Friday, 1 May 2009

What a Week

Well this week has been a rather tumultuous one in the life of Miss Q. So let us start at the beginning, which I have to say is a very good place to start. It began with a rather unnerving shopping trip to the Nanjing mecca of ‘Fashion Lady’. Shopping in China is very different to any other shopping experience I have ever had; there is no such thing as a ‘high street’ and the shopping centres are quite expensive, even for us bourgeoisie foreigners. The majority of shopping takes place in underground markets, often spread over a couple of floors, where ‘shops’ consist of square booths with which to sell their wares. Now these ‘booths’ are the majority of the time not particularly big so changing rooms are something of a pleasant surprise. Generally if you wish to change then the shop assistant will pull a curtain across a corner of the booth giving you a bit of privacy to change. As expected there is also a lot of haggling. Obviously being Western they automatically place a money sign above my head and add a few zeros to their asking price. They expect na├»ve foreigners who are not wise to their games but oh no not me, bargaining produces my best Chinese language and a fiery side of my character that is rarely ever unleashed! They are generally shocked by the fact that we speak Chinese and sigh inside that their scamming ways are scuppered. The lack of belief in our Chinese abilities produces some strange situations. For example this week as I emerge from a changing room/curtain corner sporting (what I believed to be) some rather brilliant shorts the shop assistant remarked to her friend in Chinese that I had a rather big bottom or more accurately “goodness what a big arse”. It is fair to say I was rather taken aback but she was even more taken aback when I and my 2 shopping compatriots stared at her aghast! She then proceeded to laugh the standard very-embarrassed-but-if-I apologise-then-I-will-lose-face Chinese laugh that is dealt out at any situation where they are at fault but too proud to admit. Enraged I left, sulked for 40minutes and then bought the very same shorts at a different booth. Luckily with these underground malls they generally have the same stock repeated somewhere else, or at least a common trend or theme can be found dotted around. The underground shopping experience is not one for the faint hearted and requires a ‘ Jumble Sale’ like mind set in order to hunt and rummage around, traipsing from booth to booth try to uncover the gems in amongst the poorly made knock offs. But persevere good people because the rewards are sweet.

After this shopping fiasco I then spent a large proportion of the rest of my week trawling hospitals and clinics; firstly to find somewhere to give me inoculations for my South East Asia trip (which was unfortunately to no avail), and secondly in support of my poor friend who was very sick. Even though Chinese hospitals are a lot of hassle and leg work (literally-I ran up and down stairs from one department to another for a total of 10hours) there is one saving grace; the In-patients sport blue and white striped cotton PJs which is a far cry from the ill fitting robes in the UK which in my opinion do not leave nearly enough to the imagination. Well done China if there is fashion in the hospital wear then there is hope for you yet!

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