Expat tales: everyone needs an outlet

I was out last night, at a class mum’s dinner. I didn’t wee behind any trees! (See Caught Short, https://housegoeshome.com/2011/11/11/caught-short/ I really need to learn how to do quick links …) I did, however, get home late and knackered, so you’ll have to make do with an Expat Tale today. This one’s about shopping and election night in Harlem. It’s incredible to look back at being in New York during such a momentous time as the Barack Obama election. Americans were so filled with excitement and hope for the future. It was a huge buzz, especially living footsteps from Harlem – another story I’ll tell sometime, quite surreal in itself. Here’s how I spent election day, as recorded in a previous blog I wrote for Wondertime magazine …

“I woke last Tuesday night to an almighty roar. It was Harlem, erupting in jubilation over Barack Obama’s victory. Horns honked, thousands of people cheered. It was the most amazing, joyful sound. And it felt incredible to be living in New York at such an historic moment.

I spent Election Day itself in a far more pedestrian manner. While Americans lined up in unprecedented numbers to vote, I hopped on a tour bus to an outlet mall called Woodbury Common. However, as the woman who organised the trip noted, everyone on the bus was proudly doing their bit for the US economy.

My excuse for going to Woodbury Common was that the kids needed warm clothes. Leggings and a few tracksuit tops were not going to cut it during New York’s freezing winter months. But I had an ulterior motive. I’d googled the mall and discovered it had 220 stores, including Gucci, Chloe, Jimmy Choo and numerous other lust-worthy labels that I normally couldn’t afford. Woo-hoo!

However, it didn’t take long after I arrived at the mall to realise that I couldn’t afford designer labels at outlet prices either. And it was eight long hours before the bus would return to take me home.

I’d been looking forward to the trip for weeks, but I just couldn’t get into the spirit of shopping after that little reality check. I tried on a few pairs of Marc Jacobs trousers at Barney’s Co-op and flicked half-heartedly through the racks at Saks, but I was no longer in the mood. Although I did snaffle two DKNY hoodies for just $15 each.

But I’m a shopping trouper. I slowly got into the spirit of things and bought swags of stuff for the girls. Furry hooded coats, warm socks, tracksuit pants, scarves … A few hundred dollars dressed them from head to toe for the season, so the trip wasn’t completely in vain.

Back in Manhattan, my husband needed someone to mind the girls for two hours while he went to a class. He enlisted a fellow (childless) student called Kyle Stock to take them to a cafe and the park. Kyle embraced the task as a learning experience, and later recounted these five points in his blog, www. businessorpleasure.wordpress.com:

1. It is much more difficult to understand Australian when it is spoken by a little person.

2. When a child stares at you with absolutely no expression, it means something has gone wrong (ie their milk is all over the floor and they are hoping you won’t notice)

3. The larger the cookie you buy a child, the more they like you.

4. If you have asked a child four times: “Do you have to pee?” don’t hesitate to ask a fifth.

5. Child will ignore wet pants quickly if you offer to time their splits on a tricycle lap.

As for my own learning experience, I’ve decided I’m not an outlet mall person. I prefer to do my shopping on a much smaller scale. Eight hours to browse may sound like fun in principle, but the reality is a little too arduous.

I also learned that it’s important to buy two of everything when you have two children. One scarf simply won’t cut it and will necessitate an emergency trip to GAP the next day to purchase another one to halt sibling rivalry.”

Rubbish. Not an “outlet mall person”? Was I on drugs when I wrote that (no, couldn’t afford them). I love outlet malls. Get giddy just thinking about ’em. If you have the chance (and a day to spare) during a visit to New York, Woodbury Common is AWESOME. Wish I was there now, with lottery winnings to burn. Day two of next month’s Hawaiian holiday will see me on the mini-bus to Waikele Outlet Mall. Not quite as fabulous as Woodbury Common and a quarter of the size, but bargains galore. Bring. It. On.

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