Big, Cheap and Dirty

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Mar 01, 2013

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Flag of China  , Tianjin Shi,
Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday morning we had to get up early because I had an 8.30 class. It was hard getting ourselves out of bed, especially because I knew I had to stay till 8pm that night.  Evan was lucky, having only one class he left Ao Cheng after lunch (Even though the class was a mad demo where 13 children turned up - its usually 6 - and half of them cried or retreated to their parents at some point! I'm not sure if anything was actually "learned" or if they were just being parrots for the strange looking foreigner. - Evan)  My (Steph's) classes went very well.  I had a class of 6-8 year olds (who were very easy to entertain - everything is funny at that age!), an older class of 9-10 year olds (they were a bit more difficult to teach, it was hard to strike the balance between treating them as children but without making them feel patronised.  They also had far better English, but way more self-awareness and me asking them direct questions made them very anxious!), and a Beeno class of 4-6 year olds who had waaaaay too much energy and little will to learn about the letter "V".  The stickers that I brought over from NZ went down very well though- I love that "I love NZ" and pictures of Kiwi's playing rugby are now stuck over one of the classrooms. 

Today was the first day of our weekend. Tony, one of our TAs, offered to take us shopping for a mattress overlay thingy to make our bed a bit softer, so we met him and his flatmate, Micky, at the "Da Hu Tong" shopping markets. Our Chinese teacher, when we later told him this was where we had been laughed and said "Ah Da Hu Tong. The real Tianjin. Big, Dirty and Cheap!". Which was really quite a good description of the place. It was unreal! So many stalls with everything imaginable on sale.  We were lucky to have such good guides - they bartered the prices for us and knew exactly where to look to find what we needed.  We were able to pick up a nice thick overlay thing for the bed for 110 - or $22NZD.  The same thing would have cost at least $80 in NZ!  I was also able to find a new handbag to replace my broken one, for 85 or about $18NZD - Bargain!

After we found what we wanted we walked down the road to "Ancient Culture Street" which is a real tourist spot of Tianjin.  The buildings are really beautiful, and some very old.  The stalls sell all of the touristy type stuff you would expect: paintings, masks, figures and beautiful Hanza (the Chinese characters) artwork.  I think we will have to do some shopping there before we return home! Check out the photos, this street was really cool. 

After this we tried to take our fantastic guides out for lunch, but somehow they ended up taking us to a restaurant near Cheng Ji, apparently a very famous place locally and was obviously very popular.  It was set down a random street and people were sitting on short stools around little tables outside under trees because the main restaurant (I use the term restaurant lightly - It was more a shelter with chairs and tables in it) was full. However, we walked a little way up a path and there were three Portacom-like buildings with more tables and we got a proper table in there.  The food was mostly delicious!  The first dish we got was a spicy noodles and cucumber dish - the cucumber and sauce were great, the noodles were interesting... They were transparent and thick and jellyfish-like in texture, not quite what we were expecting when we put it in our mouths!  The next dish was garlic beans with a thick peanut sauce - these were absolutely delicious.  The third dish was some kind of sweet (maybe pickled?) pork.  I don't usually like pork, but this tasted great - closer to bacon than pork really. After we had eaten a ton of these dishes, out came the steamed dumplings.  These were so good! There were both mushroom and bean based dumplings to choose from, mixed with minced meat - we don't know what type.  We were so full and couldn't finish the meal, so Tony and Micky gave us the leftovers to take home.  Apparently it was cheap, but we don't know what price as they paid the bill before we even knew it had happened.

It was so lovely to be taken around by locals and they really looked after us. We will have to try and find some way to show our appreciation!

After lunch we rushed to make our Chinese class with Chris.  Today we learnt about food.  What the different meats were called, how to recognise the characters and how to say things like "no bones", and "no offal".  Very useful I think once we start going out to more local Chinese places!

Tonight after dinner we decided to go for a walk to the local shopping street called "Bin Jao Road".  The road went for ever and had all sorts of interesting things to look at: Take special note of the couples clothes store in the photos.  I kid you not.  Couples actually buy the same top- and wear them around together! (I just want to make clear that we are NOT doing this! - Evan)

It was a good way to end the day, and we think that we will go back for another look tomorrow and find some pants for Evan.  We have discovered the secret as to how everyone is able to wear jeans in 30 degree heat- the denim is very, very light (and cheap!).  Teaching in NZ jeans has been way too hot for him so we will have shopping adventure tomorrow. 

It has felt like it would rain all day today - hopefully it will tonight and clear some of the mugginess out of the air. The type of weather we have been having is called "Sauna" weather.  Not pleasant for anyone outside of air-conditioning!

Lots of pics for you all to enjoy this time as we have been a bit lazy lately.
Keep the comments coming, we really love getting them.
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Auntie and Nana on

Oh... you make us feel so hungry when we read your blogs.Would love to try some of those dishes they sound so yummy.Good thing about a lot of their food it isn't fattening!! xxxxx

Amy on

OMG look at all those dumplings! Delish, so jealous.

Happy shopping Ev!

Aaron on

Hahaha the couples outfits are awesome! I bet your bought one and you're just not telling us... :D

Carol on

love the pics and you guys seem completely at home there.
The buildings are awesome.

Debbie on

Oh, go on - you've got to get 1 couples outfit while you are there. When in Tianjin...
Love all the photos guys!

Gramz on

Yes, what a great job you're doing with the camera. Keep it up. We have a young Thai couple coming to church and they always wear matching shirts! They're here for 3 months studying. I remember when Gdad and I went to Manilla I had a lovely pink and white striped trouser suit made and he liked it so much he also had the same made! We actually wore them home - he looked sillier than I did!!! So make yourselves some unforgetable memories!!! Luv ya xoxo

Jenny on

Love reading your blog and hearing what you're doing and eating!!!

Sam on

You didn't take your matching leather jackets you already have? Don't act like you think matching clothes is a silly idea Evan :P hahaha. Awesome to hear things are going well for you both - still not too sure about all the food but if you say most of its tasty thats good :P Hope the bed is heaps comfier now!! :) xxx

Sarah d on

Loving the blog Steph and Evan!! Very entertaining and awesome to see all the pics. All the talk of dumplings is making me hungry. Also please please buy just one matching outfit, think of the christmas cards you could do together :) keep safe and thinking of you xx

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