Friday, November 27, 2009

Shopping in China

Today the temperature in Shenyang was about 9 degrees fahrenheit. It was sunny and the wind wasn't blowing too hard, so Elisabeth and I decided it was time to shop. We needed some Christmas gifts and kitchen things. We've been fairly slow at making our kitchen complete and I really felt it while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
Shopping in China is usually done in districts or streets. So we headed for "Kitchen Street." I shopped there with a friend when I first arrived and it was really fun. Paul and I rode our bikes around the street one day after language school but couldn't find the store where I had been with my friend. So I told Elisabeth that there was no guarantee that we would find the place to buy kitchen stuff.
We took a taxi to the American Consulate. In China, it is more common to ask a taxi driver to go to a landmark than an address. So he dropped us off and we walked around the main boulevard. We turned down one side street where there were several food carts set up. We saw a DVD stand that was selling DVD's for a movie that was just released in theater's this week! Pirating is alive and well here.
After some more walking around, we actually found the shop. This was good as it was so cold my eyes were beginning to hurt.
The store is actually a place where restaurants buy supplies. It's a place where you can bargain but not too much. First we bought a glass baking dish which is the perfect size for brownies. Then we went to another merchant and wheeled and dealed with a very nice man for some muffin tins. We got a fairly reasonable price and were walking away when Elisabeth saw it -an electric mixer! These are rarely found in China and I didn't even bargain for it. A woman came up and told me that the price was "hen3 pian2yi" or "really cheap!" I said "Not cheap? Really cheap?" "Bu4 shi 4pian2yi? Hen3 pian2yi?" They all laughed and we paid (RMB 80 or about $11.75)and walked around more. We found pizza pans, aprons and a few other necessary items and left.
For me, this is the best kind of language learning. I'm not as worried about saying everything correctly and people seem to understand. Most people are kind and sympathetic and helpful. Every bit of encouragement helps.
After taking a taxi home, we ate lunch and then ventured out again. We both needed boots for this land of freezing temperatures. We went to a different shopping area which has an underground mall that was blessedly warm. I had forgotten to look in the dictionary for vocabulary words like "boots" or "try on" or "size." But by acting things out and using the vocabulary that Elisabeth and I had between us, we both managed to get a pair of winter boots. When we asked the price, they told us a pretty reasonable amount. We talked to each other about the price in English for a minute and they dropped the price! Good accidental bargaining technique on our part!
We finished some Christmas shopping and then headed to Starbucks for something warm. There is something so heart soothing about sitting in a place that is familar. The setting is just like a Starbucks in the US. So are the prices, so this was a rare treat for us.
It gets dark around 4:15 so by the time we were ready to go home at 5:30, it was good and dark. It's also the time of day where it is almost impossible to find a taxi as it is around shift changed. After trying fruitlessly for about 15 minutes in the freezing cold, we decided to walk towards a main boulevard where I knew we could catch a bus. One of my newly acquired skills is pushing my way through a bus, so a rush hour bus that was packed like sardines would be no problem. Fortunately, we found a willing taxi on a side street who took us home.
A good day, a long day, a good language learning day for Elisabeth and I. It's fun to struggle together with language and culture and I am happy I had this day with her.


Alida said...

Congrats!! What a great day of live language!!

mom2twoboys said...

As a language teacher, I know you've told your students this--the most important thing about a language is being able to communicate--if you can get your point across, you're communicating! One of my students who is studying in Australia came back and told me that was the one thing he remembered me telling him in class, and so he just dives in and talks. His grammar isn't perfect, but you wouldn't notice, since you know exactly what he's saying. Keep up the good work!

michael v said...

It is awesome to hear about the everyday life there. Keep it up. Looking forward to hearing about the success with your job there.

Jimmie said...

Your attitude toward language learning is great. Just stay out there with the locals, and you WILL learn. First you'll understand, then (much later) you'll be able to speak. I love those shopping victories too. We went out today to a shopping area and got everything on our list. Amazing. That almost never happens. Candles, needles, elastic, buttons, double sided tape, red ribbon, a new year's decoration for the door (with tiger, of course), and an expandable file (that already had a crack in it by the time I got it home). Victory! I just taped up the crack.