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Showing posts from January, 2012

K9 Invasion

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So guess what? We got a puppy.

Meet Lucy. She's a six month old toy poodle. She's pretty much as big as she'll ever get.

Her hair will get longer, and she might get a little rounder, but she won't get any taller.
She's incredibly tiny:
I grew up with big dogs (Dalmatians, Rottweilers, Australian Shepherds) and I've never even considered the possibility of a tiny dog. She's actually quite perfect, small and cuddly like a kitten and very playful, which pleases my active children. We looked at so many animals, cats and dogs, kittens and puppies, in pet shops and shelters. None were right until we found her, housed in a crate with another dog, in a room filled with dogs and cats who were all making so much noise. She didn't make a peep, she just stood on her hind legs to get a better look at us. I lifted her out of the crate, and she immediately snuggled right into my neck and let out a big sigh. Oh dear, I thought. I put her in Nathan's arms and she cuddle…

Tips for International Living, #1

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Top thing I've heard over the last six months: I could never do what you are doing, living in a foreign country like that!

You know what? I think you could if you had to. And I'm part of a community of expats living far from their home countries who would agree with me.

The first time we moved out of the United States, it wasn't really our choice. Michael started on that particular project knowing there wouldn't even be a business trip to Tokyo in the budget, let alone a relocation for his wife and baby-on-the-way. Imagine our surprise when he ended up going on half a dozen business trips followed by four weeks notice that we'd be moving to Japan. With a newborn. I don't think we ever sat down and had a discussion over whether we could or couldn't do it. We just did it. It didn't sink in until a year later how crazy that was. It was difficult, yes, but we had nothing but incredibly great experiences as first time parents in a place where no one spoke our…

Make like the locals

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I'm not sure how they do the hiring process for bus drivers in Macau. I'm guessing the process involves discarding the applicants with no accidents or tickets and hire the bottom of the pile. Or else they just recruit the meanest and toughest they can find, people who relish slamming on the brakes at the last possible second when they know they have a packed, standing room only, holy-cow-there-are-six-people-pressed-up-against-me bus. Maybe the drivers are used to getting around town on motor scooters, capable of making fast and accurate lane changes, and simply forget they are driving a huge city bus instead. The traffic in Macau doesn't help, but after experiencing the absolutely insane traffic in Manila, Philippines, I find I can't compare the craziness. Riding the bus in Macau is an exercise in surfing. My balance has never been better!

Today I was riding the bus with my youngest son. We actually got a coveted seat, and I tilted my head back against the headrest fo…

360 Hours

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I was just reading about a new hotel a few hours away from us, built in Hunan Province, China. Construction began in December of 2011, and it was completed just 360 hours (15 days) later. It isn't much to look at, but it does have many innovative energy saving features, and a price tag of just $17 million USD. I'm impressed, China!

Per CNN:
Named T30, the 17,000-square-meter hotel is due to open on January 18, and is expected to be a five-star establishment. The hotel will feature 316 standard rooms, 32 suites, eight ambassador suites and two presidential suites. Other facilities include a restaurant, bar, gym and swimming pool on the top floor, underground parking space for 73 vehicles and even a helicopter pad. The entire hotel costs a total of US$17 million to build.


(Video above, email subscribers please click through to the site to see the amazing time lapse video!)

Caliente, Por Favor

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Grocery shopping here is Crazy. With a capital C. This week I went to seven different stores to collect all the ingredients for just a single meal. By the time I got home, I was tired, hungry, grouchy, and didn't want to cook. I'm shooting photos of the stores here for a post down the road, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of the way things are around here.

The grocery shopping rule in Macau: if you see it, buy it. It won't be there next time, and it may not be there again for two months. Or ever. You will regularly find completely empty shelves for a week at a time, until they finally decide to rearrange things so it's not so empty. Six months in, I'm still not used to that.

My favorite store in Macau is a grungy, dark, slightly smelly market with aisles so narrow a mini shopping cart can barely fit. Certainly not two people. It's a treasure for this girl because it stocks products from two of my favorite stores back in the U.S., Costco and Trader Joe's.…

(Wannabe) Flash Mob

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I took the kids down to the Galaxy Resort on the Cotai Strip because they'd announced they were giving out free movie tickets to the Dreamworks Animation film, Puss in Boots (which is released here on January 21), along with 3D glasses, and another surprise gift.

In America, if you see a 3D film, they give you the glasses along with the ticket, and you toss them in the recycle bin on your way out the door. But here in Macau and over in Hong Kong, you actually have to pay for them, and you're expected to keep them and reuse them. So you hang onto them. They don't last too long. As soon as they are scratched or smudged, they're never really the same. So if someone is giving them out for free, I'll get in the line with my hand out. We met up with friends who work for the Galaxy and their kids, who were there for the same thing. I tried to take a group photo, but only the boys would get in the photo in front of the Chinese New Year decorations.


The advertised 6:15 p.m.…

In-N-Out Burger in Hong Kong

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Being born and raised in Southern California means I grew up eating at In-N-Out Burger. I don't care much for fast food, but I always make an exception for them. Their burgers are fresh and tasty and best of all, cheap. Their employees are so young and beautiful and cheerful that you can't help but feel good about eating there. It's one of the things people who move out of California miss the most, and the most requested first stop for friends and family flying into California when I used to pick them up at LAX. Fortunately, there is one right outside the airport. 

A few years ago, In-N-Out Burger started creeping eastward... they opened one in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was only slightly indignant about that. Because in my mind, In-N-Out = California. You can't have California in Nevada! But then they opened one in Utah and then Texas. And I got really indignant! The icon on the In-N-Out packaging is a palm tree! There shouldn't be an In-N-Out where it snows and palm tr…

Dragon Money

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We're coming up on the Chinese New Year, which starts this year on January 23. People set off fireworks along the waterfront continuously for a week. I'm not really looking forward to this, as we live right on the water and have only had the peace disturbed a few times with people setting off fireworks down on the sea wall. The thought of this going on for days, around the clock? Fun for about an hour. Then less so I suppose.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon. My oldest son Nathan is a Dragon, so he's pretty excited. He just barely turned 11, so being confronted with the fact that this is the year he turns 12 is a bit shocking to me. Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday here, and it's interesting to see the decorations going up all over town. The most interesting thing to me is the new 10 MOP (Macau Pataca) bill they've come out with just in time to celebrate.


I guess people were lined up at banks today to try and get their hands on one to give out for the New Year…

Six Months

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Normally with international moves, this is right about the time we're sleep deprived and sore, pulling our hair out as we struggle to get everything packed up for the impending move back to the States. It feels weird to not feel that weight on our shoulders as we cross the six month mark of living in Macau. I think we tend to thrive on change with a passion equal to the way some people dread and fight against it. So without any major change on the horizon, we're learning a new way of living. The kind where you sink your roots in pretty deep. This is as new to us as moving to a foreign country might be to some of you. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, we're celebrating this milestone with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups graciously sent to us in care packages by both my Mom and Dad, and my Sister and Brother-in-law Heidi and Clay (they love us. They really, really love us). The packages were meant to be for Christmas, but I think their arrival today is pe…

Sleepy Nap Time

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I have horrible insomnia. It's something that has been with me since early childhood. My parents would put me to bed long before bedtime with the hope I could take that extra time to talk myself to sleep. The only times in my life I recall getting really excellent sleep (without medicinal help) are the six months following the births of my children. They were good sleepers as babies, yes, but I think I was just so exhausted that I could actually fall asleep in an instant. No tossing and turning for hours, just my head on the pillow and the express train to dreamland.

My blessed husband can fall asleep any time, any place, in less than a minute. I'm sure it has something to do with years of touring where he had to catch sleep on tour buses and planes and 20 minute breaks on benches in the back of the theater. This trait of his makes me jealous, plain and simple. For me to fall asleep, everything has to be perfect. Which is why I'm awed by the daily habit of construction wor…

Persuasion

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Direct quote from my son Nathan, "I never dreamed that growing up without a dog by my side would actually be part of my childhood memories. We can change that, Mom. Let's just stay in Macau and stop all this crazy moving."


We came thisclose to taking in a cat whose owners had to depart Macau and couldn't take it to their next destination. Michael, who is terribly allergic to cats, was actually quite enthusiastic about it. Another person stepped up first. Which is fine. If we really want to adopt a cat, there will be another one in about two seconds. We've had cats before (Michael's allergy and all). They are self-sufficient and low maintenance, both helpful traits when you're not home all the time. Dogs on the other hand... they need training, and walking, and more attention. Especially when you live in a high rise building. This doesn't dissuade the hundreds of dog owners we see out walking their canine pals every single day here in Macau. I grew up w…

Timber!

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We had a lot of people streaming through our humble abode in November and December. We hosted a total of ten overnight guests, a Christmas party for 30, several dinner guests, and a group of regulars who come over every Wednesday to watch a show with us. Every one of them commented on our huge Christmas tree (a rarity in Asia as most flats are tiny and lack storage, so a tiny tree is more appropriate) and the decorations throughout the house. I'm one of those people who would leave them up all year if I could.

In Manila, I discovered people in the Philippines leave up Christmas decorations for all the "burr" months. I thought that meant the "cold" months, but it never gets cold there! It's actually the months ending in ber, September through December. I may claim that for my own next year! But for this past season, I'd decided everything should come down Tuesday December 27th, since Michael had the day off. After talking about this plan, one of our regu…

Homeland Hong Kong

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I stumbled across the most amazing time-lapse short film of Hong Kong, and felt compelled to share. It's only five minutes long, and the haunting song is Welcome Home by Radical Face.

I'm a city girl to the core, and when it comes to cities, Hong Kong is almost my favorite. Los Angeles wins by a tiny margin, only because I root for the home team, you know? Although Hong Kong used to be home as well. So maybe they tie? I feel inspired to create something like this for Macau. Perhaps it will be my big project for 2012.



(If you get this in an email, you'll have to click through to the site to view the video, sorry!)

Bowling in Macau

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When I was a little kid, my Dad would use the word bowling in place of the word boring. Mainly because he's a total jock who loves watching all sports, all the time, but found watching bowling on TV to be about as appealing as watching paint dry. Or something like that. As such, going to the bowling alley is not a childhood memory for me. I'm sure I went once or twice, maybe for a birthday party or something, but I don't remember. I do remember making a ridiculous attempt while (I think, pretty sure, sounds right) ditching high school at the bowling alley on the Army base near my house. And again in Tokyo, Japan in 2001, when some local friends decided to take us bowling because they thought that we, as Americans, were probably missing that particular activity while living away from home. Baby Nathan was passed along to whoever wasn't holding a bowling ball.


Flash forward ten years and we find ourselves in Macau. A very tiny place. Which happens to have two bowling all…

Brrrr.

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I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and if anywhere in this world is home to me, that is it. One of the reasons why the rent there is so high has to do with the glorious winter weather. My friends back in So Cal are littering up Facebook with screenshots of today's high, 85F. I used to be one of them, flaunting it by texting my friends in the snow-covered mid-west pics of my open windows in January, or my Christmas Day sunburn from spending the day at the beach. But not today. Today I'm sitting outside in 40-ish degree weather while the boys have tennis, shivering in the monsoon winds coming in from across the water, wearing layer upon layer of clothing that still isn't enough to keep out the chill.

Winter in Macau is short, or so I've been told. But not short enough for this Angeleno with really thin blood and inappropriate cold weather attire. I promise I will not complain about the smoldering heat and humidity come summer. I will rejoice. Hold me to it, pe…

Every Morning

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The hardest part of the day? When Michael leaves for work. He always seems to sprout a couple of boy-shaped tumors that have to be peeled off. Michael returns home from work long after his little shadows have gone to bed, or else they'd be attached again at night.

Holiday Traditions

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I think it takes moving far away from everything you're used to before you see which traditions actually stick. With us, there isn't much. We don't even have a Christmas tree every year, especially if we know we're going to be away that week. We just go with the flow and focus more on making memories as we go rather than trying to repeat something that is familiar for the sake of familiarity.

A few years ago, I was lamenting loudly over not having any Christmas traditions that carry on from year to year. This really bothered me because I felt like there really needed to be something my children would hold onto and pass on to their children. We don't even do stockings... I purchased some half-price from Pottery Barn a couple years back, and we hang them, but you'll never actually find anything in them Christmas morning!

I was in the middle of my outburst over not having a constant to come back to during the holidays when Nathan, my oldest, piped up and said that…

In Macau, China...

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...Coca-Cola wishes you a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays.
...a life-sized Nativity set is given a prominent place in the center of town, on public property in a city park, while a banner proclaiming the arrival of the Chinese zodiac Year of the Dragon hangs in the background.
 ...Santa Claus declines milk and cookies in favor of wine.
...and clowns are a prominent part of Christmas decor, all over town. Sometimes Santa is actually sporting a clown suit.  Which freaks. Me. Out. (Coulrophobia anyone?)
...the stores on the day after Christmas aren't filled with people returning gifts, they're filled with people buying Chinese New Year decorations!
... And the Chase Family had such an unexpectedly wonderful Christmas that I actually felt little twinges of guilt that we should be so happy while we're so far away from the people who love us.

I keep waiting for homesickness to hit and hit hard. And it seems Christmas would have been the perfect time for it, right? With songs a…

Happy New Year!

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No matter how far I've roamed, I have always been in Pacific Standard Time in California when the clock struck twelve on December 31st. I'm so used to being among the last in the world to enter a new year. But not this New Year, baby! I'm firmly among the first on this planet to be able to say I come from the year 2012, and from what I've seen so far, it's spectacular!

Happy New Year, friends far and wide! And Happy Birthday to my little brother! I'll wait till midnight in his time zone to make the annual call to wish him many happy returns.

For now I leave you with a pic of the great fireworks view from our guest room, which is occupied tonight by some local friends. So technically we've already had our first guests in 2012. Here's to many more!