Monday, September 26, 2011

the south bund: my new closet

I went to the cloth market last week in the South Bund, where all the tailors are located, and IT WAS AMAZING. Originally, the errand was to pick up a shirt my mom wanted copied, but it turned into a shopping excursion – not the normal kind, but the kind where you wander a boundless pit where all your fashion dreams come true. The possibilities are endless! You can get traditional silk chi paos made, business suits, formal dresses, winter coats, fur coats, leather jackets, you name it. I got fitted for a wool/cashmere blend cape for the winter, and it was so fun trying on all the different styles, getting measured, and picking out the color and cloth for it – all for about $60 USD! It’s dangerously addictive, and I already know quite a portion of my paycheck will – happily- go to the tailor’s. It’s so much fun, and the price to get it done in the states would be exorbitant. The dangerous thing about this process is that I have to go back this week to pick up my coat, which inevitably means that I will once more need to ponder if I really need a replica Chanel suit for my life to be complete (the answer is YES! - which will then lead me to return the following week to pick it up, and then the cycle will start again). Which makes me very excited.

A sign that I’m slowly assimilating to Chinese culture is the fact that I don’t mind bargaining anymore. Enjoyment is an overstatement, but I have to say that it adds an element of thrill to shopping, and then there is nothing like the elation when you score yourself a pair of black flats for about $10USD. 450* yuan for a leather belt? No way, I’m not paying anything over 150! I have a feeling that the shock of American prices when I go home force me into becoming a miser – but no worries, you’ll be able to find me luxuriating in my closet, eating Poptarts and barbecue (the latest in my list of things I miss. Goodness, I don’t even eat Poptarts at home!).

*note: the exchange rate is about about 6.5 yuan to $1USD, and Wilson is now the proud new owner of a sleek black belt, which I scored for 120 yuan! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hong Kong > Shanghai

I’m writing this as I wait at the terminal for my flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai — I went to Hong Kong for the weekend to visit my relatives. I ate delicious Chinese food – I still don’t get how they take the most ordinary food and make it into something better than perfect – hung out with my aunts and uncles who I sadly do not get to see often enough, and reveled in the overabundance of shopping malls. Both my wallet and daily caloric intake took a beating. Thank goodness I do not live here, or else my self-control would be nonexistent (as well as my bank account and waistline).

 In front of one of the most touristy destinations in HK - I made my uncles pose with me in front of the Bruce Lee statue, because that is pretty much the only thing you do at the Avenue of Stars (minus admire the skyline). It was fun and they were mortified (locals just do not get caught doing this, I had to beg them). Also, I enjoyed the ferry ride across the harbor immensely, Hong Kong is just so pretty at night!

Frozen yogurt with Ian, my little cousin. He just lost 4 teeth and is the most adorable thing when he smiles (or shares his opinions about anything in general). 

Hiked down a mountain to a fish market, this place is so removed from the skyscrapers and traffic of the city! 

Fast food in Hong Kong (I know, isn't it awesome?) I got curry and my uncle Eddie got pork and rice. If only American fast food were like this!

The view of the city from Happy Valley, the racetrack. One of the few open, grassy spaces you find in the city, how peaceful! 

Melody this is for you -- went to get milk tea and buns at Tsui Hua (notice the headline on the daily, haha!) 

After being in China for 2 months, it’s funny how I could instantly notice the subtle differences between Hong Kong and the mainland. I definitely think that Hong Kong is the more livable of the two cities when compared to Shanghai – the public transportation system is much more complete and convenient, the people more helpful and polite. Did I mention that its much cleaner and the food is safe to eat? There are normal toilets, and the people have actually heard of bleach (and use it)!!! Needless to say, Hong Kong was such a welcome break from always being on the alert in Shanghai. Having family around does make such a difference—I felt like I could relax and not worry about whether or not food was safe to eat, if I could trust someone, if I could find my way around without getting lost, or if I was ordering the right thing on the menu. Not that I consciously worry about these things in Shanghai, but I have to say that my stress level went down significantly this weekend. Now its back to the usual grind, but I’m sure once I get used to living in Shanghai (and my Chinese gets better) I’ll have a much easier time of it. I’ve recently made some friends in Shanghai that are also here from California, and a friend of mine will be arriving tomorrow to study until December, so I’m really excited to have some company! It’s amazing what a difference friends and familiar faces can make on the whole transition/adapting process - definitely makes it a lot easier.