Enrolling at Shanghai University, More Shopping Malls

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This post was originally published in 2007
It may contain stale & outdated information. Or it may have grown more awesome with age, like the author.

Our goals for today were to enroll me in Shanghai University's summer program, and to have a look at the big electronics market. Long story short, we successfully completed both goals. We took bus 767 to the university. While we were waiting for this bus I noticed a funny box fixed to the wall. I asked Yvonne what it was, and she said it was a condom dispenser. I took a photo of it, and giggled for awhile. About five minutes later this old guy came up on his bike, which had metal carry boxes fixed to the rear. He walked up to the dispenser, and I wondered at the fact that a man in his condition could attract women. Actually, he was just doing his job, refilling the city's condom dispensers. Then the bus came. During the bus ride we ate some chocolate whose packaging claimed was of four different flavours: strawberry, rock melon, banana and some other fruit that I can't remember. The package was lies, it should have read: candy centered chocolates with four different colours, not flavours, as they all taste the same. After eating our fill of the lie-chocolate, we just sat for awhile and I tried not to irritate Yvonne. I obviously wasn't very successful, because she decided to play a trick on me. She reached into her bag and pulled out what looked like two small chocolate brown candies, and handed them to me. I popped them into my mouth and started to chew. One burst in my mouth with a loud pop, which alone was rather disconcerting. The flavour that followed was entirely unexpected, being more similar to grape seeds than chocolate. Turns out they were pills, not chocolate, and one is supposed to swallow them with water, not chew them... They made my tongue go purple, hence the photo. After arriving at the university, we went to ask the security guard for directions to the foreign student's building. He gave some rather vague directions: "once you pass the big lawn go right". He was old and looked grumpy so we didn't press him further. We passed the only lawn we could see (not a very large one) and then turned right. We walked for a little while until we realized we were entering a construction site, and all the workers were giving us the "what the hell are you doing here" look. We turned around and wandered further into the university. After walking for some time we noticed another, far larger lawn. We crossed it and turned right, asking people for further directions as we went. There are no signposts pointing the way anywhere on this campus. The buildings themselves are labelled, but that isn't helpful when one is one kilometer away, with buildings and trees preventing line of sight. Finally we found a building that looked promising (it had some English written on it) and went in. I have no idea what that building was for. The interior was that of a posh hotel, totally out of place on this campus. The receptionists told Yvonne that this was definitely not the foreign student building, that building was further along. Eventually we did find it, though the building itself had no label, and the reception area was on the third floor. Totally logical, I thought, and out-of-their-way helpful to boot. The enrollment process was pretty quick, and for me involved a short attempt to initiate the process in halting Mandarin, then a lot of sitting, and then paying, while Yvonne did the talking. It seems that people either can't, or can't be bothered understanding my attempts at Chinese speech, unless they have a real reason (I'm staying at their house, in a store, asking about something they're proud of etc.). Enrollment was 410 å…ƒ, or 410/5.25 = NZD, I can't be bothered moving the mouse over to open my calculator program, do it yourself. When the enrollment confirmation form arrives I'll be able to get the rest of the money from the Confucius institute, from whom I have been lucky enough to receive a scholarship to do some study here in China. Thanks Confucius Institute! And thanks Dr. Wong, who convinced me to apply for the scholarship. The university is only one bus ride (short distance in Shanghai) from Yvonne's parent's house, and there is a subway station right in front of it. Enrollment done, it was time to go to another part of the big shopping center that is Shanghai. This time it was my turn, after lunch and a quick look around the makeup stores, of course. Yvonne's dad has a lot of vouchers for meals and the like, and he often kindly gives them to us when we go out. This time we went to a restaurant in the mall pictured here. It was called "Flowers of ... something", I forget. My meal was nice, but from Yvonne's reaction hers wasn't so good. One is not supposed to take photos inside the big malls, I have idea why. There were not many security staff about in this one though, so I snapped away. I saw the shotgun-toting armour guards again, but didn't take any photos of them (reason: shotguns, sour looks). Shanghai malls are different to what we have in NZ, in that there are actually very few closed-off stores. Everything is open plan, one is never sure whether one is actually inside a store or not. This also means that the salespeople are free to harass you almost anywhere in the mall, a freedom they take full advantage of. The tactic that Yvonne taught me works really well: ignore them totally, like they aren't actually there. This doesn't stop them, not by any means. What it does do is prevent them from getting an opening. Despite this treatment, a previously ignored salesperson will treat you well the second you ask them a question. They really could teach the NZ salespeople a thing or two, bar Remy who works at Bond & Bond at The Base in Te Rapa. He is a sales God. So yeah malls blah blah. We left the 'Zelda' mall* and crossed the road, into another mall. This one was not as nice, so forget hearing about it. The main act of the day was the electronics market, which is a 4 story building filled with tiny electronics retail stalls. It is awesome for these reasons: â—¦ There are four large floors devoted to electronics â—¦ Each store sells a variety of similar products, meaning they are all competing with each other â—¦ No store is larger than three square meters, meaning there are A LOT of stores in this building â—¦ The salespeople generally know what they are talking about, are nice, and can speak/understand Mandarin â—¦ One is able and expected to haggle The competition between stores means that the prices are generally quite low to begin with. Each sells a diverse range of whatever specialty product they've chosen. Say a store sells mp3 players - this store will have at least twenty types of mp3 players across a wide price/brand range. The store will also sell every mp3 player accessory imaginable. We were looking for an electronic dictionary with the following features: ability to search for the English/Mandarin definition of a word, the ability to display Pinyin for a selected character, and a library of Chinese idioms. Idioms are the most difficult part of Chinese, as there are so many, and often quite abstract in that the literal translation has no bearing on the actual meaning. The ability to have a word read out was not desired, this is often flawed and serves only to inflate the price. The saleswoman at the first store tried telling us that these features were impossible, so we walked off. The next one's was OK, but too expensive, so we walked off. The next store's salesperson obviously didn't know what she was doing, evident by her inability to correctly orientate the batteries in the display unit. We hung around for long enough to realize this, then moved on. The next stall we stopped at had a dictionary with all the required functions. Yvonne haggled the price down quite low as well, I think from around 500å…ƒ to 300å…ƒ. I didn't like it though, it was white with a lime green stripe around the edge, and was wedge-shaped, not cuboidal which is the ideal shape for any electronic dictionary. We left that guy, telling him we wanted to check out all the other stores first. We finally found what we were looking for at the next store. It has all the features we wanted, and is attractive in two-tone white/black. The cuboidal shape is ideal for my pocket, and doesn't look like folded crap. The other one looked like folded crap, if crap were plastic and white/lime green. Yvonne haggled the price down for this one too, from around 500å…ƒ to 280å…ƒ. I almost felt sorry for the saleswoman. From this store I also bought a small screwdriver set, which ended up costing 60å…ƒ. I mainly wanted because the Wii has been playing up for some games, and I need a special tri-phillips head screwdriver to get it open so I can have a look. I demanded to be allowed to peruse the products sold in the stores that we hadn't yet looked in. As we had two Wiimotes, but only one nunchuck, I figured we ought to get another one, so we could play two-player boxing and soccer (actually so I can beat everyone at these games, I'm tired of winning in tennis). Genuine Nintendo products are pretty much fixed price no matter where you go, like Mac. For this reason the nunchuck was the same price as we'd get in NZ, only in å…ƒ. The salesman in the shop we bought the nunchuck from was incredibly helpful, and genuinely a nice guy (or a good actor/both). We noticed he had a Wii carry-bag on the shelf, and asked about it. He told us it was 200å…ƒ, real leather. We murmured that it was too expensive, and looked at other things. I asked if they sold Wii component cables, as I was sick at looking at an image that had been squeezed down a single RCA cable, especially since I'll be playing on a quaility TV for a change, for the next couple of months. He grabbed one of the shelf and said 150å…ƒ. I was pretty sure they cost that much in NZ (I was right, I checked trademe), so I said no and we started walking out. When it was obvious we actually were leaving, not pretending, he came up and told us he'd give us both the bag and the cables for 200å…ƒ. We accepted. *I give it this name because its layout of crevass-spanning walkways and bright colours reminds me of a big Zelda level.
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