Kategoriarkiv: beijing

Christmas in China 2014

When I woke this Christmas day I first didn’t realize that it was actually Christmas, it felt like any other day, but then I looked at the date and saw it was the 24th and then it dawned on me. Merry Christmas.

Our very own Christmas tree

Our very own Christmas tree

Christmas isn’t really celebrated here, well, some families do celebrate and private schools usually arrange Christmas dinner for parents and children. The things is, the families who do celebrate, do it mostly because they like giving each other presents, they don’t actually know why we celebrate. I asked one of my kids if they had a Christmas tree at home and he said; -No, mother says that is too exepensive and difficult to get hold of. When I told him that we usually have a real Christmas tree and decorate it, he looked chocked and couldn’t believe we had a real tree and not a plastic tree.

salmon

salmon

Me and Liza did some Christmas shopping, then we took the train to Beijing. I managed to Skype with my family for a few minutes at Starbucks, they confirmed my worst fears; No snow in Sweden either. Hello global warming. When we arrived at Aude’s place the preparations were still going on and everyone was running around like crazy. They had decorated and prepared food all day and it looked fantastic. When it was finally time to eat I think we all choked back a few tears when we saw all the food; salmon, cheese, potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, you name it. I savoured each bite, it was so good. One of the French guys Simon, ran his own wine cellar and had brought with him some wine that we all got to try and it tasted devine. After the dessert (tiramisu) we handed out gifts to each other and played some games. It was the perfect end to a wonderful evening. The morning after we helped cleaning and got a few lunch boxes to take with us, the turkey had weighed over 6 kilos. The weather here feels a bit like spring at the moment and not like winter at all, which is kind of nice.

cutting the turkey

cutting the turkey

I recieved some chocolate from Sweden, we finished that one pretty quick. Liza says that she would come to Sweden purely for the chocolate, I said I would go to Kiev purely for the coffee. We are planning to move out of the dorm soon to another apartment owned by Liza’s boss, mainly because we don’t have to pay rent there. I feel that the rent here is quite exepensive, giving that we share a room, so I’m looking forward to move out.

Robert and Simon are enjoying the wine

Robert and Simon are enjoying the wine

Yummy

Yummy

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas dancing in the living room

Christmas dancing in the living room

the whole "gang"

the whole ”gang”

That’s it for now

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!

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

IMG_0131

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

 

 

First week of lessons, wow!

Dear all,

Having just completed my first week of lessons in: Environmental Law & Managament, Industrial Ecology and picked a topic for my essay: The Three Gorges Dam, I know feel like I am finally starting to adjust to Tianjin.

My first lesson was this Monday and I arrived not really knowing what to expect. I was the only foreigner and with that came the usual whispers and curious glances which I am now, quite used to and usually just ignore. And then it began..wow! The teacher spoke really fast, lots of new words and I understood about half of it. I was not surprised. This is University level Chinese, it is bound to be difficult even for the Chinese. I know I have a lot of studying to do, but I am excited and it was nice to meet some new people. I got to know some of the girls, actually there was only 12 of us in this course, so I feel like I have a chance to get to know them a bit better. Most of them are around 20-22, so they are a bit younger than me, but they are very interested and want to know a lot about Sweden, which they most of the time confuse with Switzerland (everyone does), but that happens all the time here.

Later that they I had a meeting with my professor Zhu Lin and other students with the same major as me and we sat down to discuss what topics we had picked for our essays. Our professor was very helpful and came with good advice. I will write mine in English, but I am expected to write a summary and an introduction in Chinese, so I will have to put some effort into it. I will write about The Three Gorges Dam, a very controversial subject here in China, so I am looking forward to get started. Later in the evening we all went out for some Hotpot and I got to know the students a bit better. I rode a bike in the traffic for the first time, scary! I think I will buy a bike though, the campus is so big and it is easier to get around with a bike.

Yesterday it was my roommate’s birthday, so we celebrated by going to Starbucks of all places and had a cup of coffee and some cheesecake. There has been a lot of Starbucks lately, but it is so nice and quiet there, so it is a good study environment. I also joined in on some Chinese grammar lessons for the highest level students at the Foreign Languages Department. I feel like I really need some repetition and the teacher was really good, so I will try to join in every week from now on.

This weekend I am visiting a friend in Beijing that is working at the Swedish embassy in Sanlitun, we have not seen each other for a year, so it was nice to do some catch-up. Tonight we are having dinner at her place and later we are going to a club for some dancing. This time I will not upload any pictures, however, tomorrow I will give you all the juicy details and some nice pictures with that.

Until tomorrow!