Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our commute

While I love the freedom that comes with our new electric bicycle, I can confidently say that I am glad I don't drive a car here. Driving here takes steady concentration and cat-like reflexes. Fortunately for us, taxis are cheap and the school provides us with taxi money. We have a deal with a taxi driver, Mr. Chai, who picks us up at the same time each morning and drives us to work and then brings us home every afternoon. Yesterday he chuckled at something Jim said and now we're wondering if he actually knows all the English. If so, he's privy to a LOT of collaborative talk regarding the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Here's a quick look at Mr. Chai's work:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It was a full weekend

We have nearly fully assimilated to Chinese culture-we bought an electric bicycle. I was terrified to ride it at first but after a trip to the grocery, H&M and the salon (!)
we all agree that the electric bike ($250) makes the list of Farley's Best Purchases of 2016 top 5. 

In other news, thanks to my TA Melody, I found the better fabric market in Tianjin! Hooray. Here are some directions, the address and pictures just in case you're going to come to Tianjin and go to the fabric market without me.

Here's the address in Chinese:

there it is-on the right side of the street!
The building is to the East of the eye. Enter through this gate (pictured below) and it's in the building to your right. Quilting fabrics are on the 4th floor. 

This place requires some digging. You won't find an adorable bundle of 5+ coordinating fat quarters all tied up in a stack. Several shops have the same fabrics, but each has a little variety, but that makes it fun. 

You can also get sequins and boas (but go down a few floors). I'm sure there are notions in there somewhere-but we couldn't spend all day there. Well, I could have, but we had to eat.

Jess didn't even have a horse in the race-she doesn't even sew-and she went with me and patiently watched me dig and hem and haw and translated for me.

While Jess and I hunted for fabric, Jim and August visited a Buddhist temple and then to the Tianjin Eye-both next to the fabric market! Since I've been on a field trip with the 3rd grade, I can tell you that the temple they visited is the oldest Buddhist Temple in Tianjin and that the Tianjin Eye is the only ferris wheel built on top of a bridge.

I'll leave you with this short clip of Jess's baby hailing a taxi:

Adorable and useful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Beijing again. 798 Art Zone and antiques

Jim here, filling in for Irish.

Last Thursday was a holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival.  Leading up to it we ate all kinds of different moon cakes.  Surprisingly it turns out Paris Baguette, the Korean bakery chain that we know so well had some of the best moon cakes. We just had Thursday off though, not a three or four day weekend. Not ideal but we learned that most people in China have to make up the holiday, they had Thursday off but had to go in to work on Sunday, so things could have been worse.

My original plan for the day was to stay home and feel guilty about grading until I felt bad enough that I actually took care of some of it. Then Irish made better plans for a day trip back to Beijing. The Youseys, a family we knew in Korea would be there so we were going up to meet them.

That morning we got to the train station incredibly fast, no traffic as no one was out driving on the holiday.  Irish had booked train tickets ahead of time so there was no standing in line. We got right up to our platform, got Starbucks breakfast, and then almost missed our train as we lost track of time while we ate.

The plan for the day was to go to the 798 Art District and then shopping at an antiques market. 798 is in northwest Beijing. It had been an industrial area with factories built in the 1950s and started being converted into art studios and galleries around 14 years ago.  Now it is gentrifying, lots of nice restaurants, nice looking offices for Audi and architects. It is still a lot of fun to walk through.  I had been there on my own two years ago and really liked it. Most of the galleries are free, there are sculptures all over the place, strange and unexpected things to look at.

We met the Youseys at their hotel and then took two taxis up to the art district since it is not on any of the subway lines.

A bright sunny day. 

kids were happy to see each other again. 

Naked lady with a gun. August was confused by this one.
Our literate children fortunately did not seem to notice this sign. It raises questions about who is doing what that I wasn't ready to answer. (I was told it is just a sign for juice at a convenience store?)

In a lot of areas you can still see the industrial origins of the place

Grace and Ruby blending in

Eating lunch. Maybe getting our picture taken, or maybe he was just taking pictures of the restaurant? 

one of many galleries

In the afternoon we left to go to the Panjiayuan antiques market. I was not terribly excited to go shopping but I tried to be a team player. Turns out I was wrong, the market was fun. A lot of reviews complain about there being cheap knock offs, or about foreigners like us getting ripped off, but it seems like they miss the point. There was a lot of interesting stuff mixed in with a lot of junk. The vendors were friendly enough. In most places we travel I don't love negotiating for prices, but since I can handle numbers in Chinese it makes me feel like I really know what I am talking about. We picked up a few things to decorate the house at a 1/5 or 1/6 of the original asking price. I'm sure with some of them we could have gone even lower but we liked the things we bought, we were comfortable with the price we got, everyone was happy.

Probably not valuable antiquities

more stuff that is likely not very old

Ruby trying some negotiating

We had tickets for a 5:00 train back to Tianjin so we got back to the train station that is starting to feel very familiar. We got some McDonalds for dinner and called it a day. Lucky me, I'm glad Irish forces me to do things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tianjin Fabric Market: Taobao

UPDATE! (Sept. 27, 2016). I found the better fabric market in Tianjin. Go here for details!

This weekend Grace and I checked out a fabric market in Tianjin. Tianjin is essentially a huge small town, so what we're finding is that it has almost everything-almost. There are a couple of fabric markets here and I checked out this one (scroll down for the address). I was looking for quilting cotton and it had very little selection of that. This market had plenty of other fabrics. And I'm pretty sure you can pick out your fabric and have them make you anything you want-but that's for a different day. This time I was there just to find fabric for ME to sew with. So there will likely be a follow-up about getting clothes made later.

Here are the basics:
One stall with a lot of canvas weight (Cat Kidston!) fabric:

Lots of stalls with jersey:

Lots of stalls with razzle dazzle: 

Lots and lots of suit material:

So much of just a mish-mash:

Overall, it was good to see and know that it's there, but it was underwhelming. HOWEVER, this led me to check out what's available on taobao. You can get anything on taobao. I don't think there's really an equivalent website in the US....Amazon, maybe? So, if you're in Tianjin and looking for quilting fabric and can't make it up to Beijing (where I'm just presuming there are better fabric markets), check out this site, and this site on taobao.

UPDATE: I'm just going to keep a list of the sewing stores I find on taobao here:
art gallery fabrics
this one
forest fabrics
more fat quarter bundles
(helpful search words "riley blake" and "artgallery" "moda")
this one has a lot.
variety of Japanese fabrics
If you still want to check out the fabric market, here's address:
河西区广东路123号布料市场(人民公园附近)。He xi qu guang dong lu 123 hao bu liao shi chang

This is what one of the doors looks like (I don't know if this guy is here all the time though):

This isn't over!