Rob’s Trip to China – Part 4 – First Day Shopping Adventure

After brunch, we stopped at their other apartment. This was where they first lived when they came to Shenzhen, and they still owned it. Property is very valuable in China, you hold on to it, for generations. This building was a lot older, built in the 80’s,  but it was much larger on the inside. It was more like a typical two bedroom in the US. A couple of things stood out to me. There was just 2 gas burners in the kitchen. Ovens are non-existent in most homes.

The other thing was the bathroom.  It was larger than the other one, but there was an open outlet strip near the shower on the wall, and the wires stretched around on the walls. If you will pardon the pun, I was pretty shocked by this, and mentioned that in the US, a place would get condemned for that kind of layout.  Apparently, the government doesn’t allow building like that anymore, but a lot of older places still have it.

From there it was time to do some shopping. We went to this, I guess you’d call it a  mall, but not like how you think of a mall in the US. It was more vertical, and laid out differently.

We started in a place that was kinda like a Walmart or Target. The goal: to find me some slippers that fit. We found a huge bin of them, and dug through it looking for the largest sizes. I’d find some that seemed big enough, but they weren’t, search again, over and over. I ended up finding one pair that were close enough, a size 46 (I think a 48 or more would have been better.) Just for reference, a size 42-44 is more common for men there.

I also found a really awesome belt, and saw a few familiar items, Like holiday displays of “Chips Ahoy” and “Oreo” cookies. Oreos are really popular in China. It’s the top selling cookie, and they also make oreos with different flavor fillings! Unfortunately, I thought they were just different color fillings, and I didn’t find out they were different flavors until I got back, so I didn’t get a chance to try them.

After we were done there, we went upstairs to the grocery store. That was really different. I’ve never heard of a grocery on the second level before. To get up to it, you pushed your cart onto the escalator. This isn’t like a step one like you see in the US, it’s more like a  conveyer belt on a slope. This was so the shopping carts could be taken up and down as well. Although it seemed kinda dangerous to be on there with the carts, like they could just start rolling down and taking out people with them.

I‘m going to pause a moment to talk about one of the biggest differences between the US and China. I saw sooooo many things like that, where you would never see in the US just because of the fear of being sued do to an accident would make things like that impossible. It’s another theme I’ll be returning to.

Coming from the US, it was really different to see things like this, because on one hand, I feel like, “Oh, this is really cool, too bad you’d never see it in the US”, and on the other hand I sometimes felt, “Wow, that is so dangerous! someone could get hurt… They shouldn’t allow that.”

But in China they just don’t do things that way, so you also have to be careful, because you can’t assume that anyone is looking out for you because they are afraid of a lawsuit. It’s both refreshing and sobering, like when you were a kid and you could do things that you wouldn’t let your kids do now. Like riding a bike without a helmet, or not wearing a seatbelt…. Oh, and not many people wear them in Shenzhen, but it’s the law in Hong Kong.

Back to the grocery store…it was really huge, and lots of different products everywhere. Some things were familiar, other things weren’t.  Going through the produce was interesting, a lot of greens that all looked the same to me. and the freaking carrots were enormous!!!!

Chinese New Years is like a blend of US new year and Christmas. and you have a big dinner on the eve. I wanted to cook something for her parents, and Rachel really liked my pasta, so I thought that would be a good choice. I brought some tomato paste and basil with me, because I didn’t know if I could find it there. But the other ingredients I wanted to pick up at the store. Oddly enough, they didn’t have any bell peppers. some of the other things, like pasta, and parmesan cheese were hard to track down, but I managed to find them. Rachel was pretty surprised I found them, because she figured she would know the store better than I would.

Alcohol is another common gift item, and the store had this massive display, with some very expensive bottles, in elaborate decanters. They are popular to give to bosses and other important people.

One thing that is rare, in comparison to the US, is dairy products. Real milk in practically non-existent, and cheese is limited. Instead of milk, there are various boxes and cans of “Milk Drink” and “Milk Beverage” which resembles milk the way Kool-aid resembles fruit juice. The best tasting one I tried (I did try about 3 different kinds) was more like melted, warm, sweet whipping cream.

There were also lots of meats, dried and fresh. Candy, canned goods, so much to see. I could have spent three or four hours in there easily. but we got most of what we needed, and then paid and went back downstairs and stopped at the pharmacy.

In many ways, the pharmacy was a lot like what you would see here, but there was also a section for the raw materials for the traditional medications as well.

It was already getting late, so we split ways with her parents, and got on a bus to go to another market, to track down the elusive bell pepper. We took a bus down to the city center. Where we got off, There was a statue of an old man. It looked familiar to me, so I asked Rachel if that was Confucius. She wasn’t sure, and when we got close enough for her to read the inscription, I surprised her again, turned out that I was correct.

There were lots of people out on the street selling things. balloon characters, baby turtles, art, and there was this guy with this machine with these sticks, like bamboo,  coming out of it. it was a kind of raw sugar cane, called “ganzhe zhe” (甘蔗) . It’s crushed in the machine, and the liquid comes out to drink.

I was curious and wanted to try it. Rachel had me stand far away, because if the guy selling it would have seen it was for a westerner, he would have tripled the price. This is pretty common there, because westerners are considered rich, and also don’t know what the common prices are, and wouldn’t realize they are being overcharged. There are many more stories to tell about shopkeepers…

She got the drink and it was kind of opaque and milky. but quite sweet. It was ok, but it didn’t taste the same as the sugar cane I’ve had in the US. I chugged it down, and we went into the other market.

Interestingly enough, there was another conveyer belt escalator up to the second floor. This place had the bell peppers as well. While we were in there, I saw a group of Chinese army soldiers shopping.  There were in more formal attire, and I was really fascinated by this, because it was one of those things that reminds you where you really are. These are REAL Chinese soldiers, not actors or people playing around in costume. It was the real deal, and just 40 years ago, an average American wouldn’t be even allowed in this country.

I really wanted to take a picture with them, but I didn’t know how to ask, or if it would even be appropriate. I had wandered away from Rachel, and when I found her, I mentioned it to her. She thought they would be totally cool with it, but by that time, they had disappeared in the store.

Pepper in hand, it was time to explore the city center…

Day1 album on Photobucket

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