December 2010 Archives

25 Words

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The tenth annual summary of my year in 25 words, exactly.

Lived my hoop dreams, wheeee! Connected, created, collaborated, choreographed, costumed, capered, camped, coordinated, but then crashed hard. Ouch. Healed and found my truth. Full circle.

Past years: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001. Feel free to share your own 25 word summary in the comments.

Hooping in Twenty Eleven

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Here's a (partial) list of hoop events and dreams I have for for Tokyo hooping in 2011. Where do you want your hooping to take you? What are you planning to make 2011 a memorable hooping year?

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Hoopy New Year Lunch, Saturday, January 15th @ Shamaim in Ekoda.
Let's start our new year with a lunchtime party. Prizes, games and afterward, we'll go hoop. All-you-can-eat Israeli vegetarian food for 2,100 yen (plus extra for drinks). RSVP by 1/10, please.

4th Sunday Spin. 4th Sunday of every month @ Yoyogi Park. Free.
If the weather is clear and the ground not too wet, we'll be hooping monthly at Yoyogi! Music and spare hoops available. No Spin in January, as I'll be away in Australia learning juggling and circus-y stuff. But so much to share when I get back!! Details monthly on Facebook.

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Golden Week Hoop Getaway. April 29 - May 5, Niijima.
A come-as-you-please camping and hooping week at the lovely (free) Niijima campground. Themed hoop workshops daily. Pay your own transport. BYO camping gear & food. Check the details on Facebook.

Indoor Hoop Jams. Various dates and locations. Donations.
One of my new year resolutions is to figure out the complicated systems for reserving space at the kumin, chiki and sports centers around town. When I do, we'll have a chance to play indoors. I'll accept donations to cover the rental costs.

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Beach & Park Jams. Various dates and locations. Free.
Hooping outdoors in good weather with sand or grass underfoot is a wonderful treat. I'm hoping to get around to share the hoop love in more places this spring/summer/autumn, so if you want to help me host a jam in your area, let me know!

Edogawa Hanabi Hoop Jam. August 6. Iidabashi station.
A truly fun fireworks event with plenty of space to spread out with a picnic and hoops. We meet early and travel together to the river, spread out our picnic and play until the fireworks start. Bring your LED toys to add to the light show.

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Spin Matsuri 2011. ???
I'm still mulling this one over. Spin Matsuri 2010 broke the bank and broke my heart. How can we do it differently in 2011? Your ideas and suggestions are welcomed!

World Hoop Day November 11.
We'll have another dance to choreograph and learn for this worldwide celebration of hooping. Let's see what sort of fundraising event we can create to send hoops on the Peace Boat to disadvantaged communities. If you want to help with the dance or the event, give a shout.

And other hopes for 2011 that haven't been dreamed quite enough yet: a hoop circus event, Flow Show Tokyo, workshops with visiting hoopers, a permanent practice space (I am so envious of the Vulcan and the Prop Box!), costuming workshops, spinning fire with Zatsugidan, more events from HOOPLOVERS like the fabulous Hoop Lounge, collaborations with Hoop Tokyo!

Reverb #23, New Name

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New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

That is a difficult question to answer. I already have a lot of names that I recognise as me, but don't fully identify with. My true name is still at large.

I'm Kristen to most people, Tink in the hooping community, and online you might know me as mediatinker, oaklid, or kuri. Growing up, I was known as Kris, or half of "the Hill sisters". I am Anti-Kris and Auntie Kristen. I've been Kip and Sarah Nell and Nellie Bly. I sign my letters with just a K. My sister used to call me Risten before she figured out how to pronounce |k|. Dad called me Pumpkin. Tod's got lots of names for me, from Sweetheart to Swooper.

So what would I want my new name to be?

Perhaps something lovely like a flower? Violet, Daisy, Rose, and Lily all have appeal.

But I'm tougher than a flower. Maybe a stone. Ruby, Jasper, Jade?

It might be nice to be named after a virtue: Charity, Faith, Hope. But those are not really me, are they?

I could go with a drag/porn name: Glitter Bubbles, Madame Asstronaut, or Lotta Spunk. RuPaul says my drag name should be Anita Mann.

What about something outlandish? I sort of like Zapatica Jones. Orangejello makes me smile.

And then again, I've always had a fondness for traditional names. Margaret can be morphed into so many amazing nicknames, as can Elizabeth. Even plain Jane is a pretty name.

But for today, let me introduce myself.

"Hi, I'm...."

Geeesh, I simply can't decide. Call me whatever you want. I'll probably answer.

Reverb #22, Travel

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Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

This year was not a carbon neutral year. We were in Australia in January; I popped over to the US for Hoop Camp in September; and then we jetted off to Eastern Europe for a December holiday. Most of 2010's Japan-based travel stayed relatively close to Tokyo: Utsunomiya four times, Shizuoka twice, and once each to Haruna, Honda, Jogashima, Manazuru, Jigokudani and various Shonan beaches.

For 2011, Australia is in the cards at least once - for a month in Jan/Feb. Our annual holiday isn't sussed, but it will be somewhere interesting, possibly a continent we haven't yet visited. I hope to attend Hoop Camp again. And I am sure we will have our usual smattering of weekend getaways in Japan.

I wish I could travel without leaving a carbon footprint. It will be impossible for me to to get down to the world's goal of 2 metric tons per person without sacrificing travel.

Reverb catch-up (#5 - #20)

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While on holiday, I missed a lot of the reverb10 prompts, but here they all are, in reverse chronological order.

#20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

I should have applied for permanent residency in Japan, but didn’t because the immigration bureaucracy is super scary. What if they decide I’m a loser and kick me out of the country? It is on the list for aggressive action in 2011 but I don't know if I will manage to do it. That fear is still present.

#19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

I healed myself by reclaiming my right to exist with my imperfections. It was a sudden shock that I needed to overcome, and the healing took about two months. In 2011, I’d like to heal my sensual, sexual self. Maybe “discover” is a better word than “heal” in this case.

#18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

Next year, I want to try acrobatics. This year I tried choreography. It worked out well – dozens of people around the world danced the hoop dance I choreographed. I’ll be doing it again.

#17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I am more awesome than I credit myself. I will hold this close and remember it in times of doubt.

#16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

I’m easily influenced by the people around me and friends often shift the way I see things and what I do. I don’t think it’s conscious, but I seem to try on friends’ lives in little ways. I got a short haircut very similar to Deanne’s. Heather follows the lunar cycle closely, so now I pay attention, too. Sometimes these changes stick, sometimes they don’t.

#15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

Performing with HOOPLOVERS; writing hoop articles and building a website; Hoop Camp and all the people I met there; Spin Matsuri and the beautiful atmosphere and new friends; World Hoop Day choreography; picking peaches with Yuka and Tod; picking apples, blueberries, strawberries and garden vegetables with Heather; my 44th birthday party in my old wedding dress with a new purple cape and balloons and lots of friends;Tracey's pregnancy and Max's birth; reconnecting with my sister; feeling at home in Krakow; Eastern European food delights; sitting in a shady park on a blistering hot Adelaide day; dying my hair pink (and blue and purple); teaching hoop classes for Deanne; Sassy Girly dancing; sewing with Kike; preparing for the KiraKira wedding extravaganza; Theta healing with Tom; completing the Artists' Way; writing a novel; baby ladybugs; exploring tidepools with Tod.

#14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

I appreciate my financial freedom. I do not have to work and that is thanks to my very hard-working darling, Tod. So I have come to appreciate and love Tod more and more every day. I show my appreciation by making sure we never run short of toilet paper, kissing him at the door when he leaves for work every morning, greeting him when he returns, and being happy as best I can.

#13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

Take my hooping in a circus-y direction. Next actual step is to book my flights for my January/February trip to Oz for the Sydney Juggling Convention and Circusfest. I have the event tickets, now I need to get myself there!

#12 – Body Integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

I was fortunate to have many of those moments this year. Several that stand out are: sufi spinning in a yoga/hoop workshop, hooping at a group jam in the park, and a hoop practice session in June. I am also mind-body complete every time I engross myself in drawing and most times when I am in the kitchen, cooking.

#11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

This is tricky. I can always do with less clutter and that could easily be 11 things right there if i listed them out. There are a number of attitudes that my life doesn't need, and I'll work hard to adjust or eliminate them in 2011. Getting rid of envy, anger, and sloth will put me on the path to righteousness, won't it?

#10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

My impulsive decision to participate in NaNoWriMo turned out to be wise because it gave me a big boosting sense of accomplishment, as well as some write-it-out therapy, just when I needed it.

#9 – Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

There were quite a few extravagant parties this year: weddings, hanami, hanabi, birthdays. But I really don't like parties and none of them rocked my socks off. I enjoy preparing for them, but due to my own overly-high expectations and need to create the perfect event, I am usually too tired to enjoy the party itself.

#8 – Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

I bake fancy cakes. I travel all over. I don’t work. I sport unusual hairstyles. I make things from scratch. I speak my truth. I hula hoop. I'm stubborn. I smile. I like birds and plants. I am fast at almost everything I do. I have childlike enthusiasm. I am not afraid to look dorky. I will try almost anything once.

#7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

The hooping community - online and offline - is a big part of my world. I connected in person to the international hooping community by attending Hoop Camp. I brought together the local Tokyo hooping community in a series of monthly hoop jams, culminating in our Spin Matsuri weekend retreat.

I’ll continue to be a hoop community leader in 2011, with more events and jams, workshops, and my own personal development and connections in hoop communities outside Tokyo.

#6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I baked chocolate cookies with the usual ingredients and a pinch of chili powder. I’d like to make a cardigan from beautiful teal mohair knit yardage I bought on sale in the spring. I definitely have been putting it off while I find just the right design inspiration.

#5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I let go of lots of possessions, one obsession, and a little bit of my ego. Letting go of these all helped me to live a simpler life. Or sort of simpler.

Krakow Stories

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Stepping off the train into Krakow was like coming home. I can't explain the familiar feeling of this place, but it was utterly comfortable to be there. Even though I speak no Polish, it didn't matter. The people looked like folks from my childhood and were just as friendly. The buildings reminded me of some of the architecture in Pittsburgh. The food was heavenly, but that's a post all in its own.

Poland Itself

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Zoupi and the snowy Wisla River

I had no clue about Polish history, so it was a surprise to learn that Poland was once invaded by the Swedes. That was back in the day (let's call it 1600) when they formed a commonwealth with Lithuania and their borders stretched up to the Baltic Sea. And then there was that time that Poland ceased to exist entirely. For the whole 19th century it was split up and doled out to neighbors.

After WWI, Poland got its mojo back, but then got into a mess of horror during WWII. Faculty of the university in Krakow were rounded up and either killed or exiled. The university continued to teach classes in secret by meeting in people's homes. Pope John Paul II, one of Krakow's truly beloved, attended this underground college when he was a young man. During Communism, universities were reinstated and free to attend, but the church was where you went to learn about things outside Poland and to borrow contraband literature and movies.

Today many of the buildings in the Jewish quarter and elsewhere in town are crumbling to ruins because the original owners can't be found and can't be proven dead. All 65,000 Jews in Krakow were exterminated by the Nazis leaving no paper trail; and later on the communist state did nobody any favors when they redistributed the wealth of the landowners to the people. Some of the nobility got their buildings back after 1989, but many couldn't provide proof of prior ownership. It's a shame that the government doesn't find a way to resolved the untitled buildings.

And one silly thing: Polish is the cutest language. Lots of words end in y: Planty is the park that surrounds central Krakow; you can easily guess what lampy and laptopy are. Really Polish is a morass of consonants that are not pronounced as I expected. So I didn't try to speak much, though I did get good at "piwo" and "Żywiec"!

Chopin & Other Music

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Part of the 22 meter chandelier at Palace Bonerowski, where we heard a Chopin concert.

Krakow is very proud to claim Chopin amongst its luminaries. There are daily Chopin concerts; we attended one played by a Japanese pianist from Hachinohe, Kazuko Tsuji. It was a pleasure to hear Chopin played live in a lovely old palace building.

Our tour guide, Anna, recommended we get a recording by Rafel Blechacz who won the International Chopin Contest in 2005. He is one of the best pianists I've ever heard; listening to his CDs made me cry. Blechacz is highly expressive and interpretive.

I was surprised to hear music I know and like on the radio. One day, I heard Magnetic Man playing in a restaurant. That made me smile.

Shopping Mall Entertainment

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Christmas performance at the mall. Watch a video clip.

It was cold, so we sheltered in the huge Galeria Krakowska and did some shopping. There was lots of holiday buzz, including a gingerbread station, complete with oven and icing.

We stopped to watch these kids performing on the special holiday stage. There were a couple of standouts among the older kids - two girls who were developing an interesting stage presence, and one was a strong dancer. The older boys were quite lively and funny. In one number a girl sang a solo while all the boys pantomimed winter sports that devolved into a snowball battle, complete with pratfalls. At the end of the song, the boys zipped themselves out of their snowsuits to reveal tuxedos and stepped into place for the next piece. It was brilliant.

Christmas Market

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The Christmas Market glowed at night

The reason I wanted to go to Krakow in the first place was the Christmas market. It was delightful - stalls of kitchy stuff, but mostly lovely handcrafts, holiday decorations, stained glass, dishware, and lots of food. We ate and drank rather than buying lots of goods from the market, but that's just how we are. All the things I really wanted to bring home were just not going to make it - fresh mistletoe, candle wreaths, and more cookies that Tod would allow. (He let me have plenty, just not as many as I really wanted...)

Wieliczka Salt Mine

One of the things on our must-do list was the salt mine at Wieliczka. Like the ossuary at Sedlec, the salt mine is a UNESCO heritage property.

We had another transport adventure, taking the bus one way and the train back, but it didn't compare to the three hour, 3.5 km underground walking tour of this mine that's been in use since the 13th century. There were corridors and caverns, a chapel, salt chandeliers, salt lakes, some silly sculptures and some beautiful art.

One 30 meter high chamber was buttressed with huge, tree-sized timbers that were placed by hand in the relative dark of lamplight. What an accomplishment. People do such amazing things that it touches my heart to see their feats. I get all choked up over engineering.

During the tour we were encouraged to taste the walls; they were salty.

We waited for the shaft lift to take us back to the top with several other groups of people, including a couple of garrulous, drunk old-timers who got the evil eye from some of the more prim and proper ladies. One of them had a beaked nose that reached down almost to his upper lip. It was monumental. They reminded me a bit of the mill hunkies on the South Side of Pittsburgh and wondered if they might have been miners back in the day. (The mine stopped commercial operations in 1996).

Hotel Pugetow

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Me in bed taking notes about our adventures

I loved our hotel in Krakow. It is a little boutique place with just six rooms that was once the carriage house of the palace it's named for. Hotel Pugetow had the best staff - always friendly and helpful. We arrived very early on Saturday morning and not only did they let us leave our bags until check in, but they also gave us breakfast. And on our last day, when we came back to pick up our bags before our train in the evening, Anna the receptionist made us tea, brought out some slices of cake leftover from breakfast, and we sat and chatted for a while. It was a great experience.

The Road to Sedlec

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A friend recommended that while we were in Prague, we should take a side trip to Sedlec to see the Kostnice Ossuary. It turned into quite a day. Every transportation point was an adventure.

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The subway arrives.

First we had to get to the bus station by subway. But we didn't have the right change for the subway, which sells tickets for 26 crowns - coins only - so it was off to Tesco for some juice and (yummy licorice) throat lozenges. When we got back with change, the ticket machines were being serviced. But eventually we got on the subway and when we got off, it took us a few minutes to locate the bus station. A nice young man at the info desk told us the bus for Kutna Hora, the nearest town to our destination, was leaving in three minutes from stand 12. We dashed and made it.

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On the bus to Kutna Hora

When we got to the bus terminal at Kutna Hora, the signage was rather confusing. Could we catch the bus to the ossuary from there? The terminal was quite large, with outdoor bays for about 20 buses and they were all marked in Czech. None of them said Sedlec so we walked into the center of town by a circuitous route to find lunch and the tourist information center. We had pizza for lunch that was rather tasty, but the stressed out and squabbling Americans behind us were rather off-putting. After lunch, the tourist info center told us that yes, the bus did leave from the main terminal but also from near St. Barbara's Cathedral which is the area's other attraction. So we wandered over to see it. Wandering is the best you can do in Kutna Hora because all the roads are twisty and there are signs pointing in every direction. But wandering is fun in old towns and the cathedral is large and tall and hard to miss.

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St. Barbara's in the snow

It was duly impressive with some beautiful stained glass windows and doors with gorgeous open keyholes and swirly curved hinges. After a short tour of the premises, we found our way to the bus stop that would take us to Sedlec and the ossuary. A few other people, locals and tourists, were also waiting there and we were all surprised when our bus passed right by the stop. But a few minutes later another bus stopped for us. We rode for about 20 minutes, managed to miss the right stop and had to walk back a bit to get to our destination.

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Zoupi in the ossuary

An ossuary is a boneyard. This one is remarkable because it contains the bones of about 40,000 people - ranging from Bohemian aristocrats to plague victims - and they have been artfully arranged in the crypts by a woodcutter who took on the task as his life's work in 1870. There are swags of skulls and frills of femurs. It is respectful, serious, and odd as anything. I really enjoyed it.

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A coat of arms in bones

But it is small and in 20 minutes we had finished our long and thoughtful look at the place. We decided to head back to Prague. Maybe we could take the train. We popped into the other local tourist info center and a geeky man (Many of the info center workers we encountered in our journeys were long haired men who looked like they were displaced Unix hackers; it was strange.) looked up the times. If we hurried down the road and around the corner - not across the bridge - we might make the next train in 17 minutes. We did it, with about 30 seconds to spare. We hopped on the little two-car local and rode to Kolin, where we had to change.

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The City Elefant commuter train

We hoped we'd get to ride the City Elefant, but were directed to an express train from Berlin that was arriving late due to snow. We found our way through to the 2nd class open carriage and settled in for the ride back. It was quite comfortable but there wasn't much to see - from track to horizon to zenith, everything was greyish white.

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Snow and fog from the train

We thought we were set when we reached Prague because we could take the subway back to our hotel, but the subway was broken! They were still selling and validating tickets, though. and everyone who had been swindled by this - there were not signs about the problem until after you'd entered the subway itself - stood in a ragged line by the one service window that was open. The woman inside the kiosk looked less that interested in our problems, but I stood in line anyway. She gave me a shrug, which may have been more than the Czech speakers got.

It seemed there was not much to be done about it, so we opted to walk back to the hotel. It wasn't that far, maybe 20 minutes through Wenceslas Square and up a bit towards the river. Chilly and slushy, but perfectly walkable. Tod was wearing a new pair of boots, though, and by the time we reached home he was hobbling at the pace of a geriatric waiting for a hip replacement. Ouch.

So we saw the ossuary, which was one of the only things on my wish list for Prague, and every step of the way was an adventure.

Prague Stories

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I wanted to take our vacation in Poland, but there's no direct flight to Krakow, so we went to Prague on the way. As all travelers do, we came away with our own set of stories and memories. Here are some of them.

The Boiler Upgrade
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Karoline 54, our second home in Prague

For our first few nights in Prague, I rented us an apartment through Prague City Apartments. I found one, the Masna, that was near the main square and close to a supermarket. It was reasonably priced, too. We arrived late at night on the 6th and it looked great. Comfy bed, a TV, nice view over some city roofs. We had a kitchen with the necessary appliances and dishes. Perfect for our needs except that the hot water ran out after Tod's shower the first morning. Well, lesson learned - shorter showers and I'd go first the next time!

After a day of sightseeing and provisioning, we popped back to the apartment to drop our purchases and have a cup of tea before dinner. It was chilly. We turned up the heat a little but it never warmed up. After a while, we realised the boiler wasn't working. Tod ran upstairs to the next floor to use the hotline phone to the agent. It was broken, as was the Internet. Well! Adventure time. We bundled up and walked across town to the agent office to report our problem. It was really cold and snowy!

The receptionists on duty, two university students doing graduate studies, were sweet. We explained what had happened and they made us coffee and we sat and chatted while the technician, Vashek, came over. They were surprised we weren't angry, but why be angry? It's not like they broke the boiler on purpose. We knew it would get sorted out one way or another. They suggested that if the boiler could not be fixed, they could move us to another apartment - except in Masna all the apartments were getting boiler upgrades so we'd have to go to another building - a nicer one. I sort of hoped we'd be able to stay at Masna, because the location was so perfect.

Vashek arrived and drove us over to Masna, where he checked the boiler. No luck. We didn't know it then, but they'd conversed among themselves and decided to upgrade us regardless of the boiler. So we packed up our things and moved house to Karoline across town. The new apartment was much nicer, in fact; a stylish 1 bedroom apartment instead of a slightly frumpy studio. And the location was different but just as good. We were happy to have this as out home base for the rest of our stay.

Vashek and the Olives
On his way out of our new location, after checking all of the heating, water and appliances, Vashek offered to get together with us if we had time. "Let's have a beer or something," he said. Sounded OK to us. Vashek is an enthusiastic 25 year old with a degree in engineering and lots of dreams and ideas. He'd just started work at the apartment company a few days before we arrived.

We did meet up with him two nights later for dinner and a beer. It was a delightful night. He was so full of stories and told them with wonderful gestures and expressions, including this one about the first time his family had olives, about five years ago:

It was Christmas and we wanted to try something new. So my mother bought olives - green ones and black ones. We were excited to taste them, but when we opened the tin of green olives, they smelled really bad. "These must be gone off," my dad said. My sister looked at them. We emptied them into a bowl and bravely tried them. They tasted like gasoline! They were terrible. We decided they were not healthy and they must be very dangerous to eat. So we covered the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

A few days later, the bowl was empty. My mother admitted that she had eaten them. "I tried another one and it was still tasting strange, but then I got to like them and wanted more. So I ate them," she told us.

After that, my father learned to eat them, and then my sister and then finally me. Now we love olives.

The tale isn't the same without Vashek's funny faces and storytelling skills, but I think it is interesting that a middle class Czech family had never encountered olives until 2005. They were rather limited under communism until 1989.

Snow and Cold

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Prague Castle from the funicular

Prague doesn't normally get a lot of snow, except for the week we visited. The city was blanketed then slush-covered and icy. Our first day there, Tod bought waterproof boots at Bata and then stomped through puddles while I picked my way through the slush in my Doc Martens.

It was amusing to remember that it had been 23C in Tokyo the previous week. the evening we arrived in Prague, it was -9C. Some days it warmed up enough to melt the snow and slush a bit, but most days were simply freezing cold and windy.

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Tod warming up with hot wine at the Wenceslas Square Christmas market.

It was delightful to be in the cold and it gave us lots of excuses to get inside for a cuppa or to grab a warm drink at the outdoor markets. Yay for mulled wine!

St. Vitus Cathedral

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Gates and glass at St. Vitus

One of the ways we got out of the cold, though not by much, was visiting Prague Castle and the beautiful cathedral there. It was not heated, but it wasn't windy!

St. Vitus Cathedral is huge and we enjoyed walking around the periphery, looking at the gilded carved wooden gates and all the sainted class in the chapels. It was a testament to the power of the Church to hire skilled and talented craftsmen and artists.

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This is not as small as it looks...

As you round the top end of the church, there is an enormous silver sarcophagus. It is over-the-top gaudy with cherubs and garlands and even a bas relief of the silver miners who contributed to its creation. It is the resting place of St. John of Nepomuk, and he stands atop it much larger than life and cradling a tiny Jesus on the cross. This man must have been a giant in real life. Or had a giant ego.

At least stifling my laughter helped keep me warm.

Reverb #4, Wonder

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Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I've never given wonder much thought. I marvel at and celebrate things frequently. I guess I'm easily impressed. But how do I process wonder? Can I explain how I cultivate it?

I think that cultivating wonder starts with awareness. You can't have a sense of wonder over something that doesn't even ping in your brain. A friend's newborn isn't wonderful unless you know he exists. If you never look up at night, how can you gape at the beauty of the stars?

Next you need a dose of curiosity. If you are constantly blase about life, then you never get to experience wonder. Your curiosity-less experience merits no more than a first glance and a "yeah, whatever". In addition to curiosity, novelty helps create wonder.

From curiosity I naturally move into observation. I want to see things thoroughly. For me, looking at all the details that make something wonderful. For example, a seedling in the herb garden pushes its way up through the soil and I see at the dirt still clinging to it, see how it's just now being touched with green from the sunlight. It's so cool that this exists and that I can watch it happening.

Then comes comparison. It's a compare/contrast sort of comparison, not a judgmental one, a chance to think about what I have observed. For example, If I am in awe at a friend's progress in her personal growth, it's because I can compare to her self a year ago. I can be in awe of the size of the Hope Diamond because I can compare it to the size of the diamond that I own. If you don't compare things, then either everything is wondrous or nothing is.

Sometimes, but not always, there's a point where imagination pops in to my wonderment. I attach stories to things. A portrait in a museum might receive the story of how and why it was painted based on the details I saw when I observed it. Or while looking at the night sky my mind might wander into a fantasy about space travel. I like creating stories. These imaginings help me to cement the experience of wonder, and to appreciate the myriad ways that things can or might happen.

And there's also a strong dose of mystery in wonder. If I allow myself a bit of ignorance, things seem more wonderful. And have you ever marveled over something, only to have an expert friend give you the practical and technical details on the thing you are awestruck by? It can be a bummer. There is a reason magicians do not explain their tricks.

Wow, I never realised that wonder was such a complex topic.

Reverb #3, Moment

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Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

I often feel alive. I can't think of the "most alive moment" but the most recent moment was yesterday.

My cotton sweater almost too warm, I savored the sun on my face and the rhythm of my legs as I walked through an unexplored part of town. The wind that brought our summery winter day blew so hard that signs and boxes kited through the air and shopkeepers ran ragged trying to catch everything and put it all back into order. I could hear promotional flags unravelling one thread at a time from the teasing of the wind around their rippling edges.

Everything around shared its story with me. The colors, shapes, lines, invisible networks of energy and relationships, the flow of motion all spoke to me. So many tales to listen to. All of them interesting and worthwhile. I just moved through it, taking in snippets as i passed and reflecting on how much I love walking in the wind on a sunny day.

Telling my own story, I stretched my arms to the sky and greeted the elements.

9 Way Indoor/Outdoor Scarf

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scarf-drawings.jpg

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some fluffy reddish yarn and decided to crochet myself a scarf that I could wear as an accessory in my chilly apartment. I wanted something long and soft and beautiful to wrap around my neck. I was a great idea, except I don't crochet well at all. So after I unraveled the wonky rectangle that I'd formed, I reverted to the one stitch I can do consistently - chain stitch.

The result was exactly perfect. I made a very long chain, wrapped it into a loop and attached a tassel. The scarf can be worn long (nice with a dress or tunic) or looped into shorter lengths in a number of ways. There are far more than nine ways to wear this.

9 Way Indoor/Outdoor Scarf
time required: about an hour

Materials
1 ball soft and fluffy yarn (the texture hide imperfect stitches!)
1 crochet hook (mine's 6mm or 10/0)
1 large yarn needle
scissors

  1. Make a tassel. I did mine by wrapping the yarn around my Moleskine notebook about 30 times, then slipped it off, folded it in half, tied it in the middle and again around the bundle to make a ball. Trim the ends and fluff as desired. Once you have your tassel, set it aside.
  2. Crochet a very long string. It should be nine to ten meters long depending on how long you want your scarf to be. (I looped mine around my neck and down as far as my belly button.) Depending on the size of your skein and how much yarn you used for your tassel, you'll get close to finishing it all.
  3. Loop the chain to make a circle with five strands on each side. I hung it over a hook as I looped to help me keep it even. At this point you can unravel or continue chaining to get the length just right.
  4. Connect the ends of the chain by crocheting them together or tying them.
  5. Attach the tassel. I used the tail ends of the chain to thread my needle, and sewed through the tassel, then tied the tails and threaded them vertically down through the tassel, trimming the ends to length.

To gift one of these scarfs (it's a quick and easy stocking stuffer), you can print a 4-up A4 sized version of the graphic (Download PDF) that shows ways to wear it. Quarter the page, roll and tape the sheet, and slide the folded scarf inside with the tassel hanging out.

515 scarfy thing
Me modeling one of the nine ways

Tokyo Sky Tree

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sky tree

I've been sort of poo-pooing the fuss over the newest, tallest structure in Tokyo, the Tokyo Sky Tree. It's been hyped since before it was even begun in 2008 and ever since it got big enough to photograph well, it's been featured on TV, in magazines and well, everywhere you turn. Yeah, yeah. It's just another big tower to broadcast media. Whatever.

Well, today I caught a glimpse of it from the top of my street and suddenly, I just had to go there. I needed to make a pilgrimage to the Sky Tree and I couldn't stop myself. It didn't hurt that the day was almost 24 degrees, with blue skies and lots of fresh wind. I wouldn't be able to stay inside, even if I should be packing for Prague.

Destination Sky Tree!

So after checking the level of the river after this morning's huge rainstorm (it had risen, but only 30 cm or so) I took the bus to Ueno and the subway to Tawaramachi and walked to Asakusa. I stopped in and said konnichiwa to the deities, then crossed the bridge and walked to Oshiage.

The tower is huge and exceedingly impressive. It's gorgeous, a pure white lattice with oversize bolts and handles running up as far as I could see. The construction site is in constant motion with trucks crisscrossing the area, which will be a giant commercial complex with several buildings when Tokyo Sky Tree opens in Spring 2012. The tower is enormous. It will be the second tallest structure on the planet when it's finished (I had no idea) and at 511 meters currently, it is taller than the Empire State Building and Petronas Towers.

I wasn't the only one looking at the construction. There were dozens of sightseers taking pictures.I was surprised at home many people turned up to look at this unfinished tower. I can only imagine what it will be like when it is finished. Busy! I'll be there, for sure. I might skip opening day, though.

The surrounding neighborhood is taking advantage of this popularity. There are holiday lights in the shape of the tower, signs featuring the silhouette of the Sky Tree, and food specials in cafes'. A tiny storefront nearby selling calendars, keychains and other memorabilia was doing a brisk business today. I saw the manufactory where an old man was heat stamping wooden postcards with the Sky Tree logo. There seems to be a lot of secondary construction around, too - old buildings being rebuilt as money comes into the area.

I walked all the way around the tower site, taking in the back streets and viewing it from different angles until I'd had my fill of Tokyo Sky Tree. Then I walked all the way back to Ueno and caught the bus home.

It was a great day out and I shall poo-poo no more. Tokyo Sky Tree deserves the adulations and attention it gets.

Remarkable Rain Storm

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Picture%204.png

When Tod crawled into bed last night at 1, he whispered to me, "It's raining." I woke up and listened for a minute before being soothed back to sleep by the sound. When I woke again, it was dawn-dark but the clock said 7:30. I slipped out of bed to the crashing sound of a major deluge. Wow, it was going off!

The air was so thick with rain that it looked like a tap had been turned on. A slanted curtain of water veiled even the nearest building. There was thunder and lightning, but no rumble of trains or any traffic noise.

Within the hour, the rain had eased to a stop, the sky sported patches of blue, birds chirped an all-clear to their companions.

Now the neighborhood maintenance men are surveying the floods. I hear the sounds of stiff bristled brooms and shopvacs. I hope they look up.

2010-12-2-rainbow.jpg

Reverb #1

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One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

Connect

In January I decided this year's theme would be "connect", and my hopes have been realised in many ways: I've made new friends; strengthened old friendships; I call my mother more often.

In the hooping world, I connected, too. I attended Hoop Camp and hosted Spin Matsuri; I got dozens of people around the world to learn a hoop dance I choreographed; I've introduced the joys of hooping to scores of people in Tokyo.

And thanks to a disconnect a while back, I've re-connected with skills I'd let fall to the wayside: art, writing, cooking.

So all in all, connect seems to have been the right theme for the year. I'm tempted to choose it again for 2011. But in the spirit of change and experimentation, I will pick a new one.

Relate

With "relate" as my theme in 2011, I will create deeper connections and share stories.

Actions I might take in pursuit of "relate": affect, ally, appertain, apply, ascribe, assign, associate, bracket, chronicle, combine, compare, concern, conjoin, connect, coordinate, couple, credit, depict, describe, detail, disclose, divulge, express, impart, impute, interconnect, interdepend, interrelate, itemize, join, link, narrate, orient, orientate, particularize, pertain, picture, present, recite, recount, refer, rehearse, report, retell, reveal, sling, spill, state, tell, touch, track, unite, verbalize, yoke.

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