Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Day in the Life

Dislaimer: This is Spencer writing. So don't blame Alisha if it's not up to par.

Since our life in China has just become life--rather than some grand adventure--I figured it would be good to write a little blurb on what I do. Before you get too excited, please know that it's really not that exciting. Essentially, I just go to school. I'm taking a total of four classes. My two Chinese classes boil down to a very straight-forward writing class (not difficult) and an analysis of the past 60 years of Chinese history as reflected in Chinese media (even less difficult since it's mostly just attending the lectures).  My other classes are the two chemistry electives that seemed most relevant to me as an engineer: polymer structures research/analysis methods and separation science.

Fortunately, both of the chemistry classes are fairly relevant even if the professors are focused on the parts that are mostly irrelevant to me. I guess that's what I get for taking Chemistry classes for first year masters students when I'm an undergraduate Chemical Engineering student who plans on working in industry. Aside from going to class, I meet with an assigned tutor 5 hours a week to ramble about whatever we find interesting that day. (Ostensibly, the purpose is to cover what we go over in my Nanjing University classes. Which means that I ask for clarification on maybe three or four terms, and then we need a new topic of conversation. So far, we've covered the basic rules for football, racquetball, rugby, cricket, chess, RISK and fantasy football. He has also taught me Chinese chess.) That's about all I do for flagship this semester. Super enthralling, right?

Anyways, Alisha would be ashamed of me for having so many words with so few pictures. Ergo, I'll put up pictures of the part of my day that generates better pictures than sitting in class: my walk to and from school. So here goes.

We live in Nanjing, China. It's a city of 8.1 million people (for reference, New York City has 8.2 million people. More people live here than in 39 of America's 50 states (individually, not combined)). Lots of people. I know Alisha has already put this picture up before, but this is the view from our window.

Since Nanjing is an important city to China, it is fully modernized--albeit not entirely westernized. This is what a parking lot looks like here:

And here is a sidewalk:

Most people drive electric bicycles and scooters. This is where they park.

The traffic laws here are theoretically about the same as they are in America. Then again, China is not a country that is actually ruled by law. There is a legal principle that if everyone breaks the law together, none of them can be held accountable. Cars typically don't run red lights, and all of the other laws are really just guidelines, right?  This is what crossing the street looks like on my way home from school.

Step 1: Walk into traffic. (or wait, but that's not as fun)

Step 2: Let traffic move around you.

In case you can't tell, the picture below is of a one lane one-way street. There are usually cars parked on both sides, and one moving in the middle. That leaves enough room for pedestrians to either walk along the outside (as in the picture), or sometimes I just walk in between the car in the middle and the parked cars. (Usually a little less room). It's times like that I'm glad I don't ride a bike. It would be much slower.

Besides from traffic, there are other subtle hints that we're not in America anymore. Like this:

Pretty sure the potstickers made in the shop in the
background use this meat. (They're pretty good)

They sell all sorts of things on the side of the roads here. 

This rack was on the back of a bike
Lots of cabbage
Sometimes they clean the fish before they sell them
Lots of steamed foods

This is the back alley/side street where we get fruit and other food.

And this is home sweet home.

So that is the excitement of my typical day. The end.

We'll be here in Nanjing through the end of May, after which we'll move to South Carolina for my next (and final!) internship.

By the way, this is what my commute looked like 4 months ago.


  1. I love following your blog! The pictures are just amazing.

  2. I can't believe from green acres to smoggy catastrophe! Well at least you are having a good time! We miss you!