Showing posts from 2011

Merry Christmas!


Loss and the Holiday Season

I lost all of my grandparents by the time I was 21. Only one, my Mom's father, survived just long enough to see my wedding, and none of them witnessed my becoming a parent. Most of my cousins are at least a decade older than I am, and they had our grandmother to help them on their wedding day, or to witness babies being born, knitting special things for them. Sometimes when I think about that, and what I missed out on, I grow very sad.

In case you're very late to the party, we move a lot. Like 13 times in 15 years a lot. This can be very difficult on relationships with friends and family members. But I work incredibly hard to retain those relationships. I send postcards constantly. I have a Christmas card list that once topped out at 450 people. And every time we move, for at least the last six moves, I've sent out photo change-of-address cards featuring our new digs and our smiling faces so that people can at least attempt to keep up with where we're at. I blog, email…

Oh No!

We're back from our holiday in the Philippines. It was the most spectacular family vacation we've taken in at least six years, and the first week-long family vacation we've taken in eight years. Between my husband and I and our three cameras plus two iPhones, we took almost 1,500 photos. I promise to share, soon. But only the best of them, I promise! We brought back some souvenirs: I managed to break another toe (but it was on the top of a volcano so at least it's a sorta-cool story, better than my lastbrokentoe where I just kicked a wall), Benjamin got bronchitis, and Michael and Nathan are still nursing colds that appeared the day we got back. Four days after we came home, my stomach decided to reject everything I tried to eat, and I spent 48 hours throwing up, followed by 48 hours where the room would spin every time I tried to sit up. However, even with all that, the joy of our spectacular vacation cannot be dimmed!

However, tonight my normal, everyday joy is dim. …

Take me away, Cebu

We're sitting in the teeny-tiny Macau International Airport, waiting for our 10:15 pm flight. The one great thing? Free Wi-Fi! The not so great thing? Two children up way past their bedtime. Good thing it's only a two hour flight! See you soon!


My youngest and I were walking in front of my favorite store in Macau last week. City Square stocks all manner of home goods, including a small selection of items from IKEA (my happy place). As we approached, I noticed the roll-up door was rolled down. There was a sign taped to it, stating they were closed that day to decorate for Christmas.

Benjamin and I stood hand-in-hand in front of the store window, watching an employee decorate an enormous tree in the window. He turned to wave at us, his smile brilliant, his pride in his work evident. I found myself both grinning and getting choked up as Ben pointed out one amazing detail after another.

It brought me back to my childhood, and the annual trips we would make up the coast of California at Christmastime to San Francisco to shop (but mainly windowshop) the big department stores like Gump's and Macy's, back when there was only one Macy's in the state, and not one in every mall. My family would look at window after window w…


Today the temperature dropped and we put aside our shorts and tees for jeans and jackets. There's a constant drizzle and lots of wind. It's the kind of weather that a few of my dear friends back in the States adore (Alex, Michael Y, Rory) and it makes me think about them and miss them. A day like today when we are wearing layers makes the blazing heat and humidity of summer seem like a hazy dream. On Monday I was complaining that all the pools in Macau were already closed for the season. It was 85F with 95% humidity and we were all seeking relief from the unexpected warmth. Today, I was complaining that the bus had the air conditioning blasting. We're all a bit congested. No surprise there. Welcome to Fall, finally.


When we first moved to Macau, I was amazed to find just about everything looks run down, rusty and moldy, with peeling paint. It gives everything a look of abandonment, especially if you happen to be strolling down the street late at night or early in the morning and have the street to yourself.

The sea wall in front of our house has letters that read OCEAN CITY TOURIST CENTRE LIMITED in English, Chinese, and Portuguese. All the letters are rusted clean through. My initial impression was that I'd walked into a Ray Bradbury tale... a story of a seaside town where some unmentioned event has cast a shadow over what used to be a thriving community that formerly made all its cash in the tourist trade. I gave myself eerie-cool goosebumps at the delicious, slightly sci-fi, possibilities. Endless hours were spent daydreaming about where all the tourists went... because there is nothing here today.

I recently realized I don't notice the layer of rust or peeling paint that covers everyt…

Burning Questions

I am trying out a new app on my phone that will let me blog on the go. Hopefully it will help me post more often for those of you who are hungry for more. In the last two weeks I've received seven emails asking for more posts or wondering why I don't post more often. I only know four of the seven people who wrote me personally, so thank you to the the other people I've collected along the way! I lack what I sometimes crave most, solitary time in front of my computer screen to write. Right now I'm writing on the bus, so maybe this will help me give you more of what you're asking for!

And since this post refers to questions in the plural, I can tell you that there is at least one other question I get all the time: Heather, please tell us where your two charming boys are attending school! (Or some variation of that). I have been working on a post that answers that very question for some time now, and promise to get it posted very soon!

In the meantime, I will leave yo…


Michael's days off always fall mid-week, and we're still getting used to have a Monday be a "Friday" and not getting perturbed over a real Friday being the middle of the week for him.  I'm a very flexible person and I like to believe I'm raising flexible children, but I have to say that sending Michael off to work on Saturday and Sunday gets increasingly difficult each week for my boys.

Today was Michael's day off, so we took the boys for Linner (late lunch/early dinner) at a place called Gourmet Geezer. I can't even type that with a straight face. To me, a geezer is a little old man who keeps his teeth in a jar by the bedside. So I generally say something like, Hey guys, let's go eat at the old folk's home when I'm talking about it. But the owner is no geezer as I know it. He's a hip, young Brit who likes to race motorcycles and lines the shelves in the restaurant with trophies and photos of his wins. The food is cheap, decent, and wes…

In the Barra

Whenever I see or hear the word barra, I think barrio, which is the Spanish word for a specific neighborhood. People in Los Angeles hear the word barrio and might think "gang turf" but generally it just means a collection of streets with similar people who have a similar culture and background.

After spending an afternoon in Macau's Barra, I still thought of a barrio, since it's definitely a cohesive neighborhood, filled with people who make their living from the sea. However, the word Barra actually has a different meaning in Portuguese: sandbank or port entrance. And a port entrance is exactly what it is.

The Barra is the waterfront area that runs along the east side of the Macau Peninsula. All the buildings on the east side of the Barra back right up to the water, with giant roll-up doors used to access the boats which pull up laden with sea creatures and imported goods.

The four of us wandered up and down the tiny streets, peering into shopfronts and giving cheerf…

The Praia

Today I had lunch at a friend's house on the Macau Peninsula. She lives in a fairly new building called The Praia (Beach in Portuguese). She's up in the penthouse which takes up the top two floors, 55 and 56. At 607 feet above ground, it claims the title of current tallest residential building in Macau. My friend's view faces east, on a clear day you can see Hong Kong, 30 miles in the distance. Today wasn't a clear day, so you can barely see the water of the Pearl River Delta (where there is no "beach" to speak of) in the distance.

To give you some perspective on how very small Macau actually is, the building where I took this photo is on the western shore of Macau. The photo shows you the eastern shore. The distance between the two? Less than two miles.

It's nice to be head and shoulders above the rest of Macau. But I could do without having my ears pop from simply riding up and down the elevator. Ouch!

Michael Jackson in Macau

True story: On June 25, 2009 I was in Los Angeles, on my way to take the boys to a hip-hop dance class across town. I was flipping radio stations at a red light when a DJ interrupted a song to say there was an unconfirmed rumour that Michael Jackson had passed away. My heart stopped and my stomach lurched. But not because I was a major Michael Jackson fan. The reaction came from the bottom of my wallet rather than the bottom of my heart. At that very moment my husband's scenic shop was loading in set pieces at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where Michael Jackson would be in rehearsals for his concert series which would take place in London. All we'd been talking about for months was the shop's creation of the elaborate and amazing pieces that would play a backdrop to his performance. And if he was indeed dead, then what would that mean for the scene shop? What would that mean for all the people working on this project? Would everyone get paid? All other projects had bee…

Double Rainbow

No, I didn't fall on my knees and ask about its meaning, but I did have to grab my camera and take a quick pic. It rains a lot here, but this is the first (and second) rainbow I've seen since arriving. Glad I was able to tear my gaze away from my iPhone and all the wonders of the new iOS 5 for a moment to catch it! Stunning!

Three Months

It's a melancholy sort of day. Low clouds block out any memory of blue sky. Every now and then a cloud gets a bit too full and spills the goods, dousing whatever happens to be below. Sunlight is diffused, leaving everything in shadow, washed in gray. I'm perched in my window seat with a book on Macau history, watching partially loaded container ships and tiny fishing sampans cross the harbour.

Today marks three months since I boarded a plane and left America. I only know this because I happened to check the calender. The first nine weeks in Macau, I could tell you exactly how long we'd been here. Week ten was an invisible boundary line clouding my precise memory. People would ask how long I'd been here, and I could only give a vague answer... around two months... maybe?

With each previous international relocation, we had a definite end date. We had plane reservations already booked and ready to take us away from our temporary home. This time? Totally different. There i…

American Food

Today I picked up the kids from acrobatics class at Michael's theater (they're training up a new generation of performers for the show!) and grabbed lunch with them at an Asian cafeteria-style food court nearby. As we sat there eating delicious teppanyaki beef noodles, barbecue eel udon, and chicken fried rice, a cloud of melancholy descended upon the table. My children started sighing. "I sure miss America," said my oldest. My youngest quickly added a "me too."

I take these statements very seriously and try to never make light of their longings for our most recent home. I never say, "You'll get over it" or "We'll be home soon."  After all, we're going to be here a long time. I want them to make this place home, for however long it lasts. And if they have to grieve the loss of their last home before claiming this one, then I will give them space to do so, without judgement.

I casually asked what it was about America they misse…

Portas do Cerco

The historic Border Gate that we visited on Saturday was built in 1870 by the colonial Portuguese to bar access to the people from Mainland China. I found a photo from the 1930's showing what it looked like then.

Here is another photo I found, not sure if it was taken before or after.

Though it was constructed in 1870, it has four dates boldly marked on the gate that are not 1870. I've been digging to find out what the dates meant in relation to the gate itself, and came up dry. So I started researching Macau history and found some great information.
The earliest date is August 22, 1849.
On April 21, 1846, João Maria Ferreira do Amaral was appointed the 79th Governor of Macau. He was born in Portugal and served in the Portugeuse Royal Fleet. He had an amazing milliatary career, and lost his right arm in a battle with Brazil defending Portuguese rights. As governor, he made some big waves by demanding that all Chinese residents in Macau pay rent and taxes. The Chinese authoriti…

National Day

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong stood before a huge crowd gathered in Tienanmen Square in Beijing and declared it the National Day of the newly established People's Republic of China. It is a public holiday throughout China, Macau, and Hong Kong. Every city throughout the entire nation celebrates with fireworks, and many have parades as well. Chairman Mao is either revered or vilified depending on who you are speaking to, how old you are, and where you are from- which of course determines what your history books said about him.

On Friday I was walking around town after the rain died down. I noticed people putting up the red flag of China on street corners, poles, and in public squares. I come from the U.S.A. where patriotic citizens put up the American flag for just about any reason, or simply as a matter of pride. In Japan, I was there six months before I ever saw a Japanese flag flying. In Hong Kong, the flag could be found in a few places, but it wasn't overwhelming. In Maca…