Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's with the kimchi??

When I told people I was going to Seoul everyone reacted the same way: ' wow, I hope u like spicy food!' and I was like: 'hell yeah!' Because I LOVE spicy food!

But now I've had 2 Korean meals at authentic Korean restaurants (not the turist traps, I promise!) and I can't say I am impressed. Sure, the bibimbap (the egg, rice, veggie in a clay pot thing) is divine, however, the kimchi stew I just had didn't meet my expectations as it only left my mouth with a tiny little burn...

I thought this was going to be spice heaven, but apparently not.. what am I doing wrong people?! Have I missed some amazing Korean spicy dish that has all the goodies of chili, peppers and kimchi? Any advices/suggestions are appreciated!

Now heading for a coffee (expensive over here) and tonight we are going to try a traditional Korean sauna (Han Jyu Mak) where u have to wear something that looks like a potato sack (hmmm) meanwhile being fried in a room that is so hot that people also use it to boil eggs or dry fruits. Geeeeh. And no, this wasn't my idea!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hi from Seoul!

A short update from a tacky, not to mention smokey (and full of game addicted Korean teenagers), internet cafe in Seoul. This place is awesome, here's such a nice buzz! We are staying at a nice hotel with easy access to the subway and everything so far has been going quite smoothly. Soon we are heading out to eat some traditional korean dishes (kimchi -here I come!!!) and I can't wait. Only bad thing (that I have noticed so far) is that compared to Shanghai, Seoul is very expensive. The coffee I just had cost me around 50 kuai, so actually, it's not only an expensive place in comparision to Shanghai, but also compared to Sweden, Australia and many other places.

Got to run now, but I'll be back with more news sometime in the near future!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm off to Seoul...

...tomorrow, so I'll get back to you with some goss when I get back next Monday. Right now there's so much going on at the same time. I've moved, I've been offered a new job, I've met some great new friends, and I scored an AMAZING 96% (!) on my Chinese reading&writing exam (You know the one I was worried about)?! Fantastic or what? Not as fantastic are my scores at the listening exam (74%) and the oral exam (86%). But well, I suppose that gives me something to work on for next semester :)

So long!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yes, it's snowing

Some slack blogging lately, although I have good excuses. You see, recently the wind of change has swept over my life, resulting in a lot of good, and maybe not so good changes.

First of all, I've moved. Now moving is always a pain, no matter where on earth you are. But to move in a city which is experiencing its worse snow chaos in centuries, well, that's just bad luck!

Snow -in Shanghai? Yes my friends, and when I say snow I am not referring to the odd snowflake that you might spot in China every here and there during the cold month of January, but I am talking about real, massive amounts of powder snow, that are now causing big troubles to a city that can handle heat and handle typhoons, but that can not handle snow. As I am, in this typing moment, sitting on front of a computer in Suzhou (which has even more snow than Shanghai) I can't help feeling a tiny weeny bit worried about my return to Shanghai later this afternoon. I'm not quite sure how the trains will be able to handle slippery rails, but hey, I'm soon to find out.

Second of all... I'm going to Korea! Yeah, in this snow chaos! I'm supposed to take off early on Wed morning, so if you've got nothing better to do, than please save me a prayer between 9am-12pm on Wednesday. Thank you!

Thirdly... I haven't packed. I have an business dinner with a prospective employer tonight. I have not read my Chinese book as planned. I have a stomach ache. I can't find my passport. I more feel like curling up with a good book and cup of hot cocoa in the bed rather than going out in the cold. And... tomorrow I'll find out the result of my Chinese exams. If I can make it to the university in this weather, that is.

Oh, and how are the Chinese handling this snow you may wonder? Well, yesterday I watched two parents throwing snowballs on their kids. The kids where close to tears while the parents were clearly enjoying themselves.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meeting Lu Kun

The flash didn't flatter me at this shot, but who cares, it's me and the Master!?!

The people that know me know that I love fashion. The people that don’t know me….Well, now you know! So you can probably imagine my excitement when I some weeks ago managed to set up an interview with no one else but Lu Kun, China’s most famous fashion designer, and also known as ‘China’s Galliano’. Seeing that I am actually writing an article about Lu Kun, I’m not going to repeat the interview here, however, I am going to flash this highly unpro (but still fun to have) photo of me and Lu Kun!

Not only is this guy a genius when it comes to designing clothes, but he is also very smart and professional as a person. Obviously, I couldn’t resist asking him what he thinks of Paris Hilton (who wore Lu Kun’s dresses at the recent MTV Asia Style Gala in Shanghai that took place in November last year). Can you guess his answer?

-Paris is actually not like everyone thinks… she’s really nice, smart and professional.

Sounds so… familiar?! I wonder if I read that somewhere?

Another interesting thing Lu Kun pointed out is that he couldn’t imagine Scandinavians wearing his clothes.

-My clothes are for divas, for people that want to stand out. You Scandinavians wouldn’t be able to handle it. My designs are too attention-grabbing.

Then he showed me one of his red gala dresses from his SS 2008 collection and I couldn’t more than agree. It's simply, too fab!

Paris wearing Lu Kun at the MTV Asia Style Gala in Shanghai 2007.

Lu Kun show at Singapore fashion week.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Your wish is my command!

It’s now time for you to tell me… What would you like to know/read about when it comes to living in China? I’m all ears and all yours. Funny experiences? Life in general? Work? Travelling? How hard it is to learn Chinese? Shopping? Partying? Fashion? Typical Jonna blunts? (there are quite a few!) Just say the word (in the comments field) and I will start typing.

You can also email me at jonnawib(at)

Not enough space

The first time I took a train in China I had a rather dramatic experience. I was going from Shanghai to Suzhou on a Friday night, and having no idea of how popular this one hour trip is to do at this time of the week, I went to the train station the same day at 1pm to buy my ticket.

The ticket seller almost laughed at me.
-Obviously there are no tickets left. Can you settle for a standing ticket?

Can and can. I didn’t have much of a choice. And standing for one hour didn’t sound too bad. I was fit. I could manage.

Seeing that I at that time had a full time job at a Shanghai magazine, which had its most hysterical time on Friday nights (meaning: we always did long hours of overtime on Friday nights. I was lucky if I got off around 10pm) , I arrived to the train only 10 minutes before departure. By that time there was a minor chaos on the platform. People where running around with their bags, hysterically screaming and asking guards which carriage they should go to. I normally don’t panic when there is 10 minutes to go, but seeing that everyone else did… I got a bit nervous, showed my ticket to an inspector (that pointed towards the end of the platform) and started half power walking, half running.

When I finally arrived to the right carriage I was met by a rather unappealing sight. The carriage was packed. Not packed as we say when someone has to stand on the bus in Sweden, but so packed that people where almost standing on each other, holding onto their bags, newspapers, kids and everything else you can imagine. I had to adopt a quite violent style to even get on the train.

Now this was in March and outside it was still freezing. Inside the carriage, however, it was sauna hot. I was wearing my winter jacket and had a heavy bag on my shoulder that I refused to put down, as I was scared that someone would try to steal it. Once the train started rolling I for some reason expected the pressure of being crammed in between people to ease up, but it didn’t. If you think the morning rush in the London tube is a pain, than let me tell you this much: you haven’t seen nothing yet. Not only was this carriage packed, crammed and claustrophobic; it was also warm, smelly and… warm.

I was doing well up until we passed Kunshan, a small industrial suburb outside Shanghai. At that point I thought I had got used to the smell and the heat, but suddenly I started sweating heavily. I let go of my bag and took my jacket off, but then felt extremely cold. Hot, cold, sweaty and nauseous… The feeling was way too familiar to be good. Moments later, I passed out.

I don’t faint easily, but when I do, I know about it at least 20 seconds before. Because then I feel like vomiting. And then it normally goes black.

The same procedure took place this time. The last thing I remember is that I tried to sit down on the floor (which was impossible as it was too crowded) and when that didn’t work I simply passed out. I suppose the fact that it was so crowded sort of saved me from hitting my head, as I never hit the floor, but the people around me. But anyways. When I opened my eyes I had 15 curious/concerned Chinese faces over me and I was escorted to a seat that was offered by a kind, elderly looking Chinese man (where did all the space come from?! Something big must have happened when I passed out, because people had actually moved away from me and I could stretch out my arm… just to find that my bag was still with me. Awesome!) The other passengers where being very kind to me, telling me that it is important to drink water before ‘such a long train ride’. All I could do was to nod and smile. And the rest of the trip I enjoyed sitting down.

That was my first and by far, most dramatic train ride in China. After that I learned that I should buy my tickets at least 6 days prior to the travelling date, in order to avoid having to stand up in a crammed carriage.

During spring last year, however, something fantastic happened. China’s new, fast D trains where put in use, and the travelling time between Shanghai and Suzhou was reduced with almost 30 minutes! The new trains where also clean, comfortable and spacious! Actually, they are heaps more comfortable that the trains I have taken in Sweden. And the prices.. Yeah well, that bit we can’t even compare! For around 30 kuai I can go from Shanghai to Suzhou. Now that’s how public transport should be! If you are travelling in China I strongly recommend these trains, just make sure you buy your ticket in time.

The new D trains. Quite some difference, huh?!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What looks like torture is actually healthy... or so they said!

Remember that Spa I mentioned in one of my posts the other day? Yeah well, at that place some of my male friends enjoyed both cupping and scraping.

In China, these therapies are called guasha (scraping) and bahuoguan (cupping) and they involve, well, a lot of aggressive back scraping for the former and then the application of vacuums to the skin for the latter.

Scraping, which is supposed to give relief to headaches, fevers, chills, sunstroke, coughs, faintness, abdominal pains, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (whoa!) is normally performed with a wooden scraper. The therapist scrapes along the lines of acupoints (the points along which the body’s energy flows), particularly on the skin around the nape of the neck, the chest, the back and limbs.

According to the theory that the body feels pain when its channels are blocked, clearing out those blocked points is the key to a healthy body. Scraping, simply, plays the role of cleaner.

So, how did the scraped boys feel after their treatment then? Clean? Not sure. In pain? Definitely not (“It didn’t hurt at all!”), In fact, the only thing they said was: “we’re starving!” and then they literally ran to the restaurant, so maybe it did clean out some channels after all?! (The fact that they downed both their tacos and Coronas with gusto supports this argument)

As for cupping, the name refers to an ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (by using change in heat or by suctioning out air), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. Cupping is said to be used to treat rheumatism, severe sprains, colds, and stomach ache.

So how do they do it then? Well, they burn a cotton wool ball soaked with alcohol and put it inside of a glass cup. Turn cup upside down and when the flame is about to go out pull out the cotton and attach it the skin. Because the flame has burned all the oxygen, it creates a vacuum, which means the skin is sucked up into the jar.

Sounds a bit hocus-pocus? No shit, Sherlock! The boys said this treatment didn’t hurt one bit, however, it left really funny ‘cup marks’ on the skin, which stayed on the boy’s backs for a few days! Sexy, lads!!

All in all –if you’re in China you should definitely give at least cupping a try! I’m a bit suspicious towards scraping (aooooch?! How can it NOT hurt!?) but cupping sounds rather harmless. Just don’t do it during the bikini seasons…

A lot of Spas in China provides both cupping and scraping. You can also head to a local hospital to try the treatments.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The importance of rewarding yourself

THE Whisk Brownie...

Finally! I can breathe again! The exams are all done. It went okay! The writing & reading was of course the hardest bit, but I am still amazed of how many characters I recognized?! When I started studying in September last year, recognizing characters seemed like an impossible thing to be able to do!

Anyhow, since I’ve spent the rest of my day in front of the computer, dealing with bookkeeping, bills, invoices and other, not-so-exciting-things, I’m going to treat myself (big time) tonight. Being a true choc-o-loco I’m going to Shanghai’s best choco-café, namely Whisk! If you ever drop by this city you HAVE to visit Whisk. Their prices might be leaning towards the upper scale, however, once you’ve had a spoonful of their so-good-that-it-melts-on-the-tongue brownie, you’ll understand what I am talking about. Geh, just writing about it makes my mouth water!

An obvious problem of me living in Shanghai is my sweet tooth. The availability of desserts, cakes and ice cream in this city is simply outrageous. Everywhere you go there’s a cosy-looking and inviting café that’s saying: ‘come in, come in! Have a latte and a muffin, you look like you need to relax.’. (SURE I DO!) Too often, I fall for the temptation.

But hey, would YOU be able to resist something like that?!?!? Gosh, I might run there tonight. No, of course I won’t. Or, well, maybe!!

Another Whisk chocolate cake... Just look at it?! It's so... beautiful! :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Learning the language

这是我们的韩国同学们. My Korean classmates. A tired bunch.

WHO said that learning Mandarin is easy?! I have a very clear memory of at least two people telling me (before I went to China) that “learning Mandarin is a piece of cake.”

I suppose they think so because both of them have lived in China for several year, and can speak Mandarin fluently. To me, however, speaking Mandarin fluently seems like a far fetched dream. And if learning Mandarin is supposed to be "a piece of cake" I have to assume that I am a slow learner.

At the moment, I’m at the end of completing my first year of Chinese studies and today I had my speaking exam. Like expected, it went so-so. We had to read a lot of characters and that’s not my strongest point. In fact, reading characters is a bit of a bitch (It didn’t help that I clearly stated to our teacher that this is a SPEAKING exam, not a READING exam. He just pointed at the paper and said: 友娜,读一读。Meaning: Jonna, read!!) and I am a bit embarrassed of the fact that I sound like a six-year-old when I read. I stammer, I stumble on words, and I pronounce things wrong. (Actually, to say that I read like a seven-year-old would be to give myself too much credit. I’m more like at level of a five-year-old). It must be painful to listen to me!

Tomorrow I have my other two exams: listening and reading & writing. The latter is my big worry since writing is the hardest thing when it comes to learning this language (Yeah, if reading is a bitch, then writing is the devil!)

After tomorrow, however, we have a five week uni break (!) so I guess shouldn’t be complaining too much, even though a break for me simply means more work. (So yes, I’ll still be as stressed out as I am now. I suppose that is one of my characteristics). And since I am planning on continuing studying Mandarin level 3 next semester, I also have to keep the language up during the break. That’s why I’ve decided to read the following book; "My China Daily" by the New Zeeland reporter Edwin Maher. It’s a collection of witty articles written in Chinese characters (no pinyin –the simplified reading text–) with English translation on the opposite page.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the Chinese language… hm… can I say. It’s a lot harder than it looks, and if you look at some Chinese characters, you instantly notice that it already looks quite hard! Just to give you two examples… This is how they write ’wine’: 葡萄酒 and this is how they write ‘ice cream': 冰淇淋. Yeah. Maybe now you understand what I mean. I am still waiting for that magic ‘aha experience' when everything falls into place and I can write and speak like a native.

(Yeah right!)

The challenge...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Morning has broken...

...and what better way to start it than with some cheerful exercise (to traditional Chinese music?!). It's hard not to be inspired when I every morning at 8am (sharp) watch these women getting into the groove on our yard. I just wish they would change the music every now and then, it's been the same for a year now :) But it's actually quite impressive to see them there every morning, in sunshine and rain... (nah, now I am kidding with you. Obviously they are not there when it's raining, that would just be stupid) Reminds me that I should go to the gym soon... It's been, what.. hm? Two or three weeks?!

Maybe I should just join these ladies instead?! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An average Monday

我的小朋友 -My new little friend!

There’s nothing better to do on slow Monday afternoons, than to take your obligations to a cosy café and cheer yourself up with lattes meanwhile trying to deal with studies/work. So, on a rainy Monday in Suzhou, I decided to take my studying of Chinese characters to a nearby Starbucks café in order to get out of the flat for a bit.

At Starbucks, between 2.26-5.10pm, the following things happened:

1. I was told I am not fat.
“You are definitely not fat!” the Starbucks worker at the coffee machine suddenly said while I was standing there, waiting for her to make my coffee.
“Excuse me?!” I looked at her in confusion.
“Well you always order low-fat lattes. You don’t have to do that. You are not fat!”
“Well, ehum... thanks? I suppose... ”
I replied. “But I order low-fat because I actually don’t like the taste of cream, not because I don't want to get fat.”

(Busted!!! She's been checking me out!!! Or OK, at least my orders.)

2. I made friends.
Once seated, three small Korean kids, aged 5-7, gathered around me and started asking me who I was and telling me their names. Since our Chinese skills were on the same level I actually had a blast chatting with them (me; -sipping a latte and them; -sucking on lolipops) They were, just like me, living here, and learning Chinese by attending kindergarten. I told them I was doing pretty much the same thing as them, but at the university (They didn’t understand the word ‘daxue’, meaning ‘university’ -I couldn't help feel a silent sting of joy. My Chinese skills are better than 7-year-olds... YEY!). Oh the bonds that are made at Starbucks!

3. I was offered a job.
After chatting to those little kiddies for a while, their mothers (typical ‘tai-tai’s… meaning, ‘house wives’) came to join us.
“Would you like to teach our daughter English?! We pay you 150 kuai/hour plus the taxi fare. We pay more if you want to.”
“If I want to?! How much do you pay?!”
I said I’ll think about it. (I love how I sometimes get taken for being native English here)

4. A guy asked for my phone number.
When leaving Starbucks, a western guy ran after me just when I was about to step out.
“Wait! Are you new in town?”
“Jesus, how small is this place?!”
“Quite small! My name is…..”

And so, I’ve got a coffee-date coming up. But no no no... don’t worry people. I am not talking date-date. I am talking a strictly having-a-cup-of-coffe-date (maybe the word date should be replaced with something else... 'meeting'? well, u get the point!). Obviously, I’ve got no interest in dating other dudes when I am already seeing the "much wanted hot, blonde Finnish guy” (at least according to the Chinese girls. Read the previous post if you feel confused) :) But it’s always fun to meet new people!

….And that’s my average Monday in China, everyone! :)

谢谢星巴克! Thanks Starbucks!!

Wanted in China: tall, blonde, Finnish men

This might sound a bit odd, but I swear it’s true: pretty much every single Chinese girl we've met has got a crush on my boyfriend.

He’s tall, blonde, Finnish, and takes good care of himself. And the Chinese girls like what they see.

I quickly got used to the longing stares at the metro or in public places. I also soon got used to having to ‘pee on him’ (a intimate term that we use when one of us should ‘mark his/her territory -eg, deliver a kiss’ and show the onlookers that the object they are drooling over is in fact taken), as well as having problems getting served in restaurant as many girls were too shy/nervous to come up to our table. “For Christ’s sake, he’s already got a girlfriend!” I often wanted to yell. “And she is sitting next to him! Stop ignoring my absence, despos!!” But sometimes (or quite often, actually) it seemed like I was invisible to those girls. So I figured it was easier to ignore it.

However, sometimes it just goes overboard.

Once inside a clothing shop, I was in the changing room trying on a dress meanwhile my boyfriend was waiting outside.
“I wonder if there’s something weird with my clothes,” my boyfriend said. “The shop assistant keeps on starring at me, giggling.”
“Oh, funny,”
I said, “maybe she’s got the hots for you.”
“I’m not sure. She’s almost a bit hysterical, and her face is all red.”
“Well maybe you should wait outside then. So she doesn't pass out of the excitement.”

My boyfriend obliged, and stepped outside the shop meanwhile I paid for the dress.
“That boy!!!” the shop assistant said, forgetting (?) to count the money I was handing over. “He is so handsome! He is the most beautiful boy I have ever seen!” She giggled like a ten-year-old.
“Oh really,” I replied acidulously. Oblivious to my sourness, she went on.
“He is so perfect. Is he your friend?!”
I corrected.
“Oh?!” She gave me a quick ‘once-over’ and started laughing uncontrolled.
“How old is he?”
“Oh, he is so beautiful, please tell him I think he is beautiful, please tell him I said so!”
I could sense the desperation in her voice.
“Sure, I will tell my BOYFRIEND that you said so!”
“Oh thank you! He’s so beautiful….”

Yikes! As soon as I get my change I left quicker than quick.

And how does my boyfriend handle all the attention?
Well, he says he doesn’t care. But I know he loves it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Girls on the menu

Last Saturday was a cold and rainy day in Suzhou, so me and a bunch of friends (consisting of two girls and three guys) decided to head to a new Spa for some pampering. The new Spa, was in fact a well-rumoured three storey bath house/ sauna, that we knew had received praises from former visitors due to its extensive selection of treatments. Apparently you only had to pay around 150 kuai and then you could use to pool, the sauna, get massage, cupping, scraping (traditional Chinese treatments –I’ll get back to you on these two in another post!), foot treatment, ear cleaning, and so on… To be honest with you –it sounded a bit good to be true!

When we arrived to the place, clearly visible arrows pointed out that men should enter the Spa from the right, and girls from the left. We obliged, and decided to meet again at a nearby restaurant a few hours later.

The girl’s Spa was quite nice, however, we neither saw traces of any bath house, nor did we experience the rumoured ‘three storeys.’ Instead, we were given a 368 kuai two hour long face- and full body massage. When we inquired about the sauna and the pool, the suit-wearing manager told us (with a Colgate smile) that we could use a sauna, but that the pool was ‘strictly for men’. Fair enough, we thought, as we assumed the dress code was nude, and considering none of us had brought swim wear we didn’t really felt like sharing a pool with a bunch of naked male strangers.

Although we found our treatment a bit pricey (and the sauna a bit tiny!) it was still a nice experience, although none of us could understand why we were told to be butt naked on the massage bench?! Fortunately, we experienced nothing uncomfortable; it was just a bit… ehum, strange to flash our winter white asses to strangers.

Two and a half hours later, we met the boys at the restaurant. All three of them looked ravishing –their faces were glowing and they were downing beers and chatting as if they were on speed. Us girls, on the other hand, felt rather sleepy from our rub.

“So you guys had a nice massage?!” I said
“Massage? Hehe. Yeah, well the massage was nice, and so was all the other stuff!!” the boys said in choir while giggling.
“What other stuff?”

Turns out… that this Spa really did have three storeys, a huge pool, a large sauna, massage, cupping, scrapping, foot treatments, ear cleansing and a (free!) snack bar! The boys had seen it all, including some other offers:

“And when the manager told us about the different treatments we could buy, he also offered us ‘Russian or Chinese girls,’” they giggled.
“Oh… interesting,” we replied, slightly stiff-faced.
“Russian girls were around 800 while Chinese girls were 600, and then you could book a suite and…”
“Okay, enough, enough!”

Who said beauty was for ladies? Our three male friends had been sitting in a pool, having small fishes eating the dead skin from their bodies?! (imagine a little pealing army… that is ALIVE!) They had also lied on benches while one girl massaged their feet, another girl rubbed their shoulder and a third girl cleaned their ears! Oh, and they’d been enjoying dumplings, noodles and beers… all for the moderate sum of 158 kuai. Each!

“But we paid 368 kuai and all we got was some slices of watermelon!” we complained, to the boys amusement.
“Yeah well I bet they didn’t offer you a suite with Latino boys either, huh?!”

Life is not fair.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Being (considered) a fatty

Back from a 3 weeks holiday in Europe, my boyfriend received the following compliments from his work mates:

“Welcome back! Wow, your holiday must have been good, you look so fat!”
”I can see you ate a lot on your holiday!”
“Nice to have you back. You look a bit round”.

And once his tan had faded another work mate offered some comfort:

“Oh good to see that your skin is doing better. When you first came back you looked so dirty in your face but now you look good again; white and pale!”

I’ve also received a few gibes about my weight.

“Jonna! Good to have you back! You look well; fat and round!”
(Coming back to work after being on a 3 weeks sick leave due to a broken foot)

"Well I bet that in your country you are not considered to be fat!"
(A Chinese friend trying to comfort me about my weight issue in China)

And then this one... (when making clothes at the tailor’s market together with a Chinese friend)

Me: “Why do I have to pay 150 kuai for my dress when my friend is paying 100?”
Honest tailor: “You are more fat. For you we need more fabric”.

The truth hurts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Using the window as a trash can

Chinese people have, just like all of us, a lot of good AND bad habits…

Some good ones are:
Their friendliness, their eagerness to always offer you a meal (I love people that start a sentence with: “have you eaten yet?” I mean, can someone GET any more thoughtful?!), their openness and their closeness to smile and laughter. My Chinese friends are all great people that I am really happy I’ve had a chance to get to know!

But then there are, of course, those Chinese that have some rather bad characteristics. Some old habits. Some things that I find it very hard to get use to, like:
• The constant spitting
• The pushing (in shops, when getting on and off the metro/bus)
• Cutting lines (makes me FURIOUS! Wroooaw! *should be read as a lion roar*)

But worse of all the worse habits are, undeniably, THROWING GARBAGE BAGS OUT OF THE WINDOWS!!!

This is something I simply cannot excuse with being an ‘old habit that is hard to get rid off’. How hard can it be to collect your garbage in a neat little bin bag, and then carry it down to the public trash can? Well, apparently VERY hard, because a lot of my neighbours can not be bothered with it. Instead they throw their trash out of their window… and yes, both from the 7th and the 17th floor…

So what does this mean in real life then?
Well, for starters, it means that our yard is not a safe place for staying dry. Once, me and a friend where standing on the yard, chatting, when a large bin bag suddenly landed 2 cm next to my friend, splashing all sorts of juices on him. NICE ONE!

Another time, we where hanging our white sheets to dry on the bars outside our window (due to lack of space people hang their laundry to dry on bars outside their windows, there are no shared laundry washstands on the yard) when a bag full of old food hit the sheet. Obviously that was the first and the last time we tried to use the window bar for drying laundry.

I should mention that this is obviously not a habit that is common amongst the younger generation. But I don’t see why the older ones cannot learn how to carry their trash bags down. After all, they’re not prisoners in their flats.

(Thinking about what I would do if a garbage bag would hit my head when I was walking on the yard makes me scared)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Let's talk about sex

Yesterday I learned a new Chinese word: ‘qinre,’ which means ‘intimacy.

When our teacher (Xi Laoshi again!) explained the word he mentioned an example of two young people being intimate. He said that the other day, he’d spotted two young 14-year olds on the bus that had been “completely qinre and oblivious to everyone and everything around them!!” You could tell this subject mattered for Xi Laoshi. While he told us, his face turned slightly pink and his voice got a bit squeaky. He was quite upset with the fact that people at that young age dared to show affection so openly.

“They should study, they should focus on school!” he said “When they are older than 18 they can get themselves a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but not before, it should be banned!”

Banned? Teenage love?!

Xi Laoshi blamed the teenage movies for “putting ideas into the minds of the young” and said there should be an age limit for when you can start watching two people being intimate on the TV screen (now, we are not talking hard core movies. More like ‘Mean Girls’ and other chick flicks).

“They are too young for all that…..” (He turned pink again). “They should not watch it! And they should not do it! The parents should be stricter!”

Few of us engaged in the discussion. Most of my classmates are Koreans and I don’t know how open they are about sex or affection over there. But one thing is for sure. Our dear teacher Xi laoshi is just another conservative Chinese man who is afraid of taking the word ‘sex’ in his mouth. Because believe me, he’s not unique in his way of thinking…

Two years ago I interviewed a quite famous sexologist in Beijing. She told me that the conservative view and the embarrassment about sex are huge obstacle for the sexual education in school.

“So many teachers are embarrassed about sex” she said. “It’s quite common that those teachers tear out the sex educational pages in the biology books because they don’t want to teach or talk about it.”

Yeah, that’s a great idea… NOT! Tear out the pages and there will neither be any discussion, nor anyone having sex. Or hang on a minute… could it be that it doesn’t work that way anymore? Actually, has it ever?

Sometimes I feel that a lot of Chinese ‘grown ups’ really need to grow up.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Nap time –whenever you want, wherever you want!

I’ve always been impressed with people who can fall asleep in two seconds. I’m personally that sort of sleeper that needs at least 10 minutes of tossing and turning before my eyelids can fully relax. Sleeping in public places, like air planes, trains, park benches (?!) and buses, however, are totally out of my league. For Chinese people, however, it seems like the more public the place, the easier to fall asleep.

My Chinese friends have explained the term ‘wu shui’ for me, meaning something like ‘lunch nap’… They said that the nap doesn’t meet that you are fully asleep, but that you are ‘snoozing’. ‘Sure’, I replied, nodded and (almost) believed them.

Because no matter what they tell me, I have to say that these sleepy captures (from Shanghai and Kunming) really speaks for themselves. Snoozing? My a**! I swear I could hear those people SNORE when I photographed them!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Eat bread –grow tall!

I’m about to finish my first year of Chinese studies and I have to say that my last five months at Shanghai Jiaotong University have been quite…interesting! Much due to my teacher “Xi Laoshi” (Xi is his surname and Laoshi means teacher… but we call him by “X Laoshi”, that’s the polite way in China). He’s a man in his mid 20-ties and he’s completely fascinated with my height.

Although I’m not considered to be particularly tall in my native Sweden (175 cm is quite average over there for girls!), a lot of Chinese people see me as a UFO: I’m at least two heads taller and probably 10 shades blonder than them. And I am a girl. So yes, to them I’m a very obvious UFO.

In my Chinese class, I’ve been an outcast from the moment we all had to introduce ourselves (we are 18 students: 14 Koreans, 3 Japanese and me!). This is mainly due to not being petite and Asian. But being an outcast isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially not if your teacher has got a good eye to you. And for Xi Laoshi, I’m wonder woman.

Everyone knows that Xi Laoshi is obsessed with my tall legs and my height. In the beginning of the semester, he often asked me to come forward and write on the board how tall I am meanwhile him and my (short) classmates did the compulsory ‘ohhhs’ and ‘ahhhs’. Several times I also had to stand next to him meanwhile he made up sentences in Chinese about "how tall I am, how all Swedish people are tall, and how all Chinese people are short".

As our Chinese level has become better the discussions has also become deeper.
WHY are you so tall YouNa? (“YouNa” is my Chinese name: “You” mean friendly and “Na” means girl).
I have explained several times that I am not considered to be very tall in Sweden and that both my parents are well over 170 cm. But that has never been enough for Xi Laoshi. He has always continued to dig, desperately seeking for a more specific answer.

Some of the things he’s asked me about includes: what sports I did as a kid, where I studied, and what friends I played with.

Then one day Xi Laoshi cracked the nut. We were discussing Chinese breakfasts when he asked me:
-What do you eat for breakfast?
-Hm.. Nothing special. I drink coffee. And eat bread.
-Yes, bread!
-Have you always eaten bread for breakfast?
-Yeah, I suppose so…
-Do Swedish people eat a lot of bread?
-I guess they do…
-Did you guys hear that! Bread! Swedish people eat bread! Guys, if you want to grow tall you should eat bread! You should feed your babies bread! You must eat more bread!

By this time, the whole class was quite tired of his length obsession, so most of the girls just giggled while the boys rolled their eyes. I suppose they were all secretly wishing that this ‘new discovery’ would put and end to it all. For good.

But Xi Laoshi refuses to let it go. I once mentioned I like long distance running, something he obviously took note of. Recently he told one of my class mates (who’s wife just had a baby) that they should feed the baby bread and make him do long distance running so that the baby will grow tall (!)

-Because that’s what they do in Sweden! He said, and smiled to me.
All I could do was to smile back.

And yeah, if someone wonders… That’s exactly what we do in Sweden: We give birth to our babies on the treadmill and then quickly stick a loaf of bread into their mouth.
-Chew this! We yell, and the baby starts chewing. And starts growing. :)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

All you need is chilli

At a Chinese restaurant, two western guys are studying the menu and discussing what to order.

Guy 1: How about some spicy Sichuan chicken?
Guy 2: Sounds good.
Guy 1: And maybe some of that stir fried beef with chillies and green peppers?
Guy 2: Okay.
Guy 1: Let’s get those chilli marinated ribs too!
Guy 2: Hey don’t you think we have enough meat? How about some veggies?
Guy 1: Veggies? Dude, who needs fibres when you’ve got chilli oil?

I know I shouldn’t eavesdrop but come on, it’s just too much fun!! (And I know you love it too!)

The art of picking up

It’s not a secret that not-so-good-looking Western guys can (and often do) pick up Chinese super babes. And why? Well, because for Chinese girls, dating a westerner does not only give you high status; it may also be your ticket out of China.

So while a lot of not-so-hot-guys come to places as Shanghai as more or less virgins, they soon get into the vibe, not to mention the bedroom stuff, and as a result, Shanghais is full of over-confident and superficial losers!

Here’s an example…

Some months ago I was shaking it at the nightclub Attica, near the Bund in Shanghai, when a western, short dude with curly hair approached me together with his friend. They didn’t even bother to introduce themselves, instead the curly guy yelled into my ear:

-You live here?
-Cool! So do I! Shanghai is aweeeesome!
(I could hear that he was American). This is my friend! He pointed at slightly taller, western guy that was standing a bit behind him.
-He is an actor visiting from the US, he continued. He is here shooting ‘the Mummy 3!’
(THE MUMMY 3!?!?)
-I didn’t know there was a ‘Mummy 2’ was all I could think of to say.

I think that the guy sensed that the actor approach wasn’t really doing its magic on me, because suddenly he said:
-You know, you’re quite pretty! And I really like your hair and your innocent look (“my what??!”) But there are many pretty girls in this room. Can you give me three reasons why I should continue talking to you and not go to someone else?!

I just stared at him, mouth wide open. What the hell?! Can I what?

-You know baby, give me your three best qualities!

I continued to just stare at him. But he ignored me and went on.

-I can help you our and tell you what I am looking for. You see, with ladies, I look for three things. One is sexiness, one is confidence and one is body! And guess what? You have TWO out of these THREE!!

With that, him and his friend did a ‘high five’, gave me two superficial, yet encouraging smiles, before they continued on to the next girl.

While I starred after them, all I could think of is that how sad it is that those two losers will probably not sleep alone tonight.

End of story.

PS. Any girl who has slept with this Mummy 3 actor: I am very disappointed of you!