The frontiers and this week’s pictures

I’ve chosen the first of my two pictures for this week’s PowerPoint slide show introductions, but not yet the second.

This will be the last teaching week for the semester for me. Class will consist entirely of student presentations. If they don’t all fit into the time, then we’ll have to go into overtime next week.  Otherwise, it’s all over but the counting (figuring out the grades).

Viewing Tianjin University from Nankai University
Viewing Tianjin University from Nankai University

This first picture will open tomorrow’s slide show.  It was taken a few days ago on the campus of Nankai University, our neighbor to the south.

The huge green building on the right, built in the shape of a gigantic stool, straddles the line between Nankai University and Tianjin University.  This line is a ramrod-straight street, paved in asphalt but devoid of any vehicular traffic.  In fact the only moving things you ever see on it are birds (occasionally), and in the summer, food vendors.

Anyway, the green building, in the days of its construction, was called “The Tianjin University – Nankai University Joint Research Mansion.”  The intent was to straddle the two universities and pin them together, despite the lonely strip of asphalt that separates them.  The building has changed names several times since those far-off days five years ago.

Nowadays, each of this “stool’s” four legs bears a separate name, and the seal of whichever university bears the weight of it.  And even though it is possible to walk from one side to the other within the building, that path is not particularly obvious.  Of course, one can easily walk underneath it, winding one’s way through various gates and bicycle traps to move from one university to the other.

Well, so much for togetherness.

Still it’s nice to have the two universities so close.  It’s yet another resource that will be lost when Tianjin University moves into the outer space down in the Southeast corner of the province.

The back of building 26
Breaking and Entering at Tianjin University

That super-long brick-like building behind the “joint research mansion” is “Building 26” of Tianjin University, where I hold all my English classes.  I took a closer picture of it from the other end yesterday.

Here lies the asphalt frontier in all its glory, as well as the straddling research mansion further down the road. It was raining yesterday, a fine mist, a soft day, so it’s not pollution that you see.

I reached this spot through one of the ubiquitous holes in the ever-present fences that wall off one public space from another.  And as I stood there, pedestrians, hoping to avoid the ten-to-twenty-minute  walk through the normal open gates, kept passing by, and taking the same path that I had. One of them appears in this picture, squeezing herself through the gap, although in this case, a more athletic specimen could have simply vaulted herself over the top.

The tall flowers that are so typical

Also piercing that fence is a row of tall bushes that springs up from nothing all over campus in the space of three or four weeks every year.  The flowers are pretty and multicolored. I don’t know exactly what they are, so if anybody can identify them, please let me know.

Fence openings like that, providing access through fences to rich resources, probably won’t exist in the new outer-space campus, if only because there’s nothing in the surroundings to access.  Oh, and also a moat will surround the whole territory, further preserving fences and walls from pedestrian damage.

Where there's a fence, there's a way
Where there’s a fence, there’s a way

See, here’s yet another gap which provides students, teachers, and workmen with access to the city streets.  They really are everywhere. And they really do save twenty minutes of walking.  And the nearby city streets really will be missed.

And also, everywhere are flowers, which constitute one of the great pleasures of life here in the spring and summer.

Many of them are annuals, like the upspringing bushes mentioned above. But beds of roses blanket patches of campus here and there . This particular mound of rosy redness can be found just outside the Liu Yuan (留园), one of two campus housing complexes for foreign students.  I can’t really read what’s written on the stone. It’s the old-style writing from 2000 years ago.

The rose patch and ancient stone
The rose patch and ancient stone

The Liu Yuan used to feature a guest house for foreign experts, including small conference rooms for business meetings and other educational gatherings.  In fact, that guest house was where I spent my first summer in Tianjin fifteen years ago.  Now, the foreign students have expanded and overwhelmed it.  I haven’t been inside for many a year.

However, I had stopped by yesterday to take in a celebration put on by the foreign students.  They had all set up booths decorated with pictures of their home countries. Even Sweden was represented!!   And it was pleasant to note the picture of a California flag at the American booth.  Many wore colorful national costumes and proffered national foods, or demonstrated national dances.

Edgar shows us Kenya
Edgar shows us Kenya

This picture shows my friend Edgar, from Kenya, whom I know from church. Those who know Edgar will be happy to learn that, after earning his undergraduate degree here, he was admitted to Tianjin University’s civil engineering master’s program.  This opportunity also furnished him with a free room on campus, so he no longer has to pay for his own lodging.

And he “tested out” of the English requirement, so I’ll never see him in my English classes with his classmates.  It’s too bad. I could have used him as a teaching assistant!!

The Kenya booth offered a typical Kenyan repast of chicken wrapped in something like a flour tortilla. In fact, it was a flour tortilla. In fact, it was a Mission brand tortilla imported from California!  Yes, multiculturalism is wonderful.

So now, the only thing left is to choose which picture to use for Wednesday’s slide show. If anybody has an opinion, please chime in.