Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Running in China: part one of many.

I just returned from my first Tianjin jog, and it was longer and more frustrating than I originally imagined (although I certainly should have anticipated the latter). The city is built on a river, which seems to separate the commercial and residential half of the city from the industrial zone. Along this river is what the city's tourism bureau touts as the "River Park": beautifully landscaped pedestrian space along the main stretch of the river.

An ideal place to go running, yes? Er, no. You see, naturally, like everything else in China right now, the River Park is UNDER CONSTRUCTION, meaning large swaths of it are blocked off, forcing those promenading, walking, ambling, running, jogging, and otherwise to take a busy, dirt-covered road shared with cars, construction vehicles, pollution, and other unpleasant detritus.

I only wanted to make these unscheduled detours once, of course, so I figured I would make my return voyage via the west side of the river (I live east of it), which looked identical to my side, only completely finished.

The west side of the river was much better--hardly any people, new things to look at, even a large abstract statue! I then arrived at a large blue construction wall, bordered by a factory on one side and the river on the other, after I ran about 2/3 mile, requiring me to backtrack and finally run home through the main part of the city.

As I was moving about as quickly as the typical Tianjin bicyclist, I took this back for much of the way along a main thoroughfare. it would have made an interesting picture: hundreds of Chinese bikers, with a tall white man keeping pace with them on foot (insert social commentary here) (inaccurate social commentary, but go ahead anyways).

* * * * *

As has been confirmed by Cyndi, mornings are the worst times for me here emotionally. I have dreamt of home every night I've been here, and don't really want to listen to my alarm clock when it tells me to leave that world for another 24 hours. I'm not home-sick, I don't think--just home-hungry.

School is well; I have exams tomorrow (which consist of me talking to each student in a room for a few minutes, and then grading them on their pronunciation, grammar, etc.). Most of my students are pretty good, but a few are a disaster. I talked to my Chinese co-teachers today to decide to whom I should not give a passing grade. This actually might be more terrifying than teaching.

The weekend's events depend on whether or not I am traveling to Seoul over my one week (unpaid) May holiday.

Until then--may all your running paths be unobstructed.

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