Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Girl, resumed

So how did I spend my first anniversary of a cancer diagnosis? In China.

It was a work trip--I accompanied 76 MBA students (with several faculty & staff colleagues, too) to Shanghai, where we spent 5 days meeting with companies from Starbucks to APL shipping and 2 days seeing the sights. Shanghai is like a few New Yorks piled on top of each other: busy, bustling; horrible traffic (less volume than LA, but much more insane); and, from what I hear, more construction cranes than in the rest of the world, combined.

It's a shopper's paradise where you can get North Face jackets for about $18 each, and knock-off Birkin bags for about $40. A one-hour foot massage that was the best of my life was about $3.50. About halfway through, I began feeling really, really guilty about the guys who were sitting there giving the massages. When I pay $3.50, you know he is getting at most half of that (and probably less) for his hour's great work. And Starbucks--which is all over Shanghai--still charges $4 for a latte. China is getting rich on the backs of its poor. The gifts I bought for people are pretty much all handmade, because labor is still cheaper there than machinery. I could hardly stop purchasing, but there's definitely a guilt factor involved. And for all the great service we got everywhere, there's not even a custom of tipping!

Shanghai is not traditional China; we made a brief visit to SuZhou, nearby, and that was much more quaint and old-fashioned. Still, Shanghai has great energy and a breathless feeling of hastening progress. It was exotic and invigorating, and everyone we met was looking forward with a lot of hope. As a place to mark my first year AD, it was perfect.


Anonymous said...

You even had your own personal slave assigned!

rebecca said...

Right, but for a mere ten massages, that nice fellow can run out and get himself a beautiful knock-off Birkin bag, don't forget!

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me where in Shanghai you found your Birkin? I have a friend there now and want her to bring one back for me. Help!


Jenny said...

Hmmm--there's a shopping center known by the hotel staffs as "Chipu Lu" (or, "Cheap-u Lu"). It's a big enclosed 4-story warren of little shops. The Birkin was on the 2nd floor (maybe 3rd), in the far back, RH corner. The good knock-offs are all hidden behind fake walls behind the main stall.

Your friend will certainly be accosted by a swarm of hawkers who want to guide her to stalls where they'll get a commission. If she's willing to spend a dollar or two more, she can tell them she wants a Birkin bag (or just say Hermes) and they will take her to a vendor who sells it.