My Memory Book

Chapter 8
Memories From Family

By: Reid Erdwien

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     I remember buying Reid a hat. Other kids may want a traditional and practical hat such as a baseball cap; Reid wanted a Mongolian hat.
     Reid saw the hat while touring the Mongolian pavilion at the 2010 world exhibition in Shanghai, China. Most countries have a gift shop near the end of their display. First-world countries such as the United States have a gift shop that would be completely familiar to us. The shop could be cloned into any mall in the country and no shopper would bat an eye.
     Most third-world countries have pavilions that are little more than a gift shop. A whole raft of Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Kazakhstan shared a single building that was an open bazaar of salesmen enticing potential buyers with offers of fantastic merchandise and bargains.
     Mongolia, probably because of its proximity and importance to China, was between the two extremes. Mongolia built its own building, a medium-sized circular building with exhibits of dinosaur bones and a centerpiece of a dinosaur egg. At the end of the tour, there was a small shop that sold only a few items. As I passed, I glanced at the hats, and thought they looked well-made and brightly colored, but would be totally impractical. Who would want to wear such a wild hat?
     After I left the pavilion, I waited near the exit. My wife and daughter discussed the sweaters displayed inside. I presume the sweaters possessed the finest materials, probably cashmere or wool. However, the design was lacking: grey with a colorful diamond argyle pattern that would have been appropriate on an episode of Leave it to Beaver.
     Reid came out of the pavilion and said he wanted a hat. It doesnít make sense to go to China and not get everything out of the experience that you can, so Reid and I went back into the pavilion.
     No prices were displayed on the hats, so we had to ask the salesman. As in the Afghanistan pavilion, I presumed that the initial price would be high. Haggling would be required to get a bargain. The initial asking price was 100 yuan. At the exchange rate of 7 yuan per dollar, the price translated to only $15. That seemed like a reasonable price to me; I never liked haggling anyway. Reid picked out the design he wanted, and we traded a crisp, straight-from-the-ATM 100 yuan bill for the hat.
     The hat was wildly bright and exotic. It had a wide, but close-fitting brim of a black furry fabric. The skullcap part of the hat was bright red, and the top was a bright golden yellow fabric with sparkles. The center of the hat came to a point, 3-4 inches above the skull, topped with a ball constructed of the same sparkling golden fabric.
     The hat was an immediate hit. Reid is tall, especially compared to the average Chinese citizen. However, add a bright yellow ball on top of his head, and he is very easy to spot. A person could not get lost in that hat. Which is important given that somewhere near 400,000 people visited the expo that day.
     Our family was not the only people that appreciated the hat. People would look and stare at the hat. Some would ask Reid to stop and take his picture. Braver souls asked to pose with him. For some reason, most of the braver souls were girls. Sometimes two or three at a time, brave, cute, Chinese girls would stop Reid, link arms with him, and have friends take a picture.
     I think Reid liked the hat.
     The hat features in my favorite photo from the trip to China. While waiting in line to enter the Spanish pavilion, a Chinese woman snuck a picture of Reid wearing the hat. She is obviously thrilled while reviewing the picture on her cameraís display. Meanwhile, my daughter, Sinclaire, snuck a picture of the woman, Reid, and the hat.
     Iím glad I bought Reid the hat.