Chinese New Year is fast approaching and just like Christmas in the States, that means we have to get gifts for many of the people we know. The maids and doormen will get gift cards, but other people get more personalized gifts.
Our main dilemma is the gift for Chen shi fu and his family. It’s traditional to give your driver a bonus, which we will do, but we wanted to do something for his wife and son, especially after the beautiful gift his wife made us for Christmas.
The biggest quandary was what to give a 10-11 year old Chinese boy. We’d given him a soccer ball at Christmas which was apparently a hit. Qing said he’d probably like a video game, but buying a Chinese video game was too hard on too many levels. Then I had an idea–how about a game like Jenga or a board game?
I looked up toy stores on line and learned that there was a toy store in the Grand Gateway Mall and a Toys R Us at the Super Brand Mall. Both were located right at a subway stop, although in opposite directions.
I set off for Gateway Mall and as I was walking in to it, I noticed someone was carrying a Toys R Us bag. Hmmm, that was strange. I had thought the Toys R Us was at the other mall. Well, I must have been confused, not an uncommon occurrence. So I went off to find the store on the floor marked “Toys”.
The first thing I noticed on exiting the escalator was that it was HOT. For once it was not just me having a hot flash. All the clerks in the store were standing around fanning themselves.
The store was laid out really strangely. A large part of the merchandise was out in the middle of the floor with smaller stores ringing it, including one labelled Toys R Us.
As seems to be often typical in Chinese stores, the merchandise was arranged in a rather random order. Numerous sections of Barbies, Legos, etc were distributed throughout the store with a liberal dose of transformers and cars amongst them. Baby toys appeared multiple places, one time next to matchbox cars, the next by some Barbies. And so many cars. How many cars does a child need?
This random approach to merchandising means you have to wander the whole store in hopes of finding what you want. Just because you find one section of Barbies, doesn’t mean you’ve hit the Barbie jackpot.
Notice the Fisher Price and Hot Wheels toys on the bottom shelf as well as the random baby toy display at the end of the aisle.
Two trips through this giant Toys R Us and I was lightheaded and sweaty from the heat, but board game-less. So I went into the cool refreshing air outside and headed to the next mall to go see the other toy store.
Except I was wrong. This second mall had an even bigger Toys’R Us and was the one I was shooting for. I assumed I was confused when I was at the first mall so I didn’t even look for the other toy store.
Oh my goodness, this second store was just as hot as the first one. Is it a store policy to have the hottest store at the mall?
This store was twice as big as the last and just as “unsorted”. However I did find a small section of board games rather quickly. There were massive amounts of people in the store, but the game aisle was only occupied by me and another Caucasian boy. Does that tell us anything? Board games aren’t typical Chinese playthings, perhaps?
I found the Jenga game but it wasn’t in Chinese. However, they did have Monopoly, Risk, Life, and Clue, all in Chinese.
I hope he has as much fun playing Clue as I did when I was a kid, even though it doesn’t seem to be a typical Chinese activity.
Upon leaving the first mall, I saw this, which made me smile:
Now we just needed a gift for Chen shi fu’s wife. As it happens, I have just finished a lace shawl.
After buying the game, I stopped in at my favorite grocery store in the other mall across the street. This place has a much wider variety of fruit and vegetables than city shop or even sometimes the people on the street. It’s the one place that actually has kale pretty regularly. Unfortunately, not this Sunday.