Just you wait - Ну,погоди ! (Nu Pogodi !)

My neighbourhood always has fun stuff waiting to be discovered. Today, I found a shop selling Soviet memorabilia. I bought a badge featuring a character from my favorite Soviet Union childhood cartoon Nu Pogodi. The TV show features a wolf called Volk and he is always plotting to catch and eat a hare Zayats. The hare always outsmarts the wolf, the last scene has Volk crying out Nu Pogodi!! (just you wait). I think the other character on the badge is Mishka - the 1980 Moscow Olympic mascot.

The future, in Jakarta

This time round the Jakarta book club was talking about the future - we had a science fiction themed meet. I am always curious about how people in non-western countries see the future, and keen to discover locally written science fictions. And Jakarta always reminds of that old German movie - metropolis - high rises reaching up to the clouds, rising over humber dwellings. 

Thanks Ollie for the picture.

Talking about "getting lost" in Saigon

It is not easy for Vietnamese to travel as it is always harder for people from developing countries to get visas and the exchange rates are often not your friend. Yet, more and more young Vietnamese traveling and I am lucky to have some of these travelers as my friends.  Thanks to the folks at Triip.me, I got an opportunity to share notes with travel enthusiasts in Saigon, and share the stage with travel writer Rosie Nguyen. 

We will soon have another such meet sometimes in November. Thanks to Triip,me for the photos.

Sharing reading, and books as macro at Cambodian Readcamp

I remember a time when when social media and youtube did not take up so much of our time. We used to have time to read books. 
If you were to explain some feeling to someone, you could refer to a sub-plot or a character from a book. The ideas in a book were like macros. In the listener's mind, if they had read the same book, the idea that you mention will expand and they would understand what you were talking about. In a way, books were like macros of computer programming. 

We set up a small event in Phnom Penh to gather readers. The ideas was to share our favourite books. We had avid readers, writers and local publishers attend the meet. 

Range of books, from history to business etc. were discussed. We also had an interesting discussion on finding time to read (reducing social media time perhaps) and how to discover new reading. 

Cambodia is a place very close to my heart as I often meet and collaborate with young people who are passionate about helping their peers discover ideas. 

3331 Arts Chiyoda, repurposing a school to a community art centre and learning space

When I was a kid, I would always wish that the school would close. I liked the building, but did not care much for most classes other than history and geography. I always wondered why we can't have people from the neighbourhood come into our school and show us stuff they were doing. Here is a school (low student numbers means that many schools close and are re-purposed) that has turned into an art gallery + hackerspace + community learning space + co working area. There is even a community farm on the roof and a green wall outside. It's about 10 minutes walk from Akihabara station.

Visiting Todoroki, a forest in the middle of the city

Tokyo often throws up surprises. In the middle of the busy Setagaya ward there is a kilometre long stretch of dense forest that runs along a small river. Walking along the river you could easily pretend that you are in another prefecture or perhaps another world. The Todoroki valley is just ten minutes walk from Todoroki station. Pack some Onigiri or a small bento and you can have a nice picnic by the water.

The love of free food

I dropped in to this cafe in Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised to hear the girls working there speak Khmer. Most wait staff in these parts are from Vietnam or Myanmar. They were equally curious about me when I got them to play some Khmer songs from my phone. There was this one girl, who came to chat with me. Not yet 20, she had left her home to support the education of her younger sibling after both her parents had passed away. Unlike the others in the shop, she was not glued to her smartphone. She said she liked talking to the customers, it helped her learn English and Chinese.

We spoke of life in Cambodia, the recent politics - seems she followed the news online, and the food. I said I missed the food the most. She offered to share her dinner. I accepted. She had made simple chicken porridge, she brought out a bowl and poured out a generous helping, even added a select piece of meat, and pepper and lime. 

I am never the one to miss free food. Free food always tastes better. Because more often than not, free food is offered out of love, and there is no better garnish than the affection we share with people who start as strangers, but soon enough we find some connection with them - even if it is something as trivial as mutual liking for an old Khmer song or common interest in latest political gossip from back home.