The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Ugly

1. Antiseptic

I was going for a walk last night in a big park, took a deep breath, and was surprised all over again when I realized I could smell. . .nothing. No trees, no grass, no flowers, not even dirt or dried grass. There was nothing in the air but the vague industrial tang of big-city life. I’m not looking forward to the transition back to America after almost seven years here (I love Tianjin, even though it’s horribly polluted), but as a friend retorted when I told her everything about it was going to suck, “the air won’t.” True enough.

2. Airport security

This isn’t actually ugly; I just wanted an excuse to tell this story, which once again I’m stealing from my friend Daniel. Daniel recently spent a month traveling around the Middle East and Turkey. He brought several Chinese things along to show to friends and acquaintances, among which was a special type of baijiu they’ve just started selling here in the last three years or so. It comes in small, 100 mL or less bottles with “BOMB” written in all-caps on the side. It tastes exactly like airplane glue. Daniel brought several bottles with him. When he got to airport security, they looked at the bottles and gave them back, no questions asked, but confiscated. . .his toothpaste. To recap: Daniel was given clearance to carry a glass bottle with the word “BOMB” written on it, but couldn’t brush his teeth. I feel safer already.

3. My wardrobe

I was thinking the other day about what I’d want to, or need to, bring back with me when I move to the States. As I looked at my clothes I realized I probably wouldn’t take more than about 10% of them. Tianjin beats the CRAP out of clothes. Socks, underwear, undershirts, or anything else that’s white has turned, after several years, a sickly gray from the gunk in the air. Shirt collars have been stretched into oblivion by the washing machines. Jeans and shorts crotches have been shredded by daily biking. One of my fleeces has a few mystery stains (not food, not dirt. . .what?). And bear in mind I was never very stylish to being with. At least this makes packing easier. I’m seriously considering packing three changes of clothes and burning the rest.


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