Monday, September 17, 2012

Breaking news: new blog!

Although it's been a blast to use blogger, it feels good to have "my own" site. Hope to "see" you all there! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One year later

So this is it. The day. The number. It’s here. Doesn’t matter if I’m ready or not, because here it comes: Bye, bye twenties. Hello thirties!

It’s funny, because when I have, in discussions with fellow patrons, tried to share my slight fear of entering 3.0 and leaving behind 2.0, my worries have been compared to “silly ideas.” “The thirties are the new twenties!” everyone keeps saying (no one who’s still in their twenties though!). I’m actually not sure if I agree, or even wish to agree.

I mean, do I want be 20 again, being so full of what I know, yet know so little? Do I want re-do my university years, spending hours in a dusty library, trying not to fall asleep at lectures, writing essay, articles and assignments who never see daylight but that are marked and put into a folder to collect dust? Do I want to go back to living on a minimum budget and eating 3-minute noodle meals so that I can afford a glass of wine at night? Do I want be a fresh graduate again, and have my positive energy and excitement killed by companies and employers who don’t want give “people with no real work experience” a chance? (God, getting that first job was a nightmare!) Do I want be the girl in the office that everyone refers to as “so young and inexperienced” and who takes on tonnes of unpaid overtime just to show that she’s ambitious and hard-working? Do I want do about 7834862 odd jobs so that I can finance going back to school in order to learn Mandarin, having everyone around me questioning what I am going to do with this “third language” and what my “future plan is” (hell, I had no plan!)?

Nah. I’m actually pretty OK with the thirties being the thirties.  I’m done with the twenties. I feel satisfied, as I believe I really made the most of it. So, come thirties. Bring it on. I’ll just go on like I’m used to, trying to have an even better time than I’ve already had. I mean, at least I have learned from all the mistakes I made in my twenties. And just being able to say that is pretty cool.

So to start with some follow-up on my three “to dos”:

1.   Visit all four countries that I have referred to as home during the last 10 years.


In January we went to Australia again (the place that was my “home” for almost 3,5 years: 2002-2005). I just love Australia. I love the country, the atmosphere, the people, the nature, ah… everything (Australians, you are some lucky people!).

This time, we visited both Sydney and my beloved Perth. We made the most of our time: went crabbing, sand boarding, had picnics and dinners, caught up with all of my Aussie friends, and enjoyed wine tasting and beach walks. It was two fantastic weeks and, as usual, I cried like a baby when we eventually took the plane back to Shanghai.

The Pinnacles, Western Australia

In May, I went to London (the place that was my “home” for around 6 months in 2001-2002. I had actually only just turned 19 when I went to live in London but for some reason I still look at this as something that happened during my 20-ies. I guess it was the move that started everything) to be part of my best friend Tess’ wedding.

Tess (who’s my oldest friend) has actually been in London all these years. It was the two of us (+ 4 other friends) who went there together on September 11, 2001 (yes, THAT 9/11) And, as for today, she’s still there! On May 19 this year, she married her significant other, Will, in a beautiful ceremony that took place in Oxford. She looked gorgeous in her extravagant gown (made in China at the wedding market with me as her personal adviser), and me and three other friends of her also looked pretty good in our blue bride’s maid dresses (also made in China! I mean, how could I not offer to help for her big day?!). It was a magnificent day, and I am so happy I got a chance to be part of it!

As we came all the way from China for the wedding we took some extra days off and spent them catching up with friends and (in my case) visiting nostalgic London spots. I still have so many friends in London, so in a way it felt like coming home. 

Tess' and Will's wedding, Oxford, UK

Then summer came, and I went for a long wknd in Tokyo, a city that has been on top of my “dream destinations” for I don’t know how long.

My Finnish friend Anna (who I met when I was a student in Suzhou) just happened to be there on an exchange semester, so the timing couldn’t have been better. I went to Tokyo, caught up with Anna, and the two of us had the best time! I fell truly (madly, deeply) in love with Tokyo and Japanese people, who were so polite and friendly. We went out every single night, visiting the quirkiest little spots, taking “kawai” photos with cute Japanese girls, and, obviously, enjoying some of the best food I have ever eaten. I have always had a feeling that I was going to enjoy Japan, but I never knew just how much. Tokyo is simply outstanding and I cannot wait to go back to see more of Japan. I am even considering doing an evening course of beginner’s Japanese next year (this fall is too busy).

Heavenly sushi in Tokyo

In July we went for a summer holiday back “home.” We started off with a quick stop in Sweden (where I haven’t lived since 2001, but it’s still referred to as “home”), just for four days, to catch up with friends and family. I threw myself a garden party one month prior to my actual birthday, which was a great idea, as I managed to catch up with all of my old friends from back home. We were some 25 people: friends from all walks of life: childhood friends from my tiny little hometown, friends that I went to London with, friends that I lived and studied with back in Australia (one of my old housemates who celebrated my 20th birthday with me in Perth!), friends from Shanghai. And, of course, all of my siblings and their partners. It was a perfect day/night.

Bday celebrations in Sweden
After Sweden we went to Finland (where I lived 2005-2006) and spent the rest of our holiday over there. We stayed mostly in Tampere, but also went to the summer cabin and had a long-wknd in Helsinki to catch up with friends. I went running in the forest 5 days/week, swam in the lakes, had sauna, cooked myself all that kind of food that I tend to crave in China, caught up with friends, and made the most of the extra amounts of daylight (the sun doesn’t set until maybe 10-11pm) by going for BBQ picnics and evening walks.

In Helsinki

We came back to Shanghai (where I have lived since 2006, so more than 6 years now) just in time for my real birthday (that was on August 15) and on August 18 I friend of mine threw me yet another birthday party, this time for all of my Shanghai friends. We had a great evening at a lounge bar in central Shanghai, and I was overwhelmed by the turn-up. Although the next day my boyfriend asked “so, are we done with the celebrations now?” and yes, I guess we are.

Bday celebrations in Shanghai

Run a full marathon (and at least one more half)


Yeah, this dream of mine wasn’t even close to be fulfilled. When running in Finland last summer (2011), I started feeling pain in my hip. Silly as I am, I ignored the pain and kept running, which turned out to be a bad decision. That hip pain has stayed with me since, and although it’s slightly better now, I can still feel it on weeks when I do heavy exercise (I went to two different hospitals to have it checked, but found nothing).

I guess this is a wake up call saying “hey, you’re not invincible (anymore)!” By running a lot, you obviously run the risk of getting injured, and this is just what happened. So the last year has been quite boring, exercise wise. I’ve kept my fitness level up by doing alternative training: spinning, yoga, and then around May I started running again. But like I said, I can still feel discomfort in my hip, and lately, my Achilles tendon started hurting, so I guess I need to slow down a bit. I am not sure if I will be able to run a marathon this year, but I still haven’t given up the thought of it. Not at the price of injuring myself badly though.

It is a bit of a downer, because I love running, and especially long-distance running.

Write a book.

Fail. But then again. I did get something pretty cool published… 

The book thing is a sensitive matter. I’m an idiot for publicly announcing it on my blog like I did last year, but I thought that by doing so, I would be under enough pressure to get it done. One of the reasons why I stopped blogging, was because I was going to spend that morning hour (that used to be devoted to this blog) writing on my book.

It didn’t really work out.

I did get started. Several times. And in the beginning I went for weeks. Then, I don’t know. Something happened. And I stopped.

I am pretty lucky to have some amazing friends, however, who kept reminding me to stick to my promise. So for my birthday, one of my friends gave me this book, and told me that now the pressure is off. The first book is out, and I should start focusing on a follow-up.

SHE in China -first edition!

And as for blogging –I’ve actually really missed it! I’ve been thinking a lot about starting a new blog. I don’t think I want to have an anonymous comment function though, because seriously, people behave like jerks when they don’t have to reveal their real name, and I had some pretty wacky comments towards the end of this blog. I never published these comments, obviously, as it was some pretty foul language, but overall it wasn’t that nice to start your day by opening blogspot’s comment moderation page, and be greeted by 15 comments telling you to go to hell and get out of China. So yeah, I am a bit torn when it comes to all of that.

When you blog, you obviously have to put yourself out there. No one wants to read a blog about some anonymous person who doesn’t dare to share his/her experiences. But by sharing you need to be able to take all those kind of weird comments. Am I ready for that again? Not sure. But let me tell you this much: just writing this blog post has been a treat! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chasing dreams

For a long time, being able to communicate in Chinese language was a dream of mine, and when this photo was taken, it was a very far-fetched one. Now, however, I actually do speak Chinese and I use it every single day at work. It's time to start chasing new dreams.

I’ve been dreading to write this post, that’s why I have neglected my blog for the last few weeks.

When I turned 29 on August 15, I hit a milestone, namely 5 years in China. On September 11 (which I know is a very sad day for most people) I’ll hit another one: 10 years of living abroad. That’s more than one third of my life, and pretty much my whole adult life (so far).

I’ve been thinking a lot about everything I’ve been doing for the last 10 years abroad/5 years in China, and I look back at most of it with joy. I don’t have any real regrets, just some “I wonder what would have happened if I would have done this instead of that….” But I believe that’s pretty normal.

Next year I turn 30, and it feels as if I’ll enter a new era of my life (might sound cheesy, but that’s how I feel about it). I will leave my 20-ies with some sadness. It has been 10 pretty amazing years of living abroad and getting to know myself through my adventures and experiences in different countries, not to mention my interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I’ve met some pretty amazing individuals over the years, some of which I still consider my closest friends. All in all, life in the 20ies has been pretty d*** good.

However, in order to make the most of this “final year,” I thought I’d make an effort to do something a little bit special. Something for me, like fulfilling a far-fetched dream of mine. So, some days before I turned 29 I started making a list of things I wanted to do before turning 30.

Seeing that I’m a bit of a list abuser (I make lists of food I want to eat, and at work I am know as being a “list person” too as my “to do” lists have been passed around more than once) I made an endless list, including all kinds of silly things I wanted to do before turning 30, like “trying 50 new restaurants in Shanghai!” and “wake up with a smile of my face at least 70% of the time.”

In order not to come across as a mad lady (unless I already have) I decided to narrow it down to three big things. Three dreams that I wish to fulfil before August 15, 2012. And those are:

* Run a full marathon (and at least one more half)

* Visit all 4 countries that I’ve referred to as “home” during the last 10 years

* Write a book

So, there you go. My list. My dreams. My goals. Shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish, right?

Pretty much all of my friends laughed when I mentioned the marathon, but nodded when I said I wanted to write a book (it’s not the first time I mention it to them, as it has been my dream for as long as I can remember, I actually “announced it” to my folks at the age of 10 when we were having dinner. Then they told me I should become a journalist first, as one simply can't just “become” a published writer).

Me, on the other hand, think the book is the scary part. Running is just running, and although I’ve had a sore hip for 2 months now and haven’t been able to run the miles I should run every week (but I do other training instead, and I’m training pretty hard, 4-5 times/week so I believe I’m keeping fit still), that doesn’t worry me too much. If it’s something I have it’s physical willpower –and I’m good at pushing myself when it comes to challenges. I might not finish within 4 hours, but (unless this hip continues to torture me all year long) I will finish the race, even though it might be painful.

The book, on the other hand… is another story. Since it’s been a dream of mine for so long there’s a bit of sentimental attachment to it. It’s super scary, and there’s constantly this fear of failure going on in my head. But as a wise friend told me:

-You cannot fail something unless you’ve tried.

So I better keep trying.

And this is when blogging comes into the picture. How do I make time for that? I already have a full-time job, I always come home late at night (since I do my workouts pretty much every day after work), and my best time for writing (when my brain is feeling fresh and creative) is during the very early mornings (which is the time slot that has been devoted to my blog for the last 4 or so years).

So, now you see how this equation isn’t adding up.

And now you know why I haven’t been updating my blog for the last few weeks.

I still don’t want to say “OK, so this is it, I’m closing down, bye bye, thanks for reading all these years! (and all of you who left me nasty, anonymous comments or abusive email, now you might as well disappear from this platform forever!)” because who knows: maybe I won’t fulfil my dream. Maybe I will be back. Maybe I’ll miss blogging too much. Maybe I’ll simply give up and go back to what has been my daily routine for the last few years.

So, this is not a goodbye.

But a see you later.

And I promise, regardless if I succeed or fail, to come back and update this blog on how I did with my three big “to dos” before August 15, 2012. And who knows. Maybe also along the way.

Until then.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't challenge superstition!

When we flew back to China (on Saturday, August 13) we bumped into some friends at Helsinki airport.

-Hey, how’s your holiday been?! When did you first get here? (The standard post-holiday conversation, you know).

-It’s been great, we got here six weeks ago!

-You’ve had a six weeks holiday?!
Me and my bf flinched. We thought we had had an extremely long holiday –my bf had 3 weeks and I was off for a whole month.

-Yeah, well the last week was work, the guy said.

-Ah, OK.

-Well, we actually wanted to have our holiday a bit earlier and be back by now, but because I had a Chinese delegation coming to Finland I had to be here and take care of them.


-We tried to get them to come here already in July but they refused, saying it was impossible. They really wanted to come in August.


-Yeah, and we pushed and pushed and then finally, they revealed why they just HAD to come in August. And not only in August. But on the 8th of August.


-Because they wanted to fly here on the 8th day of the 8th month: they arrived in Finland on August 8
(8/8 = very lucky day for many Chinese people as 8 is a lucky number in China).

-No way?!

-Oh yes! First we thought it was silly, then we remembered the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, and that it opened on August 8, 8.08pm. They take these things seriously in China. So we thought, how can we challenge superstition?

-Good point. So was it a successful visit?

-Sure, went great.

-Well then. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Office confrontation

Moment of truth -how much of this did you consume this summer?!

8.30 am. Monday morning. Back to work. Back to reality.

I enter the office. Bump into no one as I enter my office. Quickly push the power button on my computer. Unpack my handbag.

8.35am. I enter the kitchen. Armed with two large, 250 gram Fazer chocolate bars. Pressies for my workmates. A compulsory manner where I work.

8.36am. The ayi steps into the kitchen around the same time as I start putting down the chocolate on the table.

-Ah, Youna!! (Youna is my Chinese name) She says, and smiles. You’re back!

-Youna’s back?!
I hear, from outside.

It takes some 20 seconds and then they are all there. My wonderful workmates. Welcoming me back. And. Inspecting me.

One is so blunt that she says it straight to my face:

-Well, I want to see what has changed with you! And she gives me a long, once over, before she sighs and leaves.

No one has anything special to comment on. I haven’t cut or dyed my hair. I haven’t lost or put on weight. I haven’t got any great tan to show off.

Disappointed they all go back to their desks. Relieved, I feel like I can breathe again.

8.50am, my phone beeps. Text message from my boyfriend.

How did you go?!”

I text back. “You?”

“Well, one of my colleague said my face looks thinner. I guess that’s a good thing?”

I reply.

“Well to you too. No one called you fat”
I receive back.

“True. Good day!”

And it is. As the day goes by no one says anything. No one seems to care. One workmate wants to know why I’m not more tired. Didn’t I just arrive? Should I not be more jet lagged, yawn and leave early? I tell her that I’m tired but that I’m still going to the gym that night. She sighs and eats some cookies that she keeps in her desk drawer.

By the end of the day, 500 grams of chocolate has been consumed. And no one has called me fat, big, or anything. They have, however, remarked on the fact that I had sushi for lunch. Still. It’s the first time I return from a long holiday abroad and no one says anything about my weight.

I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back in the buzz

Dear city how I've missed you!

Back in Shanghai after a looong holiday. Almost too long. I get way too lazy when my life lacks structure. But I’ve had a wonderful time in Finland and Sweden, and as soon as I get around to connecting my camera with a missing cable (…) I will upload a holiday photo special.

But like I said, now I’m back. Back in our old (or new, because we moved in here one week before we went on our holiday!) flat, back in the humid heat, enjoying the noises, smell and atmosphere of being back. It’s actually pretty wonderful! I’ve missed China. I've missed my friends and I've missed the food. But most of all, I've missed the life we have here. The every day life where anything is possible and nothing is predictable. Sure, it can be frustrating at times but most of the time it's kind of fun. Also, this time, the humid heat wave that hit me when I stepped out of the airport terminal and into the taxi did not make me feel like running back inside and hiding on the plane (I’m not going to lie, sometimes it does).

Instead, we decided to embrace being back. So, yesterday we did stuff like we normally never do here in China. We went grocery shopping, we cleaned, and, we went to Ikea! Yeah! Ikea on a Sunday –after not having slept for some 48 hours (since I am sometimes struggling with sleeping in a bed, sleeping on a plane is completely out of the question. I have even stopped trying) we decided that Ikea would be the perfect choice. We were so spaced out, so tired and so out of it that we couldn’t have cared less about pushing ourselves through throngs of people on a regular Ikea Sunday in Shanghai. Good times. And now our flat looks so a lot nicer than before (although I’m glad we didn’t do all of our “must do” Ikea shopping last night because we came home with cushions in the wrong colour –as we in the store remembered our couch as blue. In reality, however, it’s gray. We also couldn’t remember the colour of our couch table so in the end we couldn’t get half of the stuff we set out to do).

A funny thing that I realised yesterday when I used my Chinese again, after a month’s break, was how bad it must have gotten. Because, for the first time in I don’t know how long, people made comments about it. The fruit man in the grocery store, our security guard at the door (that laughed at us when we emptied our over filled mail box and bills literally fell out on the floor) the girl at the counter at Ikea… they all wanted to know how long I had been in China for, if I liked it here, and told me that my Chinese was everything from 还可以 (OK) to 很好 (very good). I've been told that when people say your Chinese is "OK" it is also a nice way of saying: “good effort but you’ve got some improvements to do!”

Now I’m off to the office and after 1 month away I am guessing I’m in for a super duper busy day with an over full inbox and some 82684962349 meetings I need to book. Oh, and did I mention it’s my birthday? Yeah, today I turn 29! What better way to kick start my last year in the twenties?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The annual Swedish crayfish party...

....started off in a quite calm, friendly, and sophisticated manner

Then I'm not quite sure what happened, but I guess everyone's true colours came out.

Until next year!