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.