Thursday, June 05, 2014

Last Days in Tianjin

I've been turning over this post in my head for days. Would I write it? Would I be able to? Would I remember to take enough pictures or be able to put how I feel about this city into this space? I've been pretty vague about my life here. I share a lot of adventures but not a lot about my personal life and work. Part of that is because, despite writing on this blog, I am a private person. I prefer to really control the information I put on the internet as much as I can. I'm not one of those passive-aggressive Facebook status-updaters and I don't really share my struggles electronically.

But, a lot has happened to me in Tianjin. I've made friends, I've lost them. Work was a battle ground, for awhile. I worked very hard for a promotion, then got it, but it didn't make me as happy as I thought it would {see above with work being a battle ground}. Being far away from my family has been hard for many reasons {illness, death, etc.} and I've thought many, many times of just coming home. I kept hanging on, though, because some of the best people I've ever met live here. I have had some crazy fun nights  and I have grown more as a person here than I have anywhere in a long time.

And then, the decision to leave Tianjin was made for me by my company. I've moved to Guangzhou. When I first heard the news, I was OK with it for awhile, and excited for a new adventure. Then, suddenly, the idea of leaving was overwhelming. Time was slipping away and I realized that I might not see some of my favorite people for a long time, if ever again. Being an expat is not for the feint of heart, and especially not in a place like China where people come and go so frequently.

But, I also realized that I could preserve these memories and tuck them away. And that, in this age of easy travel {by train, by bus, by plane} that it really isn't goodbye. It's 再见 {zai jian}, which means, roughly "until we meet again." So, here are some pictures from my last few days and weeks in Tianjin.

Good memories!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Ready Player One

I love The Big Bang Theory. I love that this show has made being a nerd "cool," and I love that they portray geek-y stuff as just one of those things that people like. I'm sure part of the love is because I am also a geek, and though I don't know *everything* the boys do on the show, I follow their science jokes and Star Trek problems. 

So, when I heard about the novel Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, I knew I had to read it. The novel takes place some time in the future, where there are increasing problems like famine, war, disparity, genocide, and, in the case of the US, corporate-ization of the political process {sound familiar?}. 

{Source: Goodreads}
The one thing that everyone has to keep their mind off of all of these problems is OASIS a virtual reality world where you can choose your avatar and live the life you can't live in real life {IRL}.  OASIS was created by a man named James Halliday, and when he dies, he announces to the world that he has hidden 3 keys and 3 gates in the OASIS. The first one to find them all gets his fortune and ownership of OASIS.

What follows is an engaging story about a teenager's quest to not only find the keys and gates, but also to beat IOI, a corporation who cheats their way through the game to acquire the rights to privatize

Y'all, I LOVED this novel. I loved the political commentary on how powerful corporations have and could become {and on the danger of living permanently online, all the time}. I loved that the protagonists were the quiet geeks, the ones that many of us pay no attention to because they like "all the weird stuff." I loved that to defeat the game, Hailliday required those working on solving his puzzles to know about what he loved: Star Trek, manga, science fiction movies, Monty Python, old video games, 80's bands etc. It kind of reminds me of being in high school in tech theatre.

If you are a geek, if you know a geek, if you just want a great novel and you kinda like Big Bang Theory.... read this novel. You won't regret it!

What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Qingdao: The Brewery

Since I have come to China, I have come to really appreciate beer. The third-spaces for expats tend to be pubs {I've been hanging out with Brits and Irishmen too much!} and beer is usually fairly cheap and readily available. And, believe it or not, there are a fair amount of local breweries around, especially in cities with a large foreign/cosmopolitan influence.

One of the first cities to have an independent brewery was Qingdao {yes, Tsingtao}. Tsingtao hasn't been a a little independent German brewery in a long time, but I was very interested in going to see it and the city of Qingdao herself. The Olympic Sailing competition was held there in 2008, and I'd heard many good things about how nice the city is. So, I treated myself to a weekend away for my 28th birthday!

Qingdao is all about it's beer. You can buy cheap, "raw" {unfiltered} beer in little baggies from kegs that come straight from the production floor. I decided to take a tour first, and then wander around and find some lunch. I'm glad I went. There was a lot of historical information about the history of the brewery {it was owned and operated by Asahi during the Japanese occupation for example, and didn't start mass production and export until the 90's} and you got two free samples of beer from the factory.

This is a fountain in the outside courtyard of the museum. Reception, the museum itself, and parts of the old and new facilities are located in different buildings.

One of the old machines. I don't remember what it did, but it looked cool. And, that manequin guy was creepily life-like.

Another view from outside. Who doesn't like inflatable beer cans on their roof?

The wall of beer from all over the world. I looked valiantly for anything that looked "local" like Shiner, or Buffalo Bayou or St. Arnolds. Nada. Sad face.

Qingdao is also famous for it's spicy clams, so after I was done with my tour, I treated myself to a beer and a plate of them. The weather was warm and breezy, the beer was cool {ish...China is a bit spotty about cold beverages} and the clams were delicious. It was a good day. Have you been on any tours lately?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Beijing: Lama Temple

You remember when I went to Shanghai a few months ago? Well, I flew in and out of Beijing for that, and on the way home, stopped to see a friend in Beijing. When she was at work, I knocked this guy off my Beijing Bucket List.

The Lama Temple is a working Mongolian-Tibetan Buddhist temple located in the Yonghegong area in northeast Beijing {for the record, Yonghegong is Chinese for "Lama Temple"}. This temple is fairly old; construction on it began in the late 1600's. And, a rare thing in China, it survived the Cultural Revolution due to the intervention of a government official.

The day I was there it was chilly and crisp, and only a little bit hazy. There were some visitors, but not enough to make the experience a hassle. At the entrance to the main part of the temple grounds, visitors can receive a free bundle of incense.

In all, it was a fun little excursion on the way to meet my friend for coffee and a pulled pork sandwich. What excursions have you been on lately?