January 17th, 2013
Looks like blogging has slowed to a crawl here, like the internet on my end here in Tianjin, China. For instance, I’m trying to download Xcode for my Mac, which somehow got broken (likely during a disk issue last year), and the file is 4GBs…which has already taken me a day and will likely take another before I get it all and can proceed with the installation of another, much smaller program.
I thought I’d jot down some other notes about the China experience, which may be of interest to others.
It’s a good reminder to me how difficult it is to get details out of books or tv/movies about unfamiliar places, and the things that are actually interesting details difficult to invent from thin air. Not that the air is thin here, with all the smog…but I digress.
For instance, the university I am visiting (Tianjin Normal University) has mostly female students, although I am told what I am about to describe is not uncommon elsewhere in China. The girls here often pair up, or even join in sets of three or four, to hold hands or lock arms as they walk around campus. A large fraction of the males students I see are in the company of an apparent girlfriend.
While sites like facebook and twitter are blocked, what was less immediately obvious to me is that sites that like to them or carry their ads also have problems loading and sometimes won’t load at all. The browser gets stuck on a link to facebook and stalls, making me less likely to stick it through to an eventual page load, which may or may not happen.
The restrooms for the astronomy department here have squat toilets and I’m hoping I don’t need them while I’m here. It’s been years since I’ve felt comfortable squatting like that. Oh, and bring your own toilet paper, too, by the way.
Diet drinks are to be found, but only if you look carefully in the right places. This is not a culture worrying about being obese. At least not yet.
Napkins are also difficult to find. In my experience, many countries provide poor napkins or none at all at many restaurants. This could be a top ten category for the United States worldwide, and part of our culture we should share more readily in my opinion. Or maybe Americans are messier than others, although I doubt that.
Out of the thousands of people I’ve seen here this week, I’m the only Caucasian around. I get more stares here than I do back in the USA. It’s an interesting experience to have that the majority of Americans don’t get unless they travel. People are friendly and usually smile back when I see them looking and smile at them.
Some things are the same. Dining hall food at most Universities isn’t much to get excited about, but it is cheap (I’ve been paying about $1.50 for my cheap meals here). My friend I’m visiting is also an astronomy professor, and he’s as slammed here at the end of his semester as I was last month, and he’s not even teaching right now. Academic faculty jobs are not easy anywhere, I think.
I’m going back through Beijing next week on the way home and been trying to find out of the World of Warcraft restaurant is still open (I know, I am a geek, but I’ve been to Peking Duck restaurants before but never a World of Warcraft restaurant). Anyone know?
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