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 blogger.com is not blocked, but since the blog is then published on blogspot.com, which is blocked here, I can't see it.
Well, a quick attempt to reach news.bbc.co.uk shows that the wall has not fallen. "The operation timed out when trying to reach news.bbc.co.uk". Maybe it is just a little crack for blogspot.com.

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.