If you’re at an “antique” market in Shanghai, don’t pay more than 10% of the quoted price.

16 11 2009

Word to live by, my friends. Yesterday, the last day of our Shanghai mini break, we got up and out early. The day before we took awhile to get going, mostly because it is such a treat to sleep in a queen sized bed. (Have we talked about the size of our bed? I know some of you have seen it on video chat. It doesn’t have a western size- maybe “twin and a half”? It’s tight enough that I made Jeremiah push it against the wall until a few weeks ago because I was genuinely worried about falling out.) We headed to the train ticket office, easily bought a return ticket for that afternoon (seriously, we have vastly improved our train ticket purchasing skills), and headed to the Dong Tai “antique” market to pick up some Christmas tchotchkes cheesy enough to prove that we live in China. Nothing here is antique. It’s all reproductions that they leave out to get dusty which is fine by me.

The market had the hordes of foreigners Jeremiah mentioned in his Shanghai blog. (They really are EVERYWHERE and we clearly aren’t used to seeing non Asian people. I’m worried that we’ll stop and stare at every white and black person when we touch down in the US.) Tourists were walking around in small groups with enormous cameras around their necks. It was very strange to know that we are lumped in with those people in the vendors minds, well, we were until we started to haggle. For example, all of the vendors have these great reproduction posters or propaganda, 1930s Shanghai ladies, and old advertisements. When we’d ask “DuoShao Qian?” (Dwo Shaow Chien) or “How much?” they would say 100 Quai. About $15. Well, a poster in America costs $15 and they aren’t nearly as cool so I’m sure most tourists happily fork it over. Or, if they’ve been told to haggle, maybe they’ll offer 80 Quai, and the owner will pretend that they are killing them but happily take the money. We, however, paid 15 Quai for our first poster and when another vendor said he’d give us posters for what we paid previously, we told him we paid 10 Quai and he didn’t blink an eye. Next time, I’m offering 5!

One vendor asked us where we were from after a purchase (if you keep smiling through the whole interaction, you’re pals after the cash changes hands) and when we explained we were teachers from Nanjing. At the booth next door we had a much easier time buying something for cheap and Jeremiah saw that vendor’s wife come up and berate him for starting so low or something along those lines. We distinctly heard him repeat that we were teachers from Nanjing and she shrugged her shoulders in understanding that we lived here. Ha!

There are pictures up on the Flickr page http://www.mjchinablog.flickr.com/photos but here are some previews.

Not an antique in sight.

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Evidence from our second Chinese haircut (in Nanjing.) When white people get their hair cut, they also get a commemorative photo taken by every stylist in the salon.

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Everyone in Shanghai is preparing for the World Expo in 2010. The blue guy is the cartoon spokesman. The words are close to the actual slogan.

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A good, old fashioned, Chinese wedding

10 09 2009

Today I came into my office after lunch and found a man in the room surfing the internet at the desk across from me. Kathy, the English name of the desk’s owner, introduced him to me as her husband. I thought nothing of it. A few minutes later she passed a red, passport looking book across the room to Nicole, another office mate. When I looked up Kathy smiled and said, "We got married today!" and passed me the book. It contained a smileless photo of the two of them in the clothes they were currently wearing. I realized Nicole was holding some sort of laminated, wallet sized, marriage ID card that had the same severe photo and Chinese writing. They explained that they went alone to the marriage office (this is normal) this morning, got married and that the party will be at a later date. They aren’t even moving in together until next year… maybe.


Learning the customs from the natives

8 09 2009

Another blog from Missy’s office. It’s been really nice being around so many Chinese people in close quarters the past few days. It’s a very different experience being the only foreigner. At Jeremiah’s school, there are literally dozens of expat teachers wandering around and it’s possible to go through an entire day with only a few "hellos", "goodbyes" and "thank yous" being your entire interaction with the Chinese citizens. As you know, Monday I got to see naptime and today I was sitting at my desk as a fellow office mate walked in the door and tossed the leftovers from her cup on the floor in a specific corner. I must have looked surprised because a different teacher explained that it was okay- it moisturized the air. Ah. Of course.

Yesterday night Jeremiah and I walked down our little street for the first time in search of dinner. We stopped at a place where you pick items from a fridge that are pre-skewered and then hand over your choices to be grilled right on the street. We chose pea pods, eggplant medallions, unidentified chicken, dumpling dough and something we think was tofu-esque. They dipped it in some sort of marinade and then shook chili powder onto the whole mess while it grilled. AH-MAZING. 2 drinks and a pile of freshly grilled food was 14Y (about $2.) They also had all kinds of meaty skewers, fishy things (including entire small flat fish!) and what we identified too late as mushrooms. I cannot wait to go back. A side note- grilled dumpling dough turns into the most amazing piece of bread. It is worth traveling to China to try it.

Tonight we are meeting up with people who are famous to us for their Nanjing blog. JM and Liz moved here with their son, Leo, when he was only 6 months old. I’m excited to meet another couple in our age range who have 2 years in Nanjing under their belt! I think they’re on our blog roll if you want to check out their life.

Love, Missy