månadsarkiv: oktober 2014

Let’s meet at by the big flower bucket at Tian´an men square.

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Tian´an men square
Tian´an men square
beautiful evening in Beijing
beautiful evening in Beijing

Another week, another trip to Beijing, it seems I can’t stay away. A trip to Tian´an men square and the Lama temple was on the agenda for the day, with a short stop in the Hutong area.

 This time I went with my friend Claire from Belgium, who works here as an English Teacher, teaching 3-5 (!) year-olds English. I could barely speak Swedish at that age, never mind English, but that is the reality of China today, everyone has their child take extra lessons after school. If you don’t do it, your child will surely fall behind. A child that is, let’s say, 9-years old, usually starts school at 8 in the morning and finish at 4 or 5 in the evening, then it’s time for extra lessons which usually lasts until 8, after that you go back home to finish the homework you didn’t have time to do in school. That is a long day for a 9-year old, Swedish kids really shouldn’t complain.

 Due to the one-child policy in China, most families only have one child, at least in the cities, which means that there is a lot of pressure on the one child to do well and with the fierce competition in China, you have to be the best in order to get in to a decent University. Often it is not enough to number one in your class or school, you have to be number one in your province if you want to get in to the top-5 Universities like Beida, Qinghua and Fudan, China’s Harvard or Princeton. As a foreigner it is hard to understand exactly how much effort you have to put into your studies in China. If you don’t make it, you face the harsh reality of disappointed parents and difficulties with finding a good job. Extra lessons are pretty much mandatory these days and weekends are spent preparing for next week’s lessons. However, once you make it in to the University, the workload actually decreases and students have some free-time to do other things, it’s just that the road to get there is long and difficult.

I have managed to catch a cold again and according to the Chinese the key thing is to drink lots of hot water, so that’s what I’ll do. If you ever have to visit a hospital in China, you actually have two choices, you can either choose to be treated with western medicine or you can choose to be treated with Chinese medicine. Should you choose Chinese medicine, they usually examine you, and then give you a list of herbs to buy and and a recipe to cook by yourself.  Every time I’m sick people bombard me with all kinds of advices on how to get well, everything from eating five oranges in the morning and five in the evening, to eating to apples, one kiwi and a glass of milk before going to bed, everyone has their own remedies. People still trust Chinese medicine more than western, but it is becoming more and more common to go to the pharmacy and ask for pills.

I now have  a private tutor that I meet twice per week, an hour at the time. I pay about 70 yuan per hour, which I think is ok, given that she has been teaching for 8 years and really knows what she’s doing. I also have a language partner, a really sweet girl from Lanzhou. She’s quite shy and doesn’t really want to speak that much English, which is good for me, but I try to help her the best I can. She asked me to give her an English name, I’ve never given anyone a name before (except for pets), so I definitley felt the pressure. We finally decided on Stella, easy to pronounce and not that common. I think the strangest name I’ve come across was a kid named “Boner”, which his English teacher quickly changed to “Bono”. I can just imagine people’s reaction when he introduced himself as “Boner”… On Friday I’m going to Beijing again, I think me and my friend will try to visit some new places and perhaps head to the outskirts of the city where there are actually some mountains. Since Beijing is surrounded by mountains, the pollution usually tends to be worse here than in Tianjin. I think I really need to buy myself a mask, you just don’t know how it will affect you in the long term breathing this bad air. My friends David and Lindsey are heading for Sweden on Monday, David is from the same town as me; Falkenberg, and we studied Chinese together in Lund. Now he is married to Lindsey and she is learning Swedish. First time in Sweden she ate rice the first three days, then she discovered kebab and now she eats it every time she visits.

A trip to the ocean

 

This is where the Great Wall ends

This is where the Great Wall ends

It’s true that you don’t really miss what you have until it’s gone, back home I don’t really go to the beach that often, but ever since I came to China I’ve been dying t

Promoting Nankai

Promoting Nankai

Temples for the goddess of the sea

Temples for the goddess of the sea

o see the ocean and now, during my fifth visit to China, it was finally time. Here is about my trip to Shanhaiguan 山海关and the ocean.

The day before I had gone to Beijing to meet up with my friend Miriam and have some dinner with her roommate and our friend Robert. We hadn’t really planned much for our trip, we just knew the time the train was leaving and that was it.  Important notice: You always need to bring your passport if you want to travel somewhere in China, you’re not going anywhere otherwise. We took the train at 7 am from Beijing nan (the south train station) and the journey was scheduled to take two and a half hours. There weren’t that many people in our wagon, so we could spread out and try to get some sleep, which of course turned out to impossible, since everyone else were talking loudly on their cell phones. So, since we couldn’t sleep, we talked and had some fun while looking at the landscape outside. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t that good, it was quite foggy, but we hoped that it would be clearer in the afternoon. We arrived safe and sound and were immediately attacked by taxi drivers and people selling all kinds of souvenirs. In the end we got fed up and just told people we were going to Europe and if they didn’t know the way, they should just leave us alone. In the end we found the right bus and got of at the right stop. First phase was completed.

We arrived at a big entrance, bought our tickets and started walking around. The place had previously been a military defence post; there were still buildings left that showed what it had once looked like. The people were few, so we could take our time and just walk around and take pictures. The buildings were, to be honest, of little interest to us, so we headed straight for the ocean and the place were the Great Wall actually ends. The feeling you get when you see the ocean for the first time in a long time is indescribable. You just feel happy. Finally we could breathe some fresh air and dip our toes in the water. We were running around, shouting and jumping, guess I cannot blame Chinese people for thinking foreigners are crazy. We then sat down and tasted some local candy we had bought in a tiny store earlier, turned out it was a real jaw-breaker, so in the end we had to throw it into THE wall, in order to get some smaller pieces we could eat. We took a walk on the Wall and enjoyed the view over the ocean. We had actually planned to head for the mountain pass of the Wall as well, but since the weather still wasn’t good, we decided to head back to Beijing with an earlier train and leave Shanhaiguan. Like I mentioned earlier, it is practically impossible to sleep on trains in China, believe me I’ve tried. On our way back I ended up in a wagon with a guy who was singing to himself the ENTIRE journey, a guy who kept yawning loud enough to wake up the whole train, a guy who was watching a movie (without headphones of course), a group of people who were having a loud discussion about trains for 2,5 hours and finally but not least a woman who was snoring. Did I sleep? Don’t think so. When we arrived in Beijing we were both more than a little irritated and tired, the air was still quite bad so we pulled on our masks (mine bought just two days earlier, with a lovely pink colour) and headed home to sleep. It was heavenly.

 

The next day the air was actually good and the sun was shining, so we decided to walk around a bit and just enjoy the weather. We met with our friend Meiling at a Guangzhou restaurant, she and Miriam have decided to try food from every province in China and this time it was Guangzhou food. We had some fried lotus, meatball-looking tofu and pancakes with stuffing, tasty and well worth a visit. After lunch it was time to head back to Tianjin, so we said our goodbyes and I headed for the subway. While I was in the subway I saw the strangest thing; just opposite me there was a young couple sitting next to each other, now, the strange thing was that she was actually sucking on her boyfriend’s earlobe. WHY would you do that in the subway?? Nobody else seemed to think that this was a strange thing to do, which makes me wonder if this is something that happens all the time in the subway here in China? There really doesn’t seem to be any form of private life here at all. This little episode lasted until their stop came up, the girl simply wiped her mouth, tugged her boyfriend’s ear one last time and off they went. I’m too scared to think about what I will see next. What can I say? This is China, there’s never a dull moment.

Laters!

Miriam is posing

Miriam is posing

 

 

One BIG buddha, sleepy pandas and our very own ”pandaboy”

Me and Alex in 乐山

Me and Alex in 乐山

Hotpot in Chengdu

Hotpot in Chengdu

 

What a weekend! My first trip to Chengdu 成都 exceeded all my expectations and I finally got to meet up with my friend Alex or ”Pandaboy” as we call him, in the Panda capital of China.

I arrived in the afternoon with my first domestic flight within China, Tianjin airport is about the size of Kastrup, but really easy to navigate.  Alex met up with me in the city centre; it was great seeing him again and this time in his hometown. Chengdu is a big city, smaller than Tianjin, but there is plenty of people to go around. It is located quite far down south, to the centre of China. I was tired from the flight, so we just decided to walk around for a while and spent some time in the biggest shopping area in Chengdu. You can tell that Chengdu is all about pandas when you see a giant panda climbing up a department store wall and people walk around with panda hats.  We then headed for the Grand Plaza hotel, which was the hotel were Ditte and Stig were staying. Ditte and Stig had already been in Chengdu for a few days, visiting some Universities and doing some sightseeing. The hotel was amazing, and the toilets, wow! It doesn’t take much to impress me when it comes to toilets in China, it’s enough if it doesn’t smell and that there is toilet paper. These ones smelled like roses and there was plenty of toilet paper to go around. We decided to first have some drinks at the Skybar, the bar was located on the top floor and had a great view over the city. After that we went to a restaurant to have some traditional Hotpot, the Sichuan province is famous for its spicy food and pretty much everything has some amount of chilli in it. If you don’t like spicy, you can of course order food that is “not spicy” but trust me; you’ll still feel some heat. I shared a room at a hostel with three Chinese girls from Guangdong province, they were really sweet and easy to live with. At the hostel I met a group of Swedish guys that had been travelling by bike for the past few months, all the way from Sweden with final destination Thailand. I asked them: -Why Thailand?, they answered: -Partying. Right, seven months by bike, all just to party in Thailand. It’s all about priorities isn’t it?

The next day me, Stig and Alex took the bus to Leshan 乐山, a “smaller” city located about two hours away by bus from Chengdu, we were heading to see the famous Buddha. The thing about China is that, if you want to see some famous sights, try to do it during the week, not during the weekend, it’s always crowded. There was a lot of people there and we queued about an hour and a half to see the Buddha, but when we finally stood in front of it, it was all worth it, it was massive! It was also nice to see a little bit of the countryside, I had only been to big cities up till that point, so I was happy. The evening was spent eating sushi and drinking beer.

On my final day in Chengdu we had one last breakfast at the hotel, which has to be the most impressive hotel bre

akfast I have ever seen, my usual breakfast tend to consist of some instant oatmeal or fruit, but here, wow, I was in heaven. Ditte and Stig said their goodbyes and headed for Shanghai, while Alex and I went to see some pandas, after all, I couldn´t leave Chengdu without having seen one. They were adorable, so cute, but so sleepy. A few were a wake and laid spread out on the ground relaxing, while others were climbing the trees and rolling around. There are not many pandas left in the wild and all of them live in the Sichuan province. I was happy to see that they had plenty of space and seemed to live a good life, my previous experiences of zoo’s in China left a quite depressing mark. The pandas in Chengdu are well worth a visit , should you ever be in the neighbourhood.

A  real panda!

A real panda!

We had some lunch in the city and then went to an area with old traditional houses where a lot of traditional Sichuan snacks were made, Alex bought me a few to bring back to Tianjin and show my classmates what tasty snacks looks like. Snacks like dried tofu, peanut cookies, walnut bisuits and hairy dragon buns, were some of the many delicious treats the street had to offer. I then had to say goodbye, but I know we will meet again, hopefully next year when I’m in China again. Now I’m back in Tianjin and school is quite busy, but I quite like that, keeps me awake and focused.

 

Ta ta for now!

It brings good fortune to touch the belly of a buddha

It brings good fortune to touch the belly of a buddha

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mr buddha himself

mr buddha himself

Happy!

Happy!

 

Me, Stig and Ditte

When Halmstad University came to visit

And so the day came when I finally got to meet up with Ditte and Stig from Halmstad University and what a reunion!

Last weekend was spent in Beijing (again) and it was as usual great to see everyone. My friend had a new girl living in her apartment, a French girl naIMG_4603med Ode (Odd?), who works at the French embassy. These days I feel like I only spend time with people from different embassy’s, which is nice, I get to know what goes on behind closed doors and that there actually is one secret department at every embassy, which only selected people are allowed to enter (this bothers my friend immensely). The pollution was really bad this time, so bad that my friend had acquired a giant mask that covered half her face and made her look like she was about to enter a radiated area or something. However, her mask actually works, unlike some of the paper masks I see a lot of people wear. Days like that, I really miss the fresh Swedish air.

The ceramics house

The ceramics house

The next day I met up with my roommate at a famous café called the Bookworm, in Sanlitun. I had never heard of it before, but it was really cosy with books everywhere and a nice selection of teas. I stayed for a few hours then headed to Dengshikou灯市口 station to finally meet with Ditte and Stig. It was so nice to see them again and they had brought gifts from Sweden; Marabou chocolate, birthday gifts from my family and most importantly, my new bankcard. I think I had something like 8 Yuan left by then, so they sure came at the right time. We then went to meet up with DongDong, a Chinese girl that studied at Halmstad University last semester. She had now graduated and found a job at the International office of her former University. She was happy to see us and I plan to visit her many times in Beijing.

On Monday I had classes, but at lunchtime I went to meet up with my professor and Ditte and Stig, who were now at Nankai to promote Halmstad University and see the campus. Turned out my professor had actually been to Halmstad a few years ago and knew it quite well. We then took a tour around the campus, I showed them my room and then we headed to a ceramics museum, which is quite famous in Tianjin. The whole house consists of small pieces of ceramics and it took 8 years to build! We then went to a nice little café and had some nice “fika” in true Swedish style.

time for posing

time for posing

This week I will start with my private lessons, I’ve managed to find a private tutor that will keep me busy and help improve my Chinese. I also found a girl named Jingu who is now my official language partner. I will help her with her English and she with my Chinese. On Friday I’m heading to Chengdu, hopefully to meet some pandas and a really big Buddha!

To Ditte and Stig: The chocolate was much appreciated, my roomie is already using Taobao in order to find some Marabou chocolate online and deliver it back home to Ukraine, the digestive flavour was a favourite.

Outside hotspring

Hot springs in Tianjin

IMG_4580Last weekend me, my roommate Liza and another girl from Ukraine took a trip to some hot springs just outside of Tianjin. It was a chance to discover the outskirts of Tianjin and breathe some fresh air.

Now, getting there was the trickiest part, we knew where to get on the bus, but the bus didn’t have a number and no scheduled arrival time, so we went there and then we waited. After 30 minutes a bus without a number arrived and what do you know, it was the right one. The buss ride took about an hour and we got to see what I first thought was the ocean, but turned oOutside hotspringut it was just one really big reservoir, with people fishing along the banks and just enjoying themselves. Turned out the hot springs wasn’t out in the middle of nowhere, but in a hotel. We were happy to be there though and Liza had even bought a typical Chinese bathing suit, meaning a dress-looking colourful thing that makes you look like an ice-skating ballerina.

Once we entered we where overwhelmed with the unlimited choices of hot springs to choose from. There was hot springs with beer, coffee, tomato, milk, pineapple, green tea flavour, all good for your health of course. You could choose to stay outside or inside the tropical greenhouse. My favourite was the mint and the apricot bath, it smelled amazing and the water had this green and orange colour.  The buffet was included, with a somewhat odd mixture of food, but it all tasted good. Then we had some massage and when it comes to Chinese massage, don’t expect it to be all nice and relaxing, no, no, they pretty much beat you up and when you leave you feel like you’ll have bruises all over, but in an hour or two, you feel super good and it’s all worth it. And let’s face it, for 80 Swedish crowns, you can’t complain. It is funny how people confuse Sweden with Switzerland, even after I explain that they are two different countries. To them there is no diffmy room-mate Lizaerence. I’ve been told I look Russian, French, Italian and American, never Swedish. Last week someone asked me if I was from Tanzania..must be my dark hair. After a nice relaxing day we then headed for the buss that took us back to Tianjin.

The pollution has been really bad lately, so bad I decided to buy a mask. not sure how much it helps though, but I feel better when I wear it. Tomorrow there are some people from Halmstad Högskola coming to visit me and Nankai University and next weekend we are meeting up in Chengdu to visit a former collegue of ours. Chengdu is in the Sichuan province, middle of China and it’s famous for it’s panda breeding reservate. I can’t wait, 30 degrees here I come!

Jinguan hotel, my new home

Latest updates

Jinguan hotel, my new homeStarbucks is a sacred place, this is where I come to study and to drink some nice coffee, it just isn’t the same in other cafés. Wifi is good and if you manage to find a Starbucks inside an office building, it is usually quieter.Top picture is where i live now: Jinguan hotel

Today is the National Holiday, meaning everybody is one the road traveling to visit relatives and old friends. Yesterday I went to Beijing, which was perhaps not the brightest idea, given that the holidays where coming up. I have never seen that much people in a train station before and now we’re talking about China. I’m surprised I even managed to get tickets, though I ended up leaving Beijing at eleven in the evening, everything else was sold out. I went to visit the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, a company that deals with wastewater treatment here in China and knows about regulations and laws to prevent pollution. My professor arranged for me to go there and help with a project of theirs, while writing my essay on the same subject. This is an amazing opportunity to see how things works here in China and it could open up a lot of doors for me. They seemed genuinely happy that I was there and asked if I was interested in doing an internship for them some time next year, yay!Hotpot

This week all lessons are cancelled, so now is the time to travel, except everyone does, so tickets are hard to get by. We are planning to visit some places outside of Tianjin and seize the opportunity to breath some fresh air. The air quality is better here than in Beijing, but I still find myself coughing and squinting with my eyes on the days where the city is covered in what looks like fog, but really is pollution. Tianjin is about two hours away from the ocean, you can take the subway to the end station and from there are busses going every hour. I haven’t really been around that much in Tianjin, most of the time I spend at campus or in its surroundings. There so many nice little restaurants and I already have my favourite 凉面liangmian cold noodles place and my favourite 麻辣汤 malatang spicy soup place, so cheap and so good. The best food is the street food, which is very different from home. You can buy like a hot sweet potato hongshu 红属,  congbing springonion pancake, some nice chuanrs , food on wooden sticks that is grilled over hot coal and then eaten with spices. So much nice food, so little time. I think I will havet o dedicate at least 2-3 more pages simply about the food here, there’s just so much that we have no idea about in Sweden. The Chinese food in Sweden is just not the same as it is in China; it is more like Thai food.

Another thing that you usually react to as a foreigner here in China are the toilets. That was one of my biggest concerns coming to China for the first time. Luckily I ended up living in a really nice apartment in a quite rich area, so we had a ”normal” toilet, however, if you need to use the public toilets in some hutong area, you are lucky if there walls between the toilets. Just the other day when I was sitting at a café doing some homework, I needed to use the bathroom and went to find it. When I entered all doors were wideopen and occupied by five chinese middleaged ladies that were having a pleasant conversation amongst themselves, as it was the most common thing in the world. I quickly closed MY door and when I got out they just looked at me and said: –Why are you foreigners always closing the door? That is so strange, why would you want to close it? Why indeed…I just smiled and walked out, not a discussion I felt I would win.

This Friday was my birthday and I celebrated that by loosing my bag with wallet and cellphone. Great. We went to the police and they were really helpful, but there wasn’t really much they could do, so now I am phoneless and cardless. At least I still have my passport and driver’s licence, so not all is lost. Other than that, we just had some nice sushi and cake. Tomorrow we are going to some hotsprings outside of Tianjin and I can’t wait, it’s about time I take a look around and do things.