The True Superheroes of the World are Their Guardians

Think about Superman, Batman and maybe others (that is about my knowledge of superheroes) and how they were raised and how they got their values, behaviours and attitudes for doing good in the world.

Admittedly some of it comes from an unfortunate incident in their childhood and them wanting to seek revenge, but Superman and Batman were both raised by foster parents and guardians who aspired them to be and do good in the world.

Imagine if Superman and Batman had crappy guardians and used their powers for evil? Lex Luther, The Joker and all the other villains would dominate with evil in the world.

So, for those of us who don’t wear our superhero masks and capes to the shops anymore (except for my partner, Serafina and her son), we can aspire to be like the guardians of the superheros, to bring up our children to aspire to good and protect and support those who are vulnerable and facing challenges in their life!

Sorry to limit my superheros to the two obvious ones, I didn’t make it past the old superhero movies from the 80s…

If you want to be a superhero guardian or parent then check out Teaspoons of Change with a bunch of small but significant ideas and actions that contribute to positive impacts on people and the planet! Then who knows what good your daughter or son might do for the world!!!

http://teaspoonsofchange.org & https://www.facebook.com/teaspoonsofchange

Sarah McSorley Impact Illustrator ToCh

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That special kind of feeling… (travel & Africa)

There are actually a couple special kinds of feelings I want to look at in this one. They are both related to travel however.

The first is the feeling I get of being in a new country.

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My first time in Liberia and West Africa. I love how different a street can look and feel from one country to the next…

The pattern is remarkably similar for each new country where I am a kiddy in a candy store for the first three days with sensory overload but a continuous beaming smile on my face. After the first few days, and usually some long walks creating my own motion animation or documentary of the new people and place that I am a part of, I settle into the details. It is then a fun discovery of listening, learning, observing, guessing and trying to tap into the beats of daily life (sometimes easier in some places like Liberia where the beats are loud and very public through huge speakers!). The next phase after a week or two is taking ownership on the experience and being able to predict some of the ways of thinking and doing and most importantly prices so the fear of being ripped off dissipates. Then for those of us (actually rarely me) who can stay beyond a couple of weeks a new life and lifestyle emerges and opens up of walking in step with the locals but always being slightly out of step at the same time – sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse.

20170910_215137 (779x1024)Depending on how different the culture, way of life and environment is from your own brought up set of lenses it is a continuous journey of loving the good parts of that place and complaining about the parts that you know could be different from either your own culture or another you might have seen in the past.

I’ve now had this special feeling in 90 different countries as my Liberian passport marks the 90th country I’ve been extremely privileged to experience and also pursued myself, to have that feeling of being in a new place with new people.

The second special feeling is the feeling of being back in Africa. It is my first time to be in Liberia and West Africa but there are some feelings and realities of being in West Africa that remind me of my fortunate years and experiences in east Africa: a year in rural Ethiopia, 6 months in Uganda, 5 months in South Sudan and shorter visits to numerous countries in eastern and southern Africa.

Before I talk about the wonderful ways of Africa and in admiration of the noble savages (I won’t be doing that) there are some very harsh realities faced in this continent that can be seen easier and more en masse than in most other continents. Life is tough in Africa for most Africans. There is a huge variety in the 54 countries that make up the continent of Africa but there are many similarities for many of those countries that I’ve been fortunate to learn from so allow me to generalise on those countries and call it an African experience, or at least my African experience…

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  • Africa is loud. I’m writing this blog being powered by a generator that sounds like I am either riding on a tractor or have one inches away from my ears, and the generator is not always the loudest sound in the room which may be outdone by the blaring TV in the room next door, pumping speakers from a church / political party / electronics shop near or far away, teaming rain on the tin roof or people generally shouting just to communicate.
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Loud in clothing as well – hot pink running clothes with hot white shoes!

  • The smells of Africa range from raw sewerage, dead animals, fragrant markets and most commonly heavy perfumes of petrol and vehicle emissions from crappy quality petrol.
  • People take care of themselves but love taking care of you. I admire the resiliency of so many people on this continent. The complaints I have and know in the west are SO trivial in comparison to people in Africa and even then the people of Africa rarely complain because complaining won’t do anything anyway. Then taking care of you, the people of Africa are so quick to adopt a stranger and not with reverence or pampering but in a seamless matter-of-fact way making you feel like you were born into their family.

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  • Time is fluid and not a social contract. This can be a point of massive frustration (if you are someone organising trainings, logistics and the like) but settling into that way of conceiving time is a skill the whole world could do with a little dose of (I know the Latin Americans and other places have this pretty fluid sense of time too).

To me it feels a more raw and slightly more pure form of life where there are less distractions, less social norms of individualism and where you have to interact with humans at their most human with less built up, and I would call artificial, surroundings. I’m not here to put this way of life on a pedestal or glorify the abject poverty and lack of infrastructure and services that almost every African would dearly appreciate but as a visitor (who can easily leave and have access to that infrastructure and services) what I do love about being in Africa is the way the place ticks. Not a better tick but a different one and one that I appreciate of being louder, smellier, timeless and with a huge amount of resilience and few expectations.

90 countries doesn’t even get me to half of the 193 countries in the world and only around 10 of the 54 African countries so I’m sure there will be more opportunities to experience new places with new people in the future!

Continuous nomad

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Is Formal Education Really Education?

For the first time in 10 months I have the opportunity to write as a normal native natural human! I can write as I wish with the primary focus of connecting to people, feelings, understanding and discovery without an academic straightjacket on telling me what is and isn’t acceptable (just like using isn’t instead of is not!).

Before complaining too much about my academic experience I want to say that I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to put my life on hold, dedicate my time and effort to academic studies and learning, and to be able to have this observation, especially when it is on scholarship.

BUT…

Looking back on the past 10 months it resoundingly shows me is that I am just as uninspired by formal education as I have always been since grade 1, when I was 5 years old.

Why isn’t school from day one about walking in the bush, the forest, the beach, or anywhere, learning about the things we discover around us, as humans have done for millennia? By the time we get to secondary school we either love or hate abstract mathematics, literature or physical education – doing them mostly without choice. I would have loved to learn first-aid, how to fix bicycles, how to grow food, had meaningful interaction with my community and coming of age with my peers as our hormones changed at adolescence.

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My friend’s daughter’s classroom everyday (rain, snow, sunshine) in Victoria, Canada. Learning about their environment and each other – what an education!

It wasn’t until my third year at university in my undergrad to become a teacher that I saw the inside of a school classroom and got to learn and develop my ‘trade’, as is done if you are a carpenter, hairdresser or farmer from day one. Now, 16 years after my undergraduate, I was back in the mainstream education system, or better put, institution, and the experience is still the same – overly theoretical, lacking context and relevance.

Initially I was very excited and eager for postgrad, to learn about peace and enthralled to be doing it with people from around the world learning from them and their experiences. This was not the case. I was institutionalised into classes, sitting at traditional tables and chairs within 4 walls, with endless readings that didn’t encourage group learning, deep discussions or motivation to learn and contribute to society. How can you not have a long discussion on Syria in a year of course work in a Master’s of Peace Studies?

There were some wonderful exceptions, such as a course on sustainable development and peace using a flipped classroom approach of discovery and topic-based learning, but if I was to learn about peace for 10 months on my own, I would have done a much better job myself, speaking with practitioners, finding interesting research and most of all putting it into context.

I used to always say my education started the day I finished university (my undergrad) because that is when I started travelling and learning from the world that was relevant, had context, was exciting and made me feel lucky to be alive.

Fortunately, I have that opportunity again now as I go out into the world to do field research to contribute to a thesis that is self-created, directed and curated, to learn more about something that I really want to know…

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In the two-weeks since starting my field work my eyes and ears have been tuned into anything to do with peace and my topic of a culture of peace. This has included chats with academics to find out the information I want to know, not have to know; meeting with inspiring peace practitioners and programs; and being super observant of anything to do with peace from a cheap Chinese restaurant called the Peace Restaurant to the women I saw today on the streets of Chicago looking pretty unhappy with the world and drawing hard on her cigarette, yet wearing an amazing hat with PEACE embroidered on it and flowers surrounding it (sorry no pic due to her observed mood).

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This is what a study of peace means to me, conversations, relevant reading, interviews, surveys, assumptions, reassumptions, being dedicated to questioning, learning more and to find new ways of thinking and doing – none of which has been a part of the classwork or course component of my studies.

I do believe there is a place and space for academic learning, research and rigor but to make it confined to strict protocols and mostly irrelevant parameters seems redundant.

I look forward to the next 5 months of field work and learning as I travel around the world to ask, question, listen, debate and discover a culture of peace and then it will be back to write a final thesis where semi-colons matter and the widths of my margins… but at least I will have had the chance to listen and learn from the world once again and that is daily skin pinching stuff 😊 (putting in a smiley face as I haven’t done that in my academic writing for 10-months!).

 

 

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38 – A Year Like No Other (but what year ever is in my life)

 

What another wonderful set of moons to see pass in my 38th year of life with Venus or some other cosmic shit throwing a few things into the works for some challenges.

The last year had some ultimate highs and some worries as well – nothing health related, just to not seeing my wonderful partner and her son be treated properly but as the saying goes ‘todos conspirer para inspirar’ (all things conspire to inspire).

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It might be a sign of my old age, now at 39, but I failed to get up for sunrise this morning for my birthday as I mostly done for the past 15 years or so but to be fair on myself sunrise in Japan is at 4.30am – land of the rising sun indeed! So it is now 5.30am and the sun is well up but the birds are still on their singing-in-the-shower-in-the-morning routine and set to have their coffee and read the newspaper by now.

 

The theme for 38 was certainly patience, responsibility, continued adventure (and privilege) and love.

20160822_171708I think it might have been the first calendar year that I have held a relationship, ever, and as always this is not in the conventional sense of actually being in the same place as that person (the beautiful Serafina) but at least being in contact on a daily basis.

Let me skip back 365 nights ago where I was drinking flaming lamborghinis in a swish bar in Kuala Lumpur, hip hop dancing and having present to hundreds of young global citizen enthusiasts in the day light hours previous.

In the year of being my preferred even-numbered age of 38 I was again fortunate to walk (bus and fly) the earth to Malaysia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Switzerland, England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, India, Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, China and South Korea. It was a usual mix of global citizenship education, campaigning, social justice and a very new element of formal post graduate education at university in Japan.

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On the formal education, or anything formal, I have really struggled with the institutionalisation of education and learning academic rigour in what often feels like for no reason other than this is the way it is done and has been done for a long time. I’ve really struggled in an undynamic environment and gaining knowledge only through information not much through inspiration as had been my pedagogy of learning for the past 16 years from the world. However, the reason I surrendered two years of my life to this was to try something new, have a taste and most importantly see what I can learn in a new field in peace. Through gritted teeth and almost utter disdain for formal higher education I have managed to learn a lot about the subject of peace but even better connect with a group of human beings on a similar path of learning about peace and seeing what will do to put it practice – the Rotary Peace Fellows.

RPFs with Magda mama (1024x768)

I have just one month to complete my course studies before I head off around the world again to do field work and research and write up a master’s thesis to be completed by this time next year. I’m looking forward to the freedom of learning from the world, matching with the valuable theory (but with context!) and seeing what comes out in the end to make me a more valuable human to be of service to the world in the field of peace – that is exciting and worth the two years of ‘giving up’ my life 😉

But the biggest highlight of the one time I get to be 38 (I hope, or at least in this skin suit) is to have grown a relationship that started with uncertainty, no idea of what it might be and pretty much terror in the face of commitment and responsibility, and is now a highly trusted, deeply bonded and ridiculously fun union with Serafina. It is a relationship that in my mind was never meant to work, impossible due to circumstances and being sure that I was a bad investment! It has proven otherwise and almost the greatest testament to this was two days ago when a two-page spread in the newspaper in South Australia printed the off-hand comment I had made to the journalist that we have made wedding dates with no idea what year it will be in the future – if we continue to get that far. If anyone had told me in the bar in KL a year ago that Serafina and my wedding dates will be published in The Advertiser  I would have lost a lot of money if I was a betting man!

2017.05.27 Tiser article(link to the article: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/lifestyle/sa-lifestyle/living-small/news-story/06cdd8a3d40f4d35ef608f1a7676a5e6)

Thank you Serafina, opportunity and the world for a trying but hugely character-building 38th year and with a 39th year dedicated to buffing the polish on concepts, theories and action for peace I’m excited and intrigued to see where it will spit me out in a year from now…

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2017 New Year’s Evolutions!

 

20170102_131836New Year’s Resolutions and Message – 2017

Hi Troops of Passion and Peace!

A happy Christmas and a very merry New Year once again 🙂

2016 was a banger in so many ways – a new confusing, wonderful and incredibly rich and real relationship that was never meant to survive with Serafina and is thriving like the eradication of polio; 23 countries; a huge variety of social justice jobs; and back to studies with a Master’s in Peace Studies in Japan since September.

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What I do love is keeping in touch via group email once a year (so intimate) and a few random shares of experiences past, near future and resolution ridiculousness…

But the biggest point is as always to say a huge thank you to all as I continue to live on the hospitality, generosity and kindness of others and the world…

The world is a wonderful place and I feel very lucky to interact with it in the way I do 🙂

Some dot points to sum up 2016…

  • Privileged to have been through 23 countries including around 10 new ones with the likes of Nepal, Georgia, Oman, Myanmar and many more taking my country count to 90 countries (still not even half of the 193 UN nation states)
  • Worked in youth empowerment, health promotion, global citizen education, Teaspoons of Change presentations and dedicated to a world trying to find more solutions than pollution
  • A couple of bigger highlights were:
    • helping out with the World’s Largest Lesson team in London to get one lesson dedicated to the Global Goals for every student in the world;
    • a TEDx talk in Dubai on gender equality (online soon);
    • a two-day workshop in western Kyrgyzstan bringing together a great mix of community members for proactive health behaviours; and
    • any hours or days spent in either of my happy simply tiny houses with my girlfriend!

See below for my scorecard of 2016 New Year Resolutions and some weird and wonderful evolutions for 2017!

2017 will see me in Tokyo Japan till end of June studying so come say hi! From there I’ll be doing some field work and research for my Masters learning and understanding a culture of peace through North America, UK, West Africa, the Middle East and back to Japan…

I’m keen to see where my studies and new lenses of peace will take me and always excited to wake up and see another day.

Cheers, d’Arcy.

New Year’s Resolutions – 2017 and review of 2016!

The resolutions that (don’t) matter for 2017…

  • Go outside within 15 minutes of waking up each morning
  • My favourite colour for 2015 will be dirty gold! Chosen by Serafina’s son, Noa
  • A sheep-shaped cloud – make sure you say that aloud and also chosen by Noa!
  • Appreciate my shadow more and those of others
  • Friday Funday dance off with my girlfriend and her son
  • Listen to at least one song every two days
  • Memorise all the countries starting with Q (1), R (3) and S (26) (UN States ref)
  • 10 push ups a day (I have excellent push-ups bars to raise the bar on my push-ups!)
  • Continue to not buy a single bottle of plastic bottled water – 5th year in a row
  • Meet someone from Niger having not been successful in 2016 – I’ll be in the area…
  • Write postcards to family and friend’s kids for birthdays!!!
  • Give someone a low-10 at least once a month – bring it back, too many hi-5’s!
  • Buy Nothing New Month once again in October

A big one to give Teaspoons of Change a big push and continue to highlight good people doing good things!!! http://teaspoonsofchange.org 

The resolution results for 2016…

Sunrise on the 29th of the month, as usual! Hardly – this one has run its course
Find a fish-shaped cloud after not catching one in 2015

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Serafina’s son, Noa found one!
Go skinny-dipping (naked swimming) at least three times Only once and tough to find opportunities
10 push ups a day (I continue to like this, not that results show!) Even got push-up bars!
Sit once a day for at least a couple of minutes (I hope to someday call this meditating!) A few times throughout the year and can do it!
Continue to not buy a single bottle of plastic bottled water All good 4th year in a row!
Memorise all the countries starting with N (10) and O (1 – Oman) Tough but got it, now forgotten
Say thank you to the world once a day Always forget, so fail
My favourite colour for 2015 will be green! Enjoyed this so much!
Meet someone from Niger now that I did Georgia and Armenia No, carry over
Write postcards to family and friend’s kids for birthdays – let me know if you want your kids to get a card from me!!! Loved it and will do again this year!
Buy Nothing New Month once again in October Yep, was great

On top of this Teaspoons of Change now has a wonderful website thanks to my brilliant girlfriend: http://teaspoonsofchange.org

I also run a WhatsApp group called living geography with pics from around the world as I travel so send me a request if you are keen to join: +61 428 416 765

If you prefer a pictorial review of my year from over 20 countries then I have a google photos page as well 🙂 https://goo.gl/photos/6Tn7dAVR2RpADpc86

2017 by possible date and place *note all written in pencil and subject to (frequent) change:

Date Place What!
Jan – June Tokyo, Japan Studying in western Tokyo – come say hi!
19 – 22 Jan Bangkok, Thailand Presenting at an education conference in Bangkok
10 – 22 March Beijing, China Hope to be giving Teaspoons of Change presentations in collab with JUMP! Foundation
July North America, US/Canada Make my way from west to east coast to visit peace education and peace promotion people
Aug London, UK Hope to help out the World’s Largest Lesson
Sept – Oct Sierra Leone, Liberia Listen and learn about peace education in recent post-conflict countries of west Africa
Nov Amman, Jordan Peace Education in current conflict zones
Dec Japan? Oz? See if I have more subjects to complete and start my Master’s thesis

See where the crystal ball really sends me!!!

Posted in 2016, Japan, Opinions / Thoughts / Reflections, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teaspoons of Change in an Apartment in Tokyo

Small but significant ways to live lightly on the earth in an apartment in Tokyo

I’ve just come off the back of many years of continuous travel without being settled in one country, one city, and certainly not one room for a long time. I’m currently in Tokyo, Japan to do a Master’s in Peace Studies through the Rotary Peace Fellowship.

This requires me to be in Tokyo for at least 10 months before I can start to head off back into the world to do field work and my normal nomad way of life. This means I had to find a place to live for 10 months – staying in the same place for the first time since 2008 when I lived in Ethiopia for a year.

In general, for the past 15 years I have been travelling and moving often and my usual form of accommodation has been varied including:

  • Living in a van with my best friend travelling throughout Arctic Canada
  • Well over 100 nights/year in my tent for at least 5 years, especially when travelling from Arctic Canada to the bottom of Tierra del Fuego in South America over 2 years
  • A one room dormitory on Ethiopia without running water and sporadic electricity
  • Another van that I lived in around the streets of Melbourne, and often the carpark of where I was volunteering
  • My friend’s garage/basement with one electricity socket and slightly dungeon surroundings
  • Two self-sufficient tiny houses that I made with volunteers
  • And then an almost infinite number of houses, floors, couches and anything else I’ve been fortunate to close my eyes for 6 hours or more each night for 15 years J

Anyway my point here is that I am not used to conventional living in any sense of the word so coming to Japan and living in an apartment was always going to be a significant struggle going on my past form and especially because I definitely know my favourite form of accommodation which are my Happy, simply homes – sustainable, off-grid, self-sufficient, where less is more and just enough is plenty!

So in a very conventional setting that I am in here in Tokyo I wanted to share each and every small Teaspoons of Change that I feel is a move toward more self-sufficiency, sustainability and happiness trying to live within one-planet resources and environmental limitations.

I should firstly point out that the apartment is pretty typical for cheap but common accommodation for a student or single person in Japan. It is 19m² with kitchen, bathroom/toilet and bedroom/living room and rent is ¥450,000 / month (about $450USD).

I don’t have a choice of renewable energy nor water capture for the majority of my electricity and piped water so I have had to work within those parameters as much as possible to find my Teaspoons of Change.

  • Buckets: I have buckets, many buckets. One for water capture from my shower and washing my face each morning, one for capturing rainwater outside when it rains, one for shaving in the bathroom and a basin for the kitchen
    • All of the water I use in the house gets captured in some way through these buckets and is used to flush the toilet once a day – washing up water, showering water, etc.
  • Solar: I have one small 7W solar panel that I can use to charge a small powerbank when the sun is shining. The first day I left it on top of the neighbour’s fence which was the sunniest spot around they called the police not knowing what it was and I had to retrieve it from the main police station assuring them it was not something harmful! I think this is a pretty good indication of the understanding and relationship of Japan and solar energy.
    • Anyway, I can usually charge my powerbank only once in a week with solar power as it has been a cloudy month here

 

 

  • Devices – I use USB devices as much as possible.
    • I have a 10LED usb light I use for light above my desk and computer, this is the light I use the most, the rest of my lights are conventional fluoro lights that I use on a needs basis and are turned off at all other times.
    • My music comes from a small USB powered musical box. The speaker is more than sufficient for listening to my favourite songs at volume or to play podcasts that I save from the internet and put on an SD card which slots into my little sound box  🙂
    • I try to charge these devices and my phone via the powerbank as often as possible and my USB light runs permanently from my laptop usb

 

  •  Toilet:
    • I rarely flush my toilet with the lever on the toilet, instead I flush with 90% left over water from the shower, the kitchen, or capturing rainwater with my buckets
    • I have filled my cistern with a wine bottle and two large plastic bottles so it uses less water to refill and I have made it so it only flushes as little time as you need and control – so not just one push and the factory choice of how water but a matter of holding the lever flushing till the waste is gone which is a lot less water
    • I have not done a full flush in the month I’ve been here with my combination of re-purposed water and minimum flushing techniques and no smells or nasties floating around the place!
    • BTW the terracotta pot-plant pots are to assist with a squatty potty (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbYWhdLO43Q) and can be used with a candle as a low-burn thermal heater (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzKbFzUEWkA)
  •  Bathroom:
    • I continue to military shower as I always do, or as a few of my friends around the world call it, d’Arcy shower: cold water only, get wet turn off the water, wash, turn on water and rinse. I use about 5-10l maximum with this technique. I must note that it is warm in Japan in summer so the cold showers haven’t been too invigorating so far but come middle of winter I will be using hot water but showering less often, still using the d’Arcy shower technique
    • I capture as much water as possible from my showering to use to flush the toilet
    • Of course only organic soaps and cleaning is with vinegar and bi-carb soda
    • I haven’t brushed my teeth using water for many, many years mainly because I have spent a long time in developing countries where you can’t safely use the tap water. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to clean your teeth without water and I spit my toothpaste into the toilet to be flushed by my shower water
  •  Kitchen:
    • As I stated earlier I use a small basin in the sink to capture all washing up water and any other water for washing my hands or veges etc. all of it going into flushing the toilet
    • Exif_JPEG_420I inherited a small fridge when I arrived but I am so used to not having or using a fridge so it was used as a cupboard for the first month till I gave it to my neighbour who moved into an empty place the other day so I am fridge-free and instead have an esky (cooler, chilly bin, call it what you will) outside and a smaller coolbag in my cupboard inside
    • Meat and dairy free. I do occasionally eat these things when it is not my direct choice – eating at a friend’s place or function where the food has been determined for me
    • No microwave – big suckers of energy and I use a rice cooker which I am told is more energy efficient than cooking rice on the stove…
    • I don’t use hot water in the kitchen (or actually anywhere in the house since it isn’t winter) and my dishes don’t seem to mind nor does my general health
    • I inherited a pressure cooker to cook my lentils and beans etc, although to be honest I haven’t used it yet! But when I do it will save energy!
    • Less gadgets and stuff, my drinking vessel is a large jar and I have about two of everything and if I have more guests I get them to bring their own plates and utensils that I will wash and dry for them at the end of the night (in cold waterJ)
    • All of my food waste goes into the vacant block across the road from me and I have a nice organic compost system going on there as it is scattered over a space and seems to be composting very well – without complaint from the neighbours, yet!
    • I was dumpster diving once a week last month from the convenient stores that throw out heaps of stuff everyday which goes straight to landfill but it is mostly very processed and unhealthy food. I would also get in decent trouble in Japan for such a thing as they wouldn’t really see the logic in ‘one man’s waste is another man’s meal’ so I have stopped for this month to try and get some better eating habits and go for a dive once in a while from next month

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  •  Bedroom/Lounge:
    • I mainly use this as my study space and spend a lot of time here but mostly under outside light from my sliding glass doors or under my USB LED light
    • A huge thing for me is less stuff. Small places, or in my case for 15 years, my backpack, means I don’t have nor need stuff. A laptop for my work and communication, a phone, some camping stuff and the usual draw of miscellaneous items
    • The three significant purchases I have made since being in Japan have been: my loft bed, push-up bars and a shoehorn, each of these things give me daily joy and justification for my purchase. I work under my bed by day – increasing the space in my apartment x2 and sleep on it by night, my push-up bars are cool and my shoehorn is something I’ve wanted to own for a while and I like putting my shoes on comfortably and not ruining them and making them last longer! These are the kinds of things I define as luxury items because I don’t NEED them but enjoy having them
    • The majority of my clothing is second-hand, minimal and I wear the same stuff for years on end
  • Transportation:
    • I don’t have a car nor have I had once since I was using one as a form of accommodation in Melbourne in 2009!
    • Tokyo is very easy for public transport and mostly cycling friendly
    • I actually rarely use trains and like to walk or cycle to downtown 20km away if I can and I usually make it a priority to do so and take the time it takes J
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Everyone used a bicycle in Japan!

  • Exif_JPEG_420

    Meditation – seems pink is the way to do it (or what was left over from the person before me)

    Recreation:

    • Mostly it is walking, writing, cycling, running, meeting and talking with friends, speaking to my girlfriend via whatsapp, some stretching, a little bit of meditation, etc. They are all pretty energy-low recreations

 

  • A few of the normal Teaspoons of Change things are: washing clothes in cold water with minimal detergents and only on full loads, 100% recycled toilet paper, ethical and Fairtrade food and products where possible – not so great in Japan and for university I am close to paper-free unlike my classmates. I do all of my readings on my laptop and assignments sent via email, I still haven’t purchased bottled water for more than three years and I will have a beer about once a week which is via can or bottle and not too many or too often – it is a treat and appreciated as such.

 

What I am still struggling and challenged by:

  • Plastic packaging – so incredibly ridiculous in Japan, even when I buy direct from the small plots of land around me that sell their produce direct it ‘has’ to come in a plastic bag. When I asked for it not to be packaged they just take out the produce and then throw the plastic packaging anyway in the bin…
  • Energy – my laptop and wifi lives on power and not sure how I can divorce myself off mains power more
  • Heating – I’ll see what happens in winter as I plan to get a onesie, rug up, do lots of push-ups and use candle heating with terracotta pots
  • My flying habit – I still fly a lot for work, travel, family etc and I have a very stringent carbon pricing program through http://www.offsetters.ca/ but need to reduce as much as possible moving forward…

My hope in all of that is not to say ‘look at me saving the world’ but to share some of the ways I love to live and there might be a few things that you think about taking on in your own homes…

So some of the things that I really love about my way of living is that I am happy when it is raining – to capture water for my toilet, or when it is sunny – to charge my powerbank with solar. I’m still not sure what to do when it is cloudy which actually seems to be most of the time!

The other thing I really love is that when I leave my house or go to sleep at night everything is off and I am not using a single watt of energy – mainly because I don’t have a fridge and I unplug my wifi. I think this makes a huge difference.

I love to look at the world like this and do my best to reduce my consumption and walk lightly on the earth. I’d love to extend this much much further and would love new ideas, suggestions and feedforward on more I can do… please share with me your tips!

Posted in 2016, Japan, Teaspoons of Change | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

My First Month in Japan, Different, in Not the Way You Might Expect

 

All set to write my first blog in Japan now that I have cleaned my house which takes all of 2-3 minutes in my 19m² apartment, which is pretty standard in a city of over 30 million people!

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The first thing I bought was a loft bed to basically double my space (and bed size!)

In my friendly little apartment, which I should mention is about twice the size of my two self-sufficient tiny Happy, simply homes in South Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, I have found a few moments in between my Master’s in Peace Studies and new life as a Rotary Peace Fellow to share with you a few small insights into life in Tokyo and will try to do so once a month.

I’m  used to moving a lot in my life. I’ve been a social justice nomad for the past 15 years in over 85 countries around the world, and never lived in one place for more than a year since I graduated as a primary school Japanese teacher in Adelaide, Australia in 2000.

Whilst sleeping in the same bed for 30 days straight is a novelty for me it also means I’m not off on new adventures, new life lessons, new cultures, new places and new people. However, I have supplemented that with a much deeper understanding of topics, perspectives and solutions related to peace through my studies. Although I did manage to sneak away a few weeks ago for a night in my tent in the mountains to feel like I was still travelling!

The best comment I have heard so far about stepping away from the world to put my head in books and academia was summed up by Hilary, a Rotary Peace Fellow in the year previous to me. She spoke about how this is a rare opportunity to nourish yourself in discovery, new learning, deeper learning, keen analysis and critique of ideas and overall a new vision to go back out into the world. Her advice was to embrace this opportunity, and that is exactly what I am doing.

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There are times where I still feel like I should be out doing not learning but I am thirsty to seek ideas and answers and extend my understanding of the world to be more effective in it, especially through this new lens of peace.

Those  are some of the feelings that have greeted me on this experience so far, as for the practicalities and daily life stuff it is slightly unique for me compared to my other Rotary Peace Fellows who are all new to Japan. I’ve been lucky to have lived in Japan twice before, I speak almost fluent Japanese and two years ago I walked 1000km and cycling 1500km in Japan to kick start my initiative called Teaspoons of Change.

From the first moment I arrived I felt the familiar hug of Japanese hospitality (although the Japanese don’t hug). I was picked up from the airport by three Rotarians, taken for breakfast, and soon after lunch, then taken from housing agent to university to accomplish all the little things you have to do to start a new life in a new place, when you will be there for more than a month, which is my usual time span skipping from place to place.

Having my Rotarian guardians has not only been of great assistance, especially when you ask them to help you transport a bunk bed from one side of Tokyo to the other!, but also the fellowship and cultural inclusion that comes with it, so not only I, but my other fellows, really get to be a part of this country we are in for our studies.

As for living in Japan, I’ve got my taste back for slightly stinky, slimy and fermented soybeans, known as なと (nato), for breakfast, banging my head on low doorways and for the first time in a long time, I’m enjoying, and being challenged by, academic rigour which I have not been faced with for 15 years since my undergraduate degree.

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The narrow but tall rise street of downtown Tokyo where you can’t believe how much you can fit per square metre!

Most of all I have a strong feeling of gratitude that I have been handed this opportunity to put time, effort and priority into learning and shaping my future with a peace perspective. Already I know I look at the world differently understanding some of the core perspectives of peace, such as, peace not really being the absence of war but a celebration of life that everyone should be able to access.

My mind has already begun racing ahead to my field experience and master’s thesis next year and I approach each day eager to learn more of what I can translate into action to see a more just, peaceful and happier world with access and opportunity for everyone, everywhere and forever.

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