The Mother Ship

January 27, 2009

By Elena Garcia

City Shop

City Shop

Just when I thought I would never enjoy a Lean Cuisine or some salt and vinegar potato chips again… it all changed.

Garrett and I were enjoying a day out and about, exploring a new area fairly close to our neighborhood. We had a purpose. We were looking for a California Pizza Kitchen I had seen an ad for. I was juiced to have the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of home, like the melted barbeque goodness that is my favorite pizza. I could taste the morsels as we searched for the yellow awning.

But, needless to say, we got lost and were going in every direction but the right one. Hungry, frustrated, cold and anxious Garrett and I continued our trek.

Then, when things were getting just a little too cold we found an escalator going down to what was called City Shop. I assumed it was another mall with useless knick-knacks meant for tourist and foreigners, Garrett and I headed down to look around and get some shelter from the blistering cold. (And by blistering I mean 30 degrees, which is freezing to me!!) As the escalator brought us down and the glass doors slid open I realized I had died. The hypothermia had gotten to me and I must have died looking for CPK. What I was seeing couldn’t be real. I was dead and I made it to Heaven.

City Shop is where white people come to eat. City Shop if where dreams come true. City Shop is my new favorite place on earth. Pop Tarts, Cool Whip, how about Ben and Jerry’s? Whatever you desire can be yours! This week’s People Magazine? I nearly wet myself with excitement. THEY EVEN HAD CAKE MIX!! (I still don’t have an oven, but one step at a time.) Ohh and silly rabbit these Trixs aren’t made for Chinese speakers. The boxes, the labels, the nutrition facts… EVERYTHING IS IN ENGLISH!! Not a character in sight. Everything was there, Capri Sun, Haribo, Captain and his Crunch!! I wasn’t sure what to do.

Heaven does have a price; at City Shop Heaven you have to give them your right leg for your can of Lysol disinfectant. Never thought you would pay $10 bucks for some Eggos? Move to China, I’m sure that’ll change. At these prices, it’s definitely Lego my Eggo. But I guess they cater to the home sick and the hungry, who often are willing to pay more for the things that bring them home.

If 20 bucks is what it will cost me for a box of Mac and Cheese… well then… maybe 20 bucks is what I’ll pay. God I love Mac and Cheese

City Supermarket: 1376 Nanjing Xi Rd (in the Ritz-Carlton) (Large Expatriate grocery store close to the Westin)


By Elena Garcia

Fake Mall

Fake Mall

So Garrett and I did it. We went to the mall where Prada and Luis Vuitton go to die. Yatai Xinyang Fashion and Gift Market is located inside the subway station at the Science and Technology Museum stop.

Everything is fake, cheap and everyone speaks English! Whatever it takes to make a buck right?

There through the dirty store front windows are all the bags that clutter the pages of Vogue, Harpers Bizarre, and Vanity Fair. But those masterpieces now look like sad pieces of fabric, wrapped in plastic, squeezed onto a shelf with millions of others. I had been to one of these malls before in Shenzhen but I had forgotten how depressing it was.

I guess presentation is everything because Dior looks amazing when it’s on the shiny, well-lit tables of Bloomingdales. Now, they just look like the bags at the grocery store.

And frankly they aren’t that cheap. Yes a real one could cost you $2,000 but paying $100 bucks for a fake seems fairly over priced. I mean I could rent the same bag for a month at that price from Bag Borrow or Steal and have it be real! Genuine! True I would only have it for a month but a fake one would probably fall apart in that time anyway.

It doesn’t help that the mall is so dingy either. The floors, the walls, the lighting, it looks like a dirty flea market. And I refuse to spend $100 bucks at a dirty flea market. I refuse! The fluorescent lights blind you as you try to make your way through the massive compound, the smell of cold wet towels lingers and the voices of the sales people chants throughout…

“Just looking, pants.”
“You need watch?”
“DVD…. DVD…”
“Prada, Chanel…”


I do love how they chase you with “just looking” as they show you things and follow you around. It’s like they’ve taken what they’ve heard and turned it into a sales tactic. Given better circumstances, I am sure these people could rule the world.

OHHH and the most exhausting part of this whole experience… it’s not that the place is huge (which it is) or that I spent about 15 minutes going up and down the same two aisles, passing the same purse store about 50 times because I got completely lost and couldn’t find the exit. (Which, by the way, happens to be the number of times you should walk by a store in order to get them to leave you alone. By the 50th time they don’t even bother with you anymore.)

The most exhausting thing about shopping at malls like these is the negotiations. Don’t get me wrong… it’s fun but after a while you crave an actual price. Not the “special price,” the “friendly price,” “best price,” or “final price.” JUST GIVE ME THE CHEAPEST POSSIBLE PRICE where I get a good deal and you still make a profit. I don’t have time to be playing these games. I thought I was done with games once Garrett and I got together. Turns out my desire for designer bags made that un-so.

I have decided that instead of spending my money at these things I am going to save it and buy a REAL Jimmy Choo bag… because Jimmy I Choo-se you!! =D

Then again, here in China you could be carrying a one of a kind YSL clutch and everyone would assume it was fake. Why? Because why would anyone spend $2000 on a purse they can get for $100 bucks? (Personally I think the feel, weight, and smell of the bag are reason enough and they bring a certain confidence to their owner. But I also have an addiction to fashion that teeters on being a problem.) At the end of the day a bag is a bag, and you can find great ones at H&M and thrift stores. People want designer bags because they’re designer and that says something about the person carrying it. I have Prada = I am successful and fashionable. If someone is going to buy designer and pay for it, they want the world to know. Otherwise, they would be glad to carry their H&M bag just like an Hermes bag.

But think about it, most girls who go out and spend a month’s rent on their very own Louis Vuitton monogram purse do it so that the world knows they own an LV bag. If they did it because they TRULY loved the bag they wouldn’t need it to say LV all over it. So if appearance is what it’s all about, why not just go fake?

Don’t get me wrong there are girls who just LOVE bags and who JUST want beautiful things. But these girls have no problem frolicking around town in their H&M bag and they don’t shop at Fake Malls. There is a reason why these places don’t have aisles and aisles of fake Oscar De La Renta dresses (which don’t advertise the brand), and why 90% of the bags they sell have the brand pasted everywhere on them.

The sales that are made at a Louis Vuitton Store, or at a fake mall are probably made for the same reason… they want someone thinking they are successful and fashionable. And if having a logo will make you feel those things then I say go fake. Take the money you save and laugh all the way to the bank.

Just saying.

ALERT: Fashion Trend

January 25, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Animal Head Beanie

Animal Head Beanie

I am announcung this now so that when it hits the pages of Vogue, you’ll know I discovered it during my adventures in Shanghai.

It’s cold here! So it’s no surprise that this fashion trend has to do with massive animal heads as beanies. No joke! You thought the animals at Disneyland had all the fun… not so my friends. Here in Shanghai for a merely 30 RMB you too can be your favorite rodent. Baby-pink fury mouse? How about a fury leopard print rabbit?

Just don’t wear your new furry beanie head in the rain.

Job Interviews

January 22, 2009

By Elena Garcia

I went on TWO, that’s right; count them TWO job interviews last week. One on Thursday and one on Friday.



The position is basically an English Tutor for College students. It’s this guy who just has too many students and he needs help. But the job is not what I need to tell you about. I need to tell you about the guy who interviewed me. His name… for the sake of the story… is Larry and he is a TOTAL white guy from Boston. He’s lived in Shanghai for 3 years and he is freaking AMAZING. Why?

Well he is not your everyday white guy, he is absolutely, 100%, no joking fluent in Chinese. Like what’s up I speak Chinese, so don’t talk smack.

No freakin joke!!! Like he speaks it, reads it, writes it, types it, and thinks it. I nearly fell off my chair. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. He basically moved to Asia after high school. First he traveled to Taiwan for a year, to see the world after high school. After his year abroad he went back home and did one year of college there. He didn’t like it and missed the appeal of Asia… I mean how couldn’t you. People shoving, spitting, yelling… it’s so desirable. Now Shanghai is his home. So, he took the Chinese SAT’s, applied to Fudong University and now he majors in Chinese Literature!! And he isn’t an exchange student taking classes in English. Nope, he is right in there, up in the mix with everyone taking classes in Chinese, writing papers in Chinese, participating in Chinese and LOVING life in Chinese. Basically he’s Chinese.

Even writing it now I am so amazed at this. How could anyone… just amazing. I don’t even remember what I was talking about.

Dude was whiter then Ashton Kutcher but he spoke Chinese like Jackie Chan. Blonde hair, blue eyes… WHITE. And his Chinese was perfect.

He even Instant Messaged and texted in Chinese. Someone please tell me how this is possible. So amazing. He’s obviously going to be a millionaire one day.


I really like this job!! It’s with an Expat Community Center here in Shanghai. I would be a Coordinator. The pay is … well its something. But it would expose me to a variety of Expats, activities, and well the lady who interviewed me was just delightful. She loved Diet Coke, she’s from the Bay Area and she laughed at my jokes. She totally got me. If this had been a date I would have been smitten with her.

But they are looking for someone who has been in Shanghai longer, so they can help other Expats cope with being in Shanghai. Boo!

She said she would contact me later this week… but she also mentioned she’s had like 5 million applicants from everywhere, I guess the economy is that bad. She was upfront about liking me and she said that except for that one thing I was great! She would have to interview more candidates but that she would definitely be in touch.

Maybe I should send her some Diet Coke… as a bribe?

By Elena Garcia

at American Apparel

at American Apparel

That’s right they have one and it’s just like home.

After 2 days, many metro rides, walks through VERY residential areas (meaning NO foreigners but us) and some broken Chinese conversations, Garrett and I found American Apparel in Shanghai.

And they might as well have picked up a store from home and moved it here cause they are identical.

From the fluorescent tights to the blinding white walls and the shiny white mannequins… everything was the same. Even the price tags and signs were the same… everything was like home, well except the prices.

My favorite deep v tee is about 20 bucks at home (which is already expensive). Here in Shanghai, it’s $45.00!! Just like my mascara!! Outrages.

In an attempt to try to justify these prices for them I came up with a variety of reasons:

1. All the clothes are made in LA and then shipped to China. (They are very proud of their Made in America-ness, as you can see throughout signage in the store.)
2. All the employees are paid US wages. (Maybe I should apply?)
3. Shipping costs?

I will say they have to be saving money on rent. They are located in the middle of nowhere right next to the Bermuda triangle and Santa’s workshop. It took Garrett and I two days to find them. And after we did some perusing, we tried to find a place to eat and happened to find… NOTHING.

They are in Shanghai’s 1933 Building which I guess is going to be a hot spot for art and creative-ness but from what I gathered that Sunday morning… its not a hot spot yet. It’s not even luke warm. I might have totally missed everything else… because they’re invisible.

Nevertheless I will give them their respect for bringing their movement to Shanghai. American Apparel is active in a movement they’ve coined “Legalize LA” which focuses on the rights of immigrants who often hold jobs in the garment industries in the US.

Clothes with a cause.

And a price tag… I guess wanting to make a difference via your t-shirt costs you 45 bucks here in Shanghai. Ce la vie.

Since Garrett and I worked so hard to find this place… I wanted to share the route with you…

Take line 4 to Hailun Rd and basically walk… a lot until you see two stone buildings that say 1933. I would bring a map.

1933 Building

1933 Building

Here’s the address

Shanghai 1933 Building
Unit 1-103
No. 10 Sha Jing Road 1933
200080 Hong Kou District, Shanghai

Tel. +86 (0) 21 6563 8907

Store Hours:
Mon – Sun 11am – 9pm

By Elena Garcia

Haircut cartoonNo I didn’t just take off a pair of over priced shoes. I actually just went and got my first Chinese haircut. That’s right this American girl just had her first Chinese Salon experience. Well kinda.

Garrett and I came across a Vidal Sassoon Academy on our way to dinner one night. And since I was desperate for a haircut I ran in and made an appointment. I figured, I’ve seen Vidal Sassoon at Target, they have a salon in San Francisco and when I walked in the receptionist spoke English. I figured all these things meant that they wouldn’t shave my head and give me a Britney moment.

Everyone there spoke English, even Greg my new hair cutter. Greg has lived in Shanghai for two years and before that he lived in LA for like 15 but he’s from Vietnam (I think). Nevertheless he speaks like 40 languages and gives one hell of a haircut.

So for the first time since I was… like 12 (except for that disastrous cute when I turned 21, thanks to a student and a stupid decision) I have shoulder length hair. I like it and my hair looks very healthy, especially because I do way too much to destroy it every morning. But I am definitely not a short hair person. It’s not my style.

I feel like my new shorter hair makes me look too mature, older. And I really don’t need anyone thinking I’m mature or older.

So my Chinese haircut left me 4 inches shorter, $100 dollars poorer (that’s right, they know exactly who’s coming into Vidal Sassoon and they have no problem exploiting that), and a little happier.

I must say, getting the chance to gossip with someone who was from California and who spoke English, while getting all made up… well that’s never bad.

And Greg was great! Just what a San Francisco Girl needed (if you know what I mean and if you don’t ask someone).

Britney Hair Cartoon

By Elena Garcia

I know they don’t mean to and that it isn’t on purpose. But some people can say some incredibly rude things.

It’s all because of the language barrier that we face here. And it’s basically our fault for not speaking their language and relying on their English, which tends to be incredibly direct and broken.

Here are some examples…

While making a hair appointment the receptionist who was scheduling it said, “ Okay, we will see you tomorrow. On time. Goodbye.”

Today while eating dinner with Garrett the waiter said, “Please wait awhile.” He said this after Garrett and I ordered our food.

Now I imagine if someone said this to a customer at home that the response wouldn’t be so friendly. Here though, I’m just grateful that they speak enough English to help us!!

So, yes I will arrive on time and no I have no problem waiting. Thanks appreciate it!!

Ring The Alarm!!!

January 14, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Shanghai has returned to 1982!!!

I love the 80′s but this is too much. I have seen my fourth mullet in 3 days and these mullets aren’t meant for kids. These are hard-core; make Joe Dirt jealous, I don’t need a helmet mullets.

One of these mullets belonged to a lady on the subway who looked to be in her 40s. I was almost in awe at how perfectly robust, smooth and in place this mullet was. So effortless even in the chaos that is the subway, it didn’t budge.

And this wasn’t an accident. It was apparent she had spent time, energy and a bottle of Aqua Net to make this look happen. I wish I could of taken a photo, I am fairly sure I will never see a hair do like this again. (Let’s hope.)

She would make the Lion King jealous.

By Elena Garcia

Tony Robbins and Jack Black in Shallow Hal

Tony Robbins and Jack Black in Shallow Hal

Yesterday… was probably an 8 1/2 out of 10 on the strange day scale.

Desperately needing a $5.00 manicure I headed down the block to my local nail salon. On my way there I noticed an unusual amount of people out. The streets are normally crowded but today was an exceptional day. As I fought my way through the crowd I couldn’t help but notice that every other person was carrying a glossy yellow shopping bag.

Was there a sale I wasn’t aware of? (Not like I am ever aware of any sales.) Was there a free giveaway?

As I looked closer, I noticed that the bag had a giant image of a face. As I looked even closer it dawned on me that I recognized that face. It was my favorite (and your favorite) motivational speaker and Shallow Hal guest star… Tony Robbins.


What was he doing on a glossy yellow shopping bag surrounded by Chinese text? Beyond me.

But I’m sure if you believe and reach your potential you will be able to figure it out and fall in love with Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit.

By Elena Garcia

cheddar cheeseTo be or not to be? That is the question?

No. The question is, what is cheddar cheese?

I ask because either I don’t know or the Chinese people don’t. I know it exists. I know it exists here. In fact, on several successful shopping trips I have picked up some sharp and medium cheddar and it’s been delicious. So then I ask why is it that every time I order something with cheddar cheese does it come with a different kind of cheese? Right now for example, I am at the Coffee Bean enjoying what I thought was going to be a turkey and cheddar sandwich, instead I got turkey and provolone. Yesterday, feeling a little rebellious I ordered a cheeseburger with cheddar cheese. It came with swiss. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate all kinds of cheese but when you’re expecting one thing and you get another… it’s sad. It’s like getting into Harvard but not getting a dorm.

And yes I think cheese is just as relevant as Harvard.

Why advertise cheddar? Why be so specific? And then lie? Why play with my emotions?

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