10 things I liked in Japan (part 2/4)

In case you have missed the last post, we have spent (almost) a month traveling around Japan. That made it for quite some stories that we want to share with you🙂

For this second part, I was thinking to share with you the things I fell in love with in Japan. Writing down what impressed me and what I didn’t die for, it was fairly easy to see that there were far more positive things🙂 But enough with this introduction, let’s get it started!🙂

1. Their transportation system


Me, impressed for not only the train (shinkansen) has arrived on time, but our car was precisely where it was expected. Good job, Japan!


2. That they serve water with every meal


Whether you sit down for a meal or simply a coffee, you will always receive water or green tea (ocha). This is like a fundamental right to me and would love to see it everywhere in Europe 🙂


3. Their mindfulness about others and when designing things


No Smoking Area in Himeji. Outside.



When they are sick, they use a protective mask to avoid spreading the germs. You can be in a dress or a tie and all arranged, but if you are sick, you wear a mask. Mindful, isn’t it?

Now, about packaging and daily objects design mindfulness, you’ll have to trust me. Or experience it for yourself🙂 hard to catch in a picture, but, really, they are putting meta-thoughts when designing.

4. Their attention to details and quality


When you hear “Japan”, you should immediately think of “quality”. They put a lot of care into everything they make, and that is easily reflected into the products themselves. For now, I will refer to pottery, which is something, I found only there, they are famous for. It is literally a paradise for those who like such stuff, especially since they play with colors, materials, motifs, shapes.



Let’s say I could have bought ALL OF THE pots, bowls, cups, plates that I have seen :p


5. Their “relationship” with cleanness


You always get a paper towel, whether you stop for a coffee or dining (as lots of other products, this particular one was called Fuji, for the respect they have to the mountain). Oh, and you barely see garbage bins on the streets, yet it looks tidy. In Japan, cleanness is at home! 😉 [The desert in the photo is some ice speciality with green tea taste and jelly.]

6. Sushi!


Tasty tuna and salmon sushi we had in a very small restaurant, where the chefs where right in front of us and preparing on the spot all that we wanted 🙂 Thanks to Mimoza, a friend met in Amsterdam, who took us there!

7. Their very silent cars (even when not electric!)


Ok, this one is hard to show in a picture 🙂 you need to experience it yourselves! Truth is we had a couple of times when we were prone to be in danger simply because we haven’t heard the engines… yes, even when not electric!

P.S. Did you spot the deer? 🙂

8. That people don’t talk on the phone while using the public transport


Although they don’t talk on the phone when using public transport, they do play a lot with it.


9. Their clean free of charge public toilets


Not only they are clean, free of charge, but they are also everywhere. Almost always full of technology too 😛 [but those stories are for another post ;)]

10. Their environmental friendly attitude


Not only they apologize, but they also explain why paper towels are missing. Found this lovely, both because of their respect for nature, but also care to explain to those using the toilets.

11. Bonus! The people we have met🙂

Last but not least, I have liked the people we met, who have been more than eager to show us around and explain us stuff: Mimoza, Hideki, Yuki and his friends and Yoshi. Thanks to you, our trip was greatly enriched! ありがと ございます [arigato gozaimas]


What is Code Week anyway?

I’m still a beginner in terms of programming, but I do believe that coding is a very valuable skill that will make Europe and the world a better place. To support this cause, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve taken responsibility to be Code Week Ambassador for Romania.

Starting to elaborate on a strategy, one of my first questions was:

“Have people heard about Code Week? Is its goal clear and also how to get involved?” Let’s see in the following lines what is all about.

What is Code Week?

Code Week is an initiative started by Neelie Kroes’ advisors (yes, that cool lady who managed to get roaming prices down ;)) Its purpose is to promote coding and to encourage the organization of tech oriented events between 11 and 17th October.

Code Week 2014

Code Week 2014

Why Code Week?

Because it’s never been easier to create your own apps and devices. You can use open source software or proprietary software, whatever fits you best. By organizing events and teaching others, you’re improving your community / city / country and spreading the word about tech.

Who is involved?

The initiative is run in all EU member states, Norway, and Turkey. You can see all the countries listed here, together with their ambassadors.

How can I get involved?

I could write an endless list, but here are 8 ways you can help:

  1. organize (or help with organizing) an event in your city – may be it Rails Girls, Coder Dojo or a workshop at your initiative
  2. become an ambassador for your country and get involved in spreading the word and connecting people
  3. ask your company to organize an open day for people who want to see how is like to work in IT
  4. go to highschools and do a demo of your work and answer students’ questions
  5. organize meetups and strengthen your community interested in the same programming language (a good starting point is meetup.com)
  6. if geeking is not your thing, you managed to get to this point and you have a friend who’d love to help, share him/her this post or Code Week’s website 🙂
  7. if you’re a company and want to sponsor events, get in touch with ambassadors in your country
  8. encourage event organizers to add their event on the website to make the map as complete as possible 😉

Should you have any questions or doubts if your idea would fit in this concept, please let me know. I’ll be glad to help.

Thank you for spreading the word! 😉

Last update: 26/08/2014

We’re looking for two adventurous Belgian citizens for a Youth in Action project in Romania ;)

I’m a Romanian living in Belgium, and recently I have received the following question over and over: “How is Romania?”

I will write a post about it, but meanwhile, I challenge you to discover it yourself! 🙂What’s the deal?

A friend of mine and his team, involved in a Youth in Action project that is developed in Romania, are looking for 2 Belgian citizens, aged 20-30, that are seeking to discover his/her dreams and to figure out what to do with their future. So if you’re looking for a job, but not really knowing the direction + you have some spare time, that’s your call 🙂

There’s some challenge involved too, of course, and that is you need to decide before Friday, 11th of July, as that is the deadline to submit your name for the ticket. Departure is on 16th of July, your contribution (food, lodging, transport) is €250 and the action will take place in Viscri, with a stopover in Bucharest, Romania’s capital city. You can have a look yourself to the pictures from last year.

Now, I have never been myself to Viscri, however, I did visit the surroundings with several occasions. What I can guarantee for sure is that it’s lovely and that I always recommend that area to people who ask ‘where to go in Romania’.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to write them in your comments or even e-mail Jan at desk_at_janhenckens.com

Good luck and should you know somebody interested in this, please share it. You never know who might benefit out of it 🙂

Thank you!

Rails Girls Brussels – we did it again! :)

The third edition of Rails Girls Brussels (second one organized by our current team) took place 2 weeks ago, on 30-31st May. Back in October, when it all started, I could have only dream about it 🙂
The format was the same as the previous time: we met on Friday @ Betacowork to install the software and Saturday for the workshop itself. On Friday all went pretty smooth and fast, especially since we learned our lesson last time: we had all the software on USB sticks so no lost time trying to fight for bandwidth. 😛
Saturday we started with registrations, a relaxed breakfast, followed by presentations and then just dived in exercises: Ruby try, Bentobox and Rails apps. 
My first impression was we had to deal with a group that was a bit more mature, still girls who hadn’t any connection with programming, but also girls who are actually working in the tech field, but just with different tools.
Although last time we had to say ‘no’ to more than 50% of the applicants, this time we had less applications, 48 to be more precise. Eventually 27 girls and 1 boy made it to the event. Yes, boys were accepted too, just that they had to bring a girl with them 🙂 Javi broke the ice and liked a lot our event, as I’ve understood. 
All these participants were supported by 13 coaches, who first of all, gave up half of their weekend to be there and help. Moreover, Anne, a former participant from February’s edition, joined the organizing team which resulted in a 50% increase of the girl(s) 😛
Below you can see the testimonial of a participant. I strongly encourage you to check the full report here 😉
Promotion is a part we still need to work on, should you have suggestions on how to raise more awareness that such events exist, please let me know 😉
Giving that the work of all organizers and coaches is volunteered, we rely on sponsors’ goodwill to ensure a good quality of the workshop’s logistics. Therefore, a big thank you for all those that said ‘yes’ to our campaign and supported us.
I will conclude by saying that the feedback we have received determines us to organize study groups and even more events for beginners. Summarized in a couple of words we are generally told “please don’t stop, give as many girls as possible the chance to participate in such a workshop”.
I will keep you informed on how this goes 😉 Until then, let me know your thoughts and questions about the event.

Rails Girls Brussels

Education is one of my drives. I haven’t written much about it yet, but expect to see more articles on this topic in the future.

Today I want to spread the word about Rails Girls Brussels. Have you ever heard about it?


Let’s start by briefly introducing Rails Girls. Quoting them: “Our aim is to give tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas. We do this by providing a great experience on building things and by making technology more approachable.”

Shortly said: events for women to get into tech. As the name suggests, this ‘tool’ to do so is Rails, a framework for rapid web-development.

Because I love education and because I wanted to have more girls close to me doing this, I gave a call at ArrrrCamp for developers interested to help me with organizing Rails Girls events in Belgium. I was lucky to have a bunch of people that replied to my request and therefore we started working. Since mid October.

Our event took place on 7-8th February and we had 32 girls participants (out of the 74 people that subscribed). Yes, boys wanted to attend too 😉 We’ll have to do something about it!

Moreover, 15 coaches volunteered to teach how to code on a Saturday. Ruby community is great, isn’t it? 😉

Below you’ll get a glimpse of our weekend together with some inside stories 😉

On Friday evening we started with an installation party: all the girls had to install the necessary software on their laptops so we start right on time the following morning.


The same evening, all coaches had a dinner together. Funny enough, the waiter was disappointed to see 14 guys and only one girl, me. As we made the reservation on Rails Girls’ name, he was expecting, you must have guessed by now, 15 girls 😉


The next morning we set the pace, briefly introduced them to web applications, front-end tools and the first exercises in Ruby. After lunch they started coding their own application assisted by coaches. Yay!

I've got nice feedback for this slide: always a good reminder that there are no stupid questions ;)

I’ve got nice feedback for this slide: always a good reminder that there are no stupid questions 😉

Coding is fun!

Coding is fun!


Lady in pink. Coding! 🙂

Friday hug!

Friday hug!

The feedback we had received has been amazing and paid off all our efforts. Everybody was happy with coaching, whether it was about giving or receiving knowledge.

I won’t talk about the age range, but I’m really proud of all the ladies (some of them moms!) that showed up. Congratulations! 😉

Before concluding, I’d like to take a paragraph and tell you that all this couldn’t have happened without the financial support of our sponsors, to which I’m more than grateful.

Moreover, I want to thank Martin, Christophe, Yannick, Hannes, Marie, Bert, Kristof, Joren, Daniel, Nathan, Dimitri, Marius, Arne, Loic, Ayrton and Tassos for all their help and motivation. Chapeau!

What’s next? Monthly study groups that we’re already preparing and another event, possibly for a more advanced group of students.

Should you know a lady that wants to start learning and doesn’t know where to start from, please tell her about Rails Girls!

To keep in touch with news about Rails Girls Brussels, you can follow us on Twitter @railsgirls_be or keep an eye on http://railsgirls.com/brussels.

For a more professional look, please check our report.