Hong Kong Travel

Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Macau… except not Shanghai

Tickets back home to Michigan over Xmas were too expensive this year which meant Lindsay and I had to figure out what to do to maximize our time together over the holiday break.

To be honest I would have probably stayed in Japan and spent our modest budget visiting a new region or city or something, but Lindsay really wanted to go somewhere totally new and tickets were reasonably cheap to Shanghai, China – unfortunately the tourist visa was something like $185 USD and took a long time to process… BUT you can get a transit visa for 144 hours as long as you are flying through China somewhere else. In other words, you can’t book a trip Tokyo -> China -> Tokyo and qualify for a transit visa but you CAN book a trip Tokyo -> China -> Hong Kong -> Tokyo. So this is what we booked.

Unfortunately the flight to China was out of Narita which is not the most convenient place to fly out of. It’s a solid hour and a half from our house (sorry Corie who is flying into Narita to visit in a few days!). Double unfortunately our flight to China was a red eye. Triple unfortunately, after we got on the flight around 11:30, literally minutes before we took off three people came to our seat and told us that our flight from Shanghai -> HK was cancelled… so the flight is ready to go and we had to decide if we were going to stay on the flight and very likely not be able to stay in China OR get off the flight. We had to make a decision right then with everybody on the plane watching and the cabin lights dimmed for takeoff. Anyway, we got off the flight because I was a bit concerned we’d end up being forced to buy a super expensive last minute flight once we arrived in China to HK.

Anyway we got off the flight but we were stuck on the other side of immigration – immigration was closed. So we couldn’t just walk back into Japan, we had to sit for probably 30 minutes while the airport staff got some office staff to come out and figure out what to do with us. Eventually we got let back into Japan and made out way back home, a good 2 hours later (having spent a solid USD$100 on the last night bus). We were felling pretty bummed about our plans being completely ruined, not to mention the fact we had to eat a bunch of reservations (hotels, flights, etc), but in the end the next day with fresh eyes we booked a cheap flight to Hong Kong so we could at least use our return flight HK -> Tokyo.

Here we are trapped in immigration after it was closed. Nobody at any of the lanes, everybody went home. We sat like this for a good 30 minutes.

Hong Kong

Anyway, that thrilling story out of the way, Hong Kong. What an absolutely amazing city.


Tokyogurt: Part One – New Beginnings

This is, obviously, a bit of a different topic than my normal travel related updates, but I wanted to write in this blog a bit more often. My primary motivation is simply that I think I should write more than I do in general – too much consumption, not enough generation.

Most of my early yogurt making memories come from my Mom. She used (maybe still uses?) quart jars filled with milk and put under a towel with a heating pad (the type you use for a sore back) underneath the jars. From what I remember this always worked really well. I actually wonder now why we didn’t do this all the time, I feel like it was a “few times a year” thing.

I actually can’t remember the first time I made yogurt myself. It was probably either in college in my first apartment living with Nick and Kevin, or it might have been in Wisconsin Rapids in my first real solo-apartment. Or maybe even in Lindsay and my first apartment in Grand Rapids post-college. Honestly I don’t remember. What I do remember for sure though is maybe 6 or 7 years ago living in Chicago I got slightly more serious about making yogurt and testing out different techniques. I tried different starter cultures, different incubation methods (e.g. sous vide vs crock pot), scalded vs unscaled, different milks. Strained vs unstrained. Etc. Unfortunately I remember very little about these techniques besides I remember that there was somewhat of a fine line between straining yogurt to the point of greek yogurt vs spreadable paste.

Here is a random video I found from Chicago in which I am showing how thick this yogurt is. It’s not important.

(VERY slightly interesting aside it turns out I have a fork from this same set of silverware here in Japan:

which sort of hit me a second ago because it’s a very unexpected through-line between my life 8ish years ago and my life here in Japan. I should probably throw these forks away before they develop some sort of meaning to me or are a physical representation of my 30s or something.)

OK, back to yogurt.

I like yogurt, and I like making things. I don’t have much space at home here in Japan but I do have space to make yogurt. I think the main reason I’ve decided to experiment with yogurt making here is because in general I really like the milk in Japan. Hokkaido is known for their milk and dairy in general and there are a surprising number of options for milk and yogurt at most grocery stores.


I decided to start the yogurt journey here by attempting to ferment the yogurt under our cheap ニトリ kotatsu.

I used the entire liter of milk and about a quarter of the yogurt container (which is quite a lot), and I fermented for around 12 hours (a long time)

Japan Tokyo

The first 4ish months living in Tokyo: A shorter post, probably, or at least fewer photos

We have officially been in Tokyo for four and a half months now. I wanted to record a bit about how the move went and how things are going on in this still relatively early stage of our life here – last time we moved to Japan I didn’t actually post anything until we were fairly close to leaving and I think it’s possible I missed some of the details from early on.

When we landed in Japan this time around I felt quite a bit different than last. I’ve developed a sort of constant (perceived) life-GPS or “grounded-ness” that made it impossible for me to feel that my life had totally changed when we stepped out of the airport. I still feel like me, just in Japan. That might not make sense but in the not-so-distant past I remember arriving to a new place and having an out-of-body feeling that took a LONG time to go away. This was disorienting but on the plus side, very exciting and in ways intoxicating. That said I felt (and still feel four+ months on) very very happy, you might say “joyful” when we got out of the airport.

Our flight was uneventful. We brought quite a bit of luggage with us, arguably more than we needed, but a lot of the stuff we packed was books and clothing for Lindsay’s job. We also brought some particularly heavy stuff, e.g. silverware because I hate spoons/forks that bend easily. When I think about it now I’m honestly not sure how we had so much stuff.

One of the first photos I have out of the airport
All of our bags. Roughly 300 pounds worth of luggage.

Edit from later me: I’m finishing this post in the main Hong Kong library, we just flew back out of Haneda to HK yesterday and it was strange coming back through the airport the other direction, especially after spending so much time in Tokyo over the last months. Somehow the airport felt “small”, despite being a major international airport.

We decided to be lazy and take an Uber to our temporary AirBnB. It was relatively cheap (maybe USD$40ish?) but taking the train would have been a huge pain with our luggage (almost always we’d deal with the pain to save 30 bucks or whatever, but it was just too much to carry on a packed train).

Camping Japan

We’re (probably not) moving to Tokyo (edit: ok, actually we are)

Warning: This will be more of a high school emo style blog post without a lot of photos, so set your expectations accordingly!

Note: if you’re reading this, either we’ve decided to move to Tokyo, or it’s been weeks or months since this discussion came up and we’ve decided not to and the thought has been well put to bed. I’m writing this for myself, to process my thoughts / feelings and document them for the next time this type of life changing issue comes up.

Two weeks ago Lindsay got a “cold call” from a quality international school in Tokyo, Japan asking her to interview for a middle school position that starts in August of this year (roughly three months time). They had found her resume in a hiring pool from a job she had applied to a long time ago and reached out randomly and without prompting. This was totally out of the blue, and unexpected, and pretty “world rocking” to be honest. To be clear, we had absolutely zero plans on moving to Japan, or even visiting Japan this year, BUT… Tokyo! One of the worlds great cities! Japan! Curry! Onsen! Sento! Beautiful mountains and streams and Hokkaido in the fall! Easy access to Korea and Vietnam! Etc.

Mexico Mexico City Travel

A Longer Stay in CDMX – Mexico City (plus Tolantongo and Cozumel)

Lindsay and I spent a bit of time in Mexico City a few years ago – roughly a week I think. We went there a few days after the Christmas holiday and were there for New Years Eve. It was a really wonderful trip, and I think Lindsay and I both were pleasantly surprised by the “ease” we felt there. We decided at the time to add a longer return trip (if the opportunity should present itself!) to Mexico City (henceforth CDMX) onto our travel TODO list.

Last year when we were planing our 2023 travel plans we decided it would be a good time to head back, this time, for a bit over a month and a half. The timing was almost exactly the same as before except we found a cheaper flight New Years Eve so arrived in CDMX on the 1st of January.

Arriving in CDMX is easy and uneventful. One of the great things (or terrible, not sure on the moral issues) about the city is that Uber is incredibly affordable, and convenient. I think the Uber from the airport, 45 minutes maybe, was only 14 or so dollars. In general Uber was our chosen method of transportation while in the city. Most trips to places we would visit would cost (with a healthy tip) between 5 and 8 dollars.

Anyway, the apartment we rented for the time in Mexico City was in a neighborhood called La Condesa. It’s one of the “hipper” and more touristic neighborhoods, lots of cute little coffee shops and restaurants. We were near-ish the border of two hip / cool / touristic neighborhood called Roma Nortre and Hipodromo. Overall this is one of the “obvious” neighborhoods to stay in, and I’d certainly recommend our exact area to anybody thinking about visiting CDMX.

Argentina Brazil

How to remove your appendix in Argentina (via Brazil) for only $4,403.23

Our first “big” international trip after moving to Michigan was a two parter: a week in Rio de Janeiro with our mates Kevin and Sabrina, followed by roughly 5 weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It had been roughly 2 years since Lindsay and I had left the UK (between then of course moving to California, then back to Michigan) and we’d done zero international travel during that period. This was largely due to COVID, but also just all of the general life stuff happening. It was honestly a bit weird taking an international flight after that stretch and arriving at an airport in Rio.

Fresh off the plane in sunny Rio!

The thing that sort of hit me is both how out of place I felt arriving in a new country, but also how comfortable and “normal” it felt. Unfortunately the “normal” part I don’t mean in a “I’m so cool and used to travel” sort of way, but more in a “I am sadly slightly less excitable when it comes to arriving in airports in new places.” I’d say I felt somewhat “shocked” actually, like “wow, I’m in this amazing new country, but I don’t feel that much different.” Again, this isn’t exactly a good thing, it’s just how I felt.


Back to Michigan to buy a house

If you didn’t read the previous post about our time living back in California, the tl;dr; is that we left California both for family but also because we decided as much as we love the Bay, we wanted to live somewhere less expensive, with more fresh air, and with a bit of a slower, “chiller” vibe.

No matter were we are living we always feel a draw to our families. This is both amazing, and difficult. It’s great because we love our families, and we’re incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in our lives we genuinely love spending time with. On the flip side, no matter where we live we always feel at least a bit unsettled because we are often so far away from family. SO, when we left California to try something new part of our decision about moving back to Michigan was because of the opportunity to establish a home base near family. This was an intentional choice designed to help future proof our lifestyle, provide security, and also allow us to both be near family but also in our own space.

California Uncategorized

We lived in Oakland, California, again

I think if we had said aloud, “We want to stay in the UK for another year, we will figure out a way to make it work”, we would have done just that and very possibly been in the UK to this day still. But that’s not what happened!

Sometimes I ask Lindsay, “why was it we ever left York?” We always have to talk about it for a few minutes before we remember what it was like at the time we made the decision – Lindsay had no more classes or “purpose” in the UK, we hadn’t been home in roughly a year, and the pandemic made the future seem uncertain (In the last post I wrote about living in the UK I touch on this a bit, but barely.). And so, Lindsay decided to start applying for jobs and (semi)unexpectedly ended up getting a job back in San Francisco, and so our next move was decided! I really do think we could have just stayed put in York and lived there happily ever after.

Instead, we left and made a short stop over at our family homes in Michigan before moving back out West to California – Oakland specifically.

Film Japan United Kingdom York

A few random film photos from the past few years

The ones of people that regularly read this blog likely are aware that I have a film camera to take most photos these days. That isn’t saying a lot really, I don’t actually take that many photos nor is my heart quite in it the same way it was back in university days. That said, I wanted to post a few random photos from the past few years as I just recently FINALLY was able to go through and scan my film photos from our time living in the UK.

The photos from Japan I actually have had on Flickr for about a year now – there was a photo store in the mall in Koryo ( エコール マミ ) called Kitamura and I was able to cheaply get all of my film developed there. When I moved to York, I had a few last rolls of film from Japan to develop and there was York Camera Mart that was great. Unfortunately because of covid, I wasn’t able to developed most of the film I shot in the York so ended up developing the rest of it in San Jose when I moved out to California (where we live now – Oakland!).

Anyway, here are some photos.

United Kingdom

Living in York in the United Kingdom during COVID-19

I don’t get really really sad all that often, but last night and today I’ve been pretty bummed out. Last night, Sunday May 10th, Boris gave an update about measures and next steps being taken in the UK to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The tl;dr; for me is that the country is not opening up (much) again anytime in the near future. My family, who was planning to come for almost an entire month in June, will almost certainly not be coming (this already seemed fairly unlikely, but I was holding out up). Lindsay and I will more than likely not visit another restaurant, museum, coffee shop, library, or pub while living in this wonderful country. We won’t visit Ireland or Northern Ireland. People we are just really starting to get to know and form friendships with we likely won’t see again before we leave.