Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shanghai Summer Sunday

This is China at its best: 25 degrees, blue skies and Jonna back to living in Shanghai -with pool access! It's no secret that Shanghai gets humid and hot during summer, but the worse it yet to come. Until then, I'm enjoying some of the best weather I've had in the city (I mean, the skies are blue, it doesn't happen that often?! And it's not that humid yet even though we're about to enter June) at my friend Maria's housing complex's pool (Shanghai must have: friends with pool access unless you have it yourself).  And yes, of course I've tried the slide, several times actually. It's not as much fun as it looks. It's even better!

I think this wknd that passed was one of the best ones ever. Also, having two days off in a row felt like being on a real holiday. Tomorrow it's back to reality though, and this week I'll try to get back to my normal exercise routine. I'll kick off the week with a 6km treadmill session. Let's hope my gym is generous enough to keep the air-con on.

Dolce and Gabbana Store Opening Party

One of he things I love the most about living in Shanghai is that life here is so unpredictable –something that suits my restless soul perfectly!

Just take last Friday. I was at work feeling tired and not in the mood for doing anything, until a workmate convinced me to go for an after-work cocktail. We ended up having such a good time, that when another friend asked me if I was up for some dinner and a Dolce and Gabbana store opening party, I said yes, despite me being in office clothes: high waist pencil skirt, pumps, no make up and you name it. Not very high fashion or D&G-like.

We arrived at the D&G party around 10 pm. Surrounded by beautiful people, local celebs and champagne I knew it was going to be a good night. 

I had so much fun with my friends, and sometime around 1am I found myself dancing around together with a Palestinian actor. I bumped into some other people I know (it’s pretty much always the same crowd at these parties. Shanghai’s not as big as one might think), and decided to join them to a Japanese bar that celebrated its 2-years anniversary.

I’d never been to the place, so imagine my surprise when we walked in and were greeted by 2 Chinese drag queens?! Hilarious!

While we were sipping our drinks the drag queens started dancing on the bar. The crowd went ballistic but it didn’t take long before the police came. (Can they smell people having fun in this city?!)

Somewhere between the drag queens and the police I decided to leave. But what a night! Love going out in Shanghai! It’s so simple and so unpretentious.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sweden Day at Youku!

Follow this link to get a good idea of what May 23 was like:

(Eng with Chi subtitles)

Dress rehearsal -Jin Xing's dancers wearing Swedish design

In order to pull off something really special on May 23, the Swedish Expo Committee commissioned the Swedish Institute (SI) to create something special. The result? Well: SI decided to work with one of China's most famous choreographers, Jin Xing, and her dance company. In order to integrate Sweden to the performance, the dancer wore clothes designed by Swedish designers: Martin Bergström, Nakkna, Sandra Backlund, Ann-Sofie Back and Göran Sundberg and performed most of their dance on IKEA tables. Furthermore, the music they danced to was composed by Swedish artists Andreas Unge and Anders Kleerup, and then solo dancer Virpi Pahkinen (who actually grew up in Finland) was integrated into the performance. And the outcome? Well, it actually became really cool! Last week I organized a dress rehearsal at Shanghai Oriental Art Centre to which I invited some Chinese media, just to get a preview of what was to come. Here are some photos and videos from that:

Jing Xing and a dancer wearing Martin Bergström
Sandra Backlund design
Dancers wearing Göran Sundberg

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweden Day at the Expo

Sunday, May 23, was probably a slow, cozy Sunday for most of you. But not for me, oh no. Yesterday, it was "Sweden Day" at the World Expo and this was celebrated by high-level visits from the Swedish King as well as our Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson. I had to work, which wasn't all bad, since I could enjoy some of the cultural performance that had been especially prepared for entertaining the visitors. One of the highlights was Sofia Jannok, a Swedish artist with roots in the Sami culture (a minority group of northern Sweden). She sang 2 songs in sami language, and it sounded amazing. So authentic. So exotic. I almost feel ashamed that I have not discovered her until now. 

After her (+ another indie pop band called Those Dancing Days) performance we headed back to the Swedish Pavilion for lunch, and later the King arrived too, greeted by a huge media entourage and children with flowers. 

The day went on with press conferences and interviews, and at night time there was a fashionable dance performance at the huge, Red Hall. More about that next time, now I better get ready for more Expo work. 

Anticipating the King's arrival at the Expo Centre
Ta-da, he made it!
The King's holding his speech
Amazing Sami-artist Sofia Jannok. I'm now officially a fan (and she was so down-to earth and nice in person too!) 
Anticipating the King's arrival at the Swedish Pavilion
Again, he showed up! Accompanied by Sweden's deputy prime minister Maud Olofsson he received flowers from cute little kids
Milo, one of the flower kids, interviewed by Expo TV about giving flowers to the king.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The lost elevator

Since I moved into the building where I’m staying now, there’s been this elevator situation.

Our building has got 2 elevators. Two, non-synchronized elevators. Two elevators with two, strange looking buttons, that everybody who wants to go up or down needs to press in order to get somewhere in the building. However, step into the lift and you never know where it’s going to take you. As you see on the picture, there’s no button indicating if it’s going up or down.

The up/down thing was OK (or OK, I admit, it annoyed me, especially after spending numerous mornings going to the 24th floor to pick up people instead of down when I was late for work), until that day when one of the lifts stopped working. Yeah. Just like that. No warning sign. No nothing. Just a dead button that didn’t react when you pressed it. And one, poor, dead-slow elevator serving a building of 24 floors.

You see, if it was an efficient elevator it would be OK. But it’s not. It might actually be some kind of ancient elevator type, because it is not only slow, but extremely slow. When it stops and opens it does so for at least 45 seconds. And that’s a LONG time when you’re standing on the 9th floor waiting, and seeing the elevator slowly making its way from the 18th to the 19th floor, stopping for 45 seconds at each.

And no. Don’t even start telling me to take the stairs. I’d kill myself in an instance. I tried once, during the weekend when I was neither stressed nor wearing high heels, and it was a disaster. Dark (no lights at all at most floors), moist, stinky, uneven steps and nothing to grab onto. I was Bambi going on a suicide attempt. And I was wearing bloody sneakers!

So taking the stairs down during a weekday when I’m in my business attire (featuring sky-high pumps, yes, every day, and skirts-that-were-not-made-for-walking-or-moving) and feeling slightly stressed is a no-no. I simply have to wait for the elevator. Every single morning. Just like everyone else in my building.

I’ve been trying to keep a brave, cheerful face for one week now. One week, and it hasn’t been easy. I’ve been late for work most mornings. Even though I try to leave 10 min earlier than normally.

Last night I lost it, and jumped on the poor old man doing some sort of building maintenance (?) at the dirty lobby.

-When are they going to fiiiiiiix it?! I cried, pointing at the dead elevator button and the “under construction” sign on the non-working lift.

-Oh, the lift? Well. They are not. They have to replace it. But it hasn’t been decided yet. So first they have to decide if they are going to replace it. Then they have to decide with what kind of elevator they want to replace it (Which, by the way, proves my point: replacing it with a similar kind would be impossible since it’s not from this century), and then, they might start working on it.

-How long?
! I said, tears in my eyes. One…. Month?

-One month? Hahaha! Maybe it will take them one month to decide. But to get it to work again? I will take more than three months!

At that very moment, a lot of strange thoughts flashed through my head:

From nowdaays onwards: always being late for work? Never again being able to wear heels to work? Not running down to the convenience store for a quick tub of ice cream at needed moments? Having to squeeze in with the residents of 24 floors every morning (after having waited for them for 10 min). Being Bambi in the stairs on a day when I simply cannot cope with this all? "Swedish woman, damaged for life as she tried to take on dangerous stairs in pumps."

I’m still coping with taking all of this in, so please, dear readers: Be kind.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

一分钟等于76 -One minute equals 76

Last night after work I went to a Chinese concert at Shanghai Grand Theatre. Not as in a Chinese artist’s concert, but more like some sort of Chinese orchestra, lead by a Mr Xu Jianqiang. I must admit that I had a hard time grasping the concept and the idea of some of the songs. Not only are Chinese instruments (like pipa, erhu, guqin, guzheng and you name it) completely different when it comes to producing sounds, but the whole idea of composing melodies seems to have a different meaning in the East and the West. I have always loved classic music: Mozart, Beethoven, Sibelius, Bach, Vivaldi… as well as some less famous and established names (when I was in high school we often got free tickets to amateur symphony orchestra concerts and I went to most of them), but I am having a hard time to define what I heard last night. Meanwhile some of the songs were OK, most of them were extremely vague when it came to an actual melody. I think I had my worse moment when four young people got on stage and started hitting four different kinds of drums for 5 minutes straight. The slight headache I had immediately got worse.

One big exception, however, was a woman playing the guzheng. I had no idea what sounds that kind of instrument could produce. It was beautiful, but again, as soon as some kind of melody started to form, it came to an abrupt end.

I think I have some serious studying to do before I’ll be able to enjoy this kind of music to its fully (makes me wonder how Chinese people feel about western symphony orchestras), not sure if I ever will actually. However, it was fun to try and to get a glimpse into a new world of music that I am yet to understand.

This girl played the pipa to a multimedia video. The performance was quite interesting, but I would have preferred if she would have played the guzheng. 

Whole orchestra + Xu Jianqiang on stage (we were the only 2 laowais in the audience)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Expo hysteria

Two large Dalahorses are the landmarks of the Swedish Pavilion

I don’t wanna bore you with some excuses but here are some reasons why my blog posts have been getting more and more rare lately:

Last week I spent 4 out of 5 mornings at the treadmill at the gym.

The Expo is keeping me super busy.

Last Saturday the Expo officially opened, and so did the Swedish Pavilion. I got up at 4 am and spent the whole day at the Expo area, sweating in the sun and enjoying the festive atmosphere (but not so much the huge crowds). In between press conferences and official opening speeches I managed to snuck out and snap some shots of other pavilions. Getting into those pavilions, however, was simply out of the question. Lines were huge, and at some pavilion (like the hyped, French one) the staff were so rude that I stopped trying after my Chinese workmate had been told to “get out!” after she stood a bit too close to an entrance, chatting to the security staff.

I eventually managed to get into the Belgium/EU Pavilion, simply because I was curious about their hyped chocolate factory. Looked yummy and smelled gorgeous but there was no tasting so I got bored quite quickly and left.

Last night it was time again. This time in order to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic Sino-Swedish relations! A good, but busy night, that unfortunately resulted in so little sleep that there was no way I could run today. Oh well.

This week is going to be busy too, so I better get going and get started. Until next time!

Polish Pavilion
Swiss Pavilion
French Pavilion (with rude staff!)
Gorgeous Spanish Pavilion
EU/Belgium Pavilion with a small chocolate factory
Mmmmm... heaven! (but I was disappointed that there was no tasting) 
Chocolate and smurfs!
It's done, it's finished... and it's pretty!
Press conference
Absolut bar at the rooftop terrace (of course, what else did you guys think?!)
The Swedish Exhibition: Spirit of Innovation
Mingle at the VIP area of the Swedish Pavilion 

Friday, May 7, 2010

The watermelon seed

Chinese people are the best fun.

Last week I was waiting at the Bund, trying to get a taxi. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one with this idea, so as you might be able to imagine, things were not moving fast.

One yellow-dressed, happy looking, middle-aged traffic guard saw my frenetic waving, smiled and waved me over.

-Can you speak Chinese? He asked as I strutted up to him.

-Sure, I said.

-Great! Then we can chat! And I can help you get a taxi.

It took about 15 minutes for us to get me a car, but that wasn’t any biggy because my new traffic guard friend was great fun. Or, OK, he was great fun, until he suddenly said:

-Western women… It’s impossible to tell your age?! How old are you?

I challenged.




-Are you joking?

-No? How old are you? I’m sorry I just cannot tell!

-I’m not even 30!
I cried. I’m 27!!!!!!!

-Are YOU joking?! You cannot be only 27. You look sooooo muuuuuuuuch older!!!

End of fun conversation. Weight is one thing. I have sort of learned not to be offended anymore when Chinese people tell me that I’m not “super fat” but just “fat” but now this?! I look 8 years older than I am? I think I’m just going to pretend he said so because I’m tall (and I was wearing killer heels) and try to forget about it.

Anyway, that was just last week. Last night some old workmates were in town and we popped by a wine bar in the French Concession. I chatted for a bit with the Chinese bar manager (from Anhui) and was greeted with a huge smile when he realized we could speak to each other in Chinese. When my 2 friends went out for a smoke (how LOVELY is this new law that you cannot smoke inside some restaurants/bars?!) my new friend pretty much took a seat next to me to keep me company. 

We went over the usual stuff (how long I’d been to China, where he was from and yadi yadi) and then he asked where I was from.


-Oh! You are very tall, I should have been able to tell. But then you look cute and I think you have the most perfectly shaped face!

-Eh… what?

-Yes… you know what? I have met many Swedish girls and their faces are often too long. Your face is like… a watermelon seed!

Just when he said that my 2 friend walked back inside, and he turned to them:

-Don’t you agree, her face perfect! Just like a watermelon seed!

I could tell my friend looking something between surprised and hysterical. They had only been gone for a minute or 2, and here they come back, being told that I apparently have a face that relates to watermelons. They decided to be polite and nodded and agreed for the moment.

Not until we paid, left and got into a taxi did they burst out laughing. And I’ve officially gotten a new nickname now, at least when I’m around them: The watermelon seed!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shanghai World Expo Opens!

3 months ago I never thought they would finish building it on time?!

Who's up before sunrise today?! In fact, I got up before my significant other got home from his night out?! Life's unfair! Then again, while he'll be sound asleep I will be able to enjoy he opening of the world expo. Pretty cool! After having read various horror stories of people having to line up for 2 hours in order to buy a hamburger, my handbag's full of power bars! The worse thing I know is to be hungry! Now let's hope that they manage to pass through one of the (possibly) 872348 security checks I will have to go through...

Shanghai's really been gearing up for the Expo. This last week there has been security checks everywhere, including hotels and metros. There are also military dudes standing outside every metro station exit (looks dead boring I have to say!). Roads have been closed in order to ease traffic congestion. And a lot of foreigners have been visited by some visa officers to have their passports/residence permits checked. It's pretty clear that Shanghai doesn't want anything to go wrong at this big day.

Last night Hu Jintao was in town and hosted a dinner reception for some of the 834986349 foreign ministers/presidents/kings/queens/high level visitors that were in town. I was not even close to being invited, but sometime around 10pm, the whole city sounded as if it was about to explode, as the result of some pretty massive fireworks setting off. Today I got up at 4.30 in order to be able to leave at 6... So yeah, better keep going! I'll be back with an Expo report tomorrow!