Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Year of the Bull

Yesterday was a free day so Mark & Xiao-Ling and I returned to Shamian Island to finish our gift-buying. Since the old consulate is located on the island and all the babies still receive their medical exams there (plus of course the White Swan Hotel is there), there's quite a trade in adoption souvenirs, such as T-shirts and caps that say "Jieh-jieh" (big sister), "Guh-guh" (big brother), "Mei-Mei" (little sister), "Ba-Ba" (father) and "Ye-Ye" (grandfather). These are just the tip of the iceberg; of course there are traditional Chinese gifts of all kinds as well, and everything is beautiful, well-made, and relatively inexpensive. The shopkeepers can smell us coming a mile away and greet you at least that far in advance in order to take you for a nice chatty stroll to what happens to be their store, where they are more than ready to butter us up into buying out their entire store.

"Hal-lo...American right? Very, very handsome. You most beautiful American man / woman / family I have ever seen. So good-looking. And smart too. I can tell you very very smart and wise. And you love daughter. This girl very very lucky. She love you very very much. Best baby I ever seen. You want nice outfit / jade / barrettes / shoes / toys / condominium for her?" Okay, the condo part is an exaggeration. I will give 'em this: everyone stands behind the quality of their stuff, and if you need to exchange something for any reason, you'll have good luck with hat. Poor Mark got re-named Mart, Mike, Michael, Mikey, Mack, Matt, Matty... at least he was addressed with a smile and that's what counts. Sure beats "Yacklin..."

One particular shopkeeper was adorable but so overzealous in currying our favor while we discussed the price and quality of a Chinese zodiac wall hanging that I guessed out loud she was born in the Year of the Bull. This made me not only the smartest and most beautiful woman who ever shopped in her store but also the funniest. Suffice it to say that when we return to China I think folks will be glad to see us. Which is of course one of the main points of being a good guest.

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