Dior Show!!

December 31, 2008

By Elena Garcia

Dior Show MascaraWell I’ve made it to the point. The point where I need to buy some new make up because mine is almost out. I need mascara, bare essentials, and concealer. Garrett and I stopped at Sephora a few days ago because I knew I was going to need make up soon and I wanted to get an idea of how much things were and what they had. To my surprise, they had almost everything I needed. Except my mascara, which costs, about 25 bucks at home in the states, is more than 50 dollars here!! It’s the Dior Show mascara. I nearly fell to the floor. By far it’s the best mascara I’ve ever used but really. 50 bucks! I’m going to have to devise a plan to get that mascara for less because 50 bucks, Dior really!

By Elena Garcia

I just had the weirdest experience of my life. I decided to venture out today and enjoy my neighborhood, finally. So I got my laptop and dictionary and headed out. My plan was simple; I would stop by a local manicure shop and get my 30rmb manicure (for those of you counting, that’s less then 5 dollars). After which, I would go to the Costa Coffee at my local mall, do some writing.

Everything was going great. I went to the manicure shop. There I enjoyed a magnificent half hour of relaxation. The young girl who did my nails was sweet and nice even though we couldn’t talk. Just like home. At one point an older lady who was in the manicure shop said something while she stared at me. I looked up and over at her, she continued to say something and point to her eyelashes and using her finger to extend them. First I thought I had something on my eye, so I started rubbing. She continued with the same reaction, and then I figured she was saying something about my eyelashes being long. I said thank you, and she smiled and continued to stare. Now there were 3 or 4 of the nail girls staring with her. They were surrounding me just starring closely at my eyelashes… awkward. I said thank you again, but they just continued to stare. What else could I say? “Yeah I wear great mascara, it probably helps?” Not like any of them spoke English and I sure as hell don’t know enough Chinese to say that. So I did what I do best, just smiled and nodded until they finally went on their way. Definitely a weird moment for me, but I got my magnificent manicure, and continued on my way to Costa Coffee.

When I got here it was crowded, all the tables were filled and the tables are first come first serve. After walking around I saw a pair of gentlemen getting ready to leave. I approached their table and asked, or more gestured, if they were leaving. The nodded yes and one of the men gestured me into the table. I began to put my bag down when I noticed another man and two ladies begin to take the bench in front of me. Wasn’t a problem for me, I didn’t mind sharing the table. I just needed a seat. The man then said something to me in Chinese and I just smiled and nodded. But this time it didn’t work. They were gesturing me to leave the table. Well I wasn’t going to do that. Then a man, who was with the group who spoke German approached me and said that they wanted to sit here. He said it in almost perfect English. So I responded yes, that’s fine. But then he continued by saying there were four of them and they needed more space. I told him he could have the entire bench across from me and the space next to me. I just needed space for my stuff and me. Then his reaction kind of startled me. He started off on a rant, that there were four of them and they couldn’t fit, and that there was only one of them. I was so confused; they could have all the empty space. I just needed to space for my things and me and I showed him my laptop bag and my 2 books. It really wasn’t that much.

He started saying something to the extent of what stuff, again I showed him my things, it wasn’t so much, and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Then he mumbled something in German, which HA I lived in Germany bro, I kind of understand. In German he said to one of the ladies next to him that I needed space for all my stuff and that my one person would take the entire bench. I interjected and said the space next to me is open. That is enough for one person. Then he said, in perfect English, “You’re Crazy!” I was blown away. I don’t know you sir; therefore there is no way for you to evaluate my mental status. I quickly replied with, “you don’t have to call names.” He rolled his eyes at me and went to a nearby waiter to complain. She approached me and asked if I had ordered, I said I needed a menu. At this point I didn’t realize the man had complained. To be honest I was still fairly confused as to why he was so upset. People share tables here all the time.

The waitress told me that they wanted to sit at this table and I told her they could. I also told her I thought maybe there was a misunderstanding. I told her that they could sit in every seat at the table except for the one I was in. She said that they thought it would be too crowded. I then said, “but I was here first?” She smiled handed me a menu and went off to deliver the message. Those four people could easily have fit at this table, what was the big deal about? After the commotion two ladies approached me to sit at the table and they didn’t have a problem fitting, and there is still a lot of space. And really, name-calling? Really?

It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if later a man, foreign looking, hadn’t walked by and given me a look of death. I guess the German man complained to him and he graciously gave up his table. Yeah because he was done, and he was using one table for himself, it’s like don’t give me a dirty look; you don’t even know what happened. Nothing even happened!!

To be honest I am still completely confused about the whole situation. It wasn’t like they were gigantic people who needed a lot of space. And it’s not like I could eves drop on their conversation. I just don’t get it.

Whatever. Happy New Year!!

By Elena Garcia

Garrett and I had to get our visa application into the passport office before our current visa’s expired. Which meant we had to go today. Since neither, Garrett or I speak Chinese well enough (or at all) to do this task on our own, Garrett’s company provided us with an interpreter of sorts. Chris is a girl who works with Garrett and speaks decent English.

Garrett called me at 11 to let me know the plan: that we would meet there; that he had emailed me directions to the passport office and that we were meeting there at 2. Garrett would be going there from work, so we would meet at the main entrance. This meant I would have to figure this out on my own. Last time I tried figuring out where to go on my own, I ended up in a not-so-fun taxi ride.

I was a little nervous.

This is what I knew: I had to take Line 1 to People’s Square, transfer to Line 2 and get off at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum exit, which was 3 exits after Lujiazui. From that station I would take Exit 3 and the address, which is 1500 Minsheng Road. Garrett also informed me that the Passport Agency is called “Shanghai Entry/Exit Bureau.”

Not so bad. I had a lot of info, and knowledge is power so I figured I would be fine.

About fifteen past one I headed out to the metro. I got my ticket, missed the first train but caught the second, got off at People’s Square, headed to line 2, missed that train as well but caught the second one. Not so bad.

I shared the platform with a group on young teenage girls who giggled and gossiped in a language I didn’t understand. Chinese. I sat starred blankly at the empty tracks and drowned the out to the thoughts of my head. “I wonder how long the next train would be? Will my beanie make my hair flat? Is my hair already flat? I am going to take off my beanie.” Until I heard “… Meiguo…” That’s American in Chinese. Garrett taught me that so we could figure out when street vendors were trying to swindle us because we were foreigners. I quickly turned my head to the group of teenagers who were all looking at me, smirking. They quickly turned their heads when they saw my reaction. They were talking about me! While I was right there! That’s pretty bold of them. I mean I could speak Chinese, how do they know. I mean I know nothing now but I know enough to know they were talking about me. At that moment in my mind the following scenario played out…

I turn when I hear them talking about me walk up to them and in PERFECT Chinese I tell them off. I tell them that it is rude to talk about people (in not so nice terms). They look at me in shock and awe. They apologize profusely, the train comes, I glide on via the clear path made for me by the herds of people and watch the wind of the train taking off leave them behind, alone on the abandoned platform.

In reality I gave them a look, rolled my eyes and continued to wait for the train. But boy do I need to learn Chinese.

While I was on the train heading to my final destination I decided to lean up against the railing since there were no seats available. Now this railing was connected to a bench where people could sit. It obviously wasn’t meant for them because it was connected to the wall at the very end of the bench, which is about 2 feet taller then any comfortable armrest would be. It was meant for the few unfortunate people who did not get seats and needed to keep balance. Well no one told the guy sitting at the end of the bench this, because as he dozed in and out of sleep, his head wobbled, up, down, side to side. Until, of course, it rested comfortably on my arm that was holding onto the rail for support. As the weight of his head hit my arm, I realized he was not doing this to be rude but because he was asleep. My arm had become his pillow, the warmth of the crowd his blanket, and the cushion of his jacket his mattress. What should I have done, move my arm, wake him? My stop was still a bit away. I needed something to hold onto. I could of let him lay there but that’s so gross, I didn’t know this guy. I needed a plan. I needed to move my arm and act like I didn’t realize he was even laying on it. I needed to be slick, polished and completely emotionless. So, quickly I moved my arm to the back of the handle and watched his head make a clunk sound as it hit the metal bar. That woke him up, no doubt. He perked up looked up over at me. I stood there emotionless, staring blankly at the wall in front of me, as if I hadn’t noticed a thing.

Inside I felt bad but also an uncontrollable desire to laugh. The guy fell asleep and hit his head. The desire grew stronger the longer he looked at me. His 3-second glance felt like days. I wanted so badly to just laugh, crack a smile and chuckle. The eternity that was his glance finally ended when his embarrassment got the best of him. He turned his head to look around to see if anyone had seen his head clunk. Finally, when it was safe, I cracked a smirk and silently giggled. Ah.

Finally we made it to my stop, realizing the time (5 past two) I hurried through the crowd to exit 3. As I made it out the main gates I realized I could go two ways. Crap. Once you actually exited through exit 3 you could go left or right. I had no idea. I looked at a map; it was all in Chinese characters, which I for sure could read. Not even the street name would help me with this. I looked left, the road looked sad and I could see a clear path to the next intersection. I looked right, and there seemed to be more people (who am I kidding the whole place was crowded) and I could see the next intersection. So I headed right. I figured if the next intersection didn’t give me a street name I could read, I would turn around and go the other way. So in the mist of rain I headed towards an intersection. Because of the rain, I had worn my ultra comfortable teal knee length pleather rain boots. They’re easy to wear, the bold color makes them noticeable even on gray days and they grip the floor so that I don’t fall and break my head open.

As I walked I noticed a lot of foreigners, this was a good sign. More confident I headed closure and closure to the intersection. Until I got there and realized that neither street was the street I was suppose to be on. Crap. The green light for pedestrians had turned and since I wasn’t sure where I was going, I figured I would just cross, since the light had turned and they normally take forever.

That was a GREAT move on my part because as I crossed, I noticed a sign which was previously covered by a tree, which read “Shanghai Entry/Exit Bureau straight.” Perfect. So I walked straight. The weather was awful. It was the kind of rain where you couldn’t justify an umbrella because it wasn’t actually raining but it also wasn’t dry. It was as if a cloud of mist was following you around. It was ::sarcasm:: perfect hair weather.

My hair was for sure flat.

Garrett called as I approached the building I thought was the Shanghai Entry/Exit Bureau and let me know that they were still five minutes away. At least I wasn’t late.

I asked the guard, with a pleading look, “Passport?” He pointed to the giant building in front of me and said “this way.” So I walked through the courtyard to giant rotating doors. When I made it in, I wiped the winded look off my face and headed to the closest bathroom. I bypassed the line, straight to the mirror, where I took my beanie off and noticed the pancake that sat on top of my head.

I don’t understand how such a cute beanie can make a travesty out of my hair. It’s a thick black beanie with black sequins all over it that glitters when it hit the light. Fashionably functional, I like to call it, except for the natural disaster that it leaves behind when I take it off. There in the bathroom, I stood in front of the mirror, trying to put life back into my mane. Under my beanie I wore a thin back headband with a bow. The bow was just big enough that it popped out a little, but just barely noticeable. Not too over zealous, and it easily fit under by beanie with out creating any odd lumps.

With my fingers I did the best I could to brush all the tangles out, I put my headband back on, adjusted my scarf and decided whether or not to leave my jacket on. I was still cold from being outside but often it gets too warm inside. I could leave it on, but I run the risk of getting hot, taking it off and not being properly adjusted. Since I was wearing so many layers, it would be easy for me to get something tucked or bunched that wasn’t supposed to be. Since I was still cold, and I had worn my black leather bomber jacket (which isn’t super warm) I decided to risk it and leave it on. I adjusted my scarf one last time for good measure, pulled out the three layered pearl strand necklace so that it peeked out from under the scarf and headed out.

I stood by the door until Garrett and Chris arrived. From there we headed to the third floor, to wait. For about an hour we waited for our number to be called. When we arrived they were at number 405, we were 458. Awesome.

Garrett and I used this time to interrogate Chris on Chinese words and phrases. I asked her how to say Manicure (zhi jia you), expensive (pronounced, tie gue), and cheaper (pronounced, pien y y tien). We must have looked like fools, but we didn’t care, we asked away. Chris let me know that when I went and got a manicure for 100rmb I over paid by about 70rmb. I paid more then 3 times the going rate. Awesome. She told me that manicures are usually 30rmb, when I told her how much I paid, her jaw dropped. I felt like an idiot. Next time though!!

Finally our number was called and Chris rattled some info to the guy. He took our forms, pressed some buttons and we were done. Don’t know what they said or did but it wasn’t more then 5 minutes until he was calling the next person. We have to go back in a week to pick up our visas and until then they keep our passports. So hopefully, we don’t need them in that week.

By Elena Garcia

Since the holidays are practically over, the stores and malls have changed their soundtracks. Now when you enter your local shopping establishment you’ll hear a wide selection of your country favorites, mixed in of course with Chinese pop songs I don’t understand.

Maybe country music is big here…

Maybe they think this music will attract foreigners…

Maybe I shop in the wrong stores…

Nonetheless the tunes of Nashville are loud and clear here in China. Awesome.

By Elena Garcia

I’ve uploaded new photos. Just click on the photo link to the left… I’m constantly uploading so keep on checking!!

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By Elena Garcia

Cookies My favorite thing in the world is…baking those pre-cut sugar cookie cubes from Pillsbury. You know the ones that require nothing but a cookie sheet and a half functioning oven. They’re perfect for those of us who are not kitchen inclined. Usually before I put them in the oven, I coat them with multi colored sprinkles, by doing this I not only guarantee who ever eats them diabetes but also I guarantee them embedded taste particles. You see when the cookies bake, they expand and the sprinkles sink into the cookie, it’s perfection. So, I let them have their needed 12 minutes in the oven, I let them fill the air with the sweet smell of deliciousness and I let them cool the recommended one minute. Then I pile them on a plate and make magnificent artwork out of my cookie canvas. Once I drew a picture of Garrett on one. Now he can say he’s eaten himself!! Ha. I’ve drawn Frankie, and sunsets- all sorts of exciting things.

Well to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t my favorite thing to do until I moved to China and realized I couldn’t do it!! I guess Chinese apartments don’t necessarily come equipped with ovens. So baking is out of the question. Which now means I have no outlet for my edible creative expressions. Unless I plan on eating my computer (which I don’t).

You don’t realize the things you’ll miss until you miss them. And I miss decorated cookies!! Well I did miss them!! Today Garrett and I went to a bakery after we went to the Passport office. There they had a case of decorated sugar cookies, just waiting to be devoured by me. Don’t get me wrong, they are not the same as my magnificent pieces of art but they’ll do.

Garrett and I got a one eyed bear, a tropical fish, a heart that says love and, a car with only one window. They were good too! Yummy cookies.

But I am still not sure what they don’t have ovens here… I am pretty sure none of the apartments we looked at came with ovens. To be honest, I didn’t even look. But I am pretty sure none of them came with ovens. I don’t remember.

Party Shoes.

December 26, 2008

By Elena Garcia

Christmas dinner started at about 4, when Garrett and I started getting ready. I wasn’t sure what the attire would be like, and I didn’t want to be under dressed or over dressed. Since Garrett got me this amazing faux fur hooded jacket for Christmas I for sure wanted to wear that, but with what? I decided on a simple Armani Exchange black dress that I bought about a year ago but never got to wear. It has a high wasted pencil skirt bottom and beaded chiffon upper that is loose and falls over my shoulders. It’s simple but elegant enough to not make me look not homeless. I paired it with thick opaque black stockings and my black velvet Prada pumps.

This was the first time I’ve worn heels since we moved here. I have been a little scared to stand in my old shoes. The floors here are so slippery and unfamiliar. But putting them on last night, again, made everything feel a little bit like home. Usually, in San Francisco, I could run marathons in my heals, hike mountains, and since I’m so short, they made me the perfect height. Since I’ve moved here I haven’t really had the chance to storm around town in my heels and feel the power that comes when you’re those few inches taller. Last night was great because I felt like my old self. Frolicking around town in my fancy foot wear. The strength that comes with a pair of heals is unmistakable, you become a different person with different abilities. And for the adventure that was Christmas dinner, heels were just what I needed.

We left our apartment and made our way to the metro. After some typical pushing and shoving we made it to our destination. At night Shanghai is lit up with lights, lights from the buildings, sky scrapers, and signs. As we came up the escalators we saw the dark night sky lit up with the artificial lights of the city. The first thing you could see was the outline of the Bund just blocks away from the Pearl Tower and then the massive mall, the restaurant we were eating at was on the fifth floor. I was so amazed at how many people were shopping and all the stores were open, it was Christmas day at 6:00 pm. As we headed through the mall and up the escalators to the fifth floor I felt the sudden pinch of high heels. I had forgotten what it felt like, the pain of a great pair of 4 inch heels. Usually I wouldn’t feel the pain so suddenly but I’ve been out of commission for a while. I was glad to reach our destination. Garrett’s co-worker greeted us and led us into the restaurant where we were escorted to the back into a hallway and through the door to a private room. A huge circular table sat in the middle of the room, most of the seats were filled with family and friends of Allen, the host of the event and the man who invited Garrett and I. There was 3 or 4 hostess that took our coats and led us to our seats. Everyone was lovely and nice, many didn’t speak English but the few that did tried their best to entertain us. The food was entertainment enough. Duck with beak, fish with eyes, jelly fish and pork (that according to Allen was so fresh because it was alive that morning) all circled around on the giant lazy Susan that sat in the middle of the table. I decided to avoid the meat dishes.

They did provide us with King Pao chicken, and chow mien noodles. Those were great! By the end of the night a lot of people were drunk and a lot of stories were being told. It was interesting to hear about what they thought of American culture compared to theirs. Allen told us of how in China people don’t want frozen food because it meant that it wasn’t fresh and Chinese people are very particular about eating fresh food. He also told us that during the holiday’s grand children will toast with their grandparents for good luck. And that until about 10 years ago Chinese people didn’t celebrate Christmas the way they do now, more westernized.

It was interesting.

The room had this amazing view of the Bund. We could see the skyline back lit by spot lights and city lights. Giant yachts sailing across, filled with merry travelers lighted up the river. It was beautiful, like the Disneyland Electric Light Show Parade. The very scene made it feel like Christmas. It was magnificent.

After dinner, which ended fairly abruptly, we walked through the still crowded mall and back home. I was starving, so Garrett and I stopped at a local bakery and picked up some pastries before we headed up to our building.

This Christmas was so different then any other. It almost feels like it hasn’t happened yet.

Bling Bling Christmas

December 25, 2008

By Elena Garcia

Yupp it’s 2002 all over again!! A local mall decided to bring it back when they made their 2008 holiday ad campaign read “Bling Bling Christmas.” It’s everywhere at our local Metro City mall.

Our neighborhood is great, there are 4 malls at an intersection like 3 blocks from our house. Their is Metro City, Orient Center Shopping Mall, Grande Gateway (my personal favorite), and then the Giant Best Buy and Boutiques. The Grande Gateway is the best because it’s probably the biggest mall I’ve ever been too. It’s bigger then Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico, which is massive. It has all the western stores I love; anna sui, marc by marc jacobs, see by chloe and all these new stores, which I will grow to love. It also has this huge Costa Coffee, which I’ve visited enough times so that the waitresses now know me.

This Christmas has been very interesting, to say the least. When we first moved into our apartment, I bought a small Charlie Brown Christmas tree, You know the kind; 3 feet tall, sits on your table top, and is basically bald. Garrett and I did the best we could with getting ornaments and lights but it was still scarce. Nevertheless with our Charlie Brown tree we ventured into this Shanghai Christmas. The city did it’s best to put up lights, trees, fake snow, and millions of signs that said Merry Christmas but there was definitely something missing/different about Christmas here. Every store you walked into, no matter where in Shanghai had the same Holiday CD echoing throughout. “Mamacita, donde esta Santa Clause, I look for him because it’s Christmas eve…” Gotta love it.

Usually at home, the family comes over on Christmas eve and we stay up late to open Presents at midnight, we eat way too much food and go to sleep. This year Garrett worked Christmas eve and didn’t get home until about 7, I ran around town trying to find the groceries on my holiday shopping list. Garrett and I wanted to do our best to create Christmas dinner here in Shanghai. I had no luck. I did get frozen chicken, potatoes, rolls and frozen corn. So like the good little housewife I’ve become (ha ha ha just kidding, this was Garrett’s once in a lifetime cooked meal from me) I made pasta with pesto sauce and chicken. I boiled some potatoes, heated up the corn and buttered the bread… all in all it was a descent meal. I didn’t give us food poising (yet). The night ended after about 5 hours of watching the DVD set Garrett got of Lost. Lost is an AMAZING show btw.

In Shanghai, nothing is closed on Christmas day, nothing. The malls, stores, restaurants, everything is open from 9 in the morning until 11 at night. But Garrett and I thought it best to follow the American tradition we like best about Christmas, doing nothing all day. We would have spent some time going to the movies but we have yet to discover an English language theatre. So in the morning we exchanged presents and continued to watch endless of hours of Lost. Garrett pointed out how their situation is similar to ours. Not that we are stuck on an Island playing survivor by any means. But they’re exploring this unknown world just like us.

After our Lost marathon we got ready for dinner… Christmas dinner was an experience. We were invited to dinner with Allen, a Chinese businessman who lives in the bay area and works with Garrett. It was an amazing experience, not like any other Christmas dinner I’ve had before. But I’ll leave that story for another day.


December 22, 2008

By Elena Garcia

cimg0132_There is something so incredibly frustrating about those girls, who look so put together, so chic and stylish but just messy enough so it seems that they didn’t try. Like they rolled out of bed and everything in their closet is just so amazing that they can layer it on and pose on the next cover of Nylon. Their perfectly wavy hair just flows into place. They manage to throw on some moisturizer and brush their teeth and off they go into the world looking like the it girl of the season. Meanwhile I spend 2 hours getting ready to look like a knock off Coach bag.

I saw one of those girls in the metro yesterday. I took her picture because I was just so blown away by her perfect Sunday style.

Sunday style is so hard. Sunday’s are supposed to be lazy and relaxed. You run errands, lounge around the house and grab coffee on Sundays. So your fashion has to reflect that. You have to be relaxed, efficient, and classic. I can never manage that combination, or when I finally do, it’s not Sunday. Well the girl in the metro did it. AMAZINGLY she did it.

Her long button up flannel shirt fell onto of her skinny jeans. She left the sleeves unbuttoned, creating a messy look that suited the shirt and the rest of her outfit. The sleeves, because they were unbuttoned, were long enough for her to grab them in the palm of her hand. It looked like she stole her boyfriend’s shirt. Big enough to be masculine, but fitted enough to look feminine. Over the shirt she wore a puffy vest, which I am usually totally against on girls but because of the weather I completely understand. It also happens that the combination of this plaid shirt and this vest were a great combination. Her perfectly carefree wavy hair trickled down her back. They complemented each other, they were just boho enough. Then she ended it with these great knee length moccasin boots. So perfect, casual, boho-hippie, so absolutely careless. I need to buy myself a flannel button up.

There is definitely something unique about Shanghai fashion, they have so much courage to wear what is somewhat questionable. It’s very inspiring.

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By Elena Garcia

I have that Beetles song stuck in my head….

It kinda reminds me of the subway. There is something really lonely about the metro. Don’t get me wrong, there are maybe a million people on any given train but it’s still filled with an air of loneliness. The hard cold white plastic benches are filled with people. Some staring blankly at the crowd, the tired crowd who looks down on them with jealousy because their tired feet have to dance around in hopes of finding balance when the train comes to a stop and the rush of their tired hands as they grab a hold of the cold greasy metal bars. Some of the seated drift in out of sleep, tired from working, walking, shopping around town. The few in pairs, who sit next to each other, talk publicly into the space in front of them.

The operator comes on the speaker, announcing the next stop and the panic begins. People move, push, hurd their way to the doors, many people already there. They never moved when they got on the train, maybe in anticipation of this very moment.

Then the flood gates open, and like bulls in a pin they push, shove, do whatever they can to get out and a new crowd does the same to get into the train. They fill the empty spots created by the mass that exited and the cycle begins again. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand what the few people talking are saying or because the sound of the train tracks drowns out any voices but the train seems lonely. No body wants to be there, they’re in the middle, they just left or they haven’t arrived.

I guess I just never realized how lonely, such a crowded place could be.

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