Space witch disco! One of my current favorite designers, Killstar, sent me some dark fashion to model.
Take a walk on the witchy side… and find out where you can see powerful masks and totems, up close.
My outfit of the day had a spooky-spiritual vibe, so I wanted a location that reflects this: the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. The stark exterior, designed by famous architect Arthur Erickson, created the perfect lighting and backdrop. I felt like a sorceress, arriving in an alien land.
Nearby, there was an outdoor exhibit of longhouses and Pacific Northwest totem poles. Some of the carvings symbolize the moon, much like my Killstar La Luna crop top.
I paired it with Killstar’s Occult maxi skirt. The fabric is stretchy and comfortable, and the long length gives a dramatic impact. This original print, featuring stars and symbols, is also found on Killstar’s Occult racerback dress and pullover sweatshirt.
I can’t get enough of this coffin purse, branded with the alchemy symbol for sulfur. With a handle and chain strap, the coffin bag is large enough for your necessities, and fastens with a secure silver clasp.
I’ve been all over Moat House Eyewear ever since they reached out to me on Instagram. This British company hand-makes stylish sunglasses — out of wood! Because of the natural materials (ebony, oak, walnut) and handmade process, their sunglasses have a special vibe, much like the totem art behind me.
My ebony cat-eyes have a faint and lovely wood smell, and don’t worry, there aren’t any splinters. (Scroll to the end of this post for photos of my kitty posing with them!)
I guess I’m on a wood kick these days, since that’s also the material used for my SVNTY iPhone case. My old plastic one fell apart, so SVNTY stepped in and sent me one of their artisanal cases, engraved from wood. I think the spooky totem-face behind me wants to join the selfie!
Unlike the usual plastic or rubber phone cases, these ones feel sturdy and natural, yet are still light-weight. Once again, this is something you won’t find in typical stores. SVNTY’s Etsy selection includes original carvings of a geisha, moon, King Tut and Marilyn Monroe. The cases fit a variety of mobiles including iPhones and Samsungs.
I’m taking a photo of the powerful totem poles on display at the Museum of Anthropology. These spiritual sculptures date back to the late 1800s, and were carved from large trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
These mysterious figures remind me of the Easter Island stone statues (moai). I’m rather obsessed with visiting this island (Rapa Nui), so I chose the Easter Island / Pink Floyd “Division Bell” image for my case (get it here).
Especially in the summer, it feels nice to be wearing materials like cotton and wood. The sunglasses and phone case never feel sticky.
I travel so much that I rarely do posts about my hometown, Vancouver. In fact, there are a lot of fascinating places to visit here, such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The immense collection of ethnographic objects, especially by tribes in this region, make it well worth the $17 entry (or $9 on Tuesday evenings).
The most outstanding works are the towering sculptures and totem poles, made by BC First Nations artists. Bill Reid is celebrated for his carvings such as this Haida bear.
The imagery is forceful, and tied to aboriginal legends. I’m always in awe at how the artists envisioned these figures, which seem to come from another world.
Totem poles and house posts usually depicted supernatural “crest animals,” which symbolized a clan or family’s history. These stylized forms were usually carved out of red cedar, and might include images of the Thunderbird, raven, wolf, eagle and salmon.
On the other side of the world, the people of Easter Island made art with similar aims in mind (or so we think… there’s still so much that we don’t know!)
The UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA) also had extensive displays of modern First Nations art. One gallery showcased works by youths, in media like poems and photographs. I liked seeing the cute Japanese manga influence in this one.
In the back, glass cases hold thousands of artifacts from tribes in Canada and worldwide. The British Columbian masks stand out from the rest, with their captivating patterns and expressions.
Walking through this room, you can feel the spiritual power of these objects. I noticed unique design elements, like a beak curled up to form a second face inside.
These are by the Kwakwaka’wakw – try saying that three times fast. Doesn’t the mask with the flopped-hair look like an emo boy?
The MOA lets you compare indigenous art from all around world: Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Korea, China. These ranged from intricate costumes to… sticks.
Don’t miss this iconic sculpture by Bill Reid: The Raven and The First Men. It depicts the Haida creation story, where Raven opens a cockle shell and releases humans into the world.
Not a bad way to spend a summer day in Vancouver. Simply drive to the University of BC, and you’ll see signs pointing to the Museum of Anthropology. You can also explore the nearby beaches and Japanese garden. Then, you can get lunch near the waterfront, at Granville Island or on West 4th.
All photos by Joey Wong, except the cat and iPhone snaps by La Carmina.
What do you think of my spooky Kill Star outfit of the day? I hope you enjoy these posts that combine fashion with something cultural and travel-related.
Are you familiar with Pacific Northwest native art? Aren’t these forms impressive?
Let’s turn the post over to my Scottish Fold cat. Basil Farrow wanted to take selfies with me, so I obliged.
His flat-face is a bit like the Easter Island figures. Basil enjoyed sniffing the wood phone case.
When you order a case from SVNTY, you can request a custom name engraving. Mine is marked with La Carmina & The Pirates, in our logo font. There are several types of wood to choose from — including cherry, rosewood and maple — and the matte plastic border creates a snug fit.
It’s funny that this Moat House sunglasses shape is called “cat eye”… when my Scottish Fold is round all over. I suppose he’s more of an owl than a maoo.
Moat House has glasses for both men and women, in a variety of modern designs. Check out their full collection and order from their site.
Love supporting independent brands, and handmade local goods.
Basil can’t wear sunglasses because he doesn’t have a nose or ears… but he insists on suntanning anyway.
I leave you with some of Joey Wong’s images of Vancouver. He says (and I agree): “Vancouver has to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered cities I’ve been to.”
“No doubt the geographical setting is one of the best in the world with the downtown core being enclosed by beach, sea, and mountains. The scenic beauty is stunning, the food is plentiful and fresh, multiculturalism is real, and I know very few other places where you can be hiking in the mountains and then 30 minutes later be chilling at the beach. It has the contradictions that keep things interesting: small city vibe + cosmopolitan flair, copious amount of wealth + Downtown Eastside, an old European history + a new Asian influence.”
“I am disappointed when people overlook Vancouver. It’s not that cold, and it definitely isn’t that wet. Just go. Actually, better yet, don’t. Keep the city a secret.”
So give it some thought. Perhaps you’ll run into me, shooting outfit photos!
It’s my birthday! (August 17.) Thanks for all the kind wishes, I’m so grateful for your friendship.
Perhaps this is an opportune time to share the PechaKucha speech that I made in Tokyo, since it reflects on my journey over the past few years. I’m stunned at how everything has grown — and I couldn’t have done any of this with your support.
I’ve recently been working with a trip-planning startup, Odigo, and they asked me to do a presentation at PechaKucha 20×20 Tokyo. This is a public speakers’ event that began in Japan, and now takes place worldwide. The challenge is that each presenter only gets 20 slides, displaying on screen for 20 seconds each, to convey their point.
I look like I’m having Seinfeld moment, with the microphone and upturned hand. “What’s the deal with bagelheads?”
Outfit details: To match the Alice in Wonderland motif in my speech, I’m wearing a Baby the Stars Shine Bright skirt. This off-shoulder black top by Free People is almost identical to the one I’m wearing (I got mine at 2% Hong Kong).
As you can see, there were hundreds of people in the audience! I had no notes on me, and couldn’t even see the screen behind (which switched to the next photo automatically after twenty seconds). So how did it go? And what exactly did I do a presentation about?
Above and on YouTube, you can see a video of me speaking to the crowd at Pecha Kucha.
The most difficult part was nailing the transitions between the slides, which change automatically. I recommend practicing over and over, including doing trial runs in front of an audience, until you get used to this unique format.
Other PechaKucha tips? Tell stories as you were talking to a friend, to keep the crowd engaged. It never helps to tell a funny anecdote or too. Keep relaxed and the 6-7 minute speech will flow by fast.
Since you can’t always clearly see the slides in the first video, above is one that contains only my PechaKucha slideshow and the audio. I hope you’ll find this example 20×20 presentation helpful, if you ever end up doing one yourself.
Arigato everyone who came to see me at SuperDeluxe Roppongi, and to the PechaKucha Tokyo team for having me! The event is full of positive energy, thanks to founders Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, and executive director Jean Snow. PK always features a creative roster of presenters (speaking in Japanese and English) about topics as diverse as rope tying and natto packaging.
Here are some of the slides and stories I mention in my speech. “Ever since I was one year old, my family and I would take trips to Asia at least once a year. As a child, some of my most vivid memories were visiting Japan. Imagine little ol’ me in 1990s Harajuku, an alien world inhabited by punks with spiky hair, and girls in Victorian ruffle dresses. And everything was so cute!”
“Even though I loved visiting Japan and wearing Jpop fashion, I never imagined it was possible to have a travel career like mine. I went to Columbia University, and then Yale Law School – but my heart wasn’t into law. I needed a creative escape – so I started my La Carmina blog in 2007. Every day, I posted about the hidden spots I loved in Japan – such as the Vampire Cafe where the waiters dressed like Dracula, or pastel Goth boutiques where the fashion is inspired by My Little Pony. All the places that mainstream travel guides and tours would never show you.”
“I did this all out of love – I enjoyed connecting with people online over these shared passions, and never thought the site would lead anywhere. But then some of my posts about theme restaurants and cute food became popular… and long story short, it landed me a NY literary agent. That led to two books: Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants and Cute Yummy Time.”
“From then on, everything just kept building organically. One day, a producer emailed and said… “I’m writing from the Andrew Zimmern show, Bizarre Foods. He loves your book, and wants you to be his guide.” That was my first taste of travel TV hosting and production, and I was hooked. Since there was so much demand, my business partner and I started a TV fixing company, and three years later, we’ve organized shows for Food Network, NHK, CNN, Discovery, National Geographic Taboo, and many more.”
“The reason these shows hire us – and not some normal tour guide – is because we’re underground insiders. We know all about the bizarre hot-spots all over the city, and are able to make all the arrangements so that TV shows can shoot things like bagelhead inflation, where you drip saline solution into the forehead, creating a bulge.”
“One thing that I noticed was even though many people enjoyed reading about the places I share on my blog, it was still difficult to search for them on Google maps and figure out how to get from A to B. So I became involved with Odigo, a project that helps me to share my trips with others. All you have to do is go to odigo.jp and you can follow my footsteps!”
And if you want to give me a little birthday love, I invite you to join my mailing list (I only send emails about once a year, don’t worry).
❤❤ Just fill in details below & click. ❤❤
Thank you kindly! If you’re intrigued by my trip-planning collaboration, or want to be one of the first contributors, take a look at Odigo and sign up.
And hugs for First Mate and illustrator Naomiyaki for this fat-faced greeting card of Basil Farrow.
Have you heard of PechaKucha, or been to one of their events? What do you think of my presentation?
When I was in Seoul, I hung out with YouTube stars Eat Your Kimchi in their studio — and it was fantastic, baby!
I toured EYK’s Nasty headquarters, and chatted with Simon and Martina about their upcoming Korea projects — including a coffee shop for their fans. Read on for the inside scoop, and tons of funny photos.
PS: I invite you to sign up for my mailing list, so that you won’t miss out on upcoming meet-ups and job opportunities! I send out emails an average of once a year; you won’t get inundated by La Carmina, I promise.
❤❤ Just write your email below & click. ❤❤
For those who don’t know, Simon and Martina Stawski run the extremely popular EatYourKimchi YouTube channel, which specializes in videos about Kpop music, life in Seoul, and zany adventures with their pets and friends.
Much like my own La Carmina blog, Eat Your Kimchi (EYK) began as a hobby, fueled by their passion for Korean culture. Today, they have a loyal following of fans (aka Nasties), and have expanded EYK into an independent studio, clothing line, worldwide appearances and more.
Simon and Martina are just as friendly and fabulous in person, and we spent over an hour laughing together. I immediately felt at home on their purple couch, and we dished about pop culture and fashion as if we were old friends.
I borrowed a stuffed octopus and “poop pencil” to write down notes (I’ll be doing some magazine stories about Eat Your Kimchi, so stay tuned). Fans will recognize the saucy penguin sitting on Martina.
The married couple is from Toronto, Canada, and always loved subcultures. They moved to Korea to teach English, and began making casual YouTube videos (about Korean food, Hello Kitty, K-pop) for their friends back home. Similarly to my own career arc, they built up a loyal following, and eventually quit their day jobs to do Eat Your Kimchi full-time.
Today, they have their own colorful studio located in the youth culture district, Hongdae. I was impressed by how they custom-designed the space, with special lighting setups and kawaii decor all over. It’s like walking into a K-idol dream.
Viewers will recognize these backdrops, as seen in their regular uploads (Kpop Music Mondays, FapFap, livestreams and more).
Martina and Simon gave me a tour of the studio, which includes a sound room full of pillows, and Happy Kitchen. And how about this pink walk-in closet? It’s a wardrobe fantasy, filled with wigs, makeup and shark hats.
Everywhere you turned, there was fan art. The duo genuinely cares about their audience, and draws inspiration from the drawings and dolls they receive.
Here’s where the video-editing magic happens. You shouldn’t be surprised to see that their laptop has an adorable custom keyboard!
I met business manager Soo Zee (love her purple hair!) and other team members, who were hard at work. Everyone works together on the standing desk, a healthier option than sitting around all day.
Simon and Martina spoke enthusiastically about their newest project: You Are Here, an Eat Your Kimchi coffee shop near Hongdae station! The goal’s to create an inviting space where they can hang out with their fans and host special events (since their studio space is for work only).
It can be hard for first-time visitors to figure out where to go in Seoul, and for solo travelers to meet others. Hopefully, the EYK cafe can help to bring people together.
Martina and Simon have just opened the doors to the cafe. Martina is excited to bring her home-cooking to customers, and to have the coffee brewed just right. If this cute studio is any indication, their coffeeshop will be a hit.
I’m excited to see the in-shop videobooth, where fans can record messages to be incorporated into videos. It’s inspiring to see how much EYK interacts with their “Nasties.”
I was sad that their pets weren’t in the studio that day. Everyone loves Spudgy the dog, and Dr Meemersworth — a Scottish Fold cat, just like mine!
Here are our earless babies (Meemers on the left, Basil Farrow on the right). We bonded over the breed’s quirks, like the way Scottish Folds dangle their big paws and love to cuddle.
Simon and Martina have lived in Seoul for many years now, and I asked them about the peculiarities of Korean pop culture. I learned that tattoos are taboo, like in Japan: only doctors are legally allowed to ink others, so tattoo shops stay underground (there aren’t signs advertising them). In June, Seoul had a tattoo convention but it was shut down by officials. How funny that in contrast, plastic surgery (a more invasive “body modification”) thrives here!
Their job looks like it’s all play: making goofy videos in a space filled with toys, and yes, that’s a purikura booth in the back. However, I can see — and personally know — how much hard work goes into each project, and how committed they are to their team and Nasties.
They love what they do, and try to give back to their fans. Simon and Martina spoke about upcoming appearances at anime conventions, a possible road trip with meet-ups, and more.
I wanted some cool travel tips, and who better to ask than Eat Your Kimchi? Martina drew me a map of hotspots in this neighborhood (Hongdae) while Simon watched.
I ended up visiting all the places they recommended, with my photographers. In my next posts, I’ll show you the Hongdae Hello Kitty cafe, Zombie coffee, Robot bar and more. (Stay tuned to my Seoul category to see!)
Naturally, she drew this map with colorful pens, on cute panda paper. As you can see, she marked her favorite cupcake shop and Kpop fashion boutiques.
I think Martina is imitating the big robot that guards her favorite bar. Can you spot the tattoos of her dog and folded-eared cat?
We couldn’t stop taking photos with the stuffed toys.
So much fan art everywhere. Martina gave me a few Scottish Fold items from EYK’s fashion line, including a purple knit cap with Meemers’ round face on the corner. Everything is made locally.
(Photography by Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner and Ken Yuen.)
Funny how Simon is growing a beard, so he no longer looks like the older fan art.
We could have chatted all day long! Huge hugs for Simon, Martina and their team for inviting me to their Seoul headquarters. I’m psyched to see their new coffee shop — you can see updates on their website and YouTube. They’re on both Twitter and Instagram under @eatyourkimchi.
Have you ever watched Eat Your Kimchi’s videos? Are you keen to visit Seoul and their cafe? Below is an iPhone pic that they decorated with the Line app.
Coming up next: My birthday is on August 17, and I’ll be releasing not one, but TWO videos.
A dream come true… I went on safari in South Africa!
Cape Town Tourism brought my travel filmmakers and me to Aquila Game Reserve, located two hours from Cape Town. Without having to “rough it” in the bush, we got to see the Big Five animals up close and in a natural environment.
Aquila’s 7500 hectares holds hundreds of African species, including endangered ones. We saw lion kings,
… playful elephants beneath the Cape Karoo mountains,
… and the mighty rhinoceros, which the reserve is fighting to protect from extinction. (The other two of the “Big 5″ animals are the Cape buffalo, and the African leopard.)
My travel team and I are adamant about only supporting ethical places, where animals are well treated (no tiger temples or ocean parks, for example). We were glad to see Aquila’s commitment to responsible practices and anti-poaching. Our guide worked in rhino conservation for years, and we could sense his passion from the way he described the animals.
Aquila is a private game reserve and offers “safari drives” in the morning and evening, lasting about three hours long. There are also bicycle, horseback, and overnight options, but we aren’t exactly the hardy outdoor types…
… and preferred to enjoy the quaint lodges and cabins. We arrived just before lunch time, and made our way to the buffet.
These black and white photos on the wall made me miss my Scottish Fold, but got me excited to see the big cats up close.
My first encounter with creatures: a peacock, near the welcome entrance. The blue and gold feathers are luminous.
If I could talk to the animals, like Dr Doolittle, what would they say to me? Probably “Bleh.” (My outfit details are described below.)
Number one rule, which filmmaker Melissa is breaking: don’t touch the wild animals. Lions may look fuzzy, but their predator instincts are sharp.
We settled into a covered safari vehicle, and our guide drove us through the reinforced gates. He reminded us to keep limbs inside at all times, and not make startling noises.
These lions were saved from “canned hunt” operations. When the guide described this torturous practice, I wanted to cry. Canned hunting is when animals are put in a confined area — almost like a large gladiator arena — so that “trophy hunters” can easily find and kill them.
The lion pride resides in a separate fenced section of land. Since they grew up in canned hunting operations, they don’t have the skills to survive in the African wilderness. Aquila lets them live in a naturalistic home, while getting care from the staff.
How can anyone want to shoot these creatures? Our guide told us about something even worse: big game hunting, done from online! People would use their computer screens to track animals, and press a button to shoot them. It’s like the horror movie Hostel come to life.
Fortunately, these lions now have the chance to enjoy life. From our vehicle, we got to see some National Geographic action. The male lion prowls towards the female…
… gets behind her, and nibbles her neck. You can guess what happens next! (I actually took a video of the lion mating; you know you want to see it.)
“Can you feel the love tonight?” It didn’t last long, but the lion king got a kiss after.
Yet another section is home to cheetahs and leopards. So sad: this leopard was fattened up for a canned trophy hunt, to the extent that his stomach hung to the ground. Once again, Aquila gives these rescued animals a secure home, and even has a cheetah breeding program.
Tip: even though you’re in Africa, dress warm. We visited during their winter (July), and there was a strong wind. I am wearing a million layers under my Algonquins top, and silver skirt by Candy Stripper (both from Tokyo). My happy lion backpack is a present from A Bros Products in Hong Kong. The leopard print tights are a random purchase from somewhere in Asia.
It was fun to drive around the immense main reserve, and look for animals. We spotted zebra print among the tall grasses. (Here’s a video of the zebras flipping their ears and tails; it’s quite different to see the safari in motion.)
Indescribable, the joy of seeing animals in this manner.
Our guide parked us close to the creatures, and told us fascinating facts about them. We learned that if the zebra’s mane flops to one side, it isn’t healthy. And why can’t we ride zebras? Because they have a different spine structure from horses, which doesn’t let them support the weight of a rider.
He also told us that our cabins are well away from the animals… because once, a water buffalo charged through the door!
These are springbok, a type of antelope-gazelle. As their name suggests, they’ve got a spring in their step.
Here’s an eland, or antelope with twisted horns. We also spotted the grumpy-looking water buffalo, but weren’t quick enough to get a photo.
We had rather good luck at capturing animals doing “natural activities!” Since the rhinoceros is severely threatened by poachers, out to cut off their horns, Aquila has a “Saving Private Rhino” initiative. They focus on training programs to prevent attacks.
Our guide taught us to identify white rhinos. They look a lot like black ones but are taller, have a bigger head and larger hump on the back, and tend to hang in large groups, eating grass.
We kept warm with blankets from the guide’s stash. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must, as you’ll be outdoors for several hours.
The elephants were heading to the mountains, but we caught up with them just in time.
These elephants are teenagers, playing together with their trunks!
They’re such peaceful, happy animals. Our guide told us the difference between African and Indian elephants: the African ones are larger and more wrinkled, with full rounded heads, and ears shaped like the continent.
The vehicle stopped, and we all took a few minutes to stretch our legs. (Photos by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)
The guide offered us nuts (no thanks, allergies) and champagne (why yes!). Cheers.
We didn’t want our safari game drive to end. There’s something magical about being in an environment like this, simply observing the animals as if you were one of them.
Near the watering hole, multiple species gathered. I spotted zebras, ostriches, rhinos, and the little symbiotic birds (oxpeckers) that perch on their backs.
Only one word to describe this look… kawaii!
How many lions can you count? Funny how their expressions and postures are exactly like my Scottish Fold cat’s.
There’s more about Aquila Game Reserve and their conservation efforts on their site. While this safari is more tourist-oriented than some others, the big benefit is that you can easily make a day trip here from Cape Town.
Thanks to Cape Town Tourism for making this report possible. I hope all of you will get a chance to experience safari. It’s as amazing as everyone says.
Some final shots from my Instagram, of the cozy African-style rooms and a lion in motion.
Have you ever seen lions, giraffes or elephants in person? Is safari on your travel dream list?