#Voices of Tianjin - Kari


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of  Tianjin

#Voiceoftheday: Kari

Kari is living in Tianjin for 4 years now, and some of you might already know her from the TJ Foodies Group, or from her recent collaboration with Trolley Bar & Grill. 

Originally from the US she found her way to China, and today she will share her goals and thoughts with us. 

Please tell us a little more about yourself

Ok, so I was born in Lewiston, Maine and spent most of my childhood there. It is the northernmost state on the east coast of the US. We share most of our border with Canada. Frequently, we would jump across the border just to go have lunch in a foreign country.

My family is adventurous by nature, and my father strongly believed that I would not be raised as a traditional American teenager. When I started showing signs of the typical sulkiness and entitlement that often develops, he shipped me off to an exchange program in Hungary.  

I was 17 years old and full of my own independence and strong will. I ended up on adventures all over Europe that year, finding myself in situations that American teenagers are often terrified of in the movies, but it was my own adventure and I enjoyed every ounce of it.

From adventures in Europe to China - What brought you to Tianjin?  

The relationships I made in Hungary 20 years ago are the reason I’m in China today. Though we haven’t seen each other since, we all keep in touch on social media. 

One of my friends, a striking red head from New Zealand, worked here in Tianjin for three years, 5 years ago. When she left, she posted online that her school was hiring. At the time, I had graduated with degrees both in Social Work and in Psychology. 

One of my work tasks was to work with children who had been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. Another was to work in the emergency room with patients who were brought in with psychological symptoms and often severe mental health concerns. As might be expected, my soul was tired and I jumped at the chance to travel and live abroad again.

At the time I applied to come to China, my son was 12 years old. We have homeschooled since he was 9 due to a variety of reasons, most of which probably stem from my dad’s influence. I prefer children to create their own ideas of the world, given every opportunity possible to provide them with real-life experiences. Now, we have lived in China for a quarter of his life. He is well-traveled and taught himself everything about geography and the world. He has memorized every country’s flag, where it is on the map, its history, and a lot of the current politics. His passion is geopolitics and currently he’s planning a back-packing trip around Europe when he turns 18.

What made you a foodie?  

My family has a tradition of being travelers and foodies. My mom for example is a retired engineer and currently runs Boothbay Food Tours, taking tourists out to sample the many fine dining establishments in my hometown. 

I also have a favorite foodie story about my son. When he was 5 years old, we were eating sushi and sashimi with friends, and they couldn’t believe such a young child would like something like that. One of the pieces he loved was covered in roe. Someone asked him teasingly if he knew what the little balls were. He shrugged and said "No". The friend made a grossed-out face and teased, “Those are fish eggs!” My son smiled, “Oh, I never knew fish eggs tasted so good.”

Food is something that brings people together and gives them a common ground for experiences and memories. It is just such a unique part of our lives.

What are your recent projects?

I’ve recently been involved in organizing Tapas Nights at Fish & Potato, communicating with area restaurants for special promotions, setting up online and real life scavenger hunt games, and creating Trivia Night at Trolley. And there will be more things coming up in the future. 

I am also always happy to hear people’s ideas and wishes, so please feel free to reach out to me if you have any, or would like to help organize any of these events.

Besides your passion for food, what are things that also bring you joy while doing?

The best activities are something I can do together with my family or with my friends. I often look for something unique to do, such as exploring a new area, going on a boat ride, taking a painting class at a local bar, or joining up to play games.

I just enjoy all those things, but I am having a hard time finding a lot of options in the city to do so. Maybe other Expats have different experiences but I feel like it is almost impossible to find classes of adults who get together to learn or try something new.

Hobbies of most people I talk to seem to be going out to the bar to get drunk. I don’t mind that, but could we also actually do something while we’re drinking ? Maybe painting, playing games, or cooking together?

Looking at family activities, there are some more options, but I think the choices are limited as well. Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner and I’m not as well-connected here, or maybe it is due to the cultural differences. Either way, I would love to create more activities for people to get together, meet new friends, enjoy new experiences, and enrich our lives through our interactions with each other and with the city we’ve chosen to live in.

Are there some upcoming activities that you would like to share some information about?

This week is Pizza Week and one of the interesting activities I wanted to do is a “Make Your Own Pizza“ event. 

When I was growing up, family meals were the most important part of the day. Everyone would participate to help get dinner on the table. My sisters and I would set the table with silverware, plates, and napkins. My mom and dad would share the cooking tasks. Finally, when we were all sitting down together, we would share about our day.

This is a lovely connection. Do you keep that tradition with your own family today? 

Absolutely. When my son was little I would give him homemade dough to play with while I was cooking, he could do whatever he wanted with it. Then he could help me prepare something. If we were making pizza he could help spread the sauce, sprinkle the cheese, choose the toppings. This simple activity helps foster independence, creativity, and worldly eaters in our children. 

As an adult, he still enjoys doing this activity with me and making his own concoctions. While he creates, I can have a glass of wine with friends and create our own masterpieces. Nowadays, I hardly have time for all the preparation and I especially don’t have the time or the energy for cleaning up, but I love food and I love food activities with my friends and family.

Do you have a place where you can express your love and passion for food outside your family home? 

Trolley Bar & Grill has graciously opened their doors to me and all my wild and crazy ideas for bringing the community together. We currently have a trivia night every Saturday, all-you-can-eat BBQ parties once a month, and daily special events for various member of the community, such as teachers and university students. This week, they allowed me to create the "Make Your Own Pizza" event.


That sounds amazing! What can people expect from that?

The long table in their foyer will have more than 20 pizza toppings to choose from, including goat cheese, arugula, and caramelized onions, among all the obvious more traditional items. Each group can purchase one ticket for one pizza. The ticket is for the activity for the group, not per person. A family of 4 might like to purchase two tickets if they have kids with voracious appetites! 


Check out the event


The restaurant will also host a kids’ table with real pizza dough to play with, balloons, flour, and plenty of cookie cutters and kitchen materials to play with. The event will be from 12pm to 8pm on Saturday and you can even make a day out of it by coming to explore the area called Aocheng, then DIY a pizza, followed by our trivia night at 8:30.



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