In an email yesterday morning, a reader mentioned that her experiences living in developing countries led her to develop an approach similar to ‘the improvised life’s. We asked where she had lived and what that approach was and were knocked out by her answer:

“I lived in Vietnam for four years and Bolivia for three – amazing and fantastical places, where I learned many, many things, not least of which is how to view objects neutrally, so that you can see what they can really do beyond their stated purpose..Like the woman in a market in Hanoi who was peeling carrots and other ingredients, to sell as ready-made ingredients for folks to buy and make their own lotus blossom salad, and what did she use as a peeler? A chopstick, a razor blade and a cleverly-deployed rubber band: voila, vegetable peeler, third-world style….”

The jerry-rigged vegetable peeler reminded us of Kevin Kelly’s wonderful blog Street Use, about ingeniously improvised solutions, customizations and contraptions he and his friends have spotted in their travels around the world:

“In short — stuff as it is actually used, and not how its creators planned on it being used. As William Gibson said, ‘The street finds its own uses for things.‘”


Kelly blogged an exhibition called Global Street Food, “dedicated to the fascination with improvised kitchens in public places,”; it was presented by Dornbracht, a German manufacturer of bath and kitchen fixtures. The exhibition is a beauty and its online slideshow will make you smile with wonder. To view, click here, then click on “Passengen 2009” on on the left column; when a new page shows, click on “Slideshow” (there appears to be no direct route; it’s worth the three clicks to get there).


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