Thursday, June 30, 2005

Church visit

My parents and most of my relatives are members of the Pentecostal Church. After returning from China I went with them to church to listen to one of their missionaries that is working in Qinghai. Turns out she didn't say much about China, but did a lot more preaching. Reminded me of how I don't like to go to mass. For a person that hasn't grown up in such an environment it must be a very weird thing. People are friendly and I'm sure it is a nice way to get to know a lot of people. Just not a place for me.

Sunday mass. There is usually lots more people, but since there was a church festival going on a lot of young people were missing.

Talk about the missionary work in Qinghai. She has been there for many many years and she invited me to come and see their work. Would be very interesting. She works in small villages, teaching women about health-matters. And of course doing missionary work.

This old gentleman is regularly attending mass on Sundays even though he doesn't understand Swedish. Many of the church goers have been curious about him and sad that they can't talk to him. When I started chatting with him, other people came to ask questions and wanted me to translate. Turns out he was from Guangdong and speaks mandarin. He has come to this town since his grand-son has been living in Sweden for a long time. I think his son, almost 17 years ago, fled to Vietnam, then to the Philippines, then to Sweden.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Article in the magazine "Civilingenjören"

I got the magazine "Civilingenjören" in the mail. When checking the table of contents I saw something about China. It took me a little moment to realize that I was in it, even though I'm on the large picture. Four pages. Pretty funny.

Arvid, a friend who has studied at Beijing Normal University the last year made an interview with me and his cousin Pär about being an engineer student in Beijing. Now it was published in the magazine "Civilingenjören", a magazine for engineers with a degree in M.Sc.

The article is about us two engineering students that has gone to China to study and what we intent to do in the future. The title is "The dream is a job in the Middle Kingdom". A little bit cheezy I think.

"Johan and Pär are driven by the thought of finding the job at a technology company where they can do what they do best and towards the Chinese market. Both have their degrees almost finished when we meet them in ZhongGuanCun, Beijing's answer to Silicon Valley"

Some quotes:
"Despite an explosive growth in the Chinese market, it is not easy for a Westerner to find a job that is a good move for your career"

"The problem is to find something that feels meaningful and that is worth something when returning to Sweden"

The absolute illegal republishing of the article. This will of course not stop me from complaining about the piracy in China...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Midsummer in Dalsland

In the afternoon I went to Dalsland to visit Edward and his brother.

Edward and the booze.

Karlsson, me, and Eddie after some alcohol consumption. Mandatory party pic.

Swimming in a lake nearby the day after.

This is a tattoo if one of the girls that attended the party. According to her it means "Carpe Diem". I told her that it probably was a very rare character and that I hadn't seen it before.

Don't get a tattoo if you don't know what it means. This site is dedicated to the misuse of Chinese and Japanese characters, usually pretty entertaining.
亳 [Bó] first capital of the Shang dynasty
I doubt that it has any other meaning than that and I can't find any words containing that character. According to Wen, 'Carpe Diem' is translated with '及时行乐'

及时 [jíshí] in time; promptly
行乐 [xínglè] seek amusement; make merry

Edward's home in Bäckefors, Dalsland, Sweden. A very exciting place where the Swedish movie "Kopps" was recorded. It's not too far from Åmål, a place mostly known because of the movie "Fucking Åmål". Kind of a happening place. Not.

Midsummer in Värmland

For midsummer I went to Värmland to see my friend Stefan and his family.

Me and Saga, my god-daughter.

The new member of the Wemmel-Ljung family. Mira was born on the 22 of March.

Midsummer day at Stefan's mother's old home in the countryside. New potatoes, herring and shots. Salad for Toba who is a strict vegetarian.

Strawberries are mandatory. And appreciated.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Back home

Back home.

Home is a place called Åminne, outside Värnamo in south of Sweden.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Flight Itinerary

Beijing Airport


From: BEIJING, CHINA (PEK) Departs: 5:25pm
To: BANGKOK, THAILAND (BKK) Arrives: 9:10pm
Flight Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes

From: BANGKOK, THAILAND (BKK) Departs: 1:10am
Flight Time: 10 hours and 40 minutes

Arrived in Stockholm. Missed my buss because of traffic jam! And I didn't even get irritated. That's what Beijing does to you. Gives you plenty of patience. And experience of traffic jam.

Finally home. Took a bus (Swebus Express 280 SEK for students) from Stockholm directly to Värnamo. For a second year in a row while taking this bus the aircon broke down and we had to change the bus! Now for some rest and change of socks.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Brain Check

On my way home just outside where I live I saw some people dressed up with white robes and equipped with a computer with some funny equipment. Turns out to be a free brain examination.

免费[miǎnfèi] be free of charge; gratis 检测[jiǎncè] examination
Free brain check

An old woman takes the opportunity.

Since the procedure took quite a lot of time I didn't have the patience to wait for my turn. Whatever you say Wen, the fear of getting a really disappointing result was not a factor, .

I'm not sure how they make their money, but I'm positively sure that they don't really do it just to help people. Maybe they sell medicine or want people to come for a another check at their hospital.

ADDITION 2006-Jan-17:
I find it a little bit ironic that this became my last post from China. :-) Mabye I should have taken that braincheck, because I'm planning to come back.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Swedish National Day

6th of June is the National Day in Sweden. This year is the first year that this day was a public holiday. No one makes much fuss about the Swedish national day. That is something I'm quite proud of.

National Day Cake

The Swedish embassy had a reception in the backyard. Since we were all dressed up coming from the Belgian embassy, the party just continued. Actually, I had had the runs the day before and not eaten for almost two days, so it wasn't much of a party for me. It is fun though that I know more and more people each time I come to the embassy. The foreign and particularly the Swedish community here is not that large.

Children choir from the Swedish school

Backyard mingling

WangJun, Dag, me, Wen, and Thomas

Royal visit at the Belgian Embassy

The 6th of June the Belgian king came to visit the Belgian Embassy where Wen works.

The Belgian King and Queen

The embassy crew and me: Thomas, Sam, Patrick, Wen, Sigfried and me

Wen and me

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Talk with the GM of Ericsson China R&D

In talks with Rolf Löfdahl, the General Manager of Ericsson China's main R&D center (located in Sanlitun), he verified that more and more of Ericsson's R&D will be done in China.

Contrary to my previous belief that much of the R&D here was because of politics (getting advantages when negotiating contracts with the government and State Owned Enterprises) and therefor get access to the large market, it is mainly because it is very cost effective. There are so many skilled engineers who cost a fraction of what their colleagues in Europe and Northern America do, that they are forced to take advantage of it.

The R&D is not localize products and is not second-rate compared to other centers around the world. It targets the international market just like the other centers. It is Ericsson's next product lines that are being developed here. These engineers are directly competing with the Swedish and other engineers. He didn't think that people back home has realized this and definitely not come to terms of its implications.

It has been said many times that China is no longer only a place where much of the worlds manufacturing is conducted, and this is a very concrete example of this. Ericsson intend to hire hundreds of engineer every year for the coming years. One guess is that not too many guys will be hired back in Sweden. This development will not stop even if there will be a large financial crisis in this country and the domestic market slumps. A global financial crisis would probably also hit the centers in high-cost countries harder than here and possible even increase the speed of this relocation.

When talking about this Rolf sighed and said that he was glad that he wasn't 20 years younger and would have to make choices for his career. I then I pointed out that this is exactly the position I am in. He said that his children though would have to face this new situation, and he would not have any clear advice for them on what to do. We will have to sharpen up a lot back home and come up with a lot of new ideas and use our strengths to stay competitive... and seize this as an opportunity and adjust. Easy to say, necessary, but painful. This process needs to take some time and should possible be slowed, but not fought.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Weekend at BeiDaiHe

This last Friday me, Wen, Leilei, and Sam took a bus to 北戴河[běidàihé], a beach resort in 河北 Héběi province. The weekend was intended to be a relaxing stay on the beach, but turned in to a program of drinking Chinese alcohol (白酒 [báijiǔ] lit. "white liquor") and representing our foreignness to local officials.

The trip was rather spontaneous so we couldn't get a train ticket. The bus we took was supposed to take two hours but was a four hours sweaty and frightful experience.

During the trip Wen contacted one of the girl she shares a dorm with, and she in turn contacted one of her father's colleagues. Soon after having abruptly jumped off the buss in the middle of a deserted street, this guy came to pick us up.

Being a man employed by the railway gives you certain benefits. He first took us to one of the railway's hotels and set us up there. Then it went off to one of a series of pretty akward alcohol orgies. We should have known that the free place and the free food would come with a price: our freedom to decide what to do this weekend. Now we were stuck. This guy was the host and we were the guests. No escape.

The first evening was the reintroduction of baijiu to Sam. That was a start of a passionate hate for this stinking chemical. I was trying to keep up with a conversation I soon figured out was mostly about showing how great China is and how hospitable Chinese people are, dressed up in questions about our foreing countries. Thing is, it WAS very hospitable and generous of them, but nomatter how well-intended, rather painful.

Sam taking pictures at 老龙头[lǎolóngtóu], "The Old Dragon Head"

The end of the wall

On Saturday we got off on our little tour, thinking that we had paid our dues of showing gratitude and appreciation and could go on. After have visited the newly (re-) constructed (in 1987) wall and kitchy tourist trap at 山海关[Shānhǎiguān] and the 老龙头[lǎolóngtóu] (the Old Dragon Head), we went on to 北戴河[běidàihé] and our goal, the beach.

Johan and Wen on a tandem-bike (双人自行车)

Me and Wen went on a nice tandem-bike ride to a deserted beach. There the phone rang and the guys were coming over to let us taste the baijiu that we had discussed the evening before. There is a brand of baijiu that the Swedish table-tennis superstar J-O Waldner makes advertisement for in Hebei! This time he did not only bring along numerous bottles of wine and baijiu, but also some of his drinking buddies, including a government official.

Sea food feast on Saturday.

干 杯[gānbēi] Bottoms up! We learned to first stand up, make the toast, then sit down and drink it all. If you don't sit when drinking you have to drink another glass. Probably some Hebei custom.

We were taken to one of the seafront restaurant and were served a great feast of seafood. This would have been fantastic if it wasn't for the never ending 'gan bei' and talk about 'foreign this ' and 'foreign that'. Sam very soon realized that there was no escaping the baijiu, just ways to minimize the damage. We went on with numerous emptied glasses of beer. After the meal I was already way over my limit.

Karaoke or KTV. In Chinese it is '卡拉OK' There is actually words in Chinese with letters!

Next stop was a KTV place. Outside I got so sick that I puked up every thing that I had eaten and drunk that evening. It was a little trip around the corner with the guys accompanying me and after my quick business I was handed a tissue, and we went in for further drinking.

Some seriously weird dancing

Inside we pretty soon had some additional girls accompanying our hosts. Sam, who also went to the bathroom to empty his stomach, was howling in the microphone and dancing with the fat guy to everybody's amusement. It was a very surreal experience with the whole room spinning, really bad singing, load music, and Sam going "Aaaaaaassssss" in the microphone. He was really wasted and wanted to take the piss out of the whole thing. When the fat guy started to sleep, he abruptly woke him up and made him dance again to take revenge of all the suffering they had made us go through.

When we finished and it was time for 肉串 [ròuchuàn] "meat on a stick", we were both down for counting. I couldn't take more alcohol and I just wanted to go to bed. Still we were made to go and eat some. The guys, whose blood was a lot deluded by alcohol, got into their cars and speeded across town with us.

Crossed-eyed I tried to eat a few things and not fall over until we finally were driven back to the room and I hardly remember how I ended up in the bed.

Last lunch with our best buddies

Sunday by noon they came to pick us up again. This time it was to a fancy hotel where a lot of weddings were held at the same time. We were put in a small room and a range of delicacies were served. All the guys toasted us individually and then we toasted them back. By the time we got to rush to the train I was already wasted again, this time in the early afternoon.

Only when sitting on the train I was starting to feel a little relaxed again. Interesting weekend. Great food, too much booze, and too much Chinese entertainment. All I wanted was some relaxing time on the beach, but things almost never turn out as expected around here.

Then what?

The last couple of months I have been wrestling with a question that I think many westerners that study Chinese here are contemplating: So, now I can speak some Chinese, now what?

I have talked to friends that all have stayed here for several years and it is difficult to see any clear opportunities. Besides teaching languages, language related jobs as a 'local hire', and internship? I have stayed here about 2 years and this is my fourth stay in the country. Previous I have spend half a year in India and one year in Singapore.

I think knowing Chinese can be a plus for some jobs back home, but don't bet your career on it. I guess for most people the invested time won't really pay off. Coming here for a year might be worth it because of (fun?) the experience of being in a rapidly developing country (with a lot of buzz). Unless you have a passion for Chinese, really have nothing better to do, and have a couple of years to waste, it might be worth thinking twice before coming here and spend some of your best year teaching English or bumming around.

That said, I have a pretty strong degree in engineering and I will try to put that to use here, hoping to get something between 'local hire' and the golden expat package. I like to study languages, I got a degree in something else, and I guess a grand career is not my only consideration. I should also mention that I more and more have a personal reason to stay here... her name is Wen. That is one of the risks of staying too long in this country ;)

Just my 一毛钱 of advice.

毛钱 [máoqián] n. 0.1 RMB