It was a beautiful day in San Francisco. The sky - bluer than blue. There was sunshine aplenty and the most lovely cool San Francisco Bay breeze.
The backdrop for this Chinatown excursion couldn't have been more exceptional....
...had I painted it myself.
About a month ago I was following along with Ms. EmmeLu's Mama while she shopped for jade in China. I've kept her story and her shopping tips in the back of my mind thinking that it would be fun to have the experience myself. I'd learned from my friend that wearing jade, especially on one's left wrist, was like a lucky direct-dial link to one's heart.
Lucky Chinese Connections In the Form of Gorgeous Jewelry...? Sounds right up my alley.
It must have really been on my mind because I impulsively blurted out during a small staff meeting at the office:
"I think that I need to buy a jade bangle"...
Yes, a little on the random side. Not the sort of thing I would normally mention at work, but it was said amongst a couple of very nice women that are aware of our lengthening adoption wait as well as the emotional side effects of a drawn out "paper pregnancy".
They call it baby brain, right? Imagine baby brain for over 13 months, with (hopefully not longer than) another 13 months of waiting ahead of you. It really isn't out of the question that any normal girl waiting in this long line called China Adoption might inadvertently start blurting out non sequiturs about jade, dimsum and the casualties of having been born a Fire Ram at the conference table, mail room or even to the pharmaceutical rep. If she'd listen, that is.
Ooops, there I go again....sorry. Baby Brain. Ahem. Now, where was I??
Not only did they not ridicule me for my non-work-related tangential comment, but believe it or not, by the end of the work day, one of my colleagues had arranged an excursion to Chinatown with a good friend-of-a-friend's mother in law for the following weekend. You see, not only does this woman know her jade - but she also knows some of the SF jewelers personally and apparently has quite a reputation for bargaining!
Really? For me? Coooool!
So, back to the perfecto day in San Francisco. Here we are:
That's Mrs. C, our wheeler-dealer on the cell phone. Isn't she cute? Shades hide her identity a bit. She is a very, very, very nice woman & treated me like a granddaughter. I'm taking the picture and the other women here are my friends who came along for moral support.
Check out the shine in this shop window:
A little blinding, isn't it? We went into several shops just like this. All of them required the jeweler to buzz you in the locked door. The message was clear - this is where the real stuff is kept. The genuine (or should I say jenuine?) jade lives there. Not that crappy-ass glass stuff, you know, those bangles that they inject dyes and water into. The ones that actually fade as you wear them vs. darken as authentic jade apparently does.
Fakes = $10 on the street, no buzzer necessary.
After trying on a few of those for reals pieces, I could definitely see the difference between the two. And, of course, I came to long for the beautiful bona fide, Burmese Jade. The really, really spendy stuff. The treasure behind the locked doors.
Maybe someday, but not right now. The pieces that I was shown were very expensive and that was with Mrs. C negotiating a super-secret, wink-wink/nudge-nudge, "very good" price for me. We're talking, at the low end, at least $600! When the jewelers realized that I could not afford even the bargain price, they didn't want to try the bangles on me. I'm sure that it was for fear that they might not be able to get them off of me. You see, those pretty jade bracelets take some squeezing, manipulation of knuckles and a bit of lotion to get on/off. Thank goodness the guys that helped me were very gentle and nice.
Ah well, there will be a next time.
Wanna guess how we drowned our sorrows?
Yes, we loaded up on noodles and jasmine tea. Mmm! Restorative and delicious.
Then Mrs. C took us to a teeny fortune cookie shop in a back alley. I've been to Chinatown soo many times & never had been there. What a trip. This lady wasn't thrilled - but I paid my buck & she obliged with her best "I (heart) tourists" pose.
She sure makes a mighty delicious cookie! Chocolate, too! Have you ever had chocolate fortune cookies - these were my first. Yum! Good Lord those cookies were tasty. Suuuuper tasty!! Thanks nice lady.
After stopping at a very cool tea shop and fabric store, we began a more sincere meander toward the car. We were surprised when Mrs. C stopped dead in her tracks at a busy intersection and suggested "one last stop". Here's a clue:
She led us into a bakery that initially I thought was a dry cleaner. We certainly would have walked right past because it was so nondescript. What a mistake that would have been! Moments after we walked out - the place was completely packed!
Mrs. C bought a box of fresh out of the oven, piping HOT custard tarts for each of us! A whole box!!!! Let me tell you, it was some kind of torture driving home in a cramped car with four pink boxes oozing their sweet flaky goodness. Those parcels were placed way in the back - far from arms length. Lucky for us, we'd already had a sample at the shop...
Even though I didn't end up coming home with a jade bangle on my left wrist this story does have a happy ending. I did come home with a wonderful feeling. I felt taken care of in a way that I never would have expected. Embraced and nurtured - and loved. By people that are genuinely excited about our adoption plan and who really would like to be supportive in whatever way makes sense. Jade shopping for me, this weekend, made sense. Makes me feel pretty darn fortunate, too. Lucky, even.
Ever since Chinese New Year, I decided that I needed to find the perfect Golden Pig - to commemorate the (possible) year of our daughter's birth. I didn't want one of those flashy, metallic ones or the personalized ceramic ones that you can paint yourself. Nope, we needed something fun & unique. Something that makes you smile when you see it.
Perhaps with the same vision, patience and tenacity - my jade bangle will be found...and my wait will be endured. Those qualities combined with meaningful, heartfelt surprises like the weekend's Chinatown trip should keep me moving forward.