Earlier this week I shamefacedly confessed to a group of women that I had not yet been to Ikea, that Swedish furniture behemoth on the other side of the river. Really, I should have kept this information to myself. I had heard so many stories, a lot of them from this same group of women, that the whole enterprise seemed beyond daunting. Tales of the locals napping on the sofas, practically picnicking on leisurely Saturdays and Sundays; tales of items snitched from shopping carts in the check out line by other sticky fingered shoppers; tales of having to reverse one’s steps and return upstream for an item like a spawning salmon. Like Carrefour*, I knew not to enter on a weekend. The women looked at me like I was a hydra-headed monster, a freak of nature, an expat wuss. Everyone goes to Ikea. You just need to.
So, after my hair appointment with Kenny, I braved the hallowed double deckered warehouse,first ascending an escaltor to see the “showrooms” and then descending to retrieve the selected items. One of three Caucasians in the store, I drifted through the maze of merchandise. A Tuesday afternoon, there were only 3,000 other people in the store. Not bad. Someone even offered to give me a hand pulling a prepackaged bookshelf off a rack.
As I neared the check out line my heart soared: Christmas decorations! Lights hung in strands from the ceiling, boxes of brightly colored plastic ornments stood in happy regiments on palettes, wreaths made of natural and synthetic substances. In a nod to the Sephardic community, there were even electric menorahs! (No Kwanzaa, however.) Other shoppers were filling their carts. My favorite items were the big black plastic hearts the size of dinner plates. I did not know that black was the new red for Christmas ornaments but there you have it. My cart was full, though, so I’ll have to go back and get some. It’s reassuring to know that even the Chinese like to get a jump on Christmas.
*French grocery store chain. One of my stated goals here in China is to go there as little as possible. Am currently training V2 for Carrefour Duty. But that is another story.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NEPHEW CAL WHO IS A DECADE OLD TODAY! TIME FLIES!!!