Monday, August 31, 2009

Off to Yunnan

Hello Suzhou and goodbye Suzhou! I'm off to Yunnan for 6 days of leisure and fun. We'll fly to Kunming and from there somehow make our way to Dali... they we'll hand in Dali until we get bored and head off to the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Lijiang. Eventually we'll fly back to Shanghai (via Kunming) from Lijiang, although I hope this goes well because the flight we were supposed to be on has already been cancelled.. Oh well, I am still so excited! I've already been to Yunnan once but that was a completely different kind of a trip, so this time I am looking forward to just relaxing, enjoying the food and not necessarily think about work.

We spent today, our "stopover" day, in Suzhou at the "wedding street," (this has become the new "tailor market" to bring visitors too! Much more fun here: you get your own catwalk and tiara!) making a wedding dress to my friend Caroline who's getting married this upcoming winter (And Caroline, if you are reading this: you're going to look gorgeous in this one, darling!). We also made a dress for mom and one for my sister... I'm a little bit nervous about how they are going to turn out, but let's hope for the best! At least it was a good way to get straight back into speaking Chinese again. Oh god! After chatting with numerous sales girls and tailors I felt completely exhausted when we eventually jumped into a taxi back. In fact, I almost fell asleep in the backseat!! Haha! My Chinese held up but it didn't feel as smooth as "back in the days" (ehhh) and I was sometimes lost for words. Oh well, I have an excellent opportunity to rely on it now during our stay in Yunnan.

After the dress making we went to a Korean restaurant (mom was in LOVE. She's a health bug and hit it off totally with the kimchi) and ate some much missed bibimbap (my oh my... so GOOD!) and then we went to have a massage... And now I have to say it: it's d*** good to be back in China!!! How I've missed this place!!

Anyways, now I better get back to packing and sorting out my clothes (I am determined that for once in my life I am going to travel light!)

Unless I find a computer in Yunnan, blogging will return to its normal, every-day-update kind sometime after September 5. Have a great week everybody, I am pretty sure I will.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Goodmorning China!

A few hours back in China and so far 63264264 things seem to have happened. Wow, this really IS China. Awesome!

* My mobile has been suspended for some, unknown reason? It worked during the first 10 hours but now I've received messages telling me I should get it fixed. Ahhhh... lovely (yes, it has credit. It just simply isn't possible to use it). I have to make a visit to China Mobile this morning... mmmmm.

* Our flight back from Lijiang to Shanghai next week has been cancelled. I received a note about this in my bf's name to my email?! Even when I replied and signed the emails: "from Jonna" they insisted on calling me my bf's name back. Hihi. Anyways, now we've got a new flight back to Shanghai. All done over email. Let's hope it isn't a scam!

* Remember the expensive TV repair we went through sometime in June? Well guess what, the box is broken AGAIN! Oh, our landlords are going to love this!

* Night one in Suzhou was spent at a farewell BBQ as one of our friends is leaving. I had almost forgotten what a "you come for some years and then you go back"-place China is to most people. Kind of sad. But I bet there are will be least 8687364 new people here only this fall.

Yeah, just some small things. Already more action here than during 2 months in Finland, haha! It's surely great to be back but I am quite jet-lagged still so it will take me yet another day to adjust I think. Oh, and tomorrow me and mom are off to Yunnan! Already! I'm a bit too tired at this moment to be excited. First we have today to deal with: clothes making at the Suzhou wedding street. I bet I will come home tonight with some new, interesting stories.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chinese food in Finland

"Chinese food" in Finland...

So, I am off! Today around 5pm I am finally flying to China. Yeeeey!

Wednesday was my last day at work and my work mates figured it would be nice if we all went for lunch together. Since we only have 30 min lunch we chose a place that was close and that had a long table: turned out to be a Chinese buffet restaurant called Wang Long or something like that (aren't they all called that over here?!).

Anyways, this lunch only triggered an even more serious craving for the real stuff. Seriously?! Sweet and sour, sweet and cloggy, sweet and yuk... no, the company was great but the food was really quite bad. And, to top things off: 9 euros for the meal! 9 euros each! That's around 90 yuan. Aoooch! For 90 yuan at a Chinese restaurant you get a lot better stuff. I understand that the prices are more expensive here but still.. I am ready to go back to enjoying cheap, good lunches again!

Another little side note. On Mon night I went out with two of my friends from Tampere. They are like me, not fans of westernized Chinese food, and wanted to try the real thing. In order to do so they brought me, Mandarin speaker, to Tampere's only "real" Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Ren Jia. 

There I ordered three dishes that made my friend not only shine with joy, but also quite surprised, since none of them had ever eaten anything close to that at any "Chinese" restaurant in Europe before. When they later asked the Chinese waiter why they didn't serve this kind of food the waiter replied: "It wouldn't work. People here don't want this. They want their chicken and bamboo. The only people that want this kind of food are those that know a little bit about Chinese culture, or maybe they have been travelling to China before."

Fair enough. 

Actually, I later found out that this restaurant really tried to put the "real" stuff on the menu when they first opened. A journalist from a local paper then went to eat there and wrote a review, claiming the place didn't make "authentic" Chinese food. He was disappointed that there was no fried banana or sweet and sour pork. 

Quite amazing if you ask me.  

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Witches in the office?

Yesterday we were reminiscing at the office. One of my “old” workmates from when I used to work there in 2005 reminded me of an event:

-Remember when you broke your foot and went all crazy about the fact that you couldn’t do any sort of exercise for 12 weeks? And then you started some crazy diet?

-Sure do, I remember. I went a bit crazy there for a while and only ate apples for a week or so.

-Yeah and then our Chinese boss were standing in the door one day when you came limping in on your crutches, and when he saw you he went: “Oh Jonna! You look much fatter today! That’s good!” And all of us just went “Oh no, she’s not going to take this well…”

-hahahaaha, yes I remember, I had never been called fat by a Chinese person up until that day so I didn’t really know that what he said actually was meant to make me feel better, and in the same way show that he cared… Instead I took it all personal….

-Didn’t you like.. go to the bathroom and cry or something? I remember you were gone for a while.

-The bathroom was busy, so I went to the kitchen for a 20-minute sob. And then I reduced my daily dose of apples from 4 to 3.


When we were talking another work mate was listening in, and when we all finished laughing she told us that once she had been in the kitchen together with another girl from Finland…. Both of them happen to have striking red hair.

Suddenly our Chinese boss stepped into the kitchen. They said hello but then he stopped and looked at them both, before he said:

-Oh… you two look like… witches!

…before he walked out!

Hilarious! I was rolling around on the floor of laughter when I heard this story! This Chinese boss of ours is “all about business” and often wears a suit… just to think of him letting out these clumsy comments just makes me crack up! By now, we all know he doesn’t mean anything mean, so we all just nod, say “oh, really” and then we have a laugh about it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2 more days and then I'm off!

2 days until departure and I am off the coffee already

I’m a last minute kind of girl so you can just guess how things are looking over here, after 2 months in Finland and with 2 days until my China departure… Yes, I am more of less panicking. Panicking over deadlines (why did I leave everything until that very last minute?!), over how bad my Chinese has gone, about all the things I still have to do: some essential must-bring-because-cannot-get-in-China-shopping (mainly food or hygiene products), a serious clean up (this place looks like a war zone!), packing (how am I going to fit all my stuff into my suitcase? Oh, the usual pain) and then I have about 1 million papers to fill, some job applications to send, some friends to see/call/say goodbye to, and, not to be forgotten, a job to finish!

I’ve had so much in my head during these last few days that I haven’t been able to fall asleep at night (and I really tried everything! Went to bed super tired, read a book, changed my sheets, took a shower, drank some water, put my head where I normally have my feet, counted backwards from 347 and so on… still, I couldn’t fall asleep!). Then I’ve gotten a rash all over my legs, plus a blister in my mouth –all the typical signs of me being maybe a tad bit stressed.

I figured a power walk could do me some good when I got home today after work, so I put on some training clothes and went out there. Although, once I was out there walking and saw all the runners around me I got even more stressed. Going back to China. Not In Shape. At All. AT ALL! That was not how it was supposed to be!!

So, I glanced down at my sprained ankle, thinking: “I have now been walking without the ankle support for a few days now and that has been going well… I’ve even started taking the stairs everyday rather than the elevator.. but could I really… run? Well… I don’t know. Maybe not. But… nothing wrong with trying, right?”

Nope. Nothing wrong with trying. 40 minutes later I came home, exhausted. Legs feeling like jelly. But mind felt as if I had just flown to another planet. The planet of feeling good and de-stressed. Think how easy it can be sometimes.

But, best of all. I ran! I did it! My foot didn’t hurt and I ran for 40 minutes without stopping. Sure, we are not talking any Bai Xue marathon speed here, oh no no, I was more like a senior woman out jogging. (On flat ground only. I didn't dare the forest) But who cares? Not me anyways. Main thing is that the foot held up.

Now the ankle is quite swollen, but it doesn’t hurt. I take that as a good sign.

And, funny thing is that after that run I sat down and went through about 90% of all the papers I had to go through, sent some emails that have just been waiting to be sent, cooked myself some nice food (yes, cooked, not de-frosted) and felt rather good about everything. Now I am just waiting for a night of good sleep and then I am ready to deal with the rest!

China, here I come!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Keen to find a teacher

I was chatting to one of my western male friends today. Like me, he lives in Suzhou and when he goes to Shanghai for a party weekend he often stays at a failry nice, but cheap hotel. Yesterday evening he suddenly received a sms, going:

”Hey, this is Li Lin, do you teach English?”

He thought for a while but couldn't come up with any friend named Li Lin, so he simply replied:

”Who are you?”

And got:

”I am Li Lin from the hotel.”

Ah, that Li Lin. That Li Lin that has checked him in and therefore has his mobile phone number?! That girl that he has never really talked to, but simply handed his credit card to, before he filled in a slip where he wrote down all his personal details?

”No I am not a teacher.” he finally wrote and decided not to stay at that hotel again.

”OK!” Li Lin replied.

There sure ain't no such things as ”protecting people's privacy” over here. If you are keen to learn English and just happen to sit on a number to a foreigner you can just go ahead and use it.

Even though you obtained it at work, in a business situation.

Quite a funny story!

But also a tad bit scary (even though I knew the keen-to-learn-English girl probably didn't mean anything bad).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Going to Dali and LIjiang in Yunnan -do I need malaria tablets?

I just realized that Yunnan is one of those places where you actually might need malaria tablets? Should I get some? I tried to google and some pages are saying ”bring!” while others are saying ”don't bother.” So I figured I would ask my very own google, namely you guys!! What do you reckon?

On week left...

...and then I’m off to China! Quite excited –although I know what awaits me: a humid, polluted city. But loads of good food, catching up sessions with friends, and, not to be forgotten: some really exciting trips coming up! This fall is going to be a bit crazy. I’ve got three trips planned for the next 2 months. What can I say? When the travelling bug hits you it hits you hard! Also, after working pretty much all summer I am looking forward to the reward.

Summer is definitely coming to an end in Finland. Yesterday morning, my work mate told us there had been frost on his car at 7am in the morning. Frost on August 21?! Ha! Hello winter! Now that’s a season I am happy that I will miss out on over here!

All in all it’s been a good working summer in Finland. Nice to get a change of scene, and this has definitely made me appreciate the life I have in China more, just like I was hoping it would.

Months ago, a reader asked me to list 5-10 things that I love about China. I said it was a great idea then, but then I forgot about it. Seeing I am about to head back, I'm all excited about China again, so
here goes:

1. The food –I love the diversity and the spicy stuff you can get over there

2. Chinese people –sure, they stare a little bit too much for my liking, and sometimes their behavior is quite… weird. But that’s obviously due to culture differences, so who am I to judge? They probably think my behavior (going jogging for instance, or paying loads of money for the right kind of cheese) is completely off too. Overall I think they are helpful, happy and quite wonderful. (There are exceptions everywhere in this world). I prefer their openness to the Scandinavian coldness. Every day.

3. The opportunities there are in China. It’s inspiring to live somewhere where (more or less) everything is possible (even though people use the term “mei you ban fa” –“it’s impossible” way too frequently!).

4. The everyday life –no day is like the other day. There’s always some fun/less fun stuff happening. Makes life a bit more interesting.

5. The language. It’s inspiring, yet tough to learn Chinese, and although I sometimes forget, I really enjoy learning Mandarin.

6. Cheap public transport. Say no more. It’s insane that in Sweden I have to pay the equivalent to 70 yuan (about 6,5-7 euros) for a 25-min bus ride. Not to mention the train tickets over here. One way, Tampere-Helsinki (about 2 hours on a fast train): 33 euros. One way, Beijing-Shanghai (about 10-12 hours if you take the night train and get a sleeper for 4 people): 50 euros.

7. The tea drinking. Free tea to every meal, people walking around with their mugs and special teacups.

8. The shopping. I would lie if I said I don’t enjoy the shopping in Shanghai. I mean, just the tailor market?! HEAVEN!!!

9. My close Chinese friends. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know some rather fantastic people in China. I’ve learned a lot from them.

10. The feeling that no matter how much of the language you learn/ how many people you get to know/ how many cities/provinces of the country you visit/ how many dishes you try –you feel that there’s always more for you to see, hear, taste, experience and learn.

Now, I could probably list 10 things I don't like about China too, but why not just make this a positive one, seeing it's Friday and everything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Silence makes you ponder

One thing I realized the other day (in the sauna actually) is how much time I actually spend thinking about things over here. Not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, especially not after just having turned one year older (and for all of you who wonder, I just turned 27).

In China most days are sort of “go, go go!” and there’s very little time to actually think about what’s going on.

But over here there’s plenty of time.

Just take the bus ride in the morning. 20 minutes of complete silence. Then the 5 minutes walk to the office. Not a single honking car to disturb that vivid mind of mine.

Then, office. After polite greeting phrases (“good morning/ how are we today/ what did you bring for lunch/ did you get up to something special last night”) we all settle in front of our computers. For a good 2 hours my mind is focussed on work. Then I get bored with looking at the screen, which results in a wandering mind. Work, think, work, think. So silent. So easy to get carried with my thoughts.

Lunch hour comes as a wake-up-from-thinking-call. However, we only have 30 minutes so there’s not really time to escape to somewhere nice to eat. If it’s sunny we go to the park with out brought-from-home-lunch-boxes and enjoy the best, most social work moment of the day.

30 minutes later we are back in front of our computers. Typing endlessly. Mind wanders.

It’s actually not the dullness/repetitiveness of work that makes me ponder. Rather, I think it’s the silence combined with the quiet, and sophisticated environment I’m in. After work, I often walk to the city centre, however, my mind is still far away. Despite the fact that I just left the office and is now surrounded by life and people.

When I am walking somewhere in China I am constantly conscious of everything around me. I have no time thinking about how many babies I’d like to have or how to score my dream job, I am far too busy looking out for cars that might hit me, avoiding street hawkers, and not looking tall. When catching a bus I never sit down and let my mind wander, rather, I hold on tightly and hope that I won’t fall when the bus does one of those rather violent and speedy turns. In China it’s hard to find a silent place, and therefore (I guess) also hard to find that moment for yourself to think about things. I feel I’ve done enough thinking during the last week (my significant other went back to China some time ago so I am not “alone” in Finland) than I’ve done during the last year in China. It’s almost a bit scary. I guess it’s also a bit of a wake up call.

Everybody I’ve met this summer have been asking: “so, what’s your plan?/ when are you coming home?/ where will you settle down?/ What are you going to do with your Chinese?” and I’ve addressed their inquiries by nodding/shrugging my shoulders, smiling and saying “we’ll see!”

All this thinking-time I’ve experienced lately have made me realize though, that we won’t just “see.” Rather, I must know. Or, well, at least I must know so that I know what to answer next time someone ask. That’s how things are over here. You should know where your life is going. With all that time spent thinking, you definitely should have a mental plan in place.

People talk about different things here and there. I’ve noticed that I find people over here more self-centred than people in China. Not saying everybody are like that (noooooo, I hate to generalize, I am just saying that I’ve noticed that a lot of people talk about themselves a lot. Much more –and in another way- than my Chinese friends do) and now I actually understand why. With so much time to think about yourself, no wonder you get caught up in your own life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seen, Heard, and Experienced in Finland -not that much!

Life over here is kind of… dull. No offense to Finland or anything, it’s just me who’s gotten used to 24-7 action/odd stuff happening. See how little interesting stuff I’ve blogged about this summer? Being away from China has made me realize that the day I move from Asia is the day I’ll stop blogging. No point forcing something that isn’t there. After all, it’s not me who is interesting in this blog. It’s everything that I see, hear and experience.

During the last week or so, daily dramas have been very few and kind of lame. Just to give you some sort of idea of what sort of things stands out over here:

Shopping "dramas" 

I went jeans shopping the other day, and found myself a paid of black skinny jeans that not only made my legs look long and slim, but also felt like a dream.

-Feel comfortable, in those tight jeans?! Oh no no no! Gushed the sale’s guy. They are not supposed to be comfy! Those jeans are supposed to be uncomfortably super tight you when you buy them, then be awkward for a while, and THEN they will stretch some 2 percent (?) which will turn them into a glove on your body!

-But… these feel so good right now?

-They are not supposed to! Here,
he said, and handed me a smaller size. Put these on and come out and show me.

With a tortured face expression I did like he told me. I barely made it into the jeans and closing that last button required more than a little effort. 

-See! Perfect! You look so slim! It’s great!

-Even though I cannot breathe? I tried. But he didn’t hear me. Or, he pretended that he didn’t. Although when I paid I must have looked a bit doubtful, because he suddenly reminded me:

-Don’t you worry, they will stretch.

And sure. They have. Actually, now I can get into them during the mornings, if I have a small breakfast. It’s around after lunchtime that it gets tricky, and quite often I have to cheat and unbutton that first button sometime around 1pm. No biggy, I’m sitting down most of the time at work. And, since they still are still so tight (like a glove, like he promised…) I don’t drop them when I have to unexpectedly rise from my seat.

Lunch "dramas" 

Although I hate to admit it… and although I am going have to eat this once I am back in China… I am kind of… sick of…. Salad. And. Salmon. There. I said it. Although I’m definitely going to continue having those salmon salads until I leave Finland. I have to. They are so good for me. Full of those good, fatty oils and other vitamins. And soon I am back to the oil, sugar, salt and msg -diet. Then I bet it won’t be long until I’m dreaming of salmon and fresh tomatoes again.

Exercising "dramas"

Seeing that I’ve been a real clutz and sprained my ankle (grrrrrr) I am now off the running and on the power walking. I mean, the foot is good enough to walk on now, so it’s time to step it up. Doesn’t matter that it’s still a bit swollen and that it hurts after my walks, I need to challenge it, right?

Unfortunately, power walking isn’t even half as much fun as it looks like. Well, not in my opinion anyways.

While I am out there, power walking, I feel both odd and uncomfortable. My movements are kind of stiff and I tend to bang my feet on the ground. And my arms… gosh, my arms? I have no idea what to do with them when I am walking! Where do I put them when I am running? Can’t I do the same while power walking? Sure, I could… although doing that makes me feel kind of… ridiculous. And I already feel ridiculous power walking! So arms up are just not going to happen! It’s bad enough that I am walking when I should be running!

Worse than the oddness is the look from the runners. Or, let me re-phrase that: the lack of looks. When I’m running I’m one of them. One of those fit-balls. One of those healthy, perky ones that tend to annoy everybody but other runners. Runners great fellow runners with a smile and sometimes a friendly nod, sort of saying: “Hiya, great work, isn’t this just great! See ya here tomorrow again!” (sometimes it happens that a fellow runner doesn’t look you in the eye but then you know s/he’s just a beginner getting used to the whole thing).
Power walkers get…. Nothing. No smile, no look. No acknowledgement. No respect. No encouragement.

Also, power walking is really slow. No matter how fast you walk even those slow joggers (that you happily pass when you are running) are going to pass you. And, it’s bloody hard to break a sweat when walking, however fast you are making yourself walk.

To top things off I feel slightly ashamed of the fact that I am not running, which makes me (I realized when I accidently saw my reflection in a car window) hunch. Great, huh, isn’t it? A hunching, odd-looking power walker! Now, this ankle better heal itself real soon or I might have a nervous breakdown.

Public transport "dramas"

The buses here follow real strict schedules. So, if you miss your bus there’s no chance of another one turning up, like in China. And while we are at the bus topic, I should also point out that they are really expensive to ride. Like, insanely expensive. I almost feel as if my seat should be golden, or that I should get a complimentary cup of coffee for the price I am paying for a 20 minutes bus rude. I’m sure you would in China. These buses would be considered luxury buses over there. Wouldn’t last a day unless there were perks.

And there seem to be a rule of not speaking while you are on them? At least no one ever says anything. If you happen to get a phone call you almost want to excuse yourself. That’s how quiet it is. Or maybe that’s just Finland?

Yeah, so with those few dramas pointed out I think that you can all agree with me that my temporary every-day Finland life isn’t that exciting. Oh well, got to give me credit for trying!

I’m off to the sauna. Challenging myself how long I can stay inside a tiny little room where there’s 100 degrees (Celsius) has become my new, odd hobby. So far I’ve managed 17 minutes without water. Let’s see how tonight goes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

That one, special day of the year

Happy birthday to me!!! Today's my birthday, and yeah, I know that at my age I am not supposed to be all excited about it and stuff, but what the h**. We are not getting any younger anyways, so why fret? I'll embrace this day just like I did when I turned 7 and got a My Little Pony stable from my parents (probably the happiest day of my life at that point!).

Three years ago, exactly, we landed in Shanghai for the first time. This year, my birthday is spent in Finland. I have another 2 weeks to go here before I go back to China! Exciting!

I thought I'd share some photos from my holiday week in Finland, this time taken at my bf's family's summer cottage. This is probably one of my favorite places on earth: Lake. Water. Forest. Nature. Good company. I don't need much more to be happy. It'll be another year or so until we make it back to this cottage, but until then I have these photos to remind me of the good times.

Anyhow, now time to get on celebrating! Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Stuck in the toilet"-drama as a cartoon!

I received an email today telling me my "stuck in the bathroom story" had been made into a cartoon on the site M and Mx.

The story can be found by clicking here.

To me, it's awesome to find out that people might laugh at my "misfortunes" because then at least I know that I don't make a fool of myself in vain, haha!

(And let's face it, I'm a bit of a clutz, so it tends to happen quite often)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crazy cover!

This is hilarious!!! There's this (questionable) music competition in Europe called the Eurovision song contest. In 2004 a very well known Swedish singer (who has been around for ages!) participated with a typical ”Euro vision song” called ”It Hurts” or ”Det gör ont” in Swedish. The song did quite well in the competition and became a big hit in Sweden, something that is quite common when it comes to these kind of songs (for some reason, Swedes love these Euro vision songs, there are even bars playing only that kind of music, which in Sweden is referred to as ”slager” songs).

I personally don't like the stuff and I figured most foreigners wouldn't either... until I found this cover made by Jolin Tsai!!! A cover of a Swedish ”slager” hit?! Now that's really something you don't see everyday on youtube. I wonder who's going to make the most cash with this one: Swedish Lena Philipsson with, I don't know, maybe something around 1 million fans if you are using a very positive imagination technique.... Or, mega super pink pop princess Jolin Tsai?!

Oh, and in case someone wonders, Jolin's version doesn't really stick to the original message.

Original, in Swedish:

In English:

Jolin's version: 越慢越美丽

Language still there

Yey, finally a good day! And it’s already Wednesday, which means the weekend is one step closer. Wo-ho!

First of all, I am finally typing on my beloved computer again. It was the re-charger that had broken, so I got a new one. Phew!

Second of all, my foot is doing better. I can walk quite well now. Still far away from running but all I want is to be able to move normally a.s.a.p.

And finally, I spent last night speaking Chinese (+ eating Chinese, yum!) and I could still follow the conversation…. Meaning: I haven’t lost all my language skills this summer… wiiiiii!

Yeah, since I was seriously craving spicy food (+ in a slightly bad mood) in the beginning of this week I decided to ask a Chinese friend to join me for a meal at the only “real” Chinese restaurant in town (I say “real” because they still serve the sweet and sour pork/the deep fried chicken/ the bamboo and the banana –but it is run by a Shanghai family so those times I’ve been there I have asked for the “real” menu in Chinese, and last night we simply asked for some dishes out of the blue and the kind manager made them all for us. She’s such a doll!). That turned out to be a good idea! My friend, oblivious to the fact that I was actually nervous about speaking, rambled on in a speedy Chinese, expecting me to follow everything (we have been chatting for days on Skype and there I have had no problems keeping up + a dictionary on hand, so I assume she thought my spoken level would be the same). Although I felt a bit odd in the beginning (the young Chinese guys left our company so I haven’t spoken a word of Chinese for the last 3 weeks) I realized that I actually hadn’t forgotten so much. Or, more importantly, I could understand everything she said (to the point that I could reply correctly, obviously I missed out on some details), and my answers were grammatically correct/understandable. Yey!

I know this may sound like a silly thing to even write about, but you know, I have been seriously worried that 2 months in Finland would result in me forgetting a lot of my Chinese vocab. Last summer I was here for only 1 month and when I eventually came back to China I felt really stiff trying to communicate in Chinese. Sure, my level is higher now than then, but still. It’s always a relief when you realise that your level can actually keep itself up, even when you are not in the “foreign language environment,” I mean, that’s what I’ve been aiming at all along.

So, happy Wednesday in other words. It doesn’t matter that it’s raining and 14 degrees outside my window (hello, it’s supposed to be summer? See now why they love their saunas so much over here?! Might have to de-frost in the middle of the “warmest season” of the year….), I’m still heading to work with a big grin on my face.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spice obsession

The foot is doing better (I can walk quite well now although it is still swollen) and that will be celebrated tonight by going to a Chinese restaurant and eating some spicy food. I have realized that it is probably not so much the Chinese food I am missing, but more like, the spicy food. There’s a guy at my current office who’s even more chilli pepper-obsessed than I am. He puts chilli peppers/sauce on everything: pizza, lasagne, sausages, and cakes! Yeah, once he even made a banana cake that he put in the kitchen, and asked everyone to help themselves. Little did they know that he’d put chili sauce (the hot kind!) in between the bananas and sugar coating. I thought it was hilarious but everybody else seemed a bit upset about it all.

Being a member of the Finnish chili association he has all kinds of mad chili product (most of them are ordered online), including a chili extract that we yesterday put in our teas. Quite a different experience I tell you, but fun to try. He’s also given me a kind of chili candy that looks like any pink candy, but that literally burns your mouth from inside. You can’t keep it for long. It was so hot even a Chinese girl (that loves spicy food) started sweating when she ate it in the office. Nothing for the faint-hearted I tell you.

We were talking about it yesterday, about what it is that makes spicy food so… addictive. He was more into the whole burn/pain experience while as I like that burn/warm feeling that comes with eating spicy food: It feels like your body heats up. I guess that makes eating spicy food more suitable for winter than summer. Still, I cannot stay away from it, it’s so good! And knowing now that there’s a “chili association” for spice freaks like me and the chili guy in my office here in Finalnd, makes the whole idea of one day moving back here more comforting.

ps. Still no computer. So still no photos :(

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sprained ankle and dead computer

Luck just continues to rain down on me.Yesterday the re-charger to my Macbook suddenly gave up. Yup. Just like that. No more green or red light. In fact, no light what-so-ever?! Since it happened during the wknd I couldn't do much but today the computer is taking a little trip to the computer aid store. I mean, I need to have a fully fit computer. A.s.a.p! (so, no computer = no photos... everything is on there...)

As for the foot, it is still quite swollen and stuff, playing with my mood (not in a good way). Well, all in all it wasn't the best wknd. But let's hope the tide turns sooner rather than later.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Once a klutz, always a klutz

Foot deja-vu

I had the best crayfish party last night: food was amazing, the company was everything you can wish for, the wine was good, we were all having a good time, and it felt so good to just be surrounded by a bunch of great friends. Great spent quality time.

However, life can never be completely sugar sweet, right? And unfortunately there isn’t much mercy for those of us that are natural-born-klutzes. Those of us that just have go and mess things up for ourselves, us constant Bambies on thin ice. I just happen to be one of those. I bump into things that other people gracefully avoid. I not only slip and fall on ice spots, I fall and break my foot in the fall. I walk into poles, stumble on treadmills, get stuck with my t-shirt in stair climber (how!?) and then, yesterday, I took a few steps, and slipped on the wet grass (I was barefoot) and managed to sprain my ankle (and no, it wasn’t a drunk slip. Just an unfortunate one that someone with a little bit of grace probably would have been able to avoid). Ta ta daaaaa! And, she’s done it again!

The great crayfish party went on with me, a foot in bandage, and some serious mind abuse going on in my brain. All in all it was a great party, but today, when I woke up and looked down at my football-sized food, saw the blue sky outside the window and thought about that fact that there won’t be any running for me for a while, I felt like crying.

So instead of enjoying a lap in the forest followed by an afternoon at the beach today, we are heading to the pharmacy to get painkillers and bandages. Funny how things turn out sometimes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Crayfish party

Finally Friday! And not just any Friday, but crayfish-party-Friday! Some of our friends have put together a crayfish party, which will be the first (and probably only one) that I attend this year.

I have to say that I’m a huge fan of crayfish parties. It has nothing to do with crayfishes although they are of course yummy too, but I especially enjoy the simplicity of these parties. You come, you eat, you sing, you drink. You eat some more, sing some more and have a few "snaps"  (not the sweet, peach stuff, no no, here we are talking Akvavit –something I don’t even like but at these parties it’s kind of fun) and that’s probably when the singing really takes off. Oh, and you do all of this while wearing funny hats (if you’re in that mood, I have to confess that I personally tend to skip those). Sweden isn’t really rich when it comes to festivals and stuff (ehhh) but got to love the yearly crayfish parties that take place every year in August.

Someone recently asked me why we have these crayfish parties, and I caught myself not really being able to answer. Was it so that the crayfish parties to Swedes were something like Thanksgiving to Americans, my friend wondered? Ehh…. Not really. Rather, I think it has something to do with the fact that crayfish harvesting in Sweden was, for most of the 20th century, legally limited to late summer, and people therefore thought of turning it into a party when they were finally allowed to harvest. Or something like that?!

Anyways, whatever excuse there is to celebrate, I tend to embrace it. Have a great Friday everyone!

Crucial part of the party part one: Singing
Crucial part of the party part two: snaps-ing

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Coolest thing: breaking the rules

Will these 2 ever break some rules when the hit puberty?

Like I told you guys before, we are a mixed crew working here in the office in Finland: some Chinese, some Finns, some Swedes, some Danes, some French, some Estonian etc, etc… Yesterday one guy (western) thought of the genius idea (?) to find out what’s “cool in China amongst teenagers.” In order to so, he decided to have a chat with one of our Chinese co-workers: a fairly young, Shanghainese boy that we can call “Wang.” I don’t really know why Wang was chosen, but seeing that he sometimes wears a hat to the office (the funky, white kind) I guess some people might consider him a person “in the know” (about cool-ness amongst Chinese teens).

In order to rate the coolest thing you can do as a young, Chinese person, Wang was given several examples to choose from, such as: tattoos, piercing, drinking, dating, skateboarding, fireworks… and so on.

However, coolest on the list, Wang doubtlessly placed:

“Breaking the rules!”

And what kind of rules then?

Well, any rules. According to Wang, going against the norm is apparently considered cool amongst Shanghai teens.

So what’s the most un-cool thing then?

Well, not that hard to guess: “telling on others/ being good friends with the teacher.”

According to Wang, every single class had a non-cool person, who spent every living second sucking up to the teacher. The cool kids, however, were apparently harder to spot.

I have to say that I’m a little bit surprised by Wang’s answer. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought that Chinese teens even regarded “breaking the rules” as something they would do… From what I’ve witnessed in China, those teenage kids are under so much pressure in school that they don’t even have time to think about things like “breaking the rules” in between their piano lessons, afternoon classes and mountain of homework. But there you go, turns out we aren’t that different after all. Being a fairly un-cool kid over here back in the days, I sure enjoyed a bit of rule-breaking myself:

-Always going home for lunch rather than eating at school, making my teachers see red.

-Crossing the ‘big street’ (= forbidden thing number 1) outside our school to buy candy (= forbidden thing number 2) during most breaks.

-Hiding everywhere from in the bathroom to the drying cabinet during winter so that I didn’t have to step outside in the freezing cold during our breaks (one cleaning lady almost had a heart attack when she found me in the cabinet).

-Parking my bicycle where I wasn’t supposed to.

-Stealing an immaculate amount of pens and notebooks.

Wonder what cool kind of rules Wang broke when he was a youngster.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tiger Leaping Gorge trek

Photos from my last trip to Yunnan when I visited Kunming, Yuxi, Yani, Eshan, Ben Pei, Daxi and some other tiny little mountain villages that I've forgotten the name of. This trip will be very different.

Like I mentioned some months ago, as soon as I get back to China in the end of August (I cannot wait!! 2 months away are too long!) me and my dear mom are going to unpack our suitcases and start packing our bag packs, and head to Yunnan. I’m so excited about this trip! Not only am I going to experience the beautiful Yunnan (a different part of where I have been before) but I’ve also heard that the weather is rather beautiful at that time in Yunnan.

We have around 5 days down there, not enough, I know, but better than nothing still! Right now we are thinking about flying to Kunming, taking a bus to Dali and then from there go to Lijiang and especially the Tiger Leaping Gorge (before we eventually fly home from Lijiang). I think the TLG is the thing I’m the most excited about. Both mom and I are sporty spices (at least we like to think of ourselves like that) and are keen to trek the gorge. However, one tiny little concerned has appeared, as mom is a bit scared of heights… how “bad” is the TLG? Height wise I mean? I have read that it is one of the world’s deepest canyons, so I assume that it’s quite deep, but while trekking it, do you have to walk really close to the edge? Also, I’ve read that there are 2 different roads: the high road and the low road. The high road is apparently the one that the local population (the Naxi people) use so I assume that’s the better one. Which one have you guys chosen?

Other things I’ll be doing in Yunnan includes taking hundreds of photos and eating some of those great potatoes that someone once recommended me to try. Oh, and enjoy the blue sky of course. And talk to locals. Or at least try to talk to them. God knows at what sort of level my Chinese will be at that point.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Holiday haven

What a week I’ve had. In a rental car we went through parts of Finland that I didn’t even know existed: picturesque little villages made up by lakes and islands that look as if they have been taken out of a story book. Got to love the beauty of this country and being so close to nature and fresh air. Summer, sunshine and an average of 24 degrees (forget about the humidity –heaven!) didn’t make matters worse. I swam every day (in all kinds of lakes, in case you didn’t know, Finland is known for being ‘the home of thousands lakes’ even though Sweden actually has got a bigger number of lakes), enjoyed picnics in the sun, walks in the forest and cute little boat cruises on boats that could have been taken out of a movie. It was truly wonderful. Now, however, I’m back at work and I feel completely out of touch with what’s been going on in the world while I’ve been ‘gone.’ That’s what no computer/ no email/ no phone/ no newspapers (sure, could have gone and bought some but deliberately chose to be ignorant enough not to) does to you.

I haven’t spoken a word of Chinese in 2 weeks. Yikes. Scary how fast you forget recent vocabulary. I realized the change when I was catching some sun on the pier the other day, and tried to make up a sentence in Chinese in my head (one of my odd hobbies nowadays) and couldn’t think of the word for ‘destiny’ (a simple word as 命运 that I learned ages ago!). So frustrating! Fortunately, it eventually came to me, but still… I already fear how my first few weeks at the new university are going to go… Oh well, you win some and you lose some. I guess that I too have to realize that you cannot have the cookie (spend a summer in Scandinavia) and eat it (improve my Mandarin/not forget my Mandarin) at the same time.

Some pictures from Savonlinna and the surrounding nature where we spend the beginning of the week: