Folks…I’m back! After my usual summer hiatus spent consuming all the dairy I can while at home in Ireland, and this year throwing in a wedding (my own), I am now back on Chinese soil. This year, country mouse has taken to the big city and I find myself in one of the four super cities in China, Guangzhou (where?). Home to 13 million and capital of the Canton region, this sticky city is one we should all be more familiar with. As a final nugget of information before I begin today’s tale: Cities in China are graded in tiers according to their amenities, population, infrastructure etc. The four “super cities” (top tier) are Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. In case you were wondering.
Now, let’s move along to last month’s shenanigans. It seems the big city is all too much for this country mouse, as I’m FINALLY managing to post my Halloween fun in December- just in time for Hanukkah.
So… anyone who knows much about me knows I am no less than a fiend when it comes to Halloween. It is my favourite holiday of the year, and like many aspects of my life, I may take myself a little too seriously when it comes to compiling a costume. Typically the less recognisable I am, the better. Here are a few snaps from my Halloween collection..
If my skin is stained the next day- I know I have succeeded.
Halloween in China however, can be a tricky one. For starters I don’t have the woman who over the years has sewed me into costumes, drawn my Amy Winehouse tattoos, painted behind my ears- My Halloween go to…Mammy.
Also, here in China Halloween is not much of a thing. In some of the bigger cities it can be celebrated, but without the stench of smoke and the racket of illegal fireworks, is it even Halloween?
This year I was ill prepared. I had not done my online shopping. Being in the big shmoke had ruined me. I was sure I could just “go to one of the markets” that exist in Guangzhou in their masses. After visiting one of the well known hives for all things purchasable, Haizhu Square- I was out of luck. Costumes were widely available, but as a DIY Halloweener, a good selection of face paint and other such accessories were in short supply. I reluctantly purchased some 80 cent “cream make up” in several colours. Upon a trial application it rose to the value of its 80 cents and looked all too much like whipped cream layered thickly onto my disappointed mush.
The panic was rising. It was Friday night. It was too late to order online. I had a whipped cream face. And I had not one shred of a promising Halloween costume- other than the five euro black dress I somehow had the foresight to buy.
I know what many of you must be thinking… “You live in China, where everything is produced…It must be easy to find things.”
No. Easy it is not. Your regular Joe Soap shop may be cheaper than home but rubbish quality. Your Western Joe Soap shop in the big city is a H&M or a Zara and your rich Joe Soap shop is a boutique or a combination of rich and western- Gucci, Prada, Louis Vitton and all the other shops that I only bother looking twice at when they have a fabulously over the top Christmas display. So.
Searching online for anything in English leaves limited results, and while my Chinese is alright, trying to sift through the shite that appears in an internet search is difficult enough in English, in Chinese i have little to no chance- or patience.
Someone with their ear to the ground has access to the kind of place you imagine when you imagine Chinese shopping…the wholesaler. So I kept my Halloween hopes high, and after some digging, not knowing what I may find on my Saturday morning adventure… headed to the Beauty Exchange Centre. This name made me slightly uneasy. Would I have to exchange something for my Halloween makeup? Could my costume cost me a lock of curly Caucasian hair (very valuable in these parts)?
My eyes widened with hope as I stepped in, all my Hallo-senses tingling with the sights and smells of cosmetics that would potentially transform me. As a newbie to the cosmetic scene I dashed in the direction of the small glass viles, asking excitedly if they were contacts. They were not, the woman laughed. Yet they were everywhere. Advertisement posters later showed me they were in fact small bottles of Botoxs injection liquid. Not quite what I’d had in mind, but at least there was a contingency plan.
Surely amongst all of this, was my Halloween face.
I traipsed through several floors, keeping the Halloween spirit strong as I found massage chairs, laser hair removal machines and tattoo guns amidst a sea of other products. Finally I found a section of interest…wigtown. Wigs of all lengths, colours and hair types suddenly appeared before me; from afro weaves to candy pink, butt length silky locks, this place had it all. I purchased firetruck red, waist length, straight haired wig for about 12 euro.
After magpie-ing my way around the market, chomping at the bit at the site of white foundations, contact lenses and/or anything else shiny, I finally had it. Everything I needed to be… something kinda scary. Since my costume was last minute, I didn’t want to risk being something specific. I settled for being a vague something scary, aka, a crazy bitch.
Another job that was entrusted to me this Halloween was to pick up “anything” as a costume for my not so Halloween obsessed husband. While Haizhu Square wasn’t the place for a DIY nerd such as myself, I did pick up a nifty costume for my spouse,and dressed him up as… A pencil.
The crazy bitch and the pencil, appearing for one night only…
And somehow, despite all my effort…the costume which took five minutes to buy, thirty seconds to throw on and cost ten euro, the damn pencil was the star of the show.