大家好!

This is my first blog post since arriving in China. We have been here for three weeks now and it honestly feels like I've lived here my whole life!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Our accomodation is in the Balitai (八里台) Campus of Tianjin Normal University (天津师范大学). It is not far from the city center. Next door to us is a military base of some sort. There is a big yellow line painted on the ground, with heavily armed guards on the other side. 

We have about 4 hours of classes per day, and 6 on Mondays. Most of the other students are a lot older than our Scottish group. The average age is about 30. The classes themselves are quite interesting (蛮有意思). They are taught almost exclusively in Mandarin Chinese, since most of the students do not speak much English (英文). In fact, the dominant language in my class seems to be Russian(俄文).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The international community is large in Tianjin. Last week we went to the "Italian District", which is basically just a huge amalgamation of every culture you can think of. I went to a lovely authentic Italian restaurant there, where I had fried octopus with a side of squid. It tasted just like the fried octopus you get back home.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We also recently went to visit a modern cathedral in the French Concession (organised religion is tolerated, and even celebrated, in a few special cases). A few of us went for Sunday mass, just to see what it was like. Most of the clergy were African or Indian, and the service was an interesting mix of Western-style worship along with the more upbeat African style of Christianity.

Outside the church was a book market. The books are priced by weight(!). I bought a book of Mao's poetry, a copy of 1984 in Chinese, and a Chinese textbook for 5-year-olds (a bit ambitious, given my level).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Going shopping in China is an experience in and of itself. We went to Joy City, a mall in town, and I think I must have spent at least 4 hours in there. Think Buchanan Galleries, times 100. In Joy City there are, amongst other things, two IMAX cinemas, maybe 60 different branded clothes shops (Western and Chinese), an Apple store, an Oppo (Chinese Apple) store, a million restaurants, and an ice rink.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The National Day holiday period is coming up. From the 1st to the 7th of October, there is a national holiday to celebrate the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. This year is the 70th anniversary. Myself and a few others will be going to Beijing on the 1st to try and catch some of the celebrations. It may be hard to see much though, since pretty much the whole country will be there and travel is heavily restricted around key areas in Beijing during this period.

After that, we will go to ZhangJiaJie in Hunan Province, in the south. The movie Avatar was partly filmed in the mountains in that area, and the views are beautiful (google "Avatar Mountains"). Also in the area is Fenghuang Village, the second most beautiful village in China, according to the Fenghuang tourism office. I am a bit nervous about this since we decided to plan the entire trip ourselves because the guided tour is way too expensive (太贵了). We ended up only paying about a third of the original price.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I can't wait for the holidays! My next blog will have photos of Zhangjiajie.