Success with the washing machine! Yay! Clean clothes! Halfway through the day yesterday we trotted off campus to a French store called Carrefours (sp?) and to a couple of the underground shopping malls (much like Toronto's) in and around Hongbo Square. Marcy and I did a little clothes shopping though that is largely (pun intended) hopeless for women of our size, me especially. I'm the right height for Chinese clothing, but the width? Not so much. I did, however, find a great pair of cargo shorts (men's) and successfully bargained for them. Saved myself a whopping 20 yuan ($3.50). Like many places where our currency is worth so much more than the local currency, it seems absurd to bargain when you're already paying so little, in this case $13, but the sales people expect it. The trick is knowing which places you can and can't bargain in and that's hard to know unless you start doing it. For instance, we also bought some Chinese pop and folk music CDs (Rob, I got one for you strictly on the basis of the album title: "Dick and Cowboy," with a handsome, long-haired Chinese guy on the cover). We couldn't bargain for those, but the two I bought were double albums (and Dick and Cowboy is a music video disc as well) and both were a total of 27 yuan (about $5.00). My big purchase of the day was a mattress pad for my very hard mattress, and that cost me a whopping Y229 ($38). I'm not just making money by coming here, I'm actually saving it.
Next door to the Carrefours store was a big building with the words "Ming Tien Coffee Language" in the same color and font as Starbucks, and we were desperately hoping it might be such, but suspect it's a language school instead. Funny what pattern recognition will make you think. It didn't help that next door to that was a round sign similar to the Starbuck's logo, but featuring a German guy with a beer stein and called Good Hans. Sigh.
The weather was beautiful again, sunny and warm, but Harbin, like LA, has a very hazy horizon, though the air doesn't feel especially dirty. And again there were people all over the streets, selling fruit, washcloths, books, clothes, water, ice cream, you name it. On the way to the stores, we also passed an old man crouching on the sidewalk behind a small white sheet with a bamboo holder of sticks that I suspect were I Ching. I wish I'd stopped to ask if I could take his picture and that I knew enough Chinese to have him throw them for me. It would have been interesting. We also passed a large statue of Chairman Mao in front of some building. Not sure what the building was except that it wasn't Party HQ. We saw that on another day and this wasn't it.
And here's the picture of the day for Saturday: one of the side streets lined with small shops near HIT.