Recently in Second Week in Tianjin Category

BBQ with the Chinese students

Today we had a BBQ with the Chinese students that have been showing us around Tianjin and that have been attending class.  It was bitter sweet for everyone involved in the fact that we learned a lot about culture because they took us out all the time and told us what we should do.  It was sad though driving away from about 15 sad faces waving to people they will probably never see again. They are all so wonderful and amazing, not to mention so generous.  I will miss Tianjin and all the interesting people I met along the way.  It is sweet in the fact that we get to move on to seeing Shanghai, which I'm sure will be an amazing experience.  But also bitter in the fact that we need to leave the students behind, after they had given us so much.  Back to the BBQ, the Chinese students loved it!  We had a few minor glitches at first with charcoal not starting up.  But then the Korean restaurant saved us with charcoal that was already hot.  Everyone loved the cheeseburgers and chicken.  It was a great farewell.  

Adventure in Beijing

On our last free day Saturday in Tianjin, Charlie, Amanda, Sarah and I took the bullet train back to Beijing for a fun day of shopping.  It was quite interesting getting around town with out native speakers.  Thank God, Sabrina was there to get our tickets for us or we would have never made it out of Tianjin.  We had a new experience at the market, and experienced new things, even more than the first time we visited.  This time, we actually made it to the fourth floor where there were high-end shops that were fun to pursue.  I also had a new experience in the bag area, where the women grab onto you and will not let you go.  Honestly, one lady pulled my black shopping bag almost to the point of it breaking.  I was in shock of these women and what they do for business.  Also they yell at you non-stop and chase you through the shopping area to come back and buy items from them.  Well, it was a very successful trip and everyone bought memorable items to bring back for their friends and family in the states.

Last Day in Tianjin & Overnight Train

These past two weeks have flown by.  I have made some amazing new friends in a very short period of time.  As a last big bash for everyone, we threw an awesome American style BBQ.  It was a hit and everybody I asked really liked the burgers.  Many of them said they were much better then McDonald's.  After we finished up, everyone got ready and then we exchanged gifts with the Chinese students.  I cannot believe at how stunned I was at all the cool gifts I was given.  Mine seemed minimal and petty compared to what I got.  While reading my notes and looking through at all the thought that went into everything, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed at the flow of emotions I felt.  I really am going to miss Tianjin and everyone I've met.  The people here are truly one of a kind.

After getting to the train station, we waited outside because of the nice breeze.  It got very weird when people started gathering around us and kept getting closer.  Beggers would come by every so often and ask for money.  We decided it would be a good idea to just wait inside, despite how hot it might be.  We didn't have to wait that long and all I could think of was "wow" when I first laid my eyes on the grand scale of the railways.  The train we boarded was so nice and I honestly expected less.  The rooms were not as crowded and were luxurious in a way.  We even had our own TV.  This was my first overnight train (as it probably is with most of the students on this trip) and definitely an unforgettable one.  Even though I didn't get much sleep, it so worth it.

Tough Day...

Today was a pretty tough day to handle as it was our last day in Tianjin and we had to say goodbye to some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. The past two weeks have added up to be one of the most amazing and unique experiences I have ever had, getting to meet all of the Chinese students and learning more than I could have ever imaged from them. Time flies when you're having fun and these past two weeks seem to be a complete blur. It's really hard to say what one event stood out the most these past two weeks as it seemed there was always something new and exciting going on every day. The thing that amazed me most about our Chinese counterparts was the endless amount of giving and selflessness they had. They showed us an never ending amount of kindness from day one, and it didn't let up from the moment we hopped on the bus to leave Tianjin. I knew before coming that in Chinese culture it is very common to give gifts to friends and loved ones, but I had no idea to the extent of which these people would give. I received some very special gifts from many of my Chinese friends that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. I just wish I could have given gifts of equivalent meaning back. This trip has provided me with some of the most incredible experiences and given me the chance to meet the most incredible people, both Chinese and American that I think it would be hard to match such an adventure ever again in my life. 

Tianjin - Day 20

Our final day in Tianjin was one of great memories, and great sadness.  To leave these people we've grown so attached to was not easy.  I was very surprised, at the barbecue that Ben so nicely set up, to see how much the Chinese students liked the food we had prepared.  I was afraid, when Ben first brought up the idea, that the Chinese students would not enjoy the food we were going to prepare for them.  But, as it turns out, they quite enjoyed everything.  I wish we could've stayed longer, however, we must eventually move on.  It was a great experience, and I have to thank the Chinese students for being so helpful in helping us.

Our Friends

Today was the day that none of us was looking forward to. It was time to say goodbye to our great friends and the city that became home to us for the past two weeks. 

 Before leaving to China we were told that we would get to meet some Chinese students and we would have the chance to interact with them.  This seemed like a great experience and a chance to learn more about the culture.  This is what I knew before we went to China, but now I know that this friendship has become deeper than any of us could have imagined.  Even though we have only known each other for two weeks, I feel like we have known each other for at least two months. 

 What I really liked about this friendship is there was a mutual interest in each of our cultures.  We were so curious about the differences and similarities in our daily lives.  I don't want to speak for the Chinese students, but I feel like they learned so much about my culture without even going to the United States.  They were asking many thoughtful questions and were interested in anything that we could tell them.  We asked any questions we could think of and they would always try their best to answer the question to the best of their knowledge. This mutual interest in each other is a reason why some of us became so close over the past couple of weeks. 

 I really enjoyed everything that we did together with our new friends.  We had some good times in the classroom learning about business and culture, playing sports, going to dinner in markets, making dumplings, coffee shops, and any other thing that we did together that I can't think of right now.

 We left our hotel just about four hours ago, and now we are sitting on the train heading to our next destination. It is hard for me to think that our time in Tianjin has past already.  It is clear that we most of us wanted to stay longer in Tianjin, and that we did not want to say goodbye to our new friends.  If someone told me before the trip about how great of people we would meet and how much we would enjoy their presence, I would be a little skeptical about it.  After spending just one day with them, I was already impressed and realized that we would become good friends. Over the two weeks, they have become some of the best people I have ever met.  We all appreciate what they have done for us during our stay in Tianjin.  They are great people and we will truly miss them a lot.  I hope that we will continue to stay in contact with each other in the future and hopefully we will meet again someday in the future!


Fitting in

Ever since I have been back to the U.S.A. from Iraq I have not felt like I have been able to fit in.  It seems as though everything that I touch turns into a big pile of garbage.  Not one relationship has worked, even though I have tried to.  I never even feel comfortable in my own skin.  I planned on going to an in patient thing for 45 days this summer or to come to China.  I have to get my PTSD under control or I will fail at everything.  I decided to come to China and take my chances and see what happened.  My first few days in Beijing were fun and the sightseeing was great.  I really made some changes over the last two weeks in Tianjin.  I never expected to make such a good and amazing connections with so many people so fast.  It seems like I could honestly for the first time in my life be simply myself and everyone was okay with it.  I cannot really explain it at the moment.  I know that my life has now been changed and I am going to look at things much differently at home.  The people here are just so happy and carefree it seems.  The life that they live is my envy.  I made such a deep connection with one person in particular, her and I spent many hours sitting and talking and hanging out.  This was a stricktly platonic thing.  She is quite possibly the most amazing person that I have ever met.  She opened my eyes to the culture and the life that people live here.  I miss that city already, I made so many actual friends so fast, not the kind of fake friends that we have in america, these are real friends that I know for a fact I will have for my entire life.  I cannot say that about a single person from the states.  I am still sorting through my memories and my mindset, but I know that I have never been as sad as I was yesterday when our bus was leaving.

Communicating with the Chinese

At this point we have seen many different methods of communicating with the Chinese people.  We draw pictures, mime our needs, speak slowly, use translations from cell phones, travel by pieces of paper written with Chinese, and during times when we are frustrated, we even raise our voice and repeat ourselves (this rarely helps but sometimes seems appropriate).The majority of us started the trip knowing maybe two words.  Since then, we have picked up a few more words and phrases but by no means can talk with those that speak no English.  We can travel easily by taxi by giving the driver a piece of paper with the Chinese letters of our destination.  However, sometimes when we try to return to our hotel and give the cab driver the address, he starts speaking quickly in Chinese to us.  The first time this happened, I thought that the cab driver was irritated and crazy.  But, after he started to point to the ground and mimic a shovel tearing up the road, I could tell that he was just unsure as to how to get to our hotel due to the massive road construction that blocks traffic in front of the hotel.  This is now the norm when we are trying to return to our hotel by taxi.  We get better every day here at communicating.


Day trip to Beijing

Yesterday, some of the girls and I decided to take the bullet train back to Beijing to do a little shopping on our last free day in Tianjin.  It was great to do some traveling away from those that know the language.  When we sight see as a group, we do so with ease.  We have a private bus that takes us directly to our destinations and when we arrive, Dr. Li or our guide takes us quickly through the gates and lines and gets us an up close view of whatever shiny thing we are looking at.  We see an amazing amount of attractions because of all the planning that our guides prepare before hand.  Being on our own, we found ourselves having to navigate, read signs, look at maps, fight over prices with the locals, and ask others for help when we were confused.  It was a really great experience for us all, and it increased my confidence in traveling in a foreign country.  And, how could I forget, the shopping was fantastic and my haggling skills have really improved over these past 3 weeks.  To think, the first day I saw haggling in the street, I thought I'd never be comfortable enough to do.  As I left the market with a backpack full of items, I was quite proud.  

Two Universities

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Today is our last full day here in Tianjin.  We spent most of the afternoon walking around the two campuses, Tianjin University and Nankai University.  It was very interesting to me to see the similarities/differences between the two campuses that share a border.  The most interesting thing that I learned is that the universities share a border, and there is a building in which half of it is Tianjin and the other half in Nankai.  There is a main walkway that connects the two different campuses.  It was interesting because we were with two different students, one from each of the universities.  It was interesting to see that they both thought theirs was better, even though they agreed that some things were better in the other such as dorm rooms.  Overall they looked very similar to me, both had the buildings, basketball courts, lakes, dorm rooms and other college buildings.  It was interesting to hear that this was common in China, to have two different universities right next to each other.  I thought that this might create some competiveness between them, also increasing the desire for each university to make nice buildings and keep the grounds cleaner.  There was a fence that seemed to separate the two universities and I found out that we walked by it every day we went into the campus.  I assumed they were all for the same university, not two different ones.  It would be interesting to talk more with the students about this and learn more about the differences/similarities between the two universities and see if the student life is any different between them.

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