No more things

I do not collect the swag they give out at conferences. Swag piles up, taking up space, and at some point in time, we end up throwing this stuff. At the risk of appearing rude, I refuse gifts from people who invite me to give some talk or presentation. And I will never bother you with stuff at a meet or event I organise (unless it is something that you can eat). There was a time when I liked these things, and I would hoard them along with everything else. But then one day Geoffrey Cain took me on a visit to a landfill outside Phnom Penh. After seeing the amount of garbage, I lost my appetite for things.

On a related note, we have to start reducing the garbage we produce.

The fans

If you were near the airport in Saigon last night, you might have heard two sets of teenage shrieks. The second, louder and the longer one was for some Korean band. Let me unravel the mystery of the first one. As I finished immigration and coming down the escalator, I saw the viewing area of the airport jam-packed with hundreds of teenagers. One look at them and you could tell that they were waiting for a band landing soon. It was a party atmosphere. I figured it would be good to put them through some warm-up exercise. So I waved at them and did my best celebrity impersonation - blowing kisses et all.The kids at the front were stunned for a moment, but it didn't take long them to reciprocate. Soon enough the whole crowd went wild screaming and waving the flags and banners. I was in half minds to do some Kpop dance steps, but that might have been too much for the stern looking airport security and would have surely made me a YouTube meme. You can travel half the world, but there is no point if you can’t make some little girls smile.

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もったいない, don’t waste

In our Japan, there is a word and the philosophy of もったいない, mottainai - meaning “don’t waste”. It is actually hard to fix things these days with local electric supply shops, tailors and shoe repairers all disappearing en masse. I found a makerspace at a campus. I made a short power cable plug (I could not find a single local shop selling a 0.5 meter cable, the only option was to buy on eBay or Amazon where the shipping costs more than the price of the cable). And once you are in a makerspace, you have this strong desire to repair everything, I ended up fixed the fraying canvas on my bag. 

Best time in a city's life

I like Phnom Penh for the diversity of food available at good prices. For example, we ate at an Ethiopian restaurant here and it was about 14 USD. A similar spread cost us 45 USD in Tokyo. I like the Ethiopian bread injeera, it is like Dosa but more tangy. 

I think there is a time in every mazor/capital city’s life when there is an interesting mix of immigrants and locals keen on trying new things, lax enough regulations, cheaper rental and staffing costs that encourages such experimentation. Phnom Penh and Saigon are like the Tokyo of 1980s.

Saigon's upcoming Japantown

The upcoming Japan town of Saigon, located around Nguyễn Ngọc Phương, P19, Bình Thạnh, about 2 kilometres from the older one located at Le Thanh Ton.  

The pickings are a bit sparse right now, and this location is more family friendly with no bars and entertainment establishments as of now. Thanks to Thao for always introducing new places in this city. 

Check out the older Japantown of Saigon