This post is long overdue (over a week!) but procrastination is the best motivator to get personal projects done, so here it is.
Last Wednesday (2/1) CSI took us on a day trip to Tianjin, which is only about 30 minutes away by bullet train. I had a bit of an adventure getting to campus where I’d meet up with the group, as I missed my bus and had to take a different one than my usual. I’d heard this bus mentioned as being one I could take home, so I thought it would be fine – and for the most part it was, although it didn’t stop at the stop I get off at to go to school! So I got off at the stop before, because I’d planned enough time so that a little bit of walking wouldn’t set me back too much. This walking turned out to be a lot more than I expected, as I’m fairly certain I could have gotten off one stop closer (a stop that the bus I usually take skips), and at one point the sidewalk ended, with a fenced off area that pedestrians and bikes could use. As I’m still afraid of the bikes in Beijing, I decided to walk into this other area next to the road, a parking lot – also fenced off. There was a minute as the road turned away from the parking area that I thought I wouldn’t be able to get back to it, but I found a way and was quickly on my way again. Finally, instead of stopping at the East gate of Beida, I stopped at a smaller gate just before, and luckily caught my mistake before I had to go meet with the group. It was an adventure getting there, but I made it!
At the train station, we had to wait some time while the teachers bought our tickets, and I was starving from my morning adventure with no breakfast, so me and a couple other hungry students went to one of the fast food places that was open. Fast food being a very American phenomenon, it was a Burger King. It was probably the most American thing I could do, having a burger for breakfast, but it made me less focused on my hunger, and got me through the morning. I’ve never loved a burger with mustard on it so much (I don’t like mustard, but this burger was wonderful). I knew the trip was going to be short, but I was still shocked as we arrived in Tianjin so quickly. On the way I was able to teach a friend rummy, as she’d reminded me to bring my deck of cards, and we played a couple rounds, but didn’t have time for more.
First we went to the Porcelain House, a French style villa that’s been covered with 4,000 pieces of ancient porcelain, 200 pieces of jade carvings, 20 tons of crystal and agate, and millions of pieces of ceramic chips. It opened in 2007, and it was pretty astounding. It was very crowded, but quite a sight to see. My favorite part of the house was the mosaics on the inside walls, which were quite beautiful. Next, we went to Nanshi Food Street, and left with our pockets very empty but our stomachs very full. The Food Street was even more crowded than the Porcelain House, but it was wonderful to walk around and try lots of local snacks and foods. Unsurprisingly, my favorite was the baozi, although reading the name of the stands gave us a moment’s pause – 狗不理 (literally ‘dog ignore’). Although we knew that there was no dog in the baozi, we still didn’t know why the stands all had this name. This week a teacher explained to me (one good thing about procrastination, I have more insight about my experiences) that the name comes from the nickname that people gave to the people making the baozi, which is 狗 (dog), and the fact that the baozi were so popular that the vendors had no time to talk to any customers because they had to keep making them. Thus the name has nothing to do with actual dogs, and I don’t have to feel guilty about eating so many of them.
Finally we went to the Ancient Culture Street, filled with small shops selling a variety of things in the style of the Qing Dynasty. This was absolutely packed with people, and as we explored we had very little room or mobility to actually go into many shops, but I had a good time walking around. We got a few strange looks in particularly crowded areas where we formed a conga line to avoid getting lost, but we all had a good time walking around and staying together, taking selfies at every opportunity.
Finally, we returned to buy train tickets, and had a good time hanging out and taking pictures in a charming square on the river with a lot of European looking architecture. Some people said they felt like they were in Europe, but, having been in Europe, the buildings felt far too new, although I could see the inspiration. It was a beautiful place, and I’m really glad we got to be there! On the subway back, I got to talk to some of the non-immersion students, who I really don’t know very well because of my somewhat isolated situation, and I’m glad I got to spend this time with some new people as well as my friends.
One thing about this day was that there were lots of people taking pictures of us. I’ve always wondered how many other people’s photos I’m in, but this time there were times that we were taking a group photo and a stranger would come and take pictures of us as well. It was a little off putting, honestly. Some people tried to be sneaky about it – in Food Street I noticed one man taking pictures and cheekily stuck out my tongue, and then later noticed him on the other side of us. Others were less so, and one student added a man on WeChat because he was taking so many pictures of them. Someone remarked that this must be what the Kardashians feel like, and, while I don’t think it’s quite on that level, it is really quite strange. I don’t think I ever want to be famous – I know I’m beautiful but please ask me first before taking my picture!
A selfie with the emperor in Porcelain House
Food street as seen from above
Jam packed Ancient Culture Street