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By Elena Garcia

Dior Barbie

This post is dedicated (on the recommendation of my mother) to my aunt Carmen who would have probably peed her pants when she came to this place!

Located at 550 Central Huaihai Rd here in Shanghai is a fairly simple looking building. Tall, with about 8 floors, windows, white trim. Nothing too spectacular. In fact if you’re across the street, it wouldn’t even stand out. I managed to walk right by it, not even noticing it! It’s another storefront on the very busy streets of Shanghai.

But given a closer look, one can see the magical wonders that lie within!! The shiny white building hides its floral window décor quite subtly. It isn’t until you walk in that the adventures of childhood fantasies come to life!

This eight-story building has six floors dedicated to the magical wonder that is Barbie! Walk in; take a glance around at the small display of goods for sale, pictures for purchase, memorabilia to collect and Barbie Passport cards to sign up for. The small lobby could almost be deceiving because besides the sparkly chandelier, which hangs in the center, it isn’t very Barbie! The walls are white and bare, the floor is a shiny white stone and the size would make you think you were ACTUALLY in Barbie’s Dream House… it’s not very big. But this lobby is deceiving!

Then you get into one of the two elevators where pink curtain pictures cover the walls and shiny mirrors provide you with your reflection. This elevator will take you to any of the 5 remaining floors.

The second floor is the one and only Barbie Spa! As you exit the elevator a Barbie Spa staff greets you and leads you to the make-up counter. Here Barbie makeup is available for purchase. Barbie always did have amazing skin, why not replicate it with Barbie foundation and washes. Not to keen on makeup? How about a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, haircut? Whatever your heart desires… The shiny plastic white walls are accented with the Bright Pink that Barbie is known for!  Hot pink rugs lay below the shiny white damask style furniture and sparkly chandeliers cover the ceiling. On the walls you see Barbie’s face: getting washed, with a mask and cucumbers, with eccentric make up and the slogan “I wasn’t meant to do house work!” Preach on Sister!

The third floor, which one can access, using the elevator or twirling Barbie staircase, provides you with Barbie clothes. Everything from bags, jewelry, shoes, and outfits to Barbie Couture, Vera Wang wedding dresses and 30,000RMB diamond encrusted necklaces. This clothes isn’t meant for Barbie this is all meant for the women looking for nothing more than to be Barbie.

On your way to the 4th floor and the wonders that exist one can take the twirling Barbie staircase and get a view of over a thousand dolls wearing a thousand outfits all in the same shade of pink. Once you’ve made it up the shiny white steps, past the Wall O’Barbie, you take a break at the fourth floor and design your own Barbie. Not interested in designing your own, buy one of the millions on display! Not interested in buying a doll? Look through the glass showcases of dolls of Barbie’s past. Everything from Basically naked Barbies, to Versace, to Elvis and Priscilla! They even have a time line of historic Barbies, from 1984’s Work Out Barbie to 2000’s President Barbie!

On the 5th floor you’ll find a small Barbie Dessert Bar where you can stop for some afternoon tea, or to watch the Barbie Fashion Show put on using different kids in Barbie’s cutest outfits.

On the 6th floor is the Barbie Café, with black and white tiled floors, hot pink pleather booths, and Barbie imprinted napkins, plates and well everything. This is where my Barbie adventure began.

My Friend Gina and I planned on going to see Barbie’s Dream World on a girl’s day out. Seeing how neither, her boyfriend, Aaron or Garrett was really thrilled with the idea of spending a day with Barbie, we thought it best to visit Barbie with out them. Starving, we headed to the Barbie Café first! There we sat in our circular pink Barbie booth, and sipped on our pink Barbie tinis while our legs slowly stuck to the cold and sticky seats!

For lunch Gina and I both picked one of the Barbie themed plates and enjoyed the world of a plastic 12inch doll.

And like any good Barbie enthusiast we took pictures… tons and tons of pictures. We took pictures of each other, the waiters, the walls, the floor, the food, the Barbie tinis and we even had the waiters take pictures of us. I mean any Barbie girl knows the paparazzi are always looming! (Even if the paparazzi is you…)

After lunch we headed to the Barbie Spa and perused the menu of services. Although we had no intention of taking in any of the treatments offered we thought it best to see what options were available in the event these Barbies needed a mani/pedi. After looking at the menu, again we took pictures… tons and tons of pictures. Pictures on the sofas, on the big pink chairs, of the signs, pictures and people. We took pictures of everything with the full intent of pasting them all over Facebook and showing the world just how much of Barbie girls we were!

After the quick look of the spa we headed to the clothing floor and were blown away by the astronomical prices and fancy designers. Vera Wang wedding dresses, Patricia Field T-shirts, Couture outfits, and diamond jewelry filled our visions and killed our budgetary dreams. But like true girly girls we still shopped around, snapped photos and perused the displays. It wasn’t until the 4th floor that we realized the photo taking possibilities!

After climbing the spiral Barbie staircase we arrived to the valley of the dolls. Pictures, displays, classics, everything we ever knew and loved as Children covered the walls. International Barbies, Designer Barbies, and Vintage Barbies… everything was there! Even Miss Astronaut Barbie and her new and improved version, Astronaut Barbie. (They took out the Miss, wouldn’t want to continue to imply that Barbie could only be an Astronaut if she was in single status. God knows if Barbie were married she would need to be dedicated to her man. But seriously, everyone knows a woman has to pick one, either the Mrs. before her name or the career. You can’t be Dr. Mrs. Barbie Duh! There isn’t room for feminism in a 6 story mall dedicated to unrealistic beauty standards and the color pink.)

They also had “Sexy Barbies” in lingerie outfits that were quite scandalous, I am not sure if Ken would approve of his woman prancing around town in a nightie and thigh highs? They also had what I thought of as “I feel bloated Barbie!” She looked chubbier and shorter then the rest but I think it’s because she was wearing a not cute outfit. After snapping photos of EVERY doll on display, Gina and I decided to stop at the Barbie Dessert Café for an afternoon snack.

For those of you keeping track it had been 3 hours since our arrival at Barbie’s Dream House.

After ordering a Barbie Coffee and pink dessert treats Gina and I got treated to a Barbie Fashion Show on the Barbie Runway. A little girl celebrating a birthday and her friends graced the catwalk in some of Barbie’s finest dresses.  Although the desert was not so magnificent, nothing is better then getting a cup of coffee with Barbie’s pink silhouette floating on the foam.

Tired and full Gina and I had scavengered throughout the entire Barbie Dream World and we were beat!! So we headed back to the less than impressive Barbie Dream Lobby and said adieu to Barbie and her pink world!

By Elena Garcia

John Legend in ConcertIn a last minute effort to add some spice to our social lives Garrett and I decided to attend a concert here in Shanghai. One of my favorite artists, John Legend was playing at a small theatre and since the Oasis concert had been stopped by the Chinese Government (since one of the guys played at a free Tibet concert like 50 years ago); we figured we should use the opportunities we did have. So Garrett and I canceled our weekly cleaning lady appointment, put on cute outfits and headed to the Yunfeng Theatre.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see someone perform and flash us with bright lights and fancy footwork. The last true concert I went to was a Backstreet Boys show… a while ago. I was all set for the massive arena and screaming swarms of girls! But that didn’t happen! Instead we were placed into an arena about the size of my high school gym and the only screaming girls were the two drunk girls excited to find each other. Surprised, Garrett and I made our way to the hundred dollar seats (yes, DOLLAR… lots of things may be cheap here but John Legend concert tickets are not!) and appreciated the fact that we would probably be able to smell his BO from our seats!

We had contemplated buying some scalped tickets but considering the amount of fake goods one CAN buy in China, we didn’t want end up with tickets that lead us to nowhere.

Like most things in China, the arena had no order. People from the cheap seats could just walk up to the stage, people stood in front of us blocking our view with no repercussions, and the fire exits were NOT cleared! The sound system was awful; even though the place was the size of my apartment the speakers couldn’t seem to carry the sound. I am pretty sure if he had just put down the microphone everyone could have heard him and it would of sounded better.

But he was fantastic! His voice was heavenly and his songs were my favorites! He started the show by walking through the crowd and up onto the stage! His petite stature and charming good looks embraced the tacky arena and he put on a very good show. I was just thrilled that I was so close to him. If anyone wants to know how much facial hair he has, I think I have the answer!

At the end of the show he brought out a Chinese pop star named Karen Mok. Who apparently is HUGE here in China? It wasn’t hard to figure out, once she came on stage all the “workers” left their post to hurry to the stage and get a glimpse of her. All of a sudden the heard of screaming girls I expected earlier came out and smothered the stage! I had never heard of her in my life BUT since encountering her at this show I’ve seen her on one billboard and two magazine covers! Apparently she is famous!

John Legend Opening The Show!

Rock Climbing

April 14, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Garrett the badassIt all seemed so simple. A wall with handles, you climb up it, the end. Um no.

On Sunday, Garrett and I got a text from a few of our friends (Aaron and Gina) asking if we wanted to go Rock Climbing. Neither, Garrett or I, had ever been and we thought it would be great! Sounded like fun! So we agreed and decided to get ready for this newfound activity. Putting on the only athletic clothes we brought to China, Garrett and I headed across the street to the indoor rock climbing gym at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium. (Luckily, the place Gina and Aaron had decided on rock climbing at was located directly across the street from our apartment.)

After getting lost, and doing some searching Garrett and I found the place! Exciting?

Immediately, as we stared up at the towering walls and looked at the small Chinese men responsible for our gravitational awkwardness, a certain nervousness flowed through our bodies. Here I was looking at walls 50 feet high, counting on sometimes shotty Chinese craftsmanship and pretending the fear of heights I’ve battled my entire life was just an illusion. Needless to say Garrett and I rented our shoes, harnesses and materials and headed into the rock climbing gym.

The place was filled with Expats; a sense of relief covered us! One of the handles on one of the walls was missing, as in there was a giant hole in the wall and exposed wood from the break. A sense of fear took that sense of relief and beat it silly.

Garrett and I started by practicing in the “practice area” they have. This area is elevated about 2 feet off the ground by massive pads and cushions. They have it set up like caves, covered with rocks and odd objects you can use to practice climbing; they even have monkey bars!

Gina and Aaron had already gotten started and they were PRO! They had crazy cargo climbing pants on and spandex shirts; they even own their own shoes and wear chalk fanny packs! Garrett and I did not look so pro! Garrett had worn the only shorts he brought to China, an old T-shirt and his rented lime green climbing shoes! I wore makeup… basically I wasn’t planning on it being so athletic!

But excited to see Monkey Bars I put my fears and worries aside and began trying to climb something. Although I was a champion monkey bar climber in my hay day, my hay day has come and gone! No longer did I have my solid death grip that allowed me to swing like Vince Vaughn and my hands no longer had the calices, which allowed me to do twosies! I couldn’t even get high enough to get to the monkey bars! And the one time I did I managed to get up on them backwards! Trying to figure out how to turn around I looked down and scared myself enough to fall onto the mats and never want to climb back up. After that I was ready to be done!

Garrett on the other hand had already mastered the use of his long limbs on the jagged walls. He was climbing up like nothing, as if he was Charlotte and he was on his web! Whatever Spiderman, we’ll see how tough you are when China’s shotty craftsmanship makes the handle bar break off!!

So with his success and my fear we headed to the actual wall!! Like Godzilla, its massiveness stared down at us and we, we stared up at a height that only birds, planes and Superman should go!

I went first, thinking it best to get it over with (and that the less weight it carried before me the less likely it was to break into a million pieces while I was up there), I buckled my harness had the Chinese guy feel me up in order to get me “secured” and stepped onto the cushion that was suppose to break my fall! I climbed and climbed and it wasn’t so bad. Then I looked down. It was bad.

So I screamed “GET ME DOWN” and everyone said, “Just let go!” Obviously those people are idiots! If they thought for one second in time that I was going to depend on Steve Urkel down there to hold my weight, and Chinese architecture to keep me secure well then they WEREN’T THINKING!!

So I climbed down, rock-by-rock, step-by-step until FINALLY I was on solid ground!

Garrett on the other hand climbed up with Spiderman abilities and pretended to be intimidated… probably to make me feel better.

Garrett wants to go back, I do not… Luckily Gina and Aaron are pro so Garrett has someone to go with! Elena and Gina the badasses!!

A letter.

April 9, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Dear Person on your Cell Phone/Reading The Newspaper/Texting/Going Really Slow While Walking,

I understand your need to catch up/get daily news/send a quick note to a friend/appreciate your time, but you are in my way! Seriously, move. I don’t know how it is possible that you are awake at 6:40 in the morning and NOT in a rush! Who wakes up that early to take their time? Wouldn’t you rather sleep in those extra 10 minutes? Well, I would and I did so now I am barely on time and your lack of attention paying/slowness is killing me!

So please sir/madam get out of my way, put your newspaper away until you’ve reached your destination. Get emotional support for being an idiot because you can’t seem to walk and talk Mr. Cell Phone Guy. And stop acting like you have friends, you don’t know anyone and you sure as heck don’t know anyone awake right now, so leave them alone and STOP texting them! Watch where you’re going, move faster and realize that there is a heard of people behind you trying to make the train that just arrived and you are holding them up! My once swift walk has turned into a light stroll and the thumping Britney soundtrack filling my ear buds does not go with the rhythm you have put me in.  I’ve studied the art of walking in four-inch heels, I have put attention and energy into this art and you are preventing my perfect strut! SO MOVE.

I get the groggy feeling in the mornings, the sluggish movements when it’s so early but your lack of attention given to the people around you and ALL the attention given to the device is infuriating. If you don’t get out of my way I might have to take whatever it is you’re paying attention to and beat you with it.

Sincerely,

The girl behind you.

By Elena Garcia

Starting the show!

Starting the show!

So it wasn’t a week, shoot it wasn’t even a whole hour but it was fabulous.

My work has put together an event for the last two years called ACE (Arts Charity Extravaganza) to benefit local charities. For the most part the event is choreographed by different students from the International Community through the InterKom youth program my work helps facilitate. But this year when there weren’t enough students into the fashion aspect of the program who did they call?

Well they didn’t call Ghost Busters!

Just call me Fashionista.

Although I haven’t been in Shanghai long, I have managed to get a handle on the shopping/fashion scene here. I may not know much but clothing I know.

When my co-worker approached me I jumped at the opportunity! I was born to do this!

Needing to fill our hour slot with cute clothes I wasted not time calling the stores I frequented to see who would let us borrow clothes for this charity event.

First, I went to American Apparel, knowing that they cater to the expat community and that they make super cute clothes, I hoped they would let us have a few looks. And they did!! They provided us 9 very FUN looks to display on the catwalks.

Second I got a designer named Chloe Chen. She owns a few boutiques here in Shanghai and is really good friends with a friend of a friend of mine. (Ahhh connections!) Needless to say she has amazing clothes and she let us borrow 10 looks for the Fashion Show.

Her clothes were my favorite: girly cute and flirty. Quite the opposite of the industrial,punk and funky styles of American Apparel but the contrast was perfect!

In my mind I had it all figured out, when the girls came out to American Apparel the music would be

more rock and roll and Hip Hop like The Darkness and Estelle. For Chloe, I would have romantic and pop music like Britney and Katie Perry.

After getting the clothes, the fittings began. And as much fun as it is to hang out with a bunch of 18 year old skinny girls by the end of the fittings I was very ready to get the girls on the runway! That my friends, was the best part of this whole experience. Getting to see very novice models walk down the runway, classic! Some were afraid of heals, some had gone to modeling school, some… I just don’t have words! They were all gorgeous and a size negative 12, some of the boys in the office couldn’t help but stare! But when they hit the runway I nearly hit the floor, or should I say, they nearly did! I had to channel my inner Tyra and try to get these girls to own the runway!

The night before the show, we did a few run throughs and fittings but I was nervous. A colleague of mine was going to DJ the event (using the music styles listed above) but the girls were walking too fast, or getting nervous, thus making me nervous and the music was not working like I planned. By the end of the run throughs I was scared that maybe we weren’t prepared enough.

But the show must go on! And we had no more rehearsal time left.

So early on Saturday morning I put on my bright yellow Anna Sui dress, my long black wool cardigan, and my gladiator stilettos (those DID NOT last, I had to put on my ballerina flats on) and hailed a cab headed to LOFT, the location of the fashion show.

The cab quickly delivered me to the show site and I found that I was arriving around the same time as all the models! (Even with no makeup they looked stunning… not fair.) Quickly we headed up, and began the hair and make up process. It was fun!

We did one full run through before the event and I was pleased at, with no effort on my part really, everything had come together over night. Maybe it was the hair, or the make up, or the clothes but the girls had really gotten it together! I felt like a proud mother. But I knew that nothing was final until they hit the runway with audience in toe.

My stomach was spinning. Even though no one would really see me or know I had anything to do with the show, I was really nervous!

The fashion show was scheduled to begin about 30 minutes after the entire event began… and as quickly as you can imagine my thirty minutes were up and the Fashion Show began!

The thump thump of the music filled the room, the lights lit up the runway and the audience faded into the blackness of dark. And with that the first model walked out and the crowd began to cheer! The friends, family and peers of all the girls were rooting them on, as they made their way down the scary, long white runway in 4-inch heels!

Some of the outfits were risky, some were really fun and some I wouldn’t even wear! But the girls looked great in everything and by the end of the show I felt a weight off of my shoulders knowing that I hadn’t screwed it up royally! (Don’t get me wrong we had some mistakes, delayed beginning, gaps in songs, early entrances… but no one seemed to care and neither did I! It was for Charity!!)

I am now an official veteran of the Fashion scene! And boy did that fashion pump through my veins! As some of my co-workers noted, I was in my element!