Monday, May 30, 2011

Get your popcorns ready!

Today is the opening day of Sweden Film Week 2011瑞典电影周, giving Shanghai-ers the chance to watch the newest from the Swedish film industry. The screenings are a mix of animation, drama, comedy, thriller and, of course, some good ol’ Bergman stuff.

In Shanghai, all films will be showed at 上海大光明 Grand Theatre, 216 Nanjing west rd, near Xizang rd. 上海大光明电影院, 南京西路216号, 近西藏路.

Tickets can be bought at the cinema for 50 rmb. All films are in Swedish/English with Chinese subtitles.

Screening schedule at Grand Cinema, Shanghai

May 30, 7pm Miss Kicki (88 min)

May 31, 8pm Easy Money (120 min)

June 1, 8pm The Girl (96 min)

June 2, 8pm Sawdust and Tinsel (88 min)

June 3, 8pm Sound of Noise (110 min)

June 4, 8pm The King of Ping Pong (106 min)

June 5, 8pm Metropia (80 min)

June 6, 8pm Everlasting Moments (125 min)

See you at the cinema!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Walking uphill

I’ve been keeping busy lately. At the same time as I’ve been battling sleeping problems I’ve been putting in quite a few extra hours at work, and then on top of that I’ve tried to locate a new apartment in Shanghai. Man, when I have time to sit down and blog again I’m going to share with you some of the funniest flat-hunting stories and dramas that I’ve been experiencing over these last few weeks! But not until things calm down a bit. For the last week I haven’t even been to the gym once (!) –and anyone who knows me knows that that’s a sign of me rearranging my priorities. But getting enough sleep is a priority right now, as well as moving into a new flat. This area where I live now is great, but too noisy at nighttimes. I don’t think the noise is the only reason why I’m having troubles falling asleep at night, but it definitely has some impact.

I still have some big projects to finish off (D Day 1 is tomorrow, and then another one the week after that), and then life will (hopefully) eventually get back to normal. At least I’m hoping to find some time to hit the gym. Running makes life so much better. Thanks again for all the sleeping tips, both from people posting comments on this blog as well as from you guys sending me emails! You rock!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Controlled by the weather

"Yeah, sorry, I'm not going to to be able to meet you for dinner for the next, ehum, 4 months or so.."

Before I start this post I would just like to thank all of you that contributed with your advices and recommendations about sleep/insomnia in my previous post. Thank you!

Now, since I am having a bit of a rough week I thought I’d share a funny thing that happened last week.

Om Monday, I got a text from a Chinese friend that I haven’t seen for a long time:

"Dinner on Thu?"

"Sorry, I cannot make it," I texted back. "I have a busy week. How about Sunday?"

"OK," she texted.

Saturday came, and I had totally forgotten about it all until I got the following message:

"It’s going to rain tomorrow. Should we have dinner on Wed instead?"

"Eh… sure."

Talk about relying on the weather forecast. And talk about being controlled by what kind of weather it is owhen you plan your calendar.

I remember a friend of mine once told me about a girl that didn't turn up for her her job interview because it was too hot outside. She wasn't ashamed to tell the company when the secretary of the HR called her to ask why she never came for her interview.

I wonder what those kind of people do when the weather isn’t top notch? Lock themselves inside with a DVD and some popcorn? Order in? Never leave bed? Call in sick for work?

Well one thing is for sure: If you would let the weather control your social diary in a country like Sweden you would never be able to go out!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sleepless in Shanghai

Unfortunately I don’t feel very rested or relaxed after the wknd. I seem to have gone from “problems with falling asleep every now and then” to constant sleeping problems. I have tried many things: not watching TV before sleeping, listening to music, exercising before going to bed, not exercising before bed, reading books, drinking tea, not drinking tea, avoid coffee and sugar, not eat big meals before bed, keeping the room dark and cool, doing relaxing yoga breathing, changing my sleeping spot (I now go from my bed to the couch every second night. It worked in the beginning but not so much anymore), herbal sleeping pills (not useful), real sleeping pills (also not useful –don’t make me fall asleep). I am getting a tad big frustrated and desperate: what the h*** am I supposed to do?!

I know that it is in my head and in my head only. It’s a thought that shapes itself as soon as I hit the afternoon, saying: “Oh, here comes the night and I feel so tired after last night’s lack of sleep… wouldn’t it be awful if I couldn’t fall asleep tonight either?!” and BAM, there it is. I know I should try to stop this way of thinking –but I have no idea how to do so. I try thinking about this and that, counting down from 300, imagining summer holiday in Europe, making up a story in my head… but it doesn’t work. It has been going on for so long now, on and off for a year, but this last month has been unbearable. I don’t know what to do anymore. Going to see a doctor doesn’t seem like an option: I’ve tried both herbal and real sleeping pills, and none of that works (yes, for real. I take a real sleeping pill and I still cannot fall asleep. Sometimes I don’t even get that “sleep hangover” that sleeping pills give you). What else can a doctor do than give you medicine? He cannot help me get rid of that one little nasty thought at least, that’s for sure. And it’s just that one thought that I wish I could escape. I am not in bed stressing over unpaid bills or work or anything: it’s just about “not being able to sleep.”

Ah, at first I was thinking that I wouldn’t write this post but then I thought, maybe one of my readers have had a similar problems and know of a mind game that can manipulate your thoughts?! Or anything? What do you guys do in order to turn off/or turn thoughts in another direction?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A hot nap

Yesterday I went for a class of hot yoga, and even though I might jinx it by saying this, it might be so that I maybe have improved, just a liiiiittle bit!? At least I got some “very nice!” and “good” comments from the yogi and for me, inflexible and stiff by nature, that’s quite big.

Anyway, when we moved over to doing the floor poses the girl next to me fell asleep on her mat! It was 40 degrees in the room, and we were given a 10 seconds rest. And just like that –she was sound asleep! The teacher came to wake her up, so which she seemed ashamed of and apologized for, however, one pose down later and we were given 10 seconds to lie down in savasana relaxing pose, and we had lost her again!

For me, who are experiencing serious sleeping problems from time to time (it goes in phases, sometimes I don’t get any sleep at night for 5 night in a row) and find it extremely hard to relax and especially fall asleep, someone who can fall asleep just like that –when it’s 40 degrees in the room and you’re taking a yoga class –is quite impressive.

Then again, I wouldn’t want to spend xxxx rmb on my yoga membership card and sleep my way through classes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

钱多多 -lighthearted take on a heavy issue

Excuse my lack of blogging, but this time it actually wasn’t by choice: blogspot was down most of Friday, so it was hard to blog. Maybe it was for the better, though, because last week was crazy busy. I think I’ve spent a maximum of 7 hours/home per day, and that includes sleeping.

On Thursday night a Chinese friend of mine took me to the theatre to watch a Chinese play. She’s married to a laowai, and his Mandarin is very good. For some strange reason, she believes that my Chinese is almost as good. So one day she said:

-Hey, you should join me to the theatre and watch a Chinese drama! I often take my husband and he enjoys it. When your level of Chinese is so good it’s a shame if you miss out on the local goodies.

I could not have agreed more (about it being a shame if I’m missing out, not so much about my language skills) and decided to give it a go and join her.

We went to 上海话剧艺术中心 (Shanghai Drama Art Centre) to watch a play called 钱多多 (it basically means “a great deal of money” but the name was also similar to the name of the girl in the play). It was about a Chinese woman, who was about to turn 30 and who still wasn’t married. Everyone around her (especially her mom) kept telling her that she had to find a guy and get hitched, before it was too late.

It was such a great play! First of all, I didn’t know that the quality of local acting was so good over here (really, it was fantastic), and second of all, I had no idea that the Chinese could have so much self-irony to make something so serious (marriage in China) so much fun (this was a humorous play, that made fun of everything from a nagging mother to some eager, but-oh-so-annoying-bachelors). My friend and I were laughing out loud (she even more so than me, as I didn’t get every single joke -there was a lot of referral to internet slang, TV shows and such).

The play went through all those difficulties an un-married woman in her 30ies might face here in China: too successful at her job to find a man willing to marry her, a mother who tries to set her up with the wrong guys, a super annoying bachelor who won't listen to anything else but his own voice, a (seemingly) happily-ever-after married best friend who’s a luxurious stay-at-home-housewife until she finds out that her husband has been having an affair, a cute guy that loves her –but that is 3 years her junior, and therefore cannot be considered Mr right because oh no, how could she marry someone that is younger than her? All in all -a great mix that caused both laughter and tears. The audience was loving it -roaring with laughter and applauds. Actually, I've never seen such engagement from an audience in China?! And I've been to both the Olympics and some pretty good concerts.

The play is on until May 22 and if you live in Shanghai and understand Chinese, I strongly recommend you to go and see it. I am real happy that my friend introduced me to the world of Chinese dramas and plays. I know this wasn’t the last act I watched here in China.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Just 2 months to go!

It’s around 2 months until my summer holiday now. I cannot believe it. It feels as if I just got back from Australia and calculated that it would be a good, 6 months until my next time off. And suddenly, here we are, just 2 months to go. Time flies.

Before this holiday I have so much to do (at work) that I don’t know if I should cry or laugh. It’ll work itself out (it always does!), but still. Two months feels like nothing.

This summer will be spent in Finland, Sweden and London (oh, and I guess I’ll also have to go to Copenhagen now when there’s a city tunnel between Malmö in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark. It apparently takes something like 10-15 minutes to move across, or, OK, under the sea. Nice. It took them 10 years to finish that tunnel. No comments).

I haven’t been back in England since 2006. I spent 6 months living in London straight after high school back in 2001. I headed over together with 7 (!) close friends. One after another dropped off (missed their boyfriends, couldn’t find a job, got homesick, had fights) and in the “end” it was just me and my best friend Tess left. Then I had to leave in order to start my degree in Australia, while Tess stayed on. I remember being really upset about leaving, and considering postponing my studies, just so that I could stay in London (and work as a bartender –man, that would NOT have made mom happy!). However, I never did. Tess, however, stayed on, and she’s been living in London since. Now she’s bought a flat in central London and is about to marry her British dream man next year. Guess who’s her bride’s maid?! And guess where she had her dress done… :)

Can’t wait to head over and catch up with some old friends –not to mention a fantastic city. London really is one of the best cities there is in Europe. Ah... summer holiday. I know that you shouldn't wish for time to go faster (especially since I just said that 2 months is nothing, and I have so much that needs to be done before then), but I cannot help myself: Come, come!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The chase for straighforwardness

Trying to get some honesty out of my closest colleague (who is Chinese) is sometimes like pulling out a tooth: slow and painful.

There I am, drafting a sell-friendly PR-like text to an event that we’re having, doing my best to make it sound interesting, cool and not-to-be-missed.

However, since I am not a naturally born PR person, I quickly get a gag-feeling when I read my own selling points. So I turn to my colleague:

-Do you think it’s too much? Too exaggerated?

-Eh…. No! Hihi.

-OK, good.


There it is. The laugh. The giggle. The sign that something is wrong –even though she’s telling me it isn’t.

-Why are you laughing, I ask, trying hard to put up my most stern face.

-I don’t know. Hihi. The invitation is a bit funny!


-Yes, haha!

-It’s not supposed to be funny! It’s supposed to sound tempting and cool, but not funny.


-Well, so do you think I should change something?

-Yeah, maybe you could change this part….

She points at the part that I was the most worried about from the beginning. Hello, hallelujah moment?! Imagine if she would have never told me and I would have sent this out?! D-d-d-disaster!

-Good, thanks. Now, is there something else?


-Please be honest with me!

-Hahaahahhaa, I think it’s OK.

-I don’t want it to be OK. I want it to be great!

-Hahahhaha, it’s OK!

I take a deep sigh and count to five.

-So why are you laughing?

-Hihihihih, what do you mean?

-Why are you laughing?

-Hahhaa, I don’t know…

-But you can’t just laugh at nothing. It has to be something. What in the invitation do you think is laughable?


-OK, so if YOU would have to send it out, under YOUR name. What would YOU change.

-I think it’s good. But… na, nothing.

-No, yes, YES, please, what?!

-Well… hihi, OK, maybe this part!

-Awesome… now let’s go through the rest...

Now, it’s not an easy or time efficient process, but I have to go through this every single time. Because my colleague is simply too polite to tell me, straight to my face, if she think something is wrong. Or, as she often puts it: “it isn’t wrong, but could be put differently.” Man, she’s such a natural-born-diplomat!

Sometimes I have nightmares where I dream of her saying:

-It’s fine!

Me trusting her.

And the invitation going out. Just like that.

Then I wake up, cold-sweating, and promise myself to never skip the slow but honest “what-do-you-really-think” process with her. It might be slow and painful, but it is, indeed, quite helpful. I work towards a Chinese market, and I’m not Chinese. So I believe I should always listen to natives when it comes to what they really like, take their points into consideration, and then draft something suitable. Sometimes I just wish she could be a bit more straightforward, and less “slow-and-painful-like-pulling-out-a-tooth-like.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why Asians don't perspire as much as westerners

Team China is not sweating it.

Last Sat night I went out with a Chinese friend. We ended up going for a long dinner, and then to a wine bar for some drinks. We talked and talked, and suddenly I realized that it was only us left at the bar and that the waiter came up to our table.

-We’re closing. Do you mind? He said, apologetic, and pushed us the bill

That’s when I glanced at my watch and realized that we’d been out for 8 hours (!), talking non-stop. It was definitely time to leave! I think it’s best Chinese language practice I’ve gotten in a long time, however, and my dreams were in Chinese that night when I eventually fell asleep.

Anyway, during this marathon conversation we talked about a lot of interesting things, including fitness and working out. My friend confessed that he only eats salad at nights (!!) as he’s afraid of gaining weight. Now I never, ever, thought I’d hear about a guy doing that in China –but there we go.

Another thing he explained to me is why Chinese people don’t perspire as much as westerners when working out. This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, since I often do yoga/spinning/classes together with Chinese people, and since the pool of sweat (TMI –sorry!!!) is always (by far) the biggest around my yoga mat/bike/spot.

-It’s because Chinese people, or Asians in general, have relatively underdeveloped sweat glands. They have noticeably fewer apocrine glands than black or white people (FYI: these glands contribute to the smell of sweat when mixed with bacteria). This is why a lot of Chinese people don’t use deodorant, cologne or perfume.


My friend also told me that for Chinese people, sweating is considered a sign of being unhealthy.

-A lot of people obviously know that it isn’t so, like the ones that go to the gym a lot etc, but the overall image of sweating in China is that it’s a sign of bad health.

This last statement I’ve heard before, but I never actually thought there was any kind of reason for it. To tell you the truth, I thought it had something to do with people being too lazy to do sports. Now, however, my I realize that I’ve been quite narrow-minded in my thoughts, so I’m happy I got this one straightened out. For me, that have done sports since I was a kid, sweating (a lot!) is such a normal thing, and I’ve never really been too ashamed of it. Rather, I’ve seen it a sign of good health, an active metabolism system that burns a lot, and a great excuse for eating a lot of food (hehe). But there we go –in China I’m not considered that healthy after all. Oh well. At least now I know why.

Monday, May 9, 2011

One (out of a million?) searching for a fresh start

Yesterday I did something that I really dread: went flat hunting. Now, before I go into the cons of flat hunting in Shanghai (because really, the only pro is when you eventually find something price worthy and liveable, and to be able to do that, you need to see at least 60 dumps) let me just say that yesterday’s hunt was unsuccessful.

We started at home in front of the computer. Got reasonably excited at some of the photos of “amazing apartments” that we saw on expat sites online. “Brad new furniture, oven, health club, and only 2 min to the metro station” they all said, while shining at us with tempting monthly rents of 6000 rmb.

However, when we called one of the agents representing these flats, we were immediately told that the price had been raised (over night?!) to 7500. And then one hour before we were supposed to see the “dream crib” the agent called us again –to say that the rent was actually 8500! Eh?!

We did not go and see that flat in the end.

Instead, we did things the “Jonna way” –meaning, walking on the streets in areas where I could see myself living, and randomly stopping by agencies on the way.

Soon we found the perfect little agency with the most perfect little agent: Jerry. It was love at first sight: Jerry was young, polished, and polite and when he realized that I could communicate in Mandarin without any problems, he looked as if he wanted to hug me. We had a pleasant getting-to-know-each-other (or OK, getting-to-know-me) chat before we even started talking about apartments, areas, budget and demands. It felt good. And right.

As we were waiting outside the gate of one complex, and I got tired of listening to Jerry’s fifteen apologies on behalf of the lazy landlord who was being late, I started investigating Jerry’s background, and that’s about when the day got interesting.

Turns out that Jerry, little polished, polite Jerry, was from Shenzhen. He’d graduated from a university to Wuhan, then returned to Shenzhen to set up a company, invest in a house, and build his future.

-But everything went wrong, he said, and for a short moment I saw some bitterness in his glittering eyes. Shenzhen is not a good place. There is too much temptation. Too much bad company. I tried for 4 years and I lost all my money.

-Why, what do you mean? Was the house a bad investment?

-No, but I spent all the money on alcohol, partying and having fun. I was hanging out in the wrong crew, if you know what I mean.


-So I lost everything. My company, and my house. All of my money.

-When was this?!

-One month ago. Then I moved to Shanghai. To get away from everything. To get a fresh start. To do something different!

-Oh, and how do you like it so far?

-Well, I’m still getting used to things…

-Was it easy to find a job?

-No.. it’s very hard to find a job in this city.

And just like that, the bitterness and hurt was gone. Back was polished, polite Jerry, smiling pleasantly:

-Oh, here is the landlord! Now let’s go and see the flat!

The flat turned out to be shit, and although I tried, Jerry did not seem up for telling me any more stories about his past –so we parted at the gate of the complex.

When walking home I couldn’t help but wondering how many young people that come to Shanghai share a similar story with Jerry. He was just 25 years old and had “lost everything.” Twenty five years old, and already at a “new place” to get a “fresh start.”

One can only hope that he does well.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Improved blog!

Room for improvement -oh yes! One can start with keeping their eyes open while being photographed!

I am fully aware that I should have done this ages ago, but anyway, better late than never. I've now added a search function to my blog, the blog labels (not so many) and a subscribe by email function. Now I just have to start update this baby on a more regular basis too -and we can all live happily ever after. Nah, just kidding. But since I'm in the mood of improvement and changes, I might as well take this opportunity to ask you, my dear readers, if there is something else that you wish for (writing wise that is)? Is there some topic you don't want to read about? Something you wish to read more about? Something you feel is missing? Just say the word.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The no-sugar bet –update

And I can't have this, right... nuts and carrots, anyone?!

Just to let you all know, I’m now more than 1 week into the bet and I’m doing fine. It’s not hard not to eat candy/cookies/sugary snacks during the weekdays (although when I colleague recently came back from a trip to Sweden and emptied a bag of candy in the kitchen, I had to ban myself for going in there until it was all gone), the biggest challenge comes during the weekends.

If I’m out doing something –I don’t have any problems. As soon as I get home, position myself comfortably on the couch and turn on a movie though…. Ahhg! That’s when thoughts like “snacks, I need snacks!” hit me. Since I had a rather inactive and boring wknd last wknd, I better keep myself busy this weekend so that I don’t fall for temptation. Someone told me that the first 2 weeks are the hardest –then the sugar cravings will disappear and I will not think about snacks anymore. So here we go, sugar-free week 2, who’s still with me?

Oh, and training is going OK too. Last week I did 3 sessions (10 km run, spinning and hot yoga), this week I’m aiming for 4-5 sessions (after today, I am 3 sessions in). On Monday I did a 7 km run in 39 min. So slowly I'm improving (I've always been good at long distance running if I can keep a comfortable pace... Pushing for speed, however, is a completely different story and that's what I am going for now). If anyone has some great non-sugary, healthy snack favourites (please don’t say carrots!) they’d like to share, feel free to do so. The risk of me ending up in front of the telly at some point this week is quite high.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lazy VS active wknds

Oh, what did I do this wknd?! Nothing special... just a run in the wilderness.

Chinese honesty has its pros and cons. It is definitely refreshing to sometimes speak to people that make no excuses for themselves. Like one of my Chinese friends. She loves sweets. And hates sweating. The other day I met her in the city. I was, as usual, cramming on to a gym bag (planning to hit the gym later), which she looked at and said:

-Are you still going to the gym? I don’t think you need to lose weight.

-Nah, that’s not why I am going. I go because I like it… because I think it’s a nice feeling to first run and then…

I stopped short as I saw her eyebrows wrinkled in a not-so-approving way.

-How can you LIKE it? It’s so boring! She finally said.

-Eh… it’s a bit boring, I admit. But it’s good for your health.

Her face didn’t change. I could tell that I wasn’t winning this conversation.

-So you never go? I tried.

-Nah, never. My mom has told me I should. That I’m too lazy. But I like being lazy. I like being home doing nothing.


-Yeah. It’s nice and relaxing.

-So what do you do after work? Or on weekends?

-I take the metro home, eat with my parents. Watch a movie or read a magazine. And then I sleep! I like sleeping!

-What about weekends? Don’t you get bored?

-If I get bored I go and see a friend. But I don’t think it’s boring to relax at home.

I’m just thinking how this conversation could have gone if I would have had it with one of my friend back home, if I would have asked her why s/he didn’t hit the gym:

-I should also go, but I don’t like the gym… It’s not really my thing. I prefer doing some more fun exercise. You know, it’s important that it is fun. But you know, it’s hard to find time. I work so much…

-What about weekends when you have free time?

-Oh, then I am so busy with seeing my friends, I always have tonnes of things to do!

China’s still one of those places where people linger at home during their holidays/weekends (not all people, but quite a few), watch DVD:s, sleep and eat. And they are not afraid/ashamed to say so.

Me, on the other hand, feel as if it’s a big thing (and a bit embarrassing) to stay in a whole wknd:

-Well you know, I just needed to relax and do nothing. I don’t like to do that every weekend, obviously, but sometimes it can be nice. But next weekend I will definitely go out and do something!

Funny that it is so hard for some people (including me) to admit that sometimes it’s nice to be lazy and do nothing. However, to tell you the honest truth, I easily feel a bit depressed when I am being lazy and watch TV a whole day/don't exercise for a whole week. I feel as if I am wasting precious time that could be better spent. Not that I ever told my friend this. Something tells me that she wouldn't agree.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Considering others

Remember back when I used to have a small problem with a “spitting boss” in Suzhou? Well, I’d almost forgotten about how much it can annoy you to sit next to someone who constantly feels as if s/he needs to clear his/her throat and spit, until last night when I went see a concert by the Moscow symphony orchestra at Daning Theatre. I’d managed to score a good seat, just behind all the “important” Chinese guests that had been “decorated” with a flower in their suit jacket. Most of them were 50+, dressed up, and looked genuinely happy about being there. Except for the man sitting in front of me.

Clearly bored with the concert and music, he kept twisting and turning in his seat, reading about sports car in a magazine that he had brought along… and… clear his throat and spit in a napkin! The latter made me see red. It was just horrible to sit and listen to him interrupting the atmosphere by clearing his throat in the middle of a beautiful piano solo! I thought I was the only one that was bothered, until I realized that a number of Chinese men and women around me actually turned to him and gave him a long, cold stare. Also, the people sitting directly next to him ended up moving to other seats in order to get away from his noise and unhygienic action. Still, the man did not as much as show a sign of shame, but rather, kept coughing, clearing his throat, and spitting loudly into his napkin, throughout the whole concert.

Yesterday, a new legislation came into force in China: banning smoking in restaurants, theatres, public transport waiting rooms, hotels, and several other enclosed public places (I only feel a tad bit excited about this because I know it’s not going to work for a long time still –Chinese people smoke everywhere. In our office building, white-collar workers smoke at the fire escape staircase –despite being told not to by the management). I seriously wish that they could ban the spitting in theatres/offices/airplanes too. By all means: clear your throat at the bathroom/on the street. But don’t spit in a napkin. At least not during a concert, in the middle of a soft, beautiful piano solo.