School Pictures

It has taken a bit of time for me to get back to the topic of school photos. We may attribute the delay, in part, to the fact that I have been busy and sick. In part, it has just taken a while to figure out how the whole photo undertaking is going to play out. As tends to be the case here, especially when you are illiterate and, for most practical purposes, unable to speak the language, school photos ended up being a bit of an ordeal.

The day after Jie-jie’s school photos, Jason and I went to the tables the photography company had set-up in school courtyard. They showed us some of the images and the products that they had available. I just a bit suprised by how expensive their products were. A CD with the photos was 200RMB (about $30). They had a variety of printed photo books ranging from $10 to $150. The sales agent explained which book was the best but I noted that it seemed silly to buy an entire photo book when Jie-jie had only had 2 changes of clothes. We also indicated that we had 2 daughters and wanted to have them in the same book.

At this point, we had drawn a crowd. You see, apparently there is nothing that Westerners do which is not noteworthy. Whether it is folks peering into my shopping cart at the grocery store to see what we eat, standing by with amazed expressions while I apply sunblock to the children, or laughing somewhat awkwardly as Mei-mei and Jie-jie uses the staff brooms to sweep up the courtyard in the afternoon, we are just interesting to watch. This interest carries over to moments when we want to buy something – folks passing by always stop to watch our negotiating, product selection and haphazard attempts at communicating in Chinese. Thus, by the time we were agreeing on a price with the salesperson for one 24-photo book that includes both children, a cd with all the picture files, and a photo session for Mei-mei we were surrounded by a crowd of parents and children talking excitedly about our purchases.

Once we agreed on the price, the salesperson passed us on to another staff-member to write a receipt. Then things began to get confusing. The staff member thought she spoke English, but really she didn’t. It took me a few minutes before I realized that she missed the second child component of the deal. I accepted the receipt but also took her phone number because I knew I was going to have to have a friend call and sort out the details of our purchase.

That evening our friend called to learn that the second salesperson had indeed missed the second child. She said that we would have to pay more for the deal we reached with the first salesperson. I said they would get no more money from us but I did want to make sure that we got Mei-mei in for a photos and that we ended up with photo files. So, using our friend as an intermediary I managed to have Mei-mei given a photo shoot. However, the sales rep refused to agree to give us the CD without an additional 200 RMB. I thanked my friend for helping out and decided to try another tack.

The next morning when dropping of Jie-jie at school, I explained to Jie-jie’s teacher the deal we had reached with the photo company and how they were now trying to change the terms and charge us more. I said that Mei-mei needed to have her pictures taken and that we needed the CD in addition to the photo book. Within an hour Jie-jie’s teacher called me to come to school for Mei-mei’s photo shoot and corroborated the deal I had laid out.

I snatched up Mei-mei’s princess dress and her sparkle shoes, and headed over the kindergarten for another photo experience. Mei-mei did great but I think almost 3 is an age that is not quite as self-confident and outgoing as age 4.5. Mei-mei was not having the time of her life.

A couple of days later we picked up the photo CD. The book will arrive in about a month. They contacted us yesterday to see which pictures we want – we told them to decide which they think are best. I cannot wait to see the results! I’ve put a couple of photos here.

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