Tianjin’s Annoying. . .and Also Awesome. Good to Be Back

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything here, so it’s entirely possible no one’s reading any more. That happens, and I don’t blame anyone. In my defense, my last month in China was spent defending a master’s thesis, trying to figure out the Byzantine complexities of the Nankai graduate program’s exit strategy, and preparing for a six-week trip this summer which would take me to both Europe and America, and involve meeting my girlfriend’s family in France, and having her meet mine in the U.S. All that to say, if you decided to stop reading this blog because I’ve been incommunicado, I totally understand.

And I’m not planning on giving you the full breakdown right now, all at once. That would be both excessive and uncalled-for. For now, let’s just address what it’s like being back in Tianjin, and why it is that while it can be difficult to find order and efficiency in China, it’s easy to find awesomeness.

Last year, when I got back from Taiwan, I hated Tianjin for roughly six weeks. I’d loved Taiwan for many reasons, and when I got back it was like the mainland was a bizarro landfill version of where I’d just been, an impression which wasn’t helped by the demolition of the campus market (where I’d gotten most of my food), and an absolute clown-car of nutters who were trotted out in front of me. (See the backlog somewhere for my My feelings aren’t quite as negative this time around, but they’re still negative. Or actually, check that, they’re. . .nothing. There’s an episode of Scrubs where Jordan tells J.D., “I don’t hate you. I nothing you.” That’s sort of where I was the first week in Tianjin. I didn’t hate it; I nothing-ed it. I had begun to mentally tune out the city once I found out last semester that I’d been accepted to graduate school in the U.S., then decided to stay because I wanted to find out where my relationship with Marie would go. So that’s why I’m back. Not because I’m excited about the culture or the opportunities here. So when I look around I mostly just sigh and go, “Well, here we are again.”

Mostly this is because I’m already excited about getting a Ph.D., and in Oregon no less, arguably my favorite place in America. I’m also excited to be done with Chinese bureaucracy and education (it doesn’t help that my university completely forgot about my visa paperwork until I personally called them from America ten days before I left). On top of that, I had a fabulous visit in France, and an equally fabulous visit in the U.S. More on that later.

In the meantime, it’s nice to be reminded of some of the uniqueness that China has to offer. For example. . .

One of the things you learn in China is that the rules governing the production and display of awesomeness are not quite what you think. In China it’s generally unintentional, and utilizes the ice crevasse approach, whereby your goal can only be achieved by pressing deeper into the suck. You begin with something empirically lame, then drive full-throttle into it until, somehow, it becomes awesome. Let me give you an example. If you see a guy with a tentative mullet, you wince and shake your head. If you see a guy with a mullet that hangs down between his shoulder blades, you begrudgingly acknowledge that there might be something courageous going on. If you see the same guy on stage with one of the ubiquitous hair metal bands in China, rocking a key-tar. . .that’s just awesome. Today I saw another example.

In the Water Park there’s a section near the lake where a large group of older Chinese people swim. It’s illegal to do so, and there are signs to the effect all around the pier, but everyone swims anyway, and the guards stand around and watch them do it. (Actually, that’s sort of awesome already). Not far away is a driving range, for those Chinese people with more money than they know what to do with. Today when I was walking past with Marie, I saw a Chinese guy practicing his chip shot on a large grassy knoll. Lame, perhaps, in and of itself, but he was wearing nothing but a Speedo. Awe. . .some. Seriously, what else can you say? Parading around in public in nothing but a Speedo?  Disturbing, not least because of the many things it displays to those of us who don’t want to see them. But playing golf in a Speedo? It’s the kind of thing you’d expect David Lee Roth to be doing (and maybe he is; what do I know?), not an average citizen. What’s even more awesome is the knowledge that he had to have planned it that way. You don’t just stumble upon a nine-iron in a Chinese public park, after all. That means the guy strapped on his Speedo, put on his pants, thought for a second, and grabbed his golf clubs on the way out the door.

If he’d had a key-tar, too, I would have offered to become his disciple.


1 Responses to Tianjin’s Annoying. . .and Also Awesome. Good to Be Back

  1. James says:

    I’m not sure if the questionable can ever get so bad it becomes good….

    But on another note, since you’re going to do your doctorate in Oregon…. Here’s some news from Corvallis.


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