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We are counting down the last couple of hours of our time in Tianjin, a place we have called "home" for the past three weeks. Tianjin is full of over 11 million people where many have never seen an American. It was great getting to know the Chinese students, they were our guides, translators and most of all, our friends.

I can't help but try to absorb every last detail of Tianjin, the honking of the horns, the masses of people riding bikes, the market outside our hotel and the pace of life here. I was sitting here reflecting about the various cities that I have seen on this trip and they are all very unique and different. The main cities were Tianjin, Beijing in northern China and Guangzhou, and Kaiping in southern China.

Northern China reminds me of a warm New York day, where it is very hot and there are people everywhere you look. Southern China is very hot, humid and sticky, when walking outside it feels like you are in Mexico. It was raining a great deal when we were in Guangzhou (mainly the day we arrived and the day we departed). We were able to witness a great deal of flooding in the villages of Kaiping, people were walking through more than a foot of water running down the streets. People were riding bicycles and motorcycles with ponchos on and carrying umbrellas to keep themselves and their belongings dry.
Tianjin was our first stop and our home away from home. The first thing you notice is the intense smog, out of all the cities that

In Guangzhou Laura and I were discussing the differences in the life of children in China versus the USA. We did not see a single stroller or baby carrier while in Kaiping, they carry their children in cloth carriers so they can keep the children close to them at all times. Children in China do not wear diapers, but instead have large cracks down their bottoms so they can do their business hassle free. There were even very young children riding on motorcycles with their families that were not wearing any type of safety device. There were no seat belts, helmets or any safeguard other than the protection of the parent's arms.

It is easy to see why families are so close in China, we were able to visit the home of Leon's uncle and aunt. In one flat lived his uncle and aunt, their three children, and grandma. We learned that his youngest cousin either slept with grandma or mom and dad. We talked about how this leads to a greater respect for hierarchy and age. It was interesting because grandma did not want to come to dinner with the group because she was embarassed that she could not eat with chopsticks. But Leon pleaded with her to go and the whole family helped her put food on her plate so that she felt comfortable. It is amazing how far the family will go to protect the harmony within the group.

Our trip to the south was amazing, his family was very warm and welcoming to us. Even with the huge language barrier, it was very comfortable to be in their presence. At one meal there were 3 people that only spoke Chinese, 2 that spoke english and chinese and 2 that only spoke english. I felt bad that Leon and his friend Yen had to translate so much, but it was interesting. They were making fun of my lack of chopstick skills, but didn't criticize.

I am looking forward to our trip to Shanghai, I think it will be great to be able to see yet another part of the country. I am sad to leave Tianjin, but I am also looking forward to a new adventure. The Chinese students were awesome, they were really helpful and fun to be with. I would definitely like to thank Jason for orchestrating everything and to everyone who made this part of the trip possible. Goodbye Tianjin...