Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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!

Monday, November 21, 2011


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 with awe. Of course City Square in Macau is no Macy's in San Francisco, but it was a sweet moment shared with my son in anticipation of the season to come.

The next evening my husband was off work, and I told him of our experience the night before. It was his idea to leave the kids with the sitter and stroll our way to City Square. We looked through all the decorations, from tacky to gorgeous, and picked out a few, and then chose our tree, ordering the same size as the one in the window. It was such fun and everyone in the store was in such a wonderful mood... Exactly how Christmas shopping should be!

Once again I found myself getting choked up, especially when Michael said yes to every single thing I held up, and yes to the big, expensive tree that Ben and I had gazed at with such wonder. We paid and arranged delivery of the tree for the next morning. We walked home, our arms full of merry decor, our hearts filled with joy, our conversation filled with ideas for how we can make Christmas special in this place so far from our loved ones.

The next morning, City Square called to say they couldn't deliver until the afternoon. We had plans for the evening, so we told them the delivery had to take place before 6:00 pm. Michael's phone was on silent, and we missed the mid-day call which was to inform us that they didn't have the 8-foot tree in stock and wouldn't get it until the next day. By the time we got the message and called back to say that was fine, we found they had already dismantled the actual tree from the window and would be at house within the hour.

I was horrified! So much work had gone into that window display! I felt sick knowing we were the cause of it getting ripped apart. My guilt was overwhelming, and I repeated over and over my wish that we'd heard their call.

Michael tried to console me, saying I could just pretend I was a woman who would walk in a store, point to something and say "I want that" and watch as people scrambled to grant my every wish. This only made me feel worse, as I am not now nor have I ever been that type of woman! So instead he suggested I delight in the fact that the tree and I were meant for each other, as it was the genesis of my walk down memory lane and a sweet moment that might live on in my son's memory, certainly my own. I liked that idea so much better.

The tree arrived and we thanked the City Square employees for their incredible service with a generous tip. Then, because it would have been silly not to, we assembled the tree. Michael strung lights, and the four of us stood in awe of this little piece of tradition and familiarity in our corner of this strange and quirky place.

Yes, it's the earliest we've ever put up a tree. And no, we won't actually hang ornaments until December. But in the meantime, its presence is quite comforting.

The very next day we got our first Christmas card in the mail, which my beloved friend Kerrie K had put in the mail two weeks before. I was choked up anew!

Tomorrow we're off to the Philippines for a week, to spend American Thanksgiving with old friends of ours from our time in Hong Kong six years ago. We have so much to be thankful for, especially the fact we are back in this part of the world to be able to spend the holiday with people we love. And of course that we have the opportunity to create new traditions this year which our children may wax nostalgic about when they share them with their own families, years down the road.

Or they can just watch me, a little old lady, sitting in a rocker, getting choked up over a lifetime of amazing memories.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


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 everything in town anymore. It was only when I was debating taking a photo of something disgusting at the grocery store to send to a friend in the U.S. that it dawned on me how all the strange and foreign things here have become commonplace. So in the last week I've made a point of trying to look at everything with fresh eyes once again. And the poor signs around town have really stood out. Between the harsh sun, the high humidity, pounding typhoon rain, and the salty winds coming in from the sea, no surface here stands a chance.

Before long, everything looks aged and discolored. Like it's been here fifty years instead of a few months, like the repaired patch of tile in our complex that was white in September, and is now the color of the rest - dingy, streaked grey.

The only thing that seems to benefit from the climate is my skin. Coming from dry, almost desert-like perpetually sunny Southern California to the humidity in South Asia means I can forgo my daily routine of intense moisturizers and just slather on sunscreen, though it tends to melt off in the heat. All those fine lines that were creeping up on me have fled, thanks to the moisture in the air my skin soaks up.

But the Tin Man wouldn't fare as well. He'd be stiff in an hour, and rusted over in a week. Good thing this isn't Oz!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

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 you with a shot of my view from yesterday. I'm still in awe every time I happen to look out the window. Maybe my lack of posts has to do with the fact that my desk faces this view. Too distracting!

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