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  • Liz Totton

PINK shops, Part ١


Stationery store! Back to School Shopping Joy!


Back home, I think my favorite part of back to school week is school supply shopping. There is nothing I like more than a well-stocked stationery shop, preferably a Japanese one. So, we just got our school supply list the other day, and I am itching to shop! But I have one very big problem! I don’t know where do I buy these things here. There is no Target, Wal-Mart, or even anything remotely like your failsafe: Rite Aid. Where does an expat mom buy school supplies? Why the Pink Shops, of course?!

What’s a pink shop you may ask? It is quite literally a long row of pink colored shops, on a street rather near all the international schools, where you can apparently “buy anything, at all, that you need.” This is what everyone says. I ask “where can I get a spiral bound notebook?” Everyone replies “The Pink Shops.” I ask “Where can I get a locker combination lock?” Everyone replies “The Pink Shops.” “Where can I get a decent watermelon, goggles, a wrench, a battery, fried chicken, socks, traditional Arabic garb?” Everyone replies “The Pink Shops.” You get the point. You can get anything in the world in the pink shops. I probe and I hear it’s the back of all shops. I might add that I have seen this row of shops from a distance and referenced them many times as “scary looking Mad Max kind of stores” to Rob. And here, these very stores are the key to my back to school shopping joy?! I was not too sure about these pink shops, but I have no choice but to look. I also have no choice but to be very excited about them.

A very nice, new friend took a group of us over to the Pink shops the other day to get a few school supplies. You know how long the list gets as the kids get older, though I have to admit that I thought maybe, just maybe, in this excruciatingly expensive private school, the supplies might be included—not the case. Nothing is included. If it were, how would they make a profit, right? I digress.  

Getting back to the Pink shops.  I cannot hide my excitement on the way there. I am imagining that in the rear of every pink shop is an amazing stationery shop full of lines of neatly organized, Japanese writing implements (the finest in the world) and any and every object has an odd ball “Jenglish” expression on it—this really does excite me. I love Jenglish!! Here is a definition of “Jenglish”  for the uninitiated, though you all have seen it somewhere probably. Dan in Japan’s definition of Jenglish is right on! I am not making fun of Jenglish. I absolutely adore it! I love it at Uwajimaya in Seattle, I cherish memories of its abundance in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Taipei, and I am hoping to find it here in the Pakistani pink shop in Abu Dhabi. I will consider myself seriously lucky if I do find such things here because how else can you find a good laugh amidst all this chaos?! Examples:

Jenglish book


Jenglish shirt


Jenglish notebook


Foolscap? Had to look that one up! Definition here. Who knew?


So, yes, we eventually found the one and only Pink shop with stationery, but it was not easy.  We parked at the farthest north end of the pink shops. We walked south. Popping in a few stores from time to time that looked like they might sell school supplies. The shops are full of very interesting stores that sell everything from nice looking fruit to a wide array of dishdashes to general grocery items. There are also pink shops that house restaurants and services, such as the Top Ladies Saloon. You might stumble in there after a long, hot afternoon searching for a stationery shop only to discover that it’s a salon. Of course, it’s a SALON, not a SALOON! Oh well! One extra “O” can really change the meaning, can’t it!

Stop on in the Top Ladies Saloon!


We wandered and wandered on the 102-degree afternoon past the dishdash store, past the rapid fried chicken, past the hookah shop. We finally found a western guy to ask about the stationery store. He said it was on the backside of the pink shops. We were wandering the front. We thanked him and headed to the rear. I had not yet given up hope even as we raced through the nearest passage, which was an alley that reeked of urine. Eeew!! We traced the long line of the rear of the pink shops this time South to North. No stationery shops anywhere despite another western guy telling us it was just up the way!! We walked and walked and walked and then finally just on the rear side of the most northern end of the pink shops opposite to where we parked was the Stationery store. It was like an oasis, sort of! 

I have to continue this because there was much to document, and my iphone was full! Photos to come in addition to the inner workings of the pink shop stationery store for anyone who cares to read on.

To be continued…

#Taipei #AbuDhabi #PinkShops #Backtoschool #Jenglish #Tokyo #Seattle #Uwajimaya #BacktoSchoolshopping

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