It's amazing how refreshed you feel after going shopping, isn't it? I have always loved shopping. ALWAYS. It's one of my absolute favorite things to do. Even in tight financial times, to just buy myself a little tube of lip gloss or a shirt from the sale rack would do wonders for my well-being. Add to that the company of one of my gal pals (or even my fashionably awesome gay friend), some lunch and some wine, and it was a recipe for total rejuvenation.
When I lived in Seoul, I must confess that I went shopping almost daily. It's true. There are shops everywhere. Underground in the subway stations and all along the streets. So many great finds for so incredibly cheap. Clothes. Shoes. Purses. Make-up. It was like I'd died and gone to shopping mall heaven. Then, I got pregnant and my last shopping trips before we moved from Seoul consisted of buying maternity wear.
And now we're in China. The street markets aren't as awesome (or clean) as the ones I'd come to love in Seoul. But there are malls here of course. That's not the problem. It's trying to navigate a mall with a rambunctious toddler. I don't know how anyone does it alone. It's so stressful that I have put off shopping for ages just because I cannot deal with the pretty and shiny things AND mind what my child is doing. How do other moms do this, I wonder to myself as I struggle to pick Raelynn up off the floor she has somehow become so attached to while everyone stares at me and everyone in a 12-mile radius becomes deafened by her shrieking.
No matter how crazy she can be, she is my kid and I love her to pieces. I love spending time with her and my heart hurts when I am apart from her. But every mommy needs a break sometimes. And that includes THIS mommy!
I had made plans with a gal pal of mine who's still here for the summer unlike most of the other expats who have all gone off on trips to home. It was just going to be us girls, having some lunch and drinks. I can't even begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to this outing. I NEEDED IT. My husband is starting to understand this aspect of my culture - that sure, married couples need to hang with other married couples BUT women will ALWAYS need their girlfriends. Here, I have found it extremely difficult to make friends. Even in Seoul, it was so much easier to make friends. I actually had found 3 wonderful girlfriends here, but 2 of them moved to other parts of China and the other one moved back to her home of Australia.
Anyway, I lined up my in-laws to come over and watch Raelynn during the day, which would kill 2 birds with one stone. I'd have someone to watch my child (albeit someone with a pea-brain) and my in-laws would get to spend time with Raelynn which they of course enjoy doing. I even confirmed with this friend yesterday if we were still on and she told me that yes, we were still having our girls' day. So imagine my surprise when I get a text (not a call mind you, but a text) last night asking me to call her because she didn't want to wake the baby. She'd sent it around 9pm, when we were out to dinner with my husband's old soccer coach who has been visiting all this week, but I was too busy trying not to gag on huo guo, which means hot pot. I HATE HOT POT. I totally do. You have a big pot of boiling water on your table and you drop in raw meats and veggies and then pull them out after they have been boiled. Then, you are supposed to drag them into this slimy peanut sauce. I HATE IT. They gave me some soy sauce to dip my food in which helped a bit but it still was not what I wanted. All through that meal, I kept thinking that the next day, my friend and I would eat something normal. Something Americans find delicious. Not soggy meat in slimy sauce.
Once we were home and Raelynn was asleep about an hour later, that's when I saw her message. My heart sank. I knew right then she was going to bail. It was so epic too. When I replied to her text, she responded that because she's changing schools this semester, she's having a visa crisis and might get deported. I stood there, staring at the phone in disbelief. They have made some changes to the visa requirements recently, but I've never heard of a school not being able to extend a visa for a teacher while things get taken care of. I felt sorry for her but then, a bit angry. Because here she is contacting me at 9pm about this. Surely, she didn't just find this mess out after her dinner, no? Of course not. And that's when I just felt like giving up on making friends here completely. By the way, for my guy friends here - you all are great. Really. You and your wives and your sweet kids are all wonderful friends, but I'm complaining about a lack of girlfriends here.
All this made me so sad for home. So much sadder than usual. So all my girls back home (and my girls in Korea too) - you all know who you are too - thank you for being my friends even while I am so far away. I need you more than ever now. I look forward to a day where we can go shopping with reckless abandonment (or somewhat reckless anyway). A day where we can drink so much wine that we need one of our husbands to come get us. A day where we can eat the most fattening sampling of desserts ever and not once think about all those horrid calories flocking to our asses and thighs. Yes, girls. When I come back home, it's on.
Jeremy of course hates to see his wife sad. And of course he owed me for the foot incident, not to mention the whole watch-losing-drunken-situation. So when I told him to tell his parents not to bother coming to watch Raelynn, he said no way. He'd reschedule his morning for me and take me shopping in Taidong, which is basically a giant outside mall of walking streets filled with all kinds of shops, and then we could have lunch together, just the two of us. We had been wanting to do something like this for a while and now with my so-called friend's flake-out, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We haven't had a date without Raelynn since our anniversary last September.
Raelynn was understandably quite upset to be getting the shaft as she realized we were leaving her with Grandpa and Grandma. I felt my eyes well up with tears as she cried for me when I walked out the door. No. Must be strong. Must do something for me so I can be a good mommy for her. Off we went. It was so weird to be in the car together and not hear Raelynn counting or pointing out buses and taxis. Or screaming for crackers. Or just screaming in general.
When we got to Taidong, Jeremy asked me where I'd like to go first. One of the things I wanted was to get new shoes for Raelynn. She needed a pair of nice dressy shoes to go with this awesome fancy dress my folks had sent her. I had the good sense to trace her foot so we'd know we were buying the right size shoe. In Taidong, there is this awesome baby store but it is chaotic. Having Raelynn with us just makes it so much more stressful. Now was our chance to buy the shoes quickly, without any tantrums or fuss. But my husband wagged his finger at me. No, you first. We will buy something you want for you first, he insisted.
So we went to my favorite little make-up shop. The woman who owns it has lots of make-up imported from Korea, some knock-offs of high-end stuff, and even some stuff from the states. All of it at great prices. She's also patient as I try to speak to her in my poor Chinese. It helps that I can gesture to her about what I'm looking for. If I have more specific questions, my husband helps me ask her. After buying me some nail polish and eye make-up, we make our way to the fancy department store. Unlike the small make-up boutique, it is air-conditioned, and we kind of just bask in that coolness for a moment before moving on. We look at iPads. We look at jewelry. We look at...Skin Food.
When I first went to Korea, I remember being in a taxi and seeing a store called Skin Food and about peeing my pants laughing my ass off. All I could think of was the old Ren & Stimpy cartoons with Powdered Toast Man scraping his face off.
Next, we wandered around toward the watches. I wanted him to have a new watch. Watches are important to Chinese people. Just like having a nice car, a nice watch gives you a good status. My husband was tempted to buy a cheap watch at a kiosk in front of the Wal-Mart, where we had wound up running in for an umbrella when a sudden downpour attempted to thwart our fun. But they looked as cheap as their prices. Inside the nice mall, I managed to find him yet another beautiful watch that was just right for him, and just right in price.
After that, we bought shoes and new markers for Raelynn. And then we had lunch at McDonald's. It was so much fun to get to hang out with my husband like that again, sharing our new umbrella in the rain and laughing away the day. He might not be one of the girls, but he sure is one hell of a guy. Thanks for a great day, honey! I love you!