Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To blog or not to blog

Long time no blogpost. Very unlike me, I know, but let's blame the Christmas frenzy. 2010 is around the corner and I am still in Sweden, breathing wonderful fresh air and eating my way to a somewhat heavier New Year (the side effects of the swine flu vaccination have worn off and I’m now making up for potential eating losses). For the last 6 months I’ve been thinking about this blog and about what I want to do with it. When I started blogging I loved it. Lately, however, I have not felt as inspired. Since I only want to deliver quality blog post and not just blog for the sake of blogging I’m not sure if I’ll continue blogging in 2010. I’ll probably decide once I’m back to China, sometime around Jan 5. Would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year! All the best to you!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Vaccinated against the swine flu

One shot = three meatballs on Christmas and I'm done

Sweden is one of the few countries that has chosen to mass vaccinate all citizens (voluntarily) against the swine flu. 18 million vaccine doses were originally ordered (2 shots per person, Sweden’s population is around 9 million), however, after almost 80% of the population have received their first shots it is being debated if that second dose is actually needed and the second dose has been temporary cancelled.

I’m not sure what the deal is in China, I know they are vaccinating some people but far from everyone, and since I prefer dealing with medical matters in Sweden I asked my mom if she could find out if I could get my vaccination in Sweden despite the fact that I have emigrated.

Turns out I could! The hospital even had a certain date (December 23) for “Swedes living abroad/emigrated Swedes” to come in and get their shots (and despite the fact that we are no longer in the Swedish system and receive no social security it was free! Cheers). Unusually enough, there was a rather friendly atmosphere in the hospital’s waiting room?!

Take bunch of Swedes that don’t know each other and put them in a room and there will be complete silence except for the sound of people flicking their magazine pages. Take a bunch of emigrated Swedes, who have been living elsewhere a great deal of their life and feel happy, yet a bit confused about being in the “Swedish system” and meeting so many fellow Swedes again, and you’ll get a pretty nice atmosphere. At least that was the case at this hospital’s waiting room. People were chatting aimlessly, and I ended up exchanging travel anecdotes with an old Swedish couple who’d been living in the UK for 25 years, as well as with another couple who’d spent a few years living in Ukraine before moving to Latvia.

The shot itself didn’t hurt, and I felt great until later that day when I got a fever and started to feel kind of fragile. (This is apparently how the body reacts in some cases against the vaccine: you get a mini flu). The next day (on Christmas itself) I felt as if I had a flu and despite eating painkillers (which I had been recommended to do) I still felt weak and tired, however, the biggest surprise was my appetite. I simply could not eat that much, which is highly unusual for a food lover as me. So, while the other ones were unbuttoning their pants, rubbing their bellies and fighting for the best pieces from the "Aladdin" chocolate box, I was full after 3 meatballs. I think this Christmas will go to history as the first Christmas ever when I did not gain weight.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

Don't tell me I'm one day early, in Sweden we celebrate on the 24th. Merry Christmas y'all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Text message mania

When refilling your mobile credit in Sweden (if you have a prepaid card like me, most people obviously have a plan, but I don’t really see the need for that so I stick to my prepaid card) you often get “freebees” like 100 free sms:es (once I received 1000!). One might wonder what you’re going to do with 100 free text messages, but let me tell you, there are loads of things you can do in Sweden simply by sending text messages:

Buy bus tickets/ train tickets/ subway tickets

Buy candy at some vending machines

Use public toilets (it’s city council’s idea to track down people who vandalize public loos. In one amusement park, for instance, you pay a small sum, then a code appears on the screen outside the loo. You text this code to a number, you immediately receive a new code back. And, by pushing the new code in the door will open and you can use the loo. The system then keeps track of all the numbers so if something happens to the loo you might be tracked down). However, I have to say that this system is NOT good if you are a tourist in Sweden (only works if you use a Swedish mobile) or, if you are dying to go (too slow with all those codes). But seeing how many public toilets that are vandalized each year I suppose it is not a bad idea.

Pay for your car park

Bid on an apartment

Do your taxes (especially convenient and encouraged during Sweden’s yearly declaration period: May-June).

Forget about sending the usual messages to your friend. Or, I suppose that’s quite popular too. But it’s quite interesting to see how the sms trend has caught on.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Express shopping

One thing I love about Sweden is that here are so many “smart” little things, making your everyday life smoother. Take grocery shopping for instance. Since my mom is member of a program that goes under the name “express shopper” she scans and packs her own groceries while shopping, and then simply pays for them at the counter. It’s super convenient, especially when doing big shopping sprees like buying all the Christmas food.

When arriving at the checkout counter she simply swipes her card, registers her scanner and that’s it. She’ll pay the sum of all the groceries she’s scanned! It sometimes happens that the system decided that she needs to check all the groceries (she then has to unpack and rescan everything) in order to make sure that the sum is correct, but during the 3 (or 4?) years she’s been an “express shopper” I believe it has only happened three or four times.

I love this system. There are never any lines in this grocery shop where we go. It’s also a great way to keep track of how much everything costs and how much you have shopped for, as the price of the grocery you scan comes up on the screen, followed by the total sum. If you change your mind you can simply “un-scan” a product (by pressing a minus sign) and put it back.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More snow

This is going to be two long weeks if it continues like this:

Goodmorning, Sunday

Not even the cat wanna go out!

Why snow is a hassle when you wanna go somewhere:
Driving in 40 km/h on the highway

Winter Wonder Land

I’m from south Sweden, and although it normally gets quite cold here during winters, loads of snow at this time of the year is rather unusual. Since I got home last night it has been snowing non-stop, however (it stared on Tuesday) and there’s now about half a meter of snow in our backyard.

Since I spent 18 winters in Sweden + one year in Finland (the longest winter of my life, seriously, there was still snow in May) and experienced -35°C and heaps of snow, dealing with it is not a problem, however… it is kind of odd still to have so much snow already! Still, it’s “only” -7°C so I should not complain. When I middle landed in Finland last night it was -20°C!

The snow and the cold don’t matter, however. It’s still truly wonderful to be home at this time of the year. With all that snow outside and all the Christmas decoration inside (not to mention the Christmas goodies: gingerbread cookies, St Lucy Buns and chocolate breads) it’s impossible not to feel as excited as a 5-year old about the fact that Christmas is coming.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Everything comes to an end

So long, long lunches with Korean classmates

Yesterday I had my last lesson of Chinese at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou. 2010 is going to be a very different year and one thing’s for sure, I won’t be taking any more Chinese lessons. Exactly what I will be doing is yet to be confirmed, so I’ll wait until I reveal the details. But it will be very different from what I’ve been doing in China so far, and it will most likely include a move to Shanghai (yeeeeeey!). Since Woai and Shopgirl revealed to (the ignorant) me Baskins and Robins is now in Shanghai (something I’ve been waiting for since I came here) I simply cannot stay in Suzhou any longer…

It’s been a quite dull autumn except for all the travelling. Too many flues and allergy reactions. None of that in 2010, please.

Studying solo at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University was great at first, but after a while it felt a bit lonely and I started to miss having uber smart classmates that pushed me to study even harder (‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’). Getting private lessons has probably done a wonder for my spoken Chinese, but little good for my writing-Chinese-characters-ability. Oh well, can’t get it all. At least now I can proudly say that I have tried quite a few education options in China: 2 months at Shanghai University (very good), 1 semester at Shanghai Jiaotong University (not so good), 3 semester at Suzhou University (good in the beginning and then I sort of got over that) and 3 months of studying solo at Xi’an Jiaotong Liverpool University. With that in my luggage I suppose I am ready to take on the next challenge.

I still get tonnes of emails from people who wants to learn Chinese in China. It’s obvious that there is a huge interest for learning Chinese amongst foreigners. I wonder how long most people end up studying. When I look back at how much time I’ve put into studying the Chinese language I realize that it’s almost as long as it took for me to get my BA degree in Australia! Insane. Especially the fact that I’m still much better at writing articles in English than speaking Chinese…

Before I get on with the challenges of 2010 I’m going to Sweden (flying early tomorrow morning) to celebrate Christmas and NY with my near and dear ones. Can’t wait to see the newly weds, Charlotte’s baby-boy Sam, my brother and my parents! Ah, it doesn’t matter how many years I spend abroad: the best thing about it all is always going home!

This Christmas I won’t prioritize blogging, but there might be a post or two if I find something interesting to write about. Happy holidays, everyone! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spoiled generation?

One of my Chinese teachers constantly expresses her worry about China’s youth being “too comfortable” and “too spoiled” nowadays. To draw on her example she showed me an article from last week, about a 14-year old city girl who had become sad and depressed when her parents told her they were thinking about having a second baby. Instead of being happy about getting a sibling, the girl went the complete opposite way: in school she became silent and withdrawn, and she then used her QQ (Chinese version of ICQ I suppose you could say) to write sad and depressing texts, posting them online.

Eventually she wrote her will and included some of her last wishes: “Dear mom and dad, please bury me in fashionable, beautiful clothes.”

That’s around when journalists found her and the whole story blew up. The young girl said she didn’t want a sibling because she was scared the attention she got from her parents, as well as grandparents, would be redirected to the new baby. An “expert” was asked to comment on the issue and he ended up advising the parents against getting a second baby, UNLESS the daughter came around (I guess we can all assume that she won’t).

Pretty serious stuff huh? Well at least according to my teacher who expressed her concerned about Chinese children of today more or less “rule” their parents. I could not agree more. Posting your “will” and your “last wishes” online isn’t really the normal reaction to your parents telling you that you’re about to get a sibling. It will be interesting to watch this generation grow up and see how they handle real life as grown ups.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taobao girl

some phone calls are obviously less important than others

Out of my three university teachers only one bothers to set her mobile to silent mode during class time. I don’t know if it has something to do with me being the only student in her class, but I find it kind of… rude. Why do people always prioritize the person calling you when you are busy with someone else? Sure if you are expecting an important call, but what Chinese language teacher does that every single day?

Anyways, I have chosen not to comment on it, because all of my teachers are great people (except for when they answer their mobile phone during class time).

Lately, however, I have noticed that one of them insanely popular. During our 3 hours class she receives about 5 phone calls! Because she feels ashamed about answering every time she sometimes refuses to take the call, but that just results in the person calling back five minutes later. Knowing that, I always encourage her to answer when her phone rings.

In the beginning she always went outside to answer the phone. Yesterday, however, she chose to answer in front of me, and then I realized what it was all about: a delivery arriving to her flat.

-Oh, you ordered something? I asked when she had finished her call, curious as always.

-Yeah, and it is always a little bit trouble some because the delivery boy arrives when I am not at home.

(Always? How often to you order?)

-What did you order?

-An umbrella.

-An umbrella?

-Yeah, I bought it online. It is so beautiful!

-Beautiful? An umbrella?

-Yeah, you see, I could not find any nice ones from the shop, and I also think the umbrellas in the malls are ugly and overpriced. So finally I found one I like online!

-How much was it?

-20 rmb!

-From taobao?
(Chinese equivalent to ebay).

-Yes. I buy all my stuff from there!

-All your stuff?

-Yes, all my clothes, shoes, bags…. Everything I need.


-It’s cheaper! And also, every day when I come home there is something waiting for me. It is like receiving a gift every day!

-Right… but isn’t it messy with the delivery? Because you are actually at work now.

-Yeah, but I just have to answer and chat to them for a while and then it’s okay.


Yeah, OK. Now I am suddenly no longer that understanding or approving to her answering her phone during my precious class time. However, at least now I know where all of her pretty clothes are from. And I guess in a few days she’ll show me her new, pretty umbrella that was only 20 kuai but that stole 10 minutes of my class time. Can’t wait.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Meeting new people

Keen to meet new people? Find out the basics about a stranger and start chatting. Works well in China.

I still haven’t got rid of my cold (I know, I know, this must be some kind of record. We are talking about one month!), or well, I thought I had until I started to cough again after 6 days of non-coughing. Yup, just as I thought: too good to be true.

Anyways, during my 6-cough-free-days I paid a must needed visit to the gym. (Gosh, I miss working out. When you can’t do it you just want to do it all the time). I did one hour of cardio followed by some stretching before I went to the ladies changing room to change. Suddenly I heard:

-You Na! Oh, wow! Long time no seen! Where have you been?

I turned around to be greeted with a Chinese girl in a gym shirt. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen her before.

-I haven’t seen you here for weeks! Have you been sick?

-Eh… yes, sick. Yes. The flu.

-Ah that’s no good… so how is your Chinese coming along?

-Eh, my Chinese… well…

And so it went on. Turns out, this girl knew quite a lot about me. Too much, if you ask me. Especially since I cannot remember ever talking to her before.

-So how about next year, are you going to look for a journalism job then?

(She knows I have journalism experience?)

-How about your boyfriend then, is he going to stay with his company?

(She knows where my boyfriend works?)

-Yeah must be annoying for you to be sick since you love running!

(She knows that I love running?!)

It was one of those really odd conversations. She was simply being too friendly for me to go:

“Eh, excuse me, who ARE you? And how do we know each other?” Instead I just played along, answered her questions and had a quite nice chat.

-See you next time! She called when I left.

I guess if nothing else, I’ve made a new friend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Model heroes wanted

There's a 80 rmb entrance for visiting the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing. I tried to explain to the woman behind the counter that I was a true hero (or at least a model worker) but she refused to believe me. I wonder what a hero certificate looks like:

Oh well, hero or not, at least they could not stop us from using THE toilet:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009: Highlights of the year that went by

2009 -what a year...

It's funny during those slow days (that are due to take place), that you sometimes feel that your life is uneventful and boring. Then you look back at what you've been up to during the last year and you realize that, "oh, maybe not that bad after all..." I think it's kind of healthy to look back at what you've done instead of constantly thinking about what you want to do/want to have, in order to appreciate life. And looking back at 2009 I have to say it's been a quite exciting year. However, 2010 is obviously going to be even MORE exciting (right?!). 

I would like to ask you people who are reading this blog what your favorite 2009 moment in this blog has been? (good to know so that I know what you enjoy reading about) 

January: The new year begins with a crazy Russian song contest at 1221 in Shanghai
February: Taking on a cold Suzhou by bike
March: Changsha wknd
...that included visiting Rocky's family on the Hunan's countryside
April: My Sister and Michael visit Shanghai
April: Doing a wedding shoot with my sister and her hubby-to-be.
May: I consider to dye my hair brown in order to fit in better 
....but reconsider after seeing what a terrible brunette I would make
June: Hainan, baby!
June: Shanghai heats up and men start to roll up their shirts 
June: I appear on a local TV show
June: Finishing Mandarin Level 5 at Suzhou University
June/July: Working in Finland all summer
July: squeezing in a quick visit to Sweden to attend the baptizing of my sister's baby boy Sam
August: One-week holiday in Finland (here: gorgeous summer city Savonlinna) 
Summer cottage, Hankasalmi, Finland
August: Travelling in Yunnan with mom 
Trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge
...and being amazed by its beauty
September: I start my last semester of Chinese language studies at Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University
October National Holiday: Hello, Malaysia!
October: Quick home visit to attend my sister's wedding
November: (Too much) wining and dining in Shanghai
December: Nanjing wknd