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Let the China Adventure begin. August 10, 2010

Posted by manningdaniel in Travel Log.

Hi everyone! This is my first official blog post from the People’s Republic of China! Just to start off correctly, I’ll let you know that I’m on the China Summer Program (CSP) where we spend one month in Tianjin and one month in Shanghai.  The number of Chinese words I can say at this part is two: hello and thank you.

Let the China Adventure begin.

It was lucky that I signed up for the group flight because I’ve never been abroad to a different continent before (let alone one in which everything is in an entirely different language) – so having some direction on how to get around right when we get there would be great.  Oh wait.  Our first direction was: “Well, what are you waiting for, go! And get on the bus in about forty five minutes.”  Alright then, well-played China.  (You may notice I will use China has an entity or person – that’s because it is. Sometimes China will decide you cannot have something or will be having an unexpected adventure and that’s just the way it goes.)

So our first experience with everything being in a foreign set of characters and having pretty much no idea how to communicate with anyone at all creates a great bonding experience with the rest of our program and we eventually get safe and sound to the bus – which serves as our first introduction to traffic control laws in China. Oh right, there aren’t any.  Well that’s a lie – in places like Beijing and Shanghai, where there is a greater international presence, there is a tad bit more, but in Tianjin we soon got used to taxi drivers blatantly disregarding red lights and pedestrians striking out across a busy intersection at any given time (fences, grasses or other medians not being an issue).

Our arrival to Tianjin is fantastic.  Tianjin is one of the four cities in China that are large enough and industrialized enough to be its own administration center, set aside from the provinces, others include Beijing and Shanghai.  However, it is definitely not an international city, and foreigners (especially white people) are not only a rarity – in some places were are downright celebrities.

Most dining experiences in Tianjin, though the food is mainly delicious, involve four or five waitresses milling about trying to identify what it is we want to order and, places without a picture menu, are pretty much a resignation to eat anything.  Some of my favorite dishes from Tianjin include baozi, steamed buns with meat or vegetables inside, and jaozi, dumplings.  The Tianjin university cafeteria will serve you a filling meal for about one U.S. dollar – the conversion rate is excellent.

There are also Tianjin University students who are volunteers to help us get acclimated to China and are also in our classes (taught in English by Georgia Tech professors).  They are probably some of the most helpful and kind people I’ve ever encountered.  They took time out of their day to meet with us, to help us purchase Chinese cell-phones, learn about campus and eat with us.  Eventually, we became great friends with some of them and even now I am looking forward to meeting some of them in the United States when they attend the Atlanta Summer Program after we leave.

Overall, the language and culture shock is a bit ridiculous and bizarre, but I am loving every minute of our time in China.  I can’t wait to see some of China’s greatest monuments and temples!

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