Year Abroad: Tianjin Travels

TO TIANJIN!

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Off the HSR at Tianjin Railway Station

Off the High Speed Rail and into the bustle at Tianjin Railway Station.
Beijing – Tianjin: 54.50¥
Shanghai  – Beijing: 550¥

It’s autumn in China, and I recently made a trip out of the bustle of Shanghai up to Tianjin, where over the course of four days I managed to amass a large amount of photos of the journey, the city, and very few of myself and my friend Peter.
(Sorry, Pete.)

In comparison with Big Ol’ Shanghai, Tianjin is pretty chilled and quiet city, and I’ve spent a lovely four days wandering some of it’s least tourist-trekked streets, thanks to my trusty guide, as well as some of it’s Lonely Planet-style tourist attractions. Despite the fact that Tianjin covers an area some six times larger than Shanghai, it’s population is only half that of the shiny southern city – and it shows. The streets are chilled, the metros are only quietly bustling, and the people are friendly (what a shock to the system).

Take note Shanghai.

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REAL CHINA

We start off the trip with an excellent 6¥ bowl of noodles at what Pete has dubbed ‘Man and Wife Pull Noodles’, a tiny, tiny, tiny restaurant that sits in a rickety road alley just by Tianjin Experimental High School. If you haven’t tried eating where the locals eat, you’re missing out on a real and genuine experience of China. This street is lined with lots of similarly miniature restaurants, all of which have been dubbed with fabulous English names by the local, non-Chinese speaking foreigners, and are flocked with tracksuited schoolkids at lunch (beware).

I keep accidentally calling the restaurant ‘Man on Wife Pull Noodles’, much to everyone’s delight.
Well, it is a bit of a mouthful.

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By Necessity, Alley Restaurant, Tianjin

These pretty bottles are filled with Chinese vinegar, and are perfectly lined up on our table (one of only three, in a space smaller than my tiny dormitory bedroom at Fudan University). The decor has definitely happened by necessity, and not because they’ve popped down to the local Ikea.

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Cat in Basket, Waiting

Oh, and here’s a Cat in Basket outside the shop.
Why are you so grumpy, kitty!

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I’M A TOURIST!

Next, I get the grand tour! Try the Tianjin Radio Tower, 1 Weijin South Rd, Hexi, Tianjin in summer for a great view of the surrounding city. On a smog-free day take the cheeky elevator up with a 50¥ Adult ticket (20¥ Consession/Student), and check out the span of the sprawling city. Afterwards, the nearby Lake Park 水上公园  is perfect for a relaxed stroll and watermelon on a stick! The attractions themselves are all a little worn out and dusty, with lots of attendants that seem to be there mostly for show – but worth visiting for the strangeness of it all. Other tourist spots worth a visit are the shiny, new Museum District, the Italian Quarter, the Old Town and the Tianjin Eye.

Radio Tower in winter  is an absolutely amazing sight.
Tianjin is b-e-a-utiful in winter, if not horrifically cold.

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 Tianijn Radio Tower

Tianijn Radio Tower.

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If you get a chance, go for a stroll around the local areas (or a bike ride if you can find one and are savvy enough not to get killed on raod that have a fairly relaxed attitude to general traffic laws). Out by Wujiaoyao the two story houses and residential streets are slow paced, and filled with wandering elderly people in faded floral packs; the wide, dry streets are sparsely tree-lined and seemingly under constant renovation, with building dust churning now and then under our shoes. Card playing old men in dark jackets shout in tense, tight circles around makeshift tables.

We were very alternative, and took a stroll in the dark.

A NIGHTTIME STROLL IN TIANJIN

One lovely evening after a long day at the nearby Italian Quarter and Old Town, we take a stroll down along the HaiHe 海河 Riverside to soak up some more of Tianjin’s relaxed atmosphere, take some photos, and a look at night-time life.

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Tianjin Father and Daughter, Nighttime Radisson Building

A man and his daughter sitting in the glow of the Radisson Building.

Tianjin, Nightshift Nap

This man is taking the night shift on Tianjin Old Street very seriously.

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Over the Bridge, Tianjin

Over the Bridge.

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Three Men Fishing, Tianjin China

Three men fishing under an over pass; the man on the very left is wearing what’s left of his daytime, smart suit, while the older gentleman in the middle has the look of an old-timer to the trade.

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Tianjin Little Eats Street 天津小吃街

Little Eats Street, Tianjin is busy and bustling.

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Last Man Working, Nightshift Tianjin

Last man working the nightshift.

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The Clock, Tianjin

Tianjin Clock in some pretty cool looking light pollution.

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HEADING BACK


 “Home, James!” My family say this when we’re going home after a day out, but I don’t know why, or who this mysterious ‘James’ is. Peter made a face and sounded fairly insulted that I was calling him James… Does anyone else say this? Support would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, after a long day out, we nip on the last metro of the evening on line three and head home!
Tianjin’s metro is wonderfully efficient, and much less overcrowded that Shanghai’s rush hour. English everywhere and friendly staff makes it a super easy tourist city.

Wujiaoyao Metro

I love how symmetrical everything is in the station, and as a treat, they’ve opened the backs of all the metro coin machines –  pretty neat.

From the White Lights, Lamps in the Dark, Tianjin

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AWAY I GO

View from the Window, China High Speed Train

At on my window seat back down to Shanghai as the High Speed Train hits 400km/h!

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It’s a long journey home when you’re leaving an old friend and heading back to a city that you can barely call home yet. It’s a seven hours door to door, and I do nothing more than doze, read and listen to music.

It’s been great to take a step back from Shanghai and chill out for four days from the stress of university level Chinese and watch Pete make all our transactions, translate, tour guide and generally be an excellent host. On the creative side of things, one of the great joys of touristing with a friend is you don’t have to feel nearly so ashamed of spending five minutes trying to get the shot that you want. So cheers to the large album dedicated to one of China’s five national central cities.

Hope I can come back soon,PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

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.Charlotte xx

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PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

Oh, hey there Vogue, this is the Tianjin Railway station.

😝

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Year Abroad: Shanghai Night Life

Shanghai Night Skyline Pudong PuXi The Bund

Ladies, forget pre-drinks,

WELCOME TO SHANGHAI.

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It’s not all about the studying out here in Fudan University, Shanghai. For the first week, us newbies have been  sampling some of the famous nightlife that the big city has to offer.

Apart from the fairly long metro journey from where we are in Yangpu District out in the evenings (where the last train is at 1030) and the dubious fare negotiation with taxis from the French Concession area back, there is actually very little money that leaves the pocket – especially if you’re a girl. Sorry boys, but Shanghai is infamous for ‘Ladies Nights’. In a very desperate attempt to lure women into bars and clubs there are deals such as free entry, free drinks all night, free mojitos all night, and even, free champagne. Mum and Dad, I swear I’m being sensible…

Boy, we have not been disappointed by Shanghai. Here’s a quick spin through the fab range of nightlife that Shanghai has to offer whether you’re on the hunt for something classy or downright dirty.

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Arkham Club Shanghai Bunker Nightlife

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In September, I set foot in the fluoro-splashed tunnel that leads to the Arkham bunker: a high-roofed chamber with raised platform stage and meshed off viewing gallery in which heavy beats from TICT Creative’s Nat Self pounded for the Zombie Disco Squad – unfortunately, rather literally interpreted by several glassy eyed clubbers with sweaty face-paint.

If you’ve been in Bristol, this is the Shanghai equivalent. It’s smoky, it’s grimy, and it’s most definitely sweaty at this lock-down venue, and the classic house/disco/hip-hop mix is heady and heart-pounding. There’s not much to say for the bunker itself: it does what it says on the tin. But stick a few hundred zonked out, limb-flailing, drunk uber-hipsters in one little space and things are bound to get messy. Although I’m surprisingly sad there are less Batman gimmicks, it’s all very cool down at Arkham.

Arkham
Phone: +86-13701972878
Address: No.1 South WuLuMuQi Road, Shanghai

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Last Saturday night at The Shelter was a heady mix of soul and beats as Soul Brothers ’72 took over the low-ceilinged basement on YongFu Road, and I barely noticed the bouncers as we paid out 40RMB cover, though word on the net of gives them some unconfirmed but unsavoury press. Still that may have something to do with my blood alcohol levels at that time. The bar/club is a tightly enclosed underground with a red-lit, neon, dystopian dance-floor playing havoc in the dark against a blue-lit, exposed brick set of seated alcoves towards the back of the club which have a deep-freeze meets French wine-cellar feel.

There’s an eclectic range of music on offer every day of the week at Shelter, so it’s worth taking the three minutes to prepare yourself for the evening’s flavour, be it hardcore electro, hip-hop, funk or house. But if you’re up for reasonably priced drinks, some body flailing, or a plushly hip sit-down booze, The Shelter’s a good night for a big group of friends to do a take-over of a fairly moderately filled club.

The Shelter
Address: 5 Yongfu Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai

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PHEBE Club Shanghai Nightlife

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Phebe, located in none other than the French Concession area of Shanghai is on a Wednesday night, overflowing with ladies of all dressed to the nines –  and some not too shabby-looking lads who are apparently willing to pay the 100RMB cover in (+ 1 free drink). Ladies get MONDAY and WEDNESDAY free cover before midnight in exchange for supplying a working mobile number  (they check) with an open bar 0900-0400. Worrying.

If you’ve the honour of being a lady, you’ve no excuse not to pop in. From the hundreds of glowing red lanterns suspended from the ceiling and dark lacquer wood seating giving a wonderful faux-Chinese cultural decor, to the white and sketchily tuned grand piano centrepiece in the bathroom the club really is swish. If you’re there to appreciate the interior design that is.

Packed out across the numerous enclosed table areas, walkways and raised catwalk-esque dance floor, there’s barely space to take a breath on a ladies night where the writhing bodies in a healthy ratio of foreign to locals are always vying for a cheeky dance, drink or a swift exit to the bathroom for a tactical vom.

PHEBE: 3D Club
Tel: 021 6555 9998
Address: No. 10 Hengshan Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai

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Helens Shanghai Nightlife

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This famous expat and student bar is a chain that runs throughout China. I’ve been to Helens Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin to date, and I can say with certainty, that there must exist a ‘Helens-in-a-Box’ starter kit, because the decor, from the international flags to the wooden beams and strange faux stone-work walls are Exactly The Same wherever you go.

At 10RMB for a big bottle of Tsingdao as a standard across the board, it’s a nice, quiet hubbub and raucousness bar for students to have a couple of pints at the end of the day. If you want a serving traditional American-style bar food, I suggest you go early to get a seat. Certainly on ladies night Wednesday (with free drinks all night for 50RMB) be prepared to fight for a space just to stand.

On a less crowded Monday afternoon, a friend in Tianjin taught me a great trick of ordering a Helens ice cream (3RMB) and taking advantage of their Free Coffee Mondays.

Bliss.

Helens
Address: 49 Wuchuan Rd, Yangpu, Shanghai, China
Opening Hours: 1600-0200

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SOHO Club French Concession Shanghai Nightlife

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Soho isn’t the club on everybody’s “Go To” list, but it’s one that we’ve been to perhaps a few too many times. It’s a pecularity of Chinese clubs that a) smoking is allowed and b) the effects of excessive drinking will be tolerated. As a result of this, I always return home smelling like I’ve been cheerfully capering about in an ashtray, and I spend most of the (later) early hours in a club practising the time-earned art of narrowly dodging the drunken lurching of overly inebriated, and inevitably expat, assholes who seem to think I’ll react to inappropriate groping like the unfortunate female staff.

But don’t let that put you off.

 The music is loud enough to rupture several internal organs, and by the end of the night the ringing in my ears lasts well into my sleep. Pleasurable. There are Chinese dice-and-cup games (which I still haven’t been able to hear the name of; I’ve asked several times) on each table, us foreigners have been negotiating free entry, and us ladies a free drink.

On top of that, the 90% local Chinese capacity of the club are fairly subdued, sitting on the provided couches, engaging in dice with us when we pass and offering small tumblers of whiskey and ice; pleasant interactions galore. And to top it all off, the inside of the club is filled with massive white umbrella and globe-like structures that make it look like you’re suspended in a large plastic cloud.

What’s not to like about that?

SOHO
Address: 4 Hengshan Rd, Xuhui, Shanghai, China
Phone:+86 21 5469 9898

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Royal Meridien 789 Nanjing Lu Shanghai Nightlife

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Hel-lo to one of the classiest ladies night on the town, free Champagne flows on FRIDAY nights 2130-2330PM at the high flying 67th floor bar of the Royal Meridien Hotel on the PuXi side of the Bund. The dim, warm glowed setting, the floor-to-ceiling reinforced glass windows overlooking Shanghai’s commercial quarter, the gold-lit bar, intensely polite waiters and high-top chairs all give this location a distinct air of class…

Well, that is until the hoards of girls, Western and Chinese alike, arrive to shoulder, at any cost, their fair share of the various flutes of bubbly on offer. Grenadine bubbly, orange bubbly, and even mint bubbly is doled out into the vying flutes at the bar – and God forbid you put your glass down anywhere, as the one glass you get per evening is your only ticket to intoxication.

Royal Meridien: 789 Nanjing Lu
Phone: +86 21 3318 9999
Address: 789 Nanjing Road Pedestrian St, Huangpu, Shanghai, China

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Park Hyatt 100 Century Bar Shanghai Nightlife

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This particular venue is not for the faint-hearted. The beautiful Park Hyatt hotel is not just a towering landmark on the Pudong riverside of the Chinese Bund, it’s grandiose, high-ceilinged building houses the luxurious 100 Century Avenue bar and restaurant on its 97th floor. With a plush, dim-lit interior, hushed jazz music, and waiters so freakin’ attentive there’s almost definitely some sore of homing beacon involved in their training, there’s no beating about the bush as to the type of clientèle expected.

Yet, for those of us still fairly fortunate, it’s not entirely unreasonable to pop in on the 97th floor for a pot of tea (40RMB) or a house cocktail (80RMB) for a glimpse of the spectacular view. With a bit of persuasion, and a little patient waiting, one can even nab a splendid table right by the thick glass windows for the evening and look out over the third tallest building in China – the Jin Mao Tower.

P.S I hear the toilets are particularly swish.

Park Hyatt: 100 Century Avenue
Tel: +86 21 6888 1234
Address: 100 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai, China, 200120

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There are certainly more excellent venues to add to this list of Shanghai Night Life, and even as I type this, Wechat is pinging about a certain Ladies Night at GloLondon… Looks like you might be seeing Post #2 sometime soon!

Till then

Charlotte xx

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Chinese Learning Study Skills

Year Abroad: Chinese Language Study Skills

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Seeing as what I’m doing out here is studying a year of intensive undergraduate Chinese, I thought I’d give you a little peek into how I manage to work through four ridiculous 8AM starts (and one lovely 10AM) of  20hr week immersive language classes. Boy, did I have it easier back in the UK…

Mandarin is a fairly tricky language to master. We’ve not had the pleasure of taking any tests – yet anyway #midtermsimminent – so I can’t guarantee this the best way to work it. But, hopefully if you decide to take the plunge to head to Fudan University, or indeed studying Mandarin anywhere, it’ll give you the heads up that taken me a slow month to work out. All with a fairly sickeningly cute App that I’ve just found to edit my pictures with.

Sorry, guys… It’s just the hearts.
They’re so darn cute.

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Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University

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Eh-hem. So to start, classes in Fudan are broken up into five different classes: Comprehension (泛读)。Speaking (口语)。Writing (写作)。Listening (听力) 。 Intensive Reading (精读)。 Working from the ‘Beijing Language and Culture University Press‘ 10 Level Chinese series, in which the Intensive Reading textbook which, taking up eight of the twenty prescribed contact hours per week here at Fudan, leads the topic, discussion and vocabulary of the weekly chapters. The Level 6 textbooks (F3 in Fudan) work off real cited articles in Chinese, on the basis of which we learn vocabulary and grammar, and bulk out with extracts from the four supporting classes.

Eight weeks, Eight Chapters.
Pace is quick.

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What’s useful for learning Chinese in this way?

1. WORKBOOKS
OK, so it may seem silly when you’re already carrying around six textbooks and copious amounts of sugary snacks to class, for me to tell you to go out any buy more, but that’s exactly what I’ve done. With so many Chinese characters pottering about the place and grammatical patterns wrecking havoc, it’s been useful both in class and outside for me to pin them down in separate workbooks. I’ve got…

  • A. Vocabulary Book (below: front for class, back for extra reading; cover is a shamelessly cute Japanese illustration),
  • B. Grammar and Cultural book (above: grammatical patterns, notes and cultural tidbits that need in depth notes; grey with flowers and birds),
  • C. Character Practice Workbook (below: with Chinese style squares for writing in and thin rows for pinyin),
  • D. Homework Diary (above: pink with raindrops),and
  • E. On-the-Go Notebook (above: lives in my handbag to jot down phrases and vocabulary in when out; a black A6 moleskin).

Get the books, and use them. It’s great character practice, and if your brain seems to be constructed like a sieve (as mine is), it goes a long way in helping memorise phrases when instead of just repeating them after people: you can write them down, and perhaps even come back to them later!

Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University Workbooks

Chinese Language Learning: Bejing University Press Textbooks Fudan University Workbooks

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2. SWOT UP YOUR DICTIONARIES
There used to be a time where studying Chinese involved constantly carting 10kg dictonaries around classrooms, and being trapped at the pace in which you could search for characters in their endless, rice-paper depths. Nowadays, every student is hooked to some electronic contraption on their desks with more desperation than the waft of 8AM coffee.

  • PLECO. If you have an andriod/app-ready phone and your learning Chinese, get this app. Hand writing and pinyin ready, PLECO software lets you search their extensive dictionary for instant results – without the need for internet – which means if you’re stuck in class it’s a Godsend. At the point of writing, PLECO is free both from the iTunes store and for Android.
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, take a leaf out of my Japanese Classmates books and get an Electronic English-Chinese dictionary. At anywhere from £40-£200 there’s certainly a range on sale but unfortunately few reaching Japanese quality. A little online research suggests Besta, Instant and Casio for a starters, and if possible, try finding them in-store to test their search capabilities.
  • Of course, nothing beats the 17kgs of my luggage that I devoted to two humongous, old fashioned Chinese-English Dictionaries; you can’t beat the classics. Although I would really have like to have brought more clothes out here…

English Chinese Dictionary Chinese English Translation Oxford .

3. READ, LISTEN AND BE…LEISURELY
I may have some strange suggestions, and I can appreciate that this one seems a little specific, but hear me out. The problem I have with learning Chinese solidly every day, under pressure, in a fast-paced environment, is that can it become both a stressful activity, and a chore. So, pick up a bilingual edition of your favourite novel, a fashion magazine, a menu at your favourite cafe and download some smooth Chinese pop, and when you’ve got nothing to do ie. you’re milling about on Facebook – I mean, Weibo – get out your Chinese leisure reading, and kick back with your pleco app for a wee gander. If you can make the habit stick, boy oh boy, you might just make studying… fun?

Well, bearable at least.

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Bilingual Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Classic English Literature Chinese

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4. WATCH CRAZY CHINESE TV
This where all the dreams of watching cartoons even though you’re in your twenties are manifested: Chinese cartoons are a great way of picking up colloquial Chinese, not the mention the tones, accent and phrasing of that you’ll hear on the street.

Try 樱桃小丸子 or Chibi Maruko: it’s a delightfully grainy 1990s Japanese cartoon about the daily life of mischievous primary school girl “小丸子”. She’s utterly adorable in a true-to-life naughty child way, and her wonderfully honest dialogue cracks me up. Brilliant way to hone the listening skills, and reading – if you can keep up with the subtitles. Dubbed in Taiwan, it’s got quite a heavy accent and traditional characters, but worth a listen to even if you’re studying on the mainland. If that’s too hard, the fantastically Japanese Chi’s Sweet Family: a fabulously simplistic animation in the life of little kitten Chi, which although is entirely in Japanese, is a good test on super basic reading for the old noodle… And lastly, if cartoons aren’t your thing, Chinese soap operas are another option, with hundreds listed on sugoideas.com from romantic soaps, to cringe-worthy brilliant chat-shows.

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5. MAKE FRIENDS…
NO,
REALLY.

If you’re learning Chinese, it is not your first language, and chances are, there’s someone out there that wants to learn the language that you speak mindlessly everyday. Language exchanges are a great way to get free conversation practice, experience the culture of the language that you’re learning – and of course, make friends along the way. Whether you go about this through a University Exchange programme, make a flyer advertising your desire for a language exchange or use an online service such as mylanguageexchange.com, take time to sift through exchanges that clearly aren’t going to be beneficial for both of you, and don’t be afraid to say “It was nice to meet you, let’s just keep in touch.” Although it’s borderlining break-up awkwardness, not everyone clicks in these things, so don’t waste your time week after week if it’s not working. 

Just be wary and street-smart as of course, everywhere in the world, not everyone on these sites are looking for the same type of exchange you might be. Stay safe. Learn Chinese.

language exchange illustration

Wish y’all a hearty good luck!

Until next time,

Charlotte xx

 

Year Abroad: Matrimony and Meals

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夫妻店 ”
(fūqīdiàn)

Lunches and dinners here in Shanghai aren’t like anything I’ve had before, and that’s not just because they’re incredibly cheap at anything from 6-16RMB – 60p or £1.60 to us Brits.

DAYTIME

Although the university has supplied us with University E-Cards that allow us to load money and eat from the canteen just three minutes from our dorms or classrooms, the massive queues, lack of English and strangly institutional feel to the metal food trays prove more than little overwhelming, and most days at the start of term we exchange students opt for the street-food stalls that flock around Fudan’s East and North gates. But it’s not just any old type of stall that swoops in on a wooden cart, fully equipt with electric motor and gas cylinder, come eleven twenty sharp on weekdays: it’s 夫妻店 (fūqīdiàn). That’s to say, it’s the swift-cuisine operation that is the Husband Wife Stall. This is real matrimonial harmony. Watch and learn…

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For lunch, it’s quick queues by the blistering heat of the wok, and the blinding sun as we get our fast, flash-fried meals from a travelling stall run by husband and wife tag teams. They work together with intricate movements of plastic-bag tying, vegetable tossing, and terrifying trust as the searing wok passes over the wife’s hands – and it’s fascinating to watch. I have my favourite stalls now at lunch and dinner – ie. those who understand that the wimpy foreigner only wants: “一點ㄦ辣”- and my lunch time topping combinations range across 金针菇 (golden needle mushrooms), 花生 (peanut), 白菜 (cabbage),紅蘿蔔/胡萝卜 (carrot), 香腸 (chinese sausage), 雞/牛/豬 肉 (chicken, beef or pork), with a choice of noodles ranging from 米麵 (rice vermicelli), 河粉 (thick, flat rice noodles), 炒飯 (fried rice) to 麵 (wheat noodles).

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Fudan University Street Food: 夫妻店

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And here’s the result!

We sit under the shade of the entirely decorative front porch to Fudan University’s tall twin-towered Guanghua building, hiding from the blazing heat and making decorative sweat patches on the concrete, as we make a hasty consumption of lunch in our 1135-1235 lunch break. Believe me, by this stage in the day after an 8AM start (which, I’m sorry, but no-ones brain is ever ready for) there are characters bursting out my ears and my stomach’s ravenously hungry.

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NIGHTTIME

At night, the north gate to Fudan University Campus takes on a whole new persona as the stalls that rolled out in the afternoon from around 5PM-6PM return from their hiding place for the moonlight shift. It’s steaming pots, grilled skewers, and deep fried goodness that wafts across the street to the Fudan University International Dormitories and on the tipsy walk home from our local, Helens, and under glaring filaments we pick our poison from the stock on show. Thankfully, I had a rough stint of disagreement with my stomach in Egypt as a child, and since then have been resilient in the face of certain gastronomical disaster, but never say never…

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If the couples make a killing in small change by day, by night its a brother duo that sell Chinese Stewed Pork Pittas that are raking in the students with a delicious, slow-cooked meat sandwich which is assembled with the systematic tekkers of automated art. There’s skill to equal the nosiness of that cleaver, and personally, I think the bread brother is definitely underrated with his doughmanship. I’m not sure if it’s proper Chinese vocabulary, but these days with LOL in the Oxford English Dictionary, who’s to argue with me; it’s 兄弟店 (Xiōngdì diàn) FTW at dinner time. That’s a Brother’s Stall to you and me.

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It’s tough competition at nighttime for the couples, for sisters to friends, brothers to bored looking individuals. This community that springs with forty watt brightness out of the night is a tight group of congee-sellers, barbecuers and flash-friers that work steadily through the wee hours with as much heckling and cajoling as the 10PM Friday pub quiz. It’s a life of day-to-day physical labour of the kind that is seldom seen nowadays in the U.K., but boy, do these folk do it with a sense of aplomb.

That’s how I want my dinners.

Fudan University Street Food: 夫妻店 Shanghai China

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Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: Design Arts Fashion Festival, Shanghai AW 2013

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As a study abroad twenty-something in the big city, it’s not the easiest think to find out where the best events are, the best meets are, or where you’re going to find other people similarily additcted to the creative arts. But thank goodness for The Ice Cream Truck, who tootled along on the 20th of September, bringing one of the biggest and bestest Design/Arts/Fashion collaborative events that Shanghai has to offer in the fall:

DAFF by The Ice Cream Truck.

DAFF Shanghai 2013: Catwalk

From the stunning location on Shanghai’s Puxi Bund, to the perfect weather, there was nothing about this event that wasn’t humming with the atmosphere of an event finely tuned. Looking chic in the cool breeze, the billowing, white tented stalls displayed the exploits of creative business scene here in Shanghai.

As I weaved through shoals of designers, creative-types, fashionestas, and big name brand reps who chilled in the ultra-cool outdoor venue to the unobtrusive house beat background the air was zinging with chatter and euphoria – nothing like this kind of break from city life!

The draughts and sweet snacks a-flowing, a wooded grass-garden rest area and not to mention the free entry with suggested 20RMB donation, blend to give the even a open and welcoming feel so that besides us creative junkies, the riverside event attracted students, shoppers, familys alike – upbeat generational and international mixing abound!

From the dozens of different designers and artists showcasing their wares at DAFF, there are pieces from every spectrum and to cater to bizarre tastes you maybe didn’t know you had. I can guarantee whether cutesy scented candles, eco-art, fresh, home-made organic food, or the wacky acrylic mould-injected necklaces, numerous fixie bikes and live art, there’s something for everyone…

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At 1630 and 1730 sharp, the crowds make a surge towards the psychedelic, colour-mix catwalk at DAFF as FASHION takes the limelight from the bustling tents and chattering strollers.

The Eastern-Western design fusion La Rose de Shanghai kicks of the show with an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese shapes on a black and white base, with splashes of print detail in bold primaries.

While some of the shapes are beautifully dramatic, the blooming trousers with tight calved fit, the floral detail crop waistcoat, some of the more streamlined pieces are a little to flat-fitting for my taste (and possibly my hips). The sharp, slicked bunned models sure did their strut, and I would have loved to see this combo with a softer make-up foundation complimenting the look.

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MORE PHOTOGRAPHY @ The Ice Cream Truck FACEBOOK

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FRONT ROW SHOP

Move over Topshop and Urban Outfitters cut-outs, the Front Row Shop hit the catwalk at 1730 and blew us away. Beautifully clean cuts with an oh-so-now grunge edge stormed the catwalk in platform-chunked, you do not want to mess with shoes. A real London-scene feel takes this collection with a diva-ish edge of “I’m wearing this. And what?”

The wicked shoes, layered pieces and to-die-for accessories are transfusions tapped straight from fashion week runways and given a street-struttable kick – and I’d back them on giving Zara TRF and H&M a run for their money any day. Set up in 2012 by the TaoBao designer Ying Wu, the wealth of people that have built behind the label give it a cutting-edge feel that I would die to walk off the catwalk with.

While they don’t have a physical store operating, their online website delivers world-wide and in this day and age, what can’t you do over the internet. Seriously, hit them up online…

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Front Row Shop Homepage 2013

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NIGHTFALL

As the walkers are wearying, night falls on DAFF and the event kicks up a notch as the bustle of light fixing and flicker of bulbs bringing a pretty, sultry glow on the events along the waterside. Keflione is finishing provocative artwork, with my appetite is perking up with the smell of food is hitting its peak; Pommery Champagne Happy Hour is over, but the DAFFTER PARTY is on its way.

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ONTO BUSINESS 

Before the night ends I bump into two brilliant creative women under the electric glow, Steffie Wu and Monkia Mogi (who you’ll be seeing more about soon in the ARTS and FASHION section of loseandfind.com). DAFF is a great way to meet with and connect to other all-things-creative types here in Shanghai, be it arts communities, marketing and design houses or even musicians and chefs. I even manage to make use of a few of my handmade business cards, and of course, get a few in return…

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As they say out here “You’re nobody in China if you don’t have a name-card”.
If you’re DESIGN/ARTS/FASHION is your thing, make sure I see you at the spring DAFF!

Thank you @TICTCREATIVE! You can check out more of their events on their WEBSITE, or FACEBOOK and as always, keep an eye out on SmartShanghai.com for everything that’s happening in this big ol’ city.

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Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: Laid Back Streets

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A retreat from the city –  in the city.

A walk through the Antique and Pet Markets of Shanghai one is the most peaceful afternoons I’ve had since I’ve arrived in China.

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ANTIQUES MARKET

Metro Stop: Laoximen Station
Dongtai Lu, enter from Xizang Lu into Liuhe Lu
东台路, 西藏路和浏河路路口

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Dong Tai Lu Antiques Market Shanghai

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Perhaps it’s because I’m a literature student, and spend most of my time lost in the world of books published well before my Grandma was even born, but I feel like these open alleys of antiques is somewhere I was just meant to be.

The wide streets on Dong Tai Lu are besieged on both sides by clutter that pours out from small shop fronts and stalls that line the streets, manned by keen eyed old Chinese on their rickety fold out chairs, critically appraising your knowledge of antiques and eye for a bargain (or lack thereof…).

But it’s quiet, which is an absolute blessing if you’ve been to any of the tourist sites in Shanghai – that seem to come with a mandatory “Watch-Bag, Watch-Bag” man peddling his fake wares. Although the authenticity of the actual antiques in the Antiques Market is mostly questionable, it’s certainly a great place to pick up mementos of a trip to China, delve into the deceptively deep alley shopps, or relax with a 10RMB pot of flower tea and feel very hipster.

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Typewriter Antiques Market Shanghai

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As my friends and I left to head back towards Laoximen metro station, we cross the road and pop our heads into the closing Pet’s Market for a quick scoot around the closing stalls, thankfully devoid of fellow tourists, as the sun set over Shanghai. If you’ve got time to make the visit, I definitely recommend – but keep in mind shops tend to shut in the Market from around 430PM onwards.

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PET MARKET

Metro: Laoximen Station
405 Xizang Nan Lu, near Fangbang Zhong Lu
西藏南路405号, 万商花鸟鱼虫交易市场,近方浜中路

It’s dark, heavy with the smell of animals and even though most of people have left, there’s loud chatter and bustle as the shop and stall keepers pack up their chirruping, barking and snuffling wares for the night. As we make our way round the packed alleyways, it’s with exclamations and croonings – the cages have everything from packed little kittens and multi-coloured birds, to terrapins and turtles and exotic fish in tiny tubs.

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Pots of Tropical Fish, Shanghai

Boxed Bugs Shanghai

Tropical Birds

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As far as animal rights go, I will say that some points did make me a little uneasy, with several kittens and rabbits together in cages slightly too small, and dogs that slept in spaces I’d like to be a but bigger, but it is an honest picture of the attitude towards pets; in the market at least, they’re well kept, but their living standards for the most part, can’t match up to a gardened house in Britain.

It’s a window into the traditional culture surrounding pets in China, and the older generation does make up the majority of the wandering crowds; they take great interest in the crickets – as well as the occasional games of Chinese Chess being played between the narrow stalls.

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All in all though, an excellent de-stress from the bustling city.
Without ever leaving it at all

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Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: You queue, I queue… We all queue

queuing

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If there’s just one thing that is vividly imprinted on my memory from the first week here at Fudan University, Shanghai, it’s that the administration, bureaucracy, moving into dorms, even at the local gargantuan Walmart, everything involves a lot of queuing. I mean, there’s queuing, and then there’s this kind of ‘snaking in looping circles for dizzying hours around a small space’-queuing.

Here’s the queuing break-down:

Day #1
Registering with accommodation
Getting my room key-card (x2)
Paying for compulsory China PingAn insurance
Dinner…

Day #2
Course registration,
Certifying my insurance,
Certifying my entrance letter,
Visa introduction letter,
Checking my application,
Date for physical examination
Walmart super queue…

Day #3
Physical Exam (x2)
Placement online test,
Applying for IC/Bank card

Day #4
Placement oral test

Day #5
Campus Ecard photo

Boy am I glad when the days of relentless and restless ‘have-I-got-my-documents’ queuing grinds to a happy halt towards the end of the week! It’s certainly a stressful set of hours to encounter upon reaching a new country, and I’m only put at ease when I finally get to the introductory exchange student talks and get all these crazy lines explained to me: there are nearly 24 billion people in Shanghai, be prepared to wait where ever you go. Logical. It’s the most calming words I’ve heard since I queued past immigration, and does a lot to ease the semi-frightened frustration of the introductory process.

The first week blows past like freshers week in a U.K. university: in a blur of stressed applications, endlessly checking what other people have done (“You’ve done what form??”), awkward queuing introductions ( The line “…Sure is a long queue,” gets old real quick) and the evening rush to do everything with every new person you meet.

More on the socialising later.

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WELCOME TO FUDAN UNIVERSITY

As expected in a city with a population of nearly 24 million, everything is done on a larger scale, from the enormous, tree-lined streets (I kid not) of the Handan campus where the foreign dormitories are situated, to the impressive, 35 floored, column-fronted Guanghua Twin Towers where the Chinese language classes take place, to the 15min bike journey from one side of campus to another – Fudan is mind-bogglingly large.

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I’m given a taste of reality of what I’m embarking on when all the foreign students are invited to the Fudan 2013 Foreign Students Welcome Ceremony, in the plush, red-seated, cool of the Guanghua auditorium. Each of the heads of office and two past students give welcome talks, and I’m suddenly overcome with the realisation that I’m studying here for a year.

Their Chinese speeches suddenly forces a lump into my throat; slap me for the soppy cliché, but the words really do radiate sincerity, and at the very least, are spoken at a comfortable pace for my still-struggling ears. For those of us whose Chinese is up to the challenge, it’s a wonderful set of talks, which loose some of their clarity and sense of genuine kindness in translation, and I can only image how daunting it sounds to the beginners in the audience…

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Fudan University International Student Opening Ceremony Welcome Ceremony

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We go through the laborious task of listening to (understandably) serious-toned school rules and visa control in varying degrees of English fluency, but by the end of the hour and a half we’re released, bursting over the daring, thick cream carpet and though the heavy doors towards our released schedules like crazed animals – no queuing whatsoever.

I’ve been placed in F3, in bands of Chinese language ranging from A-I with five classes a week: Listening (听力), Writing(寫作), Speaking(口语) Intensive Reading(精读) and Extensive Reading(泛读).

I’ve got this cute little timetable starting the next week:

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OH BOY! I am looking forward to four 8AM starts a week!

Wish me luck, folks. I’ll need it.

Charlotte xx

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外婆的小菜

Year Abroad: Celebrations & Farewells

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As is be a common theme in our household, everything can be improved, and solved, by eating good food, and boy does our end-of-trip celebration dinner come up to scratch. For the end of our month family holiday together, short family stop-over in Shanghai, and celebrating both my parents birthdays, we head to a restaurant in Wujiaochang (五角场), two bus stops from where we’ve been staying near Fudan University.

外婆的小菜

4F No.600, Handan Road, Shanghai
No: 5566099

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From the lush interior and the welcomed air-conditioning, seated waiting line to the terrifying recorded screeching of “外婆請你吃飯嘍!!!” at deafening volume, it’s a good start to what is one of the most fabulous meals I’ve yet to have in Shanghai. A pleasant little waitress from Anhui province is quick to help us, and another girl steps in to suggest some house specialities for the big night – and they certainly don’t disappoint: beautifully prepared, delicate, perfectly cooked and a sensory delight to behold. Perfect for a family of connoisseurs.

Our favourites include:

外婆紅燒肉 49RMB
荠菜鱼丁滑豆 29RMB
西子藕韵 15RMB

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It’s definitely telling that the only dishes I’ve managed to take proper photos of are three of the sweetest on the table. They do keep saying that Shanghai food, and South Eastern Chinese food in general is meant to have a sweet edge to it, and these dishes certainly hit the spot –  from sticky, rice stuffed lotus root to mouth-watering, slow-cooked braised pork that I’ve been especially recommended by a friend from home. It’s a fantastic farewell meal.

I wish I’d taken more pictures, but take it as a testament to the quality of the food!

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It’s certainly not until I’m walking my last walk back to the hotel my family is staying in and bundle up into their room for the last time that I realise, with a heavy chest, that I’m not going to be seeing them all together like this for a long time. At most we’re apart for four months at a time, and I can tell already that I’m going to miss them a lot.

I may have to make an impromptu trip home at Chinese New Years after all…

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