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Pay Day

February 28, 2009

By Elena Garcia

I had my first Chinese payday. And I’m not talking the delicious candy treat… no no my friends I’m talking that day in the month where someone gives you money because you showed up everyday.

Chinese paydays are VERY different from home. FIRST, you only get one every month. In the states, it’s usually twice. Having it twice a month made it easier for me to budget myself and not spend it all two days in. This new system is going to require some SEVERE self-control.

SECOND, it’s all in cash. I don’t have a Chinese bank account, and China doesn’t use checks. So when it was time to get paid I got a pile of money that was bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. (And no I don’t get paid that much. It’s just the biggest bill in China is a 100RMB note, which is about 15 dollars.)

THIRD, there is a crazy counter machine that counts your money before they put it into an envelope for you. They put the bills in and just count, like a drum roll. It goes through every bill. It’s a pretty cool machine; I’d like one for home.

Needless to say it was quite the fun subway ride home. I’ve never held onto anything that tightly in my LIFE. If someone blinked in my direction I began sketching their faces into my memory. I choreographed fight moves that I would use in the event that someone would try to sneak my money away.

At work a co-worker of mine was sharing stories about all these people who get pick pocketed. One story in particular was insane.

Outside of Ikea, on a rainy day, a lady was crossing the street with her son and no umbrella when a women approaches holding an umbrella and offering shelter from the storm. Instead of shelter however, all she brought was a dusty cloud of doom. You see it was a sting operation; this lady offered support and shelter while her partner approached from behind and tried to get into the women’s purse. The women didn’t notice because the lady stood close enough and bumped into her enough so that any movement made by the pick pocketer felt like it was the lady.

Basically don’t trust anyone, because if they pretend like they want to help you, they’re probably robbing you.

By Elena Garcia

Garrett’s mom sent us a care package with all the fixens. Beef jerky, chips, candy…. And MAC AND CHEESE!!! I love Mac and Cheese! I think it’s the best invention created by man. We don’t need fancy things or running water. We just need some Macaroni pasta, some cheese powder and a solid cardboard box with step-by-step directions in English! Thank you Kraft and thanks Garrett’s mom for sending us such magnificent pieces of salvation.

Today was amazingly eventful day, especially because I am sick and didn’t expect to do anything. After sleeping for about 13 hours (since I only have Nyquil, I seem to put myself to sleep a lot), I woke up feeling a little better and determined. I had made an appointment to get my hair highlighted earlier in the week, before I knew how sick I would be, I wrangled myself out of bed and pretended to care about how I looked, determined to make my appointment.

About 4 people (with blonde hair) had recommended a place to me in Pudong (which is one side of the river, I am on the other side, Puxi) so I determined it was worth the trip over to have a good-looking head of hair. Garrett was also in desperate need for a haircut, so he tagged along hoping they could squeeze him in. Once we got there he scheduled an appointment for later in the afternoon. (His hair cut would be the equivalent of about 20 dollars, which isn’t bad but Garrett found it outrages since he usually just cuts his own hair in the bathroom.) Sick, and congested we fought the rain and Garrett and I headed out to Pudong.

I had been warned by some of the recommenders that there were TWO places with similar names in the same shopping complex. One was 81 West Salon and the other was 88 Salon. One was cheap and great with blondes; the other was expensive and catered to Expats. Of course I got the names confused and ended up at the wrong place. I went to 81 West Salon and got a great high light from a guy who spoke no English. Don’t get me wrong they did a GREAT job but the other place would have been about 200 RMB cheaper. Figures. Nevertheless, I still paid way less then I would of at Vidal Sassoon or at most places in the States.

It wasn’t until after, when I was walking around with my new mane killing time until Garrett’s appointment that I came across Salon 88 and realized my mistake. It was then that Garrett and I approached the counter to inquire about their prices. Garrett discovered that he could get his haircut for 100% less at this place and that they could see him NOW. So he took refuge in the black and metal chair and got his her cut. AND BOY did they do a GREAT job! For about 50 RMB (like 8 dollars) he got the best haircut I have ever seen him have.  He looks HOT!! AMAZING.

After we cancelled his other appointment and took a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to have to kill another three hours waiting for it. We headed home looking like two well-groomed individuals.

By Elena Garcia

For the first time since moving to China, I am sick. My throat, my head, my nose are all functioning in the exact way I don’t want them to. For instance, my nose is running a marathon (but I have not trained for this marathon), my head is dancing to techno music (but I hate techno music) and my throat has invited all the cats from the neighborhood to take down the wallpaper (I am a dog person). All in all I feel not so hot.

Normally at home, I would call Kaiser or go to Walgreen’s and get the remedies de jour. But here I don’t have those luxuries what I do have are: about a half a dozen Cough-eeze cough drops we brought from home (I’ve already finished those), some Nyquil we brought from home (which does me no good during the day), tissues, water, some Chloraseptic we brought from home, and of course Garrett (who has turned into quite the handy butler during this time). My list of supplies isn’t bad but it isn’t enough. You see I feel a certain level of impending doom.

I wonder are my symptoms just signs of a severe sickness I contracted while adventuring through Shanghai? Or do I just have a cold and I am being ridiculous?

I’ve always heard about people here dying from Sars, the Bird Flu, or some other disease we westerners didn’t have to deal with before. I worry about my resistance to the above-mentioned diseases and any others that fill the air. (I will tell you right now; if I die because Big Bird gave me this cold I will not be a happy camper! What a way to go, just put on my tomb stone “Chicken Little killed me.”)

It’s probably nothing but I still worry. I mean I don’t know what the lady who gave me this was doing when she got sick… ohh that subway lady!! Curse her.

It all started on a typical commute home after a long day of work. In what I thought was a lucky moment I found a seat and plotted down to listen to my music and play some games on my phone. It was all quite nice until SHE stood in front of me. In her jealous rage she coughed and coughed and coughed. Did she cover her mouth, did she turn her head, did she even say excuse me? NO. She just coughed all over me as if I needed a germ shower.

Now some may say maybe I should have just gotten up and let her have the seat. But to those I say, you obviously don’t use Public Transit to get to and from work! Getting a seat is like finding a pair of black Prada pumps at the Rack in your size you don’t just give it up, EVER. And if for one second one would think that I would give that woman the satisfaction of taking my seat because she is rude. No!! What kind of lesson would I be showing her? That would only perpetuate this behavior! She would think that being disgusting, rude and inconsiderate would win her subway seats, and I will not allow for that!! No way!

I would rather be sick and know that she didn’t have the satisfaction!

But I don’t know if my protest was recognized. I do know that I am sick. And if it’s the bird flu I will not be happy.

Night at the Museum

February 18, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Dinosaur Exhibit at Shanghai's Natural HIstory MuseumA few weeks back during Chinese New Year, Garrett and I went to the Natural History Museum, here in Shanghai.

I wish I could say that we had a “Night at the Museum” and that Ben Stiller joined us on this magical adventure but this place was far from magical.

Don’t get me wrong, the things they have, in theory, are AMAZING. I saw dinosaurs, mummies and crazy insects that I had never seen.

But the place was falling apart. Paint was chipping, the floors were worn and the displays were tattered. For example, the stuffed animals (not like your teddy bear, btw) they had on display where decrepit and their fur was falling off. It was as if whatever they used to preserve the animals was no longer working and their decaying process was now in full effect. Dust gathered on their fur and skin. I almost felt bad for them.

Then there were the mummies. If you’ve ever had a nightmare where you where scared out of your mind; that disturbed you in ways you’ll never forget then you might not want to re live it by visiting this exhibit. They were so absolutely horrifying. And not just because they were scary looking mummies but also because they were just displayed so sadly. There bodies lay under bad lighting in dirty glass coffins, covered by torn pieces of cheap polyester fabric.

The topping on this cake was that from the looks of it the last time that place had a make over or a deep scrubbing was 1972. You couldn’t find that color orange on linoleum now a days, nor could you find that much dirt.

Admittedly the entrance fee is about 50 cents and the ticket fee for the movie “Night at the Museum” is about 10 bucks… you give and take. I wouldn’t expect it to be the MOMA. But somebody needs to fundraise for this place because it needs a make over BAD.

“Hi, What Not To Wear? I have the perfect candidate for you. She’s cheap, dirty and old!”

They did have an amazing Dinosaur display. I had never seen such a big creature much less its skeleton. Frankie would have wet himself to see such a big bone. I didn’t even reach the knees of the Wooly Mammoth. Aquatic Exhibit at Shanghai's Natural History Museum

By Elena Garcia

Iconic BlondesIf the above-mentioned statement is true, and blondes truly do have more fun, then WHERE IS ALL MY BLONDE HAIR DYE?

Having heard horror stories of bad blonde hair dyes at local salons and having seen the prices for such treatments I thought it best to destroy my own hair in the comfort of my own bathroom. I figured the following: 1. If anyone was going to destroy my hair it should me. 2. If my hair is going to get destroyed shouldn’t it at least cost me little or nothing at all?

So off I went to drugstore, after beauty store, after hair salon looking for some blonde hair dye. And what did I find?

Nothing.

I am in the world of brunettes, and thus all your favorite local stores have NOTHING for us (ME specifically) when it comes to touching up and going a different shade.

Don’t Chinese people get it? Blondes have more fun! GOOO Blondes!

Maybe just maybe, if I can recruit enough people here to go blonde, they very well might cause hair dye companies to bring in the shipments of my favorite bottle of Clairol! Demand and supply people!! DEMAND and someone will supply!! Let’s begin the revolution China!!! Demand blonde hair dye!

Because if you don’t start soon, you will have to see me looking a hot mess! And no one wants to see that! NO ONE.

DEMAND BLONDE!!

STOP YELLING!!

February 14, 2009

By Elena Garcia

It was brought up during lunch that for many English speakers coming to China, Chinese speakers seem to be yelling. Because of the inflections, tones and what not of the Chinese language, it often seems to us foreigners as if people are screaming at one another, fighting even. For some the tones (and often volume) of speech stay consistent whether they are arguing or if they are telling a joke.

This often leads to some major confusion on my end. I sit on the subway minding my own business when BAM like a New Yorker and a bus, I’m hit with what I think is a hostile situation spoken at a max volume. My ears ring with the sounds of panic and curiosity. What are they arguing about? Should I get help? Should I stare (what they all stare at me!)?Thinking someone is going to get smacked I turn to look (of course I want to see what is going on) and I see nothing more than two ladies having a conversation. I don’t know what about but I am sure it’s not going to lead to any violence.

I can not speak to the specifics of the Chinese language since I know none of it. But I would think that just because the tones change doesn’t mean the volume has to. I mean don’t people whisper here?

It’s like people want everyone knowing there business. They want everyone knowing that they had cereal for breakfast, are having meatloaf for dinner and are sleeping with there milk man. Plus there is no personal space; you’ve read the stories about my metro rides. Boundaries China! BOUNDARIES!!!

Some people (especially on the metro, as if being underground calls for yelling) just can not control there volume. I have grown quite found of my headphones during my morning commute.

I know that at home, every so often you encounter one of those people who are loud… too loud. But here its one in every 5 (at least). And GOD do not put them on a cell phone. PLEASE! You know loud cell phone talker guy? Well times him by 50, higher the volume just a bit and void your self of any personal space and that my friends is my commute home. Best part of the day… sarcasm.

Did I mention my headphones, cause if I didn’t… I think they need recognition!

By Elena Garcia

CPK at Shanghai CentreMoving 5,000 miles away from California does not mean I must go with out. The fine people of CPK have provided me with the luxuries of a delicious California Pizza right here in Shanghai.

For about 20 dollars I can have my usual (Kung Pao Spaghetti with Shrimp) and diet coke. And I will tell you right now, IT IS SOOOOO GOOD!!!! Just like home. The warm, savory morsels drip away into the taste buds of your hungry deprived mouth.

And if you miss home, well this CPK looks like just like the ones at home. Yellow, wood tables, some black tiles and a giant oven that your pizza just slides right into. Aaaammazing!!

Garrett and I came across CPK on one of our usual weekend escapades. After looking, asking and searching we found it located right outside the Ritz Carlton next to none other then Tony Roma’s. I guess Shanghai got the memo about me being hungry. Geez. Sadly, I don’t know how long this place will stay open, because when we went NO ONE was there! No one!!! Garrett and I were the only people there. Well us and three waitresses and 2 cooks.

I was so hungry and excited when we arrived that I couldn’t stop shaking. For a short moment I thought they might be closed because of how empty it was. But the nice waitress in her white button up shirt, black pants and long black apron opened the door and greeted us. Leading us away from the cold day into the delightful warmth of our perfect CPKish booth.

Who ever said food could not buy happiness was anorexic or a liar.

Watercooler Romance

February 7, 2009

By Elena Garcia

So I got a job.

The job I wanted.

It’s very different from what I expected!

I work for a community organization that caters to Expats living in Shanghai. This is great because I meet all sorts of people from all sorts of places and my job is to basically talk to them.

Today for example I met,

3 ladies from Michigan
A brother and sister from Cuba
5 people from Mexico
A mother and (gorgeous, like super model gorgeous) daughter from Chile
A lady from FREMONT!!! That’s right bay area, what!!
3 ladies from Germany
1 lady from Australia
1 lady from Puerto Rico
2 ladies from Texas

and about 50 other people that I just can’t think of.

The international community is huge here. I would have never known. I over heard someone say that there were over 100,000 Expats in Shanghai!!

Amazing.

So if anything, I have been meeting some really great people and have been hearing some really JUICY gossip.

So some of the ladies were chit chatting with me about a former Expat couple.

I guess it’s very typical for the trailing spouse to go home (like the US or wherever they’re from) during Summer Vacation because the kids are off of school and they have the time. Well I guess it is also typical for their husbands to take on a Chinese mistress during this time!!!

You see these pathetic excuses, who at home wouldn’t get the time of day from a prostitute, come to Shanghai for work and get amenities they could never have at home. (Drivers, maids, nannies, mansions, etc. etc.) Some ladies see this life style and pounce. It’s just like home, we know the gold diggers who chase around the millionaires. Well this Mr. White guy gets all this affection and attention from these desperate ladies, who could careless about the wedding ring on his finger and he loves it. Mr. White guy is overwhelmed by this newfound attention so he falls for temptation and acquires a Chinese mistress. According to my gossiping gals, some wives will just put up with it but most will leave their husbands and begin the divorce process.  What the men aren’t realizing is that this love affair is nothing more then a survival tactic by some girls who are eager to escape poverty. Nevertheless, they’ve just destroyed their marriage and the kids are dealing with a divorce.

All because they moved to China.

So specifically this one couple that had been married for 30 years!!!! Yupp 30!! Are now getting divorced because he couldn’t keep it in his pants. I guess his wife went home for the summer and Mr. White guy’s Chinese mistress moved into their home. YUPP, into the home they shared in China.

When his wife returned, she found items belonging to this mistress scattered throughout the house.

I nearly fell off my chair when they told me this. Because these guys get drivers, nannies, maids, mansions while they are working in Shanghai, girls think this is the life they live in the US too so they cling on hoping that they will be able to move up. It’s disgusting on BOTH sides.

First, jerks are married. Second, the mistress usually knows and still continues. I hope they get STDs.

It was also made clear to me by these ladies that they will not leave China because it’s not safe to leave husbands unattended to. As if they were bicycles. Either a husband’s a cheater or not, his wife’s presence may delay the inevitable act but who wants to be married to a man who would cheat on you given the opportunity? Is there no trust anymore?

The desperation on some of the wives faces was alarming, not because they were unhappy but because they had no idea if their husbands were capable of. The marriage they once thought was secure and stable is now damaged by a move across the world. Temptation stares their husbands in the face and they think that after a while their husbands will have no choice but to flee or fall.

Luckily Garrett is young, which according to my sources is not a target for these ladies. They just assume he is poor. Which he is! Hurray to being young and broke!

By Elena Garcia

Metro Car @ People's Square, about 6 pm

Metro Car @ People's Square, about 6 pm

I don’t know what was going on or if I missed the ‘boycott the subway’ memo.

On Sunday, January 25th Garrett and I rode the subway to a variety of locations. We even took multiple lines, and went to usually crowded place.

And no one.

Garrett and I had seats, we didn’t have to fight people and we didn’t have to wait in line for anyone. WHERE DID ALL THE PEOPLE GO?