You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘traveling’ tag.

Been a while since we blogged, but not too much new to report. We did go on another trip recently though, hitting up the 6th biggest city in China; Tianjin. We were going to go a week ago, but it was raining so we pushed it back a week. One of the Chinese teachers at the school, Candy, went with us because her sister lives in Tianijn. We hopped on the train (somehow cheaper and faster than a bus) and the two girls got to sit together while I had to sit with my fellow Chinese laborers. It was good practice for my Chinese though, and all of the people on the train were completely fascinated by everything that Erin and I had to say. It is hilarious (and kind of sad) how little the people of China know/understand about America and the West, so this leads to some very interesting questions. For the most part though, they want to know how much money we make, and then why we don’t stay in America if we can make more money. They really do not understand this because they pretty much would do whatever pays them more. We arrived at Tianjin after 1.5 hours, and met with Candy’s sister, Ling Ling (we named her Claudia), who was nice enough to take 2 days off work to show us around.

We mainly heard negative things about Tianjin from other Chinese folks and the internet, mostly saying that it was dirty and not as nice as Beijing, but Erin and I were both very impressed. It seemed much cleaner than Beijing to me, and had a lot more history to it than I thought. I will say that it is not a very impressive historical city from a Chinese perspective, because it is relatively young, but it does have some pretty impressive Western buildings and obvious Western influences, which really made you feel like you weren’t in China in some places (if you ignore everything being in Chinese and all the people being Chinese, of course). We saw the big clock in front of the train station and then headed off to do some shopping. We went to the Ancient Culture Street which is famous for its shopping and looked at many of the stores. It felt very similar to some markets in Beijing, but with some pleasant differences: nobody physically grabbing you to look at their store or not letting you leave and a lack of people talking to you in English. It felt a little less like you had a bullseye on your back. Ling Ling (Candy’s sister) loves jade which happens to be one of Tianjin’s specialties, so we looked at lots of the jade stores. There are some really cool looking jade carvings, but all the ones I liked were REALLY expensive. We also got to haggle a little bit with some friendly guys, and it is pretty fun and funny if you have a nice shop owner. They act like every discount they give you hurts as bad as getting stabbed and generally exaggerate everything. Its a pretty good show!

After the Ancient Culture Street, we went to the modern shopping street. This was the most impressive part of the city in my opinion. It looked like any super chic shopping area in the USA or Europe, with lots of Western brands and of course their Eastern counterfeit counterparts. We stopped by one of the English cathedrals in the city, making you feel even less like you were in China, then hopped on a bus to see streets modeled with houses from various regions of the world. Most of the houses looked the same and we didn’t really think that they looked that much like the places they were supposed to, but it definitely didn’t look like the typical Chinese apartment blocks. We got on another bus which was PACKED and steaming hot, causing me to say “Tai han le!” I figured this wasn’t correct, but “han” means sweat and “Tai ___ le” is an expression to indicate that something is very good/cute/sweaty. This caused most of the front of the bus to chuckle, including the bus driver, who got up at a red light to open up the roof window for me. What a guy! Candy likes to laugh at me being stupid, so she found this very amusing. Things got much stranger once we got off the bus.

I had no idea where we were going, but I thought we were getting dinner somewhere. Ling Ling needed to go to the bathroom, so we stopped at a little hotel. The owner of the hotel came right up to me, squatted down in front of me, and put his arm out as if he wanted to arm wrestle. He was covered in tattoos, a bigtime rarity in China but somewhat prevalent in Tianjin, and was bigger than me, but I gave it my all for the stars and stripes. He beat me pretty easily but got cocky trying to beat me with two arms against one. He told Candy that he used to be in an acrobatic show so was very strong. It was bizarre but pretty hilarious and you could tell he was a funny guy. After that, Candy started talking about going someplace where we could relax and eat fruit, and I had no idea what she was talking about. Little did I know we were going to our first Chinese bathhouse! Of course the 3 girls could be together, but little (or big here I guess) David had to be by himself. We walked in, took off our shoes and then I was ushered into the men’s locker room. I had no idea what to do, but figured I needed to get naked like everyone else was. I stripped down and walked out of the locker room to the baths, which were basically one big pool of warm water and smaller pools of ice cold water. It is a very relaxed and nice looking atmosphere, with copious amounts of fruit to eat, as well as old, naked Chinese guys to look at. What could be better?! I went in the pool for a while, eating my fruit, and then took a shower. Back in the locker room I was given a silk robe, which I put on and was then ushered to the exit. I met up with Candy, Erin and Ling Ling out here, and Erin took a pic of me in my silk robe. She was immediately told that no pictures were allowed (obviously!). Erin and I laughed about the whole thing because it was pretty unexpected and funny. We got in the elevator in our silk robes, with Erin and I still befuddled by the whole experience.

After getting off the elevator, we saw a giant buffet. I was starving so this was a pleasant and still very strange surprise for me. Here we were, after walking around naked at a Chinese bathhouse, wearing silk robes and now eating at an all you can eat buffet. Erin kept saying she felt like she was on another planet, and it really did feel like something out of a movie. The two Westerners were just sort of giggling and amazed at this whole operation, while all the Chinese people didn’t think twice about eating at a buffet in a silk robe with strangers. The food was good though, and overall the experience was very fun. We got a hotel nearby, said good night to Candy and Ling Ling, and went to bed.

This is day 1 of our trip to Tianjin. This is also very long, so I will try to post the other portion of our trip and other ranom events soon. We are both doing well and hope that you all are too. I want to say congrats to my sister graduating from college (cum laude)!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hopefully talk/hear from some of you soon! Zaijian!

Back by popular demand, Confucius.

“The Master said, “To Prefer it is better than only to know it. To delight in it is better than merely to prefer it.” -6.18

“The Master said, “I for my part am not one of those who have innate knowledge. I am simply one who loves the past and who is diligent in investigating it.” -7.19

Advertisements

So we had nothing at all to do today, so we decided to try to see a little bit of the city we will be living in.  We went with Eddie and Sally (owners of the school) and the other teacher, David.  The first place we stopped at was one of the major outdoor markets, which was an interesting experience.  It started with 4 of us getting in the back of a 3 wheel, motorized cart.  These things are all over the place, and they are just really cheap taxis.  You can see a picture of 3 of us and the driver all crammed into the little cabin.  At the market, there was a huge meat and fish market which was a little depressing, and I don’t think it would have quite passed the US’s food and health inspection.  Everyone was pretty surprised to see a bunch of foreigners walking around, and would laugh at our attempts at speaking Chinese (except for Sally who is Chinese).  They sell lots of random things as well, like mops, gloves, batteries, light bulbs, video games…pretty much you name it, they have it.  It probably isn’t authentic or high quality, but they probably have it.  I got a pair of gloves and a mop for about $3.00, so it was a successful trip.

The street food here is something to experience in itself.  It isn’t your typical American street food, with hot dogs, nachos, sausages etc.  They do eat hot dogs, but they are usually either fried or served on a stick.  One of the primary street food items, at least up here, is the baozi (pronounced bow-tze), which is a small dumpling filled with meat.  It kinda looks like a big hershey’s kiss, only it is filled with meat.  They are everywhere, and are pretty good.  Most of the food has a distinct and very different flavor to it too, similar to cumin and also with lots of bean paste.  Most of it isn’t bad, but I don’t particularly like it, although I do really like the prices.  None of it costs more than 50 cents, and most of it costs between 20-35 cents.  It is pretty incredible.  We sampled a bunch of different street foods at the market, such as cookies, fried sweet potato balls (very good), vegetable baozi, and a chicken pancake wrap.  All for less than 3 bucks (before I am asked, I did not eat the meat)!

After stopping by our apartment to drop off the mop that we got, David, Erin and I decided to take a bike trip downtown (isn’t it great that the other teacher is also named David).  I wanted to see the earthquake memorial, which is in the center of the city, so we hopped on our bikes and started riding.  Getting around in China is different from in the USA.  It is best to think of transportation as a food chain; buses and trucks are at the top of the food chain, followed by cars, motorbikes, bikes, and lastly pedestrians.  The rule of the road is “Don’t be in the way of something higher than you on the food chain.”  If you are lower on the food chain, you are expected to move out of the way of the bigger vehicles, and it is a little scary at first.  People also honk their horns CONSTANTLY, for all sorts of reasons.  Usually it is a warning of some kind, such as “I am going through this red light!!!!!!!” but sometimes it is hard to find any reason for the blaring.  You will see people hold their horns for 10 seconds, and then drive straight through a red light or make some crazy left turn through pedestrians.  It works though, so who am I to argue that the pedestrian has the right of way.  That is not the case here, and even if it is, you would be killed in a day if you lived by that.  Luckily our bike trip was successful, and we made it downtown safely.  I have attached some pics of the earthquake memorial, it is a park with one big obelisk.  Nothing too special, but it also had a huge fountain so it will be cooler in the summertime. (quick aside: in 1976, Tanghsan had the deadliest earthquake in human history, killing about 250,000 people.  That is the government reported number though, and most think it was actually 700,000+.  Kinda scary, especially considering I have felt a tremor already.)

After the memorial, we wandered over to the dinosaur market (photos attached), a collection of stores that were nothing particularly special.  Again, everyone was very amused by us, especially when Erin and I bought some street food.  Within 10 seconds a crowd of about 25 people had gathered just to see what we were saying, which was “I don’t understand, what are you saying?  How much does this cost.”  It was exciting for them though!  We wandered the market for a while, then headed back to our bikes, stopping at Pizza Hut on the way.  We didn’t actually eat at the Pizza Hut, because it is THE MOST EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT WE HAVE SEEN SO FAR!!  The menu offered meals with multiple courses, had classical music playing, and was connected to a 4 or 5 star hotel.  Somehow American fast food has convinced the Chinese that they are very high class establishments in the West, but to us it was just bizarre and over-priced.  Have they never heard of the $5,5,5 deal?!  I don’t want soup, salad and pizza from Pizza Hut.  I have also read that KFC has somehow convinced the Japanese through advertising that the typical American meal on Christmas is a bucket of fried chicken!  There are weeks long reservations to get a BUCKET of KFC in Tokyo on December 24th and 25th!  Ahh, the power of advertising.

That was the extent of our journey pretty much.  I added some amusing pictures from today, of the Glory Palace, with random Statue of Liberty on top, and two signs from bathrooms that I thought were funny.  Men smoke pipes, women wear high heels, got it?  Erin and I bought some fried bread that we used to make little pizzas, which turned out very well, and now I am starting round 2 of mopping our floor.  Exciting!  Order some Pizza Hut for me!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 119 other followers

Advertisements