I have so many posts in draft form, but with the photo-posting issue I'm continuing to have, they aren't ready to go yet. Thankfully, I have had a photo-free proposition placed before me this morning, and I'm taking it.
One of my favorite blogs to read is Asia Vu. It's written by MsCaroline, who spent her childhood abroad and then settled in nicely in America, only to find her husband had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to head to South Korea for a couple of years for an interesting career opportunity. So, she's off in expatland again with her own two sons, experiencing deja vu, or as her blog title indicates, Asia Vu! She posted one of those Q&A posts and then tossed the ball to me. I'm not going to toss the ball to anyone else (sorry), but I'll answer the questions she lobbed in my direction.
1. Where is the one place you have lived that you remember most fondly and why?
Tokyo, Japan, hands down. We're actually heading there in one week and cannot wait. We moved there with our ten week old firstborn son, to a suburb where there were little to no foreigners who spoke my language. My husband worked long hours, and our baby was colicky and moody unless I'd strap him to my chest and explore the city all day, every day. I quickly picked up the language due to my hunger to communicate with anyone over the age of one year, and with no mom or grandma or auntie there to help me, I learned how to be an intuitive and confident mother. It's a place that changed me most, and I would absolutely move back and live there the rest of my life without a moment's hesitation.
2. Is there anything you don't/won't cook? (I, for example, loathe liver and just don't cook it. Ever.)
I spent a summer in the former USSR while in high school. At an impressionable age, I saw people eat parts of animals which are not consumed in my native America. It put me on the road to roughly six years of being a vegetarian. While marrying my husband put a end to my non-meat-eating ways, I still to this day have a very rough reaction to handling any type of meat products. Living in China doesn't help, where once again I am in a place where delicacies include parts of animals which are not on most menus in America. I will never, ever cook anything with shrimp or shellfish due to a miserable and itchy allergy, and since chocolate gives me migraines, I don't cook with chocolate. Even the smell of a chocolate cake baking in the oven causes a terrible headache, so no chocolate.
3. Have you heard the song, "Let it Go" from the movie 'Frozen' and, if so, do you like it?
The movie Frozen actually just arrived ten days ago here in Shanghai. So we've not seen it a huge number of times like many people. And Disney pays our rent, so I feel somewhat obligated to like everything they do! But the truth is, I love Idina Menzel, the voice of Queen Elsa who sings the song "Let it Go." She has a powerful voice and does the song justice. And in looking at the lyrics, I really resonate with the idea of moving forward and leaving the past in the past. There is some sadness there, so it's not completely in the realm of the happily ever after fairy tale. It's the last line that slays me though - the cold never bothered me anyway. Of course she could be talking about the snow and ice, but I think she's talking about the cold shoulder the townspeople gave her upon discovering her chilly gift. And I don't think she means that that never bothered her. Of course it did... I think she's talking herself into believing it. Maybe I like the song more than I thought I did when I first started writing this? It's growing on me. Though this morning I did read a pretty scathing review of the song, saying it's quite controversial. There's always something...
4. What is one political or social issue that drives you crazy when people talk about it? (you don't have to give your opinion, just tell what the issue is.)
Hmm... well, I do live in a Communist country where my blog is censored to anyone accessing the internet within its borders unless you have a VPN. I don't want to be too controversial and make things any more difficult on myself than it already is. So this is what I will say to answer: Voltaire said, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." I have often thought of that quote when speaking with someone whose opinions were different from mine. Sadly, I'm seeing the pendulum swinging the other direction, where people are more than happy to publicly ridicule and crucify anyone who doesn't agree 100% with their strongly held beliefs. We're happy to be "tolerant" when tolerance is held back unless we are exactly the same. Personally, I cannot stand the word tolerance. We tolerate a fever, we tolerate the bitter cold winter, we tolerate our bratty little brother. Who wants someone to tolerate them? I personally take the stand that I want to be about love instead of tolerance. All we need is love, not tolerance. And an active way to love someone is to be respectful of viewpoints which are nothing like our own. I confess I am tested on this every single day here in China, which is so incredibly different from the country of my birth (go re-read the first sentence of this paragraph!).
5. Have you ever made a friend first through blogging/online and only afterwards met her(him) in person? If so, how did you finally meet?
This has happened countless times. While living and writing in Macau, people who were thinking about a move there would Google it and my last blog (Wandering Macau) would pop up. I had many, many emailed conversations with people who had miles of questions. I still get at least one email a month on the subject! For all the people I emailed who made the move to Macau while we still lived there, I was able to meet up for coffee. Some went on to be good friends. I got recognized a lot in the grocery store as well. It's a small place. Here in Shanghai I met someone whose daughter was coming here to teach. He emailed back and forth with me for months and then when he came to visit his daughter and grandsons, we all met up for coffee. I've since hung out with the daughter several times. And check back after we go visit South Korea and hopefully meet up with MsCaroline and family!
6. Do you speak more than one language fluently? If so, how did you learn it?
The sad thing about living in a foreign country is that I feel like I'm losing my ability to speak my first language fluently! But the truth is this, when it comes to language, if you don't use it, you lose it. I studied Spanish in high school and college and could carry on a passable conversation. I can still somewhat read it, which came in helpful in Macau where one of the official languages is Portuguese. Portuguese sounds nothing like Spanish, but many, many words are spelled very similarly, so it helped on more than one occasion. In Japan, I picked up Japanese quickly because I could go two weeks without hearing anyone but my husband speak to me in English, and only then late at night when he was tired after a long day of work. I had a private tutor three days a week, and a baby who was restless at home. Going out meant interacting with people who only spoke Japanese, and seeing signs which were only in Japanese, not Roman letters that I could sound out. So yes, I became fluent-ish in Japanese. Upon our return to America, I didn't speak a word of it for six years. Sad that I'd lost something I'd spent so much time and effort on, I enrolled in the local community college to take a course of Japanese. I got an A+. We'll see how much I remember when we arrive in Tokyo next week!
7. If you grew up in a religious household, do you still practice the same religion you grew up with? If not, do you practice a different religion, or no religion at all?
I did grow up in a family which practices a faith, and still practice that faith today. Owing to my location in the world (see first sentence of question number four), I'm not really going to expand on that here.
8. Do you get regular mani/pedis? If not, do you: a)get them occasionally; b) do your own or c) settle for keeping your nails neat and clean without worrying about painting them.
I've had three professional manicures in my entire life, the last one being the day before my wedding, nearly 18 years ago. It's not my thing, I work too much with my hands, which means polish chips quickly. But pedicures? This is my one big indulgence. I've been getting a pedicure every few weeks for the last decade. Living in Los Angeles, you can wear sandals year round. Close to the same in Hong Kong and Macau. Here in Shanghai, however, I can't handle the cold, so I don't bother getting a pedi in the winter all that often. But here in Asia, even the simplest (and cheapest) of pedicures take an hour and come with a foot and leg massage. The loooooow prices reduce any guilt over indulging myself here.
9. Where was the most awful vacation/holiday you have ever taken? What made it so awful - the location, or the circumstances? Would you go back and try it again under different circumstances?
As long as I've been able to extract an excellent story from the experience, I can say with all honesty that I've never once had an awful vacation/holiday in my life. I live for adventure and love to laugh, and while sometimes in the middle of a challenging situation it's hard to find the laughter, time always brings the funny to light. I will say our most recent trip to Europe included an unexpected 24 hour period where were guests of the State in the Russian Federation, and that was shockingly awful for many reasons (never, ever put your allergy medication in your checked luggage people!), but one of these days you will benefit from our misfortune, so I can't complain too much. And I say yes, I would go back. Michael, however, does not share my opinion on the matter.
10. Have you been watching the Olympics? If so, which events do you enjoy watching the most?
Nope. Not even a minute of it. Is it still going on? I did see the photos circulating the web of the Olympic housing, and it reminded me that I shouldn't complain about the challenges of living here in Shanghai. True story: when we left Macau, Michael was also in talks for a position in Sochi, Russia. So if Disney hadn't made their firm offer first, we might be living in a house with no door knob or an unexpected pool in the lobby of our apartment complex.
11. Where is one place you haven't yet visited but would absolutely love to go someday?
The Rose Clan has a castle in Scotland built in 1460 which is the oldest castle still tenanted by a descendant of the original clan other than the British royal family's castles. I have planned and cancelled three separate trips to Scotland to visit my family's ancestral home near Loch Ness, part of which had been turned into a bed and breakfast. My grandparents went and many of my cousins have gone. I don't think it was as meaningful for them as it would be for me, simply because that castle has formed a huge part of my identity since I was a young child, and the family name of Rose is incredibly meaningful to me. I was shocked to find recently that the 25th Baroness of the Rose clan had passed away a year ago and they've shut up the castle to the public. A new Baron has been named, a nephew of the late Elizabeth Rose. We had hoped to make a trip there within the next two years, and now I'm uncertain whether it will ever happen. As far as any other place I've not yet visited, the only remaining place on my "bucket list" is to go to Lhasa in Tibet. I can actually board a train here in Shanghai which goes across the permafrost on the Trans-Siberian Railway and arrives in Tibet a week later. Unfortunately, the elevation is too high to safely bring our heart patient son Ben with us, and currently you must have a visa with a minimum of four travelers to enter the region. So we must wait for an optimal time when we have someone to take Ben in for a couple of weeks and convince someone to come with us. Visiting any other place in the world that I've not yet been to is simply strawberry sauce on my perfectly delicious sundae of life!