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Wednesday, 23 November 2011


By Johna Ferguson

The hours spent browsing through the Sears & Roebuck catalog, the “wish book” as we called it, seem another thing of the past. I can remember my happiness when my father brought the new issue to the beach. I think that was the start of my friends and our introduction into the differences between men and women.

Of that we already knew a lot from National Geographic but we studied the various fashions - corsets for large women and jock straps for athletes, apparel we’d never seen before.

But it wasn't only clothes. It was every single thing our homes were filled with from washing machines to mirrors and lamps. Such an assortment of hardware was available, things I had never seen nor could I imagine what they were for. Needless to say it was many families summer entertainment.

But slowly, the world changed and people wanted to feel the goods they were buying; they wanted to go to the actual shop that sold them and have the clerk perhaps explain how it worked since many now had cars to get around in.

Sears opened many large city stores filled with their catalog items so lots of people got into the habit of shopping in these stores.

And then came malls with many big companies opening shops so people started shopping at them without the expense or problem of street parking.

Then the malls became too big a hassle for many, too much walking, so the shops decided to also send out small catalogs a couple times a year. No need to even go out; just order from the glossy color printed catalogs.

And now with the internet, many catalogs are in print only on your computer and with just a credit card you can buy anything using online shopping.

But here in China everything is still paid for with cash. Well, I don't know about big items like cars or in the “foreign” shops like Cartier or Hermes. Wealthy Chinese most likely have bank cards as there are ATM machines outside some banks now. But it’s till a no check country; it’s all cash and big wads if it are carried in one’s pockets if the item costs in the hundreds.

Most women go out daily very early in the morning to the open street stalls to shop for fresh vegetables and fruit. Most things like honey, peanut butter, crackers are sold in small shops lining the street. Zhou buys tea at one shop and I buy the grain for the magpies at another.

Things sold in rented stores must pay the government a tax, but those vendors selling from moveable carts on the street bypass those rules unless the police suddenly swoop in and charge them something.

It's amazing the array of goods for sale by street vendors. I bought a pair of rubber gloves from one and a broom from another while Zhou bought sponge cupcakes and cookies from a different seller.

Below are photos taken Sunday at 10:00AM on a street in our nearby neighborhood. It was crowded, but most people got out of the way, not wanting to have their pictures taken.

They didn’t know the reason we were taking them, so they were careful; “BB” might be watching so please be careful what you say in your comments as he also might also be looking over my shoulder.

Chinese Market 1

Chinese Market 3

Chinese Market 3

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Johna - Wonderful dissertation on shopping!

I am hungry just looking at all those delicious fruits and vegetables. I can't wait for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast! - Sandy

Very colorful and interesting.
Perhaps all cash would be best here too, as long as they would accept $100 bills. Big wads would be too easy to pickpocket.

I remember, as a child, gazing longingly at the animals available through the Sears-Roebuck catalog: ducks, geese, peafowl, varieties of chickens, even a pony! Most of those things are probably available, dead or alive, at your street-side markets. Happy Thanksgiving!

Somehow an earlier posting got lost--just wanted to say how great to have all those colorful, fresh foods to choose from. My friend, author Da Chen, grew up in a China where all his family had to eat were moldy sweet potatoes.

As usual you managed to transport me right thru SEARS catalogs of old to China and those wonderful fruits and people...nice to be in this circle of friends..

Oddly enough, given the political differences, street vendors are active here in South Korea, too. It's a real pleasure to shop here.
Everything can be found on the streets or in the small Mom-and-Pop stores. I cherish a pair of felt slippers I got on the street, best thing for winter evenings!

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