månadsarkiv: november 2014

It’s Aude’s birthday!

December is coming up and now it’s really starting to get cold. Luckily I have my newly bought winter jacket and hat, both came with me on my trip to Beijing this week.FullSizeRender

Celebrating Aude's birthday!

Celebrating Aude’s birthday!

This Friday I went to Beijing, it was my friend Aude’s birthday and we were all meeting up to have some dinner. I met up with Miriam outside the Swedish embassy to have some lunch; we managed to find a nice little Indian restaurant with a buffet for 60 Yuan. The food was good and it was a welcome change from the Chinese food I eat everyday. I stayed in a café until they got off work and then we went to a German pub to have some “after work” beer, before we headed for the Belgian restaurant Beermania to meet with Aude and her friends. The pub was called Schillers and was runt by an Irishman with a thick, accent and red hair. Quite the stereotype, but the beer was good and so was the company. We left our stuff at Miriam’s and then headed for Beermania, quite certain that there was going to be more beer drinking tonight.

We arrived a bit late, but quickly ordered some food and started chatting with the people there. It was a cozy place with Tintin playing on a projector in the background. There was a wide selection of beers and music entertainment. It was fun to meet some new people and even though most of them were French, they were kind enough to speak English. Miriam’s and Aude’s flat mate Jaques had arranged a cake and had put us on the VIP-list to this club called V-lounge, so we started the long process of paying the bill and headed over to there. It was girl’s night, so everything was for free. I must say I think it’s a bit unfair that there is never a boy’s night, it’s kind of discriminating, but I guess they know that if you gather a lot of girls in one place, the boys will follow. It was a good night and on the way back to Miriam’s we stopped for the usual late night snack and then headed home.

Yesterday we had planned to visit a German Christmas market that they arrange at the German embassy every year. Unfortunately, we weren’t the only one who had planned to do this and once we got there, the queue was endless. Right, change of plans, let’s go and watch a movie instead. We went to the cinema MEGABOX to watch Interstellar, where we met up with Miriam’s friend. It was a good movie and afterwards we went out to eat some food. I think we were all tired from Fridays dancing, so we went to bed early.

Welcome to Beijing

Welcome to Beijing

Today Miriam and me went to the Russian district; I was on a mission to find a very specific brand of German chocolate for Liza. The Russian embassy was huge; it looked like a palace and had its own church! I managed to find the shop and ended up buying some dark bread and some cheese as well. It’s really hard to find dark bread here; it’s just not that popular here I guess. We then went to a café and had some breakfast, before I headed for the train station back to Tianjin. It’s been REALLY windy today; it felt like a tornado with leaves blowing everywhere and a lot of dust in the air. The government is actually discussing how to build new parts of the city that will make it more accessible to wind. It does help to keep the pollution away and the air has been really good today.

Stay tuned for more news next week!

The mosquitos are back!

Mask on
Mask on
I think this would be a success in Sweden
I think this would be a success in Sweden

I really thought we were passed all this but no, the mosquitos are back and they are as feisty as ever. I wonder how they have managed to stay alive for so long, all I know is that the minute we turn the lights off, I can hear them. Death to all mosquitos!

This week has been really quiet so far, I have been preparing for my presentation on Monday, where I will talk about Sweden and air pollution. It was quite interesting because last time we were discussing the countryside here in China and what sort of problems they are facing with pollution, waste etc. Suddenly my teacher asked about the situation in Sweden and what I thought were China’s biggest challenges. I actually felt a bit ashamed to say that, since there is not that many of us in Sweden, our problems are of a “slightly” smaller scale. I then added that I think the biggest challenge China faces is its ever-growing population; there are just too many people. The teacher smiled and said she would very much like to see Sweden one day and experience what it’s like to breathe some fresh air. I told her she was welcomed. My presentation will be in both English and Chinese since, according to my teacher, my classmates needs to practise their English.

Today I’m in Beijing to celebrate Aude’s birthday, well, technically it’s tomorrow, but we celebrate her today anyway. I met up with Miriam for lunch and we went to an Indian restaurant. I haven’t had Indian food for months, so it was extra delicious this time. I don’t know the plans for tonight, but there is always something to do in Beijing, so I’m not worried.

I played some badminton with my classmates, they were of course all better then me, but I had fun. The most popular sports in China seem to be, table tennis, basketball and badminton. Football is not so big here, the woman’s team is better than the men’s team, but then again, so is Sweden’s;) I play table tennis with my language partner sometimes.

A lot of people ask me what you eat for breakfast here in China and I myself stick to porridge, but since most people have quite a long way to work and commute everyday, most people end up buying something on the street. In the mornings you see people selling warm soymilk with some kind of fried bread or pancake. A boiled egg with some sort of rice porridge is also quite common. It all tastes good, but I prefer porridge, it just feels more like breakfast to me. I love soymilk though, especially with coconut flavour, I could drink it everyday and it’s so cheap compared to coffee. I wish it were more common in Sweden.

I think it time for a visit to IKEA soon, it’s December soon after all and they always have such nice Christmas decorations and of course, the food. I really miss salmon, you can find it here, but it’s usually with sushi and right now I would just like some nice oven baked salmon with mashed potatoes. I think I will stock up on my supply of chocolates as well when we go to IKEA, it is much needed and fortunately you can find Marabou chocolate there. Besides salmon I don’t really miss Swedish food, there is so much interesting food here. The only thing I can get fed up with sometimes is rice. There’s always rice, rice, rice, everyday, twice per day if possible. It’s like, if you don’t eat rice, you cannot possibly feel full. Every time I go to the canteen to buy some food, they always ask me if I want rice or not, and 9 out of 10 times I say no and they always give me a very sceptical look that say; Are you sure you don’t want any, you won’t feel full otherwise. I guess it’s a bit like Swedes and potatoes, but these days I guess we eat more pasta than potatoes. It’s not that they don’t eat potatoes here, it’s just prepared in a different way and it’s never ever boiled. I have seen meatballs here as well, but they’re boiled, not fried. This is also very typical for the food here up north; everything is fried and very oily. I have to say though, I love it and I love the spices they use. I think that’s it for today, I’ll write more on Sunday after this weekend’s events.

Bye!

Visitors from Beijing

This Friday we experienced the worst level of air pollution since I arrived here in China. 500 being the worst, the levels in Tianjin reached 475, meaning it was in fact dangerous to go out. I was wearing my mask during the day, but decided, just out of curiosity, to leave it off when I went to buy some water. After a few minutes I had to cover my mouth, it felt like I was breathing smoke. The TV-tower was invisible in the smog and even the majority of the Chinese were wearing masks, meaning things were really bad. I do hope they came to some sort of agreement at the APEC meeting; things can’t go on like this.

In the evening I went with my friend Lisa from Australia and her boyfriend Steve to a bar called Helen’s. One of Steve’s classmates had a birthday and they had decided to meet up at this bar. Helen’s is kind of a western influenced bar, they have hamburgers and pizza, a lot of foreigners go there went they get tired of eating Chinese food. The mood was good and it was nice to meet some new people. I decided to head home a bit earlier, since Miriam, Robert and Aude were coming to visit in the morning from Beijing. I took  a taxi and it was a woman driving, I’ve seen that a lot more here than in Beijing and usually they are more talkative than the male drivers. She asked me the usual questions; where are you from, how old are you, are you married etc. They always say that really, you should be married by now and have children; once you reach 30 it’s too late. I usually just ignore this and change the subject.

没有为什么 is what you say when something just is and you can't explain it

没有为什么 is what you say when something just is and you can’t explain it

On Saturday morning I went to meet with Miriam, Robert and Aude, they were actually supposed to come last week, but Miriam had left her passport at home and you can’t go anywhere in China without a passport. We met up at the train station and started walking along the river. The weather was really good and the air, thank god, was much, much better than the day before. Tianjin was showing its best side. What struck them most, and me as well when I got here, is that it’s all modern buildings in Tianjin. Perhaps there are hutong areas still in some other districts, but compared to Beijing, there is hardly anything old left. Yes, there are some protected areas with western buildings left in some parts of the city, but in general, it’s all skyscrapers. They liked the view over the river, the culture street, the drum tower, the Korean town and I think they were surprised that Tianjin is such a big city. We walked a lot and then headed back to my campus where we had some coffee and just relaxed for a while. It was our friend Ivy’s birthday, so we decided to go and by some Macarons for her, as we knew it was her favourite kind of cookie. Aude, being French, was a critical judge, but in the end we managed to find a shop that met her standards. After that they were off to the train station and back to Beijing again. After that I met up with Claire and had some dinner at our favourite Korean place. I really wish that Korean food was more popular in Sweden, I would eat it every week.

The Italian Consession

The Italian Consession

Today I met up with language partner Stella and we went to the market to buy some fruits and vegetables. It’s so cheap here and you it tastes so much more. I even found strawberries! I don’t usually here Chinese people swear that much, but I’m guessing it’s because I live in a very protected environment here at campus, but today we saw two girls arguing and one of them shouted one obscene word after the other. This of course attracted a lot of attention, not only because they were shouting at each other, but also because it’s not very often you see a Chinese “loose their face”, you’re supposed to keep your emotions to your

One of many bridges in Tianjin

One of many bridges in Tianjin

self. For example, let’s say you lend your friend some money; you can never ask the friend to pay it back, no, no, your friend must simply remember to give it back to you and if he/she doesn’t, well that’s it. You can never ask for it yourself, that’s just not something that you do here. Hopefully your friend is a decent enough person and remembers to pay you back. Me and Liza later went to have some Malatang麻辣汤, some spicy soup where you can choose your own ingredients, exactly what you need as the weather gets colder. After that we went to Holiland or ”Holyland” as we call it and bought some cheesecake and coffee to take wit us. Tonight we just stay in our room, order some dumplings and have it delivered to our dorm and watch movies, it’s a Sunday after all. Next week I have to start preparing for my presentation, I have to talk 20min about the air pollution in Sweden and how we tackle the problem.

A wide selection to choose from

A wide selection to choose from

Nice and spicy Malatang

Nice and spicy Malatang

Yummy!

Yummy!

Never a dull moment in China

It really is true that you never have a dull moment here in China and I use the expression “This is China” daily, because some things that happen here you just can’t explain.

New week, new cold, this must be my fifth one since I got here and the only reason I can come up with is the bad air quality. As a response to last week’s APEC meeting, the Chinese government decided to close the App where you can check the air quality, all it says now is; Data from this source was censored on the orders from government. I guess problem solved right? This reminds you again that China isn’t actually a democracy and sometimes the government simply does as it pleases.IMG_0332

Everyday I work on my essay and next week I will visit the Institute again for a check-up and see if they are happy with my work so far. I have asked them if I can write my final thesis for them as well, and it seems like that would be possible, yay! There is so much interesting research going on here and I’m very happy to be able to be a part of it.

Today when I was sitting at Gloria’s studying a group of Chinese students came up to me and wanted to interview me for the celebration of Tianjin University’s 120th birthday. There was a TV-camera and there I was, sitting with my runny nose surrounded by paper tissues and cough medicine, not actually a student at Tianjin University, but hey, there was no one else around so I guess I was good enough. They wanted me to say something Swedish, so I did; they thanked me and hurried off to find their next target. This is China, what can I say?IMG_0333

My roommate Liza came home yesterday and told me that her boss had asked her if she would teach her youngest daughter English and when Liza asked her how old she was, her boss replied 8 months. 8 months…I’m not an expert on babies, but I’m pretty sure they don’t know how to speak at that age, let alone take extra lessons in English. There is an increasing demand for English teachers in China, if you read the job adds in the newspaper, 90% is for English teachers. There is one obstacle though; you have to look like a foreigner. It doesn’t matter if your mother tongue is English if you don’t look like a foreigner, you will find it a lot more difficult to find a job and they won’t pay you as much. Parents pay a lot of money for their children to be taught by a foreigner, they want their money’s worth. Liza is from Ukraine, but when she’s at work she is officially from “Canada”, it just sounds better. It is becoming more and more common for parents to send their children abroad for boarding schools in order to learn English at an early age. If you have the money, everything is possible.IMG_0334

China is such a big country, so much to see and so much to do; you hardly know where to start. I know that what I have seen can hardly count as the real China; I mean I ‘ve only been to the bigger cities along the coast. I have wanted to go to Tibet for quite some time, but yesterday I found out that it might not be possible for me to go there at all. Apparently foreigners are not allowed to visit Tibet anymore and if you try to buy a ticket, they simply won’t sell it to you. I was wondering why I haven’t heard anything about the current situation there for a while and now I guess I know why. Since Tibet is out of the question, I was thinking I would go south, down to Yunnan and Gulin. Some of the landscape in Guilin was used as a background for Avatar and if you go now, there won’t be as much tourists. Xinjiang province also sounds really interesting, quite different from the rest of China. There are a lot of minority people living there and they seem to be more related to neighbouring countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or IMG_0341Mongolia. Their culture is different and so is their food, it just seems like another country. But then again, that’s what the majority of China’s provinces feel like. Time is always a problem; it’s difficult to o away for a longer period when you have classes every week. I’m sure I can work it out somehow.

Bye for now

Finally I have seen ”the Eye”

After 2 months in Tianjin I have finally managed to see some of the tourist attractions here, namely ”The Eye”, the Italian area, and the Old Culture Street. Here’s what happened:

Since I usually don’t have class on Tuesdays, this is the day when I usually take the opportunity to head out and see things. I met up with what I now call my “travel-buddy”, Claire, and we started the day at the big shopping street; Bingjiangdao 兵江道, with the purpose of trying to find a nice winter jacket for the ever growing cold weather. I managed to find one, 200 yuan, done, next stop; the river. It was really windy, but it was nice to see some new areas of Tianjin. I love it when you finally realize how areas are connected and it becomes one whole picture, it really felt like that today. We walked by the river and passed what is known as the Italian area, which is basically an area with colonial buildings and Italian restaurants. The restaurants weren’t really suitable for our wallets, so we continued along the river until we stumbled upon a film set.

We had to stop of course and see if there was any actors/actresses we recognized. They were shooting a scene where the main actor was running down the street, clearly in a hurry; trying to get to the women he loved in time. Between the takes a thick jacket was offered the actor, some massage and of course some cell phone time. It didn’t really look that exhausting running down the street a few times but hey, I guess that’s one of the many perks of playing the lead character. We left the film set and finally ended up with a nice view over “the Eye”, the famous Ferris wheel by the river and pretty much a copy of the London Eye in London. I felt like my mission was accomplished, there, I’ve seen it, let’s keep moving.DSC_0027

The Old Culture Street was really close, so we decided to go there and try out some local specialties. There wasn’t that much people there, which was nice, so we could walk in slow pace and look at all the nice old buildings. It was sort of squeezed in between all the skyscrapers and looked quite out of place. There was all kinds of food, most of it I had never heard about, but that’s why it’s so much fun to try it. Claire tried something that was called chatang meaning something like ”tea soup”, the texture was quite similar to some sort of pudding and on top you had raisins, cinnamon, sunflower seeds etc. It was quite tasty. I tried mibing米饼, meaning ”rice cake”, with a sweet sauce on top. It was ok, nothing special. DSC_0036The rest of day was spent inside, next to an aircondition where it was nice and warm.

On Friday evening I met up with my friend Aurora from Italy and we went out for some beers at La Bamba. We had only planned to stay for a while, but in the end we ended up at Sitang anyway. I was quite tired on Saturday, so I spent most of the day studying, eating chocolate and watching movies, you know, the usual weekend stuff. Next weekend I have some friends from Beijing coming for a visit and I have been invited to a crepes party of all things, really looking forward to that. Today Lisa and me were on our way back to campus when we saw that there was a big traffic jam further up on the road. Turned out there were two couples having an argument in the middle of the road and before we knew there was a catfight going on between the two women and the guys were trying to punch each other. There was a big crowd surrounding them and I guess it was like a Sunday entertainment, really interesting when you have nothing better to do, so we also stayed and watched for a few minutes before we continued on our way.

La Bamba and Mayflower

The weather is getting colder and colder and in just a few days the central heating will be turned on and trust me, it’s not a day too late. Right now I’m managing fine with my thin jacket, a scarf and a hat, but that’s outside, inside however, it’s starting to feel really cold. 

Last week it was Jess’s birthday, so we all headed to one of the most popular bars in Tianjin: La Bamba. The only thing that is Spanish about that place is the name, the rest looks pretty much like any old bar, but it’s situated in the University area, hence a lot of students go there for “after work”. The drinks are cheap and it’s a good place to go if you want to meet new people. We then headed for Mayflower, a popular club not too far from the University. It was ladies night and when it’s ladies night, it usually tends to be crowded. Gee, I wonder why?FullSizeRender

On Friday Liza and me found a tiny little shop that sold imported products and most importantly; Macarons! You can find Macarons in a lot of places, but they are usually not that good and expensive, these ones were 5 yuan each and really tasty. Weekends here usually consist of us trying to find new restaurants or cafes to go to. The Chinese sure have a sweet tooth, every bakery is packed and people are loading up with lots of desserts, cakes and bread. It seems like they are always eating something and I have to say, they have a lot of tasty snacks here. When it comes to desserts though, I’m afraid they still have a lot to learn. The bread is pretty much like a white sponge and dark bread is hard to come by. I’ve tried a few cookies and desserts here, but a lot of them has sausages in them or some sort of red bean paste, which is a little bit of a let down when you were expecting chocolate. I can imagine it’s not easy being gluten-intolerant or having any sort of allergy here, it’s just not very common for some reason. When you walk into 7-eleven here you can find the usual products like Snickers, Fanta and Coke, but you can also find interesting things like; peeled chestnuts, fruit chips, fried beans, fried peas, caramelized ginger, dried seaweed or dried tofu snacks. I love it! I think I will have to send a package home with all my clothes and save the suitcase for all the food I want to bring with me back home.

Yesterday I went with Liza to buy a bike, since hers got stolen a few days earlier. She suspected it was actually her bike in the ad and wanted me to accompany her in case some trouble would occur. Turned out it wasn’t her bike, but it wasn’t the bike from the ad either. She ended up buying the bike anyway, so now I have someone to drive me around again, excellent!

Today I had class as usual and we ended up discussing the APEC meeting that had taken place in Beijing last week. What was interesting was how good the air-quality had been the past few days during the meeting and how it today was back to being normal after the meeting was over. IMG_0299IMG_0287Coincidence? I don’t think so. People in Europe seem to think that the Chinese are completely oblivious to the fact that the air is very polluted, that the environment has suffered and that no one cares. That is not true; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The problem is that there are 1,3 billion people living in this country, 1,3 billion people to satisfy without having to lower the living standard. China invests billions in trying to find new renewable energy sources; the problem is that people don’t realize that actions have consequences, the information provided by the government about waste, polluted water or the Greenhouse effect is pretty much non existent, so how can you expect people to do better, if they don’t realize they are doing something wrong in the first place? I really feel that China is on the move forward when I see all the research that goes on here and hear the teachers discuss with their students on how they can make things better. China has a long way to go still, but I think that once China sets its mind to something, things will happen in a rapid pace and before we know it, the rest of us are the ones that have fallen behind.

Halloween and Gloria Jean’s

Liza's homemade pumpkin carving

Liza’s homemade pumpkin carving

 

Halloween and Gloria Jean’s

 

 

 

 

For about a day or two I felt like I was surrounded by zombies and ghosts, everywhere I went I could see them lurking in the shadows. Strangely enough, they all came in a really small size, that’s when I realized that Halloween had come to Tianjin.

Halloween isn’t really celebrated as a holiday here in China; it’s more a fun thing for the kids to dress up at their kindergarten. Some cafés arrange pumpkin carving and this usually attracts a lot of people. My roommate Liza works in a kindergarten and on Halloween they had a Halloween party for the kids and handed out candy. Our Halloween was pretty quiet, a lot of homework and thesis writing, so no party for us. Liza did, however, carve her own pumpkin and I was pretty impressed with the result.

Last week was a quiet week overall, not much happened. When the weekend came I realized it was the first weekend I’d spent in Tianjin for a month, what was I going to do with all my time? Well, Liza and me decided to try out some new cafés and just relax. We were walking on the campus of Tianjin University, which is just next-door from ours, when we saw it; Gloria Jean’s. Good coffee with lots of interesting combinations and a nice and relaxing atmosphere. My friend from Australia told me that this is a popular coffee-chain in Australia and she and her boyfriends go there every week. They had an interesting combination; Latte with ginger and honey, pretty tasty let me tell you; shame there was zero coffee in it. I’m addicted, it’s a fact.

Claire inspects the food

Claire inspects the food

sushi with mustard on top

sushi with mustard on top

The good thing about last week was that I got a lot of studying done, I’m working on my thesis with the very complicated title: A summary of chemical emission limit values for waste water discharged into recipients from a selection of hazardous activities. It’s a title that you have read two times before you actually grasp what it’s about, but it sure is interesting and I’ll be a real expert on wastewater when I’m finished. Other than that I just keep on doing my homework, having private lessons (when I’m not sick, which is about every other week), meeting with my language partner and just keep busy. I met another Chinese girl yesterday that wanted to practise her English with me, she pretty much grabbed me and said; –Are you from the States?Ehh, no, Sweden, I replied.  –Good enough, she said and now we’re meeting this weekend. Turned out Sweden was her favourite country, fancy that.

Nice view over the city from the park

Nice view over the city from the park

Yesterday me and my friend Claire went to one of the parks in the city; the weather was nice and the air was good. There was an amusement park within the park, but tourist season was over and most of the attractions were closed. It’s nice to just walk around and enjoy the sun; you don’t do that here very often. Back home I’m used to being able to go out into the woods whenever I feel like it, but here you always have to plan when you are going somewhere. In the evening I went to my first yoga class and I met a nice German girl, we exchanged wechats and are now officially “yoga buddies”. After that me and Claire went to a Korean restaurant to have some Korean sushi and my favourite; paocaibing 泡菜饼,really delicious and not so spicy.  On Saturday I have visitors from Sweden coming to Tianjin. They actually live in Beijing, so they don’t have to travel that far, but hey, it’s their first time coming to Tianjin. I guess I have inspired them with all my stories of what’s going on in the subway and on the streets here that they felt they simply had to come and visit.

That’s all for now!