Thursday, December 20, 2007


I finally got a new USB and cleared my camera's memory stick. When going through the pictures, I realized how much I haven't posted on here that I should have. I guess I felt like no one ever read this blog, but in actuality, it's just that no one comments. (hint, hint). In the future, I will try to be a better blogger. Glad that you all read (in general, and this blog specifically)!

So, here are some updates. The Special Olympics were here in Shanghai, and the Caribbean Association treated the Jamaica and Barbados delegations to dinner after the close of the games. Here's a picture of the athletes:

Do you remember when the first Cold Stone Creamery came to Shanghai? I said that if they get a Chick Fil-A I was never coming back. Well, they don't have my favorite (and really, only) fast food joint, but we do have a CPK. Yup, California Pizza Kitchen. This is a chain that I discovered while living in the Midwest. Although I think most chains are gross, CPK is on to something with those pizzas. So, the other day I went to try it out, and was satisfied. It seems they import most of their ingredients, and the recipes must be adhered to, because the taste (of the BBQ Chicken pizza, at least) was the same. The only minor difference was that here the size of the chicken "chunks" was much smaller. No surprise there. Next time I want to try the spinach artichoke dip (my favorite) but being as I make a few adjustments (which is still a new thing in Shanghai, and sometimes causes problems) and the cost is more than that of a pizza, I'm going to hold off for a little while. Living here is like living in FL, MO, and NY all at once. Chick Fil-A must be coming...

I finally picked up my wedding dress. The first time I went, the wedding dress was not good, and their efforts to fix it were not up to par. The dress might have been cheap, but it didn't need to look it. In the end, the manager agreed to make a new dress. As a result, I made a few other changes to the design of the dress, so that it would be more flattering on my figure. These additional changes resulted in a 200 RMB price increase, which I agreed to pay only AFTER I picked up the dress (I had already paid the 600 up front, which I think they wanted mostly because there is no hope of resale if I didn't want it, the size being too big for most Chinese brides and the style not being in line with Chinese taste). Thankfully, I was not disappointed the second time, after they altered the dress so that it would, um, zip. I am pleased with the final result, and although it isn't exactly what I wanted, I think it looks nice. Total price: about 1100 RMB including transportation for myself (and L-squared) back and forth. That is about $150 USD, 110 Euros or 75 GBP. Not bad. I can't post the the picture until after, but here's a tease...

This is the store where I got the dress. The sign says something like Good Wedding Dress Store.

(Right) The inspiration dress. I really loved the neckline and sleeves of this dress. Photo found at

(Left) This is the prototype in the store of the shape of the dress. No, I do not have those flowers. Yes, my dress is this material and color.
Both dresses have the "tucking" so I guess I like that too. The final dress is a merging of these two, with a few additional elements.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wedding Dress

On Sunday, I went to Suzhou (a town not far from Shanghai), to the famous wedding dress street to find my wedding dress. I already had a picture that I wanted to make a few minor adjustments to, so thankfully my search was very directed. Wedding dress shopping, especially on a street full of shops dedicated tot hat purpose, can be information overload for a person like me. I am not a sport shopper - I do not have the patience, aptitude, finances, or disposition to go shopping just for the sake of shopping. I can spend my fair share of hours in the store (usually waiting for the fitting room), but I am almost always a goal oriented shopper. Get in, get what I want, get out. As quickly as possible.

Accompanying me was my TA, L-Squared. L-Squared is absolutely wonderful. Asside from regular work related things (Will you make 4 photocopies of this novel? I have new students and can't order more books on time. Thanks!), she also does a plethora of not exactly work related things (Can you buy some of that tea that makes you skinny for me please, five boxes? Can you tell this cab company that the driver ripped me off and go pick up the money he owes me? Thanks.Can you cancel your driving lesson this weekend even though you're taking the road test in two weeks and take me to the place in Suzhou where you buy wedding dresses? You're the greatest!), L-squared does it all.

So, L-squared and I met at 7:00 on Sunday morning (I was late) and got lots of exercise running, no sprinting, through subway terminals and the railway station so as not to miss our 7:40 train (like I said, I was late). We made it, right in the nick of time. About 35 minutes later, we arrive in Suzhou (which, by the way, is nothing like Shanghai) and took a taxi to the "Wedding Street" as she told the taxi driver. As it was minutes to 9 when we arrived at the street, the stores were just opening up. The first two stores reminded me why I think that most wedding dresses are ugly dresses. Honestly, if they weren't white and marketed as wedding dresses, very few women would wear most of these dresses ( I hope). I was gearing up for a long day, but then we saw a store with dresses that looked pretty good. This, our third store, was a gem. We looked around a little, inspected quality and style, and then asked if they make dresses, quickly. They said that was not a problem, I gave them my picture, and we discussed the dress.

I wanted a different fabric (the dress in the picture is made of satin, too hot). I tried on dresses of different fabrics to see how heavy they were. Finally we decided on a cotton silk blend, which I think will look nice. Then the color. Not bright white, but not the yellowed tinged one with the fabric I wanted that they had on display. No problem, she doesn't have any in stock, but she showed me a swatch of the color and said she would buy it. Do you want a small train? No. They were a little surprised, but I can skip the dress dragging on the ground. Especially because this will be my reception dress, which means meet-and-great, and dancing, too much potential for accidents. Floor length is fine. Oh, and I want this tucking to go down a little further. Ok. And a good supportive bra, not the one you give Chinese girls. Oh, it can come out. No, I say, I do not want to take it out, I want it to be good and supportive, because I need it, all day. No problem. We ironed out the details, I asked questions, they asked questions and we agreed. Now the most important part, the price.

And here is where L-squared blew my mind. I had told her beforehand how much I budgeted for the dress, my absolute limit. I told her that even if they quote a price that is under-budget, she has to bargain her butt off, because we both know that my foreign face equals price increase. And she did that to perfection. They quoted price that was less than half of my budget. And she argued. And bargained. And even got very creative. I can understand most of what she said, but in order to make things work better, I allowed her to translate anything beyond the most simple Chinese. That way they could go back and forth, and talk about foreigners, and the shop-keepers are not worried about me. Works better. And when bargaining for big-ticket items, it is no small affair. It takes serious verbal dexterity and creativeness.

Because the original price quoted was less than half of my budget, I would have taken it without argument. But not L-Squared. After she promised to bring back lots of business in the coming year, including herself (she is currently single), and talked about the foreign business I could bring (and then they could charge more), told them that I was getting married abroad, and that the dress better be the best quality because otherwise foreigners would have a bad impression of Chinese goods (which packs extra punch right now), said that the street was full of shops and although we didn't want to go somewhere else, we could...after all of that, when they were down to the last little 50 RMB
(about 5 Euros, 3 GBP, 6.50 USD), she talked to me in English for a minute (more for dramatic effect than anything else, as she knows I understood most of it, but she also wanted to know what I was thinking at this point, being as I hadn't said a word). Then she told them, "Let me tell you something about foreigners. You know they like to give tips. So, even she (referring here to me) is thinking, what is the big deal about 50 RMB? But, if you charge her the 50 RMB, you don't get a tip. If you don't charge her the extra 50, then you get a tip, and if she is really happy with the dress when you are done, if you do a good, high quality job, she will give you at least 50 RMB, maybe more." Worked like a charm. they took my measurements, and I handed over 600 RMB for my wedding dress.

Yes, 600 RMB, you do the math. So, when I go back to pick it up I will take pictures and you all can let me know if you think I got a deal, a steal, or ripped-off. Until then, you'll just have to wait with baited breath. And if it is as good as I think it will be, then I think I have finally topped my mothers best bargain. Thanks L-Squared!

Post Script: Oh, and the picture above is not my dress, or even the shop where I got my dress. It was the only brown mannequin on the entire street, and so you know I had to take a picture!