There’s something about a Chinese university campus that makes me swoon. Maybe it’s because I stayed in dormitories on my first trip to China 24 years ago. Or perhaps it’s because I spent some time on a campus in central China during my first marriage. So it’s with great honor that I turn this post over to guest blogger, Stuart Beaton, who writes about his peaceful walks through his campus in Tianjin. Stuart has a fabulous site with author interviews at http://rastous.podomatic.com. (I hope to be featured one day; in the meantime I’m plugging away on my manuscript revisions.)
Every morning I get up and go through the same routine – make coffee, find Ellen’s breakfast, find Ellen, drag Ellen out of bed, pour coffee down Ellen’s throat, make her eat breakfast, pack her bicycle up, drag it downstairs…
And then go for a nice, long walk.
I pound around the campus of Tianjin Uni for a good hour or so, ear buds in, music on, trying to walk off the excesses of my life to date. It also gives me a chance to work out what I’ll do for the rest of the day, or just puzzle out what I’m doing in general.
The campus itself is pretty big – there are several thousand students living in multistory dormitories scattered across it. In fact it seems like accommodation blocks outnumber the teaching buildings, but I could be wrong. I can walk around the campus in a five kilometre loop, without doubling back on my tracks, and if I get very keen, I can slip through the gate to Nankai Uni and rack up even more steps in my day.
It’s a stark contrast to the pokey little place I used to work at, that’s for sure.
This morning’s walk brought my attention to a couple of big differences between campuses here in China, and those in the West.
I don’t know many Unis in Australia that allow groups of armed students to parade around them with a flag. I’m fairly sure that the U.K. and U.S. would also be a bit horrified by the idea of ultra-nationalistic, gun toting, patriotic slogan spewing squads marching about.
Yet it seems to be perfectly acceptable behavior here. A section windmilled past me this morning in a selection of ill-fitting uniforms (complete with random sneakers), trying to drum up members for the “Tianjin University National Flag Guard” – with little obvious success. I was too stunned by the absolute awfulness of the drill and cadence to be able to capture the gaggle in a photo.
Luckily I passed a poster for them by the student dorms.
Inspiring stuff, isn’t it?
But it’s not all wannabe squaddies and student psychos around here.
About halfway along my chosen route this morning, I happened upon a group taking wedding photographs – big business here in China, with the average price coming in at around Y5,000 (roughly five month’s salary for an average worker).
Locations are picked seemingly at random, to give the snaps something to set them apart from all the other ones.
With space at a premium, it seems that if you want somewhere that looks old and romantic, you need to find a spot that hasn’t been torn down for a strip mall or a skyscraper apartment block.
Enter the TU campus, which has been around since 1895. Despite pitched battles between Red Guard factions from Nankai and Tianjin Unis, many of the early buildings survived relatively unscathed – although the canal surrounding the two campuses was used as a dumping spot for corpses at the time – and so it seems that wedding photographers think it’s an ideal location to ply their trade.
In the end, the bride looks radiant, and the groom looks like he’s never worn a suit in his life.
I just don’t know about the slogans on fire in the background.