Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

It's American Thanksgiving! It was always a very big deal at KIS but at IST there aren't that many Americans. There are a handful, but not enough to justify a day off to celebrate, so we had a small gathering on Saturday. We opened the potluck to anyone interested and for a few of those who came, it was their very first thanksgiving. And unlike some people's first Thanksgiving, no one at our party left with smallpox (too soon?).

I didn't think it could come close to being as fun as the Thanksgiving parties we'd had in Korea, but it did! We opted out of getting a turkey because for a 12lb bird, it would have cost $85. That's too much risk considering we have a small oven that we've only used a handful of times. Instead we had plenty of rotisserie chicken from Sam's Club. The food was outstanding-well done for some who had never even been to thanksgiving before. We had amazing mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, StoveTop stuffing, green bean casserole, lamb dumplings, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cheesecake. It felt just like being in America.

Then Jim set two alarms for the middle of the night so he could watch the world's greatest sports rivalry: THE OHIO STATE vs. *ichigan. I woke up and checked the score at 4am and caught a glimpse of Jim watching the game wearing his Ohio State jersey. All by himself.

You may know this, but the game went into double overtime and by the time they won, we were all up.

This picture is blurry because he was running all around cheering. I'm sure the neighbors understood.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Da Hutong

Who needs Beijing? Saturday the kids and I went to Da Hutong in Tianjin. Da Hutong translates to "big neighborhood" but everyone knows exactly what you mean when you say it. When I said it to the taxi driver he said, "Da Hotung? Mai dongxi?" and I understood him! Yes! I am going to Da Hutong to buy things!

We went primarily because we heard we could get Christmas decorations there. From what I can tell, you can get anything there. Fortunately for us, the taxi driver happened to drop us off right in front of the Christmas section.

The Xmas entrance!

We were delighted to see the Christmas decorations, but didn't go crazy-but it's good to know that the option to go crazy is there, in case we decide we need an 9 foot tall singing and dancing santa.

We wandered around for a couple of more hours. Honestly, I think it would take weeks to see the whole thing. Here are some pictures of just a fraction of Da Hutong:

thread and fabric:

Tons and tons of food stalls set up outside.

a cart of dried fruits

 heated juices
We went into a few buildings. There are signs on the outside labeling what you'll find inside:

Back outside. Here are some pictures, just to illustrate my point about how huge this place is.

I agree, my children are so beautiful you
should want to take your picture with them.

Da Hutong is fascinating, and you can get anything, but it takes some work and a lot of time. We'll definitely go back the next time any of us needs shoes, or coats, or a swimdress, or a cedar bathtub, or wedding supplies, or fuzzy toilet seat covers, and so on.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Weekend Edition: shopping in Beijing

On Saturday I went on a school organized shopping trip to Beijing. I paid a small fee and got picked up in a school van that took a group of us to 3 different places in Beijing. The first stop was the Panjiayuan Antique Market, which we had been to in the fall. Surprisingly, there were different things there this time (or...maybe I missed these before). I wandered up and down the aisles and picked up a few things.

Next up: The HongQiao Market (sometimes called the "Pearl Market"). HongQiao is a market where things look they they are from a particular brand, but are actually not. Recently, Beijing has been trying to clean up it's act and so they closed a lot of the Pearl Market. However, the vendors moved around and, because there are some people at our school who have shopped in Beijing for a long time, they know where to find the sellers.

There are two basic scenarios at this market and both are just as you probably imagine: 1. everyone calling you over telling you that they have a "special price" just for you-those are out in the open and 2. shops that look closed or have a teeny display of jewelry and then you go behind a curtain and find a room stuffed with shoes.


 The things sold here look SO REAL. And hey, if it holds together and is comfortable, does it really matter if they're "Xianku" and not "Dr. Martens" boots? (I'll let you know!)

I was so distracted by the Lepin brand that I didn't even notice that it's STAR WNRS

My "Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit" is pictured on the left in poor lighting. The picture from their website in really good lighting is on the right:
See? So close! It was tons of fun and in the end I got some new jewelry, boots and a new coat (phew, now I can save the faux fur for special occasions!). Last, we made a quick stop at Marks and Spencers (meh) and then we were back in Tianjin in a few hours. 

Unrelated to the markets in Beijing, Sunday afternoon Jim and I took the electric bike out. I've recently been sewing my own clothes and really gotten to know the various ways to buy fabric. Today I wanted to get some fabric for a dress and some pants and so we went to the market by the People's Park

this is supposed to be one of those hip, slouchy hats....on me it seems to stand straight up. Thanks, Obama

I found what I needed pretty quickly, negotiated a decent price and went across the street to check out the People's Park. It was, as parks in China seems to always be, amazing and beautiful and interesting.

People playing music as well as playing along to the music and dancing:

A woman practicing something awesome:

A guy practicing the flute:

A guy practicing the bull whip:

And for dinner-
When we got home, we got dinner from the smoked mutton guy. He's always right outside the gate. When I learn more Chinese I will ask him what his name is and let you know (something like Ni shu shenma mingzi)