Of course, the foreigners are expected to somehow figure out and adhere to the many unforeseen complicated procedures and processes in order to get the necessary permits and registration. At times during the first few weeks we felt like… hmm… maybe like imported monkeys trapped in an unfamiliar land where the natives stare, poke their kids, attempt to communicate (and then persistently talk louder and louder when they don’t understand), when all they want to do is find a safe home for their family where they can eat some freakin bananas. Unfortunately, “Sticking it to the “Man’” only works in American cinema and politics where attitude, ego, and having the last word often determines the winner; here you just get eaten-up by the other 13 million people who share your town, no matter what you do. The Chinese are more prideful than a bag full of Texans.
Notwithstanding all the sarcasm and initial challenges, we are are really enjoying our foreign experience during this exciting time in China's development (including improvements made in preparation for the Olympics next summer). We've even made some good friends from Utah who also understand the initial bipolar experience.
Every block has an amazing Chinese restaurant where you can eat for pennies (though the picture below is not representative of the yummies available here: everything from saucy lamb leg to fragrant wood fungus) and just down the street (though a 15-minute traffic-congested taxi ride) is a supermarket where we buy everything from diapers to peanut butter. Right outside of our complex is a vegetable/meat/odds n' ends market where Tiff gets to do the daily produce shopping and pursue her goal in adventurous eating: trying every ice cream bar the city's got to offer by December. Though we have yet to go, we are only an hour-and-a-half train ride from Beijing where resources for Westerners are ultimately endless. Here in Tianjin, we are only a few minutes away from the brand-new and highly-acclaimed stadium, which is one of the major soccer venues for the 2008 Olympics. And anytime we are feeling a little homesick for some "all-American" cooking, the city is packed with KFC and McDonald's franchises. In China, though, the Colonel sells mostly corn and green bean sandwiches disguised as chicken.
We are also very pleased with our living arrangements. I live only a few minutes away from work so I can come home for lunch everyday, maximizing my time with the family before and after school. We are renting a 3-bedroom apartment on the first floor in a desirable neighborhood (which means no stairs to climb). There is also a park with slides and swings that Ellie loves, as well as many peaceful gathering areas around serene ponds and fish-filled streams. Though our private community is named "Fragrant Water Gardens," the fragrance is usually sewage (due to a nearby construction project). It does not take long to observe that China is chock full of irony. We're taking the bad with the good and are grateful to be here.