Findlay’s Blog Reunion, er Réunion Blog

That’s write folks, I finally wrote a new blog post.

Alright, let’s start with some geography cuz nobody knows where the fuck Réunion is. Also, you’re probably saying it wrong.

Réunion (French: La Réunion, [la ʁe.y.njɔ̃]

Alright, so what you need to know is that Réunion is a French island in the middle of flipping nowhere (near Mauritius and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean). Go figure it used to be a slave colony farming coffee. Then when slavery became illegal it became a melting pot of cultures mostly from Africa, China, and India. And of course French people. I should note that the first inhabitants of the island were a dozen French mutineers exiled there… Yeah… I’d HATE to be exiled to Réunion… Don’t EVER send me there if I commit a crime…

Now there’s about a million people living there, and they speak French and the local Reunion Creole as well, and it is basically a god damn island paradise. Everything is beautiful, huge and amazing, it looks like Jurassic Park, and the people are insanely nice as well. Basically the only way to get there is a 12 hour direct flight from Paris, and you will not want to leave.

Seriously, at CDG in Paris, the stuffy customs guy asked me where I was going and I said Réunion and his demeanor immediately changed. The guy smiled, tapped the other customs guy and was like “This guy is going to Réunion!” (in French) Then he told me they were both from Réunion and he said “Trust me, when you get there, you will see, you will understand – and you will never want to quit!” – he was right, I didn’t want to leave!

The Ride

Volkswagen Up

Ladies and gentleman, my Volkswagen Up, or as I think it should be called, the Volkswagen Second Gear. Because no matter what speed you’re going or what road you on, you seem to always need to downshift to second gear to go anywhere. I suppose a big part of this is the hilly nature of Réunion – but for some hills I needed 1st gear – the entire time – these were the steepest roads I’ve ever driven on. #cilaos

The City

Just a few random shots of the city. I stayed mostly in Saint-Denis, but the island isn’t very big. If you drive the entire coast in one big loop it would maybe take you 3 and a half hours! With 24 cities and ~850K people, it’s not a huge place. The last photo was some kind of gambling they have in the little gas stations, was pretty popular at each one, must be their equivalent of scratch offs XD

The View

Réunion never disappoints in the view. Doesn’t matter where you are you can look up to the sheer, massive cliffs that are blanketed with green – or you’re looking down from the mountain onto the city and out to sea.


Religion is HUGE in Réunion. There are Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and MORE. And there are no shortage of religious buildings, shrines, and other sights and sounds as well. Below are some photos and a cool video of a super loud drum focused ceremony of some sort… Yeah… I hope you guys don’t expect me to know everything. I’m just doing my best to show you the same experience, and fill in the gaps I know how 🙂

Yeah, see that, I got you Googling shit now and trying to figure out these mysteries just like me 🙂

The cool thing I will add on to this, is that there is EXTREME religious tolerance on the island. They practice happily side by side and they are PROUD of their tolerance for each other. Every night at my window, I’d hear the muezzins (beautiful prayer singing on a loudspeaker from two nearby mosques), followed or preceded by the Catholic church banging its bells. But the one would patiently wait for the other to finish each time. I think the Catholic church was just banging for the hour, whereas the mosques pray at sundown.

But seriously, shrines and shit are everywhere. I see it often in the world that along the climb to mountaintops there will be religious symbols, but one of those photos was just next to the freeway off ramp! I saw this random red Chinese looking shrine thing! Religion is everywhere in Reunion!


Short and sweet here, I didn’t get any great pictures of it – but all over the place are boulodromes where you will find locals playing petanque. Petanque is a game similar to Bocce, if you don’t know what Bocce is, Google it or Petanque. Petanque is huge in the south of France too. Basically you chuck a ball and then the other guy chucks a ball and knocks yours away and then you try to knock his away and get yours in his place or some shit – I really don’t know, I’ve played Bocce once. Anyway my favorite thing is you can spot the pro, or maybe the try hard player, because the balls are iron so some players have a little magnet on the end of a string they use to pick up their balls so they don’t have to bend over. It’s priceless, I just really hope those guys always win, cuz if you’re using that thing and look so slick and lose… it’s gotta be extra painful 🙂

Rue de Paris

There’s a street in Saint-Denis that is famous for its Southern Plantation style homes, and it did not disappoint. Beautiful houses, most of them gated in, and honestly it looked like nobody lived in most of them which is a bit sad. I spotted a few “fixer uppers”… Maybe if I win the lottery this will be my new crib some day 🙂

Food and Drink

Alright, first off the local beer is a tribute to our lost friend The Dodo Bird, which lived in Mauritius, a nearby island. And it is everywhere like Bud is everywhere in the US. The island used to be called Bourbon named for the French Royal house, so there will be a huge section of “Bourbon” spirits, but they are not bourbon like you’d expect. They are a sweet sugar cane spirit similar to a gold rum.

The real drink of the island is infused / flavored rums. They are obsessed with them. You’ll see house infused rums at the hotel bar, and a MASSIVE section at every grocery store. Lychee, passion fruit, mango flavored, vanilla flavored, chocolate – you name it basically. And I’ll tell you what, they’re pretty damn good. I made an expensive habit of draining the mini bar in my room almost every night 🙂

The real local food is curry which they say like “gah ree”. Lots of rice, lentils, some veggies and a protein. Proteins like chicken, tofu, local specialty sausages, or… rabbit… as I discovered on accident. Oh well, I won’t make a habit of eating rabbit, but I’ll try most anything once or twice. It was pretty good, but all due to the spices, not the meat 😛 #vegetarianpitch

The last thing I’ll say is that I’ve only seen these tent style food spots here and in Los Angeles, and it’s still amazing. Cambros, coolers, ice chests, propane tanks, burners, all on a random street corner. These guys are high on my list of who I want in my camp when the apocalypse hits.

The Hotel

At first I was staying at Hotel Bellepierre, which had a super fancy feel, proven true when the folks at the lab said in an astounded voice “Wow, Hotel Bellepierre? That’s where the celebrities stay when they visit!” But because of Corona prices were competitive everywhere…. and I had a nasty run in with ants a few too many nights in a row, and I think I was just grumpy and stressed from travel so instead of asking the hotel to deal with it, I just relocated myself downtown to Hôtel Le Juliette Dodu 🙂 Pics of the lobby and lobby cat below 🙂

The Authorities

You guessed right, those giant futuristic robot looking things are speed cameras… they’ll getcha…

The Road

So, I went for a random drive my first day there, and I was on a road that hugs the cliff coastline, and off in the water a few hundred meters out, was this MASSIVE… STRUCTURE? I honestly thought, it MUST be military, or alien maybe, but I didn’t see any UFOs, so I figured military. It was just so big and fancy and EXPENSIVE looking, it didn’t jive with anything else being so close to this city where our food comes from a shack, and the fanciest hotel in downtown has rusted everything on the outside (I think this is just a factor of life on most islands b/c of weather and island life)

That – is the most expensive road in the world (purportedly). Supposedly something insane like 12 billion dollars for a few km in length – they are building it because rocks frequently fall off the cliff because of the rains, and once a rock crushed a car and a few people were killed. So yeah, this insanely massive, way out in the fucking Atlantic, crazy expensive road, will replace the cliffside freeway for this stretch, due to open sometime soon I think O_o

Oh yeah, the rains.

The Rain

One of the things I read on Wikipedia before coming to Réunion was that the island holds the world record for rainfall in 12, 24, 72 and 96 hour periods. And this is no joke. It will rain in 5 minutes, more water than I’ve seen anywhere rain in an hour. I mean, it won’t necessarily be windy or violent, but just sheer volume of water is unreal. A 30 second walk to the car was the equivalent of me jumping in a swimming pool. Soaked through to the underwear. Below is a picture of your standard side of the road water trough, like the equivalent of what in the US would be a little gutter and a drain – if I was standing in this trough, my head would be below the surface of the road, and almost every major street will have a rain catch like this!

Seriously, the rain is insane when it happens.

Alright, the heavy hitters

So, Réunion has a number of impossibly amazing natural wonders, that I could never even dream of doing justice in my description with photos and pictures… and this is why you have to go some day. Just black out 2 weeks of your life, spend a week in France, then fly from Paris to Réunion and spend a week on this island paradise. I bet if everyone reading this did it, the population of Réunion would grow by at least 5 of you. But I’ll share the ones I tried to capture below.


Mafate’s name comes from a Malagasy word meaning lethal – an allusion to the sheer cliffs that you have to traverse to get to it. Mafate is a cirque, which through my lingual adventures I never figured out what it means, but it’s not a circus like Google Translate would tell you – it’s basically a caldera. I think we use the word cirque in English as well. ANYWAY. There are three cirques in Réunion, Cirque de Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie. And Mafate is unbelievable. Sheer cliffs make up the crater rim, and deep down below, far off in the impossible distance, are tiny specks that are a few houses, a helicopter delivering supplies, maybe even a car or two. Lord knows how much a gallon of gas costs down there.

I could stand there and stare down into the cirque for hours.

Piton de la Fournaise

Piton de la Fournaise is one of the 4 most active volcanoes in the world. The residents of the island will simply call it “le Volcan”, the volcano. And it’s amazing, on your way to the Volcano you are first greeted with the Plaine des Sables (the sands plain). It may as well be called the Martian plain. You spend over an hour on a switchback road surrounded by the usual greenery. and the biome suddenly changes. And I shit you not, it looks EXACTLY like the alien landscape depicted in the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

The weather and unsafe terrain (due to recent eruptions) didn’t allow me to hike inside the active volcano crater (yeah you read that right) nor did I get to see any erupting lava, but there was plenty of secondary evidence, steam vents, cooling lava as the clouds parted, etc. My favorite thing was hiking around the volcano rim, the whole area is serene, you can tell plants and wildlife have only been here for 10 or 20 years (since the last massive eruption). And it’s wonderful. I got the worst sunburn of my life, and a nice scrape to the knee (that I still have evidence of months later) and I don’t regret any of it. I hope the pictures do some kind of justice ❤

“When love beckons to you, follow him, though the way is hard and steep” – The Prophet, Gibran


One of the other cirques, is Cirque de Cilaos. Cilaos is actually a tiny village living on the crater floor, but first you have to get there. Another one of those unsubstantiated world records, they say the road to Cilaos has the most curves of any road, between 200 and 400 was what locals told me, and either one could be possible. You can find a clip of the drive on YouTube if you want, on the way down I followed a car with kids hanging out the windows throwing up XD. It really is insane though, being on this insanely twisty road, that regularly drops down to one narrow lane, and then suddenly having to back up for the BUS coming towards you!

Once you get to the village, it’s magical, a lot of tiny restaurants and hotels, I visited a cute farmer’s market, church had just gotten out, everyone was so impossibly nice. But the striking feature – wherever you go, no matter where you look – the horizon is the crater rim. It was fucking fantastic. Like being IN Jurassic Park.

Oh yeah, that last picture are the hot water heaters. A lot of the homes in Réunion don’t have electricity, but they don’t really need it, and even if they do have it, they still heat their water with those rooftop solar things. Every house everywhere has one of those on the roof.

Some of the Flora and Fauna

One thing that’s cool about going somewhere this remote is the plants and animals are wildly different than anything you will see anywhere else. I tried to snap a few pictures, but I missed the real hero, they have a chameleon that is indigenous to the island only. Supposedly to find them you have to go out after hours with a flashlight snooping around in the trees… Something for next time I suppose 🙂

Stray cats and dogs are literally everywhere, so is sugar cane, and a lot of times you will encounter plants that are just larger than life. It’s really like being in Jurassic Park sans dinosaurs. The tree ferns are my favorite, because they look like enormous green capped mushrooms sticking out above the foliage.

Datura is something I was warned about actually, because if you were to fall asleep underneath one in bloom… odds are good you could have some health problems. It’s infused with drugs to get high, it causes heart attacks, it’s poisonous, and it’s everywhere. I think the hype exceeds the real threat, but one concrete thing is, if you see someone with a few giant ones growing in the yard, odds are good they’re mixing it in with their weed.

Which incidentally doesn’t grow well in Réunion! One day at the lab the topic of conversation went to marijuana, which is not legal in France, and as such not legal in Réunion. In Réunion, too much UV light comes through the atmosphere to grow good weed, so most people get it delivered by plane somehow from Paris. Anyway, needless to say, drugs are found in every corner of the world, for better or for worse.

The Work

That little van showed up one day with our Technetium generator, which was quite the ordeal to orchestrate apparently. There’s a lot of paperwork around radioactive stuff, and a generator is a good steady source of radioactivity, so it’s understandable. Needless to say when that van showed up with our generator, it was a bit… hilarious. Emma didn’t want me to take a picture, and she promised there is a much nicer van being purchased this year. Hey, I’m not hating, it gets the job done. The active stuff inside the van is all inside lead boxes anyway.

My Favorite Old Lady

This lady was a few blocks from my hotel, and every day she feeds these birds by tossing grain or whatever out her window… One day I will be just like her.

The Mystery

I’ll let you guys work on solving this riddle, I found this on top of the mountain, at the volcano rim. And best I can tell is it’s some famous old poem, except instead of writing “Freedom” there is a real person’s name written at the bottom of the card – “Marie”. Perhaps with some careful thought, google translating, and googling, you can figure this one out and fill me in. What does it mean?

Sur mes refuges détruits
Sur mes phares écroulés
Sur les murs de mon ennui
J’écris ton nom

The Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Taken at Carrefour, Saint-Denis, Réunion. Yes, to take this photo I had to creepily snap it from the end of an aisle, and no that is not my kid, but I’m determined to not pass up great photo ops like this.


Taken shortly after my departure from Reunion

It’s been over a year since I wrote a blogpost, and I’ve been traveling the whole time. And I had traveled to places I wanted to blog about before that. I can tell in writing this that it’s not as good as it would have been had I written it sooner – so I’m hoping the pictures and the stories do the heavy lifting here. All I can say is, I’m determined to write, and to write more often. So here’s to this being one some more regular content ❤

Love you guys.

Japan: Part Two!

First, I must introduce you to Kenji, my bartender at the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba

When I said Yasushi was my favorite person in all of Japan, I was like 50% accurate, I blame the whiskey. While Yasushi is the customer there, and he picked me up every day and took me to lunch every day, Kenji is my BFFFLIJ =D

Kenji and I got into a gift giving competition. It all started because I love Japanese Whiskey and ordered the Yamazaki 12, and we got to talking and he poured me some of his personal bottle of Hakushu (which you can’t buy anywhere and I’d never tried). So I had to bring him something in exchange. I had some awesome botanical soaps from Carl Linnaeus’ botanical garden in Uppsala, so I let him pick his favorite flavor…. Then he gave me a masu (that I still have and love, I actually portion my rice with it like a OG) and he started giving me all kinds of other things! Some mizunara to infuse whiskey with, drinks, and before you know it, we had basically swapped all our belongings, and now I’m a bartender at the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba and he’s a Field Service Engineer with TriFoil Imaging!

A couple of quick stories, that first picture is a bottle of Baijiu. If you haven’t tried Baijiu, just know two things: it’s the most consumed alcohol in the world by volume (Chinese moonshine basically), and it tastes AWFUL. So bad that it’s internationally known for tasting awful. I LIKE THE STUFF. But I recognize it has a fierce, ethanol forward flavor lol. ANYWAY, the point of this story is – some things are the same everywhere. You know how in America you’ve got that one friend who will be like “OMG This is so GROSS, You GOTTA TRY IT.” and next thing you know you’re eating it and you’re like “Oh, god! That is gross!” Like it doesn’t make any sense, but when I saw the Baijiu and we got talking about it, Kenji was like “OMG, hold on, I’ve got the worst one – YOU GOTTA TRY IT” lol. It’s times like this you realize something is just try of humanity everywhere 🙂

Pic # 2 is just my tribute to Japanese quality in manufacturing. Those are Birdy brand bar equipment, I believe designed by an Italian and produced in Japan – they are the best of the best. I guess I’m kind of a nut for Japanese things, my Japanese kitchen knives, my Toyota, etc… But, I just appreciate that this is one of those things Japan can lay claim to as part of their culture/history. They make dope ass shit.

On my last trip to Japan, I brought Kenji a bottle of San Simone from Torino, we had a glass together, he invented a cocktail, and then he gave me a shot of his absinthe that he bought in Czechia and illegally imported because it’s got higher contents of some chemical than Japan allows. I’m sure this isn’t the end of our gift giving game, but it’s a good stopping point 🙂

For my Portland friends, if you haven’t been to Bible Club PDX, YOU HAVE TO GO. There is one other Bible Club in the world, Bible Club Osaka, and it is equal in greatness. Not as busy, so you don’t get the same “experience” as you do in Portland, but as soon I said something about the Yamazaki Sherry Cask, Yoshida-san put that $1000 per shot bottle of delicious in front of me the rest of the night, just to taunt me XD

Ice must be carefully chiseled to shape for each drink.

Before I forget, I want to tell you a little story I keep experiencing called “It wasn’t what you thought.”

One day I went to 711 to get coffee, reached into a fridge, and it was HOT. Like the coffee I grabbed must have just come out of a case that was sitting in the sunlight, and clearly the fridge was broken. It took me until my next trip to Japan to realize, that there are just “hot fridges”. Ya know, for people who like hot fricking coffee? The takeaway is, things aren’t what you think sometimes.

Another one that took me even longer to figure out – the bathroom window. When I checked into the Holiday Inn Osaka Namba, the bathroom window like opens into the room, so like, if you had two people there, you could watch the other person shower? So weird, man Japan is weird. Oh wait, no, actually I had to check into a hotel in The Netherlands, to see a similar setup, to realize, I’m just a moron and a lot of hotel rooms are designed that way, and it’s probably not creepy it’s just so you can shower and still see your room! I dunno maybe you’re watching the news while you shower. SO. The takeaway is, I guess, your conclusions are gonna be wrong sometimes. Either that, or I’m just a moron sometimes =P

These deer man, they basically own Nara.

OK, get outta the flowers you, come on now.

The Food

A couple of quick notes, the popular cartoon pic is supposedly so popular a show that everyone tunes in Sunday night at 7pm or whatever to watch it. Yasushi told me that people of all ages watch that show, almost everyone in Japan according to him! Vending machines are EVERYWHERE in Japan, and I’ll say it again, takoyaki is DELICIOUS. The little dice thing was a gimmick the restaurant had, where you pop the button and it rolls the dice. If you get some special combo, you’re food is free! We didn’t win =(


So, there are like, 5% as many trash cans in Japan as there are in America. I carried an empty plastic coffee cup for a good 2 miles before I found a trash can in Nara. It’s nuts. I did figure out one trick though, a lot of times the vending machine will have a trash can or recycle bin next to it. I think the idea is you eat n drink right by the machine. So yeah, you will experience this, I’ve talked to a few people who visited Japan and that was the first thing they said to me “Dude! What do they do with their garbage?!”

CREAM (The Money)

Japanese people have this in common with Germans – they love their cash. There is actually no way to buy a train ticket without cash at most of the stations. There are banks of ATMs everywhere, and they are always busy. Shops have these enormous elaborate coin counting machines with flashing lights and beeping sounds and shit, like a high speed coin counter. Everyone dumps their change in it to pay. The highest value coin is ~$5.

The Streets of Osaka

Regret – A Short Story About Photos

So, one morning, 9am, on a Thursday, I’m walking through Osaka Namba and I come across a guy SPRAWLED out in the hot sun. I’m not kidding this guy was sprawled out, in the middle of a cross walk, with a guy doing the asian squat next to him on the phone. My instinct is to help and not be a bystander, but I don’t speak fucking Japanese, so I had to just observe for a second…. I quickly noticed the trail of vomit and the water bottle, and his buddy was on the phone getting help – I’m sure he’s gonna be ok. They just partied a little too hard. BUT – my story isn’t about that, my story is about how I regret not taking a photo. It was just like an amazing visual scene. At first it looks grim, then you look a little more and realize it’s just a kid who drank too much. And I thought about taking a picture but didn’t. It was enTIRELY reasonable I could have got a photo, and I did this “too shy to snap a photo” thing. I did it one more time, and told myself I’ll never do it again.

The other time was the alleyway from the above photo, but also in the early morning. The alley is entirely empty, all the shops are closed, and walking towards me was a guy probably in his 70s with a cane, and he was completely hunched over. Like his upper body was parallel with the ground, the bald top of his head was what you could see cantankerously crutching it’s way down the alley. I didn’t take a photo. And I should have, it would have just been a visual treasure. Moral of the story – embrace the inner photographer in you when you see something stunning 🙂

I’m the only person who follows the rules at laundromats, and everyone thinks i’m so weird.

The Shoes

A LOT of places in Japan you are expected to take your shoes off. Not even a majority of the places I went, but at least a half dozen in total for me 🙂

The John

Last but not least, let’s talk toilets. I didn’t actually get a picture of a fancy one, so I Googled and stole one, but half the toilets in Japan are absurdly fancy, the other half are a hole in the ground u gotta squat over… or maybe that’s just for pee, I DONT KNOW, IT’S WEIRD

It’s worth noting – that last squatty weird one is actually visible when the door to the bathroom swings open, so if you were using that, peeps in the lobby are gonna see you whenever someone comes in and out of the bathroom. Weird man.

OK, almost done, a few fun videos, and then my closing notes 🙂

This guy pulled up in his super fancy car, hopped out in t shirt and shorts and flip flops, just to grab some food to go XD
This train conductor, has the most soothing voice on the planet.

OK, between the two posts I think I gave you a good taste of Osaka. After visiting I know I want to go back and see other parts of Japan, and other parts of Asia as well. This was my first time anywhere in Asia and it was the most “different” of anywhere i’ve been. So if you’re thinking about visiting some day, definitely do it.

Alright, I’ve written enough. Goodnight you guys 🙂

Welcome to Japan!

Mash that play button and read on!

And out of the deepest, darkest depths – crept the mysterious and rarely observed creature: the Findlayblogger! *monster noises*

For real though, it’s been way too long, let me tell you about my trips to Japan now =D

Meet Yasushi. My favorite god damn person in all of Japan.

On the real, that photo was taken in the parking lot of a 7-11, while Yasushi smoked a cigarette and I drank the BACCHUS D “Famouso Japanese Vitamin Drink!” that he bought for me – while we listened to a world renowned Japanese pianist play Beethoven. Some languages – like music – are universal.

What do I wanna tell you about Japan? It’s my favorite place to be a foreigner/tourist? I think that actually says a lot, so let’s roll with it!

In Japan, it’s 100% OK to not speak Japanese, they aren’t gonna speak English necessarily, but you’re gonna figure it out together, and you’ll get your ramen or your beers or whatever you’re looking for, and the whole time they will be giving you the most genuine enormous smile you’ve ever seen. Yeah, I think that’s the biggest take away I could give you, there’s no better place I’ve been to be a tourist.

Let’s do this. The FOOD.

SO! the first thing, and maybe this is because I stuck to the touristy areas, but they will have a display window, with like, plastic replicas of their dishes in the windows. This is super common in the touristy areas I went, which is great, but it never stops being kinda weird… See if you can spot the fake foods in the gallery =D

Takoyaki are the squid balls that are delicious from Osaka, you’ll see one picture above of how they are made, and one of the final product – they are god damned delicious.

7-11 is on a whole new level over there. You can walk in with 5 bux and walk out with Japanese white claw (STRONG ZERO) and some delicious crustless sandwiches and rice triangles to boot. Without a doubt, my favorite stores in Japan are the convenience markets (7-11, Lawsons, Family Mart)

Delicious Food PSA

One more note on food before we move on. In Osaka, you are met with a BARRAGE of smells. Walking down one city block you will get hit with: fish sauce, yeast, foods, burnt meat, sweat, perfume, cologne, boom bang boom all at once, all of the above. It’s like sensory overload in the best way.

The other thing I saw in Osaka, was this awesome mix of EVERYone. Locals, drunks, rich / fashionistas, homelessish people, tourists, straight up badasses (think people straight outta Kill Bill, motorcycle and all), the works. Guys and girls barking at you from storefronts, chicks in maid costumes rolling around like a sex-selling wolfpack (no I didn’t ask, I just observed, after you’ve been downtown Osaka for a week, you know what they’re peddling). It’s just sensory overload in the best crazy awesome fun way, for sure.

SO, I was working in Osaka, but near Osaka is a town called Nara, and Nara is one of the most magical places on the planet. In Nara, there are sacred deer, that are protected and respected by the local people. As a result, the deer are docile, and don’t run away from you at all. As a matter of fact, they’re kinda just all over the place and in your way all the damn time.

Nara is like, top 5 my favorite places in the world. It’s a town literally overrun by super tame deers that tourists feed crackers the locals sell. Trust me, they know you have those crackers and you better just give em up before an older deer comes charging at you. It happens. Did I tell you every Sunday a traditional dude plays Beethoven’s 6th to summon the frickin deer from the forest(for food)???

best. job. ever.

Also some epic Japanese shrines, just massive wooden, ancient, awesome buildings devoted to gods. Ya I burned some incense for their deities, what are you gonna do about it?

Alright so, while I was in Osaka I met up with one of my coworkers who was in town – Hendrick – MUCH LOVE HENDRICK – I can’t wait to visit you in your home Taiwan 🙂 ❤

Also I met some CRAZY australians, and I’m glad we had mediocre parties not like their mad stories they were telling me. They had some scary sketch goings in the sketch parts of the city for sure O_O

So, that stupid stuffed shrimp cost me at least 25 bux worth of crane game style attempts to capture, but it also cost this awesome Australian lady probably close to the same. Needless to say when I finally swooped this dumb plush crustacean, she came sprinting across the arcade to congratulate me, and we got a selfie. Top 5 biggest regrets in life – I didn’t help her win the next one. I’m pretty sure the arcade worker bee felt bad for us and would have rigged it, but I was purdyyyyyyy drunk and 1000% tired by the time I won this thing, so I began the wander-home to my hotel march instead O_O

Yeah I did.

All good things must come to an end.

I’ll give you the quick low down on Japanese culture before I sign off.

They love their printed matter: expect two stamped neatly pritned receipts for any purchase, and 3-5 boarding cards/passes/tickets/vouchers when u fly in Japan.

Everything is a Super Nintendo. When I went through immigration – cute little yoshi looking characters guided me through the visa process. When I was waiting for the train, like 3 different video game style noises chime and ping pong away for while the train is waiting, when the doors are closing, and when the train is in motion.

People use parasols, and avoid the sun at all reasonable cost.

The soda pop is under WAY higher pressure. The bottles make a pop / bang when you open them.

They are CHAMPIONS of hospitality.

Everywhere is under surveillance.

It’s a regular occurence to see someone/something that just blows your mind: Example – hot summer day, I saw a dude wearing a jacket that had like 8 fans built into it. He looked like Marty McFly or some shit, I couldn’t even reconcile it.

I’d like to close with my trip to the Umeda Sky Tower, because although it was one of the most touristy things I did, I did it with eyes wide open, or as I like to quote “with eyes unclouded by hate”. At the base of the Umeda Sky Tower, before your ascent to the heavens, there are some legendary literary quotes at the bottom, from a number of cultures. From Cervantes to Dante and everything outside and inbetween. But my favorite, was the local quote from Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa, because I quickly realized – THAT was the Japanese thing I discovered that no one else knows about, that everyone in Japan knows about. Kind of like, a Japanese To Kill a Mockingbird, but a much shorter read. Of course the first thing I did was order the collection of short stories and devour them on the airplane, and it solidified my tiny window of insight into Japanese culture. Japanese people are genuine, caring, humble, honest, moral people. Campanella and Giovanni represent a cornerstone of Japanese upbringing. If you want to know what I mean – buy the book, you can read it inside of half an hour. And you won’t regret it. So, here are some photos I’ll end with, with the hopes you find time to spend a week in Japan. I’M GONNA WRITE MORE. I just need to get back into the swing of this, it’s been wayyyyyyyyytoo long.

A view of the sunset from the manmade island airport.

The Long Awaited Secondary Blog Post… FRANCE

Yeah I know you guys are all bugging me about Japan… That’s next.

My first trip for this job back in May was to France. A country where the cars and scooters are powered by gasoline and the people are entirely fueled by baguettes and tiny shots of espresso. No for real, pretty much everyone is always toting a baguette on their person… In their hand, sticking out of their backpack, bulging in their pants, somewhere there’s a baguette. The stores are constantly restocking every shelf in every aisle with baguettes, it’s quite the industry. It’s almost like Jerry’s brainwashing from Conspiracy Theory. If they don’t have one on them, suddenly they are compelled to immediately go to the nearest boulangerie and buy one!

Un expresso s’il vous plaît!

Arguably, I should be some kind of expert on France at this point, since I’ve spent significant time in Nice, Clermont-Ferrand, Paris, and Annemasse. I’m not sure where to start on this one… maybe with some obvious things I didn’t realize.

France is HUGE.

Paris to Nice OR Clermont-Ferrand is like 5 hours by high speed train either way.

Like, it’s almost as big as California and Oregon put together, except 70 million people live there. I can’t really back this one up, but there are some countries that feel like they have a stronger culture, I think just because they have more people. Like France is it’s own huge world with a wealth of history and music and food and artists and companies…. Some countries when you go there you can tell they have their own culture, but it’s permeated with other cultures’ influences. I think just because there aren’t as many people cranking out tunes and starting car companies and what not. So when you’re somewhere like France, there’s French cars, and French music on the radio, and everyone speaks French and it feels more like being completely immersed in a foreign culture. I dunno, I’m rambling. You guys know I do that.

CREAM (The money)

Euros. They got euros here. And I tell you what, the euro is the best damn thing to happen to Europe, eff local currencies. I mean hell we all use our debit cards everywhere anyway when are those “credits” they use in sci-fi movies gonna become a reality and the governments band together and ban paper money!?

Let’s talk about French people for a minute.

The bartenders at Moonshiner are angels bound to our earthly realm by their enormous smiles and friendly spirits (see what I did there)

Everyone told me all about “French people” before I came here. And if you think “French people” are bad, wait until someone tells you about “Parisians” (people from Paris.) Those people are 100% wrong! French people are wonderful, HUMAN people. The important things to them are food, art, music, LOVE, baguettes, and their fellow man. From the taxi drivers in Paris, to the students in Nice, to the grub hub guys in Clermont-Ferrand, to the guys who work the cable car to Aiguille Du Midi in Chamonix – French people care about you. Even when they don’t speak a lick of English, and it becomes a challenging interaction/situation, when all is said and done you will get a genuine smile and “bonne journée”. Also, French people have some serious fucking panache.

The Food (besides baguettes)

This section totally still goes out to Felix, I just imagine myself letting him down everytime I don’t get my camera out and take a picture… helps me get over the desire to not look like the idiot taking a picture of the sandwiches at Starbucks >.<

Nice (pronounced like niece, you’re welcome)

Nice is a touristy town by reputation, but it didn’t feel like it when I was there. Go ahead and remove “french riviera” from your dictionary, and replace it with “Côte d’Azur“. Nobody on this continent calls it the French Riviera, and Côte d’Azur is so much more accurate. The water is a beautiful Crayola-blue, the shore always a wide strip of smooth, chalk-white stones. Everywhere you go the crowds of people are in restaurants, drinking wine and watching the sun set. Food really is what brings people together in France as far as I can tell.

The open air markets (AKA the best markets)

I didn’t take nearly enough photos, but Nice’s open-air market is amazing. You can expect foods, salts, soaps, souvenirs, and lots of flowers as that is what it’s most famous for. Well shit, I’ll be back in Nice in a few days, I’ll just have to pad this gallery with some more photos 🙂 I also stumbled upon a similar market in Annemasse, there’s some photos of that market at the end of the slideshow L)

The Nice Story

This is becoming my favorite section, so here’s my story from Nice. The first day at the customer site I was there until a little past 7 and so was Thierry, the customer. A quick note on Thierry, he is an amazing human being, I think he is entirely at fault for my absolutely wonderful first-impression of France. I’ll see if I can sneak a selfie with him next week. So, Thierry comes to see if I’m still there and since it’s late and we’re both leaving he offered to give me a ride back home. As we approached the garage, in a thick accent he said “I must apologize, I drive an old car.” Of course I told him it’s not a problem, I was just happy to have a ride back to my hot-

Old car my foot. Yes, I got to ride in a 1985 2 seater Alfa Romeo down the narrow twisty streets of Nice, France. Yes, it was like a dream.

The Nice Day Trip

What do you do in Nice for fun? You go to one of the nearby villages for a drink and a snack of course. Thierry was so kind as to take me on his day off in his not-so-old other car to Èze, a beautiful stone village in the hills above Nice.

Paris and Chamonix

I’ll say a quick bit about Paris since I was there for a few days, and then end with Chamonix, AKA the most beautiful place on Earth. First off, Paris is huge. Basically all I did was go to a wine shop, a bar, a restaurant and the Louvre in 3 days there. I will say that the Louvre is a must-see. I went immediately to see the Nike, and then in my wanderings found a wealth of beautiful art, several pieces which really spoke to me. I didn’t take nearly enough photos, I’ll just have to go again 🙂

I want to highlight the piece below, I didn’t take a photo of it while I was there, but in my random, super-lost, wandering in The Louvre, I turned a corner and was struck by this sculpture. I must have stood their for 20 minutes in awe, at one point with tears streaming down my face. I PROBABLY should have eaten lunch before going to The Louvre, I think I get more emotional when I’m hungry, but nevertheless, this is my new favorite sculpture, maybe new my favorite art piece in general.

Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

Olivia: “How was Chamonix?
Me: “OMG, beautiful!”
Olivia: “Well.. OBVIOUSLY.”

If you’re like me, you didn’t know what Chamonix was until you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. You may think Frankenstein is a book about a monster creation of a mad scientist, well you’re right. BUT, the REAL story in Frankenstein is one about DEEP depression and grief, suffering, the responsibilities of creation (whether it be a parent or a God or other), and definitely the natural beauty of the world. Shelley’s writing struck me – it just made me want to run outside to the nearest forest or snowy mountain or lake, or if I was so lucky enough, a glacier, and soak in the awe and wonder.

The Random Travel Musings…

I am working on a Findlay’s travel tips section, but I’d like to have a bit in each post about just my random musings when I travel. One thing I will try to convey is the random feeling of familiarity you get in foreign places. It’s hard to explain really, but there are some times where you get this feeling of familiarity, a sound or smell or experience that really reminds you that everywhere in the world we’re all just humans the same. The first time it happened to me was in Nice, I was walking along and this girl maybe 14 year old girl on a scooter started screaming angrily in little spurts in French. For a second I was alarmed, as were some people around me, but then we realized in unison that she must have Tourette Syndrome or something similar. I literally thought to myself “Oh, French people get Tourette too”. When a car drives by with the windows down blasting music, 2 guys looking under the hood of a car, the person at the mall who’s way too insistent on you trying their food sample… I bet the specific experiences are different for each of us, but I bet you will have them in your travels. Maybe I’m getting a bit philosophical but like Bruce Lee said “Man, under the heavens, we’re all one family.”

What did I miss?

This is another section I’ll have at the end of each section, I’m going to add it to the Sweden post because there’s lots of cool photos and bits I missed. Per someone’s request I’m also going to add more captions to the pictures, in Sweden as well 🙂

Inaugural Blog Post

All stories should start at the beginning, right?

-Morty Smith, “Look Who’s Purging Now?

I was drinking these Krenonbourgs like it was going out of style.

During the Planck epoch, the universe was in a state of extreme density and temperature. OK, maybe 13.8 billion years ago is a bit too far, even if it is the beginning.

For about 6 months now, I travel a lot for work – mostly outside the United States. Having grown up in the US of A, I have come to realize something now that I’m wandering the rest of the world. We’re missing out! Don’t get me wrong, The USA is a HUGE place, I haven’t seen 90% of it, BUT,

the world is way bigger.

My newfound career as a Field Service Engineer puts me in random parts of the world for anywhere from a day to a fortnight (I used that word just to drive traffic given the game’s popularity). So, don’t expect even any accurate information about these wonderful foreign places from me, just expect my honest experiences trying to see the world with eyes unclouded by hate. I’m no expert, but I’m having fun, and I do my best to learn what I can while I’m there, so that I can share it with all of you folks that I miss so dearly on a daily basis. On that note: come visit me sometime somewhere.

Looks all complicated and stuff, right?

Sweden (Sverige)

All that being said we’re going to start with a fun bit about Sweden. Really a fun bit about Uppsala, Sweden, a little town home to a big university and a lot of bicycles. No really, a lot of bicycles.

My friend Sam has spent a lot of time in this town and I think he hit the nail on the head when he called it “pedestrian”. It’s almost poetically pedestrian, life goes at an easy pace and without incident. Everyone just bikes around doing their thing and then drinking wine after work with friends.

The Story

Alright, you guys know I love telling stories, so here’s my welcome to the Nordic countries story. It’s the first morning I’m in Uppsala, the first morning i’m in Sweden nonetheless – so I head down to the lobby to get some breakfast.

Needless to say, I was kind of blown away by the buffet. Loaves of fresh baked bread on slotted wooden cutting boards, grains and oats and nuts in little brown paper bags, other wooden boards stacked tall with meats and cheeses. So, I’m just standing there, soaking in this impressive smorgasbord (that’s a Swedish word) – when I realize something. The music playing is this low, slow-paced, war drum like sound. Just this slow, quietly thundering, repetitive, rhythmical thumping. As soon as I clue in on it and start to feel like a Viking or something – I shit you not – the drums stop and the sound of an eagle screeching plays over the speakers. Now, the rest of the music was more normal hotel lobby music, but I’d like to think they played that song just for my own personal experience 🙂

CREAM – The Money

Coolest money I’ve seen yet.

First thing I did was pull some cash out of the ATM, since they don’t use the euros I got banging around in my bag (Germans love their cash, it’s obnoxious really). As cool as this money looks, most stores I visited do not accept cash. Card only. Finally, I feel like I’m living in 2019

The Food

This part of the blog may always be lacking a bit, but I will do my best to get better, because my chef friend Felix asked me to, and I love that man to death. That burger was delicious, but it actually took almost an hour to come out after I ordered it, the service industry doesn’t have the same high expectations in Europe as it does in the US. The pastry game is off the charts here, those glass cases of sandwiches are EVERYWHERE, and yes that’s a random freezer just brimming with crustaceans. BUT, the thing to really check out here is that wall of candy. Swedes LOVE their candy, those walls of bulk candy are everywhere, and there are always a mob of people filling up bags with candies.

The Great Outdoors

Uppsala was home to Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician who formalized binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. Yes, I shamelessly ripped that from Wikipedia. Basically he’s the reason that we know what a species is, and that each species has a 2 word Latin name, I think. As a result, there are two botanical gardens in Uppsala and they are amazing.

Stockholm, Land of Steep Escalators

I’m not trying to disappoint you guys, but for real I’m a pretty lame traveler. I hide in my hotel room a lot, when I’m burnt out I hide in the hotel lobby, and one day in 2 weeks, I visited Stockholm, which is only 20 minutes away (read: 3 hours I was in Stockholm and then got a train back to Uppsala in a sweaty panic). I think it mostly stems from me travelling alone, but whatever, anyway. I saw a lot of cool things in Stockholm, but really I didn’t go very far, just ankle deep at the shores of the Swedish capital. I’ll get better at this blogging thing, I promise 🙂

The Travel Hack

I’m a god damn genius.

So, I’ve stayed at my fair share of hotels, and a few other peoples’ fair shares as well. And one of the hotel amenities I never have a use for, is the ice machine on the floor. What I have been missing out on! Before going to the gym add equal parts cheap booze from the grocery store, ice from the ice machine, and you’ll come back to cheap ice cold heavenly spiritual restoration.

The Mega Fruits

That’s right, *burp* Morty the mega trees with the mega fruit on them and that’s what I’m talking about, Morty. That’s where my seeds are. If we would have done what *burp* you wanted, I would have never have found them, because you’re so *burp* in love with school.

The Recap

“Then birds flew up like corks out of a bottle, I followed them with my eyes, saw them climb in a single breath until I no longer thought they were rising, but that I was falling, and, clinging on to the ropes in my dizziness, I began involuntarily to swing a little. Before long, I was swinging harder, the breeze had grown chillier, and quivering stars had replaced the birds.”

A quick recap of some basic quality of life details:
Number of guns the police carry: 0
Number of times I heard Kanye West’s voice: 0
Price of a decent 1 bedroom apartment: ~4-600 euros a month
Tax on alcohol ranges from 50-100 percent, so booze aint cheap.
Public transportation: 10/10, cheap and goes everywhere all the time.
Healthcare: According to several locals, you pay 15 euros, no matter what. Cancer, advanced MRIs, common cold, leg amputation, prototype prosthetic re-implantation (i made that up), it’s all a one time fee of 15 euros if you have to go to the doctor. The taxes are higher, but it’s worth.

The Resources

I wouldn’t be The Department of Emigration if I didn’t provide some assistance emigrating did I? Granted, I hope my fantastic tales are enough to drive interest at least, but at the end of each post, I will do my best to put links to some information or resources on what you gotta do if you want to LIVE in the places I just was fortunate enough to VISIT. For now, I’m going to come back to this because, well, I’m in Helsinki at the moment, and I want to butcher some more Finnish phrases before I fly to Japan tomorrow 🙂

I miss you all, and I love you all. -Findlay

What did I miss?