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T Minus 30 days

Only one month left in Tianjin!

It’s hard to believe that in just thirty days, I will be packing up my things and leaving my sweet gig at Tianjin University of Technology and Education forever.

While my contract here has had its ups-and-downs, I’ll be sad to say goodbye to so many aspects of life here that will completely change when I head home.

Goodbye, “rush hour” traffic over the campus’ pedestrian bridge and girls carrying umbrellas when it’s sunny out.

If this were America, the bridge would have collapsed from students enjoying one burger too many,

If this were America, the bridge would have collapsed from students enjoying one burger too many,

And of course, goodbye to my many marvelous students.

Let's learn about Russia!

Let’s learn about Russia!

THESE GIRLS ARE CRAZY! And I love them.

THESE GIRLS ARE CRAZY! And I love them.

I'll never join you!

I’ll never join you!

But it’s not just the campus. What about the strange guy at the 拉面 restaurant? Who will send me philosophical texts in Chinese after I go home?

Let's ruminate over the meaning of life together xoxo

Let’s ruminate over the meaning of life together xoxo

Will I still be able to find underpants in the trash while karaoke-ing into the wee hours of the morning?

There are a number of explanations for this situation.

There are a number of explanations for this situation.

Will roses smell so sweet, when there isn’t suffocating pollution?

Mmm, doesn't smell like cancer!

Mmm, doesn’t smell like cancer!

And will an adjacent table at the bar leave TWO-AND-A-HALF TSINGTAO TOWERS behind for us to steal??? I don’t think so. I really don’t.

Who leaves $25 of beer at their table? Downright irresponsible.

Who leaves $25 of beer at their table? Downright irresponsible.

With all this being said, there’s only one thing left to do: cherish this last month in Tianjin before heading on to the rest of my life.

And there will be METAL

It will be BRUTAL

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Posted by on June 1, 2013 in Life, Tianjin, University

 

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MIDI Metal Madness

\m/

\m/

China never ceases to amaze me.

This past May holiday, my friend Chenguang and I headed to 蓟县 Jixian, a county north of Tianjin and east of Beijing, for a massive musical festival called MIDI.

Love for metal crosses all barriers

Love for metal crosses all barriers

We made the mistake of placing all of our trust and faith in his GPS, which meant we got hopelessly lost a few miles away from the festival. Instead of taking the main road, we ended up getting a tour of the local village and meandering through the hill country.

A lovely day for a village tour.

A lovely day for a village drive

But we finally made it to the party! Although we were only going to the last day of the festival, some people had been camping out there for the entire three days.

Tent City

Tent City

Three main stages, over thirty bands, sunshine, grass… what wasn’t to like? I saw more tattoos and dreadlocks and generally nonconformist behavior here than my entire time in China. People were dancing, drinking, moshing, and crowd-surfing. It seems that loud music can break through even the legendary Chinese reserve.

Even security guards got to break loose and crowd surf sometimes.

Even security guards got to break loose and crowd surf sometimes.

A lot of students came from all over northern China to get their crazy on. Each group had huge flags that they waved around in front of the stage, to both represent their homelands and keep track of their posse.

Most of the bands were Chinese, with many a “fighting” band (metal with screamed lyrics and no melody anywhere). I love me some metal, but they were a little too intense even for me. Many bands also incorporated traditional Chinese instruments into their music. Chinese folk metal, yessss!

If you didn’t like one band, all you had to do was wander to another stage and find something else that more suited your tastes.  That’s how I ended up listening to The Ordeal, a shamelessly-generic power metal band from Germany. Since power metal was my gateway drug into the metal world, I was quite pleased by their epic choruses and screaming guitar solos.

Let the hammer fall!

Let the hammer fall!

Another unexpected treat was a Swiss drumming duo called Bubble Beatz (horrible name, entertaining show). They had a whole set-up of unconventional “drums” made from various pieces of metal and wood, and even broke out a didgeridoo at one point. Their dance and dubstep breakdowns, as well as their shirtless man-chests, caused quite the stir.

Drop that bass.

Drop that bass

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, with the only drawbacks being a mysterious lack of water anywhere around the festival and some horrendously dirty port-a-potties. Squatting outhouses should never be a thing. Here is a picture to haunt your dreams forever.

YOU'RE WELCOME.

YOU’RE WELCOME

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2013 in Life, Travel

 

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Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height

Tianjin gets much more fun when the weather warms up. For example…

Kite-flying!

Angry Birds. Because it's China.

Angry Birds kite. Because it’s China.

A couple students and I ventured out into an empty, grassy expanse on campus, in full view of many students passing by to get dinner, and ran around the field like frolicking five-year-olds. It was just as much fun as I remembered.

The Tianjin wind served us well.

The never-ending Tianjin wind served us well.

Subpar camera skills, but three lovely people.

Subpar camera skills, but three lovely people.

In my business writing class, we had a particularly interesting activity involving cowboy hat factories in Thailand being threatened by a raging elephant.

Complete with illustrations!

Complete with illustrations!

Due to Chinese Labor Day, we had to work the weekend to make up for the three-day holiday. Working THREE WHOLE DAYS in a row seriously lowered my motivation, so I decided to have class outside by the pond. This quickly became “let’s put flowers in our hair and take pictures and ask Kirsten a lot of weird questions.”

So much better than sitting in a stuffy classroom.

So much better than sitting in a stuffy classroom.

And finally, we had some dang good hot pot at 海底捞with a couple cool cats we met at a coffee shop. High-quality beef, boneless fish, scallops, the works!  The service is also top-notch… they refilled our water and gave us cloths to clean our glasses in case they fogged up from the hot pot. And best of all, our kind host footed the bill! Rosie the Riveter was pleased.

American Freedom approves of this meal.

American Freedom approves of this meal.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Life, Tianjin, University

 

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The Trip That Never Was

Happy Qingmingjie! People all across China are sweeping the tombs of their ancestors, or not and pretending they did. I originally planned to spend my three-day holiday at 泰山Taishan, a mountain about 2.5 hours south of Tianjin by train. But a series of tragic events, accompanied by laziness and thriftiness (thrifilaziness), crushed these plans into oblivion. Which I’m OK with.

At first, my friend and I were going to make the trip to Taishan by ourselves, but she quickly recruited some students from her school to go with us. Lucky for us, her student Steve took the reins and reserved hotel rooms for us and basically planned everything.

All we had to do was sit back and sip margaritas until the start of the holiday on Thursday–or so we thought. On Monday we got word that Steve somehow tore a ligament in his leg, obviously meaning he couldn’t go climb a mountain with us, and that he canceled the hotel room reservation that he had made in his name.

Our carefree holiday had changed forever.

I foolishly believed that one of my friend’s other students would help us poor foreigners out and find us a new place to stay, but no. I began searching online for hotels near Taishan, and English websites only had ridiculous expensive Chinese-style Sheratons and Hiltons. I switched my search to Chinese websites, but most of the hotels were already full, and the few rooms still available were far too much money.

I decided to persevere. But the task of reserving a hotel was made more difficult, since I couldn’t use my American credit cards on the websites, and I hadn’t yet set up my Chinese debit card for online purchases. I headed over to the ever-venerable Chinese Construction Bank and went through the preposterous process to simply be able to buy things online. Unlike the name/date of expiration/back-of-card code system used in the US, Chinese cards are FREAKING COMPLICATED.

On a website, you have to enter in your full name, debit card number, and a six-digit pin, then hit confirm on a super-futuristic device that the bank gives you.

01110110000101011

01110110000101011

After spending over an hour at the bank filling out one piece of paperwork incorrectly (not in caps), filling out another one correctly (in caps), and having one of the employees try (and fail) to set up banking on my phone, I went home and attempted to reserve a hotel. But in the box where I had to type in my full name (first, middle, and last), I COULDN’T TYPE IN THE LAST LETTER. My name was too long, since the bank insisted that I use my entire name, as listed in my passport, for all my paperwork.

Foiled again.

That night, less than 24 hours before we were supposed to catch our train, my friend and I sat in her room and freaked out that we wouldn’t be able to find somewhere to stay. Most of the hotels were completely full. One website said it would accept US cards, but my debit card didn’t work. Another said it accepted Paypal. Not my Paypal, evidently.

At this point, full of frustration and heartache, we realized we had to make a decision: spend another indeterminate long period of time looking for rooms and pay over 200 RMB, or $30+, per person each night (which is a lot for China), go to Taishan without hotel reservations on a busy holiday weekend and hope for the best, or call it quits and cry silent sobs for a trip that never was.

Other factors were also at work in our decision-making. Taishan is not for the weak of heart. It requires about six hours of climbing, and since it’s China, you have to climb the mountain IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT to see the sunrise. And it was supposed to snow the night we wanted to climb it. And I’m out of shape. And I didn’t want to slip and die.

So my friend and I took the difficulty of reserving hotel rooms and the scary weather forecast as omens: this Taishan trip was simply not meant to be.

Yippee! Seriously, after all of the drama that this almost-vacation had caused, I was glad to be rid of it.

We celebrated our new-found Tomb Sweeping Day freedom at our usual neighborhood bar. We chatted with some Japanese girls in Chinese (still a strange experience), and met a motorcycle-owning Chinese man with a helmet that prominently displayed a swastika. His drunken explanation of his grandfather or somebody fighting in WWII didn’t make much sense, but it was acceptable at 4 o’clock in the morning. Rosie the Riveter was also sighted with a beer and smoking hookah. She really needs to cut back if she’s going to continue being an inspirational American icon.

Chinese beer and Arabian smokes? How very un-American of you, Rosie.

Chinese beer and Arabian smokes? How very un-American of you, Rosie.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Life, Tianjin, Travel

 

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Coffee, Hot Pot, and Rhinos

Hello, dear interweb friends! Interfriends? Life marches on here in Tianjin. The weather continues to warm by slow degrees, and people still gasp in surprise if I happen to wear a short-sleeve T-shirt (inside or outside.) Little do they know that my blubber layer protects me from extreme cold.

There was slight shenanigans last Friday night. This is an oddly-placed rhino statue on Chengdu Road that obviously needed to be climbed.

Yeeeeehaw!

Yeeeeehaw!

Later, creepy Chinese businessman asshole from last week showed up at Helen’s, but we managed to ward off the evil by already having our table full of awesome people. Sorry, your money can’t win our hearts and minds.

Saturday, I continued my campaign to watch All of the Movies I’ve Missed. I also met a wonderful student on my campus via WeChat, who is offering to show me his hometown in Anhui province when I’m making my mighty trek all across China this summer. Due to his and three other’s generosity, I now have tour guides for Qingdao, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Anhui. I can’t wait for summer!

Sunday, my  friends and I bought our train tickets to Taishan for this Thursday. Since Tomb Sweeping Festival is a three-day national holiday, a lot of the trains were already sold out. But we managed to hold up our line at the train station for an awkwardly long time and got everything figured out.

With our travel arrangements made, we headed to Perfect Day Cafe (formerly The Spot) and lounged on some bean bag chairs. Notice the pile of papers waiting to be graded on the table. I graded three out of forty in the span of two hours. Not bad.

Lounging just got a whole lot bean baggier.

Lounging just got a whole lot bean baggier.

Next up was hot pot at my Chinese friend Ting Ting’s apartment. We hit up a vegetable/meat market for all of the necessary ingredients. Holy food mountain, Batman!

Complete with festive pink Easter baskets.

Complete with festive pink Easter baskets.

After buying far too much meat and veg, we then returned to her apartment, only to discover that she didn’t have chopsticks….?!?!?! Her excuse was that she never cooks for herself. Hm. By the time she ran out and picked up a package of chopsticks from the convenience store, our veggies were chopped, the pot was boiling, and we were ready to dive in! Hot pot is seriously good, guys. It’s so good, it makes eating vegetables fun again.

Nothing like various foods boiled in a tasty broth and dipped in peanut sauce.

Nothing like various foods boiled in a tasty broth and dipped in peanut sauce.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2013 in Friends, Life, Tianjin

 

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Back to the Middle Kingdom

Back to the Middle Kingdom

Well, dear readers, I have been back in China for a week now. I haven’t blogged up to this point, because quite frankly, being back in Tianjin isn’t quite as exciting as all of my travels. It’s not bad, but it’s no Thailand, ya dig?

I knew for certain I was back in China, because this was the view that greeted me from my apartment window last week.

Mmm, breathe deep.

Mmm, breathe deep.

Next, note the lack of anything resembling a line while boarding the train from Beijing to Tianjin.

A gaggle is like a line, right?

A gaggle is like a line, right?

Despite the lack of clean air and common courtesy, I celebrated my 25th birthday last Friday! *ushers in a kazoo band* On the same day, I may have found my new favorite coffee shop in Tianjin, Perfect Day Cafe. They have cinnamon, guys. CINNAMON. Better yet, getting to this coffee shop is slightly shady. You go up a flight of spiraling stairs, walk down a dark, twisting hallway, pass the “Ladys Market,” and then finally, thank the heavens, you’re there. Good coffee, beer, chill atmosphere, and… Mexican food? I’m in.

I'm guessing they sell... shoes?

I’m guessing they sell… shoes?

Between finding Perfect Day Cafe, going to the cheapest clothing market I’ve ever seen in China, and finally seeing “The Hobbit,” it’s been pretty solid since my return. Check out these incredible 3D glasses/ski goggles.

Fashion Divas.

Fashion Divas.

Things on the school front haven’t been so peachy. Work has a funny way of messing it all up. Last semester, I didn’t take attendance for my post-graduate oral English courses. Not even once. So when I failed a few students for sucking at English and never coming to class, my supervisors naturally wanted some evidence that these students never attended class. Right… about that. So they weren’t too happy with me about that one, and I like to think that I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Teaching in China may be ridiculously easy, but I should at least go through the motions of caring.

Now to give you something to look forward to, here are some future posts coming out soon:

Bad English: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Thailand editions

Rosie the Riveter: World Traveler

 

So stay tuned!

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Life, Tianjin

 

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Sunshine, Vodka, and the End of the Beijing Pix

Glorious readers, the sun is finally shining through after a solid week of gloom and carcinogens. In case you haven’t heard, the Beijing area (including Tianjin) has been wreathed in a cloud of despair for the past several days. Air pollution monitors in Beijing have been literally going off the charts, and it seems everyone is coughing, sneezing, hacking, spitting.. wait, a lot of people here do that regardless of air quality. Still, I hope these beams of sunshine signify that I won’t get lung cancer later in life just from living here.

In other news, the semester is nearly over! Students are busy cramming for tests, and I’m busy… well, busy doing nothing. My tests are all done, so I’ve been able to spend some quality time with my friends Youtube and Facebook. That and get shit-faced last Friday on 38 RMB bottles of vodka. I think we can all agree that cheap liquor is never good liquor.

On a less vomit-inducing note, I went shopping for jeans to replace my pair that has an awkward hole in the crotch… and lo and behold, I found some that fit!

I entered a tiny jeans shop that was advertising 40 RMB jeans (about $7). I naturally ended up with a nice pair of jeans that cost significantly more than 40 RMB, but such is the game. While I was trying on jeans, the 40+ year-old shopkeeper commented on how very 粗 (thick) my legs are. Then, to prove her point, SHE TOOK OFF HER PANTS TO SHOW ME HER LEGS. Um, yes, your legs are much thinner than mine. OK please put your pants back on please. Please.

Anyway, the point of this post is to put up the last of the Beijing pictures from over the New Year’s holiday. I stole (read: borrowed with full consent) my friend Helen’s pictures, so here they are, in all their glory.

These were our adventures at Olympic Park. We frolicked, battled some demons from the past, and were very very cold.

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Our adventures at Beihai Park were a thing of legend. Ice-biking, hockey-watching, temple-praying, and butt-freezing.

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And of course, there was more Chenglish and random awesomeness.

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Finally, here’s a picture of a random girl at the Great Wall. Don’t know why, but I love this.

Climb some annoying stairs, then admire the view. Such is life.

Climb some annoying stairs, then admire the view. Such is life.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Beijing, Life, Travel

 

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