Chinese Rules of the Road (Halloween Update)

Americans all know the joke about Chinese drivers right?
Well, to be honest, seeing it firsthand here I have to admit that Chinese
people may be the best drivers in the world. They can squeeze through the
smallest spaces, reverses great distances, drive on water. The reason why it
goes out of sync in America is because if not everyone is driving like a Nascar
driver, then it doesn’t work and that one driver looks crazy.  Chinese people approach driving the way they
approach lines, meaning everything is fair game and your only purpose is to get
yourself up front. The first time witnessing it can be a big shock, but I’ve
grown used to it. The rule of the road is: Size Matters. At the top of the food
chain is big trucks and buses, they cut as many cars off as they want and there’s
nothing to do but just let them, then comes large vehicles, like vans and SUVs,
then the regular four wheel convertibles, then three-wheel convertibles (yes,
they exist), motorbikes, bicycles, and at the bottom is our special spot,
pedestrians. The bottom yields to the top in most cases. I have learned to
become a very defensive street crosser, I applaud myself at times 🙂

Bicycles and motorbikes have special “powers” though, red
lights don’t affect them. It is not uncommon to have bikes and motorbikes pass
straight through red lights, as long as no one above them on the food chain
gets hit, it’s all good. In Shanghai, bikes and motorbikes could drive on
sidewalks all they wanted; I used to walk on sidewalks there like I was walking
on a street. I always looked both ways before veering to one side, etc. Also, (this
is less of a problem in Tianjin) always look both ways on a one-way street too,
there have been several cars and LOTS of bikes who don’t follow this rule
exactly. My Chinese teacher is the smartest guy I know, before we arrived he advised,
“Follow the old women across the street, they’ve gotten to that age for a reason and must
know what they are doing.”

Halloween Failure Update.

Well I made that trip over to 大胡同 yesterday. I woke up EXTRA early *coughcough…10am* and set
out upon my adventure to find the perfect Halloween outfit. I don’t want much I
swear, just a halo and some angel wings. But apparently that is too much to
ask. I took a taxi from the school entrance, and I had the luck of finding the
only Chinese person who follows every traffic law in the book, aka. drives like
an American. He stopped at yellows, didn’t cut off police officers, you name
it. I was so aggravated I almost yelled at him. Due to him and traffic, it took
30 minutes and 22 RMB to get to this place. I then started my futile attempt to
search for a place that sold any Halloween decorations/costumes.

The way大胡同 is set up is very Chinese styled. It
is inside a very large warehouse, where small cubicles are given to Chinese
sellers, one floor is dedicated to leather goods and purses, the third floor
was for wedding dresses, etc. I like the atmosphere of these places, because
that is where you can find the cheapest items, of course haggling is an art
form one must first master, but after that it’s very fun. Unfortunately I was
having no fun at all. I spent an hour asking everyone where Halloween things
were sold; they all sounded super positive that it was on the second floor, the
second floor said the third, the third said the north-west second floor had it…..and
thus my time was spent getting frustrated and finding nothing. At the last
place I asked, they told me where I could find “Halloween” stuff, then I
realized that they (and probably everyone else) thought I meant Christmas items,
when they realized that mistake finally I was told that there was nothing. Now
I’m up a creek with no paddle, I have to dress in black and wear some devil
horns, or go as a retro ‘80s girl. I’m still in the process of choosing…

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Halloween in the Far East?

Trying to have Halloween in China has to be the worst place
possible….well maybe that’s dramatic but it’s in the top 25 list, I’m sure.

I kind of assumed that even if it isn’t an Asian holiday,
everyone would know about the customs and maybe do them for fun here. After
several of my classmates asked me about Halloween, I chose the holiday as my
report topic and gave a presentation about it. They were very interested, so I
am making a “Halloween” Karaoke Party for the class this Saturday. It’s going
to be at 6:30pm at a KTV (remember that’s Chinese for karaoke?) place right
next to our university. I am buying candy, and bringing face paint to try to
make it as “Halloween” as possible. It’s encouraged to wear costumes but I’m
sure it will only be me and maybe one or two people who actually do it….no
holiday spirit I tell you! I had my first shopping failure today though; since
Halloween doesn’t matter here I tried the only store chain I can rely on for a
piece of home, Wal-Mart. After searching I found the Halloween “section” and
almost cried, the section was the tiniest I’ve ever seen, not to mention the
only there was a few masks (and I mean of the mardi-gras variety) toddler sized
fairy wings, and witch hats. Oh America, in times like these I miss thee!

I asked around and found that there should be Halloween
accessories and costumes at a shopping place here in Tianjin, called 大胡同. I
am waking up early on my precious afternoon class day, tomorrow, to go
shopping, so wish me luck! It better be worth my time, haha. I have a new white
sweater that I bought in Beijing, so I’m hoping to find angel wings and a halo
to make a simple Halloween outfit. After karaoke is clubbing, there is a
relatively new club around our favorite club here who is promoting the night of
the 29th, wear a costume and it’s free open bar and buffet….of
course I am on it. Even if the place turns out to be a bust, we plan to eat and
drink to our hearts content, and then make our way back to the fun club. I plan
to have a fun night 🙂

Thanks A Bunch China

Going online here is hard enough, but they just had to make it harder.

The first year I came here, summer 2009, was the summer they decided to ban Facebook for a “few months”. It’s because it was the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, and the government did not want forums where people could decide to make a protest. I guess they loved it so much that Facebook is still banned here….why change a good thing, right?

Last year, YouTube was a goner as well, as well as most blogging websites, such as blogspot and online forums (that weren’t Chinese that is). Lucky for me, I have an amazing University that has a VPN program in place. All I have to do is log in with my student id and my IP address changes to an on-campus one. All of my problems solved! Except it does make the internet slower when I’m on, so I don’t go on that much. WordPress was one of the only blog websites I didn’t have to get around a ban for….unfortunately, that has seemed to change. Sometime in the last few days I guess we’ve become risqué enough to warrant the Big Bad Banned list. Sigh, oh well just another day, haha.

Tianjin

The temperature is amazing still!

When I left America, I came with only one check-in bag.
It was the smart thing to do, because I spent the summer flying around
domestically in China. Thus, a sacrifice I had to make was bringing no winter
clothes with me. I literally brought only one sweatshirt and not that many
jeans. That’s the beauty of living in China, cheap clothes and things galore! I
bought a few pairs of jeans, a jacket, a few sweaters, and things like that
already. Beijing was so cold, but the strange thing is Tianjin’s is perfectly
mild. I brought a jacket out this morning, but it got so warm that I had to
take it off and walk around in short sleeves. It reminds me of Florida at this
point. Heck, it was colder in Korea in June than it is now, haha. A negative,
though, is that mosquitoes are still large and in charge, I’ve never gotten
bitten all the way into October before…

Tianjin is a beautiful city. Our department, the Chinese
Language Department, organized a full-day tour for us. The most interesting
part of this city is the history of foreign occupation is intense. There was a
point in history when seven countries each had a section of Tianjin under their
control. The first place we went was a section called 五大道. It
was under British control, so the architecture reflects that and also you can
have horse-drawn carriages around the square. I can’t wait to do that at a
later point.

Next to the Tianjin Railway station the area is called 海河, you
can take a ferry across the water, and at night time it is truly beautiful.
Nearby is the Ancient Culture Street, of course you can buy all of the typical
souvenirs there, though you shouldn’t because the prices are ridiculous. You
can find the same things much cheaper in stores along the street, haha.

Last but not least was the Italian Town section, 意式风情区.


The floors are cobbled stone, there’s fountains, and Italian restaurants and
bars. I love the overall feel in that area, apparently everyone else does too.
Because we ran into at least three couples getting their wedding photos done
there. I love the extravagance Chinese couples go to for their wedding photos;
they are so adorable. Speaking of weddings, I have no idea why but my dorm is
next to a Wedding Hall or something. Literally, everyday fireworks are going
off outside of my window…yes, fireworks go off on the sidewalks here. It goes
on for minutes, and by the end car alarms are going off as well. It’s all good
fun!

More Awesome Than I Remembered

Beijing is even more amazing than I remembered, if that’s possible. Though I love Beijing, I still am very, very glad I go to school in Tianjin. The benefits of which are there are less foreigners and it’s an hour ride to Beijing for a cool weekend, right?

We left for Beijing at 5:30 to catch a bus to the Railway Station. Unfortunately, there were soooo many people trying to do the same thing. We waited for 45 minutes at the bus stop, waited 30 minutes for a cab, then thankfully found a rickshaw that we paid a ridiculous mount to not go home, and take us to the Station instead. It was a very interesting ride to say the least. He cut into bike paths, construction sites, and more but he got us there in time 🙂

I texted my German friend, Lutz, from the summer on the way over, he goes to Beijing Jiaotong University. He texted back right away that he and a bunch of friends were meeting up at bar street to drink, of course I’m always down. So even though we got into our hotel pretty late (11:00pm) I convinced my friends, Anastasia and Dasha, to go over to San Li Tun (三里屯) with me. The first difference I could see from Tianjin is the difference in prices…that cab was expensive really soon, it was only about 18 minutes away but the cab was 32RMB, which I paid for since I convinced them to come. That was my first time in China seeing no Chinese people on the streets, it was obviously a foreigner haven (not that I search for one, but if you are ever looking, that’s the place to go). I went into Nanjie Bar and he introduced me to his Russian and French friends. They all bought me a few drinks and after a while they decided to go next door to a Salsa dancing club, called Caribe. I forgot that in Beijing (and Shanghai) you have to pay to go into night clubs, this one was RELATIVELY cheap, 30 RMB. The music was good and we all danced until almost 4am. I left first to get some sleep and prepare for National Day.

We woke up later than anticipated, but luckily there was no actual parade in Tiananmen as we thought there would be, so we got ready, ate a cheap breakfast, and took the subway to Tiananmen. That day I was fully hit with the realization that there are a LOT of people in China. It was crazy, it was like walking in a line on the sidewalks, not to mention within. We took some pictures outside of the square and decided to not go inside that day, going to the Forbidden City might be better on another (less crowded) day. We then tried to find our other Nankai friends in the crush, after an hour we spotted each other and made the harrowing trip back to our hotel’s area to eat. Our hotel was right beside the Temple of Heaven, but we knew it couldn’t be as crowded as the area we were in. It took a long time but we finally made it back, we had a great traditional Chinese dinner, bought cards and alcohol, and played games in our hotel room. After they left, Anastasia, Dasha, and I decided to meet with other Nankai friends at another party area in Beijing, called Wu Dao Kou (五道口). It is the focal point of several universities, so many students love to go there and have a good time. We met Emily and Lindsay in a bar called Lush, it was pretty nice and the drinks were much cheaper than those found in night clubs. They already found a group of two German guys and a Swede who were paying for drinks, so we jumped on, haha. After a while, we started talking to two Chinese guys on our left, they bought us drinks too. It was a VERY social night, I found these beefed up Korean guys there too, they were nice but left early. So I turned back to my table, and there was this tall nice looking American guy, he’s half black, half white. I must have been drunk because I pushed away his advances and turned my attention to a shorter, German guy who just came in, Claus. In his defense, he is really smart and has awesome Chinese, so I guess I got hooked for a reason (though I regret ignoring that fine man now…). I wanted to dance, so Lindsay, Emily, our Germans (though I had the best one in terms of intelligence, personally), and I went to the bars next door, Propaganda and Sensation. The cool thing about those places is they are technically bars, with a dance floor  downstairs. So no entrance fees! I kept playing a run away game with Claus, and when he would catch me I would kind of dance with him, then run away again. It was hilarious to my tipsy mind and he seemed to enjoy it. After a few hours, we decided to leave, Lindsay and Emily were getting cozy with their guys so we went in a cab ourselves. He was a gentleman, though of course he kind of tried and I considered for a second (in all honesty I’m on the search for a European this year, it is my goal and I shall achieve!) but said no. And he was still sweet and we dropped him off first, I lived far from the place, but he paid the driver 100RMB to get me back to my hotel and I got all of the change back too 🙂 Not a bad end to a great night.

We went to the Temple of Heaven the next day, it was better than I remembered from two years ago. It almost didn’t feel like we were in a city anymore, it is huge and very relaxing. We went to a shopping district that night, but  will cover that and the Silk Market in another post. I met up with a Chinese friend from Qingdao the next day, and he treated me to a Korean BBQ buffet, it was a carnivore’s dream come to life, I was so stuffed. I will remember it always and bring Wilna/ my sisters there when they come to China. Can’t wait~

In conclusion, I love Beijing, and plan to go there every two weeks now, haha.