Our First Chinese Collection
Our New Collection
We started our first collection in China, and it’s not what I thought it would be. Nothing as classy as Chinese calligraphy or tea sets for us – we’re collecting plastic Disney figurines!
The biggest store near us, Carrefour, started a promotion the very week we arrived on the scene, letting you earn stickers with every purchase that you can redeem for plastic Disney figurines. We had some major purchases those first few weeks – bicycles, an entire pantry of food, lots and lots of mosquito fighting supplies, and raked in quite a few Disney stickers. Thus, our collection. We are not the only people in town collecting – it’s not uncommon to see one hanging from a purse zipper or even a belt-loop.
The figurines come concealed in a dark plastic bag in a box, and we created quite a ritual around guessing which figurine we’ll get each time.
- Shake the box
- Take out the plastic-wrapped figurine
- Feel it through the plastic
- Pass it around the table, and all make predictions about which figure it will be
- Open the box and be happy, surprised, or maybe disappointed that it was a repeat of one we already had
Not So Fun Anymore
The sticker collection, redemption, and figurine guessing routine was fun for a few weeks. Then we noticed an interesting trend. Suddenly, there were always women hanging out at the check-out lines asking people for their stickers. They seemed to focus their energy on the expats, ignoring many of the local people, meaning I was a prime target. Some shoppers just handed over their stickers, but my kids loved them, so I wasn’t as generous. The one exception was for the lady who bagged all of my groceries for me without asking…and then asked for stickers. I gave her half.
There were also women hanging out near the sticker-redemption booth, asking to trade figurines with you. We didn’t take them up on those offers either – we think they must have been trying to get a full set. Maybe some of the Mickeys were rarer than others, kind of like how the McDonalds Monopoly game has rare pieces. If there was a rare Mickey, we wanted a shot at getting it too!
The kids and I came up with a name for the ladies who hung around the check-out area. We called them the bossy ayis. “Watch out, the bossy ayis are coming! Turn around, one is heading our way!” Ayi is a term they use in China for many things – auntie, helper, house-keeper, or a generic term for a woman you don’t know. Right before the promotion ended, I purchased some items and received six stickers (half the value of a figurine). With the promotion nearing completion, the ayis seemed desperate to finish their collections, and were more aggressive than usual. The woman waiting at the end of my register actually started shouting angrily at me when I tucked my stickers away in my purse. Thankfully, the cashier came to my rescue and yelled back at her. I don’t know what he said, but she left me alone after that!
Now the promotion is over, and checking out at Carrefour is a little more peaceful. The Carrefour shopping experience is still pretty extreme though, and deserves a post of its own. We no longer have bossy ayis following us around – they have been replaced by young men selling health club memberships. I don’t mind much – they are not as pushy, and will leave me alone if I use another new phrase I picked up, “bu yao” (don’t want!). Should I be flattered that they think I’d fit in with these “members” at the club? Happy Shopping!