Showing posts from 2012

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One of my boys is at a friend's house. The other is curled up on the couch devouring the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book which our friend from America was kind enough to bring over (for half the price of buying it here in Shanghai!). Having the afternoon to myself, I thought I'd finish up the half dozen blog posts in the pipeline that are just in need of photos... Ha! Joke's on me, all the photos are stored on an external drive thingy which is currently not talking to my computer, and I can't even open the program to see them! Since my personal IT guy is working at his day job right now and can't help me, all I can do is pull some photos off my phone to share with you. They happen to be some of my favorites from this past week down in Hong Kong, so that works. First up, here is me and my boys outside Hong Kong Disneyland:  I love, love, love Disneyland. All of them. I especially love the Disneyland Parks during the Christmas season. All the extra decorations, mu…

Merry Shanghai Christmas!

I had a pretty spectacular Christmas Eve birthday yesterday despite the fact that temperatures here were below freezing (and definitely not part of my birthday wish list!). We spent the last week in Hong Kong with a quick one day visit back in Macau, and spent every single day hugging old friends. I was willing to spend Christmas in Hong Kong, but the boys wanted to wake up Christmas morning in their own beds at home, not a hotel room, and the fact that they consider Shanghai to be home means we're doing pretty well at getting all of us settled in here. More about today's celebrations coming later! Just wanted to pop on and share our 2012 Christmas card with all of you. The photo was taken at the Shanghai Sculpture Park in Sheshan by our friend Luke who (along with his wife Anni) came to visit us for a week last month. The sculpture is called 'Meteor' by Italian artist Riccardo Cordero. And yes, the artwork at the Park is meant to be explored and is all quite intera…

Pajama Party

Every December for as long as I can remember our friend Miss Amy has thrown a family Christmas Pajama Party on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone comes in their jammies and brings breakfast foods and the kids get to open a gift in a massive crazy moment of joyful noises. (Here's 2008, here's 2009). We missed it last year, and we'll miss it again today. Another challenge of living abroad - missing out on traditions. Tonight we put on our Christmas pajamas and took a photo to send to Miss Amy and our Southern California friends, and then we snuggled up on the couch to watch Singin' in the Rain.

Our nine year old son didn't get the movie at all, and asked us to explain the whole thing to him when it was over. And neither kid understood what was so wrong with Lina Lamont's voice. I think today's cartoons and animated films have inured them to crazy voices that don't necessarily match the character's image. But then again, they also hear many different accen…

Be light

In the last seven months, I've turned on our television three times. The first two times it was just out of curiosity to see what channels we get on our satellite (we get a lot actually, I just never have time or the inclination to flip through and watch anything). The third time was last night.

I'm under the weather and trying my best to get healthy before our upcoming, much needed, long awaited vacation to Hong Kong on Tuesday. Last night friends were having a big Christmas party and since I was fevery, I stayed in bed while Michael took the boys to the party to give me quiet and time to rest. I napped with our lap dog, and then got up and turned on the television, flipping until I got to CNN to watch the coverage 24 hours after the horrific event in Connecticut. I just sat and let the tears fall down my face while listening to stories from the parents of survivors.

One father said his six year old son was evacuated through the hallway where his schoolmate's lifeless b…

Do or do not?

I'm going through a year's worth of photos, looking for something specific at the request of two of my sister-in-laws, and I came across this one from May.

It was taken in Chiangmai, Thailand, outside the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Theravada Buddhist temple which sits atop Doi Suthep mountain. We left our shoes with the shoe attendant who sat in a large alcove about twenty feet behind where I'm standing under a giant sign that said Leave Your Shoes Here. When we entered, there were piles and piles of shoes under the red sign above. When we came out, there were less as you can see. But it's still funny.

It's been quite a trip to cruise through 2012 in photos. It's been an awesome, amazing, difficult, heartbreaking, magical, change-filled, adventurous year. Looking forward to 2013!

Christmas in the Classroom

I'm a strong supporter of the arts being taught in school. This little video with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah Carey and a bunch of instruments typical of what you'd find in the average classroom (along with some students) made my heart bubble with joy.

On Comet, on Cupid!

This year Santa's sleigh looks a whole lot like a suitcase, flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong. And Santa looks a whole like like dear friends of ours from seven moves ago when we lived in the city of Benjamin's birth in the San Francisco Bay Area nine years ago! So excited to get a whole bunch of products we've been without for a really long time, along with some new clothes and a few surprises for the boys which we'd said no, absolutely no to when we saw the markup price here in Shanghai.

Of course suitcase full of gifts aside, we are excited to see our friends. Our brief time in the San Francisco Bay Area was quite the roller coaster. We'd just moved to America from Tokyo and experienced some of the worst culture shock we've ever encountered. And then we had Benjamin, born with congenital heart disease requiring surgery when he was just days old. My friends were the safety net that kept me walking the high wire of navigating life with a medically fragil…

Be humble

I've done a lot in my short life. Gone a lot of places and seen a lot of things. But every day I'm reminded that there is so much more to see and do. Even with the crazy vast collection of experiences I've amassed, I don't know everything. I'm still learning. I'm a hungry student of the world, insatiably curious.

Today I was involved in a conversation with three people who were absolutely convinced of something which I knew first hand was completely incorrect. First hand, as in I was intimately involved in the creation of this large thing for over a year of my life. When I tossed out the correct information (without mentioning my background with it), they dug in even deeper and got very defensive. It was such a bizarre situation to be in. I wanted to tell them how I knew the correct information, but I also know no one likes to be told they are wrong. So I shrugged it off, as I'm no fan of conflict and this wasn't something worth rising their level of ag…

Most Popular

I added a little sidebar on the blog which lists my ten most popular posts here on My Wandering Life. I just went back and read them all, wondering what about them makes them the most popular.

If you are new here (welcome!) or read this in a reader or via email (thanks!), feel free to click through to the blog to check them out. My current favorite of the list is this one. I guess I'm a sucker for a good love story, especially my own!


On Saturday Michael and I went off to pay our mobile phone bills in person like we do each month (good grief, this is a frustrating way to have to do things! More on bills later). We pay this bill on the second floor of the local grey market (grey market = place to buy semi-legit and knock off electronics that you've heard about plus every little gadget you've never heard of but now can't live without. Bargain hard.) In front of the building there is always a large tented area selling something new each week. Once it was Lee Brand denim (most with cut labels meaning they are seconds/overruns). Another time it was a knock off of Uggs boots. Sometimes it's luggage or tennis shoes. Always a new configuration with new products. This weekend it was a Muslim food fair.

All the food at every booth was served on a long wooden stick. People could dispose of their sticks in one of several boxes placed around the perimeter. I couldn't help but be that anoying person stopping…


I hate to say it, but I've been having one of those weeks. I'm not usually the type to wish a day (or a week in this case) to be over. Every day is a gift, we shouldn't squander our time away, and all similar sayings are ones I take to heart. But this week was the kind of gift you desperately wish to exchange, only to find the store has an adamant policy about receipts (which you must have left in your pocket which went through the laundry), and even regifting isn't an option because it's truly a stinker and you don't dislike anyone enough to lay it at their feet no matter how fancy the wrapping. Yeah, that sounds about right. I'll spare you the details, but just know there was more than once where I quietly locked the door to my bedroom, sat in my picture window looking at my beautiful view, and let tears stream down my face in solitude (the jean ripping incident was the proverbial straw that provoked one of those tearful episodes). I awoke early this mo…

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," said Juliet to her Romeo. And she's right of course. But I don't know if there's another name that would sound as sweet. I'm biased, being a Rose myself!

My father named me Heather because we are of Scottish ancestry and because he liked the name. Many other mothers and fathers in the 1970's also liked the name. I was one of four Heathers in my Kindergarten class. Because the other three had all been in the same school in preschool together and there was already a Heather R., I got to go by Heather Ann, my middle name. My mother gave me that name, which is also her middle name. And of course my father gave me my last name, Rose. In the 1970's, an American woman was still 99% likely to take her husband's last name, and therefore my parents very nearly named me Heather Rose Rose, so that when I got married, I could keep the Rose part. Altogether, I have a very…


Besides small (or non-existent) ovens and teeny-tiny refrigerators, another thing that many flats in Asia are lacking is closet space. Michael moved to Macau ahead of us and picked out our flat there before the boys and I arrived. One thing it had in abundance was storage space. Every single room had wall to wall (sometimes two walls) of floor to ceiling built in closets and cupboards and drawers. There was so much storage that about half the available space was completely empty! None of our previous homes have ever had storage like that, not even in America where we had a garage!

Flash forward to our current flat, which has almost no built in storage. Each room has a wardrobe, and small ones at that. We had to run out to our handy second-largest-in-the-world IKEA to buy extra dressers, shelves, sideboards, cupboards, cubbies, and anything else we could use to find homes for all our stuff. And after six months, we're still not completely unpacked. A record for us for sure!

One th…

The Tree is Trimmed

Image is this post, which I worked on for awhile and then my unfamiliarity with the latest Blogger app update proved too much and I watched the whole thing disappear before my eyes. It is late, so I won't try to rewrite it, but I will say our house is dressed up in its Christmas Party Best, while Michael and I were also sporting some pretty awesome duds for our day of holiday decorating and turkey consuming.

Lucy Rocket is still new to the whole idea of Christmas, as evidenced by the number of times we had to ask her to get the tree out of her mouth. Filling her bowl with turkey certainly helped!

Off to bed now, so I can have sweet dreams of sugarplums and (faux) snowflakes!

Talkin' Turkey

So yes, I'm an American, and Thanksgiving is my uniquely American holiday which celebrates thankfulness through the act of stuffing ourselves with way too much food while watching parades and football. Strangely enough, it has never been my favorite holiday. I feel so unpatriotic stating that, but it's the truth.

I'm not opposed to a day that celebrates gratitude and thankfulness. In fact, I recently ran one of those little programs on Facebook which tell you the words you use most in your status updates, and my top two were grateful and love. And I know myself very well and I have a way of letting my mind wander down negative roads, thinking about grass being greener on the other side, so I practice stopping the negativity by thinking (and evidently posting on Facebook) about all I have to be grateful for (try it, it makes a world of difference). So no, I'll never be against thankfulness. But there has never really been space in any of the family gatherings I've …

The Maytag Delivery Man

This is not even close to the weirdest thing I've seen on the back of a bike (that would go to the guy who had about 50 tiny cages filled with live, loudly clucking chickens lashed together towering above his head and probably 20-30 dead geese hanging by their feet from the bottom row of cages), but it is typical of what I see every single day here in Shanghai. In fact, there isn't much I haven't seen lashed to a bike!

I feel bad for the guy who delivers the giant 5-gallon bottles of water for the water dispensers. He pedals a trike with a trailer along with 20+ bottles of water, delivering them and picking up the empties. My thighs complain when riding the stationary bike on the lowest setting. The water guy must have thighs of steel.

One of these days I'm just going to go sit on the curb with my camera for an hour and take a photo of everything that comes by on the back of a bike. Amazing and entertaining.

A Fuyou Lu Christmas

Today I went with four other gals to the Fuyou Road Small Commodities Market. I've been there a handful of times over the past six months. They have four floors of literally any small thing you could think of in bulk. Buttons? Stickers? Hair bands? Miles of silver and gold chain? Socks? Decorations? They have all that and so much more. I was told that come November, the Market would explode with Christmas. I was told correctly!

It's a crazy place anyway, but toss in the traditional holiday decorations from every country in the world (all made in China of course) and it brings a whole new meaning to decking the halls. I love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday by far. Although if you count my Christmas Eve birthday as a holiday, then maybe they would tie, because I love birthdays too. I love decorating for Christmas and add to our arsenal of magic making supplies each year. Though two years ago I went through and seriously culled a good part of our collection as well. Out …

Shanghai Falling

It's been so incredibly cold here over the last couple of weeks. If we go out after dark, it's so cold my teeth hurt and my eyes sting. This does not bode well for the coming winter if it's only November and too cold for my taste. I told Michael our next move needs to be somewhere warm year-round, like the Philippines or Thailand! He threw in "Or Turkey?" Um, no. After a quick check, it snows heavily from November to April and gets well below freezing in winter. It doesn't snow in Shanghai though, so I will cling to that silver lining. Winter in Macau was short. I don't think that will be the case here. After all, we moved here in May and it felt quite chilly for the whole first month.

It doesn't feel like there has really been a fall season here. It went from a few weeks of tolerable tee shirt weather straight to jackets. Not much transitional sweater-but-no-jacket weather. And, as directed by the guards at our complex, I finally put away the flip-f…

Birthday Abroad

We're halfway through our second loop around the calendar of birthdays spent abroad. I love birthdays and will do anything I can to make them special. Ben had his first Shanghai birthday right after we moved here, so he had no friends yet to celebrate with. If you recall, we did actually run into the one person that he did know, so it was still pretty nice for him. The Krispy Kreme Doughnuts we'd been deprived of for over a year helped too!

Today is my firstborn's 12th birthday. Nathan is the one who changed my name from Heather to Mama. He's a pretty special kid. We celebrated with a weekend of fun. Yesterday we invited half a dozen boys to go to a local Laser Tag place. We rented a van and driver for the day so we could go collect all the kids, take them out to the place, and then bring them back for pizza and cake before taking them all back home again. I miss having my own car. The boys had a blast!

After laser tag but before pizza, I caught a photo of the boys…

As long as the root beer isn't flat...

Poor Snoopy.


The apartment complexes in Shanghai are like little suburbs in the sky. Instead of a sprawling neighborhood, they just go straight up in the air. For instance, our complex takes up an entire block with eight buildings, and each building has between 30 and 42 floors, with two to three flats per floor. That's a lot of people living in a single city block!

Our complex has two entrances, both are heavily guarded. Each building also has a guard around the clock who sits at a desk in the lobby. When we moved in, all the guards were pretty grim faced. That's their job, I suppose. I mean, they aren't there to serve as ambassadors for unauthorized people to go strolling around the grounds. I, however, am an ambassador. An ambassador of the expat community. So I've made it my job to make sure to pause, look every single guard in the eye, smile a dazzling smile and give each of them a cheery ni hao (hello) each time I pass one of them.

At first, the guards would just grunt at m…

Macau Fringe Festival presents Anni Ha

Hello readers in Macau!

May I quickly draw your attention to an event about to take place in your area? The Macau Fringe Festival takes place at various locations throughout the city during the month of November. You can see the full line-up here. But what I really want to draw your attention to is one particular act, called The Other Ex-Pat. This is a one woman show put on by the incredibly talented Aussie actress Anni Ha.

Anni, like myself, is living abroad because of her husband's job. They were newlyweds when they moved to Macau, and Anni has really dug into the expat community. One story she heard over and over again was that of the accompanying spouse and the search for an identity in this role. Many accompanying spouses have left full-fledged careers behind, putting their partner's trajectory above their own, resulting in a transitional period of figuring out just who they are in a new country, with new friends, new expectations, and new challenges. This story, heard …

Growing like weeds

This is mainly for the grandparents, who haven't seen their grandsons in sixteen months, and won't see them for at least another four months.

My sons are growing like crazy. My oldest, Nathan, turns twelve in three weeks. Tonight I was walking next to him and he allowed me to put my arm across his shoulders. My arm was uncomfortably high. I think he's now taller than both his grandmothers. Sorry Mom, now Ben is the only one in the family shorter than you. For now.

Last week I made Nathan try on all his pants as the weather is cooling off and I wanted to see what still fit from last winter. The answer? Three pairs of jeans. He's like my Dad though, always hot, and will happily wear shorts and a tee even in the chilliest weather. I also went through his shirts and found almost all of them are too tight across the chest and armpits. He's been wearing the same four shirts every week and I'm about ready to burn them because I'm sick of seeing them! So tonight …

It's a wonderful life

Hey you readers for whom my vivid description of humiliation at the hands of a faux Sharpie wasn't enough, demanding photos to make my humiliation complete which will live on the Internet forever... I say too bad for you! No photos exist. At least on my devices anyway. You could always check Weibo, China's version of Twitter because surely someone I passed snapped a pic surreptitiously.

After reading yesterday's post, my Dad reminded me of a photo I have of the very last day my firstborn ever took a nap. Though evidence suggests he wasn't napping so much as taking a huge thick permanent marker to every surface of the room and then stripped off his clothes and decorated himself all over. We were about seven days away from moving from Los Angeles to Hong Kong at the time, and it was not a fun conversation to have with the landlady describing how the world's shortest graffiti artist had struck the neighborhood but only got just the one room. And himself. I can't p…

China Post

This week I made my way over to the nearest post office (which happens to be in the tallest building in China) so I could mail off 38 handwritten postcards and two packages for a cousin and a friend's wife. Seems easy enough, right? Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

I was the only customer and sat down at the counter, packages in front of me. I hadn't yet sealed them, which is a good thing. The postal worker told me she had to inspect everything, pulling everything out of the carefully packed, tight-fitting padded envelopes. I'd wrapped everything just so in packing paper and sealed it with cellophane tape, which she tore right through like a toddler on Christmas morning.

Everything in each package was carefully examined and she asked me about every single item. I know there are many, many things you are not allowed to mail out of China. You can rest easy tonight knowing this lady did an extremely thorough job making sure I wasn't trying to sneak anything out. I tried to…

Videos of Shanghai

I found a couple videos that feature Shanghai plus some places in China beyond our city. Thought I'd share.

The first is from Canadian videographer and time-lapse photographer Ryan Emond. I love that we've been to so many of the places in his short film. We used to go to Hong Kong every month while living in Macau. We've been in Shanghai for just shy of five months. I didn't realize how much I missed Hong Kong until seeing it on screen! I certainly miss hearing the English language being spoken around town... We'll be down there again starting the day after Christmas to visit some American friends from seven moves ago (San Francisco Bay Area) who'll be in town for the holiday, plus our old pals Mickey and Minnie. Here's Ryan's film:

Moments In China from Ryan Emond on Vimeo.

The second short film is by travel video blogger Alex Lop. His video features Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. The Shanghai portion was primarily filmed along the Huangpu Riv…


Early this morning I was waiting on the street in front of our complex for a man in a blue taxi wearing a blue and white striped shirt to pull up and deliver me ten perfectly ripe avocados. I'm not a morning person, but I will get out of bed for my favorite food on earth, especially when a new friend calls to say she scored a deal for a dollar apiece. Considering they are usually in the five dollar range, I did virtual back flips to get in on the bounty.

While waiting, I got to see many things I normally do not. Such as a long line of taxis parked at the curb, waiting for the morning commuters to come out. And something that I usually only hear from my flat, 38 stories above the street.

A van exiting our complex pulled to a halt at the driveway. Out popped a man who placed a colorful box on the ground. He then lit it on fire and ran back to the van. I was already taking a photo of something else, so I caught him in the act.

And then stupidly, I remained standing where I was, cam…


Are you an American living abroad? Have you registered to vote in the upcoming presidential election? Depending on your "home" state, it's not too late. I found a website that made the whole process pretty easy-peasy at

My birthday is in December and I missed voting in the 1992 Presidential election by a few weeks and had to wait another four years to cast my first vote for a president. Since turning 18, I've voted in every single election while I was living in America, including the little city elections with only one or two things on the ballot. I spent a summer in the former Soviet Union when I was 15 and it greatly affected the way I feel about exercising my right to vote. We've never voted from abroad before, as there were no federal elections during any of our previous international relocations. This will be our first time.

Frankly, I'm not overwhelmed with excitement about this election. I dragged my feet for many months on ac…