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My new hat collection

November 17, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Pink Angora Beret

Pink Angora Beret

One of the really great things about Shanghai is the amazing shopping. If you’re a size negative whatever with tiny feet, you can find some of the most fantastic articles of clothing for some ridiculous prices. Just roam the streets, you’ll spot street squatters, under ground markets, bargain malls and everything else your little heart desires for prices that will put any sample sale to shame.

Just today while roaming the dingy halls of my favorite bargain market I came across some of the cutest motorcycle jackets in copper colored snakeskin, denim, and sequins. I wanted to buy them all, unfortunately none of them fit me. (I stopped wearing China’s version of a large when I was in third grade.) If jackets aren’t your thing, try on a party dress! These dresses are to die for cute and would blow any socialite out of the water. Heart shaped tops with pleated bottoms, patterns with bold colors and hemlines with just enough to help make the point. They’re adorable and would cost you a fortune at home but here you can get them for 20 bucks, easy. I’ve even contemplated buying two of the same dress and sewing them together, they’re just so cute!  But I am always quickly chased out of the store buy the sales girl shooing me away. God forbid I destroy her ten-dollar dress with my laser vision and fiery touch. You can even find your very own Chinglish T-shirt with embroidered bunnies or glittered hearts! It’s amazing, if they only carried one size bigger (or two).

But just because they don’t make “big girl sizes” here doesn’t mean I can’t shop, damn it. I have learned very easily that accessories fit everyone, regardless of what your waist or bust size are. Today, after being rejected and chased out of all the skinny people stores I came across a store where my waistline didn’t matter. It was as hat store! (So take that China!!)

After spending a multitude of time perusing the shelves and trying one every item in the store I decided on a few head ornaments that would easily grace the pages of my favorite magazine. At 15rmb (2 dollars) a pop I bought a half a dozen magnificent cranial coverings, which are sure to protect my head from the infamous Shanghai winter and to make me look… umm… amazing!

Ear Muffs

Ear Muffs

London-esque Mod Hat

London-esque Mod Hat

Floral Beanie

Floral Beanie

Hot Pink Beanie with Big Poof

Hot Pink Beanie with Big Poof

By Elena Garcia

Halloween CostumesJust four days ago I was complaining about the heat, which continued to linger in the air despite it being fall. I was complaining about how the summer heat wouldn’t go away and my fall fashions weren’t being utilized. But then, like some kind of reverse tropical storm, it’s freezing.

I don’t get it.

On Halloween day, Garrett and I set out to go buy the finishing touches of his costume. As we ventured out I made note of how hot it was (swear to goodness, ask Garrett). In order to accommodate this humid heat Garrett wore shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt. I wore ripped up jeans, flip-flops and a thin cotton Calvin Klien t-shirt.

A person not knowing we were on the last day of October would have thought we were in mid June based on our outfit choices but it was unavoidable. As we stood in the crammed subway car on our way to Caoyang Lu I carefully used my hand to pat dry the beads of sweat, which not even the Subway air conditioning could prevent.

We arrived at our station and began the quest for a costume that Garrett had planned out weeks before. He planned on being a douche bag. For those of you not aware, a douche bag is not just a feminism product, it is also an expression used to describe a male who is rude, conceited, a jerk, and/or just plain mean. They often wear Ed Hardy shirts, bedazzled baseball caps and cell phone earpieces. An example I would offer for a douche bag would be Jon Gosselin from the show Jon and Kate Plus Eight. He is a douche bag. Garrett decided to portray a douche bag because really, nothing is scarier than a douche bag.

So he needed to find a pink collared shirt to complete this look, the rest would be done with hair and make up. Douche bags have branded themselves with their signature pink shirt and their collar popped.  (Latter I used bronzer to give him nice tan, an entire bottle of hair gel to make his hair un-moveable and an eyeliner with glitter to make fake diamond earrings.)

So off we searched through the markets at Caoyang Lu.

This area has become one of my favorite shopping destinations. It’s never too crowded; there are loads of shops and cute things all of which are reasonably priced. (And none of that fake stuff!) Grace, my Chinese tutor recommended it after she discovered my shopping addiction problem. There are two markets at Caoyang Lu; one is an accessories market that is hidden in the alleyway between two big buildings. Vendors gather in the condensed lane selling hair accessories, make up, wigs, scarves, hats, purses, 6rmb manicures (that’s 75 cents for those of you counting) and tented tattoo parlors. Although those last two give you a twofer, cheap manicures/tattoos and hepatitis!

The first time I went there I was blown away! The buzzing of the tattoo parlor guns ringed in my ears as I walked on the cracked, uneven cement floors while women sat on unstable stools getting hair extensions neatly placed on their heads, I even saw one lady laying across a make shift table having eye lashes glued in and tinted. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t let anything from that place anywhere near my eyes.

Nevertheless it is a good place to buy cheap little accessories that are a lot of fun. I had purchased a funky little hat, eyeglasses and glitter for my Lady Gaga costume, all of which cost me 2 USD.

The second market at Caoyang Lu is much nicer and bigger. It’s a mall with four giant floors dedicated to clothes, shoes and far too much non-sense. But it’s fun! This mall is much cleaner (which frankly anything is cleaner than Tattoo alley, so that’s not saying much), enclosed and air-conditioned.

Tiny shops fill every inch of every floor, even crowding their windows with samples of the treasures they have inside! The walls inside the shops are covered with hanging clothes, not leaving one inch of space exposed. Shop keepers watch TV shows on laptops, smoke cigarettes and chat with one another through out the day or even while you’re there shopping. I often think it’s a fire hazard to smoke among so much synthetic fabric but I don’t think they care!

Most of the shops are so small that no more than one or two people can fit at a time and so people peek their heads in the door or wait until the person inside clears out or they just push their way in. Most of the time it’s the latter. You’ll hear echoes of negotiations, coughing (more like hacking), and Chinese sales pitches as you walk through the halls but no one is ever pushy or drastic. From all the markets I’ve experienced (and there have been a few) it’s the easiest to shop at.

So on this blistering Halloween Day, Garrett and I roamed the dingy alleyway and the stuffed mall looking for his costume. We managed, after having severe problems trying to say “pink” and “collared shirt”, to find an eight dollar pink collared shirt which was just tight enough to make him look like a douche and to look good on me later! (Hey, there is no point in wasting a perfectly good shirt!)

And as we made our way back to the subway I made reference to the incredible heat.

The next day, after our Halloween Festivities were done, Garrett went out to grab some breakfast and had to come back to put pants on, a jacket and regular shoes. In an amazing over night process it went from 80 degrees to 50 degrees. And because Shanghai is so humid, it was a cold 50 degrees. The kind of cold that bites you and stays there until you thaw out in front of a heater. How is it possible?

It’s been three days now since Halloween and I cannot explain to you the cold that is occurring. It’s the kind of cold that one normally experiences at 2 in the morning, when the frost is just building up on your front windshield. I understand it’s November and it should be cold but really, in one day! What happened to Fall?

Halloween Festivities

I Miss Frankie

September 26, 2009

By Elena Garcia

Frankie HAPPYThat’s right, I’m talking about my dog. Now that I have been back for nearly two weeks, the last residue of Frankie’s shed hair is wearing off of my clothes. His saliva stains have been washed off my designer jeans and his magnificent smell has been over powered by the smells of Chinese ways. And so now I miss him.

It’s rare that one sees a big (or medium) sized dog here in Shanghai. Most of the time dogs are held in the purses of It Chinese girls. (Any one who has encountered my Frankie knows well enough that the only bag he’s going to fit in is an oversized rolling luggage bag.) In Shanghai, dogs are sold as an accessory as opposed to a pet; a dog is the equivalent to an expensive designer bag or a pair of really high heels. And don’t get me wrong I love myself some puppy love but any trend that Paris Hilton starts is not one I will choose to participate in. Once in a while a big dog will be seen at the end of a leash on his way home from his long walk with the giant grin of exhaustion spread across his face, but those sightings are rare. I must say though if you are a man in China looking for the attention of some ladies, adopt a big dog and take him for walks! Girls go nuts for that (and by girls I mean me… although, I’m spoken for… so maybe not)! (Ohh and only adopt a dog if you’re ready for the responsibility one requires, dog’s need happy good homes!! Just saying.)

Everyday at about 5 pm tiny cinnamon colored Pomeranians fill the grassy lawns in our compound and yap away into the darkness. They’re cute and they remind me of some family pets but they aren’t Frankie! They don’t eat everything in sight and whine uncontrollably at the sight of food out of their reach. They just let their manes of golden fur billow in the wind and poop, everywhere. (Which BTW no one picks up here!! Not surprising seeing how it’s rare that they even pick up human poop when they decide to do it on the street.)

I know it’s best that Frankie stays in America while we complete our stay here. Frankie couldn’t survive in Shanghai. With all the nonsense thrown onto the muggy streets and Frankie’s uncontrollable appetite for street “food,” he would eat something to make him sick! It’s for his own protection that we left him behind. At least that is what I chant in the back of my head to defuse the guilt that I feel for leaving my little fatso!

We’ll be home soon big guy!!!