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!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wknd in Tallinn, Estonia

The summer weather in Finland has been amazing this year. Except for a few rainy days in the beginning it’s basically been blue skies, sunshine and 25 degrees every single day. Since we live pretty much next to a forest and a lake, it’s been a lot of swimming during the last few weeks.

When the weather is so great you become almost ignorant to the fact that just because the sunshine is where you are, that doesn’t mean it’s sunny everywhere else. Or at least if your name is Jonna. So, when we decided to do a spontaneous wknd trip to Tallinn, Estonia, and I saw a weather forecast that said 17 degrees and rain, I still didn’t believe it. In shorts and a t-shirt (and equipped with no umbrella!) I jumped on a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.

The ferry took 2 hours and once we arrived my shorts felt like the most ridiculous choice of clothing. It wasn’t that it was raining. Oh no. It was pouring down. Literally pouring down. There was so much water on the road that the cars could barely drive off the ferry.

Slightly disorganized Tallinn harbour didn’t really come with a taxi line so we had to wait for the taxi war to end before we managed to grab a car to our hotel, which was located in the beautiful old town.

Once there (and checked in), a windy and rainy day followed. Residents and shop owners of tourist-Tallinn obviously saw the rain as a great opportunity to make shit loads of money out of silly tourists (like us) who hadn’t brought an umbrella, and sold some pretty basic stuff at 18-21 euros, which is around 200 rmb. Yeah, I don’t think so.

After some serious searching we managed to buy plastic raincoats from a small shop for 1 euro/each (that’s more like it!) and challenged the weather. Fortunately it stopped raining towards the night and we had a nice time walking around old town, checking out old buildings and cute little shops, bars and restaurants.

Tallinn's a very touristy place with a focus on the medieval times, and locals aren’t necessarily the most friendly people that I’ve come across. At one cute little restaurant, for instance, we were sitting at the bar having drinks when a countless number of people came in asking to see the menu. The staff kept handing them a menu, but then when the guests required a table they just said:

-Sorry, we have no free tables and are booked all night.

Hm... so why not tell them that before they start studying the menu?!

We did some bar hopping, enjoyed an average Italian meal, and saw some pretty drunk groups of tourists, which is probably one of the reasons why locals don’t love the visitor flow. The next day the weather was better and on the ferry back to Helsinki we even sat on the sun deck, playing card games.

Suddenly a guy came up to me, saying:

-Hey, you live in Shanghai right?

-Eh… yes I do!

-Yeah, I recognize you. We work in the same office building. You’re on the 15th floor! I’m on the 17th!

There he was, a Brazilian guy hailing all the way from Shanghai to the Tallinn ferry, and he was pretty surprised to see me there too. We are now officially elevator buddies in Shanghai.

I have a tendency to bump into people that I know on airports, no matter what kind of strange place I get to I often see someone I know. But on a Tallinn ferry on my way to Helsinki?! Turns out –it’s a small world.

Some pix from Tallinn:

Estonia has only been independent since 1991 (This memorial stone is for all the people that died when the boat "Estonia" sank in 1994). With a population of 1,3 million (Tallinn has 400 000 citizens) it's a small country.

In a 1 euro raincoat...

Tallinn by nite

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer in Finland

Despite the horrific events that took place in Norway on July 22 I’ve managed to have a pretty good holiday. It was just really hard for a while to think about anything but the attacks. I have a countless number of Norwegian friends (from studying in Australia 2003-2005) and I’ve been in touch with pretty much all of them, just to make sure that they are OK (they all are. One guy has an apartment located some 500 m away from where to bomb blast took place, however, but he was in Australia for a holiday when everything happened. Fortunately, his flat is still intact). Since I can read Norwegian, I had a bit of an “information overload” situation in the beginning of last week, where I sat glued to the computer and read everything I saw in the newspapers, as well as blog posts and comments from Norwegian survivors. As a result, I cried a lot and didn’t sleep for three night, and when I did, I had nightmares where the shooter appeared, trying to kill me. So, I decided to keep away from the Internet for a bit, hence my decision to not blog. Hope you understand.

But except for the days that followed the sleepless nights last week (those were not fun) I’ve had a lot of fun. My first week in Finland was spent at my bf’s parent’s summer cabin, located in a small community called Hankasalmi. It’s a gorgeous place, and this time my folks came with us (all the way from Sweden, it took them quite some time to first drive to Stockholm, then take the ferry to Helsinki and then drive from there to Hankasalmi) for the first time! They loved it too (how can you not!) and we had some great times even though the weather wasn’t on our side at all times.

After the summer cottage stay I spent a wknd in Helsinki, followed by some gorgeous days in Tampere, Vammala, Vaasa and –Estonia’s Tallinn! But more about that in the following day’s posts.

Here comes some photos from the summer cottage: