Friday, October 30, 2009

Keeping track

"Spotted, on a bike, somewhere outside the city..."

Some weeks ago I met my Swedish friend C here in Suzhou. We often go to a certain restaurant together and the previous night she’d been there, although without me. C told me about a rather interesting conversation she’d had with one of the waitresses that both of us know.

-Hey! I saw your friend today! The waitresses said. She had lunch at a Sichuan restaurant.

-Oh really, so did you see me too then because I was there with her!
C said

-Eh… no. I only saw your friend, the waitress said, looking suspiciously at C.

-OK. Maybe I had my back against you?

-I’m pretty sure it wasn’t you who was with her.

-Eh… well I was. Anyways. Later that day we checked out the new H&M store in Suzhou! It’s quite good,
C said.

-That cannot be true… the waitress said, now looking even more suspiciously at C. After finishing eating I saw your friend ride her bike towards Sing’an Plaza, where I know she lives.

-Yeah well, she went home in between H&M to get some stuff…

-Well it looked to me as if she was going home…

-Eh… well she wasn’t.

C caught herself in the middle of the conversation thinking: “what on earth are we doing?! We are discussing what Jonna did earlier today, and since I was with her I don’t need to sit here and prove anything to this waitress who claims she knows everything.

-Maybe next time she is here we ask her what she did, the waitress said.

-Eh… yeah, sure. Whatever.

I was wide-eyed when C finished telling me this story. Geez, they sure keep track on you over here?

Turns out, however, I’m not the only one.

Some days later at the gym when I was leaving I saw Rocky (alias “the Hunan boy”).

-Hey Rocky how are you? I said and went up to him.

-I’m fine. You are wearing new clothes today!

-Eh yeah I am. I bought these new running pants at Decathlon, what do you think?

-Nice, but the top you are wearing isn’t yours is it?

-Yeah, it’s a bit big, I know, it’s my….

We said, at the same time.

I was rather surprised, thinking, how did he know? It’s not THAT big?

-Yeah, I’ve seen him wear it before so I know it is his, Rocky admitted.

There we go.

What we eat, where we live, where we were. It’s not only Big Brother who's watching.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Never ending communication issues

Never just trust what someone tells you

3 days ago (while still in Sweden) I get a sms from one of my teachers:

“Hi Jonna, we are so sorry but all lessons are cancelled from Wed to Fri. We have an event then.”

Bummer, I think, but still, reply with an “Okay.”

Then yesterday, when I’m sitting, jet-lagged and itchy on my couch feeling everything but flash I suddenly get a phone call from another teacher:

“Hi Jonna, you didn’t come to school today. Will you come tomorrow?”

“Eh… what? I was told all lessons were cancelled!”

“Who told you that?!”

“One of you teachers!”

“But you are back in China?”

“Yes. So what.. do I have class tomorrow?”

“Eh… well… no, how about I see you next week instead?”

“What about tomorrow though? And what about the event? Do you have an event now?”

“Well... ehh... next week have midterm exams”

“How about me, do I not get any midterm exam?”

“No… well seeing it is only you in your class we were thinking there was no need.”

(fine, I’m not going to force them to give me an exam, I’m over that!)

“So see you next week! Bye bye!”

“eh… bye?!”

I hang up, thinking to myself: “what on earth just happened?” So I text the teacher again saying “Why did you say my classes were cancelled?”

No reply. I decide to deal with it when I see them face to face instead.

Still, the lack of communication over here is sometimes quite appalling. I don't understand how things can always go so wrong? It is like, one person (in this case, one of my teachers) tells you something, but forgets to tell others (in this case, her workmates) about it. 

I guess from now on I should always question my sms:es. 

(Oh, and in this case it is not a language mix-up. All this communication happened in Chinese)

29 times two

It's 29 degrees today in Suzhou. 29. Degrees. On October 29. That's one 29 too many,

Maybe I am being over sensitive seeing to the heat that I just came from the country of minus degrees. But still. 29 degrees, sunshine and smoggy air only a few days away from November. That's quite, ehum, different. 

Well I can forget about going for a run around the lake. 

It wasn't that hot last year around this time, was it? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Up to proof

Nah I'm not faking it. We are actually talking

I’ve been travelling quite a lot lately and yesterday when I came to the immigration desk at the airport the guy behind the counter gave me and my passport a long glance. Suddenly he said (in English):

-So, can you speak Chinese?

-Yes I can,
I quickly replied (in Chinese).

-Where do you study?

-Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou.

-Huh? Never heard of that.

-No, it’s fairly new. I used to be at Suzhou University but I recently swapped to Xi Jiao.

-Oh okay.

He then went on to ask me some detailed questions about where I am living and so on. All in Chinese. He spoke quite fast with no smile on his face.

I answered all his questions without any problems and then, finally he said:

-Yeah, you really can speak Chinese. Good.

….and I was let through.

I wonder if this is a new check-up procedure for people entering China with a student visa? This is the second time I get language “tested” by immigration people. Should I now expect the police to knock on my door to see if I am really at uni during the days?

(However, what I wonder even more is what they do if they bump into a person entering China on a student visa and realize that s/he cannot speak Chinese?) 

Itchy and jet-lagged

Back in China with a hellish jet-lag. Didn’t get any sleep on the plane (for some reason I always get seated next to a group of people who wants to drink wine and engage in deep talks –that gets louder and louder- all night long. Fun! Not.) and then when I got home I still couldn’t sleep. When night time came… still no sleep. Well at least not until 5am. However, guess who woke up feeling everything but perky (but still unable to get back to sleep) at 7am. Yeah, it’s lovely isn’t it.

I know there’s no need to fret. Eventually it will go away. But being tired (and not able to sleep) plus having itchy rashes on my arms and legs (is it only me who gets this every time I visit Europe? It’s almost as if I am allergic to clean water/air because every time I leave China I get this!) is not making me the happiest person on earth at the moment. I have a funny story to tell but I will wait until I feel a bit less grumpy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Party like the Danes

A tip for everyone who wants to have a good time: party with Danes. Seriously, Danish people are crazy-funny-mad. Got to love them for being able to start their own little party no matter where they are.

At yesterday’s wedding (my oldest sis married her beloved Dane Michael) us guests were 50/50 Swedes/Danes (+ some people from Belgium), but it was the Danes that took command from the start. Singing, dancing, having their own little “games” and kinds of fun (such as trashing the groom’s socks? Haha! Apparently that’s a Danish tradition). I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun. It was just the perfect kind of party. Some seriously good speeches, amazing food, a good live band (we all went mad to their version of “I just can’t get enough” by Depeche Mode) and so many people dancing that we could barely fit on the dance floor. What an excellent night, and again, Danish people, WOW! There might not be many of them out there but they sure know how to party.

Oh, and by the way, I almost dressed every single family member in dresses I made for them in Suzhou! A wedding success!

Getting our hair and make-up fixed (I could get used to that!)

Wedding shoot in Kungsparken in Malmö

Autumn bride
United family (all wearing clothes made in China -haha!)
A pimped Porsche is a must

Me and my sis Lotta in our cupcake dresses
Groom's speech to the bride
All the men lining up to kiss the bride while the groom hit the bathroom (is this a universal tradition? Or is it just in Sweden we do this?)
Curly cupcakes
The first dance

Trashing the groom's socks (?) -yeah, like I said, Danes are funny!
Yum! I had it for breakfast the next day too
My little brother joining the band

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wedding time

The happy couple

Today’s the big day we’ve all been waiting for + the reason why I am currently in Sweden (no, I’m not here simply to go for runs even though it might sound like it). My oldest sister Nella is getting married! Me and my other sister are her bride’s maids and we’ve got a pretty big day ahead of us, starting off with getting our hair + make-up done at 9, followed by the traditional wedding shoot, then we’ll hit the church, then the venue and then there’ll be a big party… Better get going, and yes, I promise I’ll drink a lot of champagne all day long.

Biggest congratulations to my lovely sister Nella and her (in a few hours!) husband Michael!

(seeing that Michael is Danish half of the wedding party will be Danes... man, we're in for a big one. Danes sure know how to party).

Friday, October 23, 2009


(I tried publishing this post earlier today but blogger didn't work then for some reason).

The contrasts between my life in China and my temporary (I’m-here-on-a-visit) life in Sweden are quite distinct. If I get a day off in China I tend to go to Shanghai and hit the French concession for some coffee drinking before I go shopping, and then finish things off with good friends and wine at a place like Eno Teca. Sure, this isn’t how it goes every time, I sometimes get funny ideas and spend a whole day preparing for going for a long run around Jinji Lake (15-17 km), eventually get sick of procrastinating and head out to do it, and spend the “aftermath” feeling warm and fuzzy while eating all the junk food that I then feel I “rightfully deserve.” It also happens that I catch a train somewhere and spend a day getting lost and being confused, while taking a lot of photographs in the meantime. And, not to be forgotten are of course the countless hours I spend with various language partners at cafés, restaurants and shopping streets while we hit each other with bad Chinese/English, trying to keep the spirit up. At occasions I also indulge in getting foot massages (although to be completely honest, I mainly go to get a chance to chat to the massage guy in Chinese. The actual massage is just a bonus), watch DVDs (although this doesn’t happen too often, seeing that I don’t have the patience to watch TV), write, study, eat spicy food, hang with friends and my significant other, call friends from back home… and so on. Oh, and not to be forgotten is the time I spend on the gym (and the time I spend thinking about going to the gym).

Shanghai shopping

….Then I get to Sweden and I turn into some kind of forest bug. Every single spare minute I get I want to spend outside. I go for walks, I go for runs (sometimes I do both, like yesterday that I started off with a 6 km walk, followed by a 9 km run), and sometimes I simply go outside and sit somewhere, just because I can and because it feels better than sitting inside (although not lately, because it’s so bloody cold out there). I rarely feel like going shopping over here, unless it’s for food. When it comes to catching up with friends, I’m also a bit of a bore… I want us all to hang at someone’s house, share bottles of wine/cups of coffee and engage in long talks about this and that. Sure, it often ends up with us going out, but the nightlife in Malmö is so bad compared to Shanghai, that I normally don’t enjoy it too much. I know, I know, it’s all about company and stuff, but a good club sure helps when it comes to having a good time, don’t you all agree? Sure, I could go to Copenhagen (a mere 30 minutes train ride away), which is a paradise when it comes to nightlife, entertainment and shopping. But seeing how weak the Swedish currency is compared to the Danish, it’s currently not an option (many Danes are nowadays living in cheap Sweden and working in Denmark where their salary gets doubled when they exchange the money to Swedish kronor). If I decide to go home for Christmas, however, I know I’ll head over as a Christmas decorated Copenhagen (especially the entertainment park “Tivoli”) is something out of the ordinary.
Swedish country side

Today I’ll continue my life as a nature geek by heading out to the country and visit my aunt and uncle who live in one of those cute little country towns in Sweden where you could line up all the citizens and count them using your fingers and toes. It was between that or heading to the city for some shopping. Seeing that the wedding is tomorrow I chose the country stuff and I’m hoping to get back energized (except for the fresh country air there will also be some seriously yummy cakes to go with the coffee that we’ll spend most of the time drinking -what else do you do out there?) and ready for tomorrow’s Party Of The Year. If I have time (meaning: If we get back before it gets dark, not an easy thing in Sweden at this time of the year), I’ll do a long run (thinking 13-14 km) run tonight. Have a good Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Australia nostalgia

It’s always a bit nostalgic to be home. My old “girl’s room” (that mom and dad have been kind enough to not touch) is a library of photo albums (I grew up before the digital camera), written short stories and diaries. Basically I’ve always been like I am not: a junkie when it comes to writing and photographing. Can’t get enough of it.

It’s great fun to look back at the time that has passed. I think one of the absolute best time periods in my life was the 3 years I spent in Western Australia when I did my BA degree. Gosh, I miss that place. It really must be the sunshine and the climate that makes people so friendly over there, because I haven’t experienced the same general niceness and friendly atmosphere anywhere else in the world (having said that, though, I obviously haven’t been everywhere. Although I think I’ve travelled quite a lot).

It’s real typical that Australia is one of those countries where it’s hard to get a visa and a sponsorship, unless you’re a professional in a “needed” industry (which I’m not). I’d give up my European passport any day if I could get a green card to Australia. Ahhhrgg, why do we always want what we can’t have? Anyways, at least I still have my memories. Better than nothing I guess.

(Actually, much better!)

Driving down to Margret River -gorgeous place for all wine lovers!

This collector's wall has been featured in Vogue if I don't remember things incorrectly. I used to live a few streets away from her in east Fremantle.
Back in the days when I always had a tan (but a bad hair 'do!)
Family came to visit in 2003, and my little brother (not that little anymore) reminded me who's in charge
Margret River

(Note to self: must get a job soon, save up, and go back for a visit. Haven't been there since I left in 2005.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn morning walk

South Sweden's "Torup" at its best

Where running 10 km becomes a pleasure

This forest is actually located next to a castle called "Torup." Quite beautiful in general with wild deers running freely around the castle area.