Friday, December 31, 2004

*** Unforgettable moments 2004 ***


Here is my unforgettable moments during 2004:

JanuarySaga, Stefan, and Toba came to Beijing to see me!
FebruaryFight with Mr. Evil and the great apartment show-down
MarchThe hard break-up with Samantha.
Columbian Coffee with Sandra
AprilThe international festival at Peking University
MayThe amazing trip to Mongolia with Scott
JuneFinding out about "Svante"
Eating sticky rice with XiaoWuzi.
JulyBiking with Sam in Värnamo. Going to Halmstad and Malmö together
AugustWorking in the old people's home. The departure of Svea.
SeptemberEating Kaya toast in S'pore
OctoberComing back to Beijing and moving in with Mr Beijing Bachelor
NovemberVisit DongZhuang Village w WangJun
DecemberMeeting ZhangWen.
Taking part in the psychedelic GongFu-show
The definite break-up

Thoughts about the year

The main event during 2004 have of course been that I went back to China for a second round. It has further stretching my financial situation by delaying my second entry in the work market and I will have to get some income the next year to make it. Staying away means getting more and more distant to friends and family at home and risking a future with a well-paid secure job for a more risky option. Then again, even if I come home and I'll be on the dole eating 'falukorv' (a fat Swedish sausage) and macaroni every day and living in a shack, I won't regret it. This is way right choice for me. I really like having a guy playing 'Erhu' outside the house where I'm living.

A year riding the emotional roller-coaster with Samantha finally came to a stop. In the turmoil some people that I never wished any harm to got hurt. She came to Europe and visited my home, visited me in Beijing, and I went to Singapore. 2 years of constantly being on my mind and in my heart. In the end we caused more harm to each other than happiness. I will miss our good times.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Deja Vu

Deja Vu

Scott is right. I'm reliving the last year. Going to the same places, meeting the same people, doing the same things. I hate him for pointing that out. This stay is supposed to be adventurous and daring, not some old routine...

On the 29th I went to do an advertisement. It was the third shooting job this time around. For the same company that we did last year. Some car repair school close to Tianjin. Last year we faked a huge conference with more than 400 faked business people. This time around we had to
stand next to the Chinese students and teachers and "instruct" them. Felt so stupid. The whole thing is really bordering to fraud. The 20000 students in the school pay RMB 5000 each to take a 3 months course at the school, and I guarantee you that there won't be no foreign instructors there for them.

Most of the foreigners that do these things are pretty interesting though some I have to say are rather sad. Middle aged guy who has married a Chinese girl. His Chinese was limited to counting
to ten, 'hello', and 'thanks' in Chinese after several years in the country. I guess he would only use the last one as a sarcasm. The Polish guy who've stayed 5 years in China and claimed to have given up a $3000/month salary in a Chinese company. Somehow I didn't quite belive
him. Now they were making a living by having a white skin.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry X-Mcs

Christmas came and went. The metropolitan Chinese have all absorbed this tradition making it a craze. Everybody has to go out to drink and eat, choking the streets with cars making it a city-wide traffic jam, and making it impossible to get a seat in a decent restaurant without having reserved weeks ago. A couple of years ago the only one that cared about this Western holiday was the young and the foreign. Now it involves everybody. It has become a way to meet your business partners, to build relationships with your employee, an excuse to get out and get drunk, but most of all an excuse to go out with a girl on a date. As far as I know there's nothing going on in people's homes. No decoration, no gift giving, no cooking food, eating cakes. It has transformed to a new tradition with little in common with the tradition I know, except for the date.

I spend most of the day reading in a cafe and had dinner with a friend. Ok, I have to be honest. We actually had dinner at McDonald's. Yep. Christmas dinner at McDonald's. Raps up the Christmas mood around here. Christmas is one of the biggest disadvantages of being away from home. There is no good remedy and there is just no good way to tackle it.

Apartment fight

First day in my new room and I wake up hearing screams and shouts. The woman I rent the room from and who also lives in the apartment, were fighting with the man who was moving out from the other room. The argument went on for several hours and I was waiting patiently in my room. For I while I was really concerned that it would turn violent. At times they were pushing each other and fighting for something that I think was a key, bumping around hitting furniture and my door. I REALLY didn't want to get involved, but when it seemed to turn really ugly I made a little quick entry to the living room and told them "This is not my problem, but let's act as adults shall we"... They stopped wrestling and I went back to my room pleased with my little contribution to world peace. After all, since last apartment fight, I have tons of experience and know how to deal with situations like that. Not. They continued the argument for another hour or so, until the man said he would go to the police, and she said 'fine'. After a while some mediators, some female friends came storming in and started all over again. After another long while they also left.

TianMengYuan, the woman who rents the apartment is really nice. She seems to be very easy going and her roundish boyfriend also seems to be very friendly. Since there is only three rooms, two bed rooms and a large living-room, she stays in a tent (!!) in the living room. The surprises in this country never ends.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The new place

The new place

Since it seems like I'm staying in Beijing and might start working I decided to move. Using the reliable Peking University BBS, I quickly found a suitable one. I'll be sharing it with three people, one will be living in the large living room. TianMengYuan in the picture is the one who has the contract and is working as some sort of hiking guide. The third person is yet to be found. It's got TV, furniture, washing-machine, 24h hot water, western style toilet, balcony, kitchen, is newly renovated and clean. It will set me back 1000 RMB/month, not including the 98 RMB for internet connectivity plus some 30-40 RMB for heat, water, electricity.

It is pretty close to Wudaokou, where the subway and my school is. It is close to where Samuel was living for a while. Walk down 政府路 to the east, past the subway in 五道口, turn right opposite to 语言学院, walk straight then ask somebody for 展春园.

I live in 展春园9号3门501

Welcome by if you are in the neigborhood. I'm moving in tomorrow.

My 300 RMB room

My 300 RMB room. This has been my bed for the last three months. I'm still having the mosquito net up since the last mosquitoes managed somehow to live on in our room until really recently. On the table is plates with food that my room mates eats from time to time. Often he cooks every three days and then eats from it during the coming two days. He's got a little rice cooker next to my bed where he heats it up. I have to be careful not to hang up things close to that part of the bed since they will smell like the food from the cooker. On the table you can also see the bottles of various skin products that the guy sprays on himself during the evening. I have no idea what it actually is and I think it is rather rare among Chinese guys.

The heater is very warm and easily compensate for the very think windows. We sometimes have to open up a little to make it more comfortable!

This is how it looks when coming in from the outside door. I live on the 3rd floor of one of the common rather depressing looking soviet-style apartment blocks. The kitchen is right ahead, my room to the left, and the other room to the right.

Even if it is the 3rd floor the guys still drags their bike up. Probably a good move since otherwise they would be stolen rather quickly. It doesn't really make the place more cozy though. The most compelling thing about the whole place is that there is a piano there!! I have no idea what it is doing there.

This is where I fight for some space to wash my face and brush my teeth during the morning rush. In the window you will find slices of meat, vegetables, oils, eating utensils, toothbrushes, washing powder, and ErGuoTou (Chinese rice alcohol).

The cooking spot. I don't think it has ever been cleaned. This is the saddest part in a pretty sad apartment. I'm not really sure how Chinese perceive this. My flatmates, their guests, and their girlfriends don't seem to think twice about it, but for example WangJun said she wouldn't want to live in a place like this. I'm still wondering if it has to do that it is Chinese males or that it is people that come from the country side. Maybe it takes both. Maybe I shouldn't generalize. It would be pretty easy to clean it up.

Where the the three other guys are eating, sleeping and watching TV.

This is the toilet and shower. It smells BAD and is freezing cold. The shower has to be turned on 30 min in advance if you want hot water. When showering only a small spray reaches desired place because the water leaks out in all directions! In the corner is the common "trash corner".

If you wonder why I live in this place, read my previous post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Preparing project

Spend the whole day surfin, trying to figure out a little about the telecom market in China. It seems like my professional career in China will start out with a little freelance project for the previous mentioned company. Not really what I wanted, but at least something. I'll have a meeting on Thursday. Guess I will find out more then.

Gongfu action

Gongfu action

Performance of our exchange-students-made-gongfu-artist show in the 100-years-anniversary-hall at Peking University

We made the lingdaos scream, the girls faint, and DaWangLaoShi cry. Man, we were good. Scott, you pathetic looser, you should have been there.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Lucia mingling

Lucia mingling

ZhangWen, Me, and my best buddy the ambassador.

Lucia at the embassy

Lucia at the embassy

Yesterday was the Swedish Lucia festival. I went down to the embassy
to watch the students from the Swedish school sing some songs, eat
"lussekatter" (yellow bun with saffron) and "pepparkakor" (ginger
cookies), and drink glogg (a hot, sweet drink).

I mingled with the other expats, expat's wives, students, students'
Chinese girlfriends, and Chinese studying Swedish. It's quite a mix of
people coming to these events and I've got a feeling that most of them
know each other. I'm starting to recognize quite a few of them too.

Got a job?

Lately I've been checking out the That's Beijing's website for job ads and I've send in my CV to a couple of 'em. I pretty soon got called to another interview. This time it was an American consultant company and after some consideration I realized I needed a suit. Problem was that the interview was this last Thursday and we had our "cool" gongfu performance on Wednesday. So during the 3 hour break in the afternoon I went to buy a suit, shirt, tie, and shoes. After a quick taxi ride, a quick run around a shopping mall, and 3000 kuai poorer, JiaBao the power shopper arrived back just in time for the performance. (JiaBao is my Chinese name)

Next day after too little sleep I managed to get up, put on the gear and get into a taxi. The place was hard to find since I had only been given the English name of the building, but after running a whole block I made it just in time. The company is called Alliance Digital and is specialized in introducing software and telecom companies to the Chinese market. When talking to the manager it all sounded like I was back in the times of the IT boom a couple of years ago. Maybe this will be a ride on the greatest bubble of all time, the IT bubble on top of the Chinese bubble! God knows how much the economy here is hyped and pumped up by foreign investment and speculation.

The American guy I talked to was really nice and the small company could possible be a great opportunity. He started out by asking my a bunch of the traditional interview questions, but pretty soon we started talking like I've already got the job. We discussed what kind of position would be suitable and when I could start. When I left I was absolutely sure I got the job. Now I'm not really that sure. I'm waiting for them to get back to me. I've mailed with a couple of questions. Guess we will see in a couple of days. Best case I well start working in a couple of weeks.

Gongfu masters

Gongfu masters

Wednesday I participated in the show that the exchange students at
Peking University put up. In the end it wasn't as horrible as I had
anticipated. Looking at a video recording of it, I felt a little
stupid for complaining about it. The obvious mistakes that you easily
spot being on stage didn't really matter. In fact, I couldn't spot
myself at all! Not even a waving hand! In the final performance I
jumped and waved hands like crazy with the hope that someone would
spot a little movement in the background. Guess if you take a bunch of
people, make them all wear same colorful clothes, make them do
syncronized moves, add some smoke, and put them on a decorated stage,
it will look alright in this kind of galas that are mass-produced in
this country.

Or maybe I have spend to much time in this country and the tackiness
has turned to normal... My hope is that it is not a permanent damage.

CCTV Stars

CCTV Stars

Just like last year, after our performance in the great memorial hall
of Peking University most of the troup got asked to go to CCTV and
record the spectacle. It turned out to be pretty much the same show as
last year with a lot of the acts being roughly similar. It was a made
more professional with the addition of well-known TV personalities
togehter with some really good foreign Chinese speakers. The show this
year was made into a very well-rehersed faked game-show, an
improvement from last years serial of (bad) performances from various

We were made to sit on the stage and on command come up and dance with
the various acts. As obidient little foreigners we are, we took part
in the stupified propaganda event, and clapped, jumped around, and
looked as happy as ever. China is after all a self proclaimed
"peace-loving" country, so how can people be anything but happy here?

Oh, I almost forgot. I've finally sen HIM! The man, the legend, the
immortal, the DaShan ("Big Mountain"). DaShan is a Canadian guy that
speaks very good Chinese. He might be the most famous foreigner in
China and he has hosted numerous talk-shows on TV and sold his face to
numerous advertisments. He wasn't in our show but I saw him in the
hallway outside. Waiting outside was a whole bunch of other supposibly
famous people (I was told), well-trained little children, and white,
skinny, model girls. 90% of the population judging by frequency of
their kind appearing on television.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Looking out the window

I've been here before, sitting looking out the window trying to find a way to escape the feelings inside. It's the stillness and hurt after having removed something that has been so close to me. She was a part of my daily life, my daily routine, and all the time with me in my thoughts.

Again all the reasons and excuses for my worries and anger seems futile and stupid. Again my shortcomings are painfully exposed.

The distrust and frustration have finally taken its toll on us. To love someone that you don't trust is a curse. We both failed something that could have been so good.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Break up

Me and Samantha have broken up after being together for almost two years.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

I've finished my first paid modeling job during this trip. We headed
off with taxi at 9.30 pm, picked up some other beautiful foreigners,
and headed to an newly built luxurious apartment complex. Got some
make up, put on a suit, and voila, I'm a happy successful business
person mingling with my fellow happy resident friends in our happy
luxury 10000RMB/m^2 home. Most attention seems to go to what color
there should be in the fake drinks and to replace the lemon slice of
the happy Chinese girl that are the main figure, together with her
happy expat guy.

The highlight of the evening was when a translator guy came up and
told us to be 'more intense', immediately starting jokes from the
famous scene in 'Lost in Translation'.

As expected we got home later then expected and with less money then
expected. I was in bed around 4.20 am with an addition of 500 RMB to

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Sandra is an Idiot!

Sandra yesterday pointed out that she thinks I'm way to sarcastic when writing post in my blog. She wondered what was the point with it. She thinks I'm bragging about my "exciting life" in China and seeks out weird and curious things to hang them out on my blog. "Can you write anything positive about China?". "Just because that company didn't give you the job, you call them clowns." Hmm. Well. Not really the impression I was trying to make when starting to write this thing.

First of all, dear Sandra, by publish things in my blog, I seriously doubt that all the world read it. Anyone can read it if they want, but I really don't think that anyone except some very bored friends might ever read it. I'm happy if anyone at all read it. If not, I might consider quitting doin it. Or maybe not, I'm starting to like it.

This all is from my point of view and I and me, we are the masters and center of it all. I do choose to write about things that I think might be at least slightly interesting. It is not journalism and I'm not claiming to unbiased or objective at all. If anyone get offended or think I'm dead wrong, they are welcome to post that I'm an asshole or correct me.

My hope is that by reading this maybe my friends and family will get to know me a little bit better. In the process I hope not to bore you too much. And, Sandra, I really don't think you are an idiot. But I reserve the right write it if I want. Don't take what I write too serious. :)

Monday, November 29, 2004

East and West

East and West

The 西东文化比较 class, the East-west Culture Comparison Class, that I go
and listen to on Mondays.

The Swedish Penis Enlarger

Every night my Chinese room mate gives a whole bunch of girls a bunch of phone calls and sends lots of messages. Almost every weekend he invites one of a couple of girls to come over and cook and eat with him. Every time they are different girls. I don't know how he gets in touch with them nor how well he knows them. That is my room mates life as far as I know. Go to work, eat, sleep, and call girls.

When bringing this up with Chinese friends they don't consider this to be strange or weird about this practice of calling and inviting a lot of girls. They in fact say it was pretty common for guys to do like that.

This has made me understand a little bit better how I come into the equation. He really wanted to live with a foreigner. Now when living with me he doesn't seem to be interested in becoming my friend. We never do things together and he doesn't seem to be interested in doing anything either. He never starts to talk to me and doesn't seem interested in talking to me at all. It is basically the same with the other guys in the apartment by the way. So what was he after when I especially put in an ad to live with a foreigner? He did this after my friend Wang Jun called him and asked weather he would be interested in living with me. This showed that he was really eager.

Sure, he would want to speak English with me. I speak Chinese to him. But I really don't think that would matter. I was confused. Then when discussing this calling and inviting girl think with my friends, I realized that he is very frequently talking about me in his phone calls. He talks a hell of a lot about me. In fact I think he discuss every aspect of me that he knows about, and it wouldn't surprise me if he makes up some more when I'm not there. Why this sudden interest? Why doesn't show interest in talking and hanging out with me, when he talks so much about me?

These Saturday mornings I'm woken up at 8.30, he has some girl with him, and they start to cook. He never tells me the evening before. When cooking though and I'm hustling to get up and get dressed, they invite me. I accepted the first time, the time he invited the deaf-and-dumb girls. This Saturday he again hadn't told me, so I asked a few times more if I shouldn't go to the university and read instead. He insisted once, and then he said ok. That is as blunt as people get here. It means "Yes, I want you to go out and leave me alone with this girl".

Living with me gives him some sort of status. He uses this. He tells these girls that he lives with a foreigner, that perhaps makes him seem more interesting and they come over to hang out with him. When they do, he of course have no need for me to hang around. Maybe it is even so that he really don't want to have me there at those times, since I would take away a lot of attention from him.

What can I say. Life of a Chinese male. From what I've heard, a pretty normal one.

Rumors of terror

Got an email from Wang Jun today with a posting from the BeiDa BBS. Claims that the last weeks there has been more than 20 terrorist attacks in Beijing. Specific times and places are mentioned. Nothing in the media of course. Maybe it's true, but more likely it is just another rumor that flourishes here since people don't really trust the media. It would probably be pretty hard to cover up such a thing in Beijing since there are so many foreigners and journalists here. Then again, there would be pretty strong motives to keep it a secret.

It is scary because there are a lot of strange things happening and I believe there is a sharp increase in violent crimes. Students around here all have stories of crime and nasty accidents. Koreans talk about the students that got hit by a car and left bleeding to death, or the another student that was found dead in his apartment after a month after apparently having encountered a burglar in his flat. Kids are cutting you bag in the bus to take your wallet, old women with infants are selling porn on the street, bags and bicycles are stolen even on the guarded university campus. I hear people blame minority groups such as the Xinjiang people or migrant workers. Nasty.

Pointless interview

Bumped into the Pakistani girl working for the company I went on an interview at. She told me that they had interviewed 3 guys: me, a Dutch guy, and a Hong Kongese. When they had finished the interviews they were called to their boss. He told them he had decided to find an American and a British guy, and when that was said he told they he didn't have time for them and they had to go. The interview I went to was absolutely pointless. He didn't even talk about salary nor experience. Nothing. Just nationality. Crazy.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Chocolate and Cheese

Chocolate and Cheese
Sandra had a little get together last night with a lot of Colombian friends to drink hot chocolate milk with cheese. You grind chocolate in hot milk, add chunks of cheese, drink it, and eat the half melted cheese with a spoon. The world is just full of surprises.

Friday, November 26, 2004

On the dole

The girl at the Timesbright Electronical company called me today and said that her boss had judged me to lack experience in "international trade". Can't help but feeling a little bit annoyed by being rejected by such a bunch of clowns. It would be interesting to see who they are hiring. I think it could be a completely random person who will get the job. I mean, the interview was a) edit this manual (then she noted how much red there was) b) "Do you have experiance in international trade?" Guess I should have said a straight "yes" when they asked me. That might have given me the job. The process was a joke. I'm sure the experiance would have been valuable, but 'll be looking for something else. Meanwhile my Chinese studies goes on and on and on...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Synchronized Foreigners

Last year I participated in the yearly Peking University making-foreigners-do-a-silly-performance-to-enjoy-us event. That time they made us wear beige jump-suits and do a synchronized "dance" with forced smiles on our faces. The "dance" was in fact not more than clapping hands and turn around on certain keys. The problem was too keep the concentration up and not fall asleep. In return for the spectacle and humiliation they give us plenty of food, drinks, and some cash. Sometimes it is pretty funny though, but in an insane way.

Even if I don't study at the university I could still join, since they were short of guys. This year it is a little bit tougher. We have to do a pretty complicated set of Chinese Gongfu moves. They have increased the demands and you actually have to stay a little bit focused to follow. Yesterday Da Wang Laoshi ("big teacher Wang") even threatened that we could be replaced if we were not "up to the standard"! Since they had a shortage of guys they have added a bunch of Chinese guys that are to be taken for Koreans or Japanese. They of course take the whole think absolutely serious and are dead boring. The guy next to me keeps pointing out mistakes I'm doing in an absolutely rude and irritating way. Not that I let that bother me. If I would, I would already have gone crazy in this country.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Job Interview

Yesterday I went down town and had lunch with Irram, the Pakistani girl that works for the company that I went to an interview for today. It turned out that it was a pretty good move since she was pretty much conducting the interview. She openly criticized the company and described all the difficulties she had with her Chinese colleagues and supervisors. If she is one minute late for work three days, they will deduct one day of salary. They can't drink coffee at their desks, not even eat crackers. Everyday they have to report in a meeting what they did the previous day. The supervisor doesn't listen to her suggestions. Etc etc. Sounds great.

After lunch I went to shop for interview gear. Bought a pair of shoes, pair of pants, a belt and a shirt. Luckily I found a floor full of this formal clothing that had a sale. When buying something they gave you a card with the equivalent value of the prize you paid to buy next item. Pretty much 50% off. If you didn't want to use this scheme you could choose other discount methods, the discounts didn't apply to all products and shops, etc... Pretty complicated, but I figured it out. My shopping Chinese has improved. Hurray!

During the interview they did exactly as Irram had described. We chatted a little about the company, they asked me "do you know anything about international trade?", they asked me to do some corrections of their product pamphlet, and then Irram left and the supervisor asked what kind of salary I wanted. Irram said they did the same think when she got hired. Nobody ever tried to look at the corrections she made. I guess this time maybe she would be able to look at my corrections. Weird.

Concerning the salary I said 9-10 thousand, and she looked very shocked and asked "Is that for a year?". He he. No. So I will have to do some pretty touch negotiations here to get what someone driving the bus back home will get. She said it was impossible, but admitted that they had asked around and come to the conclusions that foreigners are usually paid 7000 upwards. I talked about previous salaries, about friends salaries, and additional costs of being a foreigner in China and bla bla bla. In the end it seemed like she was very interested in hiring me and that she would try to convince her boss that I was a good choice. She would of course not make the decision, and the boss who would just quickly by chance passed by and shook my hand, he will. Maybe I can get 7000 in the end. They probably had 4000 in mind.

I will be the first foreigner that I know that work for a completely Chinese firm if I take this job. My hope is that it will be better for my Chinese than it is for my economy.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Hutong Tour

Hutong Tour

Running around in Houhai checking out tutongs with students from
Peking University. 25 foreigners, 25 Chinese students.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Party pic

Party pic

And here is the whole party... Picture send to me by the birthday kid herself.
We really have to do another karaoke session together when Sam comes!

Happy bday Hyeji!

Happy bday Hyeji!

Last Monday was was my friend Hyeji's birthday! We went to Moonhouse,
ate food, listened to two of her friends playing guitar. Hyeji, also
known by her English name as "Rosa", is studying sociology at Peking

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Big Brother Beida

Big Brother Beida

To the quite a few Chinese people CCTV means 'China Central
Television'. To the also not so few Beida guards 'Closed-Circuit
Television' might come to mind. In building 4 at the international
students dorm at Peking University there is a guard watching a hell of
a lot of CCTV feeds with the most modern CCTV system I have ever seen.

I thought the place was secret and I never dared to stay and look at
it. Until two days ago when I passed by with a friend who knew the
guard currently on duty. We went in to the control room and asked the
guard if he could demonstrate the system. To my surprised he started
to show us the system as if we had given him an order. Soon we were
playing around with the controls ourselves and tried to find ourself
in the massive backup of footage of numerous places on campus. The
whole thing is completely computerized and recorded on hard drives. In
a few clicks you can go back weeks and zoom in on people or sweep over
360 degrees panoramas.

The guard is just a dummy sitting there waiting for time to pass by,
watching so the system won't burn up, and possible occasionally zoom
in on some pretty girl. Nobody watches the stuff in real time. If
something do happen they do have quite a lot of possibilities.

Guess this adds to the rumour that guards at the campus are involved
in the big business of stealing and selling bikes... If not, they
could have solved that problem in a second.

The Swedish Chef

The Swedish Chef

Me producing some amazing kitchen art while the teacher is completely
stunned by the mastery of my work.

By now I have cooked 鱼香肉丝 (pork), 麻婆豆腐 (toufu), 带于(eel), 把丝苹果 (suger coated apples), 墨鱼(squid), chicken, and now last weekend 茄子(aubergine). Gosh... I really can't remember the name of the dishes. I'll fill them in when I remember.

More dishes are coming up. I gave Sandra, my Colombian friend, the cooking classes as a birthday gift, so there will be more fried animals.

Not a horse

Not a horse

On my way to and from school I usually pass by this horse cart where a
guy is selling fruit. Horse carts are forbidden in the city, so if you
see a horse in this picture, you are mistaken and should immediately reeducate
yourself and study Marxist theories. The place is right outside QingHua University's new International Research Hi-tech Future Cyber IT Plaza. Maybe the "horse" is some sort of advanced robotic thing?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cut my hair, get a job?

I recently got a job offer that isn't teaching English nor modeling. A real job. It's a company that want to expand in the US and Europe and want a Westerner to help them do that. All of them are Chinese except a Pakistani girl. She's the one who contacted me. It sure would be a very interesting experience. The money is very low, perhaps as low as 3-4000 RMB a month. People that are teaching English here are making around 100-150 RMB/hour. I will talk to them. If I can get experience, some more perks (flat, classes), travel, and use my language skills I might still consider it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A weekend

I find studying Chinese very stimulating and I have plenty of opportunity to use it. Saturday I went to DongZhuang as mentioned in previous posts, then went to the super crowded Xidan to celebrate WangJun's birthday. She and 99% of all the Chinese girls most of all love to roam around in shopping centers and eat ice-cream at HaagenDaz. It was her birthday, so that is what we did.

Sunday I went to cooking class. Cooked SuChaoQiezi, aubergine cooked in oil. After class I went with Carly, an American girl studying at the Chinese department at Beida (not the Chinese language center where I studied) and ate our dishes at one of the canteens at Beida. In the afternoon I accompanied her and her Korean friend to check out the White Cloud Temple (BaiYunDian), a Taoist temple that I hadn't been to. After dinner and returning back, we joined the English club to make dumplings. A spectacle organized by WangJun and the mafia.

I like my life here.

1 story

In the Washington Post today there was an article (free, simple registration required) about taxi-drivers from DaZhou going to Beijing to appeal. It is related to what I wrote in my previous post.

Chinese who have grievances against local officials often take a course that is an age-old tradition in China: They shangfang, or travel to the capital for an audience with higher authorities. In ancient China, they petitioned the emperor. Today, they petition the Communist leadership.

The party uses a bureaucracy of what it calls "Letters and Visits" offices to handle these appeals, but these offices do little more than transfer complaints to local governments, collect statistics and pressure petitioners to go home. A recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that only 0.2 percent of all petitioners actually succeed in getting their complaints addressed.

ShangFang woman

DongZhuang woman

Here is a picture of the students talking to the lady that followed us
after the visit to the DongZhuang village. I didn't want to disturb
them when they was talking so I observed them from a distance.
Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures from the visit. I was
told to keep my camera in the bag since there was a risk it would be

500 stories of misery

After having read an article in the NanFang ZhouMou, WangJun, a classmate, three law students, and I went on a little field trip. The article is about a place in Beijing where people come to appeal to higher authorities after having been mistreated by local authorities. Close to the office, next to a park and surrounded by newly built areas with apartments, there is a small area with brick buildings and shacks. This is the closest place to the office where people can live really cheap (3 RMB a night). The place is to be torn down soon and that is the place we wanted to see.

None of us going had been to this place before and we really didn't know what to expect. The other students pointed out that we probably would catch the attention of some government monitor when entering the area, and we could possible get into trouble. When asking WangJun what getting into trouble meant, she said it could be anything from being hustled out from the area to being arrested and beaten up.

We followed the descriptions given by the article, but it was still a little bit difficult to find. It is situated south-west of Beijing southern railway station. Some people we asked wouldn't tell us where to go. When approaching the area the students got pretty nervous, especially since we were standing out against the rest of the people on the streets and caused a lot of attention. People started to come up to us and ask us if we were students or journalists and wanted to talk to us. We walked up and down some of the narrow alleys and peeked into the shacks. One woman that approached us wanted us to come with her into the place she lived. We decided to give it a go, even if we were all pretty uncomfortable with the commotion that was starting. When entering another woman chasing us, shouting at us to get out. The two women started to argue about this, and we decided to leave. The other woman coming was the landlord and she probably wouldn't want to get in trouble. Since even more people were coming we decided to leave. From what I understood, more people wanted to talk to us, some people warned us and said we were in danger, others thought it was unsuitable to show a foreigner such ugly parts of China, and others argued that this should be solved by Chinese themselves without no foreigners being involved. WangJun thought that if we stayed around we would definitely catch the attention of local authorities, therefore we left the place not more than half an hour after we got there.

When leaving one of the old woman followed us, and we got to talk undisturbed with her for a little while. From what the others told me, the woman said that there was around 500 people currently living at this place. All with their own story of abuse and putting their final home in coming to Beijing to appeal. This woman had herself come to Beijing five years ago since all of her family's land had been confiscated. She had realized that coming to this place was hopeless and futile, but she didn't have anyplace to go. There was nothing to return to either.

When the others was talking to this lady, another old woman passed by and stopped by me. Holding her hand was a little child, she said it was not much more than one year old. The old woman said her son had been killed and she was left to take care of his child. She also had nowhere to go and was therefore living at this place. Unfortunately I didn't understand anything else she was saying.

None of these people asked for any money, they just wanted to listen to their stories. The lady told the students that her life was hopeless. They were students and had a chance for a good life and therefore they should do their best to try to achieve it. It was a short visit but it left a big impression.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Smog source

Last year I wondered what was the source of the smog in Beijing. Even if people are buying cars like crazy and the streets are jammed, many other cities have as many cars and during a normal day you can still see the sky. Some people claimed it was dust blowing in from the approaching deserts, some that it was from burning coal. This is what I read in a Guardian article recently. Guess I could just as well start smoking. That smoke would at least be filtered first.

Since 1998 traffic on Beijing's roads has doubled to 2m vehicles and it is expected there will be 3m by 2008. The new cars are burning some of the world's dirtiest fuel. Because of the increase in oil prices China is buying cheap "sour crude" on world markets. The oil is $1 cheaper a barrel, but contains far more sulphur - the main source of air pollution. According to the state environmental protection agency petrol accounts for 79% of the country's smog.

Colder and colder

Today the water puddles from last weeks dirty rain had frozen. The first morning with below zero temperatures in the morning. Luckily my room got heating now and it is really comfortable to get up in the morning. Sometimes we actually have to open the window to cool it down a little. Somewhere outside this city there is a nasty plant burning coal to heat up that water, then contributing to the almost permanent smog here. There is no way for me to regulate or save that heat. Such a waste.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


I just registered at Friendster and spammed all people I know from my messenger list. They will surely hate me for that. First email in a couple of years and it's an invitation to Friendster. Seems like all people in Singapore already have signed up. They are such lemmings. Some are really cute though. Especially the one that will come here in mid December.

Swedish Engineers

Swedish Engineers

Me and Martin during the hutong tour.

Martin and Sara, a Swedish girl at Beida, are two students from KTH in
Stockholm. They are also studying engineering in the same kind of
program as me (they: M.Sc Electrical Engineering, me: Physics
Engineering, "civilingenjör"). They study Chinese for one semester and
then start to study with the Chinese. This is impossible and Sara told
me today that she will not be able to take the exams. Instead she will
continue to study Chinese in the school I go to. Sounds more sane.
Will probably improve her life quality here a lot.

Class is over. Let's eat!

Class is over. Let's eat!

Last Friday one of my classes finished and because of that we have
taken the teacher out for dinner. Twice. We all really like her and
that class. The last couple of weeks there was normally just 3 or 4
students joining and most of the time in class has been spend chatting
about this and that. A pretty good way to learn a language I think.
Friday was hotpot and Monday was Yunnan style food. Afterwards we went
on to a bar and had drinking games that the Korean dude knew. Seems
like he had done a lot of that when doing his 2 year plus military

The great firewall of China

Seems like the blocking of the blogspot website have been lifted. At least for a little while. I was just able to see it for the first time in China without using a foreign proxy server. I can normally just post since is not blocked, but since the blog is then published on, which is blocked here, I can't see it.
Well, a quick attempt to reach shows that the wall has not fallen. "The operation timed out when trying to reach". Maybe it is just a little crack for

Class is over. Let's eat!

Last Friday one of my classes finished and because of that we have taken the teacher out for dinner. Twice. We all really like her and that class. The last couple of weeks there was normally just 3 or 4 students joining and most of the time in class has been spend chatting about this and that. A pretty good way to learn a language I think. Friday was hotpot and Monday was Yunnan style food. Afterwards we went on to a bar and had drinking games that the Korean dude knew. Seems like he had done a lot of that when doing his 2 year plus military service.

Silent dancers

Sunday my room mate NieTingFeng woke me up and said he would have some guest coming over and asked if I wanted to join them to eat hotpot. I sure wanted and got up, got dressed, and washed my face in about 5 minutes while his Beida (girl-?)friend was waiting outside. We went to receive his guest at the bus-stop and it showed out that they were three very slender, pretty and deaf-and-dumb girls. Being NieTingFeng, he didn't proper introduce them and left me wondering who they were, why they where here, and where they came from. This happens quite often to me here in China by the way. We showed them around the QingHua University for a long time and it was already 2.30pm when we got back. Then my room mate started cutting vegetables and cooking, while I was left to entertain the starving girls in our room. I don't think they had had any breakfast or lunch either.

With a pen, some paper, and my poor written Chinese I figured out that they were from a dance academy here in Beijing. They often go abroad to do performances. They asked me the usual "Do you like China", "Do you like Chinese food?", and so on, and then the little less usual "Do you prefer bread or rice?". I answered that rather odd question with "rice", and to that they commented that they often saw people eat bread in foreign countries and that they were really fat, making gestures showing how really fat they these foreign people were.
The hotpot was quite a disaster. NieTingFeng had bought enough food for an army and poured it all in a huge put that were boiling. The chunks of vegetables and meat were huge and really not suitable for 3 petite girls. Well it wasn't very suitable for anyone I guess. My room mate, being Sichuanese, didn't really ask if we all liked spicy food. And it was really spicy. Spicier than the volcanic hotpot we had back home in Sweden last summer. NieTingFeng's (girl-?)friend looked increasingly unhappy and went back early, claiming that she had homework to do. He tried to rescue the situation as much as he could and kept pleading to her "don't give me such a sad face". After the hotpot the dancers also decided to go home. My poor room mate.

Me, being absolutely full, had another dinner appointment 1,5 hours later.

Maybe they will invite me to their next performance. Let's hope so.

Hot hotpot

The not entirely successful hotpot with the three dancing ladies.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Morning traffic

Morning traffic

Crossing the road from Beida eastern gate to ZhengFuLu on my way to my
morning class in Wudaokou. Most potentially lethal vehicles goes first. Sometimes there is
a traffic police waving his arm and orchestrating the whole thing. One
morning he didn't bother and chatted with a woman he seemed to know,
both still standing in the middle of the crossing. It didn't make any
difference for the traffic situation anyway.


My bike has not been stolen yet, a record for me here in China. It is my third one and it's been in my possession for almost a month now. Heading for school during the morning rush is always a little adventure. Nowadays I my red fake Nike branded hat and gloves, making me look pretty funny. I also started to wear glasses again because I think the dry and dirty air is to bad for wearing contacts.

My situation in the morning is pretty similar to the computer game "Frogger". In that game a frog is trying to cross a street with busy traffic. The game always ends with the frog being crushed by a truck or a car. Here in the morning, the frog, or me, has a greater variety of ways of being squashed and the vehicles can come from any possible angle. My fellow bikers are both a threat and a help. Crossing a street is safest when staying together using the same tactics as schools of fish do to avoid big predators, but any individual biker can at any moment cut in front of you when you are trying to get away from an incoming bus and cause your doom. It is always to go with the flow since any trucker would probably consider avoiding the angry mob that would gather if he would run over a couple of us bikers. This is of course if the truck has breaks and if the driver is awake and is sober.

I've been asking around among the foreigners here if they have any insurance. Very few seem to have it and if they do it doesn't seem to cover transport home. My insurances runs out in a couple of days and because of money constraints I think I will go for a Chinese one. It will cover hospital bills here, but won't cover for an emergency flight home.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Nowhere else but here

I wake up in the morning and it is around ten degrees in the room. Because of the cold I change clothes under the blanket and wait a while until my body heat has warmed them up a bit. It is comfortable under the blanket, but my face is cold during the night. I've stopped showering in the morning since it is way to uncomfortable. Only the little spot of my body that is covered by the water is comfortable while the rest of the body turns blue. While some of you reading this thinks a certain part of me normally is very small, but I tell you Samantha, it's even smaller during these times. I shower in the evening instead and I have cut down to only shower every other day. The shower is in the toilet. The smell is the same as in a public toilet that is never maintained. There is a dirty squat toilet (not much more than a hole in the ground), and a shower hose on the wall. When showering most of the water has already leaked out when it comes out from the shower head.

Instead of taking a shower in the morning I go to the sink in the kitchen and wash my face. There I have to fight with the other guys for the space. Usually we end up standing two or three of us washing our face, brushing our teeth, or loudly harkling and spitting. Don't worry, I don't really do that last part. Haven't really developed that skill (yet). The water is freezing cold and I get done very fast. When I'm not too tired I try to shave in the evening too to minimize these freezing cold minutes in the morning. The kitchen is a 2,5 x 2 meter room, with a bench and a gas burner on one side, and a sink on the other side. Most of the floor and bench is covered with pots and utensils, all unwashed since whenever someone used them last. The stove and the bench have probably never been cleaned. When cleaning ourselves we all use plastic bowls. I have two, one bigger for cleaning my feet and for hand-washing clothes, and a smaller for my face. The other guys aren't so picky. The other day I for example saw that someone was using one of these bowls for the dog meat that had been cut up. It was half full off water and half full with pieces of a dog. To add to the horror there are all kinds of bugs running around, with the ecosystem seemingly being dominated by cockroaches.

The floor in the whole apartment is considered a dirty place and should not be touched by anything but my shoes. There is junk all over. Mostly pieces of newspapers, but also old shoes, bags, pieces of food etc. The trash is gathered in a black plastic sack in the corner, but just as much trash is out side laying on the floor next to it.

Now, why would anyone like to stay in a place like that? Perhaps more interestingly, why would I want to stay in a place like that? The first question is easy to answer. The couple of millions of students and workers that live under these conditions doesn't have a choice. We each pay about 300 RMB a month and that is a lot more than the student that can live on campus. Why would I want to stay there?

Places like this is defining the student life in China. You live with many people and no privacy. Your relationship with these people is very important. Friends and contacts are so much more important here than where I come from. Your friends will help you find out everything essential you will know about your courses and study, they help you out to reserve seats in packed lecture rooms, and give you notes from the lecture you couldn't go to. They know where to buy things and how much it can be bargained down to, help to find someone to fix your computer, or help you out with an assignment you don't know how to do. They lend you a bike when you need one, come with food to you when you are sick, and know who to talk to when you need the right stamp for your internship application. These people will be the one who stand up for you in case of trouble, support you if you have to argue for something, and comfort you when you feel down. All these small things and big things add up and without it you can easily loose out without ever having a chance to do get where you wanted. In return for this you have to give back. Do everything from small symbols to big favors. Spend a lot of time and a lot of thought. It is a constant giving and taking, paying and being treated, giving and receiving gifts and tokens.

I could find a decent and cheap place and share it with some other exchange students or English teachers. We could have a nice TV, DVD-player, alright shower, washing machine, and most of all a clean comfortable place with a separate room for some privacy. Then then again, I would have very little connection to the everyday life that many students here face. Without that I don't think I would be able to understand their conditions, what considerations they have to make, and basically what they are thinking. Guess that was why I came here in the first place and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here right now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

ZhangFang's University

ZhangFang's University

Visit to my language tutor ZhangFang's university, the DongFang University.


When the alarm goes off in the morning and I'm brutally brought back to the morning me that want to stay in bed, I usually manage to convince myself that if only I take a shower and have some breakfast it will be worth it. Life will go on. Today when it was almost freezing on the outside, and it was just as cold inside it wasn't so easy to convince my body. Fist of all I was too tired to take a shower last night, and this morning I was too late and too cold to even think about taking off any clothes. After have spend more valuable minutes contemplating my choices under my relatively warm blanket I decided to take on all my clothes (still staying under the blanket) and then just go out and wash my face. That leaves me feeling rather shitty and I don't really feel that I get a good start of the day without a 'waking-up shower'. Getting up was still fucking cold and I'm really not looking forward to tomorrow morning.

It is just very uncomfortable to have a lot of clothes day and night. When sleeping I'm wearing clothes, when I get up I put on even more. When I go inside I can't take off anything. It is like staying outside from morning until evening without really entering any place with comfortable temperature. Takes some time to get used to.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Hotpot Mafia

Yesterday I had my first hotpot of the season. It was Jeff, a guy from the states, together with the English club mafia and me. Their little club organizes some meetings and sometimes English Corner, and in return each member has to pay 10 RMB. In their ads they usually write stuff like "hang out with native English speakers". At one occasion that was I. Only me. And a room packed with Beida students eager to talk to the "native English speaker". Horror, such horror.

As a friend of Wang Jun, who is the president of the club, I got the privilege to go with the board of the club to eat food using the money from the member-fees. The board by the way consist of only English major girls who are almost exclusively room mates and close friends. The board’s duty, except the hard work of putting up a poster and a finding a place for the English corner, is also to help companies come to Beida and hold lectures for students. The club by the way gets paid for this too.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Winter is coming

Leave from work has been granted, the ticket has been booked, and mostly clear skies in the on-going saga of Johan and Samantha. She will come and take on the city in the middle of December. At that time it will be long-johns times (at least when venture out from the warm hotel room).

The temperature today made a big dip. The wind was blowing through the room I was staying and it is not hard to predict it will be a pretty cold November until some leader decides that the people have suffered enough and turn on the heating. Then there will be boiling hot water, heated up by burned coal, flowing through the pipes of the city. The routes of the pipes under the streets can be seen by the melted snow or frost, and steam is flowing out from various leaks. The system has only two modes, nothing or full steam.

As my sister remember, our place I lived last year was on the top floor of the old building, and it seemed that most of the heat was already gone. Friends in other places though reported that they had to open the windows sometimes, unless they wanted to live in a sauna. In my room closing or opening the windows has a very small effect anyway, so no risk for sauna there.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Coffee and Tea

I'm just taking a little break from classes and use the free computers at the school. The computers suck, but they are free! If they were faster they would probably be hogged by the Koreans, so it is probably pretty good anyway.

Last night I went to a lecture at BeiDa. The class is called Comparison of Eastern and Western Cultures. First I have to say that I understand very little of what the professor is talking about. The little things I got was when Wang Jun translated them for me. She things the class is great. It all seemed to boiled down to showing the superiority of the "Eastern Culture" to the excitement of the Chinese student that was attending. Wang Jun mused when the professor pointed out and ridiculed weaknesses in "Western" languages. It sure is interesting to compare different aspect of cultures, and I had a very interesting class that I took in Singapore on this subject, but how ridiculous it was to turn it into some sort of competition or nurturing of nationalistic feelings.

Maybe I misunderstood some things, but actually I think it was worse than I try to reflect here. When thinking about it, some of the teachers and the text books I had last semester took every opportunity to do just the same. How tea is so much better than coffee, how Chinese never solve disputes by fighting (!), how superior Chinese medicine is to "Western" etc. One text explained how superior the Chinese abacus was to electronic calculators and that more and more people was starting to use it. Even in foreign countries, like the United States, the abacus was getting more and more popular as people understood it's advantages. Sure tea is great, Chinese are fighting every day, Chinese medicine has it's uses, and the abacus is... eh... useful, but I hope that in the future time the Chinese won't be taught and teaching like this is some sort of competition. If you want to drink tea, go ahead. I don't really think it has miraculous health effects, but if you think so, just go ahead. I like coffee because I'm used to it.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Another improvement in my life here was the fact that my flatmates are kicking ball during the weekend in the dirt ground I played at last year. In fact, I think I vagualy remember playing with them. I guess they don't really recognize me from that time. For them all foreigners probably pretty much look the same. When they put on their fake ManU and Arsenal shirts and started playing I knew I had seen them before. It was great to get to run a little, though with all the dirt that you breath in at that field, it can hardly be healty. Living in Beijing is probably equivalent to chain-smoking 24/7.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Ceren's birthday

Ceren's birthday

The picture is from Ceren's birthday. I invited my good friend to join
me to the party. From left is WuZheJian, my lawyer and former bed mate
(he was on top and I was below), me, Ceren, the mafioso WangJun, and
former flat mate CaoWenYa.

For you guys who don't know Ceren, she is a Turkish girl spending her
second year at Peking University. Last year when we both studied at
the Chinese language center at the university, we ended up in all the
same classes! Funny is, she is also studying at the Diqiucun together
with me this year. Some things never change and going to class is one
of these things, Ceren will always be there! When she doesn't study
there she attends lectures at the International Relations Department
at Peking University.

Cooking Class

Last week I discovered that the school I'm going to has cooking classes during the weekend. What a great way to learn a language! And also, if I don't manage to learn the freaking language at least I learn how to cook a little! I signed up right away and it sure was worth it. I'll start out with two classes this and coming weekend, and I think I will go on. This was just a lot of fun.

today's mission was the Sixuan classic "YuXiangRouSi", which roughly can be literally translated into "fish smelling meat shreds". The dish of course does not either contain nor have anything to do with any fish. Names of Chinese dishes often has nothing to do with they contain, making it difficult for us poor foreigners. The dish is made of pork shreds in sweet in a sweet-and-sour sauce, together with various shredded vegetables and lots of different spices and herbs, all first boiled and then fried in oil. It's very tasty but it can't be eaten too often because of all the oil. It is a classic for foreigners and one of the first dishes one learns here together with the standard "GongBaoJiDing" and "MaoPoDouFu", which we by the way will cook tomorrow.

The teacher is a proud cook and explains every aspect of the cooking very detailed. She is just as careful with the appearance of the food as the taste and smell. As the traditional Chinese woman she is, she harshly criticize the girls and encourage the boys. She praised my poorly cut vegetables, though I have to maintain that in the end they turned into something pretty edible. When we had finished our dishes the teacher pointed out the two creations she thought was the best, and then also had to point out the poor fellow who in her point of view had done the worst!

And no, that wasn't me.

Friday, October 15, 2004

National Day

National Day

1st of October or 十一¸€ is China's national day. I took this picture
while walking by the entrance of 圆明园, the YuanMingYuan park, just
opposite the block where I live. Many tourist attractions had been
decorated to make a good impression on the crowds that come to Beijing
during this time. Going to any tourist attraction is hopeless unless
you really love getting elbowed or pushed around by Chinese country

My daily routine

Life has gotten into some sort of routine, which is kind of what I wanted. That helps me to save money and it's harder to make excuses for not studying.

6:45 I get up from my hard but warm bed to stick in the plug to the water heater
7:00 Take a pretty cold shower and in the kitchen.
The guys from the other room usually get up at this time and I'm trying to finish up before they come around.
7:15 Put on my long-johns and thick sweater and head out in the smog with my 70 RMB super-rider
7:30 Reach some place to have a quick breakfast. Lately I usually have ended up at YongHeDaWang in WuDaoKou for some Youtiao and hot soya-bean milk. 6 RMB
8:00 Morning class, Listening and speaking class (12RMB*2)
10:00 I go to KFC to read and study until lunch
11:40 Go to some of the cheap restaurant and have some noodles, 6RMB
12:30 Return to class-room to prepare class. Sometimes I go and surf a little bit. 4 RMB/H
13:00 Afternoon class (12*2 RMB)
15:00 School day ends and I'll be doing various things.

Yesterday I went back to the dorm to wash some clothes and have a nap. I met up with my old tutor Zhang Fan in the evening. Hopefully we will continue with that (2*10 RMB).

17:30 Dinner at Beida (8 RMB), usually at Nongyuan or Jiayuan. Nothing ever changes.

If there's a movie at the BeiDa Memorial Hall I will usually try to catch it (5-8 RMB). They have both new and old movies and most of them are dubbed to Chinese and and/or have Chinese subtitles.

If nothing special is up I've been sitting in good'ol Kangboshi ("Campus"), a canteen on campus, and reading until 22, when they turn of the light. If I feel like reading later I usually go to some lecture room. Campus is better because I bump in to people I know, but they play painful music there and it is sometimes pretty noisy.

23.00+ Return to the dorm. Wash my feet and read a little bit. Talk to Samantha on the phone.
00.00 Sleep... (300RMB/month)

Still haven't figured out when I will squeeze in writing this blog. Posting is painfully slow and reading it is almost impossible.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

High school visit

I've been readying a book called "Beijing Doll" by Chun Sue. It's a pretty amazing book and it all takes place right here where I spend my days. She dreams of Beida, hangs out in Wudaokou, and goes to shopping centers around here... and she talks about her high school. That got me interested in how the schools are around here. I asked Wang Jun to take me to see her school which is just a few blocks away from Beida. Today was a sunny day and she wanted to get away from her studies, so we went over for a little visit.

The RenDaFuXue (Associated high school to the Peoples University of China) is a very prestigious school and have more students qualify to Beida then even whole provinces! This year it was 87 student. A year a go Wang Jun was one of them. From the whole of Beijing there is not more than some 200 that qualify, so this school is pretty exceptional. I was told that there are two kinds of students there, those who study really hard and have fairly well of parents, and those with parents that are connected and/or are very rich. The school is like any high school in Singapore and that is very good for being in China. I would say that their facilities are better than that of Beida. The teachers I talked to seemed very nice and the atmosphere seemed very relaxed. This came as a surprise after reading Chun Sue's book, and after having listen to a series of radio programs about Beijing schools that was send on the Swedish public radio, that talks about a pretty oppressive system. I thought people here paid for putting pressure on their poor kids. That didn't seem to be the case at this place.

When entering the campus I felt that something changed. The atmosphere was different from that of the street just outside. The most obvious was that suddenly no one took notice of me anymore. Walking on any street in Beijing and even more in any other city and you always get a quick look by most people you pass by. These kids in this school must have been so used to foreigners (they have 20 foreign language teachers!) that they didn't care anymore! Wang Jun's relationship to some of her teachers was really like a friendship. We sat down with three of them and they talked about this and that. It was very relaxed and they seemed to like her very much.

Guess that is the one thing I really like about this place, I keep getting surprised about things.

Sunday, October 10, 2004


I just haven't been able to find a good routine for writing this blog. The free connections at the university are so damn slow when it comes to surf foreign sites and it has been pretty inconvenient to go to the internet cafes. Unfortunately the occasions when I feel inspired to write something and having access to the internet hasn't coincided very often recently.

As usual I got a pretty bad cold almost immediately after arriving. I couldn't sleep the other night because my throat was so soar. When going to Wudaokou in the mornings the last couple of days last week I've been watching how the city has been more and more started to disappear into the smog and dust. From the clear and cold day I arrived until now it has just been worse and worse. From one day to the other buildings that could bee seen before disappear. Somehow during those times I felt that the city was getting sicker and sicker along with me. WangJun showed me a SMS where someone encourage her to go out and watch some star falls during the coming night. It was supposed to be extra dramatic this night. Unfortunately no one would be able to see anything that night. The moon could hardly be seen through the gray daze. She claims that it's just clouds, that it is just fog. Somehow I doubt that. I think this air will cause a lot of respiratory deceases. Maybe I should get the hell out of here. Then again, some people get away with smoking all their lives, so why shouldn't I get away with this. Now I can only wait for a windy day that will bring us some clear days and a chance to see the sky again.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Back to school

Today I started school again. The little school is in Wudaokou and is packed with Korean students that are preparing for the HSK Chinese test. In the two classes I took today there was no other nationality but Koreans. Trying to follow the courses was pretty depressing. I had to try my very best just to not make a fool out of myself. Good thing is that I spend almost all of these days only speaking Chinese. Then again I'm having pretty pitiful conversations.

Reading and talking

I've started to read a book that predicts the collapse of the communist party in China and have as a result brought it up in conversations with some of the friends here. Guess it is not a very tactful thing to do, but still I find it pretty interesting. They say that they find it interesting too, but I think it generally just brings up bad feelings, so I guess I should better shut up. Maybe I will write a little review when I'm finished with it.

When talking to WuZheJian, my former room-mate he said that if he ever came to a powerful position he would for sure also take bribes. He said that it is what everybody does and that is in fact the reason to strive for such a position. I understand that people could easily fall for the temptation, and I'm probably not different, but I still find it rather remarkable to make such a statement.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Yesterday I borrowed a bicycle from Wangjun. A really crappy little beast without any breaks. The breaks doesn't matter much because I'm not able to gain much speed with it anyway. The sad part is that I can't find the key for the damn thing this morning. I would have bought one myself if I just knew where to get one. There used to be a black-market outside on the west gate of the university where you could buy stolen bikes from the neighboring Qinghua university. It has unfortunately been closed down. Rumours say that they still sell bikes in the evening, so I guess I will go for a look. If not I guess I chould go and find the equivalent black market at Qinghua...

Monday, October 04, 2004

Getting set (Beijing, China)

Ok. I'm finally in China and I have finally been able to connect to my blog. It has been damn hard to connect to it and I have actually just managed to see my own posts once. I'm not sure whether it is because it is blocked or that the connections are slow.

I arrived late in the afternoon and didn't really know where I would stay. I started out by sending out a bunch of SMS:s to see if I could get in touch with some friends here. On the airport coach I got in touch with Uma who in turn got in touch with my potential room mate. Arriving by taxi to the university it was already dark. From the university we got into a taxi and drove around the campus to the shady little alley where the apartment is. There we met up with the guy. To welcome us he had gone out to buy dog meat and when we got in it already boiling in the electric cooker.

The two rooms look just like student dorms at a Chinese university. For you who hasn't been in one, most westerners would not consider staying in one. I only share my room with one other guy, the other are three in their room. Some dorms at the university actually has 8 guys in one room, but their room is of course bigger. Still, we live very close to each other which I know will be rather hard to get used to. I have though shared room with other Chinese the last two years.

The dog meat was ok, but personally I prefer to have something to the meat, not just only meat. I got a big back bone and ate off as much as I could. Since I didn't have my bed stuff I had to sleep on the bed as it was. I was actually glad to have a bed at all. I wouldn't want to pay for a hostel and even if I wanted they would probably been full since it is the national holiday week now. The city is full with Chinese tourists. The guy lent me a thin blanket and I slept with my clothes on. It proved to be rather difficult since it was both cold and there was a lot of annoying mosquitoes biting me. The weather has again warmed up a lot and yesterday night I was sweating. There must have been a one day temperature drop of more than 15 degrees!

The day after I was able to get a hold of the girl who has kept my clothes and bed stuff. She keeps her room at the university though she never stays there. Her room mate let me put out the stuff in the hallway and in the evening I rented a car and brought it over to the place. This night I also put up a mosquito net and slept like a baby!

The rent is paid for the next three months, so I guess I will try to stick to this place now. I'm paying 300 RMB a month, which is very good. My only worry is that I won't be able to cope with my flat mate. I don't even know their names and I have no idea what kind of people they. Hopefully my stuff is safe there, though I carry the most essential with me. So far I've walked over to Shaoyuan, the foreign dorm at the university, to take a shower in the morning, but soon I guess I will try to adapt and do it the Chinese way.

Dog meat

Dog meat

There is nothing like a big piece of dog leg to chew on.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The dark side of the mooncake

The story is that I from the beginning stretched the time here to be able to celebrate this festival. Then she doesn't care for doing anything with it. I came early because I wanted to join her at the DND, and it turns out she couldn't/wouldn't let me even come to the after-party... I understand she is tired from all the work and that most of the days we can't do much together.

This festival is for lovi-dovi couples and it would be a great ending for my stay here. But with the festival approaching it turns out that Samantha was totally luke warm for this event. For her it's just another boring Chinese festival and she basically she wants to go and eat in an expensive restaurant instead. Pretty sucky for a guy who is spending most of his time studying the freaking culture of this festival. Considering she's been going around all the cheesy tourist attractions with other guests she has had, she could have joined me to the once in a year, and possible once in a life-time experiance of going to the Chinese gardens during this festival. I'm not forcing her to be my language partner and I'm not forcing her to come with me to Chinese temples and ask her to explain Chinese poetry. Even if I would for sure appreciate that, she got no interest and I don't want to bore her. I'm not together with Samantha to learn Chinese. While being a little annoyed right now, I would say that being together with Samantha doesn't help learning any Chinese.

Moon cakes

We celebrated the mid-autumn festival by going down to the Esplanade to look at some free concerts and fireworks. Couples were sitting by the water and kids were walking around with laterns. The was a really nice evening with a lot of atmosphere.

Monday, September 27, 2004


Today I met up with Jeff, an friend from the year at NTU. He went traveling in Europe this year and we talked some about his trip. For those who know him, he is working for a semiconductor producer here in Singapore. Though he just works half the week and get a pretty decent salary (for this country), he think the job is pretty dead-end. We actually managed to sit around almost all day and chat about this and that. We ate Thai food later on and had a nice beer at the Millennia walk. Maybe sitting around chatting is tomorrows plan too.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Saturday afternoon I went to Samantha's cousin's wedding BBQ. I'm still not sure weather the BBQ actually had any clear connection with their wedding, but I think that it was because the couple wanted to show their clear intention to get married sometime in the not to distant future. Although there wasn't no other westener to be seen the people treated me very nice. We had lots of great food and people was smiling. All of them where conversing in mandarin and I was pleased that I could understand almost everything. I'm not really sure what they were thinking of me and maybe they weren't sure what to think themselves either. When we took pictures before leaving, one of the uncles insisted of being in a picture with me. From Samantha's comments later I understood that he wanted to do this since he didn't get to see foreign white people so often! I guess that was made me write that last comment.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sightseeing PWC

Today I followed Samantha to her workplace at PricewaterhouseCoopers where she works as a tax consultant. Her workplace is on the 19th floor of the PWC skyscraper down in the banking district. As all banking district there's a lot of glass and concrete. Just perfectly clean streets, clean and nice cars parked at the right places, and since this was Saturday it was only a few people going back and forth to their workplace. Normally I guess there would be thousands of little lemmi... eh.. Singaporeans rushing and elbowing to work. Kiasu!!

Not sure what kind of picture I'm trying to paint now. This place IS rather impressive. Can't say anything else. Things work and people have a good life. The air is clean and all throughout the city you find trees and green spaces. Did I complain that there is no ugly graffiti on the walls?

I sat in her office practicing a couple of characters and watching the view from above. Afterwards she took me to a busy little restaurant nearby and had a great curry fish head. I'm still a chicken when it comes to eating the eyes of the fish, but this time I at least tried the lips!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Samantha street

This is where Samantha lives. It's the second last building to the right. The place is called Gillman Heights and is an area of condominiums (fancy name for apartment) with shared swimming pool and sport facilities. Most Singaporeans live in HDB:s (House Development Board), which is state-subsidized apartments and mostly more basic. No graffiti ever to be seen. Just perfectly clean streets, clean and nice cars parked at the right places, and a few people going back and forth to their workplace. The only people that you see outside is children playing table-tennis or badminton, guest-workers from Bangladesh cleaning up the streets. The Filipino or Indonesian maids that are cleaning the apartments are only seen coming and going. The whole place is fenced in and you have to walk through the guarded entrance to get it. There is no such places in Sweden what I know of. Wonder what they are afraid of. I thought the crime rate in this country was very low.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Walkin in town

Spend the whole day walking in town. Started out with going to Tiong Bahru to have an 'old style' breakfast. Then went on to the Chinese embassy to pick up my passport and new visa. Then I went to Lavender to the Immigration Office to see if I could extend my Singaporean visa. When I got there I found out that I needed a 'sponsor', i.e a Singaporean's signature and IC to hand in the application. So, instead I took the MRT (the subway) to the border, walked out, and walked in again. That way I got a new 14-days visa. What a waste of time.

On the way back I wanted to visit the Kranji War Memorial. The bus driver probably misunderstood me even though I showed him the entry in the LP, so we went all the way in to town. I fell asleep more than I dozen times during the trip. So no War Memorial this time around.

In town I had chicken biriyani and ice-coffee in Little India. Then I walked over to Bugis and sat down to watch people. Where I sat there came a series of Chinese sales persons. They put up their stands, talked uninterrupted for about half and hour, packed up, and then came the next person. I tried to understand what they said. The first one was selling an ointment made from snake. He had couple of baskets with snakes with him and sold quite a lot. Thereafter came a guy who sold electric knife sharpener. After that a Buddhist who put up a portable table and started to teach. He spoke some dialect so I couldn't understand anything. He's the guy on the picture.

To compensate instead went to a nearby Buddhist temple. It was a very active place and to my surprise was most people praying my age and girls. So I sat there to 'observe' for a long time ;)
They first get a container with a bunch of sticks and shook them until one fell out. Then they had a little wooden piece that they threw up and watched it separate into two pieces when it landed on the carpet. I know very little what that was about. Considering they were Chinese it probably had something to do with wishing for money or a lot of boy babies.

Saturated with traditional stuff I went to Suntec city, a central shopping paradise and later to City Hall MRT, where I met up with Sam. We took a quick stroll down to the Esplanade and sat chatting by the river and looked at the skyline of the CBD (Central Banking District). After having spend an hour contemplating what to eat we decided to go to Newton and eat seafood.

The Newton food court was a lot more touristy and overpriced than I remembered. Maybe it was the same, but now I have spend so much more time in Singapore that I can notice the difference. Another stingray had to be sacrificed to please us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Hotpot junkies

Me and Samantha has been eating hotpot twice this week. It is so simple and so good. All the stuff you want can be found in the nearest supermarket and of course this time we had a real electric steam-boat to cook our stuff in. No need to put the whole place on fire like we did back home! We did have to go down to China town to find the sauce and unfortunately we couldn't find the majiang sauce. It doesn't seem like they eat that in Singapore. Such deprived bastards they are. One more reason to go to Beijing.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Kopi and kaya toast for the people.

Google Mail

Spend almost the whole night configuring the gmail account that I got from Eddie (Thanx!). Have tried to upload all my old mails with various results. When I started to dig in to it I realized some of the mailboxes had been somewhat corrupted in the process. Not really sure which program or filter to blame. The Microsoft programs causes a lot of problem with their closed proprietary programs and formats (Hotmail, Outlook, Outlook Express). After having exported all mail to a standardized format (mbox) it is now bye-bye Microsoft.

In the evening I had dinner with Samantha and had wonderful Thai food and kopi with kaya toast! Kaya toast is something that I have just discovered here. It's a kind of spread based on coconut and it is just so good! Together with the coffee it is the ultimate breakfast in this city. At the malls they serve this 'old style' breakfast with floating soft-boiled eggs on a saucer, coffee and toast. If I had discovered this when I was studying here I would probably be 10 kg+ fatter.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Glitches and patches

Realized that I really enjoy sitting studying Chinese text in my own pace. So much more enjoyable than being pushed through massive amounts of text and not have time to really learn it and feel confident about it. Reading like that and a lot of conversations should do it. I'm annoyed when I see signs and boards with lots of characters that I can't read. Reminds me that I have just gotten started.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Samantha DND

Samantha is the one who has black hair, is pretty short, has a silly smile on her face, and wear red clothes...

and has a hat.

Tell me why?

These little pointless lies...
Why are they there?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Just a slow day

Had a slow day surfing to figure out the weird VISA regulations in China and trying to find cheap language schools. My guess is that the really cheap schools don't have good web pages. I can only find expensive ones that put prices in $. I know there are really cheap ones, but I don't know if there are many of them. Another thing that seems hard to figure out is weather any particular school will be able to help you out to get a student VISA. My bet will be to go there with a tourist VISA and try to find someplace that will help me switch. Mid-Autumn festival is coming up so I'm a little bit worried that the Chinese embassy will be closed.

I've managed to sit and study for a good 4-5 hours. Later I sat outside in a nearby food court and had HK noodles and another kopi. It rains pretty heavy in the afternoons with a lot of thunder and when it clears the humidity is very high. We have AC in the room and it makes it very comfortable to sit and read.

Samantha said she felt sick today and had a headache. She works all day and comes home very tired. Poor baby. I'm trying not to make her feel stressed over that she can't be with me. I knew she would be busy, but now we have no quality time at all. The few hours we have during the coming weekend has to be maximized to "make it up". Usually a recipe for not having such a good time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Good ol' Singapore

Had a nice afternoon evening by myself walking through one of the numerous shopping centers in Singapore. They are all pretty much the same with similar stores, a couple of food centers, bakeries, a supermarket, hairdressers, and a cinema complex on the top floor. After shopping a few things, gotten myself a haircut (first in like 3 months!), and got a new phone card, a relaxed with a nice sweet "kopi" outside. Kopi is a super sweet kind of coffee they have here. For a Swedish black coffee drinking guy it takes about 6 months to get used it and then enjoy it. I like it.

Samantha is working really late and has dance practice for some show at her upcoming DND ("Dinner and Dance", Singaporeans use zillions of acronyms). I'm not invited. She says no one else will bring their boyfriend/girlfriend, she says her manager things she is to junior to bring her boyfriend, and she says that she thinks there will be a lot of gossiping about her if she brings her white boyfriend. I'm not sure what to think. Maybe I just don't understand what a DND is all about.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Warmth (Singapore)

I have arrived in S'pore and it feels both a little bit exotic and a little bit at home. Since I arrive in Singapore 4am Monday morning I managed to surprise Samantha by calling her from the taxi and ask for the fare. I couldn't get any money out from my cards. She in turn had to wake up her flat mates since she didn't have any money either. Great start. She didn't seem too unhappy though.

Today I slept way late in the afternoon. Met up with Sam after she finished work and had dinner together with some old friends of hers. Sam looks really smart in her office gear and her office is smack downtown in the banking district of Singapore. Lots of glass and concrete.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Train days (KL, Malaysia)

The flight was alright but pretty boring. Can't even remember the names of the movies, but they were really boring too. Did manage to read some.

Had a nice day in Bangkok and I took a stroll around the Chinese quarters and had some good food in one of the many street stalls. The heat was intense and I was completely soaked of sweat when I got back to the station. Took a really nice shower before I jumped on the train down to Butterworth.

We reached Butterworth by noon and instead of taking the next night train to KL I took the first bus I could find with the hope that I could reach Singapore. In KL I was told that I could reach JB, the Malaysian border city, by midnight. By that time there is no public transport to Singapore, so I'm taking the next night bus instead. Tomorrow morning I will be in Singapore.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Off I go

This will be the last post from Värnamo. I will be leaving in 15 minutes. Night-bus to Stockholm and then flight on to Bangkok tomorrow at 2pm.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The flight is booked

Having had my last appointment this morning I booked a flight to China over Singapore. I've now called and written to 8 CEO:s and personally visited five of them. I've offered them to help out if there is something of interest showing up in China. With some luck there might be something concrete out if it.

I will fly this coming Friday. The ticket is to Beijing with a stay-over in Bangkok. From Bangkok I will probably take train and busses down to Singapore. If I can find a REALLY cheap flight with Neverheardofistan Airlines of Death, I might take that.

This summer of old ladies, fishing, watching TV, family, and Samantha on adventure is coming to an end. New year in China is about to start.

Monday, September 06, 2004


Been watching the Swedish version of American Idol, "Idol 2004". I've been on an audition when trying out for the high-school musical during my exchange year 2003. Guess that's why the show caught my attention. They asked us to come out one by one in the big auditorium. Out there was just the director and a woman by a piano. Jesus. I had just been pulled in by a couple of friends and thought I just join for fun. This was way to serious. Thing is, I had never sung alone like that for real. Singing a whole song solo in a absolutely quiet auditorium without any help except a key from the piano. Thought it would be pretty relaxed. Instead the director was sitting in the dark a couple of rows back without saying a word. Well, I sang from the bottom of my heart! Laud and clear(?). Was all red and sweaty when I was finished. They put me in the choir. Bastards.

Being home just waiting around is not good for me. I become a pretty nasty irritated person. Concerning my relationship with my parents I have to admit that I haven't been doing my part. I guess that can be explained by partly laziness and partly bitterness and anger. Since I'm an adult and I have put most of this stuff behind me, maybe I should act like one too. Thing is... adults are just big children that are pretending. Really. Leave me here in this house a couple of weeks and I regress back to the disobedient, stubborn, angry old teenage me. Well, a little bit more than usual one if you didn't think that was a change. The solution? I go away. Come back for shorter periods and try harder during that time. Think that is the best way to deal with it.

Friday, September 03, 2004

China this, China that

Last couple of days I've felt pretty crappy. Probably because I still have very bad sleeping and eating habits. Played tennis with Jakob, Johanna's boyfriend, yesterday and today and he kicked my ass. Sucks. Couldn't concentrate at all. It made me feel better today though.

Today's little activity was another appointment. My fourth one now. This guy has been four years in China and been hiring people, setting up factories, and been meeting a lot of officials. It was pretty interesting to chat with him, but I have no idea what he wanted out of the whole thing. We sat there and chatted for a couple of hours about this and that. He never really asked me much about what I could do for him and I don't think he will be very interested. Think he was mostly interested in a way spending his time not working and just sitting around and chatting about good ol'times and drink coffee. I didn't mind either I guess. He gave me a little insight into how it had been working in a Chinese organization. Difficulties to think outside the box, heavy intriguing, and power struggles. Seems pretty hopeless to me for a laowai to get involved in that mess and he agreed on that. He said it was impossible to get project groups to work since that would involve people from different departments, and the manager for that department would feel that his power would be eroded and people would therefore start obstructing other people's work. I've heard about that stuff before from people in the MBA-courses at NTU. Still he was very impressed how well it had worked when people were just doing their thing. One interesting thing was that he besides not knowing any Chinese couldn't speak any good English either. That puts a little doubt on what he actually been doing. How the hell could he get anything done?! Think most of his interacting has been with people that has been trying to kiss-up to him. That shouldn't be too hard I guess. Afterwards we agreed that to understand all the nuances in the Chinese social game you have to be born Chinese.

Think this coming week I will be finish with this calling-around-meeting-middle-aged-guys thing and can take a flight out of here.