Surprise, Surprise

Well we had an unexpected weekend.  Miss M.’s been sick and now has a bad
ear infection, Miss S. got sick, and Mr. J. is almost better from his ear
infection.  Saturday was Relief Society (church ladies group) “Getting to know Guangzhou” activity.
It was lots of fun and very informative.  Mr. Hot Stuff was called in to meet
with our District President.  I was pulled out of the
R.S. activity, to meet with him as well, and on Sunday, Mr. Hot Stuff was called to be the new Branch President (congregational leader in our lay clergy).  We didn’t even know we were getting a
new Branch Pres., but apparently things haven’t worked as well as
everyone had hoped for the previous one.  He has to travel a lot for
work and I imagine that was a big interference. 

We are just heading into time for tithing settlement, so although
it will be a lot of work at first, it will be a good chance for Mr. Hot Stuff to meet with everyone and get to know them a little right from the start.

We have lately been eating these teeny little mandarin oranges.  They are
a little smaller than a ping-pong ball and they are super sweet.  At
first, when I saw them at the market, I thought, “What a pain, to have
to peel all those dinky things.”  But they peel really easily and are
very worth the trouble.  Mangosteens are also back in season, I need to
buy some.  They are hard and ugly on the outside and soft and
pure-white and delicious on the inside (sounds like some people I’ve
met).

We have been cold here so we bought some small space-heaters.  The
English instructions include a caution about using them around small
children and “tumbled old people”.  The funny Chinese to English
translations crop up in the most unexpected ways.  It’s great.

I had someone ask me a question about buying Christmas gifts and
the price of certain things here.  It was a good question and I’m going
to include part of my response here:

One thing I have learned about this area of China, at least, is that if
you want the kind of quality in an item that you find standard in the
U.S., you will pay about the same price for the same item that you
would pay in the U.S. (if not slightly more). I have priced silk fabric
in the market place and it runs about $30 U.S. per meter. That’s after
you talk them into giving you a “discount”.

I have seen some lovely silk and cashmere/pashmina
scarves here for a decent price. Otherwise, when I go shopping for
gifts, I generally find myself standing in the middle of a huge
marketplace thinking, “It’s all just JUNK and the stuff that isn’t is
out of my price range or too big to carry home – What do I do now?”  I’m
not sure what we will do. I know everyone thinks they want “Chinese” stuff, but
really, if they could see what it’s like, I don’t think they would. In
all likelihood, we will be giving “experience” type of gifts rather
than things with much “collectible”, decorator, or monetary value.

For
reference:
my girls recently needed to buy a new hair straightener. In
the U.S. you can get a decent (not great, but decent) one for about
$25. They hunted everywhere
for one that wasn’t so cheap it seemed like it would be broken in 2
weeks and finally found one. It cost them $50 U.S. It is a little
higher quality than what they would have been content with, but still,
this is a typical experience for us.  Cheap knock-off vs. expensive
“real deal”.  There seems to be no middle ground.

I don’t say this to complain, but I hope that everyone is somewhat
forewarned and is not too disappointed when Christmas rolls around.
Otherwise, perhaps you should just open up your Oriental Trading
Company Catalog.  It’s Haizhu Square shopping area in the comfort of
your own warm home.  (Yes! I give you a good price! If you order 24 of
the same!)

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