Friday, February 26, 2010

When reading between the lines get tricky

Don't suffer in silence

Sometimes the “don’t want to lose my face”-culture in China simply makes me laugh. Like the other day. We were a big group of friends (mixed, Chinese and laowais) going for dinner. Some acquaintances were new, some old. We met up on the street and started talking about where to eat.

Being a spice-loving gall I suggested a Sichuan place, and received good feedback from everyone except for one western girl who said she didn’t like to eat chillies.

Eager to find a place that everybody enjoyed we continued talking until we came up with a new, spice-free option.

We went, ate, and everybody were happy.

The next day I was chatting to the western girl who didn’t like to eat chillies and we were talking about the restaurant where we had gone.

-Yeah, good we went there, the girl said. After all, one of the Chinese girls later confessed to me that she doesn’t like spicy food either.

In other words, had the western girl not said anything, the Chinese girl would have sat there at the Sichuan place, smiling, hating the food.

Or... hang on a minute...

-Hey, she told me she loved spicy food!! I said. I suddenly remembering a conversation we had had over dinner where she had asked me if I liked spicy food (me: "Yes, I love it!") and she had gone: "Yeah, me too!"

Now the million-dollar-question is: 

1. Did she say she likes spicy food to please me?

or

2. Did she say she hates spicy food to please my friend?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Making friends with kids

How to talk to them without coming across as a perv?

On my flight from Copenhagen to Beijing (I normally fly Finnair but this time I tried SAS) I was seated next to a Chinese kid who was travelling alone. As some of you might have guessed, this made me rather ecstatic. During my soon 4 years in China I have had very limited Chinese-kid-contact. Finally I had a whole flight to make a new, 12-year old friend.

Turns out that my little flight buddy George, however, wasn’t as keen as I was. He glared at me suspiciously when I first asked him if he was travelling alone in Chinese. I felt like a perv.

It took some 10-15 minutes before he came around:

-Why is it that you laowais nowadays know how to speak Chinese?

-I live in China,
I explained.

-But you are not Chinese? he said, suspiciously. 

-No I am Swedish. But I live in China.

He looked at me for a moment, before he finally said:

-Why?

Unlike most Chinese people I’ve chatted to throughout my time in China, George wasn’t interested in my answer. Instead of looking impressed and happy about the fact that we could communicate in his mother tongue, he looked doubtful and confused.

I decided to do things his way and kept quiet, and as expected, it didn’t take long before he started to ask questions:

-Do you know what the name of this airline is?
(Yes, Scandinavian Airlines)
-Do you know what kind of computer games they have?
(No, I don’t play computer games?)
-Why don’t you play computer games?
(I’m bad at it)
-Why do you have a bottle of water with you?
(I bought it)
-Do you know anyone else on this flight?
(No)


Once the questioning had started I didn’t have to hold back anymore. I asked him where he had been (Trollhättan –he said this in Chinese so it took me a while to figure it out! Not the biggest Swedish city there is!), why he was travelling alone (his parents were still in Sweden), if this was the first time he was flying alone (yes it was, but he had been on airplanes before, he’d visited Italy and France as well as Sweden. Didn’t like these countries as much as Sweden though –yeah, of course I had to ask!). I also asked him if he had to study hard in school (not too bad, he said) and what part of Shanghai he liked best (Gubei –but he wouldn’t say why). He thought the places I liked (Xuhui, Luwan) were boring.

Our conversation was interrupted by a minor drama to our right. A woman seated next to a Russian guy who had taken off his shoes and put his feet on the wall (he had the front seat in the middle of the plane) was upset by the smell and wanted to swap place. Little George watched the drama unfold with great interest.

-Laowais are extremely strange, he eventually concluded.

-Why?

-In the city where I was (Trollhättan), people would say hello to each other even if they don’t know each other!

I was tempted to say:

“Well in Suzhou strangers used to drive past me, stick their head outside the window and yell HEEEELLOOOOO!” –but I kept back.

His comment also brought back a memory of me taking a photo of a farmer in Shuangxi, a country village outside Changsha in Hunan. When I later showed the photo to Rocky, my Chinese friend whose hometown it was that I had visited he asked me: 
“So, Jonna, do you know this farmer?” and I said: “No! Of course not!”
“So why did you take his photo?!” Rocky simply could not understand why I would want to photograph a stranger.

(At this time, I thought about all the times I have posed with groups of Chinese strangers at the Bund or at the Great Wall, but held back).

I was keen to hear more about why laowais were considered so strange in George’s head, but about that time we had taken off and the computer game function was on, so I lost little George. He spent most of the rest of the flight eating candy, snacks (he was constantly offered by the air stewardess who fussed over him), and playing computer games. Some hours before landing he finally offered his candy bag to me, confirming that I wasn’t a perv after all. It felt good, although I am reluctant to admit that I still am to get my head around how to reach out to Chinese kids. Maybe I need to learn how to play computer games?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

China standard: travelling with a huge hand luggage


I’ve thought about this for quite a while: are there different rules regarding the size of hand luggage in China? After a countless number of flights where I have watched Chinese businessmen (always businessmen) step on the plane with bags the same size as my main, checked-in luggage, I cannot help but wonder.

The story is always the same. They get on the plane, dragging their giant back behind them (always dragging, never carrying –yet another sign that it is simply too big for being classified as a piece of hand luggage?), locate their seat, look at the overhead locker, realize that there is little or no space, and start yelling for the air stewardess. (Let me tell you one thing, if there is one working group in China that deserves an award for friendly patience, it is the group of Chinese air stewardess). Then they simply leave the bag with her and ease back at their seat. Try the same thing on a flight in Scandinavia, yeah, first of all the air stewardess would not put up with the screaming, second of all, she’d probably send you off the plane telling you you need to check in that large bag of yours.

Since we are on the subject of flying, however, I have to point out that the landing situation has become much better in China only during these (soon) 4 years that I’ve been here. When I first travelled on domestic flights in China I always watched people getting up and gathering their bags as soon as the plane hit the ground. Nowadays, most people actually stay seated until the seatbelt sign comes off. Great improvement. Again, however, when it comes to gathering your bag and getting off the plane: here comes the situation where the businessmen need to take their giant luggage from the overhead locker by themselves, as there is no tiny little air stewardess around to yell at. Funny that they always manage to hit someone (it’s been me, numerous times) with that huge bag, before eventually getting it down.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Until next time..

That's it for now Sweden, next time I return I want this:

Beach walks at Österlen
Summer "fika" in the garden
Country visits in villages so small you can count the population on one hand!
Kräftskiva -the annual crayfish party
Kubb
Summer cocktails
Sailing
Rainy MFF football games (as long as it doesn't snow!)

Summer puppies so cute you wanna take them home with you

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stockholm week coming to an end

Royal palace
The church where our crown princess will get married this summer I believe?
Parliament house

An intense week is coming to an end. Instead of lazying around in Shanghai avoiding being hit by firecrackers I’ve spent this week attending more meetings that I thought one could possible attend in Stockholm. It’s been useful and great, but now I’m ready to head back to Shanghai’s snow-free streets and comfortable temperatures. I’ve had it with minus 5-10 degrees, snow, wind and ice on the roads. Besides, I don’t have the right kind of clothes for this weather. This winter has been one of the longest and hardest ones in Swedish history (and I think that goes for many countries), and although it was fun for a while (especially around Christmas), I think most people over here are ready for spring!

Heading to Malmö tonight to spend the weekend with my folks before I fly back to Shanghai. Especially keen to return to a life of cheap lunches, rice bowls, spicy eggplants and chopsticks. (Gosh, it has become hard to be away from Chinese food). 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Flight happening of the year

If you are used to living a life of dramas, it will hunt you down no matter where you are. Take this work trip to Sweden for instance –NOTHING out of the ordinary normally happens over here. That is, until I decide to take a tiny little propeller plane (felt like that) from Malmö’s mini-airport Sturup (it looks like 5 Hong Kong airport gates put together) to Stockholm. Not only is the flight 2 hours delayed (NEVER happens at this place! Still people were livid when they found out), but when we eventually get to board, I realize I am on the same flight as a Chinese performance group who’s been in Copenhagen performing for the Chinese embassy because of the CNY.

The airline is so tiny that they don’t even have designated seats for all passengers, so basically you can sit wherever you like. As a result, the Chinese group (which was quite big) spread out completely (don’t ask me why), yelling to each other to come over with a bag/hairspray/bottle of water/god knows what. I end up sitting next to an old Beijing lady and I obviously can not help myself –I have to chat to her, causing her to have a minor fit when she realizes that the blonde giant next to her can actually speak Mandarin!

First I am bombarded by questions:

-Where did you learn Chinese?
-Why?
-Have you been to Beijing?
-Do you think Beijing is better than Shanghai?
-What’s the name of this airport?
-What’s the name of this airline?
-What are they saying now (every single time there was a message from the air stewardess/captain)?
-Why were we delayed?
-Do we get a meal on this flight?
-Why are all Swedish girls so tall?
-Are you married?


Then, she calms down, frowns at her free meal (sandwich and a chocolate -that we get simply as a compensation because of the delay –you normally don’t get meals on low-budget, 1 hour flights in Sweden) and fall asleep.

By then, however, I have managed to catch the attention of another Chinese group member: a huge shaolin monk who sit at the opposite line. I thought was busy trying to take pictures of the pretty air stewardess. He spends the rest of the flight staring at me, not saying anything.

Once we land the rumour had spread, and every single Chinese person on the flight (quite a bunch let me tell you) want to become my friend. I am in a hurry so I excuse myself and get off, hoping my bag will turn up quickly. As I stand at the baggage claim waiting, I suddenly hear someone say:

-Is that you, Jonna?!

I look up and see that it's in fact Erik –a guy that went to the same basketball collage as I did.. back in 1999! I haven’t seen him since I was 17! We just stare at each other until he finally says:

-So, eh… What have you been up to for the last 10 years?!

Around the same time as he asks me this, the Chinese group arrives at the baggage claim, and when they see me, they all yell: “oh, there’s Jonna!” run over, starts asking me questions, taking my photo, and so on. We all speak Chinese and I can see Erik’s face expression going from confused to very confused (one thing’s for sure, back at our basketball days I did not speak a lick of Chinese).

Once my bag turn up I say goodbye to the Chinese group (this is after some crucial name-card exchange –their tour guide is especially keen on keeping in touch with me. He speaks fluent Swedish and lives in Malmö! Funny) I see Erik watching me in awe.

-Want a lift to the city? I think you have some life updating to do!

So there we are, Erik, me and Erik’s little brother (who was on the same flight as me, that’s the reason Erik was at the airport) in the car, laughing and chatting. Until I remember that back at the basketball collage we were not actually good friends. I think, in fact, that Erik was one of those guys that I did not like!

I suppose when you add 10 years, an airport terminal, and a group of Chinese performances things change!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shanghai World Expo fever

video

Swedish pavilion tour! (not me talking in the background, but it was me who waved to the Chinese guy!)

Some more expo stuff while we are at it:

Finnish and Danish pavilion
Finnish pavilion
Danish pavilion
Swedish pavilion in the making
Chinese pavilion shot from a car window

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No place like home

video

Back home with the folks for a quick stopover before I begin next week’s workweek in Stockholm (I didn’t go home for a break, but to work, however, to recharge the batteries at my parent’s place during the weekend was an obvious choice). It pretty much looks the same here as it did when I went home for Christmas 2 months ago: There’s a massive amount of snow on the roads. It’s cold. The forest consists of a bunch of tempting, yet none run-able forest tracks. Still lovely to be home though!

Yesterday we went to the fairly new IKEA in Malmö. It’s the world’s second largest IKEA shop (44 000 square meters!) and as you might be able to imagine, it was huge! I kept wondering why they didn’t build it in Shanghai instead though, considering how little people there were, and considering what a people-packed place the IKEA in Shanghai is…

We then went on to Lund to help my little brother unpacking and building all the furniture he bought (yeah, the IKEA trip wasn’t for me even though I obviously couldn’t help myself and ended up buying some small things), as he has recently moved into a new student flat. Pretty nice deal for students in Lund (when they eventually find a flat, some people have to be in a housing line for 1 year), he only pays 9 months of rent, as the summer months are free of charge. Sometimes Sweden’s real good.

Huge IKEA

My favorite IKEA section! I know it's cheesy but I cannot get enough of IKEA candles. They smell so nice...

Funny thing was that as we were unloading the car a bunch of Chinese students walked by.

-I swear, it pretty much snows like this in Beijing too! One of them said, while the other ones objected. I was tempted to shout: 你们好!but managed to stop myself.

After putting together furniture for my brother for a few hours (mom and dad seriously thought is was a lot of fun? I was falling asleep) we went on to H&M and I, insanely relieved of the fact that in Sweden you don’t have to feel crammed everywhere you go, ended up getting some essentials (gosh, I feel like such Sweden nerd: IKEA and H&M in one day. I swear –I did not start appreciate these two shops until I moved away from Sweden when I was 19. Before then I used to dread shopping at either of these shops).

Typical student flat of a 20-something in Lund. 26 square meters.

Joel's setting up his TV (he promised to help me out the day I decide to move back to Sweden. I'm clueless of how to do some things that is completely normal to him).

Then we enjoyed a “fika.” Fika is one of the most common things to do in Sweden. It basically means hanging out at a café with a good friend/family member, enjoying a cup of coffee (which is the most compulsory part of a “fika”) as well as a small snack (optional –but I always go for it). At the café I bumped into an old school friend. Very old actually, we went to the same class grade 1-5! (I didn’t recognize her until she said my name, which is a bit alarming –she recognized me? Do I look the same as I did when I was 10? I was pencil thin back then. Hm… suppose it’s not a bad thing!). That was kind of weird, but fun. Guess who she’s dating? The same guy my oldest sister used to date when she was in highschool?! Hahaha! This place is too small!

After fika and H&M we went home, spent some hours relaxing, and eventually enjoyed some homemade salmon quiche. Yum! Spent the night watching the winter Olympics while scratching the cat behind her ear, thinking to myself: “Ah, there’s no such place as home!” And really, there isn’t. Regardless of how cold my feet are every time I walk outside. Love being back in beautiful Sweden!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tiger year is around the corner...

Celebrating the year of the rat 2008.

Chinese New Year is around the corner, and so is Valentine’s Day. I’m actually quite happy the two come in joint forces this year, so that the whole “Valentine’s frenzy” doesn’t need to get so hysterical. When I worked at a magazine in Shanghai back in 2006/2007 Valentine’s Day was H-U-G-E! The sales girls in our office competed on who could get the biggest bouquet of flowers, and once a couple of pretty impressive bouquets had appeared, the competition change direction and started being all about “who could receive the MOST bouquets?!” (A girl named Carrie won. She had a boyfriend at that time and received a total of four bouquets: two from her significant other, one from an over-friendly client and one from a secret admirer). As you all might have guessed I did not participate in the competition.

As for Chinese New Year, my years in China have actually offered quite a bit of diversity:

In year of the dog/year of the pig (2006/2007) we celebrated together with a Chinese family in Pudong, and I ate pig’s ear for the first time of my life. Although neither me nor my bf could master much more than “Ni hao, ni hao ma?” at that time, and our host family could say about the same stuff in English, so conversation was obviously limited, but we still had a grande time!

In the year of the pig/rat (2007/2008) we celebrated together with another Chinese family at a large restaurant in Xujiahui. Although this celebration was pleasant in so many different ways (I didn’t have to eat pig’s ears, we didn’t have to watch 4 hours of TV after dinner and my Chinese had become good enough to actually have a small, shallow conversation) I still missed the intimacy of being at someone’s home, making dumplings together and running in and out of the kitchen all the time.

In the year of the rat/ox (2008/2009) we decided to make our own version of the CNY together with a bunch of Finns. We did a winter version of a BBQ, drank copious amounts of wine and margaritas, and enjoyed the fireworks around midnight.

This year (we go from ox to tiger) I will spend the CNY in Sweden (leaving tomorrow morning). I took the opportunity to turn the CNY-holiday week into a work trip, since I’ve just started my new job and have a lot of things to learn/catch up on. I’ll be spending most of my time in Stockholm, and go and see my parents on the weekends. Not bad if you ask me. I have not been in Sweden at this time of the year since 2001! So it's about time.

Happy New (Chinese) Year everyone! 新年快乐, 恭喜恭喜发财!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Health check in China -nothing for people with blood phobias

Some weeks ago I went to the hospital to do the compulsorily health check that you need to do in order to obtain a working visa. By now I’ve made peace with the thought of doing a blood test in China, but you should have seen me 3,5 years ago –back then I was livid!

You see, I have this super fear of blood –I guess better described as a phobia. It doesn’t matter what anyone says (“It doesn’t hurt, and it’s not that bad!”) or do (“very gentle, and you don’t even need to see the needle!”) I still faint at the sight of blood/shots/too graphic body organ images. It’s been like that since I was 13 (in fact, that’s when we “discovered” it) and I fainted in a biology class. (As all of you might have guessed I never joined the class later that semester when they dissected frogs).

I’ve still managed quite well in life (although I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve fainted, not to mention all the times I’ve been close to fainting –one of the most obscure one being in an airplane seat when I watched a movie that was just a bit too graphic for my blood-scared mind), however, every time it’s time for a health check in China I get quite nervous. And why? Well, because over here there is definitely none of that “babying around” at the hospital. If I tell a nurse in Sweden/Finland/Australia that I have a blood phobia and need to lie down from the start, she’s normally very understanding, mainly because it’s not that uncommon in the west (in fact, most nurses soothe me with information like: “you know what, most grown-up men are even more scared than you are!”) In China –not so much.

Doing a health check in China, however, is extremely fast and efficient. You get to the hospital armed with your 4 photos, change to a hideous white robe (no bra allowed, just a warning –better keep that robe tight!), and run between different rooms, doing everything from a sight test to EKG tests. Since I’ve done the test twice before I knew the blood test was hiding in one of those rooms, and unfortunately enough, I ended up bumping into it in the beginning of my examination.

There I came, still feeling good, just to walk straight into the sight of a western woman seated to the right, in the middle of her test, and a nurse armed with good knows what to my left, urging me to sit down and get going. Not a sight for sore eyes. I felt sick at once.

I tried explaining my phobia but it did little good (besides, I don’t know the word “phobia” in Chinese). As I was rambling on about me being “scared” and “feeling light-headed” the nurse looked at me as if I was a giant baby (I suppose in some ways I am, haha!), until I gave up, decided to hide my face in my arm and started humming along to some melody-lacking song (singing is NOT my thing). It didn’t hurt and I didn’t see much (that’s not the thing I’m “scared of” –it’s the whole feeling that I find sickening) and afterwards the nurse smacked an arm (as a sign of being done I suppose?) and forced a smile, before she hesitatively handed me a tiny chocolate bar, saying something like “good girl!”

We both stared at the chocolate bar, resting in hand, and I couldn’t help it, but I started laughing, because I felt so ridiculous. And believe it or not, as soon as I started laughing, the nurse joined in (she probably had the same thoughts) and we laughed so hard that tears started running from our eyes (and two nurses from other rooms came over to see what was going on).

I kept the chocolate and went to the X-ray room (there’s no part like “sitting down and relaxing for a bit” in this test), feeling quite good, or at least that’s what I told myself. But, as soon as I came into the new room I started to feel faint and weak and it didn’t take long before I had to sit down, being on the verge of passing out. The X-ray guy didn’t buy my whole “it’s because of the blood test” but thought I had a sugar low and brought me water and biscuits! However, after 1 min of sitting down and being watched by stressed eyes (a line was forming outside my room –like I said: fainting is not taken into account in this efficient test!) I decided I was good to go and went to another room. And that’s about when I fainted. Fortunately a tiiiiiny Chinese nurse caught me in the fall, and next thing I know I was lying on a hospital bed, tubes attached to my skin and a smiling Chinese doctor’s face over me. Turns out, that even though I had fainted, the examination still went on! I could not help but laughing when I realized that (what else can you do?!).

At least I was lying down so no risk of fainting again. A scary EKG test followed the tube test (me: “why is this taking so long?” (thinking: “man, this is insanely uncomfortable and makes me feel like crawling out of my own skin, stop it now!”) doctor: “oh, just need to look if there are any problems!” Me: PROBLEMS?! Are there any problems?!” She: “No big problems!” Short moment of silence. Me: “How about SMALL problems?” She: “Hahahahhahaha, you are the smartest laowai I have come across for a long time!” (Me, thinking: “yeah, enough about the flattering, are there any PROBLEMS?!”) and then I was free to go home.

Entered to office, still white-faced, hoping I would not receive any compliments of my “beautiful white skin!” I didn’t. However, two of my Chinese workmates actually noticed that something was wrong:

-Jonna?! You don’t look yourself today? Did something happen? You are very pale and look uncomfortable.

Must say I’m impressed. That’s some seriously good face-reading skills for sure. No one else said anything.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Uni girl forever

I enjoyed uni too, but forever.... naaaah! Never!

Yesterday at dinner I was seated next to the most brilliant, promising person I’ve met in ages. She was a soon-to-be-university-graduate (one semester or one year left, something like that?), had a double BA degree, one master and had won numerous awards/was engaged in a lot of student activities. (I instantly felt like a failure next to her –I –who used to be so proud of the fact that I was the sport section editor at our university magazine (OK, I invented the sport section first of all) back in my Australia University days, now suddenly did not feel like swapping stories about university activeness. I mean, no one ever gave me any award?! Pffft!). Although she was super bright, she wasn’t bragging in any way. Simply just telling me everything she had done, including as many details as possible (a LOT of them. I know what she eats for lunch every Friday, for instance).

She was talking about life in Italy and Austria and I simply could not help myself:

-So, where will you take off once you graduate? Will it be France? Italy (she had a thing for Italy I could tell!) With your academic record I bet you can go anywhere and get a great job, no?

-Eh… yeah, maybe. But I will probably try to write some more papers and then eventually get a job at the university!

-Oh, you want to be a teacher? A professor? But I though you were studying…

-Yeah well, it doesn’t matter that I did not study to become a teacher or a professor. I probably won’t become one. I just want to work for the university, so that I can continue living a comfortable life.

-Comfortable life? With that record? (No, I did not say that, but I thought about saying it!)

-Yeah, you see. We have a long, 2-month winter holiday at uni. And then at least one month summer holiday. And when I am no longer a student I don’t have to take any exams! Life will be comfortable. A lot of holidays. You can’t get that from a normal job here in China.

-So… let me get this straight. You are turning down a possibility to go any place in China and get a cool job so that you can stay at the uni, have some half-hearted job… but end up with a longer holiday?

-Yeah… I guess you can put it that way. I like holidays!

-Wow. Wicked.

First brilliant Chinese uni-chick I have met with this mindset! Go comfortable life-lovers! Refreshing is an understatement.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The missing shop

Comfort brunch instead of a cup of (badly tasting) tea with my two favorite old Suzhou ayis...

I spent the wknd in Suzhou –first time I went back there since I moved to Shanghai about 1 month ago. Although Suzhou feels quite “sleepy” compared to Shanghai, I was still amazed by some of the changes that I noticed, which has taken place within that one month I’ve been away: huge construction projects have finished (Suzhou’s soon to have a Marriott Hotel in SIP), new restaurants and shops have opened, In City Mall (印象城) mall has actually become people-popular (it used to be so that me and my friend C were the only people browsing there –we kind of liked it. No lines anywhere), and, my favourite shop is gone?! Yes, GONE! Finito. No more.

It’s funny when shops close over here. They just disappear over night. My favourite Suzhou shop was located in a dusty corner in one of those sleepy malls that isn't really a success, but that still manages to pull a crowd every now and then. It doesn’t have any brand shops or anything fancy (I think the closest to a brand you can get it the Subway counter downstairs). Anyway, my favourite shops was simply my favourite shop because of the two old ayis that ran it. They were old, funny and 100% lovely! 

They sold all kinds of crap (stickers, candles, paper boxes, candle holders, Christmas cards, balloons, decorations –this is where I went on a spree before my boyfriend’s surprise party-, mugs, some strange toys, incense, herbs… and everything else that you can think that you might need, but never know where to find.) All in all: I loved this shop! Loved browsing it (it was completely disorganized: you would lift a box and underneath it you would find a pile of 80ies posters of River Phoenix and Johnny Depp! You would ask the ladies: “How much is this poster?” pointing at a young Depp and the ladies would say: “That one? He’s not even that handsome! Why don’t you take this one instead?!” (pointing at River posing with some car). “We’ll give you the other one for free! How’s 5 yuan?”), loved finding odd stuff from it (I have the most retro paper box in the world, I swear. OK, my friend C has the exact same one but I believe they are two rare originals), loved chatting to the honest two old ladies running it (me: “I’m going to end up buying everything in your shop!” them: “that’s why we like you so much. You should come more often! Would you like a cup of tea?”), and enjoyed just being there.

But now, it’s gone. Replaced by some stiff looking clothes shop. Ah, such a shame. And even if it simply moved I have no idea how to track it down.

My boyfriend wasn’t half as sad as I was when we discovered the “lost shop,” in fact, he seemed quite relieved (?). I was sad for a good hour or two, and used the “lost shop/missing nice ayis” as an excuse to bake scones and throw a home brunch Sunday feast (yes, I invited guests, so I wasn’t a complete pig) the next morning in order to soothe my sore soul. Got to enjoy some of the changes in China (like the Farmer’s bank -农业银行- nowadays having a numbered line system and a new, flashy counter. That happened during one summer when I was away), but sometimes things really happen to fast.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wing-woman for the exotic beauty

I have a Chinese female friend that’s really pretty. She’s Shanghainese, skinny, fashionable, and she always look great –because she’s aware of it! Hence why her beauty is very obvious as well as confident. She’s been single for ages though, something I’ve always found a bit strange, but then again, I have assumed that she enjoys dating. When I saw her some weeks ago in Hong Kong, however, she opened up and confessed that she would really like to meet a man:

-Well I’m sure you’ve got plenty of guys lining up! I said, meaning every word of it.

-Nah, actually not that many. I mean, I know I am popular but it is hard to find a good man!

-Yeah I bet! I am happy I don’t have to search myself,
I said.

-Well you would be popular here too if you were single.

-Hahahah, noooooo! I laughed. I’m way too tall for China!

-Well, yeah, that’s true. But I didn’t mean that you would be popular the way I am. But you have a good heart. I think men like that.

I didn’t really know how to reply to that (no girlfriend has ever said to me: “you might not be as beautiful as I am, but at least you have a good heart!”) so I just laughed.

We continued the discussion, finished our drinks and decided to leave. On our way out we walked through the bar and ended up on the street where I started waving for a taxi when my friend, who had been walking behind me, suddenly grabbed me:

-Hey, I just realized that you and I get a lot of attention! We are a good team! I am this exotic woman and you are this… laowai! For some reason it looks good… We should go out more often together!

-Eh… OK?

-Yeah! I saw many guys looking at us! It must be exciting for them to see a western and a Chinese girl together!

-Eh… right?

-So will you go out with me more often? I really need to meet someone!

-Ehh… sure?

-Great! I think we are going to be a good team!

-Ehhh… Okay!


So there we go: the exotic beauty and the good-hearted laowai. Now I’m officially a… what is it they call it? Wing-woman? No, sorry, almost forgot: a good-hearted wing-woman!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Expo access

Part of my new job is to work closely with the Swedish Expo Committee for the Shanghai World Expo that kicks of on May 1 this year (can’t believe it’s so soon, it’s less than 100 days now!). Shanghai city’s currently undergoing a facelift and there’s expo fever everywhere in town: New metro lines are being constructed, building facades are being fixed up, new roads are underway, and you name the rest. Yesterday I got a chance to visit the Expo area and get a guided tour of the Swedish Pavilion. It was quite interesting to see the spot and get an idea of what everything eventually will look like, even though there’s a long way to go still. The Swedish Pavilion is located in between the Norwegian and the Danish, in a so called “Nordic Cluster” (the Finnish Pavilion –which looks pretty cool- is also in this area).

The theme of the Swedish Pavilion is “The Spirit of Innovation” –so expect it to be innovative, sustainable and fun in an interactive way. It’s SWECO that has done the architecture in case someone is interested.





Tuesday, February 2, 2010

China King

My bf’s company just had their annual NY dinner and my bf ended up at the same table as the company’s Chinese HR manager (a guy). After a few beers, the HR manager started pouring admiration over my bf that became more tremendous the more beers the HR manager had. At the end of the dinner he told my bf:

-You know, M, sometimes we all think that you look like a king when you walk in!! You really look like the way we picture a western king!

(Guess who’s having fun with this?! I keep asking my bf where he’s put his cape!)

My bf tried to laugh it away, but it didn’t really work.

After dinner they went to a nightclub and the HR manager, now even more intoxicated than earlier on, continued throwing around king-compliments. He stuck to my bf’s side, convinced that he was right about the fact that everybody in the club also saw him as a king:

-I swear to you, M. If you just walk up to that dance floor it won’t take even 5 minutes before a girl joins you!

-No way!
My bf said, and went up to prove him wrong.

However, as soon as he came to the dance floor he noticed that one of the girls dancing there was a reception girl from the gym.

-Oh hello!!! She said and went up to him.

As I’m sure you can all imagine, the HR manager, who watched everything from his seat (not knowing that my bf and the girl already knew each other), was amazed.

-Wow! He later told my bf. I thought you would be popular, but not that popular. You really ARE a king.

And that’s my friends, is the story of how my very normal bf became a China King.

(Man, when we eventually move back to Europe, life for him is going to be dull!)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sale strategy that makes little sense

When looking for work-out-inspiration in China... one need to look elsewhere than the gyms.

When Saturday came I felt it was about time to make a change: enough with the slack days, brownies on Tuesdays and cocktails on Wednesdays –I needed to join a gym again. Although I am normally cliché enough to wait until Mondays with these things (“to start my new life” –pfffft!) this time I was original enough to head to the gym straight away.

-Hi, I said to the bored looking reception girl. Can I buy a 6 months membership please?

-Ehhhhh?


I repeated the same thing in Chinese.

-Ehhhhhh?

I waited.

-So you want to buy 1 year? She finally asked.

-No, 6 months.

-6 months is 1500 yuan, one year is 1800 yuan.

-Well then I buy 1 year.


I picked up my credit card and passport, and grabbed a pen, ready to fill in my details. But the girl didn’t move.

-Tomorrow! She suddenly said. Come back tomorrow!

-What? No, I want to buy it now.

-Not possible. Give me your phone number, we will call you and you can come back tomorrow!

-Can’t I just buy it now? One year -1800 yuan?

-If you bring 2 friends it is 1800 yuan/year. But we will call you tomorrow.


I reluctantly scribbled down my phone number and went home. No calories lost that day, no.


Sunday came, and I waited patiently for my phone call.


Around 5pm I received a text message:


“Hello, this is XXXX! Will you come and walk out today? If so, call me first. You can buy a membership. Pay cash.”


THIS is what I had to wait for 1 (+) day?!!!

I get the idea with a bored reception girl not wanting to sell me a membership, the sale’s guy was probably not there, and fair enough, he probably works on commission and needs to take care of all sales. But a b***y text message, asking me when I’m coming to “walk out.” Nah, got to do better than that to sell me a card!