Flooding in Burundi hits close to home

by Jessie Kwak

This has nothing to do with bikes, nor crafts. A few years back I worked with an organization called Global Citizen Journey as their communications team leader. At that time, they sponsored a women’s farming collective in Burundi – but in February torrential rains and flooding wiped out the women’s livelihood. Their crops were destroyed in their fields, and all the tools and supplies GCJ helped them purchase were lost. About half of them lost their homes, as well.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

I wrote an article about it for the Seattle Globalist, and I wanted to share it with you all. GCJ’s contact in Burundi is raising money to help the women rebuild – there’s a link at the bottom of the page.

These women could use a hand up if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare.

Three of the women pose with what rice they've managed to salvage from storage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

Three of the women pose with what rice they’ve managed to salvage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.


I need your input! Just one quick question….

by Jessie Kwak

January has been touch and go for nice cycling weather. Some days it’s pouring, some days it’s almost spring-like. With sunnier days on the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting my bike in better riding shape.

Over the years I’ve picked up some little tricks from living with a bike mechanic*, but this is the year I want to learn more about the mechanical side of my bike.

Maybe you all want to learn with me?

Proper bicycle mechanic attire.

Proper bicycle mechanic attire.

I’m planning on putting together a series of tutorials on basic bike maintenance for non-mechanical types—everything from how to keep your bike in good running order to quick fixes that will help you limp to a bike shop if you break down during a ride.

First, though, I need your help.

I just need you to answer one question: What do you want to learn about?

I’m not an expert, but I’m planning to bring some in to help us all get set for another awesome year of bikey fun. Knowing what kinds of things interest you will help me plan a series that’s beneficial for all of us.

Sound off in the comments!

*I’ve also picked up some little tricks about living with a bike mechanic. I’ll be sure to share those, too.


What to get the cyclist who has everything

by Jessie Kwak

A few years back, my parents, sister, and I started a new tradition. It only lasted a few years, but I still think about it fondly. Rather than buy each other gifts for Christmas, we started giving money to Heifer International, an organization that works to end hunger and poverty by providing poor families with livestock so that they can have a means to earn a living.

As a farm family, the idea was appealing to us. We would decide how much we were going to donate, then sit down with the Heifer catalog and purchase our gifts. A pair of rabbits, a milk cow, some guinea pigs, and, of course, ducks.

Won't you buy her a flock of fluffy ducklings?

Won’t you buy her a flock of fluffy ducklings?

We always bought ducks, being the Kwak family and all.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I recently got a letter from Caroline at Mercy Corps, an organization that works to better the lives of people in some of the world’s toughest situations. They go into war zones, natural disaster regions, and countries with extreme poverty and oppression, working with the locals to figure out what will really help.

Like Heifer International, they have symbolic gifts you can buy—but they have something you, dear readers, can maybe appreciate more than ducks (impossible!):

Won't you help buy these two a bicycle?

Won’t you help buy these two a bicycle?

Caroline wrote:

In so many places, a bike is more than recreation — it’s a chance for a better future. Mercy Corps bridges the gap by providing small loans or grants that help people purchase bicycles that get them on the road to (a better) tomorrow. With two wheels as a means of transportation, people are able to gain the valuable job training skills, attend school, or bike to the market.

Of course, the gifts are symbolic. Mercy Corps and Heifer International both use the idea that you’re buying ducks, tea stands, and bicycles as a way to raise money, but they spend it wherever the needs actually are.

After all, if it was up to me, every family would be given bicycles, three guinea pigs, and a half-dozen ducklings. Practical? Maybe not. That’s why they hire professionals, and I write fiction.

I think this is such an amazing thing to do with kids. You don’t have to forgo interpersonal gift giving entirely, but what if as a family you sat down and bought a bicycle together, in order to make these smiling kids’ dreams come true?

Can you resist these smiling kids?

Whatever your traditions this year, I hope they include a moment to share a little of your time, cash, and privilege.

Please feel free to add any other bicycle- or duck-related charitable suggestions in the comments. Bonus points if you find a charity that combines the two.

And stay warm out there, guys! I’m writing this on the bus because I was totally too much of a wuss to ride to Queen Anne today. Brr!


Massive “Biketoberfest” Etsy sale!

by Jessie Kwak

It’s fall, it’s starting to get chilly, and the rain is beginning to crash our bike parties in a big way. It may not be the best cycling weather, but fall’s the perfect time to hunker down and start getting crafty.

I’ve been working on a few projects I’m looking forward to sharing with you, but in the mean time, I wanted to let you know that the BikeCraft team on Etsy is having an awesome fall sale to whet your cycling appetites.

During the month of October, a group of over 30 BikeCraft stores are offering a special group promotion. Throughout the month of October, make a purchase at any of the stores on the list below and get a special coupon code for discounts at any other participating BikeCraft Etsy shop.

You could get 10-20% off, free shipping, or maybe even a free gift with your purchase! It all depends on the shop, so please check out the list below.

Remember: the coupon code expires on October 31st 2013, so get shopping!

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Aguja Frenetica
Beach BMX Designs
Berry Bikey Baby
Bicycle Posters
Bicycle Recycled
Bird Industries
Black Ship Crafts
Cat & Goat
CJH Jewelry
Firefly Gear
First Chair Clothing
Green Goat Designs
Just One Custom Bicycle
Katcha Bilek
Kozie Prery
Le Petit Peloton
Mercy and Ruth Handbags
Randi Jo Fabrications
Rose Pedals Jewely
Savvy Sacs
Siren Bags
Speak Stick
Sunshine Girl Jewelry
Taking the Lane Media
Tiny Tank Tech
Tireless Hearts
Walnut Studiolo
Willow Tree Work


See you at Cycle the WAVE on Sunday?

by Jessie Kwak


Remember last year, when I told you about the cheerleaders who will cheer just for you?

It’s September once more (seriously?!), and it’s time for Cycle the WAVE. THIS Sunday, September 15th!


My lovely mother will be joining me once again, and I’ve convinced her to sign up for the 42-mile route this time. She’s game, though she’s pretending to be nervous about it—probably so she can leave me in the dust again.

I’m seriously on to her plan, guys. Remember how last time she did the 25-mile ride on her front-suspension Scott? This year she’s armed with a carbon fiber Lapierre road bike AND she’s got some miles under her belt. Madame Kwak won’t have a problem.

If you read this blog and do the Cycle the WAVE this Sunday, come say hi. I’ll be kinda visable:

Neon yellow cycling dress | Bicitoro

(P.S., are you in Massachusetts? Cycle the WAVE is happening there now, too. In June. You’ve got some time to get ready. Check out the Massachusetts page for more info.)