We’re finally settled in our two-bedroom apartment in Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Here’s a publicly-shared Google calendar that shows our extra bedroom’s availability. If we’ve crossed paths in life and you need a place to stay in Tokyo, please email us. If the room is available, it’s yours!
While the Impossible Burger is by far one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had – I don’t think it’s worth the steep price tag. Then again, it did fool some meat eaters, so if you’re going veggie and seriously craving a burger, this is the way to go. Personally, I’m still good with a morningstar griller. 🙂
Being born and raised in Hawaii has its perks – but traveling is not one of them. Going anywhere outside of the state requires a 5-hour flight, minimum. Living in NYC for 4 years also meant a LOT of 10.5 hour flights across four time zones to go home for holidays and weddings – sometimes for just a weekend.
Eating from toilets can be …fun? We checked out Modern Toilet in Taipei.
TL;DRModern Toilet is a theme restaurant that revolves around toilets, bathrooms, and everything poop. The food is decent (nothing to write home about), but the decor is #worthit. There are some novelties that are best experienced first hand!
I’m sure you’re extremely concerned for my health right now and trying to think if you’ve shared food/drinks with me since we’ve been back from our trip. Right? Lol.
So we’re sitting on the train and Ryan tells me that he really wants to check out this “poop restaurant”. Of course, I’m in. We decided we’d check it out as soon as we got into Taipei, but our plans were foiled by an 11am open time (note to self: check opening times!).
Since we were early, we meandered to the nearby Lungshan temple and when we were done decided to hop on the train for the quick one stop ride to Ximen station. From there it’s just five minutes, using Exit 6, walk 2 blocks North on Hanzhong Street then West until you see:
Look at that building! So epic. We knew that there were only good things to come. Walking in, we realized the restaurant is pretty big, with multiple floors and seating for small and larger parties.
Yep, even the bathrooms are extra special. You sit on toilet seat chairs, over a poop bowl table and walk into the building to a chorus of interesting noises. We are obviously not normal since after this we were still starving and ready to order.
The food comes in various forms of poop and other bathroom paraphernalia. We ordered the ham & cheese stuffed chicken meal, fries, poop bread and ice cream. They have a ton of different things to choose from – everything from hot pot and curries to spaghetti and au gratin.
Totally forgot to take photos of the menu, but found thesepics on the internets.
Overall, the food was good, but the experience was better. They had menus in English, but attracted a crowd of both locals and tourists alike. I would suggest coming early, since by the time we were leaving (closer to noon) it was starting to get crowded.
TL;DRWhen you’re in the middle of the ocean for five full days, it’s easy to get a little stir-crazy. We’re definitely doing a shorter cruise next time (or checking out…
TL;DRWhen you’re in the middle of the ocean for five full days, it’s easy to get a little stir-crazy. We’re definitely doing a shorter cruise next time (or checking out a boat with more physical activities (zip lines, anyone?).
That’s exactly how many full days we were on the open ocean, with no Internet and nowhere to go. Alright, I’m totally exaggerating. If you remember from my post ages ago about the detailed daily itineraries the ship posts, then you’ll remember that they have multiple entertainment options at all times of the day. Also – the ship is HUGE.
Decks for days!
While most people on vacation would’ve been living it up, I was sorely missing my laptop! I could have been blogging in real time instead of attempting to catch up on it *cough* four months later *cough*.
That being said, we did get to spend a ton of quality time together with the fam, which was awesome. Lots of eating, playing games and just goofing off. Below is our highlight reel of ship events!
Eat. Eat. Eat.
We checked out the steak and pasta specialty restaurant (specialty = not included), but on most nights we were low key and just opted for the buffet at night. What can I say, we liked the variety. So much so that we usually went to the buffet even after we had dinner in the main dining room. Dessert parties, ftw!
While it’s neat to have room service as an option, room service choices were pretty limited, and the only time we really made use of it was when we ordered breakfast on port days. Beat the crowds in the buffet area + a whole carafe of coffee delivered at 630a = best ever! Also useful when you feel like hell because you caught what can only be the flu. Getting tea and water delivered throughout the day saved Ryan a few trips up and down (and let him leave the quarantine area knowing I was capable of picking up the phone).
Working off all the food
Nothing quite like running while you stare out at endless ocean. On days when the water was really rough, going on the treadmill was basically impossible. The waves look tiny, but the captain reported they were around 17 feet!
It’s hilarious because I never really go to the gym when we’re at home, but we went a bunch while on vacay. I’m sure part of it was because the in-laws are gym rats and I got the guilts knowing they were running at 5am!
We also checked out one of the “line dancing” classes – which turned out to really just be a zumba class. Not my favorite of classes, but we still had fun. Pretty sure we’re on that cruise DVD they hand out at the end since the guy was filming us for so long. Haha.
To Ryan’s delight, there was a ping-pong tournament. There were some REAL competitive folks on this ship – talking about how they won previous ship tournaments and getting pretty aggressive. I held my own for …exactly half a round before being totally crushed. I swear if they had bowling alleys, though!
All the Games
What cruise experience is complete without BINGO? Hahaha. What can I say – we never stayed up long enough to check out those “young people next gen parties” and we instead got excited about trivia, bingo and playing volleyball on the Xbox.
There was also a pretty lonely basketball court up on the top deck. The winds were pretty chilly most of the time, but Ryan went up and played.
I’m not really much of a gambler, but there was a casino on one of the decks. We played one of those crazy addicting coin drop games in there for a bit, and maybe even a few slots, but I didn’t jump in on any of the card tables, though Ry played cards for a bit.
Really, we caught ONE show – a magic show that was surprisingly good. There were different shows every night, but usually, by the time we were done with dinner (and buffet dessert!) we were ready to have someone roll us back to our rooms for a nap.
All the wives (Ryan’s mom, sister and myself) went to get our nails done the day before we had the super fancy night. The nail tech did a great job, but for a standard manicure, it was something like $60. Crazytown. It was a fun experience, especially since it was one of our last sea days and there wasn’t a ton of other things we wanted to do, but I have to admit that was $$$$$ for just a mani!
All the things we didn’t use
There were actually a ton of other amenities that we didn’t really use much. Being on a cruise through Asia in March meant temps in the 40-degree range on the decks which really dampened our desire to hop in the pool.
Multiple pools and jacuzzis
Outdoor movie area
I think Ryan will agree with me, that while the cruise was fun, it’d be better to either have fewer sea days or be on a bigger ship. I kind of wish there was a zip line or a rock climbing wall! I’d probably also bring my laptop next time – even if I’m not online, I swear it’s my security blanket these days.
Through a retrospective of our family reunion, learn what we would have done differently so you don’t make the same mistakes. Learn what went well and how we plan to improve for the next one! Part 3 of a 3 part series.
In my experience of writing software in a team, one of the most important steps – if not the most important – is the capacity to speak objectively (as a team) about the events that led up to the release of the software.
I like to call this the “the good, the bad, and the ugly“.
While the act itself is important as a team learning experience, I believe that the retrospective is critical because it’s another step towards being able to speak objectively and critically in a team setting – an act that promotes “psychological safety” within a team.
Google the term if you want to learn more about high-performing teams, but having worked on a number of them in my career, I’ve always found that the most functional teams I’ve been on have exhibited characteristics of being “psychologically safe”.
Obviously, this takes both comfort and practice, but after 8 years, Sara and I are more than comfortable enough to be able to speak critically of one another, so I’m sharing what we discussed privately in our retrospective of our family reunion.
If expected outcomes were our measure of success, we definitely succeeded because we fulfilled them all! Not to mention, quite a few family members thanked us for our efforts – that should be one of the first signs that we did a lot of things right.
Took a great family photo
Ended up with a lot of corrections to the family tree
As an added bonus, got email addresses for a large chunk of the family where I’ve been sending updates about this blog to! Hi fam! 😀
For having only a week’s time to prepare for the 50+ person event, the organizing went extremely smoothly. We weren’t cramming the night before and had spread out the tasks over the entire week. I attribute this to Sara’s planning / organizing skills because they’re much, much better than mine. Here’s some protips (from Sara) on how to make an event go smoothly:
Create a timeline of the day’s events and print out hard-copies to distribute to everyone
Put all assets in labeled manila folders to be distributed on the day of the event – the more granular and contextually organized the items, the better.
Always carry extra items like pens, post-its, extra copies of print-outs and what not.
Pack the night before so you’re not scrambling the morning/day of.
The print out of the family tree definitely worked out better than we imagined. There were a lot of family members who fixed the tree, but it also acted as an event anchor that encouraged interactions between members of our family. If we were to recommend one item to be reused from our reunion, this would be it.
There were a few hiccups on the day of the reunion – for one, the venue actually didn’t have the appropriate seating arrangement (nor was it even possible), so we had to move people around 30 minutes before everyone arrived. I won’t lie – it was a bit hectic because there were only two of us that knew all the details. In critical situations, I tend to wear a manager hat and order people around. Ultimately, I have to remember that it’s family and not a place of business – so I don’t think I handled that as well as I could have – since after all, this is supposed to be a fun gathering – who cares about these minor inconveniences. 😀
Second, while we did have a planning schedule, we misplaced it in the chaos and so we improvised in the moment. As a result, we failed to give detailed instructions to the people at the check-in table. This led to pseudo-random distribution of favors and missed collection of email addresses. Ultimately, this was totally our fault due to the lack of communication. On a good note, we did later remedy the situation by manually walking around the venue and collecting email addresses.
Last, while I tried to stick to the schedule on the sheet that Sara printed out – and I kept reminding myself to, I ended up making up the schedule on the fly. While it worked out this time, in future events, that may not be the case. I really have to get better at sticking to pre-planned schedules. 😀
We have a fairly decent camera, but unfortunately, because of a setting enabled on the camera and the poor lighting in the room, a lot of the pictures came out blurry. This was partly due to the fact that the camera is pretty new, and Sara didn’t have a ton of experience using it. With that said, the group photo of our family was taken by another member so we did end up with a nice photo. We should have taken a few shots the night before and checked them out, but in our haste, we didn’t and ultimately lost a bunch of photos.
What We Would Do Differently
All in all, I think given the circumstances, we planned a great an amazing family reunion, but if we’re never critical of what we’ve done, we’ll never improve. So, here’s a list of items in no particular order of what we would have done differently:
Have more people show up early and be involved in the setup. We should have communicated a setup plan the night before with a small group of people instead of shouldering it ourselves.
Definitely take some photos the night before to see how the camera would perform.
Highlight features of Ancestry.com earlier in the event. We didn’t show all the amazing features of Ancestry until right before the end. There’s a lot of documents that Ancestry has collected that people were interested in such as the census scans, draft cards, yearbook photos, etc. It piqued quite a bit of people’s interest.
I really wanted to print out something physical that everyone in the family could take home. While we are giving out a family photo as a prize for this reunion, one of my dreams is to be able to print out family baseball cards where the back of the card would have trivia about a person’s life. One of these days, I tell you…
We helped organize a successful family reunion, so can you! Learn how we focused on seating charts, interactions, and collaboration. Download the tools and design materials we used. Part 2 of a 3 part series.
Our Guess Who!
Update: If you’re planning on throwing your own family reunion, make sure to check out:
Part 1 – We helped organize a family reunion, so can you!
Part 3 – Family reunion retrospective aka what we would have done differently
If you read my last post, you’d know that Sara and I were fortunate enough to have been included in the planning stages of a family reunion. And… if you know me, you’d know that this has something I’d been secretly wanting to do for a number of years.
I can’t really put my finger on why I’ve been so fascinated with learning about my family history, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve cared less about lives being led on Instagram and more about my family’s history in Hawaii.
To gauge success, I viewed the most important outcome of the reunion as the following:
Family members should interact and meet one another – no matter their lineage. This was most important. If this happened at some level, even if none of the other outcomes occurred, we would have had a successful reunion.
To accomplish this, we focused on three specific facets of the event:
*Note: We’re making all the assets we used in planning this event available in this blog post. Unfortunately, to use them, you’ll need a bit of an Excel background and someone with Adobe InDesign experience. If you’re planning your next reunion and want a custom design for some of these assets, I hear that for a small fee, Sara might be able to help you out. 😀
I know how most local family parties end up, and I really wanted to encourage people to meet different members of the family. To help solve the issue of familiarity, we arranged the seating chart so that families would not sit next to their immediate family, but keeping at least one parent and child together as well as spouses if their children were grown adults.
If we made people feel uncomfortable, then I knew we were headed in the right direction.
If you’ve ever tried to seat a large group, it’s fairly painful without the use of technology, so I made a quick spreadsheet on Google Docs to dynamically show available seats as the seating chart is filled out. (I knew my finance background would be of use someday!) Feel free to customize it to your own liking as I’ve filled it with a bunch of random celebrities. In addition, since there were a ton of people who had never met, we also made name tags for everyone – you’ll find the InDesign templates available at the end of this blog post.
Note: The seating chart is titled “Guest List / Seating Chart“. If you notice, I have the floor plan of the event space where I’ve numbered each seat at a table. We didn’t need this level of granularity to actually seat people, but it really helps to visualize who is sitting where. After you’ve seated everyone, the “Sign-In Sheet” tab dynamically pulls from the seating chart. You’ll want to sort this sheet by “Last Name” (since families arrive together) and print out the result (or copy it to an InDesign template like we did) to use at the sign-in desk.
Once everyone has been seated in an uncomfortable spot, we needed people to interact with one another. I’m generally not a fan of forced interactions, but we decided to include two items on the table that would help “kickstart” the conversation.
The first item would be a conversation starter, commonly known as an “ice-breaker”. Each conversation starter would be placed at everyone’s seat and have two sections. In the first section, you have to say how you’re related to either my grandmother or one of her sisters.
When thinking about familial relationships (especially when dealing with 2nd / 3rd cousins), it’s always good to have people form a visual baseline of where you are in the family tree.
The second section of the conversation starter would contain questions to ask the table to help keep the flow of the conversation going. Since I’ve been fascinated with recording my own family history, I had a database of almost a thousand questions to pull from. Examples of these questions include:
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Who is one person here you’d like to learn more about?
What was something you got away with as a child that your family still doesn’t know about?
Our Guess Who!
The second item would be a “Guess Who” game that would be situated as the centerpiece of every table. Once everyone stated where they were in the family, we had pictures of 8 people numbered one through eight. On the table, we had cutouts of those numbers, along with the names of the eight people in the photos and a few extra members of the family to increase difficulty. The idea was for the table to interact (and collaborate) with one another to match the photo to the person. During the reunion, I announced the answers and let the winning table know they would receive a physical copy of the group photo we’d take later in the day.
Since we focused on micro-interactions occurring on the table, I wanted to ensure that the room had something larger to collaborate on at the macro level. Sara and I paid for a subscription to Ancestry.com via a Black Friday deal, and we’ve both spent countless hours attempting to fill in our family’s history. I met with my Aunty Gerry on a Saturday to complete a large chunk of my grandmother’s tree, but we were still missing quite a bit of people / details. The original idea was to show the family tree on a projector, then have people come up and fix the tree on the laptop, but we didn’t think that interaction would go well because of the inherent technology barriers (re: people crowding around a single laptop, using Ancestry’s user-interface, etc).
Instead, Sara painstakingly transcribed the tree from Ancestry.com (which doesn’t have great export options) over to Adobe InDesign where we could then print out a large 8 foot banner of the tree (which costs ~50 dollars). We then had post-it notes for people to fill in corrections. Here’s the before and after of the tree.
As you can see, I think out of all the interactive ideas we had, this was definitely the best one. There were so many family members who came up to fix the tree and add more detailed information! The display became a focal point of the event – where people could get out of their seat (woohoo!), make their corrections, and ultimately talk to other people in the family.
*Note: We used colored post-its to represent gender to make it easier when we placed the corrections back into Ancestry.com
So to sum it up, here are the assets that we’ve made available to help you plan your next reunion!
With a week’s notice, we helped organize a family reunion. Sharing our tips so you can too! Learn how we organized seating arrangements and used games to encourage interactions between families. Download the tools and design materials we used. Part 1 of a 3 part series.
Our family tree with corrections!
Update: If you’re planning on throwing your own family reunion, check out:
Part 2 – Download all the tools and design materials we used in our reunion!
Part 3 – Family reunion retrospective aka what we would have done differently
Whether it’s obsessing over Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History or interviewing my parents to learn more about their childhood, I’ve always been fascinated with the past.
Luckily for me, one of my grandmother’s sisters, my “Aunty Jean” as we call her, was visiting Hawaii with her extended family – most of whom I had never met. This meant that my Aunty Gerry would be responsible for organizing a casual family get-together.
If your family is large and anything like mine, this usually consists of a meal at Zippy’s where families sit next to their immediate family and talk story / catch up with those they’re familiar with. I mean, I should know since I’m definitely guilty of this myself.
After all, we’re human. We tend to gravitate towards familiarity.
Yet, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this setup isn’t ideal since we don’t get to learn about other family members aside from at a “surface level”. There isn’t much depth to the relationship, and sadly enough, we end up knowing more about our friends than our own blood. Don’t get me wrong – some families may be better off this way, but I’d like to think that my family should know (and want to know) more about one another.
I wanted to do something different.
With about a week’s notice, Sara and I helped my Aunty Gerry organize the reunion. Even though we have quite a bit of experience organizing large community and corporate events, there’s an inherent pressure in dealing with family. No matter the size, you always want it to reflect the best of your abilities because ultimately, it’s a reflection of your parents.
When thinking about what a successful outcome would be, I came up with the following three outcomes that would ultimately shape the day’s activities:
Family members should interact and meet one another – no matter their lineage. This was our main goal. If this happened at some level, even if none of the other outcomes occurred, we would have had a successful reunion.
Take a family photo that every family should receive.
Enable corrections to the family tree that my Aunty Gerry and I have spent hours constructing.
All in all, the reunion turned out better than even I could have imagined!
Not only did we accomplish all three outcomes, but as a bonus, we received email contacts for family members whom I had never even met prior to the reunion! Big props to my wife, Sara, for doing a large chunk of the design work including the design of the game, the program, and the family tree above.
Over the next two blog posts, I’ll be posting the documents and visual assets we used to plan and organize the events of the day – so that you too can plan your own family reunion! I’ll also be detailing how the day unfolded and things we could improve upon for the next reunion.
Stay tuned for the next post where I discuss what goes into planning a reunion when given a week’s notice!
Make sure to continue reading:
Part 2 – Download all the tools and design materials we used in our reunion.
Part 3 – Find out what we would improve on if we could “do it all over again”
A quick peak into what we did while we were in Hong Kong. Day 2 of our trip was much more relaxed since we had to be at the cruise terminal by 2p.
Our second day in Hong Kong was much less crazy than our first. Partly because we needed to be at the pier to board the cruise ship by around 2pm.
After the adventures of the previous day, we were pretty beat up and slept in a bit. One of Ry’s college classmates (and old coworker in NYC) is now living in Hong Kong, so we met up for breakfast.
He took us to a classic Hong Kong family style spot, Kai Kee Restaurant just a few blocks from where we were staying (mentioned it in the Eating in Hong Kong post). I kind of wanted to try the instant ramen dishes, mostly because noodles are my favorite thing, but we opted for sweets instead. Toast with sweetened condensed milk, egg tarts, a melon bun and coffee. Note: saying you just want coffee will give you coffee with milk already mixed in. Kai Kee Restaurant, Hong Kong
Everything was amazing, and while there’s a small part of me that wants to DIY that sweetened condensed milk toast business at home, I also feel like it’d be such a waste since I wouldn’t use up the whole can – and then what do you do with it? Hahaha.
From there we walked around and talked story until we ended up at a small grocery store near our place. We wanted to pick up some cruise ship necessities to carry on (a case of diet soda, 2 bottles of wine and random snacks – details in our cruise packing post).
We went back to our AirBnb and filled one of our empty bags with all our new goods then relaxed a bit before heading back out in search of (you guessed it) more food.
We had read online about a cute coffee shop down the street from us – that was supposedly tucked away in the back of a clothing store. When we got there, however, it was actually just a clothing store. Whoops! On our way to the next coffee shop, we walked by the Ya Kun Family Cafe and decided to check it out.
They specialized in Kaya toast, a snack from Singapore/Malaysia. It’s essentially a toasted sandwich that’s made with kaya (spread made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan) and butter. They sell a set with soft boiled eggs, so naturally we got that then proceeded to google how the heck you’re supposed to actually eat it. That’s where it got interesting.
Lots of seating
Apparently you mix up the eggs, add in some dark soy sauce and white pepper, then dip your sandwich into it. In all honesty, it sounded kind of disgusting. Sweet + butter + eggs + shoyu?! Can’t knock it till you try it though, so we gave it a go and it was actually pretty good. The sweet + salty + savory combo worked well! This place is actually a franchise and there are a ton of locations across Asia. Ya Kun Family Cafe / Website
After that long detour, we went to check out N1 Coffee, which based on the Internets is a popular and very instagram-ey coffee shop. The shop was cute, but a little crowded, so we swung in to take a few pics but didn’t order anything. N1 Coffee & Co.
Loved the decor so hipster. Haha
Fancy pour overs
When we were leaving, the signage for Owl’s Choux next door caught our eye. Mentions of Michelin street food guides and cross sections of the little custard puffs drew us in. Lunch? Who needs lunch?
These were DELISH. Crunchy and soft at the same time, with a light and fluffy filling. I kind of wish we tried the ice cream sandwich versions – but we decided to just try the two small choux and keep moving. After all, we only had a few more hours left! Owl’s Choux Gelato & Coffee
One of the last places that we had bookmarked to check out was Wah Kee Snack Food Shop. It was a little spot on a busy corner filled with all the street food you could ever want. We opted for some cheese sausage in spicy sauce, and ate it while we walked back to our AirBnb to pack up and head to the Cruise terminal. Wah Kee Snack Food Shop
Protip: if you don’t have pocket WiFi and you’ve been using your AirBnb or Hotel’s internet for everything, remember to order your Uber BEFORE you leave. We forgot this gem, and while T-Mobile does provide some service in Hong Kong, the signal wasn’t strong enough to get us an Uber.
Luckily we were just down the Street (we had gone down with our bags to get to a less busy corner so a car could pull over), so I trekked it back up and then sprinted back down when the car was on its way.
We got to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal a bit early and had some time to kill before we needed to board, so we walked around the roof deck / garden. Having just opened in 2013, it still seems shiny and new. There were a handful of restaurants, but most weren’t open, so we decided to just board early.
Ryan likes fish
From the rooftop, the boat looked huge
The terminal was so fancy
Here we go!
…and away we go!
We checked in, got our “Seapass” cards (your form of identification / how you pay for everything on board the ship) and toasted to a fun couple of days in Hong Kong. Next up on the blog: Day 1 at sea!