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Published: April 20th 2008
The thunder is crashing, the lightning is flashing and the rain is pouring down outside as I write this. The pattern for this last week has been very hot, humid and beautiful during the day with torrential downpours in the later afternoon and early evening. The plant life outside the apartment is taking on a new life as it soaks up the heat and huge amounts of water every afternoon. More color appears everyday as more flowers appear and it seems that the last thing to bloom is going to be the roses, which are almost ready to explode.
Today, we found ourselves traveling on the "shopping bus" to "Tailor Street". Although it is still in the same part of the city as we are, Wuchang, it still took almost an hour of driving through traffic to get there. Along this street are found an assortment of fabric shops as well as many clothing stores where you can choose anything from a simple shirt to a three-piece suit and the fabric you want. A tailor will measure you from head to toe and within a couple of weeks, you can return to pick up your hand-produced item. Scattered among the
tailor shops were other shops that sold a myriad of fabrics. We walked into one of them and were confronted with more types of material in more patterns and colors than I have seen in any store before. It was like a Costco of fabrics, along with anything else to do with sewing that a person could think of...hundreds of buttons, zippers, trim, clasps, etc. It seemed to go on as far as we could see from floor to ceiling in all directions. There was barely enough room to walk through the small aisles that separated one pile of stuff from another. And, of course like everywhere else we go, the activity and hustle and bustle of the people is never-ending. My God, it is going to seem quiet and slow when we get back to Canada this summer!!
Nancy and I checked out every shop and were overwhelmed with the amount of beautiful clothing available. She ended up buying a couple of nice outfits off the shelf but we also had to go through the experience of getting something "tailored to fit". While walking around we ran into a friend and her fiancee that were picking up some
stuff in one of the stores from a previous visit. She has lived in Wuhan for a couple of years and it was one of her favorite spots. Nancy was very interested in some of the beautiful jackets they produced but we both decided that a thick jacket was not something that was necessary for this time of year. We both picked out a traditional Chinese silk shirt. The woman that owned the shop explained to me that we could get it in silk or a cheaper similar looking material. We decided to go for the real thing since the difference in price was not that great. The display was in a wonderful white patterned silk but Nancy wanted to know if they could make it in another color. We needed our handy dictionary for that one. Once we had picked out the silk material we wanted, they took out their measuring tapes.
She then measured Nancy and shouted out the numbers to an assistant who wrote them down. Her husband repeated the process with me. I thought the display shirt fit well enough but I was soon informed that it did not and I would need one made
for my shape and size. They showed me how the fabric should drape straight down the sides and how the traditional collar should fit. We made a small down payment and will go back and pick up the finished shirts in a couple of weeks. We found out later that two other friends who came on the trip went through the process to buy hand-made shirts and suits for a wedding this summer. The fabric store I mentioned at the beginning had a second floor where their experience took place.
We ended up taking a taxi back home instead of waiting around a couple of hours for the group bus to leave. Today was the first day I felt like I had conversed fairly successfully. As always, not a word of English was spoken. I managed to ask about prices several times, talk about colors, order some street food, get back home to our place by taxi an hour away and tell the driver where to stop. Much to the chagrin of others, my students are teaching me some Wuhanese, the local dialect spoken in Wuhan. As it was when I was learning French, the more you try to
speak and the more you hear others saying things, the easier it gets. I have now started asking people to repeat pronunciations and words until I sort of get it. The hardest part is remembering the complex sounds but after hearing the same thing several times it eventually starts to sink in. Still, we have a very long way to go with the language!
We ended up buying another Wii this weekend. It was not planned! While walking around one of the malls on Friday night we came across a small store that was selling them along with Wii Fit, the latest "game" craze that Nintendo has come out with. We loved our Wii in Canada but it was one too many things to bring with us so we gave it to Pat before we left. We walked out of the shop with our new Wii , a dance pad, and Wii Fit...all of which will help us to get a little more exercise while having fun! The Wii consoles are region specific so ours is in Japanese and will only play games purchased in Asia but thats ok since all the big games are obviously available here. In
the store we purchased our machine, the games were selling for 5 kwai, which is under a dollar! We have since learned that we can get our console "cracked" at a local shop so that it will be in English. And for all you Wii fans out there, Wii Fit is not going to be available in North America until the end of May! And don't get excited and start asking us to bring back some cheap games...they won't work in your machines!!
Anyway, as you can tell, we are still having a blast. We partied last night again at one of the other teacher's places in the complex so our average of one teacher party a week is still being maintained. It will be reverse culture shock this summer when we return to make our way across Canada on the bike again but we are looking forward to it and have heard from many here that we will be glad to escape the heat for a few weeks. Until the next time...
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