Monday, June 30, 2008

Little things that make your day

On of the things that I LOVE about China is that in the darkest, dirtiest and most uninviting alleys hides the biggest treasures! No, OK, not really, but sometimes! U should never judge a warehouse because of its looks, because inside there might be an outstanding fruits/vegetable/meat/electronic/clothes market where u can shop until you drop. That is just what I did yesterday.

Not far from our flat is a dark and dirty sort of warehouse (I don’t know if warehouse it the right word for it, probably not, but I’ll just call it that and hope that no one gets annoyed) and yesterday I discovered that inside is a large fruit and vegetable market! Fresh stuff, cheap prices, friendly service. It cannot get any better! We bonded with a fruit lady on the second floor and tried probably all the fruits you can try in a fruit stand (how about some kind of mega large litchi?! Really yummy!) and best of all: I found fresh, good tasting avocado for 15 kuai/each.

It is funny this thing with avocado. First time I visited Beijing and made an inquiry about it (to my very smart translator) I got the confused reply. My translator (and friend) had never heard about my favourite veggie. We later went to a supermarket so that I could point it out to her (as she started to doubt I was talking about something that actually did exist) and when I did, she admitted she’d never seen, nor tasted one before. I was about to buy us a bunch until I realised why my friend might have never wanted to try this on her own: avocados here are so expensive!!! It was something like 120 kuai/kilo.. ehum.. no thanks?!

Some months later, when I moved to Shanghai, I eventually had to give in for my cravings for chicken and avocado salad but then came the next big problem: try to find a good tasting avocado at this place. Not an easily solvable matter.

That’s why I am so happy I am basically devoting a whole blog post (geeez, I am impressed by those of you who’ve made it this far?!) to the fact that I have now found good tasting avocados in Suzhou. See how small things can make your day over here? Finding food that u miss are definitely a thing that brightens ups my days in China.

Worth losing sleep over

(Pictures from

Getting up at 2.45am this morning was TOTALLY WORTH IT! Viva Espana!!!! :)

Going back to bed at 4.45am when the game was over and the sun was coming up was a bit odd, but well... it worked.

Getting up again around 6am wasn't as smooth, however, but I have to go to the immigration office and sort out the extension of my visa today (I am terrified after having read so many horror stories of people not getting their visas because of restrictions due to the Olympic Games) so it is not like I have a choice.

But wow.... Still. Spain. Torres!!! I am thrilled! Finally the right team wins!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I also want to be body hair free!!!

Imagine NOT having to do this every second day...

Me and Rocky continue to bond at the gym where I work out. Yesterday he brought a skipping rope and joined me in the aerobics’ room for my 15-minute-skipping-work-out. It was quite hilarious actually. He lined up next to me, and said: ‘follow me, yi, er, san (1-2-3)’ and we started jumping together!

Afterwards when we were sitting on the ground chatting, I discovered that Rocky had no body hair on his legs or arms. I couldn’t help myself so I simply asked him. He said he has never had body hair, nor birth marks. Apparently this is quite common for some Chinese people (I don’t remember if he said Chinese people from Hunan or just some Chinese people in general). Actually, if you go to a pool in China you will notice that the men have not a single trace of chest hair, but if their arms and legs are also hair free I simply don’t know. The weird thing is, that the girls are not hair free… not at all? So what’s going on here?

Anyways, I told Rocky he was very lucky and that I would love to have his hair-free, birth-mark free skin, but he obviously didn’t understand. Well, I guess someone who has never had to shave his legs wouldn’t.

Today's mission: long run (not even that long, but still!)

I (think I) passed the exam! I wrote about an upcoming marathon I am planning to run (date has not been set yet, but it is due to happen before I turn 50… so I have about 25 years!) Sure, it is not my most memorable day yet, but I am planning for the day to be, so… It wasn’t a complete lie!

After another raining-non-stop week (yesterday was terrible!!!) the sky has today shifted into a white/greish colour, but no rain is falling and the air is cool. U know what that means don’t you? Perfect weather for a long run! I am just starting to get a bit freaked out about it. What if I get dehydrated? I haven’t run 15km for I don’t know how long (on Tue I did 11 km but that was on the treadmill so definitely not as hard as running outside). I have tried running around the lake once before. Last year in the beginning of September. It was about 30 degrees and extremely humid. Although I was doing OK my boyfriend gave up after 10 km and we took a taxi back. (I suppode the fact that some people that passed us on bikes and shouted ‘are you mad?!’ also convinced us that the timing for our run could have been better)

Today is a much better day for running, although it is a bit windy out there. I guess I just have to run veeeeeeeery slow and think about the post-workout massage I am planning to have afterwards.

UPDATE: I ended up getting a bit lost during my run (nothing out of the ordinary -I have a terrible sense of directions) and ended up being out running for almost 2 hours!!! Came home, sweaty (sorry, I mean, GLOWING) and thirsty, but except for that it felt great! The legs are a lil' bit stiff but actually much better than excpected. I have no idea what distance I ran but man, it feels good to know that my legs are still up for running for 1.5-2 hours. Yey!!! Now, reward time: Pancakes!!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Exam time: 写作考试。

So the time is here and I cannot escape it. Today I’ll write my first, out of four, exams. First up is my least favourite subject: essay writing. We have already been told that our assignment will be to write about 1. an unforgettable moment in our lives (?), and 2. write a note asking for sick leave.

The sick leave note is going to be a piece of cake. I have a good vocabulary when it comes to being sick in China: I can mention cough, fever, a cold, a sore throat, acing legs, a stomach flu, mosquito bites… well, my endless trips to the pharmacy has definitely given me some ground to stand on!

When it comes to an unforgettable moment, however, I am not quite sure what approach I should take. It has to be something that I have enough vocabulary to write about, AND something unforgettable, so…. Hm… how do I do that? The first time I came to China (and thought I was going to die –yes, seriously- because it was so humid and hot?!)? Or, when I ran the Shanghai half marathon in 2006, and then ended up on national TV doing a sweaty wave to the Chinese population? Or, should I mention that time when I almost fell into a squat toilet because I couldn’t squat? That surely is unforgettable!!

Hm.. I have about 1 hour to decide then my exam start. I have to write 400 characters about this moment, so I better think of something good…. Hm… When I was told I was fat? (nah, too much of an common, every day occurrence, although definitely unforgettable…) When I was told to keep my back bended and stay low during a roller coaster ride in Hong Kong because I was so tall the staff was scared I would hit my head? When I for the first time took the train to Suzhou and fainted? Or, when my boyfriend walked around imitating a chicken in a Chinese supermarket?

Well, I better make up my mind fast, only 50 minutes to go and I should brush my teeth before I leave here. And maybe I have to go to the shop to and get myself some chocolate. I mean, it is Friday, and I most certainly will need the energy to finsh this piece of crap... sorry, this essay.

(45 min to go and still no good idea.) OK, enough with the procrastination. I’m off!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Training for my challenge week 1

Training for my half marathon challenge is going great! At least so far. I’ve talked to some runners and decided to take their advice: I’ll first focus on building my weekly mileage and then, maybe 1.5-2 months later, when the legs are used to the distance, I will start adding speed training.

I don’t want to injure myself, or shock my legs, so I am starting things quite easily. This week I am aiming to do 20-25 miles (so far I've done 13, but it is only Thursday), with my first long run this Saturday! Quite excited! But I guess I have to get up around 5am or something in order to beat the heat.

I told some trainers at the gym about what I am training for, so now they are all involved in finding me running exercises. Lunges and that kind of stuff. I also told them that I don’t have to start doing everything at once, but that is obviously hard to understand. Yesterday when I walked in to the gym two of them came running towards me:

-you la, you la (yes, one was the Hunan boy!) we have some new exercises for you!

Well, let’s see how long this lasts? I give it one week then I bet they have all forgotten about me.

One funny thing one trainer told me though:

-You want to burn your fat?
-And you like chocolate?
-Stop liking it!
-Eh… stop liking.. chocolate?!
-Just like that!
-But I am a girl?!
-Eh… nevermind.

Stop liking chocolate?! Daaaah! If it was just THAT easy?!

Why come here if it is 'so bad?'

One thing I don’t really understand –why do some westerners come to China if they ’hate it’ so much?

Some months ago I met a really nice, South American girl. She lives here with her husband, a western guy. We all went out for dinner one night. Dinner was followed by drinks in a bar, some dancing in a nightclub and then eventually more drinks at another bar. I don’t know if it was the alcohol, but once this guy got a bit tipsy, he started pouring hate over China.

He had come here to set up a factory for the company he used to work for in his home country, and now he was angry because nothing here worked like ‘back home’. He was angry because his staff often misunderstood him, he was angry because the production lacked in terms of quality, and he was angry because ‘China is so shit and people should understand that there is no point setting up factories here. The air is too polluted, the language and culture is too different and the lack of quality is too evident. Once people understand that they will start to move their production to some other place! Some better place! Like my home country.’

Well, for starters. When shit loads of factories are moved into one country/area, is it then a mystery why the air is so polluted?

Secondly –when labour and material are so cheap, what are you then expecting in terms of quality?

Not understanding the culture or the language –well, have u tried even to learn the language? Or how about getting some Chinese friends (no, he didn’t have any. He claimed they were ‘too different to him and that he had nothing in common with Chinese people.’)

Geeez, I had to bite my tongue while we were talking. I have sugar coated a lot of the nasty things he said because he was just so damn offensive and negative?! It was like listening to a kid go on about why he cannot eat candy every day of the week? Pathetic!

And, when I asked him:

-Well, if it is so damn bad, why don’t you just go back home then?

He didn’t even bother to answer. I am guessing he didn't even know what to say.

Fine. I haven’t loved every country where I have lived (Finland got on my nerves, especially during the nasty winters), but I have always at least given it a try, and tried to make the most of it?

Well, I suppose living abroad is not suitable to everyone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yeah, I wish!

Ah, I love this….

You go to a fancy restaurant and order yourself a prawn salad. It comes in… without prawns. So you yell for the ‘xiao jie’.

-Excuse me, isn’t this a prawn salad?
-But there are no prawns!
-Excuse me!?
-There are no prawns in my prawn salad?
-Yes….? Is there a problem miss?
-Yes, I want my prawn salad to come with prawns! That’s the whole thing! I ordered it because I wanted prawns.
-Oh… yes!

Sometimes I feel that waiters at fancy restaurants are so busy saying ‘yes’ that they don’t even listen to what you are telling them? Anyways, eventually I was given an additional bowl of prawns. But seriously, that’s it. No point paying extra for food over here. Going to a small, cheap, Chinese place is much more price-worthy. You don’t have to battle for the ingredients in your dishes, and, the food tastes better too!

Sweat it out (but not if you are a girl!)

I am a last minute person, so when classes start at 8.30 in the morning, I am the one who comes running up the stairs at 8.33, or, if I am good, 8.29…. Yesterday was no exception, and although it wasn’t that warm outside I had been racing to uni on my bike and sweated like a pig.

When my teacher saw me she said:
-Oh, Jonna, did you run to school?
-No, I rode my bike!!!
-But, you are so sweaty?!
-Yes, I rode my bike, fast!
-Very fast!

Oh yeah, that’s right. I almost forgot. You are not supposed to ride your bike to fast over here. Especially not if you are a girl. Because then you might sweat. And your make up gets smeared out.

Later the same day, I overheard a conversation at the gym. A Chinese girl was training with her female personal trainer.

Girl: This is really hard! I am sweating?! Can we turn on the air con?

So I asked one of my trainer friends why it is considered so bad for a girl to sweat over here:

-Oh, you don’t have to worry about it. Besides, you are a ‘lao wai’. We all know that lao wais work out very seriously.

We do? I was just talking about riding my bike….

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Brain on holiday

In my attempt to learn Mandarin, I experience both good and bad days. Lately, there have been awfully many bad days. I know that learning Mandarin is hard for many people, but how can it be so completely up and down? Like, some days I am doing soooo well, I am on top of the world, and I even understand my neighbours who keep a mouse as a pet and speak in a heavy Suzhou dialect.

And then some days (like today, like yesterday, like most of last week, and the week before that week, and maybe even the week before that…) I feel like a complete UFO in class. Teacher speaks, I listen. I don’t understand, I ask for the teacher to explain. She explains again, everyone else gets it, except for me. I ask again, everyone gets a bit annoyed and still, I haven’t got it.

Or, like lately, with new characters. It is as if my brain has hit its limit. ‘No more room for new characters!’ it is saying. ‘We’ve had enough, go somewhere else with those new words you are trying to learn!”. I write one word 50 times and still my brain refuses to accept it. Bastard. (Brain I mean, not character). How am I going to squeeze all of those in? How am I going to be able to take Friday’s essay writing test? How am I, who cannot even remember how to spell some of the ‘level 1’ characters supposed to go on to level 4 next semester? This slow working brain of mine better wake up soon, or else I am going to have some serious problems during my exams. You can’t get away with writing pinyin anymore when u are on level 3. I simply have to remember how to write these words by heart.

So what do I do when things go badly? Well, I escape to my resort. To my gym! Where I can chat with the trainers without having to worry about grammar or pronunciation. These trainers are the best. They are so forgiving. And they seem to understand most of the things I say. And, I don’t have to worry about characters when I speak to them. And I am not surrounded by Koreans and Japanese who ‘already know’ many characters for some, strange reason? (OK, I understand that the Japanese know a lot of characters coz their writing language is quite similar to Hanzi, but the Koreans? How do they do it? How, how??!)

I am developing something between rage and envy at my fellow classmates because they are so much smarter than me. And who am I kidding. Next year is going to be the same, if not worse. More characters. Faster speed. More reading. More falling behind. Maybe HSK. Aoooch. Sticky situation is approaching.

Then sometimes, I get to my senses and think: ‘ nah, come on Jonna! Get over yourself! How hard can this be?! It is only a new language?!! Relax for a bit….!’

And then I open my text book and start writing some characters, and five seconds later the brain is drifting off somewhere else and the characters are being written, but not remembered.

Oh, those good days better arrive soon!!!

Summer trends in the city: empty pools

Just an illusion

As it is getting warmer across the city one of my friends, who lives in a complex with an outside pool, went to ask the management when they were planning to put the pool in use.

(Yeah, because although there was a pool, there had never been water in it. It just stood there, like and empty, white bowl under the sun).

The management people greeted my friend with friendliness, made some comforting comments about the heat and promised the pool would be filled within the next two days.

Three days later, the pool was still an empty, white dish. And my friend went to see the management.

-When are you filling the pool? He asked.
-Oh, maybe tomorrow! The people replied.

Tomorrow came, still no water. My friend got annoyed. It was so warm out there and the fact that he’d paid extra so he could live somewhere where he’d be able to cool down, made him once again go down to the management and ask for them to fill the pool with water.

-We are so sorry! But tomorrow! We promise!

As expected. The pool was still empty two days later. My friend was furious.

-When are you going to fill the pool?! He yelled when he walked through the door of the management office.

The management people looked at each other. Finally, someone said:

-Oh… ehum.. maybe… never!

All of you who lives in complexes with outdoor pools –let me know when u see some water in there. And, how you managed to convince your management to do it. My friend really wants to know.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I've been challenged

THIS has to stop!!!

Friday was one of the few Swedish days that I like to celebrate, namely midsummer! We went to Shanghai and met up a bunch of Noggys and Finns (even though the Noggys don’t normally celebrate midsummer they still seemed happy to have an occasion to drink for!) and went of for dinner and drinks to celebrate that summer is here. (Well… I am not sure if you can say summer is here. It has been raining non stop for the last 3 weeks but there’s no need to get pessimistic. At least it is hot enough out there: 30 and humid… mmmmm).

Now, what most people do on midsummer is to have one too many and eventually pass out in a corner. What I did on midsummer, however, was to engage in a fiery discussion about the upcoming Shanghai marathon in November. And, by the end of the night, an overwhelming amount of sake had made me agree to take a challenge. Here goes.

I bet I can run Shanghai’s half marathon within 1.5 hours.
(Everyone else -including my bf- bet I can't.)

At a party night like Midsummer, this obviously feels like a very possible and most likely to happen challenge… You are happy and drunk, and the thought of running fast for 1.5 hours feels like a nice idea. But the day after… aooch. What have I gotten myself into? The thing is, that there is a lot of money at stake. I am not going to reveal the exact number, but trust me on this one..: If I make this, I get a lot of cash! And why? Well, simply because NO ONE believes I can do it! So they were basically willing to bet me thousands of kuais, seeing that they don’t even expect me to try anyways. (I asked them again the day after and the offer still stands).

Looks tempting, doesn't it?

So… how do I do this now? I am definitely not a fast runner! Stubborn, maybe, but not fast. My fastest half marathon time is 1 hour 50 minutes (and this was in 2005 when I was a fit bomb compared to what I am now), and after this I almost fainted of exhaustion. So there u go: I am not fast. I don’t even enjoy running fast. I am a normal: 60 km/hour girl. I feel comfortable running in that pace. 6min/km. Now I have to go down to… what is it… 4min/km?! Geeeez.

But I HAVE to do it. Mainly because no one thinks I can. I have to prove them all wrong. Besides: Shanghai marathon is by possible one of the flattest races ever. No hill whatsoever. So it should be possible. I just have to make sure that this year I end up in the front of the massive amount of people taking this race, and not behind the smokers at the back that I did last time…

Uh…. Any experienced half marathon 1.5 hour runner out there with some training advices?! Anything appreciated… I better get started. The race is in the end of November. I only have 5 months!?

Next midsummer, I'll just focus on being drunk and happy with my girlfriends instead!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some of my fave Chinese eats in Shanghai

I promised some weeks ago that I would list my five favourite eats in Shanghai, so here comes. Seeing that Shanghai has about 87648753485873245873 restaurants, I will divide this 'resto info piece' into 2 sections, one for western food and one for Chinese. I will start with my favourite section, namely the Chinese...

Note, that this is no actual 'guide' but rather just my personal favourite eats. I am definitely no food expert, I have no experience when it comes to writing about food (hence my non-existent food vocabulary) and I probably choose all the most ‘obvious’ places… but who cares? I like them! My friends like them! So maybe someone else will too? Obviously most of the places where I like to eat are located in the French concession because this is where I used to live and work before.

Hunan Xiangcun Fengwei, 168 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Wuyuan Lu 乌鲁木齐中路168号, 近五原路 Phone: 6437 0952

I have written about this place many times before, but I don't mind doing it again. This place is everything I want a Chinese restaurant to be: cheap, not too shiny, and the food is spicy! I looove spicy food. I adore this restaurant's eggplant dish (la rou qie zi) and I also always get their spicy beef with green chillies. They also have a great bamboo dish, and some other Hunan specialities that I don't know the name of just out of my head, but just ask the waiters to recommend you their specialties and you’ll be delighted.

Di Shui Dong, 2F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu, near Changle Lu, 茂名路56号2楼,长乐路口 Phone 6253 2689

Since this place has been listed in Lonely Planet, it has become a favourite for foreigners/tourists in Shanghai. But that obviously doesn't change the fact that the food (Sichuan and Hunan) is great! Their ribs are really yummy, and I am also a big fan of the hot veggie pots u can get there. (I normally ask them to make mine a bit extra spicy). The also have some good, bone-less chicken classics like gong bao ji ding.. I've never left from this place hungry. Yum!

Dong Bei Ren, 1 Shanxi Nan Road, 陕西南路1号,近延安中路5228 9898

Beijing food... (so a good choice if you are not into spicy) Another eatery that us popular amongst foreigners. I go here for their selection of dumplings. They have really nice ones with egg and tomato inside... it might not sound so good, but it is!! And it’s cheap! Oh, and the staff might sing for u if u ask them to...

Laifu Kitchen 1416 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 淮海中路1416号, 近复兴西路, 6473-5996

Laifu used to be one of my favourite lunch places when I worked at SH Magazine (which has its office just across the street from this restaurant). They serve spicy Sichuan food and I really like this place’s mapu tofu. They also have a great spicy beef, and some wonderful spicy noodles (served cold), that I can never keep myself from ordering. It’s reasonably cheap. Now when I think about it, I haven’t been back here for a long time… Have to go this wknd!

Charmant, 1414 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu, 近复兴西路,地铁1414号线常熟路, 6431-8107

Charmant used to be my second lunch choice if I didn’t feel like spicy, because it is located just next to Laifu! It’s Taiwanese food, and they have really good lunch sets that will really fill you up. I love their vegetarian lettuce wraps and poached vegetables and they also have a quite good eggplant dish. During the summer, this is the place to go for when you want to have a dessert! YUM! Icy, chocolate, mango and peanut creations that melts in your mouth… Cheap and definitely cools you down! Reasonably priced.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Plastic Fantastic

Plastic surgery is still big over here. I’ve heard that many women (and men) go to Korea to go under the knife. But you can also do it here in China. Advertisements are in the metro, on TV, in magazines and in taxi cars…

I wonder if all those girls running around with a slim and petite figure, and enormous boobs, really believe that it looks good/natural? Well, I guess it’s a taste thing. But I have to say that when I see it (and it happens, quite often.. girls at the gym, at the hairdresser... or just on the street with no hips and mega boobs) I feel a sting of... sadness. Mixed with amusement. I simply can't help it. I'm damaged from what I saw on TV in the mid-90ies. The bimbo look is just too hard to wash out...

(PS. Doesn’t that boob in the right corner look like those cone boobs that Madonna had in the 80ies?!)

CUP A -->D: 不再是梦想!=CUP A -->D: No longer a dream/illusion.

Men that worry about being too thin?

Perfectly fine! (No, this is not Rocky...)

Yesterday at the gym I bumped into my favourite Hunan boy and personal trainer friend; Rocky (or Rock, as that’s his original name). Rocky always smiles, but today he had a concerned expression on his face. And, he had come earlier to the gym so that he could work out before his shift.

-What’s wrong with you today? I asked.
-(Deep sigh). Well, I am too thin.
-Too thin? I don’t think you are that thin?
(to be honest, he looks perfectly fine. He is definitely not too skinny, and not too bulky… he looks healthy!)
-Yeah, I have to do something about it?
-I think you look fine!
-No, you are just saying that!
-Eh… no I am not!
-Well… other people ask me: ‘how can you be a trainer. You are so skinny!’
-Yeah! And I don’t know what to reply! So I have to get bigger!
-Well, you can tell them that u are working so much you have barely time to work out. Besides… Rocky, you are not skinny!
-Yes I am… and now I have to go and do weights so that I get bigger. Bye You La.

Wow! Did this conversation just take place!?! It is so familiar somehow… but normally it’s the other way around…. Normally it is a girl…complaining about her being… fat? And the guy… is telling her that she’s not….Right?! (Hm…. I’ve taken the role here as the consoling man?! Cool!!)

Chinese people must be some of the most body concerned people I have ever met! Every single girl here that I know wants to be skinnier (do I need to mention that my Chi girlfriends are already perfectly petite?). Meanwhile, the boys want to bulk up and are scared of being too thin? And they talk about weight… all the time.

Maybe they should swap lives for one week or so: all the guys could go to Starbucks and sip on creamy green tea (read: green sugar syrup) frappucinos with real cream on the top, and eat big pieces of cheesecake and gossip about the hot girls behind the counter, the best shops, and the coolest shoes. And all the girls could go to the gym. Without their make up, skirts, heels and hair embellishments. They could get on the treadmill and run, break some sweat, and not watch the TV.

(Although to be honest… I don’t think many Chinese people have weight problems. Not compared to Europeans anyways. Their children are getting chubbier, that’s for sure, but the women/men of my age are normally perfectly fine).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Attempted pick up (?) at the gym

My bf came up with the genius idea to get up at 2.45am this morning to watch Sweden play Russia in the European football championship... I can tell u this much: when the alarm rang I didn't move. And thank lord I didn't. They lost to Russia, 2-0, so nothing worth losing sleep over. We have watched some other games (in the middle of the night), and I'll def be watching the final, but watching football games on CCTV with Chinese commentators is a bit boring, because the commentators don't get very excited in their commenting, and well... it's just not the same as watching it at home. (Plus -u're dead tired the next morning). But anyways, enough about football.

Yesterday I had an interesting moment at the gym. I work out at the same gym as a very beefy guy, and we have chatted a few times. He is one half Mongolian, one forth something, and one forth something else and has lived in America for many years, so he speaks with a very special dialect which I find hard to understand. Hi is very short (the top of his head reached my chin...)and round everywhere, and when I say everywhere I really mean it -hands, feet, bum (not that I've been looking but..), head... he just looks like a big, pumping muscle walking around with hair on the top. Unless someone didn't get it: he doesn't look good. But he has told me before that one of his biggest fears is to become a skinny Chinese guy.. (Well, he def doesn't have to worry about that).

Anyways, what happened the other day at the gym is a bit... weird. He knows I have a bf. He has a gf. And still, he asked for my phone number. While I was working out?! (Actually -aren't there rules for these things? Dos and don'ts for when you can and cannot ask someone for a phone nr?) Obviously I wasn't carrying around my mobile phone but he simply pulled out his. I said I don't remembered my phone number (I don't... or OK, I probably do, but NOT when I am working out!) so in the end I never gave it to him... But still. Obviously, since this happened at the gym, there was a bit of an audience. Great.

When I later told one of my girl friends she said:

"Well, there you go. One short, beefy Mongolian guy, one tall Shanghainese taxi driver, and two old Taiwanese men wanting a mistress! And you say the Chinese men are not into you!"

Yeah, true. I should feel so special.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Do not visit Shanghai at the end of June

This is the fifth day in a row when it looks like this… Whatever I said before about the plum rain making the temperature drop I have to take back. It’s now so humid that the clothes you’ve washed won’t dry. Not even after 2 days on the balcony. Instead they start to smell.

Humid Plum rain season = not the best time in China. Go away. Now!

Just some training stuff....

Yesterday, bored of the gym machines, I went to a spinning class. I wasn’t the only foreigner in the class, and when the tall, Chinese instructor saw me and two other foreign men sitting on bikes, his face lit up.

-Excuse my English, it is not so good! Was his started phrase, then he spoke English throughout most of the class except for at times shouting 加油, 加油!! Which means, ‘come on!’ and which is literally translated as: ‘add oil’ (add fuel to your exercise.. hehe)

The class definitely reached beyond my expectations so I might go again. It’s more fun than hanging out at the cross trainer…

I have to also add, that I am impressed with the trainer’s knowledge of English at this little gym. Two years ago I lived in Finland and over there, no one wanted to speak English, neither at the gyms nor at the streets. Here people really make an effort (although unfortunately it often collides with my effort to speak Chinese) So you go, Chinese PT:s…

Speaking of training, since I’ve decided to run a marathon sometimes within the near future (note that the near future can be anything from 1 to 2 years for me…) I have been meaning to start doing morning runs. But it is still raining non stop over here, and it’s been doing so for the last 2 weeks… Kind of depressing. I’m over this plum rain now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Metro held up

Normally the metro is the fastest way to get somewhere in Shanghai...

I almost forgot to tell u what happened the other day in the Shanghai metro. I was travelling with a very small suitcase because I was going to the train station. As usual, I was a bit tight with time, so therefore I wasn't happy when a police man/ some sort of guard tried to stop me at Changshu Lu metro station.

First they stopped another man with a suitcase. Then I heard them yell for me.

小姐小姐, 来来! (miss, miss, come over here!)

I pretended I was a clueless tourist but I suppose the fact that I started to run towards the gate that reads your metro card (or whatever those now might be called?) sort of gave me away... Just when I put my card on the magnetic field a guard caught up with me, put a firm hand on my shoulder and asked me to come with him. I reluctantly followed him, angrily mumbling 来不及,来不及,我去火车站! (meaning: I don't have time! I am going to the train station).

But the guard didn't care one bit. He told me to open my bag and then he poked through it. I suppose it wouldn't have been so bad unless it was for the fact that a minor crowd gathered around me, DEEPLY interested in what the 'lao wai' had in her bag... (My gosh. When is the novelty going to wear off?!)

After some poking he told me I could go. And angrily I went. And almost missed my train. But only almost.

Anyways, I suppose what I am trying to say is that if you are travelling by the Shanghai metro to the airport/train station with a suitcase and you're short of time... think again. You might get held up, AND have to show half of Shanghai what is in your bag. So bring a dose of time AND patience.

Lucky days

Yesterday during our grammar lesson at the university we could barely hear out teacher, due to people setting off fireworks around the city. In most Chinese cities, it's prohibited to set off fireworks, except for during festivals like CNY or the National Day. Suzhou is an exception. A very unfortunate exception. Here fireworks are allowed any time of the year and you can just imagine what it is like because Chinese people looooove fireworks... (And I don't. Listening to them more or less five times a week can get tiring).

Yesterday, however, was intense. There were even more fireworks than usual and we were scratching our heads trying to figure out if it was a special day or something, until out teacher told us:

“It’s the 16th of the 6th month… Chinese people believe that the number six is very lucky, so today many people are setting off fireworks, and ever more people are getting married!”

Getting married? On a Monday?!?!

Yup. Apparently so. Don’t question lucky days.

This makes me wonder how many people that got married on the 6th of June… (which also happens to be Sweden’s National Day… aren’t we a lucky bunch?!) not to mention what it’s going to be like on the 8th of August… Except for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, I believe wedding bells will be ringing like no other day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another PJ man

The PJ trend interests me. On Saturday I bumped into this man. He was strolling on Dongchang Lu (in Pudong) with his wife, both dressed in their fanciest bed-wear: he wore this silk creation and she (who unfortunately is covered on the photo) was in a more soft, feminine, white flannel PJ with pink hearts, which slightly revealed the edge of her underwear (not that I was looking, but… it was kind of hard not to notice!).

I was rushing to the metro. They were going shopping. (For a short while I felt like we are living in different worlds over here)

I’ve heard from some Chinese people that the PJ on the street thing is a way for Shanghai seniors (although this couple wasn’t that old!?) to show others that they are so well off that they don’t have to work anymore, and that they can walk around in their PJs all day. People have also told me that the PJs people wear on the streets are nothing they wear to bed. So basically it’s not really a PJ. It’s more like their equivalence to our western casual comfy-pants and hooded jumpers…

In the beginning of this year I interviewed Lu Kun, Shanghai’s (and maybe China’s?) most famous fashion designer (check earlier blog posts if u don’t believe me. I snapped a rather embarrassing image of the 2 of us…) and he spoke of the Shanghainese ‘PJ-street wear’ as a trend, set by the Chinese, that the rest of the world is now following with corsets and silk, night gown like dresses being a popular choice for the fashionable. Correct me if I am wrong, however, but the things u see on the streets are far from that kind of under/bed wear.

Lu Kun, however, also pointed out that the PJs are not worn to bed but simply on the street, and that PJs are perfect for Sunday leisure and summer heat. So does he, Mr Lu Kun himself, then wear a PJ outside on Sundays? Well, he actually wouldn’t answer me. But maybe I should take the smirk he gave me as a ‘yes’ or at least a ‘maybe.’

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Summer trends in the city

After spending a lot of time riding the Shanghai metro yesterday, I spotted an obvious (and creepy) summer trend amongst the citizens: Crocs! On people’s feet! Everywhere!

Not only are these shoes ugly when it comes to shape, colour and size, but they are also very hard to match. Just look at these brave ladies who stepped out, without (obviously?) thinking about WHAT they would be stepping out in? Not a pretty sight.

The phenomenon was Shanghai-wide. In Puding, Puxi, yeah, even at the railway station I saw people walking around in these unflattering shoes. Men and women, both guilty. No one managed to pull it off. (Is that even possible?!)

I apologize if I am insulting any Crocs lover out there, I have personally never tried this kind of shoe, but just from looking at it, I know I never will either.

Ps. mind the bad photo quality. My mobie camera isn't what it's supposed to be.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Plum rain

Every year around mid June the plum rain comes to Shanghai. It means 1-2 weeks of raining, not necessarily heavy, but more or less non-stop. Right now it’s quite depressing out there, but overall I don’t mind it, because the rain keeps the temperature down to a very pleasant 20-24 degrees, which is considered ‘cool’ during a Shanghainese summer (last night I even wore a long-sleeve jumper.. ahhh! Bliss!)

Anyway. Last year I obviously didn’t know about the plum rain, and neither did my British editor at the local magazine where I worked. So, after having sweated heavily during the first week of May (it was hotter last year than this) we decided that it would be perfect to do a two issue summer special, where we would list all the pools, outdoor terraces, picnic spots, and beach wear fashion in order to prepare our readers for summer.

We were a mixed editorial team: some local Shanghainese and some westerners and everyone helped with the planning, the research, the writing, the shooting and the painful proofreading. However, after two weeks of hard work the first issue was done, and it looked great!

Around the same time as our first summer issue –with a special guide to where in Shanghai you can go al fresco– hit the newsstands, it started raining. When the second issue came out, with 8 pages of bikinis/beach shorts, pool pix and air conditioner reviews, it was raining even more.

Out editor was devastated. And even more so when he one day complained out loud in our meeting room.

-This timing just sucks!! Here we are, out with a two week summer issue and it’s been raining non stop!
Then, a Shanghainese girl said:
-Well, that’s the plum rain! It comes every year at this time.
My editor repeated. Every year at this time? It always rains?
She replied cheerfully. But don’t worry. It’ll stop in about one week.

We all starred at her. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that 3 weeks earlier, she had been planning these two summer issues with us, without even mentioning the word ‘rain.’

One week later (as predicted by our girl), the raining stopped and the summer heat came. Our summer editions were replaced with out new, not-as-sunny editions, and the rest of the English magazine community in Shanghai released their own summer specials…

Friday, June 13, 2008

Train tickets dilemma

An advice to anyone in China who is planning to travel somewhere with train... Buy your tickets in advance!!!

As I've mentioned I've spend the last weeks working in Shanghai. First I was staying with a friend but then she got visitors and the place got so crowded so I decided I would commute from Suzhou every day. Overall it's been OK, until yesterday when I got myself a fresh reminder of how you really, always, have to buy your train tickets in advance in China... otherwise they will sell out! And that is just what happened yesterday. I was at work in Shanghai, I had a return ticket to Suzhou for the night, but no SZ-SH ticket for the next morning. So I called an agent just to be told... 'no more. All sold out. Only available morning ticket is for a train at 6.30 (!) or 10.40'.... ehum.. well that didn't really work did it? Since I am supposed to be at work at 9.30, and let's face it... 6.30? No way!

So, basically I 'had to' stay in Shanghai for the night. Everything was solvable of course, it's just so damn annoying with those tickets, because u know what... every single night, there are plenty of people standing outside the train station in Shanghai selling tickets. Meaning: there is a huge black market for tix... Meaning: the ticket selling offices must, somehow, let people buy a mass of tickets that they then can sell for themselves.. Ahhhh, this is not the first time this has happened to me (more like, the 20th) but it's as annoying every time.

Because at the same time as you want to plan ahead, hear this: you can only buy your tickets 7-9 days in advance. Great, huh?? NOT! This time restriction can make it hard to plan longer trips, like to go from Shanghai to Beijing.

Anyways, I better get going now, only today and tomo (yeah, working on a Sat, sux huh?? Well, it often happens over here) left of me as an office lady and then I'll go back to the uni and catch up on all the grammar I missed when I was gone...Can't wait! Ehum.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Awaiting the 'easy' experience

My throat is killing me today (unusual huh?) so a bit of lack of inspiration. I'm starting to wonder if it's somehow easier to get sick in China? I tend to get sick so often.. stomach this, throat that, and a cold every here and there. It's happening a little bit too often to be honest, and I still believe I live kind of healthy (or OK, I have been much healthier than this ...)

I better get well soon, coz my final exams are coming up, and obviously I have to score well in order to move on to Mandarin level 4. Hm.. I wonder what level 4 will be like. In level 2 it was only me, 2 Japanese and Koreans (a Russian girl appeared and disappeared). In level 3, it's been me, many Japanese, even more Koreans and one Brazilian girl (oh, and one Indonesian!). Very clever people. In level 4 I assume it will be the same. The higher the level the less western people. Although in level 1 (and sometimes 2) there are loads of European/American exchange students. I suppose it is understandable why people don't continue on level 3, 4, 5 etc... The amount of reading/writing that u have to do in those classes is kind of insane. For my mid term exam I had to write an essay... Yeah, not the best piece I've written but still. I wrote it. (Although I should add that the only reason why I managed was because we were allowed to use our dictionaries. Otherwise I would have been screwed). I wonder what's coming up at this exam? Unprepared presentation on the development of China? Nah, just kidding. Or? Well, I certainly hope it won't!

I still find it hard to believe that before I moved here 2 people (on French and one Finnish girl) told me that Chinese was easy to learn. Easy!? Yeah easy they said, because there is basically no grammar.. hm... I don't really agree with that. And again, EASY?! When, exactly is this feeling of 'easy' going to appear in my learning curve? In level 6, when I can (hopefully!) speak fluently? Or, did they refer to level 1 where you spend a lot of time going 'ooooooooo', 'boooooooooah' 'poooooooach' to nail the pronunciation? Well, to be honest, I didn't even find that that easy... If anyone who has learned Mandarin and has experienced the easy ride, would u then please share your experiences? I need some inspiration.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't give apples to sick people

A big downside with living in Suzhou/Shanghai and studying Mandarin is that 98% of the times when I chat to locals, I understand nothing, or close to nothing of what they are saying. Therefore, any advices on how to master Suzhou or Shanghai 'hua' (which are not even the SAME?! Booooh! As if it wasn't complicated enough already?) are appreciated. Yesterday, one of my teachers who is from Wuxi, enlightened me with some manner's advice.

We were talking about being a house guest in China and about what gifts you are supposed to bring. She asked what we would bring if we went and visited someone who was sick and at the hospital, and I suggested fruits, or 水果 (shui guo). Sure, she said, this is fine, as long as you don't bring apples.

And why not apples?
Well, it's another one of those pronunciation rules... Just like the number 4 (四 si) is considered to be bad luck because it almost sounds like death (死 si), the world apple 苹果,(ping guo), said with a heavy Suzhou dialect, apparently sounds similar to 病故 (bing gu) which means 'die of illness'

So there you go. Better remember. When visiting a sick person in Suzhou, apples are off limits.

SHE in China at the Pakistani Spectator

A lively morning. I wake up at 5am as I have to catch the 7am train to Shanghai. First thing I am told by my bf (who's been up since 2.45 am just to watch a game) is that Sweden beat Greece in the European football (yes we also call it football in Sweden) championship. Sure, it is 'only' the European cup, but still. Sweden hasn't won anything prestigious for a while so got to be happy for em. Next up I am told an interview with me has been published at the Pakistani Spectator. So if any one's interested to find out what my fave book is, and why I am writing this blog, here it is:

Now, coffee.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Do western men and women live in parellel Shanghais?

When I chat to my western male friends in Shanghai about sex and relationships I get a feeling we live in parallel Shanghais.

10 out of 10 of my male friends in Shanghai are single. And they do not want to have a relationship. Fine, you think, nothing wrong with that. And sure, there isn’t anything wrong with that. But considering the amount of women some of these guys date, I feel like they are indeed, looking for something? Why else would u devote so much time to women? Is it really so much fun to wine, dine and sleep with them? And have these men got nothing better to do but to be out there chasing lambs all night long?

Well, as one of my male friends put it (and he is far from the worse one in the bunch): “Shanghais is a city of opportunities and possibilities for single men. Here you get chances to do things that you would never get a chance to do back home. The opportunities that walk by are opportunities that might never cross your life path again.” As examples, he mentioned going home with four girls one night, or a pair of identical twins another night. No, I have to point out that HE hadn’t done either of this; it was one of his friends who had.

When he told me all this I felt as if he was fishing for some sort of understanding from me. Almost as if he was expecting me to fling my head backwards, slam my hands on the table and with a sensual smirk say: “Of course I know what you mean! You should enjoy your swim in the water!”But how can I? We western women in Shanghai are often taller than a majority of the local men, and even if we weren’t, we are often not attracted to them. (and if we would be, I bet they wouldn’t fancy us –what man wants a woman who makes him feel small? Yeah, exactly). How can this guy expect me to understand a dating jungle that I am not even allowed into? (not saying I wanna be in there, but u know what I mean?)

It’s a ‘business men thing’ to go to ‘KTVs’ at night. A business MEN thing only. Apparently Chinese business men take their western business partners/visitors to ‘KTVs’ where they can choose a girl that they either have as their host lady for the night, or, decide to sleep with. If a western woman happens to be part of the visiting group of business people, the visit to the KTV bar obviously doesn’t happen. At least that’s what another one of my friends told me. She works for a German company, and every time they are about to have visitors from Germany coming to China for a trip to, let’s say, Shenzhen, the German visitors call her and beg her to come with them.

-Why do you need me there? She asked, the first time, feeling a bit flattered.
-Well if you are there we don’t have to be rude and decline prostitutes, her (married) German colleagues replied. If you are there they won’t even offer them. Or at least we hope so!

They didn’t.

Of course they didn’t. Western women of Shanghai aren’t part of this world. We don’t get offered sex when we walk from Jingan Temple to the French Concession. We don’t get offers here that we wouldn’t get at home (exceptions can be found I am sure) and most importantly, we don’t behave that much different here than we normally do. At least none of my single female friends is dating a new guy every night. God forbid her if she would. She’d be such a slut. And she’d probably run out of men quite soon. All of those that would be tall enough would be too busy chasing new ‘China experiences,’ or keeping themselves open and available in case a new ‘opportunity’ would walk by...

So is this only a 'woman's idea' of what a KTV bar is like?

Rant of the day

OMG.... no kidding. The mosquitoes in China are vicious. This is a warning and a strongly recommended advise to be taken to all of you who are planning to come to China during the summer and who might be a bit sensitive to mosquito bites.. Bring remedies! Bring repellent lotions. Bring creams to apply when you've been bitten. Because aooooooooch... this babies itches. And one little bite makes the whole area around the bite go all red/white and swell into a bump. And this swelling/itching doesn't go away within a few days. No, I am talking one week of sleepless nights of itching, not to mention ugly marks on your arms, legs and feet. It's only the beginning of summer and I already look like spotty.

Apparently I have the yummiest blood amongst my friends because it is always me being bitten, even though I apply copious amounts of insect repellents before leaving my flat.

My Chinese friends says this has to do with blood types. I don't have a clue what blood type I am (do u?) but obviously the great tasting kind. So people. Prepare. China's mosquitos are in action from dusk til dawn. Just wanted to warn you.

Ps. a less angry and more normal post is to come this arvo. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 9, 2008


For a while I was thinking that ‘sure, I can live in Suzhou and work in Shanghai. Simply take the train in the morning. It’s not that annoying and kinda fast. I can do it.’

However, in order to be at work in Shanghai at 9.30 I have to:

1. Get up at 5 am
2. Be out of the house around 6.30
3. Grab a taxi to the train station.
4. Jump on the 7.30 train to Shanghai (I always give myself one hour of taxi time coz u never know if you get a car or if there is a jam or something like that).
5. Take the over crowded metro in Shanghai. Change lines. Sweat. Swear. Push.
6. Walk.
7. Wait.
8. Work.

Yeah, there are not even any well-timed trains, so I end up being at work soon after 9am. Unless there is a jam in the metro or the train is delayed or something like that (things u always have to take into account over here).

Uh, I take it back. I could never do this every day. Two weeks is more than enough. Just the thought of that I have to do all this again tonight but the other way around makes me…. tired.

Behaviour out of the ordinary

Yesterday I did something completely out of character. I complained at a restaurant. In Chinese!

Yeah, I bet most of you are rolling your eyes and thinking ‘so what?!’ but guys, I am Swedish. Swedish people rather step on burning coal than complain about their food in restos.

To make matters even more weird: I was at the restaurant with my bf. My Finnish boyfriend. Now, if Swedes would rather step on burning coal than complain, Finnish people will go through fire in order not to raise their voice. They must be the world’s most quiet people. I don’t know how many times my bf has been munching on an almost raw piece of steak although he asked for it to be well done. Sending it back and asking for them to re-do it? Never. It’s not in his system. He gets upset when I suggest it. And he rarely gets upset.

So, what triggered me to raise my voice this time then?

Well, how about being served old tuna sashimi at a Japanese restaurant?

Now, it is already expensive and the slices are tiny. So when they came in looking ol’ brown and soggy, I simply had to put my foot down. I am quite impressed I managed both to complain and to stay polite (a little bit) using my Chinese language skills. The waiter totally understood me. Something must have happened to my pronunciation? Something wonderful…

And, my bf didn’t get upset. He actually thought I did the right thing complaining. Because they exchanged out sashimi to fresh one and apologized.

Obviously we knew we’d have to pay something for being the most annoying guests of the day. And when our platter of mixed rolls and sushi arrived we sensed the message. All the pieces had been rolled in wasabi. No, not just rolled. They had been dipped in wasabi. Smeared with wasabi. The bathed in wasabi! Because the green, spicy stuff that I normally love was everywhere. And it was too much. Even for wasabi-loving me. We choked and coughed and ordered copious amounts of miso soup to stay sane.

Oh well, at least we got our fresh sashimi?

Well, now when I think of it, I suppose our miso soup tasted a bit off too…? And like my bf said when we walked out, and passed the line of fake-smiling staffs that were yelling their farewells in a mix of Japanese and Chinese: “Well you know we cannot come back here for a while.”

Yeah, I know.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Being greeted

It happens everywhere.

When I am riding my bike to the uni. When I am riding my bike back from the uni. When I am locking my bike outside the gym. When I am standing on the pavement waiting for the lights to go green so that I can cross the road. When I am buying fruits from the local fruit man. When I am riding through the gates at uni. When I am buying train tickets. And when I am just, simply, standing somewhere outside.

A car, a bike, a scooter, or some pedestrians will pass me, and yell:


You can tackle this in two ways. You can either be the moody bitch and not reply, which I do sometimes. Especially when I am in a bad mood.

Or, you can, of course, reply. Gather your forces, take a deep breath and from the bottom of your lungs yell:



-NI HAO! back.

Exception: small children. For them I always put on a bit of a show: a smile, maybe a bit of laughter or giggling before I say 'Hello' back, meanwhile I wave with my hand. (Actually, something I've noticed is that in China, I use my hands much more when I talk to people. Whatever I tell with my mouth I also show with my hands... everything from how many mangoes I wanna buy, to if I want to go left or right, to what I have been eating, cooking, or how far I have been running... yeah, well, U get the point. I suppose I look quite idiotic sometimes when I speak).

Most of the time, the HELLO (which is often followed by a giggle) comes from a car that is passing by, but when it comes from outside a factory (eg. very common case when I walk back from uni as I walk buy several factories where the men are sitting outside having lunch) the 'conversation' can go on. If you reply to a facory HELLO the respons is most likely to be a loud laughter. Once I decided to laugh back. Big mistake. That resulted in them cheering.

Another time I was out horseback riding in Suzhou with a group of friends. We passed one of those temporary houses for workers that are working on a building project, and I sincerely believe it was the first time for some of those workers to either see horses or foreign women and Mongolian guys on horses. Because when we came, the 10 guys that were sitting outside started yelling, and a moment later, the rest of the workers poured out of the houses and lined up to great us.

HELLO HELLO!!!! someone yelled.
NIMEN HAO! I replied. Which resulted in roars of laughter. And an applaud.

Yeah, the latter was a bit weird. There we were on our horses (that, thank lord neither reacts to the sounds of cars honking or the sound of workers laughing) receiving standing ovations. I am not even necessarily good at horse back riding..

Point to be made? I am not sure. Saying Hello to a foreigner in China is obviously a big deal. The smaller the city, the bigger the deal. In Shanghai, this rarely happens meanwhile in Suzhou, this is an every day event. Once we had friends visiting and were walking around in an old part of Suzhou city, looking for a place to have lunch. People even came out from their restaurants and shops just to say hello. I've been thinking about if I should do the same thing now when I go to Scandinavia. Should I greet every Chinese looking person I meet on the street?

Or, should I simply settle for the fact that this happens in China only.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The washing experience

It was a kinda interesting hair wash I got yesterday. I was absolutley exhausted when I walked Ulumuqi lu after work, thinking about if I should just go home and settle for the low pressure hair wash (two vicious mosquito bites kept me up all last nite... the mosquito bites u get in china is something out of this world...) when I finally saw a small, empty hair dresser place with 3 funky looking kids inside. I walked in and asked for a wash. The three boys got a little bit nervious (like always when me -jedi jonna- walks into a room full of Chinese) and the kid who decided to take care of me even told the other 2 kids to keep it down...awww.. sweet. Seated in my chair in front of the mirror the funky looking kid began by pouring shampoo onto my dry hair. then he added water. the shampoo, water, shampoo... He worked up a foam, and then I sat like that for about 20 min while he continued foaming and rubbing my head (note, all the time in front of the mirror... not in the sink). We started talking too, although it is a bit weird to chat at the same time as u r getting your head rubbed. Anyways, I asked the funky kid why pretty much all hairdressers in China are men. Funky kid replied that in China it's always been like that and that people don't want a girl to cut their hair.

Soooo... after a long schampoo session (with funky kid's long nails scratching my head) it was time for wash and conditioner. And it was even weirder to lie in a sink and chat I have to say... Coz this guys took his time and he was really up for chatting.

Then, when he had finished, an older man came to do the blow dry. He started off by telling me my hair was very BAD because it obviously didn't want to be blown the way he wanted it to... (well, dude, that's my hair. Sorry). Then, after I had appologized for my hair about 10 times and after I had said that the hair ALWAYS behaves like that and that it was definitely not because of him and his skills, he got a little bit more friendly.

Anyways, about 1 hour after stepping into the place I was done. It was 30 kuai in total and now my hair is shiny and straight. Ladies (and gents) u have to try this when u r in China. Especially if u r on your way out but feel unhappy w your hair. Just step in, pay 20-30 kuai and walk out one hour later looking great.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday night's plan: hairwash, 10 kuai.

Since I am working in Shanghai this week I am staying at a friend's place. I had almost forgotten how bad water pressure can be in the city, if you live higher than the second floor you can only dream of having good water pressure in your shower. My friend lives on the fifth floor, and this morning I got myself a reminder of how annoying it is to wash your hair with such a bad water pressure. So.... I figured that since I cannot turn up to work with greasy hair every day, I have to turn to the local hairdressers and simply ask for a hair wash. I didn't think about it until my friend told me the other day that her dad had been visiting and ended up having the deluxe hair wash at local hairdresser. It normally costs around 10-20 kuai to go to a Chinese hairdresser and have them wash and blow dry your hair. My friend's dad went to a place that charged 40 for this, however, he obviously managed to nod a few times too many, because he ended up having his hair washed, getting a body massage, a manicure, a head massage, a hair treatment (with a warming mask... hehe) and a blow dry! And the cost of this royal wash: 340 kuai! Hahahhaha... I guess what I am trying to say: guys, don't send your parents (or anyone else who cannot speak Chinese and doesn't know how to haggle) to the local hairdressers alone. Although someone who is in China for the first time certainly should try it. It's kinda (!) cheap compared to back home, and the head massage (u know the one which is half of the reason why u go to the hairdresser) is included. Mmmm... can't wait to get my grease bomb of hair washed tonight.

N or L??

Yesterday I ate at my fave Hunan resto in Shanghai (located at Ulumuqi Lu), and as usual I ordered a seriously yummy eggplant that I've always thought was called 'la rou qie zi' This time, however, the waiter gave me a long look before she asked:
'you mean the NA rou que zi'
'No, la rou'
'Na rou'
'La rou'

Now I am confused. It has always been called La rou before. Does that mean that all the other waiters are Hunanese and that this one was Shanghainese and therefore pronounced it 'na'...?! (If I knew the hanzi of the dish things would have been easier but I don't. I rarely look at menus when I order, instead I ask the waiter to recommend me something, and the eggplant was one of the early recommendations that I've been eating since) Or,can L, just like N, sometimes be pronounced differently and still mean the same thing? Or have I always thought I've said 'la' when the waiters have actually thought I said 'na'....?? Yeeez, can my pronunciation possibly be THAT bad?!

But hey, btw... Hunan food ....ahhhh! Isn't it just some of the best food? I cannot get enough of the chilli!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Beautiful Yunnan

Beautiful Yunnan

I’ve got the travel bug! I really feel like going somewhere in Asia, although I know it’s not going to happen this time. I am off to Scandoland in about 6 weeks (and that’s going to be awesome too, although I still don’t know if you readers are going to enjoy my blog from Scandinavia?) But well, seeing that I am in such a buzz, at least I can do some planning for the autumn… I am thinking Hunan, maybe Yunnan, and Tibet! I’ve already been to Yunnan, and it is such a beautiful place. When I was there I was writing articles and recording broadcast stories (about the isolated mountain villages in urgent need of development) for a radio station in Sweden, so my trip was kind of controlled. I’d love to go again, and this time it would be great to have access to a shower… Last time I spend 5 days in the mountain villages (obviously necessities like showers or real toilets don't exist here) and then we went to Kunming for a day. I felt rathe dirty, walking around in beautiful and laid-back Kunming, wearing the same, muddy pants that I had worn when I got lost in the Xinhua forest, and when we had a car accident and almost drove off the edge of a hill… (Yeah, Yunnan surely offered some adventures).

The kids in the village loved my camera (but were a little bit scared of me... = blonde giant)

Here are some pictures from a beautiful, but poor province. Or well, actually, Kunming isn’t poor, and neither is the town Yuxi, a stopover on my way. But visiting the mountain villages in the Eshan County are like stepping into a whole different world. No more restaurants, fake bags or Wall Marts. Instead you meet people who have close to nothing but that are still laughing and smiling, and invite you to their house for dinner. Annual income in those villages (in 2006): 500 kuai. Quite a different aspect of China I must say.

Mountain villages

Woman doing handycraft

Cute kids

Kids in the pre school

Pre school kid

Earthquake videos at Current

Some new videos at Current regarding the earth quake in Sichuan.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I've created a Rocky

Remember the Hunanese guy from my gym that I told you about earlier? The guy who re-named me to ‘You-La’ since he cannot pronounce ‘N’ and say my ‘real’ name ‘you-Na’? Well, anyway, I thought that since he made me a ‘La,’ I thought I’d do something nice in return. So when I found out his name was Rock (!) I simply told him that I think he should add a ‘Y’ to the end of his name, because then he’d have the same name as a movie legend…

Rock (y) agreed, although first he wanted to see what movie legend I meant. So he went home and watched Rocky -the movie. Or at least he must have, because when I met him yesterday at the gym his whole face lit up.

‘I’m Rocky!’ he said.
‘You sure are!’ I agreed.

Yep. And now he totally thinks I fancy him.

Shanghai half marathon 2008 -here I come?

I am thinking about running the Shanghai half marathon again in November. Yeah I know, a bit heavy information on a Monday morning, but I couldn’t help but be inspired when I read about Stockholm marathon (that was yesterday) in today’s (Swedish, online) morning paper. Marathons are such fun, and besides, it’s always great to have a goal to work out for. I ran the Shanghai half marathon in 2006. It was part of my ‘great comeback’ after having broken my foot (by slipping on an ice spot, yeah I know, I am not the most gracious kind…) one year earlier. The healing of a broken ankle was much more painful than I imagined it to be, with stiffness and a pencil thin calf that refused to bulk up (it still does. Almost 3 years later my left calf is still much skinnier than the right. If you look up close I look a bit odd). But now it is almost back to normal.. I just have the odd pain in the angle every now and then, oh, and my knees are a bit sensitive too, and I’ve had some problems with one hip… but EXCEPT for that I am pretty much ready to go! Yesterday I went for a one hour run.. it wasn’t hard and I wasn’t completely exhausted afterwards. Just a little bit. So I am thinking that I really should be able to work up a good shape by the end of November 2008… But who knows. The only problem about running in China is.. well, running in China. The air, the ground, the people… (the air is too polluted, the ground is so damn hard –concrete for 2 hours is not like candy to my knees- and all the people looking at you as if you were an alien –even more so than usual?!- can sometimes get to you). Oh, and seeing that it is now heating up, I suppose starting to train for a half marathon is a quite silly idea. But maybe I can work something out. I just got so inspired when I saw pictures of all those healthy looking runners. I can’t believe I used to be one of them.

I want to be one of them again.

And come on. A half marathon is only around 21 km. Not even a full one. I should be able to do that? (I just have to hope that my angle/knees/hip feel the same way!)

The 2006 race...