Showing posts from February, 2013


On the flight home from Los Angeles to Shanghai, the talkative man sitting next to me gave me the used paperbacks he'd finished on the flight. This is perhaps the best gift I've received from a random stranger (and no, not the only one, people seem to like giving me stuff).

I keep thinking that this should be a thing... Keeping all those books which would otherwise grow dusty on shelves circulating throughout the world by handing them off to random strangers.

I pass most of mine along, as English-language books are available at a high premium in the Asian countries I've lived in. Sharing my bounty means more books make their way into my hands. I love my Kindle, and read 43 books on it in 2012. I'm grateful to have a way to get cheap books to fill my insatiable appetite for the written word. But despite that love and gratitude, the weight and feel and scent of a book made of paper brings me pleasure in a way an electronic device can not.

So thank you, kind book-loving…

Firecracker Boom!

I didn't have to look far to find a great example of "Chinglish" which I mentioned a couple of days ago. This one came from my friend Leslie's gym at her apartment complex just down the street from mine. I'm pretty sure if my virtual friend Gerb reads it, her eyes will be twitching uncontrollably!

I have to mention that my apartment complex doesn't have enough English-speaking foreigners residing in it to warrant even a bad translation of the many, many notices on the board in the lobby, so I will never know if I was wished having a harvest 2013 or not. Lucky Leslie!

The text:
When the firecracker boom out the night , we were having a hopeful 2013. On this festival occasion we who are all the Mason Fitness Club staff thank you customers. We wish you will sucess in work , having a happy f-amily ! In the past year , we are experienced every things whatever those were go-od or not. Cause your sopport and trust , we get this result now. In this coming 2013 , we …

The Man from Tallahassee

I'm a huge fan of the television show LOST. I wrote a piece nearly three years ago about the things I would miss most about the show here (Go ahead and read it. My final point ended up being very, very true).

In Macau, we started watching the series again with a whole new group of friends. I make a terrible person to watch it with, as I would always jump or suck in my breath or scream or cover my eyes or do something to spoil it for the friends of mine who'd never seen it before (sorry Liam). I was so sad to move away before we completed the whole series a second time.

One of the best episodes in the television show came about halfway through season three, called The Man from Tallahassee. I don't want to spoil it (don't click that link unless you've already seen it or never plan to as it spoils a lot), but it marks a huge turning point as the audience gets to see something quite mind-bending about the Island where the characters' plane crashed. Okay, yes, much …

Three foot winds?

I'm used to seeing crazy English here in Asia (known often as "Chinglish") but I expect more from publications printed by American companies who (hopefully) employ native English speakers.

Here's the headline from a newspaper we saw in Mississippi on our recent trip to America.

Those are some small but mighty winds! They might blow up your skirt, but at least your hair will still look nice. Provided you are over three feet tall, that is.

American Adventure: The Oscars

My Dad worked in the film industry while I was growing up, so I have memories of watching the Academy Awards each year as a young girl. Like many young people with stars in their eyes, I had a speech prepared for the inevitable day when I would win my own Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and it generally included thanking the exceptionally mean people in my 7th grade English class for being so mean and spurring me on to success to get revenge for their cruel treatment of my tender yet talented writer's heart (yes, I've always had a rich fantasy life).

In high school and college I attended or hosted many Oscar viewing parties, where guests were encouraged to dress up in horrid thrifted prom and formal gowns to get in the spirit of the sometimes ridiculous red carpet fashion displays.

Once married, my husband (a huge movie buff who also works in entertainment) and I never missed the opportunity to see all the nominated films and make our own predictions for who would win the…

American Adventure: Food

Over the last couple of years there have been many hours spent day dreaming about certain foods available in America that we have missed terribly. I'm not the only one living abroad and dreaming about certain things to eat in America, my entry about the pop-up In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Hong Kong is far and away my most popular post!

For two weeks, we absolutely stuffed ourselves with every good thing we've been deprived of while living in Asia. Seriously, there were days when my stomach and my jeans told me to stop, but my hands could not stop putting more and more in my mouth.

The evening we arrived back in Shanghai I stepped on the scale and was not at all surprised to find my weight was eight pounds higher than it was when we left (fortunately, some of that was thanks to swollen ankles and now, four days later, my weight is much closer to what it was at the beginning of February).

So what did we gorge ourselves on? Considering we spent five days at theme parks, there …



Very Unhealthy

I woke this morning feeling like I'd lost the ability to swallow. Though when I tried, it felt a lot like my throat had been lit on fire after being stung by a thousand bees. So that's not good. I already started the antibiotics our wise doctor gave me (she'd asked if I was sick as well while she examined the boys, when I said no, she said to "give it a day or two" and prescribed me a Z-pack anyway).

Nathan and his ears felt somewhat better today, while Ben does not seem improved at all. Keeping an eye on that boy from the comfort of my own sickbed. I think some law has been violated, one that says moms can't get sick while their offspring are under the weather...

In other news, the pollution in Shanghai has been working overtime, and I wonder if that has something to do with the sandpaper currently lining my throat? When the U.S. Consulate says things are very unhealthy, I hope they don't mean us.

American Adventure: Money

At the Shanghai airport, awaiting our flight to Los Angeles, Michael went to exchange some local currency into U.S. Dollars. It's been a year since I've seen American money and two years since I've used it on a regular basis. Even though my most favorite color is green, I have to say the money of my homeland is quite dull and boring compared to the rainbow of colors and designs featured on the currency of the five Southeast Asian and Asian countries we lived in or visited in the past two years.

Here's an American ten dollar bill with a Chinese ten RMB bill (RMB = Renminbi, which translates to "people's currency" and also commonly called yuan or kwai. Sometimes it is written CNY which stands for Chinese Yuan, but CNY is also a common acronym for Chinese New Year, so I use RMB most). It's my favorite because of the rose of course. The exchange is roughly 6 RMB to one US Dollar, so the 10 RMB bill is about $1.65.


One of my favorite photos of the kids was taken in 2005, the day after we moved to Hong Kong from Los Angeles. We'd all arisen well before dawn and ventured out into the city for a morning of exploring. We returned home just after noon and, quite stupidly, decided to take an hour's nap. Michael and I dragged ourselves from slumber to go wake up the boys (Ben at 18 months, Nat at age 4) and to our great dismay found they were little lumps of pliable but snoring clay, impossible to wake over the next several hours, no matter what we tried. And then we paid for it that night when there was not a thing we could do to make these children fall asleep late into the night, even though we were on the edge of delirious fatigue and near-rage ourselves. After that experience, I realized napping prolongs jet lag and should be avoided at all costs. The best "cure" in my experience has been lots of sunlight and fresh air and plenty of non-caffeinated hydration. With structure-crav…

...and we're back

We're back home in Shanghai! As a lifelong insomniac, I actually relish jet lag. It's the only time I can put my head on my pillow and be dreaming just a few minutes (if not seconds) later.

We arrived at the Shanghai Pudong airport at 6:30 p.m. yesterday, got home by 7:30, unpacked just the necessities while the boys climbed into bed fully clothed - snoring immediately, and laid down ourselves by 8:45 p.m. I never saw 9:00 p.m. on the clock. Next thing I knew, it was nine hours later. Nine hours of sleep is something like a miracle to me, plus I got a bonus of watching the sun rise above the buildings to the east from my bedroom window.

My Mom used to have a framed cross-stitch sampler that said If God intended for us to see the sun rise, He would have scheduled it later in the day. Amen to that.

I need to some time to collect photos and get them uploaded, but in the meantime I simply have to share this video of goats yelling like humans which has been making the rounds. Th…

Wish you were here

We are having a fabulous time on our crazy American adventure! We're all exhausted from being on the go constantly for the last week and a half. We have to wake up in five hours to leave for the airport at 4:00 a.m. so we can fly back to California one last weekend before heading home to Shanghai. As exhausted as I am, I can't fall asleep!

I took this photo of my parents today in Florida which pretty much sums up what this experience has been like. I'll be back with lots more about our trip soon!

Visiting Macau

Our pre-Christmas trip, if you recall, was mainly to be able to visit old friends, including a family we've known since we lived in the San Francisco Bay area who were coming to Asia for a visit. They booked the trip back when we were still living in Macau and they were shocked when we broke the news we were moving away. A flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong or Macau is about two hours, and runs about $200 round trip (around $75 USD if you get in on a great deal from Spring Airlines). We have several friends in Hong Kong who we usually call on to lend us a room, but since this was part of our family Christmas gift, we sprung for the luxury of the Disneyland Hotel. Good call in my opinion!

Our friends were a bit sad to miss out on visiting Macau, which is just an hour ferry ride away, so when I mentioned that we'd be heading over on Saturday, they asked if they could tag along. Um, yes! There's no role I cherish so much as tour guide, especially for a place I grew to love lik…


When we moved to Macau, a friend living in China told us about his trips to IKEA to see every furniture display draped with people napping during the middle of the day. After arriving in Shanghai we've been able to see this phenomenon ourselves. It's not like a husband taking a brief snooze while the wife shops, it's sometimes whole families, making themselves at home in the little mock up bedrooms and living rooms throughout the store.

I've never worked up the nerve to snap a photo until Saturday when Nathan and I made a quick IKEA run to grab some special pottery for Chinese New Year and we came across this guy, snoring loud as a chainsaw right at the store's main entrance. Nathan was the one who stopped dead in his tracks demanding I take a picture of him. Maybe one of these days I'll be bold enough to capture a full family having sweet Swedish dreams in IKEA.

American Excursion

I calculated this week that it had been nearly 600 days since I'd last seen my parents. That's a mighty long time for me, a girl who left home moments after high school graduation, never to return (to live with them, that is), but always found a way to visit at least once a month despite living a four hour drive away. Since we last left America, they up and moved from their home on California's Central Coast down to the Gulf Coast nearish to New Orleans. We have never seen their new home, but that's about to change!

We depart China on Tuesday evening, and thanks to the International Date Line actually go back in time, arriving in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon. We'll be in America for two weeks and woo boy, this is not a vacation! We are making up for nearly two years' worth of lost time with friends and relatives, and hitting all the American Disney theme parks coast to coast as we go. In fact, we're not wasting any time, we're going to Disneyland …