Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fashion pointers by the ayi

Be careful with your fabric choices..

The weather is funny right now. It’s freezing in my flat unless I turn on the air con, which (when turned on) quickly makes it sauna hot (the pros of living in a tiny flat!). Then I get out in the hallway while waiting for the elevator: cold! Outside: quite cold during the mornings, although lately it’s been on the verge of hot. Hard to know if you should wear a scarf or not. Then: metro: A crowded, crammed sauna of people sneezing and coughing on each other. I hate it! Fortunately I don’t have to travel too far until I get to my office, which is… cold during the mornings (like, freezing) and then OK during the afternoon (the management is yet to activate the air conditioners, as for now we cannot use them because it’s not “cold enough” outside (I think it has to be below 16 degrees for 5 consecutive days for us to be able to use the air con –energy saving rules).

As a result of this, I’m having serious difficulties getting dressed each morning (as if picking an outfit itself wasn’t hard enough, now I also has to dress heat/cold friendly?!). To solve this matters, however, I have stacked up at work with a mini wardrobe a la Jonna. There I keep flat shoes (for bad day when you just wanna get home quickly), high heels (for spontaneous outings), suit jackets (you never know who you might meet) and some knitted cardigans that I believe are warm and look good. That was, until yesterday when I went to the bathroom wearing one of them.

In the bathroom I ran into our floor ayi: a middle-aged Chinese woman whose responsibilities includes cleaning the floor outside the elevators, and the bathrooms. It’s not a huge space, and she shares it with two other cleaners as well, so she spends a lot of time hanging out at the women’s bathroom, leaning against the sink, or (if tired I assume), locking herself into a toilet stall to sit and play games on her mobile phone. We usually exchange a word or two when we meet, and yesterday when she saw me, she said:

-How are you today? Going for lunch soon?

-Yes. What about you?

-I’ve already been.


(This is normally where our conversations end).

-Hey…your clothes. Do you make them yourself?

I stopped for a moment. My Chinese listening skills are quite good by now… although… I must have heard wrong this time…

-What? Sorry, what were you saying?

-The cardigan that you are wearing! Did you make it yourself?

-Eh… no.

-OK! Well then, bye bye!!!

-Eh… bye.

I went back into my office in silence, thoughts playing ping-pong in my head.

“I’ve never been able to knit… so maybe I should take it as a compliment? She thinks I’m one of those cool, DIY girls that knits in front of the telly every night?! I've always envied those girls!”

(Although is knitting considered cool in China, the consumer’s paradise? And should I even be wearing knitted stuff in my office building -where the dress code is kind of business formal? Have I let myself go because of this bloody weather?)

After 15 minutes of head war I finally decided that looking as if you’re wearing homemade clothes isn’t considered that cool (especially not where I work -and let's face it, I couldn't even knit the arm of anything), and that my warm and cosy cardigan must go. Immediately.

But who would have thought that it would be the ayi telling me?!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't ever take a flu shot

I must strongly advice anyone who’s thinking about taking a flu shot against doing it. Before I took mine, I hadn’t been sick for a year. Since I took it…. Well let’s put it this way, I took it maybe 1,5 month ago and now I’m battling my second cold. Sure, I’m aware of the fact that you can get a mini-flu as a result of a flu shot, but I think this has gone on long enough now. Right now I don’t actually have a flu, but a sore throat and a pounding head (apparently quite a few people have this nowadays –is this the 2010 version of the swine flu?). It’s so annoying! I want to exercise! My yoga membership hasn’t been used for weeks. My legs are longing for a run –gosh, being “sick” sucks! I’ve been good all wknd, resting, taking it easy, eating a lot of healthy stuff including loads of fruits. But no. Still not gone. Anyway, this was not meant to be a pity post, but more like an advice against anyone thinking about taking a flu shot. Save that money for something else.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where Western beats Chinese

The proper way to start the day

Yesterday I realized that I was contradicting myself with my Food Journey post where I stated that I nowadays prefer Asian food to western. This is only partly true, because when it comes to the most important meal of the day, my taste buds till have a 100% preference for western stuff. Yes, of course I’m talking about breakfast.

I’m big on breakfast, have been as long as I can remember. When we travel, sometimes I wanna stay at real nice hotels simply so that I can enjoy their breakfast the next morning. And my best date is definitely a big, romantic brekkie, rather than a three-course dinner.

In China it wasn’t that easy at first to find all the gods for a heavenly morning moment, but now I’m quite settled with a coffee machine, brewed coffee from IKEA, soymilk, natural (non-fat, non-sugar) yoghurt, oats and fruits. Ahhh… heaven. Beats a Chinese bowl of noodles or rice porridge (yuk!) every single day.

My dad has been entertained by my breakfast obsession for some years now, because the first thing I do when I come home for a holiday (normally quite late on a Friday night if I fly directly from Shanghai) is to run to the fridge and check out what there is that I can have for breakfast the next morning. I always end up standing there for my while, head in the fridge, ohhing and aaahhing over the fact that they have at least two different kinds of yoghurts (and sourmilk!) and three different kinds of cheeses. Not to mention that you can drink the tap water? They don't know how lucky they are.

On special occasions back in Suzhou we used to make scones...
...and pancakes. But not any longer (at least not the scones) because now we don't have any oven.
But oats, yoghurt, blueberries and dragonfruit aren't that bad either!
Chinese breakfast at a hotel in Yunnan. Neither me nor mom managed that bowl of noodles at 7am...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The countdown has officially begun!

My younger brother taking a dip while visiting me in WA (back in 2004)

In exactly one month I’m going to be something between hyped and ecstatic. On Dec 28 we go for a holiday to Australia! I don’t know if I have ever looked forward to something as much as I look forward to this trip? It’s almost scary, and I’m aware of the fact that I’m running a great risk of being disappointed once we get there (“hope for the best but expect the worse” –right?). But then again –when I think about what I’m looking forward to, I don’t see how I could get disappointed. I’m in love with the atmosphere of life in Australia –and is it possible that that has somehow changed? I don’t think so. Since I left Australia in the end of March 2005 I have missed it every single day.

It’s not something in particular, even though I would lie if I said I don’t have some “must-dos” on my to-do-in-WA-list, like pizza and beers at Little Creatures, sunset cinema in King’s Park, swimming on Leighton beach (yeah I know it’s considered a surf beach, maybe that’s why I like it so much!?), having coffee on Freo’s cappuccino strip, taking the ferry over to Rottnest Island, visiting some wineries of Margaret River, walking along Swan River in south Perth, Sunday session at Left Bank, BBQs, seeing friends from the past… and so on (OK, I guess I have some kind of vision of what out holiday is going to be like).

In my dream life, I get offered a job and move back to Aussie land. In real life, however, I have chosen a profession in a category that doesn’t qualify for a sponsored visa. Oh well. A holiday will have to do for now! The countdown has officially begun!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Food journey

No thanks!

When we first moved to China we stayed for one year straight before heading home for a holiday. It was a real roller-coaster year, that included everything from language barriers and culture differences, to getting used to life without an oven. I still remember how we desperately tried to be innovative in the kitchen in the beginning, until that day when we accidently bough stinky tofu from the supermarket, fried it in our kitchen, and had to live in a smelly shelter for one week. Food wise, life wasn’t that great.

We also had a hard time loving the Chinese food. We couldn’t speak any Chinese, hence why we never got what we wanted. Picture menus are only that great. The real nice food you don’t get through pointing, and more than once did we make the mistake of over-eating a dish that we enjoyed (dumplings, egg/tomato stir-fry, mapu tofu), and then not being able to order it again for some months (I sometimes still have a hard time with dumplings).

I had been an vegetarian for 8 years when I came here, but 1 month into living in China I gave up and started eating meat. The stomach didn’t hurt as much as I had read it would in the magazines. Meat tasted OK, but not that great. I still don't like steaks. Hamburgers, however: O la la! I actually had a Big Mac for the first time in my life here in Shanghai.

Then came the big day of “going home for a holiday,” and we were like children counting down to Christmas. We made long lists of food we wanted to eat in Scandinavia, and even longer list of the shopping we were going to make. At some point we even planned a “daily menu” for what we were going to put on the BBQ during our week in the summer cottage (but if someone back home would ask us about that today, we would probably deny it).

Food was amazing back home. None of us could get enough. We went crazy at the meat/fish counter in the grocery store. Everything looked so fresh. And we could communicate with the people behind the counter. For one month, we ate copious amounts of fish, cheese, avocados, Finnish bread and Fazer chocolate. Life was good. We probably gained some 5 kgs each but none of us cared. After all, we could go running and swimming every day too. Eating was no longer a must-do, but an enjoyment. And grocery shopping was more fun than shoe shopping (yes, dad, I swear!).

Back in China things were hard at first (no more fresh salmon!) but then slowly got better. We spent less time in the kitchen and more time at local restaurants. One year into living in Shanghai we managed to locate some places that we actually quite liked. And, we were getting used to eating spicy food. However, it wasn’t until my Chinese got better that eating in China turned from OK to good and then eventually from good to amazing.

Since then, we have both been in love with Chinese food.

Nowadays, we might be a bit too much in love. At least that’s what we realized when we yesterday decided to stay at home and cook, something that hasn’t happened for at least 3 months.

-So, what are we going to make?! We asked each other, realizing, that none of us had an answer.

-Pasta? Pizza? Chilli con carne? Salmon? Chicken? Mashed potato? Meatballs?

Hm… nothing felt appealing.

And then we realized, that we have gone from “making lists of what we are going to eat once we get back to Scandinavia/listing grocery shopping as one of the main activities during out summer holidays” to simply not being into Western food anymore (at least not the food we have to cook for ourselves, mom's or dad's food is a completely different story). Over here we rarely eat western food. It’s almost always Chinese or Japanese, and if we get sick of that we turn to Indian or Thai. I actually cannot remember the last time I had a sandwich. And then think, sandwiches used to be one of my main staples back home! (some of my old friends/siblings still call me "sandwich girl" because when I was young I would eat a loaf/day, shrugging my shoulders when someone questioned me, saying something like: "what? I was hungry so I had some sandwiches?!")

Funny how things sometimes change without you even noticing it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The nice artist and his mean wife

Be nice to the people that are nice to you...

Yesterday I went to visit a Chinese artist. A quite highly ranked artist, who still was so nice and down-to-earth that I just wanted to hug him from the moment we met. His whole face was smiling and I knew it was going to be a good day. That was, until I met his wife.

Now, since I got here I’ve heard a lot of tales of the “strong Shanghai woman” and the wimpy man who carries her bag, buys the groceries and does the housework. Now tales are tales, and since I’ve never seen it in reality I haven’t taken it too seriously. Until yesterday. Because here they were, a living example of an unhealthy twosome: a strong (although I’d rather refer to her as mean) wife and a nice but weak husband. The wife was so sour that there simply was no end to her bitchiness: she complained about everything! About how other people drove on the street, about the parking lot we got at the restaurant, about the waitress asking us if there would be more people joining our table (“Of course there will not, are you blind? Don’t you see that we are five people!?”), about the way other people looked, acted or spoke. Once the waitress put a large plate of fruit on our table she was furious, screaming that it was too soon for fruits, as we hadn’t finished out meal yet. I was doing fine in terms of avoiding her comments, until she suddenly fixated her eyes on me and started telling everyone what a “large nose the laowai girl has got!”

Until then, I had been sitting there listening on her offending everyone from the cat walking outside (“filthy animal! I hate animals! But they all love me, hahahaha!”) to her very own husband sitting next to her (“oh he’s OK although I wish he was taller and more handsome! If it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have any friends at all in this town, he doesn't have any social competence”) but then suddenly I thought: “No. I’ve done my deal of listening and I’ve been here for 4 years now. I’m not going to sit here and listen to yet another useless and shallow discussion about my nose –especially not when it’s being triggered by this horrible woman!”

-You know what?! I said. I don’t like when people comment on my nose, my weight, my height or my look. It’s considered rude where I am from. When I first came to China I had a hard time dealing with it. Now I have come to a point where I understand it, but I still don’t like it. So can you please stop talking about my nose?!

Silence. You could have cut the uncomfortable tension with a knife.

Until the husband saved the situation:

-Yes! Of course! It’s culture difference… it takes time getting used to…

Sure, culture this, whatever. It’s one thing to be curious and another thing to be rude. I’m happy I actually said something to this woman (I’m also happy that I don’t have to meet women like her every day) Also, I think there’s a fine line between talking about differences and simply being rude.

Gosh. What a woman!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Child-friendly China

Had a relaxed and lovely weekend (except for not being able to sleep, gaaaah!) in Suzhou with friends (C&C) from the past. They had a baby girl 3 months ago so my significant other and me got a feel for what it can be like to be parents in China. As C and I were out walking the baby (or OK, walking might be exaggerating, we were simply pushing her in her pram!) at a crossing, the cars almost hit each other as the drivers and passengers were so busy looking at us and didn’t keep their eyes on the traffic light/road/other cars.

-Holy s****! I said.

-Oh, almost 1 year away from Suzhou and you forget the perks of living here? Welcome back Jonna! My friend said.

We walked to the popular spot “The Rainbow Walk” where we sat down at Starbucks to have a coffee and a chat. Not as easy as it sounds, however, because people constantly came up to the pram, looking down at the baby and throwing out comments. Or well, not everyone. Some people, like an old man, simply walked up to her, stared for some 3 minutes, and then walked away.

-Holy S****! How do you deal with that?! I said

-I don’t when I’m in a bad mood. Sure it’s cute that they all want to see her but when they start touching her I freak. Also, it’s sometimes frustrating when you want to take a power walk and are constantly held up because of baby observers.

We were interrupted by a young couple:

-我的天阿!!! 老外宝宝, 老外宝宝!!!
(Oh my god, a foreign baby!)

-Holy S***! Is that what they say, every time they see you?

-About 80% of the time, yes!

On the plus side, however, Suzhou (who I always considered a bit of a dull place) is proving to be a very baby-friendly city. C told me of how they rearrange the tables at restaurants so that she can bring her pram inside, and how people get scared, but helpful, when she sometimes asks someone for help with carrying the pram up/down a stair. With it's wide roads it's also proving to be a friendly place when it comes to pushing your pram around.

So there you go. All in all I'd say it's a baby friendly place. Just be ready to feel like a ZOO animal when pushing that pram around.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting to know each other

Drinking because you "have to?" Not in my world!

On Tue night we had dinner with a fairly new acquaintance, Alex, a young Chinese guy from Guilin who’s running his own company. Since we don’t know each other that well, there were a lot of basic, getting-to-know-each-other questions. It’s funny these things, how they can be so different depending on where you come from. We (two Scandinavians) asked Alex things like:

-Where are you from?
-Why did you come to Shanghai?
-What did you study?
-How come you started your own company?

Alex, however, wanted to know:

-Do we like to drink alcohol?
-Do we smoke?
-Can we eat spicy food?
-How much do we pay in rent?

Quite an interesting conversation we had going there. Basically we found out that Alex came to Shanghai from Guilin 4,5 years ago (like us!), as he felt Guilin had nothing to offer him. He came here to study (International Business) but once he graduated he realized how hard it was to find a job that was related to his degree… so he went on and started his own company instead. The company is doing OK, but he wished business was better.

What about us then?

Well, Alex found out that we are two non-smokers, who sometimes drink alcohol. We like spicy food, and probably seem to have some kind of obsession with Hunan food as I couldn’t stop talking about it (gosh!). Oh, and we pay a smaller fortune in rent (compared to Alex).

We must have made a splendid impression!

When speaking of smoking and drinking, Alex also revealed his attitude towards this:

-Yeah I don’t like alcohol at all… beer, booze, wine –I don’t like the taste. I only drink it when I’m with my friends.

-Eh… but why do you drink it if you don’t like it.

-Well you know. Because I’m with my friends!

-But, can’t you just say no?

-Of course not! It’s the same with smoking. I don’t like it. But I smoke when I’m with my friends.

-But that like… I mean, smoking is not good for you?! It kills you! It ruins your lungs!

-Well, I don’t really smoke. Only when I’m with my friends every night.

Gosh, how SAD! An unwilling smoker, ruining his lungs despite him not even liking I, for what must be the most stupid reason of them all: pure peer pressure!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Unable to make an impression

Unable to make a lasting impression -I obviously fit in too well...

Being back in the Chinese classroom is proving to be great for this blog –from the conversations I’m having with my teacher I know it’s going to be a lot of great blog material for the future… unless I decide to change my teacher that it. There might be a risk.

Yesterday I had my second lesson, which started off quite well. My teacher (we can call her Candy –her English name is quite similar to that) started off by writing some sentences on the white board as I had asked for her to teach me more grammar and less school-book-stuff.

At first, Candy wrote every character carefully, almost so carefully that I wanted to tell her that I’m used to black boards and chalks, and teachers that are 50+ and that are writing in a speed that could be described as nothing else but fast and furious. Anyway, as soon as Candy realized that I could read everything she wrote, no matter if she didn’t draw the lines perfectly (it was pretty basic, simple stuff) she caught on and it didn’t take long before the board was a hot mess of ugly characters (you see, the difference between black boards and white boards are that on a black board, Chinese handwriting, no matter how messy, still looks readable and good. On a while board, however, it simply looks ugly). I obediently read everything out loud and I stopped her from constantly wanting to put pinyin on top of some of the “more complicated characters” that she wrote. Suddenly she turned around to me:

-You have studied Chinese before, right?

-Eh… YES!

-Are you still studying now?

-Eh… no, I’m working now.

-Ah, OK. How long did you study for before?

-A couple of years…. But… like… Candy, don’t you remember this? I told you all of this last time we had a lesson together?

-Oh you did?
Candy turned around, giving me a blank, once over.

-No sorry, I don’t remember anything about you! She said and turned back.

-Eh… right?! I was something in between shocked, offended and amused! I have to say that I appreciated her honesty at that point, it would have been worse if she would have lied to me. Still, it was a bit awkward.

-But how do you know what I want to study?

-Oh, I wrote it down.

-But if you don’t even remember what level I’m on…

Another blank stare. Enough of the talking Jonna.

We went on for a while. Unfortunately, the lesson still turned out to be too easy for me, and towards the end, Candy kept throwing in English every time she wanted to explain a word (even simple words like 计划) she would translate for me, making me more annoyed by the minute. She obviously had not listened one bit to the things I told her last time!

Once we finished the leasson I couldn’t help but asking her:

-Hey Candy, just to ask you, how come you don’t remember anything of the things I told you last time?

-Oh… well you know. It’s probably the same as with you foreigners. When you meet Chinese people you think we all look the same. Then after a while you start seeing a difference.

-Yeah, sure… but that’s like.. the people we meet on the street. Not the people that we actually interact with.

I was quiet for a while until I finally asked:

-So you don’t remember anything about me, about where I am from or what I do?

-No, you obviously didn’t make any deep impression on me last time we met.

Touché! And that's how we ended our lovely Chinese lesson for this week!

And now, my friends, let’s raise our glasses for Chinese honesty. In your face, Jonna! Don’t come here thinking you are special! Cheers!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Deadly high-rise fire in central Shanghai’s Jing’an district

I did actually pay attention to the sound of fire trucks after fire trucks hitting the highways outside my window this afternoon. However, it wasn’t until I read the news that I realized the severity of it all: a deadly high-rise fire in central Shanghai’s Jing’an district: a 28-storey building burning like a torch leaving at least 42 people dead and 100 injured.

In a city that has more than 15 000 skyscrapers one would hope that the fire-fighters were prepared for handling high-rise storey fires, but apparently not –it took them more than 5 hours to put it out. One of the reasons is said to be the huge crowd that gathered around the building to watch.

I just watched the news on CBN (China Business News) where they interviewed a safety expert surnamed Wang saying things like “the design/architecture of our skyscrapers must change” and where he also said that it was a pity that a lot of people took to the roof during this fire.

I think there will be a lot more like this for the next couple of days, fire experts claiming the city needs to be more ready to handle difficult fires like this one, but also maybe (and hopefully) reinforcing some safety measurements to make things better (I am, for instance curious to find out how the fire started –if it’s a cigarette I’m going to hunt those people that smoke in the emergency exit in my work building –and yes, my office is on the 15th floor!).

Anyway, what has happened is awful, and my heart goes out to all the 158 families that were living in this building, that went by the nickname “the teacher’s building” as there apparently were a lot of retired teachers living there.

Little Lang Langs in the making?

Lately I’ve been going to a lot of classical music concerts at the Oriental Art Centre Concert Hall in Pudong. Not only is this great because I love classical music, but simply because in Shanghai, there’s actually a great selection of stuff to see (Which again, forces me to point out that living in Shanghai is so different to living in Suzhou where I, during my 2 years there, didn’t go to a single concert/performance/play. Sometimes I have to squeeze my arm just to remind myself that no it’s not a dream: I’m back to living in Shanghai and it’s beyond amazing).

Last night we saw (or heard) a piano duet by Vladimir and Vovka Ashkenazy. Loved it –love piano music. And by the look of the audience, I wasn’t the only one. The venue was packed, and I would say that 95% were Chinese… and maybe 30% had brought their children! Yes, imagine my surprise when I realized how many kiddies there were. Like really, small kids! We had good seats, in the very front, and next to me was a little Chinese boy, so small that he almost fell off his seat! Him and his brother were dressed up in shiny mini tuxedos, looking adorable and jumping up clapping and bowing every time the Ashkenazys finished a piece. When the concert finished the kid’s mom pushed a booklet into their hands (“Bach best pieces”) and urged them to run forward to get it signed. On the verge of inacceptable, however, Vovka Ashkenazy had already noticed the tuxedo boys and greeted them with a smile, despite guards stepping in to usher them away.

Once we got up to get out I realized how many kiddies there actually were: all dressed up to their toes, obediently holding their parents hands and smiling peacefully. I also noticed that a lot of them were holding on to little booklets with notes, obviously hoping to put an inspirational signature on them. And very well, once we got out from the concert hall there was a huge line of people waiting to meet the duet and get an autograph/handshake.

Are those children China’s new little Lang Langs in the making? One couldn’t help but wonder.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Show, don't tell


Yesterday I went to study Chinese straight after work. Although it was hard to get there (basically not that easy to motivate myself to hit the classroom after 8 hours of work) once I did, it was actually a lot of fun! I had forgotten how fun it can be to study, and especially to study Chinese (to read textbooks with characters –and by the way, how easy are those text books now when you are faced with not-so-study-friendly-texts in your everyday life?!). What I find funny, though, are Chinese teachers. They never fail to astonish me with their comments and their unwillingness to believe that a foreigner can actually read, write and speak Chinese!

-My name is Cindy, said my teacher when she walked in.

-What’s your Chinese name, I replied in Chinese.

-Oh, it’s a bit hard, she said and wrote it on the board. I read it our loud.

-Oh, you can read some characters?! She said.

-Yes, I have studied before, I replied.

On we went. She asked me my name, where I was from, where I had studied before, what I had studied before, what work I was doing now, and so on. I told her accordingly.

After 10 min of conversation (all in Chinese of course, however, I noticed that Cindy would throw in Eng words every now and then) I stopped her:

-Do not, no matter what, speak English to me. Regardless if I don’t understand you. Don’t use Eng to explain the words. Use Chinese!

He face lit up.

-Of course! That's an excellent attitude!

2 min later:

-So you are totally OK with pinyin?

-Pinyin? I don't use pinyin, I have studied Chinese characters.

-Oh, you want to learn characters, wait!

She went and got a book: “Writing characters for beginners.”

-I often use this book with foreigners that can speak Chinese well but who cannot write at all.

-But I can write! I write every day at work! I have studied Chinese characters. I have even taken writing classes and written essays in Chinese!


-Yes, really. Just like I told you, I studied for 2 years at a Chinese university, mainly with Japanese and Korean students. Trust me. I know characters.

-OK…. (I could tell she still didn’t believe me).

-Well… if you say you know characters I have to test you. Turn to page 60 in this book that is our hardest book and that I have chosen for you (“Business Chinese for Managers”).

I turned to page 60.

-Read the text.

Now, reading a text can be hard when looking at it for the first time. Also, it’s been a while since I read out loud.

But once I started it went by itself. I read the whole thing, stumbled on 2 characters that I didn’t remember, and that was it.

Cindy just stared at me.

-You know everything?!

-Well this text wasn't that hard...

-Yes but…

(Yes but what? Foreigners normally lie about their Chinese level? Why would someone do that?)

-…well, anyway… there were, ehum, 2 characters that you didn’t really know, let’s study those…

And then we spent the next 20 min studying 2 Chinese characters.

Anyway, point that I’m trying to make: unless they see it for themselves, simply telling Chinese people that you can read Chinese characters doesn’t cut it. Show, don’t tell, is the golden rule over here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Being sick sucks

Bloody health freaks...

Gosh, it’s boring to be sick. U are stuck in bed, don’t have the power to do anything, yet you cannot sleep. Watching movies and TV series for a day simply doesn’t do it for me. Then there’s the whole eating thing. If I could only be one of those people who, when sick, loses her appetite. Unfortunately, I go the opposite direction and turn eating into some kind of sickness hobby. It’s normally OK because I’m not known for being one to keep my fridge stocked with goodies, but when in Shanghai, where you can order in pretty much anything for tiny sum, it’s fatal (or OK, maybe just fatal for my waistline).

I spent yesterday in bed, eating, being bored, sweating, coughing, blowing my nose, trying to sleep, overdosing on nose spray, eating some more, getting a sore back from lying down (gosh, how sad is THAT?!) and then thinking about all the things I’d like to do:

-Run a marathon
-Climb a mountain
-Become a yoga master
-Be able to do 50 push ups in one set

Yeah, as you all hear, not the most reachable goals of my life, but nothing wrong with dreaming, right? Also, ironically enough the only thing I feel like doing when sick is healthy, exercise stuff. I got jealous when I friend told me she went to play football the other night, and I almost had a fight with my significant other when he tried to sneak out to the gym. They can train but I can't? Life’s not fair.

Today I’m just as clogged, sneezy and coughy as yesterday, but at least I got rid of my fever so I’m heading to work. YAY! Praying for a quick recovery on this one, so that I can start training for one of those unreachable goals of mine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sick as a dog

Sorry, there won't be much blogging going on from this computer until I get rid of this fever/flu/sore throat. I feel quite out of it, and a lack of sleep (yes, I'm sleepless in Shanghai again -I can't do any yoga or exercise and as a result I cannot sleep... or something like that) doesn't make matters any better. I'm staying in bed today, and hopefully I feel better soon. So much for a flu shot, ha!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The wknd that went by

Fashion Sunday

What a weekend! This time I threw in the healthy towel and the yoga mat and decided to focus on having fun with friends instead.

Friday started with an A/W session with my dear workmates, followed by some kind of art exhibition/circus show at a gallery on Doulun Lu. Kind of nice area, I’ve never been there before but I’m definitely going back to explore it more at some stage. A kind of interesting event that is hard to classify as something else but a circus, because what else can you call it when there’s a mix of art, lucky draws, student fashion shows, groups of little muscle guys (spray tanned and beefy) and four people playing bongo drums?! Ahhh… China in a nutshell –a hot mess!

Saturday came and we spent the day Christmas shopping, followed by a lovely, Japanese dinner with friends, before I pulled four invitations to some bar opening of a new place called the “Shaks Pavilion” (?) from my bag. We decided to give it a go and headed out to the middle of nowhere (ever heard of Ziyun lu?!) where there indeed was a fancy looking bar/restaurant called “Shaks pavilion.” We were greeted at the door and taken upstairs, where there was some kind of weird, Chinese VIP party with a live band playing salsa, and older women shaking it in their most elegant qipaos… The setting was so posh, yet so weird, and the hostess kept bringing over “important guests” to our table, introducing them and then making us have a cheers with them? Nothing made much sense, which was kind of hilarious, and as a result we ended up having a great time, clinking glasses with strangers, dancing to YMCA (yes, because after the salsa band came YMCA and those kind of hits!) and checking out the fancy looking crowd while they jammed it out.

Sunday came with more Christmas shopping (I’m now officially done, and my dear loved ones back home has a lot of packages coming their way with the mail as I’m not going to Sweden for this Xmas), hamburgers at Bistro Burger, and then finally a fashionable end to this fabulous wknd: a Mary Jiang fashion show at some new, Xintiandi fashion mall. The show featured mainly men’s fashion and Lamborghini cars (!) and a crowd full of familiar faces. Overall, a great wknd, that I had to pay for today when I woke up with a throat thick as glue... The flu season is definitely here and even though I took a flu shot last Tuesday I guess I'm not immune to the fact that people are sneezing and coughing everywhere without covering their mouths.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Faking it

How stupid of me to think that there was such a thing as an un-shallow way of keeping fit in China?! I mean, I’ve already seen how women behave in the dressing room before they head into the gym for a work-out: some put on make-up, some put on mini-hot pants, and wrap their bodies in plastic foil...

Then I joined a yoga club. And was amazed by the fact that I was NOT the only woman washing off my make-up before a class. Hallelujah!

That’s until yesterday, when I got changed next to a petite Chinese girl who put on a tight singlet and pants, and then suddenly took out a pair of fake boobs that she put on inside the singlet.

Oh, and there I thought I’d come to the land of naturals. What was I thinking. One must remember that she lives in a country of shallowness.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gaga rolls in the suburbs

Last week I went to visit a university far out in the suburbs of Songjiang. There was not much to see in this uni area (small, nameless, cheap shops and uni dorms), and I think the people on the street were 99,9% students. As we needed to have lunch we cruised the street up and down in search of something that looked just a little bit decent and dine-able. We finally decided to settle for a tiny little Japanese restaurant called Bowbow.

Once we got the menu we were amazed of the low prices… but soon too over the remarkable sushi names. I wonder if Lady Gaga knows that her fame has spread across this giant country, from the big cities on the east, to the tiny suburbs in the outskirts, and that she has her very own “Lady Gaga roll” in a Japanese restaurant in China?!

Gaga this

Surprisingly enough (despite to the tininess of the restaurant or the low prices on the menu, I don’t know?) the food, including the Lady Gaga roll (yes, of course we had to order it!) tasted real good. Like really good. We also ordered the Moto Roll (chef’s recommendation) and I don’t know what amazed us the most: the fact that it cost 28 rmb or that it tasted so good!

I chatted to the chefs and found out that Bowbow is actually a chain and that Shanghai apparently also has a few of its restaurants. One is actually located somewhere in Jing’an.

Bowbow’s concept is quite similar to “everybody’s Japanese favourite” Haiku’s: infused sushi with all kinds of weird taste combos and spice explosions. It’s obviously not the same, flash environment as Haiku offers its dinner guests, but on the other hand it’s cheaper, and there’s no waiter telling you that you “need to finish your meal within 2 hours.” In other words, if you managed to located a Bowbow restaurant here in Shanghai, go, enjoy at least one Gaga and one Moto roll, and then remember to return to my blog, leave a comment on how it was, and don’t forget to reveal the exact address.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Post Expo life

Sweden's Minister of Trade at the inauguration of the Swedish pavilion, 6 months ago, painting the eyes of a today kind of worn-out Dala horse.

It’s now officially over! The World Expo 2010. Closed. Finito. No more.

Yesterday I went to a closing ceremony at the Swedish Pavilion. It was fun to get closure to an event that’s been ongoing for the last 6 months (and in the planning stage long before that!). What now remains is to find out the future of the Swedish pavilion –will it remain in China or will it be sold elsewhere? The bidding is apparently ongoing, so we’re yet to find out.

Some Swedish Expo facts in numbers (from the official Sweden expo homepage):

* More than 3.5 million have visited the Swedish Pavilion

* Over 110 partners have co-financed the project with government

* 150 million is the total project budget

* 450 cultural performances have taken place

* 32 000 VIP guests have visited the pavilion

* 2300 official delegations have been received

While the Expo has been a fun experience to be part of, it has also resulted in a lot of stress and way too many sleepless nights, so on a personal note I’m quite relieved that it’s over. Now it’s time to put all that energy towards something else.

One of the things I’ll make sure to do now when I have some more time on my hands is to start studying Chinese again. Sure, I use my Chinese on a daily basis at work, but there’s always room for improvement, and I’ve wanted to go back to the classroom for some time now. Not full-time, oh no no, I still have a job to do (!), but I’m thinking once/week to start off with, and then maybe twice/week eventually. Let’s see.

Another thing I will spend some more time on now post-Expo is my yoga practice. Yesterday I renewed my membership, spending an awful lot of money on something that is worth every penny: since I started yoga I’ve gotten rid of my sore back! I’ve also become a liiiiiiittle bit more flexible, and for someone like me (flexible as a fridge, without exaggeration), that’s a big step in the right direction. It’s also nice to get some ease from the treadmill every now and then, and even though I really bad at yoga and the teachers probably think: “Oh dear Namaste master, help that stiff girl because I know I cannot!” it makes a difference to me, and that’s what matters. I’m also proud of myself for the fact that I am doing something that I know I will probably never be really good at –and still enjoy it.