SCHOOLED IN TIANJIN

A week of our ten day trip in China was spent in Tianjin. We stayed with families. Celea, the student who stayed with me in Nebraska had moved to the school’s dorms because her family moved to a new apartment in the city and was so far from school. At the time, Tianjin had a population of 14 million, although the family I stayed with described it as a “medium-sized” city. It is unfathomable to me to consider that medium-sized, or to have such long commutes across the city that a middle school and high school provides dormitories.

During the week days we would go to school and attend culture classes in the morning. We learned knot-making, paper cutting, language, painting, and Tai Chi (although I’m not sharing any of those photos as they gave us these huge, billowing white outfits to wear that I still like to use for pajamas.) The afternoons were spent exploring the cities. In Tianjin, the schools’ uniforms were track suites, and driving to school in the morning we passed youth dressed in an array of colors including royal blue, purple, orange, and so forth. Before leaving, many of the students, including Celea, gave us one of their jackets with written messages on them. This was completely surprising, and incredibly sweet, as we had enquired about ordering our own but they wouldn’t be finished before we returned home.

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Our trip happened to overlap with the school’s mock UN. This was a huge event, with students traveling to Tianjin to participate from other cities around China and even other countries. We found out two weeks before leaving that they wanted us to participate so we signed up for our country. Originally I signed up to be in the environmental committee, as at the time my understanding and experience with politics, economics, and international relations was limited and entirely confused, and my experience with our own high school’s required UN day in world history was terrible. Two days before we left I was called into the office to be told a Chinese student was already representing that country and that I had to represent China on the economics council. No matter that I didn’t understand a thing about economics, had no time to prepare with my own schoolwork and packing I needed to finish, and would be representing a country while in said country surrounded by its citizens. Somehow I survived. The girl I sat next to also had no clue what was going on, and we helped each other through. It’s unfortunate because it was a really great opportunity, and if I had been given adequate time I would have loved to properly prepare and participate.

The mock UN day was two days long. It started and closed with official speakers, including members of the Chinese government. We spent the night in the school’s dorms, and they held a talent show. Acts were performed from a wide variety of participants, and even a few acts from our own high school. There was traditional dance, traditional music, contemporary music, singing, and it finished off with a head banging singing group that got all the audience off their feet to dance along.

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This last photo may be one of my favorites, the students look either incredibly happy or incredibly confused as they watch us watch them.

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