Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Flower Market

SO you have a million and one markets to venture to in Shanghai; I mean, what is there that you cannot buy. You have the fabric markets- where you can have any possible outfit, ensemble, etc. made, then you have the fake markets with all of the knock-offs (purses, shoes, clothes, etc..). Not to forget the food markets, electronic markets, and the odds and ends market, that carries everything from ribbon to nail goods! It is a crazy world over here.

My mother-in-law is coming in just a few short days so I have been super busy vamping up our apartment. As sad as it is, I haven't done much since she last came last July! Oh well. So I went out to the flower market to find some goods. Now this is definitely ot my first trip, but there are always those enjoyable times that should be noted- and laughed about as usual.

The flower market consists of two floors. The first has an area of water creatures; the first time I walked in I thought something might pop out and attack me through the aisles. Fish, snakes, lizards, turtles, you name it, it's there. Squiggling, squirming, swimming... Then the bottom floor is occupied by real plants-flowers, trees, pots, etc. The top floor consists of fake florals, paintings, house decorations, furniture-well you get the point. Just more random markets for people to put their items in stalls and try to sell.

Two things occured to me yesterday with these stalls. I always have some point were I become frustrated because I cannot quite speak Chinese. It's a constant game of cherades, pointing, describing, acting out...it gets exhuasting! But really, where am I to complain. I am over here living in THEIR country. Don't we get upset when others come to the U.S. and can't speak English? Of course we do! So I was thinking how frustrated they probably are with us, who can't speak their own language, in their own country. Just hold your thoughts though, they are not completely aggarvated! Hello~ we bring in the foreign prices! I know for sure that the locals (Chinese) never pay what we pay for items (whatever it may be). We have a foreigner stamp, along with a money stamp, markeed right on our big foreheads. I think for the most part, they charge us 50-75% more than what they charge a local. The hard part then is to negotiate down...ugh...

Yesterday, I laughed outloud twice. Really does this happen! I went to buy a floral arrangement from a shop; negotiated it down using the very little Chinese I know, but then I decided I wanted to add a few more sprigs to it. So she tells me 10 more RMB for one; total of 3. The order before was 180. SO then when she tells me to pay, she says I owe her 230. Of course I look at her and am like, no, "bu yao!" Not good! We then proceed to argue back and forth; one in English, one in Chinese. 5 minutes this goes on until her daughter comes by and tells her that she added her math wrong. Thank heavens. Not that an extra 20 RMB was much, but please, she's already getting plenty of money out of me. She then apologizes ... I'm like, no biggie, I'm not so good at math either! :)

Then, my driver comes up to meet me to help me carry some of my things out. We are walking along some of the painting stalls, when he stops and points out to a painting. I look around and see a huge 6ft by 4ft. painting of George Bush! Seriously! James, my driver, is so excited and I of course think that it's hilarious! They have paintings really of scenerys, Chinese theme, European theme, some westerm, but never (in all the MANY shops have I been) have I seen a portrait (and one so big) of George Bush. Or really any American in general! Not really sure what to even think of it; who will buy it? Now that is the question. I know my last driver, Steven, and my new one, James, both liked George Bush. I wonder if all Chinese do in general? Who knows...

So that was my funny day. But then I was crushed when my driver asks me if I am happy with his work; if he's a good worker. Well, yes, actually he is a very good worker. HE works 6 days a week; most days 6:45-6:30; a 12 hour day. He tells me that Callidus (Jason's company) is only paying him 1000 RMB a month and that he only gets overtime after 10 hours. Really? How terribly unfair. I pay my ayi 2500 a month and that's 5 days a week 8-5. 1000 RMB is equivilant to $150 a month...really. I'm shocked! Of course I will say something to Jason ( I doubt he knows) but is there really much we can do about it. But I feel incredibly guilty after going to Metro yesterday and spending 2000 RMB..just one day...

Ah, more issues with living in China than I thought...never quite as easy as what you imagine...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday the 13th

So I'm now going to be jotting down my everyday experiences here in China~ some funny, some make me want to pull out my hair, and some aren't really fathomable! :) Nonetheless, I want to be able to look back and count my many experiences that I have here in this strange, but beautiful country.

Jason is gone. Traveling again. He has been traveling alot lately. Guess that comes with his job title. It's really not all that bad, but it does get a bit lonely and we do certainly miss him. He will be back on Wednesday. Jack will be grateful; I'm afraid that I just don't do the "male" bonding as well as Jason. Goes to say how much a son truly needs his father! :)

Friday was a rather interesting day. Of course it was raining. We left Thailand and it was raining, then when we returned to Shanghai, raining again! It has finally stopped!

I met one of my girlfriends for lunch. A very nice lady (actually from Dallas, Texas~ Texas is so large...they are everywhere!) named Kristy. She's been here almost 2 years and like many of the expatriate wives ("tai tai's") she really doesn't like it here. She tries to pass her days with making lunch dates and other sometimes pointless to-do's. Definitely not the way I'm wanting to live my life over here. Granted there are days that I really want to scream ( hello~ we are foreigners in an unfamiliar country!), but for the most part I am very grateful for the opportunity and am loving our experience over here.

I had arranged for a new tutor to meet me at my apartment. Well, of course I was running late. She calls, I can hear Jack in the background, obviously excited that someone new is at the house-running amuck showing himself off I"m sure. I hustle to get home and walk in on Jack running around showing all of his toys to our new guest. Her name is Wenni Wang. Sometimes I'm not quite sure where they come up with their names but it's cute and seems to fit her well. She's a little bigger; she did make a comment that she would be skinny if she could run around like Jack did all the time! :)

So we sit and discuss our future lessons. All is settled and I'm relieved that now (after a year) I am finally going to get started on learning some Mandarin! Then the phone rings, of course, it's the UPS guy! Mind you, I have only been waiting for my package (from my parents) for 3 weeks now. Not to mention, my Dad paid $240 to have it sent over quickly (should have been here the 27th; now is the 13th of March). Only in China. Customs asked me to provide my visa, passport and itemized list. My mother was quite enraged when I had to call and ask her; this was, of course, my birthday presents. Were supposed to be a surprise, but now my Mom had to tell me over the phone!

All delivers well. The courrier is lucky the tax (they asked me to pay!) was only 9.6 RMB. I might have pushed him out the door and grabbed the box if it had been expensive! :) I proceed to the kitchen with my box and start unpacking! Wenni follows me in and I think she's just as excited as I am to see what the box holds. My Mom had sent me some clothes, so as I pulled each item out, I got an "ah" or "nice" from Wenni. She was thoroughly enjoying this!

So Jack is bustling about, knowing that we are soon to leave for playgroup. He always notices if you do or don't have your shoes on. "Mama, you shoes". "Yes, baby, I'm going to get them". He then runs off down the hallway and comes back with a pair of my high heels. "No Jack, Mommy's not going to wear those". Continues this on, as I'm unpacking, he brings more high heels in for me to wear. Wenni picks one up and she says, "OH, your shoes big". Well, thanks. What an observation. Now anywhere else, I might have been upset but only had to laugh. Their feet are so tiny here so of course my size 10 feet are huge! Not to mention, the Chinese really speak whatever is on their mind. As per our later conversation...

So Wenni and I continue to chat. She tells me she lived in Germany for 3 years as an interpretor. She is glad to be back in Shanghai because she didn't really like it there. So we continue the conversation for another 5 minutes or so.

I hustle about, getting my shoes (the right ones!) on, getting Jack ready for playgroup. Wenni then comes up to me and says, " Now that we have talked a bit, can I ask you a question". Oh dear, what is it that she is going to ask me, I think. So she asks, "Are you Spanish". No, I reply, of French and American Indian blood, as per the olive toned skin (probably helps that I just tanned myself in Thailand!). So she continues on that I look like that because of my darker skin and dark hair. Then she says, "It's very pretty you know". I say thank you, look up, her skin has flushed a bright pinkish red, then she says, "It's hot". Referring to me. Now I just have to laugh and thank her again. It was too funny to see her get embarrassed because of a compliment that she had given me, then to hear the terms she used. Who knows if she was using Paris Hiltons' expressions that she had heard, or thought that was the way she should describe it. I just had to laugh~ only in China! :)

I'm looking forward to learning Mandarin from Wenni. She will be a delightful teacher and what's best about it is that she will be teaching me, and I her. Looks like a good deal.

Off to play with Jack today. It's finally sunny in Shanghai! :)