The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, including the way we shop. While it can be convenient to have things delivered right to your doorstep, there are some drawbacks as well, especially when it comes to items or products that require fitting, like shoes or clothes.
I don’t have the typical Asian build, and even before COVID, it was difficult finding clothes in physical stores that would fit me right, let alone online. This wasn’t much of a problem, since I rarely ventured out during quarantine anyway. During Chinese New Year, however, it is customary to get new clothes (it’s symbolic more than anything) — which is why I tried to shopping on SHEIN for the first time.
Founded in 2008, SHEIN is a Chinese company headquartered in Nanjing. With its forward fashion and cheap prices, it has managed to attract a surprisingly large Western customer base of millennials and Gen Zs. It’s not uncommon to see famous Youtubers doing SHEIN ‘haul’ videos.
The website is responsive and intuitively designed, with neat tabs for the various categories, and further sub categories for different styles such as tops, bottoms, shoes, accessories, etc. Aside from Women, Men and Kids, there’s also a Curve + Plus section carrying plus-size clothing.
The pages are easy to navigate, and there are helpful filters on the left to help users look for specific items, such as according to sleeve length, pattern type, size, style and material. Clicking in to a particular item will also display the approximate measurements for each size, broken down into sections for bust, shoulder width, sleeve length, etc. If you’re looking for some photo samples on real people, scroll down to the comment section where users can post reviews and photos of themselves wearing the selected item.
After browsing around for what seemed like ages, I finally settled for a long-sleeved top (1XL) and a pair of shorts (0XL). The prices are fairly reasonable, but they’re not exactly the cheapest on the market. My orders came to about USD15.99, or about RM64.
The orders arrived quite quickly, within the week. They were nicely packed in resealable plastic bags.
If for some reason you’d like to return the items (maybe they don’t fit, or they’re damaged, or they’re not to your taste), you can return them within 30 days in new condition, and the company will process a refund.
The clothing runs big so you might want to order a size down from your usual. The shirt was quite comfy and warm, but it was too loose for me – I’ll probably wear this as pyjamas. The shorts were loose at the hips and tighter around the waist, but otherwise fit well.
So my first experience shopping online on SHEIN wasn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t say I was thrilled with the clothes, especially since I didn’t get to try them beforehand. RM64 isn’t expensive, but local brands like Padini can be much cheaper, and fit better as well. Still, they do have nice designs at relatively affordable prices, so it’s something you can consider when looking for your next outfit.
Have you purchased anything from SHEIN before? How do you find their clothes?
November has been an awful month for many Filipinos.
The island nation has been battered by consecutive storms and typhoons, with five within the span of the last few weeks. Earlier this month, super typhoon Goni – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded – devastated large swathes of Eastern Philippines, leaving 25 dead with thousands more displaced.
And now another one has struck.
Named after the Latin moniker for the Greek god Odysseus, Typhoon Ulysses made landfall on November 11 on the island town of Patnanungan in Quezon, before steadily carving a path of destruction across parts of Luzon with winds reaching up to 105 kph. As of November 13, Reuters reported at least 42 dead and over 75,000 packed into evacuation centres. Of course, this doesn’t bode well not only because of hygiene and sanitation, but also because of the current pandemic.
Typhoons are very common in the Philippines, so when I heard about the news, I asked N if his area was going to be affected. This was on Wednesday night, and he was pretty nonchalant about it, so I thought there was nothing to worry about.
We usually message each other the first thing after waking up, so when I didn’t hear anything from him at 11am on Thursday, I began to worry. Shortly after, I got a message from my sister-in-law, telling me that their house was flooded. Since there was no electricity, they were turning off their phones to conserve battery, and would update me on the situation as it went.
She also sent me a few photos of the interior. I’ve been to N’s house several times, which is located in Cainta, about 12 kilometres from Metro Manila. Since it’s in a low-lying area, the house is prone to floods during the rainy season, so the main floor (living room, bedroom, kitchen) is slightly elevated above the entrance by about a foot. From the photos, I could see that water had already seeped into the upper level, so there was probably about three feet of water.
Now.. this might sound super ignorant, but living on the west coast of Malaysia, which has zero natural disasters (we’re blessed), I’ve always imagined floods to be this super swift rush of water, obliterating everything in its path and sending people and things to a watery grave. This is the case in some scenarios, but there are also floods where the water level rises over time. Not that it’s any less dangerous; if anything, I think these are actually more deceiving – you think the water isn’t that high and boom! You’re suddenly stuck on the roof.
Thursday was spent on tenterhooks as I waited for updates. Watching the news didn’t help, as media outlets showed devastating scenes of people stuck on rooftops, submerged homes and vehicles, uprooted trees and damaged infrastructure. I went to the FB group for residents of where N lives, and some areas were so badly affected, they had to use boats to get people out.
I was relieved to hear that the flood waters had subsided by 6pm. N and my in-laws spent the night in the attic. It was very uncomfortable because they didn’t have electricity, but I was glad that they were, at least, safe.
I didn’t hear much from N until Friday evening, when he got the electricity and Wi-Fi back. He spent the whole day cleaning up; there was a lot of mud on the floor, and some items had to be thrown away – but the important thing is that him and his family are safe.
During our call that night, my inner curiosity won out (once a journalist, always a journalist?) and I plied him with questions lol. It was actually a pretty insightful conversation and helped me to understand better what I should do in case of a flood (or any disaster for that matter).
So, what actually happened?
N: It had been raining throughout the night. I think the water started coming in around 6am. I was sleeping.
What? How can you sleep through a flood?
N: It happens all the time here. If it was serious my family would have woken me up, lol. I think they were also deliberating if they should pack up and go to a hotel, or stay behind. In the end they just started moving some of the appliances and stuff to the attic. I woke up around 9am and the water was about an inch-high in my bedroom. I helped my brother stack the bed up onto chairs.
Was it worse than Ondoy (2009)?
N: In terms of wind strength, I think this was more powerful. But Ondoy brought a huge volume of rainfall with it, so the floods were worse. This house was almost submerged. I can’t really tell you how that was though, because I was living near campus at the time and wasn’t affected much.
So the waters were rising. How did you prepare?
N: You should watch the Korean movie Alive. It’s on Netflix.
Isn’t that about zombies?
N: Yeah, but it’s still super useful for disaster situations. I learned that you should get your earphones, because the 3.5mm jack actually doubles as a radio antenna. If you don’t have a radio, you can use your phone’s radio function to tune into the news. My mom also has a small transistor radio for emergencies. The night before, when we heard that there might be a possibility of floods, we charged up all of our devices and power banks, coz we knew electricity might be cut. Then there’s the usual; batteries, flashlights, emergency first aid kit. Electricity companies will automatically cut off electricity, but we turned off all the switches just in case.
What else do you think one should do when preparing for a flood?
Perishables won’t keep if your fridge is submerged, so have some processed food and canned food on standby. The water wasn’t that high this time so we could still use the gas stove to cook all the perishables for dinner. As for clothes, you can pack them into waterproof bags. Previously we used garbage bags because they float, but the material is thin and if it tears your stuff will get dirty and wet. If you have a vehicle, you should remove the car battery. Also, if you have important documents, put them all in an envelope so it’ll be easy to carry and keep safe.
What did you do while waiting for the water to subside?
I went downstairs to observe the situation, my family stayed in the attic. I fell asleep again and woke up around 1pm.
I am astonished you can sleep in the middle of a flood.
Well, it happens all the time so I’m used to it. We get floods very often; I used to call it ‘annual general cleaning’ because we’d have to clean the house from top to bottom afterwards. I was a little surprised that the water rose fast though. Like two inches every 20 minutes. I think it reached about three feet.
What did you do at night?
Just had dinner, talked. We didn’t use our devices to save battery. It was very hot and difficult to sleep with everyone in the attic. S (niece) kept tossing and turning, so my brother had to fan her. The next morning we started cleaning up. We couldn’t move the fridge because there was no place to put it. Thankfully it’s still working.
Okay, I have to ask this. Since everyone is in the attic, where do you go when you need to pee?
N: You pee in the flood water.
N: You pee in the flood water. You can’t go outside because snakes might swim into the house when you open the door lol. And the toilet is flooded anyway. So you just kinda go downstairs and do your thing. You know, the first night, I had this overwhelming urge to poop and I kept holding it in the entire night. The next morning when I could finally go to the toilet, nothing came out. What the effing hell. I guess if you really need to do a no.2, there are plastic bags…
Typhoons are so common in the Philippines. Do you think that the government should improve on their disaster prevention measures?
N: I might get a lot of flak for saying this, but I actually think there isn’t that much the government can do. I think they’re doing okay with what they have.
(note**: While writing this, I read some articles about how more money should be allocated to improve housing for the poor. Many Filipinos from the low income bracket live in flimsy wooden homes, which are easily flattened by storms – as is the case with Haiyan in 2013. N and I did not discuss this, but I think we should expand on this after more research).
While the worst of Ulysses seems to have passed, relief might take a long time – especially with government agencies and facilities overburdened as it is from COVID and previous disasters. It’s 1AM and I’m still seeing cries for help on social media from areas like Cagayan and Isabela, which are located in the northern part of Luzon: there hasn’t been much media coverage and apparently aid is slow in coming, and many people are still stuck, with flood waters rising.
I’m glad N and my in-laws are safe, and that there isn’t that much damage to their home. -Ber months in the Philippines are when the La Nina phenomenon occurs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another typhoon decides to make a visit. 2020 just sucks in general.
I know it’s a difficult time and there’s nothing that I can say that can help make it easier. But to those affected, please stay strong, and keep each other safe. For donations, Philippine Tatler has compiled a list of organisations that you can contribute to. Link here.
Sunday was my last (official) day at the newspaper.
I have called this place my second home for the past two ++ years. I joined on May 7, 2013 – a clueless 22-year-old graduate trying to transition from a lifetime of studying into the real, dog-eat-dog, working world. And I joined a tough profession at that : journalism. I have never regretted my decision to take writing and journalism while in college, instead of the path my traditional Chinese parents laid out for me – that of something safe like teaching or accounting because apparently these jobs are ‘always in demand’. The way they were on about it, you’d think that writers regularly starved to death. But they eventually allowed me to pursue a course of my choice (my first choice was actually art but hey. It didn’t turn out too bad, non?),and I landed myself a job at one of the most reputable news companies in Malaysia.
Not too bad for a clueless 22-year-old.
Two years on, a lot of learning and amazing experiences later, I made the decision to leave.
What, are you crazy? Actually that was how my parents responded initially. They couldn’t understand why I was leaving a ‘stable’ job that paid relatively well for something that paid less. But as I mentioned before, at this point, it wasn’t about the money. I like writing, but I don’t like news writing per se – and I thought it was time to move on to things I liked instead of being miserable doing something I hated. I also felt myself getting comfortable, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to push myself out of the comfort zone, go try something new. There were a few other reasons related to company policies/colleagues that I will not mention here, but yeah.
I did feel a slight pang – after all, I’ve been here for two years + and met some really nice people. They threw me a farewell party on Friday. I was hoping they wouldn’t. Not because I didn’t appreciate the sentiment or that I didn’t like them, but coz I hate making speeches and saying farewells. Some of the ones I’m closer to even got me a bunch of sketchbooks coz they knew I liked drawing. Ermehgerd I have sand in my eyes.
I think back on the experiences and realized that I’ve learnt a lot. Chasing for stories with unhelpful sources. Days I became superwoman and did the impossible just to see a deadline through.That’s definitely something I learned – that I can do whatever I set my mind to, even if it seems impossible. Try doing a full cover page story for the next day with a two hour deadline, no idea where to start and no sources. Staying back late editing videos in the office until the wee hours of the night. White water rafting with colleagues during our jungle camping trip. Not everything has been fun and games, but we become wiser from the good and the bad.
I’d like to thank my colleagues for being an awesome bunch to work with. I’ll miss working with ugaiz.
The first time I joined a religious procession was at a Chinese temple in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, to honour the deity Kuan Tei(Lord Guan, also known as Guan Yee Gor or Guan Gong), and to celebrate the completion of the temple arch. 500 devotees turned up to take part in the 3km procession that went around parts of the neighbourhood, the main road and shops.
Guan Yee Gor is the patron deity for many businessmen, members of the triad (at least, that’s how they portray it in films) and policemen, as he is known as a ‘fierce’ god who champions values such as loyalty, bravery and justice. He was an actual historical figure: if you’re familiar with the story of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms in China, the god is derived from Guan Yu, war general to Liu Bei. Statues often depict him with a signature red face, holding a giant blade.
It was crowded, and the weather was hot and humid but with thunderclouds looming ahead, like an electric storm brewing. Large, colourful flags were set up all along the road, marking the procession route. Giant joss-sticks a couple one-storey high each were lighted up, their smoke dispersing into the heavens. Troupe members made preparations for the longest dragon dance (688 feet).
The temple arch. True to Chinese culture, the arch was painted red and dark jade green, with figures of dragons on clouds.
It was a very noisy affair (as is most things involving Chinese culture and traditions). Gongs were struck at intervals, chimes from smaller instruments and the steady beating of drums was a constant background noise. Monks chanted prayers while offering gifts to the various deities that would be ‘gracing’ the bodies of devotees at the procession today.
The event started off with the burning and handing out of joss sticks, which each devotee would carry throughout the two hour long procession. The devotees who would be carrying the gods as vessels had to go through a ceremony to ‘invite’ the god into their bodies. They would be pierced; very much like the Hindu rituals, and they would feel no pain. All of them were dressed in colourful, elaborate costumes of either bright yellow, black or red.
Meanwhile, people got ready to carry the deity statues in palanquins. These palanquins housed the ‘Three Princes’ and would stop at every crossroads, to ward off evil and bad luck.
NOTE: If you are squeamish to body piercings, skip this section.
Devotees in a trance. Some had their arms pierced; others their cheeks and tongues. Some adopted the ‘personality’ of their gods, like one man who kept running around at top speed and had to be restrained by a few other people.
The procession passed by neighbourhoods and shops, blessing each area. There was a dragon dance, people dressed up as god characters from Taoist beliefs, such as Tai Sui Ye and the hell guards. It was a pretty long trek, and lots of people stared as we passed by. Traffic was held up in certain places.
Although I went back sweaty and tired from the 3km walk, it was an interesting experience. I should get myself involved in more of these cultural activities – imagine how embarrassing it is that I’ve never gone on a temple procession of my own culture lol.