The North Star Project, Summer Report Number One, Tianjin, China By Erin Monroe Update 1: First impressions
This past Sunday, on my second day in Tianjin, the program I am in provided a city tour. Much of it involved passing “concessions”, or areas of the city that the Chinese government ceded to various countries. Our bus passed the former Italian, German, Austria-Hungary, and Belgium concessions. Of course, by now, all of these countries have since relinquished their power to the Chinese government. Still, it was interesting to see blocks of buildings that follow a completely different architectural blueprint that the surrounding buildings in Tianjin.
I am studying and learning Chinese at a rapid pace. While I attend class with other Americans from my university at home, all my teachers and teaching assistants are Tianjin natives. This is incredibly helpful for navigating Tianjin and adapting to Chinese culture. For example, eating in a restaurant is a slightly different experience than in America. When my classmates and I enter into a restaurant, we are seated by the server and given one menu for the table. The server then waits at the table for us to order. Most of the restaurants have family-style dining–the table orders several dishes and shares them. Personally, I prefer this method of dining as it gives me the opportunity to try a variety of dishes. While I understand enough Chinese to get by, I am still unable to fully understand the menu, but pointing to dishes on the menu has proved to be effective. To my delight, the food is very cheap. I don’t think I’ve spent more than the equivalent of five dollars on any meal. Yesterday I bought a full breakfast of “bao zi”–dumplings with a doughy shell– for two yuan, or about thirty two cents. Although I have only been in China for a short time, one week so far, everything I’ve eaten has been delicious.
The noises in Tianjin are fascinating. The honking on the streets, the music playing from restaurants, the cars driving during rush hour traffic paired with birds I’ve never heard before creates a bustling atmosphere. What I find most surprising is the fireworks I hear multiple times a day. This morning I heard fireworks at seven o’clock. The other day fireworks exploded in the sky above a busy street right in the middle of the afternoon. Fireworks, I learned, are a common means of celebration. Fireworks are not simply used for holidays as in America, but also for weddings, birthdays and various other celebrations. In the mornings I have a class in a building near the hotel I live in. After about an hour into my first class on Monday, I hear a short piece of Chinese traditional music play–perhaps the equivalent of a “jingle”. I was told it is called “mo li hua” and signifies when a class ends and a class begins (the equivalent of a bell or buzzer in America). It is a much more pleasant way to end class than a sharp buzzer. The sounds of Tianjin tell me that I am in a completely new world that’s a great distance from Northern Minnesota.
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10
The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
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