Monthly Archives: April 2014

Fab Fab Fab

I went to the theater last night. The event took place in the two-year-old theater, part of the huge new cultural center, centered on an artificial lake, and including the Tianjin History Museum, a concert hall, a science museum, etc. etc.  I haven’t actually seen it all yet.

the huge theater
The science museum’s planetarium is visible to the right.

Anyway, the theater is pictured in this panorama – and it is a panorama, which makes the building appear a lot smaller than it does in person.  If you want to see the whole thing large, click on it for the original file.

We opted for the cheap seats. It was a company from Germany, performing a modern play from Sweden in German. It was a difficult exercise for my German, since the dialogue was as opaque and obtuse as Scandinavian Angst can be. I’m still trying to figure out what the “sound of an open door” was, and what hydrogen, oxygen and vinegar had to do with it.

Luckily for my companions, there were subtitles in Chinese, so they were able to understand “every word.” Unfortunately they were just as mystified as to the meaning of the play as I was.

the inside of the theater
Miss Julie or Miss Jenny or something

The audience, of course, gave the company an enthusiastic ovation anyway.  I snapped this picture after the play had concluded.  The big screen above the set actually echoed everything the actors did. Or actually, it was prerecorded (I think) so that the opposite actor-film relationship obtained.

Anyway, I’m sure that the theater managers among us would have enjoyed it.

a view of the mall
Fabulous and huge – as much ground space as many football fields

Afterward, I finally got to see the legendary Galaxy Mall, where I had fruit and yogurt for the equivalent of five dollars.  Yes, fabulous prices are coming to China along with the fabulous malls. Anyway, I figured a snapshot of the mall might balance the video of our local market which I recently uploaded to Youtube.

Rainy Day

It rained all morning, from the early morning hours until noon. I hadn’t taken many pictures this year on rainy days, so I spent a couple hours wandering around and snapping some shots for my PowerPoint slide show. I got a nice selection, so, before I decide which ones to use, I figured I’d post a bunch here. The old “run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes” sort of deal.

And remember, you can get the larger view just by clicking on the image.

umbrellas passing by
The recycler and the pedestrians

The first shot this morning shows a few Saturday strollers passing by a bouquet of garbage cans.

The garbage trucks here are nowhere near as large as those back home. They don’t have to be, in part because of people like the guy in the picture. Whereas most folks made a deposit, he’s making a rather thorough and detailed withdrawal.   This sort of activity happens at every garbage can in the city – cardboard, wire, bottles, and old bicycle chains are extracted and sold to somebody somewhere.

It makes my wonder if, on the new campus,  such people might not be as readily available, since its about 20 miles away from anything else and isolated behind a moat.  We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

trees, grass and bushes
Straight rows of trees stand ready for employment

Not far from that spot is one of two “tree farms” that I know of on campus.

When similar trees get diseases or get knocked down by the wind, these trees can readily take their place.

In fact, I’ve only recently become aware of how much planting and replanting of trees is constantly going on.

flowers and the people who plant them.
Every living thing in this picture was just put there.

Here’s another example of replanting – a flower display of annuals going into the central square on campus.  And it’s not just  the flowers. The grass had also just been laid down like a carpet. I took this picture yesterday before the rains began so the workers are hoping to finish before they might get wet.

buying snacks with umbrellas
A campus street and its snack centers

This next shot shows  one of the many street-side snack sources near dining hall number one.  The dining hall itself was closed, totally shut down for the hours between breakfast and lunch.

But, luckily, little snack centers like this one are everywhere.  One hopes that the new campus will also have some, even though they do seem cluttered and messy.

cleaning up
The Dining Hall without students

I was able to grab a quick shot of the dining hall itself when I walked up the stairs. Actually, it surprised me that I could do this, since most dining halls are shut up tighter than a thermos between meals.

Dining hall food is available from separate vendors which are arranged behind the windows that line the periphery of the room.  This sort of arrangement, with ten or twenty independent  vendors in one cafeteria , exhibits a level of private enterprise that I don’t remember seeing at universities in America.  Of course, it’s been about three or four decades since I’ve actually gotten food from an American campus, so who knows?

Tianjin, jungle city
Tianjin, jungle city

From the top of the dining hall, one can gaze out over the trees and see how thickly they crowd around the buildings.  It almost looks like the forest moon of Endor.  The tall buildings in the background are almost all recent constructions and are part of the city, not the university.

architecture building
The lake, the bridge, and the hidden building

Through these trees we see here the architecture building, sitting at one end of the “Lake of Task Commitment.”  Yes, that really is its name — 敬业 湖.

From a certain angle, it kind of looks like a forest building, too.  Yep, Endor’s got nothing on us.

The trees in the doorway
The trees in the doorway

And taking the forest theme to its illogical extremity, here’s the entrance to the faculty activities building over by Aiwan Lake. It looks like the jungle has even wormed its way inside the building, though it’s actually just a reflection!!

Yes, there’s a lot more to this campus than the concrete and asphalt.

Toddlers sail the waters in Beiyang Square
Toddlers sail the waters in Beiyang Square

On the other hand, there certainly is a lot of concrete over by my office, at Beiyang Square. This morning it was used to good advantage by a couple bicycling toddlers, who sliced water as they coasted along.

State secrets
You’ll never get the truth from these guys.

Nearby, in my own office building,  is something rather diabolical.

A few days ago I finally noticed this sign along the front of the building. It said “The School of State Secret Protection.”

Man, I never knew they had schools for that sort of thing, let alone one on my own campus in my own building!  The members of this department seem to be evading the rest of us as they descend the enclosed staircase. There’s no way you’ll ever wrench a secret  from them!!!

not that kind of "Bud"
An old guy stalks a bud

I asked a student about that department, and he’s told me he’s never met anyone from there. Well, no surprise, I guess.

It’s said that in the springtime a young man’s fancy turns to love.  One can also say that an old man’s fancy turns to photos of flowers.   Those old guys cluster like hummingbirds around campus floral displays, like this guy at left.

A bud
A budding rain-soaked flower.

I wonder where they migrate to in the winter?

And  did I also snap a shot of these flowers? Of course, I did.  And I do know where I migrate to in the winter.

Walking in the streets
The walker keeps to his lane

Okay, I’ll finish up today with two ordinary pictures.  First, the typical pedestrian walking down the middle of the street instead of using the walkways or sidewalks. One of these days, I’ll have to put together an analysis of why this behavior exists.

Americans walk on the sidewalks, as the traffic zips by. I’m afraid that if I acquire the habit of walking in the street, and use it in America, a driver there might run me over, as I wouldn’t be expected to be walking there.

vehicular sidewalk traffic
Not keeping to his lane

Anyway, here is the opposite scenario – a vehicle negotiating the sidewalk. This phenomenon is much less common than it was years ago when I first got here. In those days regular cars might prowl the sidewalks. Nowadays, you only see miniaturized coaches.

Okay – that’s all for now, I guess. I’m off to see a play.

The current week in pictures

This week, the two PowerPoint slides that introduce my two English lessons feature less obvious aspects of the school dining halls.

students trudge by noodle ads
Larger-than-life personalities hawk noodles

First up is the stairway below dining hall number four.  It always seems odd to see ordinary people descending the stairs and bumping against the air-brushed beautiful people in the ads.

The basement of that building provides an assortment of small shops and a restaurant that features Western food. I haven’t actually tried that restaurant, but I sure have bought snacks from the quicky-mart and souvenir post cards from the small printing concern.

When I first came to Tianjin, postcards were only available at the Post Office, and they all had nothing to do with the city you were in.  Either they were a special series, such as pictures of antique ink stones, or they were the same old Great Wall postcards you could get anywhere.  Now it seems that many small printers have rushed in to fill in the gap in post card availability. And in a school like this one, full of architecture students who could mostly be professional artists if they wanted to be, it’s not too hard to find people who can make eye-catching postcards.

Nighttime strollers by dining hall number 1
Outside Dining Hall number 1

I took the second picture just last night. The weather had turned decidedly warmer, and since Tianjin, like most places on earth, doesn’t have the “real weather” of the Pacific coast, where it cools off at night, this means that strollers emerge from their winter hibernation to bask in the warm evening atmosphere.

Of course, they share the road with speeding bikes like the blurred bike in the center of the picture. People don’t walk on sidewalks so much here.

In this case, they’re strolling by the entrance to Dining Hall number one, the hall with those strangely-shaped light squiggles meant to attract the attention of the hungry.  Of course, by this time, (about 7:30 pm) the dining hall itself is closed and locked. But like dining hall number four, there are shops underneath that cater to students.

And there’s also a whole floor of shops above the dining hall as well. Many times have I enjoyed the hot pot up there, on evenings just like this one.    And that should suffice for this post!

The first for-real post using WordPress

This post is still a bit of an experiment to test all the capabilities of the WordPress site. I’ll put a couple pictures in the post, and maybe a video? Every week I give two lessons to each of my four class sections. Each section has between 30 and 35 students, so that brings my entire student load total to somewhere north of 120.

waves of bikes
An intent student charts out a path to his bike

Each lesson is structured with a PowerPoint presentation, a presentation program that I always hated. But I find I’m bound to it here by circumstances.

The first slide of each lesson’s PowerPoint presentation contains a recent photo taken on campus. It occurred to me that it might be nice to post them on a blog — this blog — along with a paragraph or two of description, and then it would be an easy post every few days. It’s not too much of a strain to simply post pictures. So here are the two pictures for this week’s lessons. Remember that clicking on a picture brings up a larger version of it.

This first example was taken a couple weeks ago by the graduate student dorms.  A student considers how he’s going to navigate through that rusty sea of bikes.

And the thing is, a large fraction of those bikes are probably abandon-ware.  Students usually buy them used for the equivalent of five to ten dollars, and then when they leave  Tianjin for greener pastures, they just leave them  behind.

bike trike
The maintenance guys head out early to work

The second sample for this week shows one of the many workmen riding his work tricycle down a relatively little-traveled alleyway early in the morning.

These guys use those trikes for every sort of errand and go-fer duty. They work long hours. In the back, coincidentally wearing the exact same shade of orange, a student recedes from view in the distance.

crab apple flowers
The crabapple bloom astonishes everyone

Here’s a bonus picture. It was taken a couple weeks ago in honor of the Tianjin University crabapple bloom. The open mouth on the photographer in the foreground reveals his shock and pleasure at viewing the splendor in the crab flowers.

I found that my host doesn’t want me to host videos on their site — it uses too much bandwidth.

So I posted it on YouTube with a link from here to there.  One can see it by clicking here: Riding through Tianjin University

In the video, I rode my bike with one hand, while the other hand carried a video camera. I was just leaving class. It took me six minutes of filming to reach my apartment. If I’m in a hurry, and the traffic isn’t heavy, I can do it in five.  It’s so handy to have such a short commute, that doesn’t require an automobile.

Highlights include the bridge over Jingye lake, the blaring loudspeakers blasting corny music for the evening commute, the west gate standing half-open, as it does for an hour or so every day. The other half never opens. Also you can see some of the sidewalk vendors that the line the streets of my cozy community, as well as the herds of automobiles, lining the sidewalks like beached elephant seals.

And that, as they say, is that. I’ll put this now live on the web.