 a lot of people couldn’t connect to the internet or watch TV to gather news or information, but they could listen to the radio.

At Radio Cafe, they believe it is important to keep sharing the stories and happenings in these communities beyond  3/11 to inspire people to become more proactive within their own communities. They’ve inspired a lot of other areas to start up their own local community radio stations as well, which is pretty cool. In our class we will work on creating a type of broadcast that we will record and send to a local community centre near Sendai in an area that was affected by 3/11.

Another cool project we got to work on today was making thread from cotton balls. Our teacher is involved in a program that teaches communities, recently in the areas affected by the 3/11 disaster, how to grow their own cotton so that they can make their own clothes and become more self-sufficient.

Removing the seeds from the cotton (harvested by our teacher in Ohara) and making the cotton “fluffy”

Spinning thread

Photo op. I already spun my thread but I just wanted to prove to you I was there.

My spindle of thread…kinda lumpy…the teacher was real nice about it, she said it was cute. Of course the Japanese students had PERFECT spindles.

In the end, we will dye the thread in Ohara with vegetable dye and then weave it into a tapestry that we will send to one of the local communities that our teacher worked in after 3/11.

I planned to take a trip to Japan in the summer of 2011, but because of the disaster, Nick and I changed our plans and went to Southeast Asia. It didn’t seem like a good time to be a tourist in a country that was trying to put the pieces back together. I always felt like I wanted to contribute something to support or aid of the disaster affected area but I wasn’t sure what I would do. I think this class has helped me become connected to the communities that were directly affected more than I expected to in Kyoto, miles away. I hope this is just the beginning and that I can make some even more meaningful contributions in the future!

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kelseydo A Day In The Life

11:30am I wake up to the sound of rain and motorbikes whizzing by. Last night I went out with friends to Karaoke until 3am and then made a few Skype calls, so I had a little sleep in. On Sunday I get pretty domestic: finish my laundry, vacuum and clean my room. My hair stinks like cigarette smoke from the Karaoke bar so it’s time to hit the showers. The showers in my dorm are communal but since I slept in so late no one’s in there, so I get the whole place to myself.

1:00pm Brunch time! I fry up two eggs and a couple leaves of sautéed Bok Choi. I put some rice on and mix in some seasonings to get started on my Onigiri for the coming week. Onigiri is a cheap and easy snack to help get me through classes!

Onigiri…I can only hope mine turn out this good!

The rain lets up for a minute so I hop on my bike (which I lovingly named ‘The Enterprise’ because of it’s willingness to boldly go where no man has gone before) and head to the 7-11 to get my weekly budget. It’s difficult for me to go into a 7-11 and not pick up a snack- there are so many cheap and delicious and unknown foods to try! I grab a grapefruit juice & a green tea mochi with red bean filling. Mochi is a small dessert made with rice flour on the outside and a sweet jam on the inside. Today was the first day I tried it and I love it! The texture and flavour are really unique and amazing.

Looks a little weird but tastes great!

I bike to Hanazono station where I grab a comfy seat on the train by the window and watch the grey day go by.

1:45pm Arrive at Kyoto Station. I love the ceiling in this place! Photos can’t do it justice.

Kyoto Station

I head to Yodobashi Camera to meet up with some friends who are shopping for Halloween costumes, among other things. Yodobashi Camera sells mainly electronics, but also has clothing, food, toys, home appliances, beauty products and basically anything you can think of. There is also a Uniqlo inside which reminds me a lot of Joe Fresh in Canada.

Yodobashi- Why are these headphones still popular?

Head Refresher? Weird stuff at Yodobashi

Sleeping Beauty Hip Pants? More weird stuff at Yodobashi

Book of photos with girls licking door handles? Weirdest stuff at Yodobashi

Some cute stuff at Yodobashi so you forget all that weird stuff

After finding some very interesting things at Yodobashi (one store in particular) we went to Teramachi Dori which is a really busy shopping street with lots of cool stores. Teramachi is a weird place. There are a lot of temples and a Pachinko parlour (slot machine/pinball casino) right in the shopping area.

A shrine on the way to Teramachi Dori

An Art Installation (made of water bottles) in the middle of Teramachi

A busy day at Teramachi

I managed to score a few items: a camera strap ($15) from Yodobashi and a pair of sparkly black flats ($24) from Pango Pango on Teramachi.

My finds for the day

7:00pm Walk back to the train and head home. In the rain.

Kyoto Tower at night

On the way I grab some groceries from Gyomu Supa because tonight I’ll attempt to make Nabe, a hot pot with soup broth, veggies, meat, tofu and noodles (no fish cakes for me thanks!). It’s the perfect meal after a day in the rain.

The final product: Nabe with ponzu sauce and kimchi

9:00pm I have some listening comprehension homework and a short writing assignment to complete! Then I’ll watch some of my new show: Hanazakari no Kimitachi e which is a hilarious Japanese TV series about a girl that pretends to be a boy so she can go to an all-boys school where her idol goes. It’s ridiculous but I can’t stop watching it!

11:30pm Bed time!

Time to hit the pillow!

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kelseydo Bike Trip to Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan and is located about 20km east of Kyoto. I have been missing the ocean like crazy, so I figured a 670 km² lake would do the trick to fulfill my sea needs.

One of the international students, Andi, who has also been a bike tour guide before, organized the day trip to go to Lake Biwa. What we thought would take 6 hours, ended up taking 12 hours, but it was a beautiful trip and an amazing experience. The two other girls that came with us, Seika and Natalie, had only ever been on bikes a handful of times, but they made it through the trip and complained less than I did! Our one-speed city bikes did pretty well going such a long distance and over all those hills!

We tried to take a mountain route on the way back to Kyoto, which ended up being closed for the weekend, so we had to detour back to the way we came, adding another hour onto our route. Then we got some poor directions and ended up on an expressway (no bikes allowed), missed our turn off and had to back track a little bit. Needless to say we were happy to be home and in one piece when all was said and done.

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kelseydo 二条城 Nijo Castle

On Saturday I hopped on the train with my friend Bobby and we went to Nijo Castle near downtown Kyoto. The castle itself is more like a fortified palace, but it has a really cool moat and stone wall protecting it. The moat even had turtles! There was a lot of algae in the water which made it look like a moat made of matcha (powdered green tea). The grounds of Nijo were quite beautiful with a lot of interesting looking trees. We even got to see a wedding taking place. It was neat to see the different traditions involved in the wedding. The bride had a flower in her hair as big as my head! Another really cool thing was that Nijo Castle has a nightingale floor which is designed to make a chirping noise when walked on. The squeaking floors are a security device to make sure ninjas can’t sneak in undetected. I couldn’t get over the sound when we were walking through the castle! Too cool.

Just in case you fall in the moat


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kelseydo Thanksgiving in Kyoto

The last piece of pie!

I have really missed my family over this last weekend, because usually it is a time that we get to spend together. This year, however, we had to do the skype thing, as I am in Kyoto!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that everyone thinks is just an excuse to eat turkey. Don’t get me wrong, in my family we eat that turkey like it ain’t no thang. At the same time, being away around this holiday made me realize that Thanksgiving is about a lot more than just food. There are many moments that I get to share with my family during the whole process that is Thanksgiving that have little to do with food and a lot to do with communication, connection, and yeah… wine! But in all seriousness, I have cherished this Thanksgiving more than others because it really made me thankful for my family. I am so lucky to have such wonderful and amazing people in my life that love and support me, and best of all -make me laugh! Thank you!

Luckily, I have met some amazing people while on exchange in Kyoto, especially the people who live in my dorm. 3 other students in my dorm are from Canada, and were equally eager to have a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner! (There are a few Americans in the dorm, and their Thanksgiving is late November). We were happy to have people from other countries contribute some dishes and join in on the festivities!

There are quite a few things associated with traditional Thanksgiving dinner that are a little tricky to find at our local grocery store. The major thing being turkey! But, Amanda outdid herself and made chicken breast, wrapped in bacon and stuffed with soft cheese and spinach. Better than turkey in my personal opinion! Sherry made some delicious spiced carrots and Vivien made some really incredible potatoes with onions and some other mystery ingredients that took me to mash potato heaven! We also had basil pasta and kimchi rice- yum!

I took on a special task for our dinner- pumpkin pie. I have never made a pumpkin pie before in my life. I never really even liked pumpkin pie. Don’t be mad.

First of all I’m just going to come out and say it- I ACED it! That pumpkin pie was delicious, even for a non-pumpkin pie liker like me.

There were a few hurdles, like making my own pastry shell from scratch and the fact that pumpkins here are a little different from pumpkins at home. Oh yeah, no Tenderflake or pumpkin puree either. Eat your heart out Martha.

Overall, Thanksgiving was a great success. There is still a large hole in my heart, but there are certain special moments like this one where that hole is less noticeable. We were all thankful for our new friends, and for their effort to make our dorm a new home.

Shoddy Baking Equipment…First World Problems

My buddies: Jack-o-Lantern + Wine

Amanda on the grill

Vivien handling the knife

Happy Thanksgiving! My “hand-made” turkey bird napkins.

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