Brugge: My General Impressions

Brugge is absolutely picturesque.
Hanging out with some swans.
While I planned most of the Cologne leg of our trip, it was my friend's idea that we visit Brugge, Belgium. I admit - before she brought the idea up I had never heard of the town which is located in the Flemish region of Belgium. Like most folks, Brussels was the first city that came to mind when I thought of Belgium. However, my friend sent me information about the town when we were planning our trip, and as I looked at pictures of it, I was immediately hooked! Although it isn't as bustling as Brussels, Brugge is absolutely worth a visit as it's incredibly aesthetically pleasing. In fact, the city center is rightfully designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly every section of the town offers lovely views and architecture from a time before ours. Brugge is often compared to Venice due to it's large number of canals, and the old cobblestone streets in the city center give visitors ample opportunity to stroll along the waterways. 


Resturant Review: Bei Oma Klienmann

Bei Oma Klinemann's unassuming exterior.
Our first round.
It was my first time drinking beer!
My friend and I were privileged to be in Cologne during the World Cup match between Ghana and Germany. I knew I wanted to watch the game at a nice bar or pub like most of the residents of the city. In fact, game day appeared to be a holiday. Shops closed early and people took the streets singing fight songs and enjoying beer hours before the match began.

Before we arrived in Germany, I planned ahead of time and looked for a good pub where we could enjoy the game. When browsing Google Maps, I came across Bei Oma Klinemann. Conveniently for us, I discovered the pub is also known for its schnitzel, the quintessential German comfort food. We definitely wanted to try schnitzel while in Germany, so going to Bei Oma Klinemann was a no-brainer. 

I made reservations for us through email on their website. When we arrived, we discovered our reservation was lost, but the issue was quickly resolved and we were seated at a table marked "reserved".


Tokyo Station Bento//東京站的飯盒

A typical Tokyo Station bentō shop.
(I want to write some of my posts in Chinese and English. If I write anything incorrectly, please tell me!)


If you want to buy a lunchbox (bentō; 弁当) at Tokyo Station you have many choices! Do you love to eat beef? Are you vegetarian? Do you eat seafood, but not meat? Do you like a lot of rice in your lunchbox? No problem, you will definitely find a lunchbox that suits you at Tokyo Station. There are cheap and expensive ones, but they're all appetizing.

如果你想在東京站買飯盒(bentō; 弁当)你會有很多很多選擇!你是愛吃牛肉的人?吃素?吃海鮮可是沒喜歡吃肉?喜歡很多米飯在你的飯盒裡面?沒關係,你在東京站一定會找到合適你的飯盒。有便宜的,有貴的,但是都很開胃的。

Every time I see Japanese-style lunchboxes (especially the expensive ones) I think, "How special!" In my opinion, each lunchbox is like a work of art. According to Japanese custom, chefs have to consider which vegetables have beautiful colors because a traditional Japanese lunchbox must be colorful. Also, they have to carefully choose the right cooking method (grill, fry, boil, etc.) because after vegetables and meat are cooked they often change color. Chefs also have to consider which foods complement the lunchbox's shape. Naturally, chefs cannot messily put the food into the lunchboxes, they have to plan which placement of the food is the most beautiful. However, I think these guidelines only relate to expensive bentō boxes (1000 yen or so upwards).

每次看到日本式的飯盒(常常是不便宜的)我想,“好特別喔!” 在我的看法,每個飯盒跟藝術品一樣。說到做日式的飯盒,廚師們要想哪個青菜有美麗的顏色因為按日本的習俗,飯盒要包括幾种顏色。再說,他們要小心地選做法(烤,炒,熬,等等)因為做青菜和肉以後它們常常變得別的顏色。廚師們也要考慮哪個食物對飯盒的形狀最合適。當然,廚師不可以亂亂得放食物在飯盒,它們要計劃食物的放置讓飯盒很漂亮。但是,我覺得那些概念關於貴的飯盒(差不多1000日幣多)。

Lunchboxes from connivence stores aren't particularly made with color or organization in mind, but many connivence stores have their own special lunchboxes (e.g., healthy, made with local ingredients, seasonal, etc.)


Below is a video about Japanese lunchboxes.



Concert Review: Chara (live at the Urban Simple Life Festival - Xinyi 信義)

Chara is known for her childish "whisper" voice.
At 47, she should also be known for her inability to age!
She plays the guitar and piano, and writes nearly all of her songs.
(Photo from her Facebook page).
Chara (real name: Watabiki Miwa 綿引美和), is hands-down my favorite female Japanese singer. I discovered her music as a junior high student when I was looking for new Japanese artists to listen to. Immediately, I was mesmerized by her soft, slightly raspy voice which occasionally takes on a husky, almost harsh tone. Chara's speaking voice is actually somewhat deep, yet it often transforms into a light, high-pitched tone when she sings.

I admire the personal nature of Chara's music and her willingness to share her deep inner feelings in her lyrics. Innocence (Sweet), intimacy (Junior Sweet, her performance of this song with TSPO on the left), and divorce (Breaking Hearts) have all been subjects of her songs. I admire Chara because no topic appears to be "off limits" for her when writing music. Chara's creativity transcends her sound; to add a sense of childlike innocence to her songs, she often uses the male personal pronoun boku (僕).

Chara's thoughtfulness in regards to her music hasn't changed since her major debut in 1990, yet her style has evolved through many phases: mainstream with a touch of black gospel in the early 90s; acoustic-heavy in the mid to late 90s; experimental indie in the early 2000s; mainstream pop in the mid 2000s; and mostly popish experimental indies style today. Nevertheless, she has always distinctly remained herself.

Chara peaked in popularity in the mid-90s after her lead role in the successful Shunji Iwai film, Swaillowtail Butterfly. In the film, she played Glico (yes, taken from the snack company), a Chinese immigrant turned lead singer of the fictional Yen Town Band; to accompany the movie, Chara and the Yen Town Band released a record which took first place on the Japanese Oricon music chart for quite some time. On the right is a clip of her gospel-like performance of Happy Toy from the 1997 Asasaka Blitz tour, not long after the movie was released. (A couple members of the Yen Town Band played support on the tour, and TSPO's founder ASA-CHANG was on percussion. He helped produce some of her songs as well). Despite her emergence as a well-known singer, actress, and fashion icon, after the 90s, Chara focused on motherhood and preferred a more indie existence as a musician.

Yasashii Kimochi (やさしい気持ち; Kind Feelings) - one of her most popular songs, second only to Swallowtail Butterfly - was the first song of her's that I heard all those years ago. Still, the dreamlike feeling of the song sounds fresh to me. To my delight, in 2013 Chara released Jewel, a self-cover album which includes Yasashii Kimochi, Swallowail Butterfly, and 10 other songs. I thought it would be amazing to watch her perform after Jewel was released because, naturally, she would be playing several songs from across her discography that she hadn't played in a few years. Little did I know I'd get an opportunity to see her without having to go to Japan!


Natrual Hair Overseas

September 2012
A couple months after the
big chop, transitioning hair
worn during graduation
(background photo).
After beginning my blog, the top question I've received relates to how I take care of my hair overseas. This may sound vain, but hair care is a very realistic concern for black women who travel and live abroad, especially in countries that lack a black population. Virtually no black people = no beauty products for black people. In fact, this is a phenomenon I have noticed in the States; in predominantly white neighborhoods, there aren't as many hair products for black women in even mainstream stores like Walmart and Target. Not being able to find beauty products suited for you can be frustrating. I mean, what girl doesn't want to look good no matter where she is in the world?
June 2015
A still a sizable afro,
patted down to look even.

Therefore, it's necessary for black women to equip themselves with the products and tools they need to maintain their hair overseas no matter what texture or state it's in. I have thick, coarse, kinky majority type 4c natural hair (aka, the "bad" hair - ha - with no distinct curls or waves that doesn't grow - haha - and only dark-skinned women have - hahaha) mixed in with a few random 4b hairs. It's a little past shoulder length when stretched completely, but it was only about two inches long when I first moved to Taiwan. So, if you have a different hair type or length, the products I mention or advice I give might not help you, but I think some tips I have could be of assistance no matter your hair type or state (relaxed, transitioning, ect). 

Also, I'm no hair guru or stylist; I'm just an everyday girl who had to care for her hair in a country with virtually no products made for her for nearly three years. In other words, I'm no expert! I'm just sharing my experiences in hopes they will help you or someone you know. 

I won't be discussing my "hair journey"; a short summary of that can be found here.