Monday, January 8, 2018

Fancy new library in Tianjin

I first saw this story on CNN and it has also been on all. kinds. of. sites. I live in Tianjin! I should go! This library is in a section of Tianjin called Binhai, which is far to the east of downtown Tianjin, near the coast. They have built a new cultural center, which is where the library is, and there will also be a performing arts center as well as a campus of Julliard in 2019.

I'm often surprised at how huge Tianjin is. It is huge. I am also often surprised at how confident I am getting around considering I can barely communicate in Chinese. Jim's brother, Mike, has been in town (!) and we decided that would be a good time to go visit this new library. Jim, unfortunately, has Influenza A (I mean, the thinking in October was something like the flu shot only covers like 10% of the flu, so let's not get it and now we know. We definitely should have gotten it).

The flu shot could have prevented this
The girls and Mike and I got into a taxi for a 45ish minute ride to the library, but for us it took 70 minutes until we arrived the the wrong library, because I had put in the wrong address into the taxi app, Didi. Whoops. On the map below, our house is represented by the butterfly, the wrong library is where the green monster is and the new library is where the yellow pokemon is. For your own reference, the actual, correct address is: 天津市滨海新区中心商务区旭升路347号

 Either way, it's a long drive.

Finally, we had arrived. The taxi driver was happy his ridiculous foreign goose-chase was over and we were excited to finally get to see this new library.
Inside the cultural center

Entrance to the library from the cultural center

Main room of the library

Giant glowing orb in the center

When I read about it in CNN I just skimmed the article and didn't get to the last sentence: "Most of the shelves in the atrium are plastered with images of book spines instead of actual books. Visitors have to head to the more traditional sections of the library for the real thing". I had heard from a local that the top shelves had fake books on them, which I thought would make sense but there weren't even fake books. It was just wallpaper.

not books

The actual design of the library itself is very cool, I just was surprised they didn't use the space differently. There are books there, but they are in rooms off of the pretty main lobby with the glowing orb. We went to the 4th floor to see the English books.

The 4th floor has one room with English books. We struggled to crack the code of how they were organized as fiction was mixed in with nonfiction, but we know this for sure-whoever did the ordering loves Nora Roberts. There were shelves and shelves of Nora Roberts books.

All by Nora Roberts

Also by Nora Roberts

Studying for the LSAT? Take a break and read a book that was made into a romantic comedy!
 Overall, it was interesting and I'm glad I saw it in person. I don't think I will go again until a few more things have opened up in Binhai, which should be soon. It looks like it's slated to have lots of cultural gems and restaurants opening soon.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

After exploring the temples of Angkor, we headed for a week at the beach. We took a very short flight to the coastal town of Sihanoukville and then took a boat to the very small island of Koh Rong Samloem. This beach is really spectacular. We got to our hotel in the evening and everything was pretty perfect.

The first couple of days, the beach at our resort couldn't have been better. There were no waves, the water was clear and shallow for a long way out. December is during the windy season, so when the beach at our hotel became very windy, we took a short walk across the island (about 1km) to Lazy Beach. It was quiet and clean and beautiful. There was a restaurant there that overlooked the beach and had giant hanging swings and hammocks. We would swim and eat and relax again and again for a week:


Friday, December 15, 2017

Siem Reap, Cambodia

In 2002, Jim and I got married and we took our honeymoon in Southeast Asia. I was only concerned about going to a beach, but Jim had bigger (better) plans including visiting Siem Reap. When we first visited the temples in Siem Reap, I was totally amazed. I had never seen anything like it and was fascinated by the history, the art and that you could just roam in and out and up and through the temples.

Jim in 2002

It has been a dream of mine to come back here with the kids. We waited until they were old enough and here we are. We spent 3 days exploring the same temples and, to our surprise, not much has changed.

We were worried about crowds, but they were about the same. There were a lot of people at Angkor Wat, but only at the entrance, then the people disbursed and things were mostly quiet again. The beauty, the history the details were all just as interesting as they were when I first saw them.

In addition to the temples, we had time to fit in a cooking class and have dinner with the Sautel's who, for the second year in a row, vacationed at the same place as us at Christmas. We also had dessert with our Chinese tutor Christina, who was also here on vacation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

We hosted Thanksgiving again this year!  Last year we had a limited guest list due to a lack of space and we had chickens due to lack of knowing where to get a turkey but this year we invited everyone who works at our school and had TWO turkeys.

We are lucky enough to have friends who would not only let us use their oven to cook the second turkey, but they did all the work-they even carved it when they brought it over. And this was their very first Thanksgiving! 

lots of shoes in our very full house

We had a photobooth!

Once again, we had a potluck style Thanksgiving. It's really the best way because everyone can focus on that one thing they're good at, so all the food is excellent. We had all the staples plus kung pao chicken, egg rolls, tomato soup, Danish coconut cake and a variety of other amazing dishes.

Food! (unrelated-putting a sofa in the kitchen is one
of the best decorating decisions I've ever made)

Felicity's tomato soup was the first thing to go!

more food!

Jim's plate

After we ate, everyone just hung out. Kids upstairs, everyone else downstairs. It was really relaxing and fun to watch football and talk, just as Thanksgiving should be.

football games all day.

Each year, Katie in SF sends me a Fall care package (i.e. Thanksgiving themed socks, stickers, thanksgiving napkins, Trader Joe's pumpkin spice coffee, etc.) and this year there were place cards too. We had more guests than place cards so before people came over, I had the kids write something on each card and spread them throughout the house. Here's just a sample of what they're grateful for at this time:

The party was just what we had hoped it would be, we wish Thanksgiving was more than once a year.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tianjin Taobao Street

Today I heard Christmas music while grocery shopping-it's that time of year again! Due to a tradition we started when we first moved to Korea, our tree is already up. The lights have yet to turn up after our move to the OC, so we need to get some new ones! Last year we found a lot of decorations at Da Hutong however, that has since moved. We visited the new Da Hutong in August and it was ok, but not as great as it had been origionally. Maybe they have Christmas things now but I had heard that "Taobao Street" is even better than Da Hutong, so I decided to check it out.

Taobao is a website that sells basically whatever you want. Examples of things I have ordered from Taobao are gouda cheese, bike helmets, fabric, school supplies, etc. It has everything. I had high hopes for Taobao Street.

Here is the address in Chinese: 中山门曙光里市场 and FYI, it's roughly here:

BUT, is it worth going? Maybe? Maybe not. There was not any gouda, bike helmets, fabric or Christmas decorations. However, it was pretty interesting and I did get a few things. If you decide to go, just be prepared that people are smoking everywhere, it was like being in a bar, but a bar that only served cigarettes and rather than drinking, people were just smoking. I think I now qualify as a smoker after my afternoon at Taobao Street. Anyway, I took some pictures of some of the interesting things we saw. Here you go!

WHY DIDN'T I BUY ONE? (I bet when you add a warm drink a winter coat appears over them. Or something like that)

So, it's definitely something to do, something to see. I'll keep looking out for the Christmas decorations that were at Da Hutong last year. Maybe they're at the new one now? I'll keep an eye out. For now, I'll order my lights on taobao.