Archives

Contact

Meta

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

Summer smells

June 10, 2009

By Elena Garcia

As summer comes upon us, the heat does too! The Shanghai heat is infamous for its high temperatures, raging humidity, and killer mosquitoes. All of which I thought I could deal with. I love the heat, I don’t have temperamental hair, and I will always be prone to mosquitoes biting me… it’s time to get over it. But it was during a typical commute home from work that the one thing that I couldn’t deal with hit me.

The smell of summer.
As I should have expected Shanghai people sweat and it doesn’t smell pretty. On the train packed in like sardines, with arms up grabbing the plastic handrails the summer heat gets the best of everyone.

It’s worse than anything I’ve ever smelled. The smell of BO is pungent, like dead animals are rotting under the seats of the train. You can even taste it in your mouth. The humid air had taken the reaping smell and turned into a wet paste that entered through your nose and landed on your tongue. A sour taste of spoiled chicken noodle soup and moldy orange juice.

One often expects the smell of summer to consist of flowers, barbeques and haystacks. For some those smells are bad because their allergies get the best of them but for most these reassuring smells remind them of the carefree days of childhood. In Shanghai, the smells of summer aren’t so grand!

Maybe the city should provide coupons for extra deodorant during the summer time!