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Spontaneous Classroom Poetry

9 syllables per line? Who cares.

9 syllables per line? Who cares. Also, the entire poem is true except for the last line.

I just had one of my favorite classes ever: instead of writing boring business English-y things for our last day, we got a little creative. We started off with a group story-writing activity, where everyone started writing a story beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Then, after four minutes, we passed our masterpieces down the row, and the next student continued it.

My story began with a nuclear apocalypse and ended with cannibalism. Of course.

In another story, a man had the power to make people’s clothes fly away in a gust of wind. He made one woman’s clothes vanish, and then… DUH DUH DUHHHH… her husband showed up! In a phenomenal twist, the man made his clothes disappear as well, and they all disappeared into the sunset holding hands.

Next, we did our very best writing limericks. Surprisingly, none of my students could really count syllables very well, but they had some solid poems. My favorite was one that praised how wonderful of a teacher I am and ended with “So please let us go to lunch now.” How could I say no to that?

I also created some works of poetic art, describing my last days in China.

 

My last days are all complication,

Which overwhelm me with vexation.

Too much shit to do,

I don’t have a clue

How to handle this trepidation.

 

Noodles, barbecue, fish smelly meats,

Donkey, pig noses, and chicken feets.

I love this city

Oh, what a pity

That I will leave behind all these treats!

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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Tianjin, University

 

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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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Take my hand…

We’re off to never-never land!

This past week has been all about the musics. It began last Wednesday, when my friends and I shook our tail feathers in a square dancing class at Tianjin University of Sport.

Dancers... or zombies?!?

Dancers… or zombies?!?

Despite having zero fondness for country music, and possessing no dancing talent whatsoever, we all had a fantastic time and made some good contacts in the Tianjin expat community. One of the other Americans there has an apartment with an oven. Cookies are so happening.

Friday night, the plan was to have a nice, quiet evening and head home early, but these things rarely ever work out. “Alice,” Ting Ting, and I started things off at AJO’s and celebrated feminism by posing with everyone’s favorite Riveter, Rosie.

Such large, freakishly-long arms you have!

Such large, freakishly-long arms you have!

After being reminded of why we hate AJO’s (no people, no mingling, and really shitty-tasting beer), we ended up at our favorite haunt, Helen’s. There, we waited for our other friend “Simon” and chatted with a couple of well-accomplished young Chinese people. We eventually (hours later) received word that Simon would meet us at another bar called Green Man, and our new Chinese friends were happy to join us. The best part: they had a shiny Mercedes to drive us all over there! Win.

This is when our “quiet evening” spiraled out of control. We arrived at Green Man, only to find that Simon had already left with a group of friends to go KTVing. Never ones to balk at a chance for a good time, we decided to join them.

In case you don’t know, there exists a phenomenon called the Great KTV Time Vortex, where minutes mysteriously transform into hours without your knowledge.

Doo-wop doo-wop!

Doo-wop doo-wop!

We karaoke’d everything from Oasis to Ray Charles to Britney Spears, with some Chinese jams thrown in for good measure. We karaoke’d until we were all ready to pass out on the couches…. and until the sun came up. So much for going home early.

Daylight, better to highlight my shame while returning to campus at 5am.

Daylight, better to highlight my shame while returning to campus at 5am.

Needless to say, Saturday was spent sleeping… with a super amazing rock concert at Hebei University of Technology to top it all off.

CG bringing metal to Tianjin

\m/

This was, by far, the best concert that I’ve been too in China. The huge MIDI extravaganza of a couple weeks ago was no match. The thing that made it really stand out was my friend CG’s band, April Fool’s. They played all Metallica, all the time, with ACTUAL SKILL. There’s just nothing quite like rocking out to “Enter Sandman,” right in front of the stage, with a guy crowd-surfing behind you and a group of guys head-banging with their arms around each other.

All of this, combined with throwing a football around outside, seeing an enormous pile of trash just outside where the gig was held (see below), and getting home well before the sun came up, made for a marvelous Tianjin evening.

Rat feast.

So close to the actual trash can.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Night Life, Tianjin

 

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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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Checkin’ off that Checklist

Remember that checklist that I made before I came to China? With only two months left in my teaching contract, I’m starting to have panic attacks about leaving this place without accomplishing everything I set out to do. For the record, here was the initial list, with accomplished tasks crossed out.

  1. I will go crazy.

I was bored/lonely to death for my first few months here, until I met the right people and started seeing more of the city. And certain days, I still can’t handle the staring/spitting/pollution. But despite these things, I really do enjoy my life in Tianjin.

  1. Major language gaffs.

I don’t think I’ve said anything too inappropriate (at least not on purpose,) but I’ve been in plenty of situations where my Chinese abilities have been far less than adequate.

  1. Dance til the world ends.

There has been dancing. A lot of dancing. The best was at the all-Chinese Top Club, where we single-dancedly started a party.

  1. I will be mistaken for a boy.

More times than I can count. Looking “alternative” in China is just not a thing. I will never forget the little girl in Beijing asking her mom, in the cutest little girl voice in the whole world, why there was a boy (me) in the girl’s bathroom.

  1. Public speaking super star.

This happens naturally when you stand in front of people and talk for 16 hours per week.

  1. KTV Master.

***GOAL UPDATE*** My friend “Amidala” and I have set out to learn five Chinese songs before July. We will dazzle our friends with our amazing Chinese abilities and knowledge of heart-wrenching pop songs.

  1. Oh right, classes.

I’ve gotten into the groove of planning for my classes no more than two hours before they happen, and it’s working gloriously.

  1. Meet great people.

***GOAL UPDATE*** I’ve already made some friends-4-life here, but I REALLY want to meet some of my students’ families, and see more of how Chinese families interact. I think this will be an important step in understanding more about Chinese culture. And I’m still on the look-out for anyone special out here, obviously. I may be practical, but I’m not dead.

 

And a new goal! Here we are with number nine.

  1. TRAVEL EVERYWHERE IN CHINA

After my contract ends in June, I’ll have about a month before I need to head back to America and get ready for the next four years of irresponsibility and shenanigans–I mean college! Obviously, traveling all across China isn’t a possibility, but I would love to see several cities near Shanghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and Xinjiang province if I have enough time. Also, this will be a great opportunity to visit my students in their home towns! Basically, I can’t wait.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Life

 

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Spring, Face Stuffings, and Uncivilized Behavior

Spring is here! Students congregate around the only pretty place at my school and admire the five or so goldfish in the pond. Flowers, tree buds, and enough pollen to make my nose run. Ahhh, spring!

Notice all the winter coats... despite temperatures pushing 70 degrees F.

Notice all the winter coats… despite temperatures pushing 70 degrees F.

This week I made the hour-plus trip out to Tianjin Normal University to sit in on my friend’s classes and throw in comments when appropriate (and especially when inappropriate). Since she was covering dating, I was able to share my abundant experience and knowledge, which oddly sounded like they came straight from romantic comedies. Probably because they did. Also, there was a fare bit of lazing around the university’s pond, which is bigger and better than my school’s. Look at the beautiful view! I love gazing at apartments.

Nothing is more romantic than this.

Nothing is more romantic than this.

There have been many exciting foods these past several days, including 京酱肉丝,which is a Beijing meat thing in a tasty sauce that you roll up in tofu skin to eat. As a side note, China has a huge variety of tofu, and it’s all good.

My student Summer showing me how it's done.

My student Summer showing me how it’s done.

Then, in random wanderings around the city, we found an Egyptian restaurant. Since it seemed we were the owner’s only customers for the night, he hooked us up with a three-course meal of amazingness. Hummus, salad, falafel, cookies, tea, and a lamb/rice thing that you eat with your hands? Yes please!

So many delicious things, all for about $10 per person.

So many delicious things, all for about $10 per person.

Past consuming delicious foods, we also painted the town red (communist red, mind you) when a group of Chinese folks invited us out to Top Club, a club that doesn’t exactly attract a foreigner crowd. My friend and I walked in as the only foreigners around and started a dance party on the empty stage. You’re welcome, Top Club.

In a taxi ride literally to the other side of the city to fetch our new dancing buddy’s car, my friend stuck her head out the window for about twenty minutes. One of the Chinese guys freaked out and said it was very unsafe for her to do this, but a few minutes later he gave it a try and decided it wasn’t so dangerous after all.

When we saw a lion statue right next to their car, obviously we had to climb it. The same Chinese guy said it was “very uncivilized,” but then he climbed the statue too when he saw how much fun being “uncivilized” could be. Sometimes people just need a little nudge to have a good time.

Bringing uncivilized back.

Gaze into the glowing eyes of uncivilizedness.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Food, Night 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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