Kategoriarkiv: Hutonger

Gingerbread cookies and some cousins on the side

This week my aunt and her family came for a visit and Beijing showed its best side with excellent weather and good air.

In order to earn some extra money I have started doing some private tutoring, I now teach a three-year old boy and a five-year old girl. The fee is good and China is one of the few countries where being an english teacher actually pays good money, but only if you are a foreigner. It’s a good way to make some extra money and it doesn’t take to much time away from my studies. After the semester is finished I will stay a bit longer and earn some extra cash before I go home.

With Miriam, Aude and Meiling

With Miriam, Aude and Meiling

This week my aunt and her family came for a visit and they came with gifts; gingerbread cookies and Christmas presents! They had a few days in Beijing , before leaving for Xi’an and then Thailand. When I met up with them, they had already been to some of the sights, but now they wanted to see the Olympic Stadium; The bird’s nest. We took the subway and if I thought that people stared at me bfore, they were pretty much gloating now. Six foreigners, blonde and tall, we tended to stand out and I heard people say more than once; -Wow, they are so tall! I asked them what they thought of China so far, and they said that the thing that struck them most was the amount of people. How can so many people live in one place? They had some problems with the chopsticks, so I ended up asking for knife and fork at every restaurant we went to. Most places do have cuttlery, but some places don’t, so you just have to make the best of it. We also went to the big clothing market in Sanlitun and did some shopping, the sales people actually know a lot of Swedish there, so you have to be careful about what you say. The standard phrase is; -It’s cheaper than Ullared. I ended up with a pare of Vans, 50yuan, not bad eh?

The Bird's nest

The Bird’s nest

Trying some Yunnan food

Trying some Yunnan food

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we went to visit the Lama temple and the Hutongs, it’s amazing to walk around in the tight alleys and see how people live and have lived for the past 100 years. In the evening we went to have some Beijing duck and shop some more Chinese candy. It felt great to speak some Swedish again, I feel like my English is better than me Swedish at the moment. I now have a functioning VPN as well, so I can access facebook, google and youtube. You can pretty much find chinese versions of everything, instead of facebook there’s QQ, instead of youtube there’s youku, but I still like to be able to access whatever I want, however, the Chinese government doesn’t agree with that. IMG_0522

Not very crowded

Not very crowded

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That’s it for today, until next time.

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!

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!

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.

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.

Me, Zhou Ya and XunYing Xue

Mosquito bites

Mosquito bites:

Mosquitos, mosquitos, mosquitos, they are everywhere and every morning you wake up, you have ten new ones that itch and drive you crazy! In Sweden they tend to be gone by now, but here the season lasts longer, so my next plan is to buy some sort of mosquito net and place it by the window. I went to a Chinese pharmacy and got some lotion to put on and there they told me that they were extra poisonous this year. Great. I really like that pharmacy, there are only women working there and they are always so sweet and helpful, they really know how treat their customers.

I wrote before about our hotpot night and I wanted to elaborate a bit more on the subject. The guys were drinking beer and the girls were drinking tea. Apparently, according to the guys, Chinese girls cannot handle alcohol; therefore they should only drink tea. I must say though, I think Chinese guys aren’t that good at handling alcohol either, three glasses of beer and then their done for. At the end of the night the bottles were empty and all of them were speaking English. The girls informed me that even though the majority of them would have hangovers in the morning, none of them would miss their classes that would just never happen in China. I have seen people sitting in their pyjamas during the lessons, because the almost overslept and didn’t have time to put some clothes on. The rules are; if you are late, the teacher will deduct 3 points on the exam, so you really don’t want to be late, hence the occasion pyjamas outfits.

Yesterday after I got back from Beijing we went to play some badminton, or they played and I watched. They all say they’re not good at playing, but trust me they are. I’ve heard my professor is really good and that he sometimes joins them. I feel like the professors here do have a close connection to their students and it really isn’t as strict as I thought it would be. They really want to help us and make sure that our essays turn out really good. Today I’m having lunch with my professor and some people from Beijing that worked on the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, which is what my essay will be about. Apparently they are here just because my professor called and asked them to come and talk to me, all to help me get the information I need to write my essay. This week I don’t have many lessons so I will have plenty of time to get started and perhaps take a trip somewhere. Somewhere like Qingdao, where they make the beer, but we’ll see.

 

Ciao!

 

forbidden city

Beijing, long time no see

So, after a long journey with a short stop in Doha, Qatar, I have finally arrived in Beijing. The weather is nice, about 25 degrees, but it feels like 30. My hostel is located in a nice quiet area, near the Lama Temple, surrounded by Hutongs (small traditional brick houses). Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane, visiting the first school I ever went to in China; House of Mandarin, at Dawanglu, South Beijing. Beijing, long time no see.

Dawanglu is a very fancy area, the buildings are modern and the stores are Gucci and Marc Jacobs and for a while, I thought this was what the rest of Beijing looked like. We lived in nice 20-store building and ate out everyday at the fooda park somewhere in Beijing court. Thinking back, I now realize I rarely came in contact with Chinese culture-or people, I never left the safe sphere of Dawanglu. Now when I walk the same streets I think back of all the good times we had, but I am glad my perspective have widened and I know really appreciate Beijing for being so ”Chinese”.

Today I went back to my old University: Beijing Foreign Studies University, just to have a look at the campus and see what had changed and if our old favorite places were still there. Some of my favorite restaurants were gone, but that was not really surprising, restaurants changes quickly in this area. It was nice to see my old student dorm; Bailou, meaning ”white building”, and I had a look at some of the newly built faculties.

Tonight I am heading for Sanlitun to meet up with some old friends that are now living in Beijing. Sanlitun is a bar-area where a lot of foreigners come to have fun and go clubbing. It is not my favorite area, but there are a lot of good restaurants and some cozy bars. Tomorrow I will try to find an indoor climbing place located fairly close to where I live, meaning I only have to change once in the subway. We will see how that goes..And on Monday it is off to Tianjin.

dumplings (jiaozi)

typical food served in north of China

It is tricky to find a place with good Wifi, but I have managed to find a café with fairly good connection, so I try to get as much done as I possibly can while I am here. As some of you might know, Facebook does not work in China, unless you have a VPN-tunnel, which I plan to get my hands on as soon as I get to Tianjin. Meanwhile I am dead to the world of Facebook and live out my life through this blog, lucky for you guys right?

LATERS!