Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 8 - Part I - Shopping?

or attempting crass consumerism in Communist-ish China

Today was the day we were out for souvenirs. Tavin and I had planned to find a small souvenir for his class from both China and Japan.  So far nothing had jumped out at us, and partly that was because we were looking in the wrong places (What second grader wants tea?), and partly because the souvenir trade was a bit wan in places you’d expect it (Why are they selling toy cars in the reptile house at the Beijing Zoo?)
The last straw, of course, is that the tourist trade is at low ebb, so many of the places that would be selling souvenirs were now selling Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) decorations.
Lonely Planet directed us to Snack Street, a place to get the souvenirs you are expecting (you know, small cute things, made in China), and a shopping district in general.  We were still waking up early, so thought we’d head out and get the shopping done.  Turns out, that while Beijing for the locals opens at 8am, Beijing for tourists and the leisure/mall shoppers doesn’t get going until 9:30 or 10:00am!  So we were at the Snack Street markets while they were setting up, warming up, and generally feeding each other.  We did snag another yogurt, and they watched us suspiciously lest we wander away with their glass jars.  So other things were on offer… (Pix from Snack street)

While we were waiting for the action to start in the street market, the large bookstore across from the market opened for business.  It looked like a Chinese Barnes and Noble from the outside… and the inside.  Right down to the lowest floor having almost nothing to do with reading books – though here the major distraction was electronics.  On the 1st main floor lots; of popular reading (all the books had slick photos), though the bent was more towards non-fiction, finance and biographies (including on of Hillary Clinton).  Upper floors had an impressive textbook section as well.  I was able to poke my way around and find a few good children’s books to bring back to a Chinese Teacher who had helped me out a bit with my preparations.
With No Chinese, I could still hunt down an easy reader version of the story of the Monk with Piggy and Monkey who bring Buddhism to China.  That has everything to do with the universality of bookstore organization in this day and age – and pictures.

And back to Snack St, where at last things had opened up. 

A few tempting tidbits on offer.
Scorpion or Seahorse?
Fried Cicada?
Larvae or Hatched?

I caused a commotion by asking for 30 of 1 item (nifty little chinese opera masks).  I didn’t get a discount, but at least by NOT having my heart set on it, I was able to pay something I would get laughed at too hard later.

Oh, and the smog was up that day, and it was really getting to me – so I gave in and got us masks.  They do nothing for germs… just being cloth, and I’m sure they only give mild protection from the smog.  But they REALLY protect from the cold.  After days of cold dry air, it felt so good to have the air I was breathing warmed up.  I didn’t care if I looked like a poser.  I quit coughing so hard and so often.

It was cold...
I said it was Cold!

No comments: