Monday, August 30, 2010

Snowy Scandinavia VS sweltering Shanghai

This morning I was greeted by a somewhat surprising news story: it’s been snowing in the northern parts of Norway (in Jotumheimen to be more precise)! Now, sure, fall and winter tend to come early to northern Europe, but snow in August? That must be some kind of record?! (and it wasn’t as if it just snowed a little bit either: it snowed a lot!)

Snow, fall, warm clothes and cosiness still feel far away from life in Shanghai. Last week was much cooler than the 39 degrees I experienced when I first came back here, but it’s still well over 30 degrees, humid, and hot, and my feet and hands are still too swollen for it to be comfortable in high heels/rings. Last year it was 28 degrees in the beginning of November, so let’s see how long it will last this time. I am guessing mid-November, what do you guys think?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hello, dreamland

Finally, finally, finally... After 5,5 years of longing and missing, I'm going back. Back to visit the best place on earth. Back to swim at the most beautiful beaches and to hang out with the friendliest people. Back to a place where the buss drivers greet you with a "hello love!" (if you're a gall) or "g'day mate" (if you're a guy). Yesssss... you probably guessed it by now. I'm going to Australia!!! A two-week holiday is coming up soon after Xmas, and I seriously cannot wait!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lies, lies, lies

"Oh, the air in China is not polluted!" "Really?!" "No...! the air is fine!" "But look outside the window?!" "Oh, that's not pollution... that's... fresh air! It's good for you!"

Ah… I was so close to becoming a devoted yogi-in-the-making until yesterday’s little dispute took place. A friend of mine wanted to try yoga after listening to me talking about it (see, when I like something I go all in. I know it’s not that good but I cannot help it, I get too excited), so I told her to book a free trial lesson at the same time as I was going.

The class was a flow class, quite physical if you compare to some of the other classes I’ve taken, and with a teacher that only spoke Chinese. “In for a challenge” I thought, thinking it was going to be fun.

We arrived at the club, all good. The sales girl that had promised my friend a free lesson said we could go into the class, assuring my friend (who was a bit nervous) that it was going to be easy and enjoyable. Five minutes prior to the class was about to begin, though, the sales girl came running, pulled my friend out of the class and told her that the class was very advanced and too hard for my friend. I heard stuff like “advanced” and decided to join the discussion outside the door.

-Is this really an advanced class? I said. It didn’t say so on your schedule?

-Well I think it is way too hard for your friend!! She should try the yoga basic class in this room instead, said the sales girl, pointing at a room next to ours.

-Is there a yoga basic class tonight? That was not on your schedule! I said, surprised.

-Oh, it’s a special class for specially invited members! Said the girl.

-But… then how can we join it?

-Oh you can! I can fix it for you! I think it would be better for you! The teacher speaks English and it’s really good!

-Eh OK…

My friend and I exchanged looks and nods. Maybe we should simply take that class instead. Yoga basics is a class I’ve been meaning to try for a while.

-Great! The sales girl says and ushers us to the other room. As she did, she waved for some other people sneak into the flow class that we just left. The flow class that had been full up until the moment that we stepped out. This made me kind of suspicious.

And my suspicion was proved right when our “yoga basic class”… turned out not to be any yoga basics but a “yoga beginners’ class.” A class where you can ask a lot of questions, practice breathing, and so on. I was quite upset when I realized the girl had lied to us. Obviously the other class had been overbooked, and the 2 of us, one being on a trial and the other one “maybe not being able to understand Chinese” (they didn’t even ask us, but one can assume) were the perfect two people to pick out, and push into another class in order to solve the problem.

Similar things have happened to me so many times. Someone makes a mistake, and in order to cover up for it they pull a white little lie and hope for the best. However, this time I was not going to settle for simply going home in a bad mood.

After class (which left us non-sweaty and disappointed) I found the sales girl and asked her straight to her face why she had lied to us:

-But… I thought this class was better for you! The teacher spoke English!

-I understand Chinese very well. You did not even ask us if we speak Chinese. And why did you lie and say it was yoga basics when it was not?

-Eh… I thought this was your first time? Good class for you to try!

-It is not our first time! And isn’t it so that the flow class was full, and therefore you wanted to move us to the other class?

-Eh, yes, the flow class was full…

-But like… that’s not our problem. We booked this 2 days ago. You cannot first say yes and then say no!

….And on it went. On and on and on. But I wasn’t going to settle for nothing. I kept telling the girl how disappointed I was of her lying to us, that in the end she must have realized that she wasn’t gonna get away:

-Eh… so like. What can I do so that you are not so disappointed?

-Well, give us an extra class of course. I don’t want to pay for a class that I would never take unless someone lied to me and told me it was something else?!

-Extra class, for free…?!


-Eh… OK…

So here we go, lesson learned once again. Never trust hasty, last minute decisions. Still, I have to obviously blame myself too, for being so stupid and falling into the trap of listening to the sales girl. In the future, they are going to have to lift me with violence if they ever try to move me from one class to another.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bao bao boom

I’ currently living in a baby-booming environment. All around me, people are popping out babies. Friends from home have been doing it for the last 2 years or so, and recently one of my best friends in China also had a little 宝宝 bao bao (which I saw on Monday –only 5 days old and sooooo tiny! Real cute stuff!). We only met for about 10 minutes, but during this short interval of time she managed to tell me that her delivery was fast (“only 13 hours!!” Me: “ONLY?!”) and that the hospital in Shanghai reminded her more of a 5-star hotel than a hospital (“they had all of those kind of hotel perks, like mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and so on. There was an extra bed made up for my fiancé. And some hours after giving birth they served us both a romantic, 3-course dinner with champagne and everything!! Me: “Eh…. I don’t care so much for the mini-bottles of shampoo, but champagne?! O la la!”).

There’s been a recent baby boom in my family too. One of my older sisters had a baby some 1,5 years ago (a gorgeous, blonde, blue-eyed, curly-haired Sam. I can already now see him becoming a heartbreaker when he grows up), and right now she’s preggers again. This time she’s joined by my second older sister, so they are both sitting there, rubbing their bellies and talking about nappies and breathing and all other kind of baby stuff that I am yet to understand (I mean, one of my sisters have even started baking?! And up until recently she didn’t know that you can cook salmon in the oven?!). This summer when I was home, there were babies everywhere: little Sam, running around the house throwing stuff around and being so cute that you can’t get mad at him, friends-that-recently-became-moms, pushing their prams with pride and looking like their hearts were about to burst every time you told them how cute their babies were, and then of course grandparents (also goes under the name “my mom and dad” who have now shifted a lot of their attention from their grown-up-kids -yes, that includes me, and yes, I hate to admit it but I am slightly jealous of cute little Sam et al) to babysitting their grand-children.

Here in China, one of my friends have been following the expansion of my sibling’s families with great interest, constantly asking me when it’s “my turn” (although since I’m neither married nor engaged, she’s also pushing a lot on that one). Then one day she asked me:

-When you get pregnant, are you going to stop working then?

-Eh… well, I’m probably not going to work the day when I’m about to give birth if that’s what you are asking me?

-No, I mean, are you going to work during your pregnancy?

-Sure. If I can, and if I don’t have some kind of strange complications that makes me bed-bound (nightmare!!!) for 9 months I am going to work like normal.

(The raised eyebrows said it all: someone was not agreeing with me!).

-I am going to continue running/doing yoga too, as long as I still can and as long as I still feel comfortable, I added.

-You ARE?!


-What about going to Sweden? Are you going to fly to Sweden?

-Well, if I’m at an early, but yet safe stage of my pregnancy I think flying is supposed to be OK.

-I don’t think it is….

Then my friend starting telling me the tale of her friend, who managed to win a trip to Europe in a competition, but who had to turn the price down, as she was trying to get pregnant, and therefore did not want to risk anything with a trip.

-Eh… why doesn’t she hold off for a little bit? I asked.

-Oh no… this is more important (understandable). Also, once she gets pregnant she’s going to stop working, and stay home and rest.

-She’s going to stay home and rest for 9 months?! Is that even possible in China?!
(Maternity leave over here isn’t for 9 months, that’s for sure).

-Well she will quit her job. Staying home resting when you are pregnant is the most important thing.

-Eh… it’s not a disease though. You’re supposed to live normally for as long as you can….

-Well she thinks differently…

I’ll stop here, as it was a dead-end conversation. Two non-pregnant, childless friends discussing pregnancy. We obviously know nothing. But one thing’s for sure: staying home for 9 months “resting” just because you’re preggers cannot be healthy.

Also, if staying home all that time, what on earth are you going to do when you get bored? You cannot work, cannot train, cannot… do much…. more than…. Eat!

And God forbid putting on too much weight during a pregnancy in China. My western friend who recently gave birth got gibes from her doctors and nurse because they thought she was too fat during her pregnancy (She: “but, I mean… I though you were supposed to put on weight when you are pregnant? I can’t really… diet can I?!”), and she only put on 13 kilos! She was tiny before her pregnancy, so it wasn’t as if she ballooned into a huge walrus when she got pregnant, but she still had to sit and listen to the doctors telling her boyfriend(!) to “watch his girlfriend’s diet.” Yikes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Fitness freaks in the making?

During Saturday’s spicy dinner, one of the guy’s at the table shared a story about an interesting survey presentation that he recently attended. It was a major international sporting equipment brand that had commissioned Deloitte to do the survey, which aimed to find out detailed information about Chinese people’s gym habits.

(For starters I just must point out that I think it was a shame that the company hired Deloitte for this. I could have done this for much less money, probably in much less time, simply by looking back at my years of gymming in China).

Anyway, the presentation had included the following main points:

• Chinese people definitely want to be healthier. A lot of them want to lose weight. However, they don’t like sweating, and are therefore not willing to sweat in order to lose weight.

• Neither are they willing to work hard for that extra junk to come off. Rather, when they are buying an expensive membership at the gym, they expect the gym to “solve the problem” for them.

Do I need to mention that the survey left the sporting equipment brand with bigger question marks that what they had when they went into all of this?

However, I don’t think this survey gave a completely fair picture of what the sport/fitness life is like over here. Thing is, that if you’re real serious, and turn to a serious place, you’ll meet a lot of Chinese that know more about sport/fitness than yourself.

I decided to do just that after my summer break. I was sick of my badly air-conditioned gym. Sick of running next to girls wrapped in plastic foil. Sick of blow-drying my hair next to women blow-drying their feet and bums. And sick of the general lack of motivation that this place left me with.

So, I joined a yoga club. And not just any yoga club –but the finest yoga club. An expensive place. Professionally run. With rules. Proper schedules. No mobile phones in class. No latecomers. With clean, nice smelling changing rooms. And hair-dryers that are strictly used for blowing your hair.

And let me tell you something –at this place it’s me who’s all amateur! My fellow yogis (a nickname I now call all the guys and galls that are better than me at yoga, and trust me, that’s about 99,9% of the club members) are complete pros. Not only can they stretch their bodies into positions that I didn't know existed (much less thought I would ever try for myself!), but they are so d*m quick and persistent. I’m having a hard time keeping up during my classes, and I’ve always seen myself as quite fit.

So, bottom line is: health and fitness still has a long way to go in China. But here’s definitely both a need and a demand. And if my fellow plastic-wrapped treadmill friends start training as hard as the yogis –this city’s going to be full of fitness freaks.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back on (blog) track

Hello, China! Hello, blog readers!

I couldn’t keep away for more than 2 months. First I told myself that “come on, you’ve said your “goodbye,” how on earth can you start blogging again?" But then I thought: “well, why not?” (And really, why not?) It’s not as if this blog is following some kind of special format… It was nice to have a blog-break during my summer holiday in Finland and Sweden, but now when I’m back in Shanghai again it feels kind of odd not to be able to share all the funny things that I see, hear and experience every day (which has always been the purpose of this blog). Also, my dear parents (especially mom) have expressed numerous times that it’s a shame not to know what I’m doing anymore (sure we talk, but not every day) and that’s kind of true. Finally, I have to say that I miss writing. I thought that not blogging would inspire me to write longer emails to my friends, but it’s simply not the same. So, here I am. Back again. I’ll try not to do the whole “bye bye this is the last post” for a year or so again.

Forgive me? OK, then here we go again!

I got back to China in the beginning of August, after good holiday in northern Europe, only to be greeted by a hiking temperature. It was “only” 33 when I got here, but soon it went up to 39 degrees, and this made life, well, not hard, but kind of miserable. You don’t really feel like going out for a walk when it constantly feels as if you’re walking behind a bus that’s releasing all of its heat and fumes straight in your face.

Sick of the heat and bored with staying in I decided I needed to get out there and do something, so I went to the gym (that’s what I normally do when I feel bored and useless) for a releasing run.

Or well, that’s what I was meant to do.

Only though, when I got to the gym I was greeted by a somewhat cooler, but still not that cool, gym (how they can still be stingy with the air-con when it’s 39 degrees outside is a mystery to me, but I seem to be the only one complaining about it, so maybe it’s just me who has some kind of inner heat in my body and who has a problem with it?). I had been doing some running during my holiday, so even though I felt as if I stepped onto a tropical island when I stepped onto the treadmill (the heating lamp that was located just above my head acted like the radiating sun) so I told myself that it shouldn’t be too hard.

What was I thinking?!

40 minutes later I laid, soaked in sweat, on the floor, trying my best to regain my breath and wishing for my head to regain normal temperature again and not feel like an about-to-explode-bomb.

Ah, it’s good to be back!” I told myself.

And really (even thought I might have been exaggerating and lying to myself at that very post-treadmill moment), it is. It’s insanely hot. Smelly. Messy. Crowded. Loud. (Did I say hot?). But I love being here. I passed my 4-years-in-China mark on August 15, and I must say that I’m stoked that I’m still here.

To another year in China (coffee mug clinks with water bottle)!

And to blogging again (solemnly raising a big spoon of muesli and yoghurt)!