maanantai 29. joulukuuta 2008


No, you have not been abandoned. But I can understand you feel abandonded and hurt. I didn't mean to do that. I hope it won't damage your delicate soul forever. But believe me, it is not you, it is me. And I did miss you. But it was my favourite season of the year, Christmas. So, instead of writing anything I just...

... enjoyed the beautiful scenery...

... oh did I enjoy the beautiful scenery!

... I played with a little cutiepie...

... No, better make that two cutiepies...

... But we cannot forget this all-exhausted (after opening all the presents) third cutiepie, either...

The yellow puppy lab is friends' of ours. But don't they look perfect together? I think I need another one. Brown or yellow, this time.

... and I spend hours relaxing in a wooden hottub in cold winter night... Sometimes alone, sometimes with company.

And spend time with friends and family, cooked a whole lot, ate too much, had my first flat tire, and did all sort of other things. And spending the holiday in a cottage kind of takes the edge of the cleaning: it is a cottage, it doesn't have to be in tip-top condition every minute. I kind of liked that...

But now I am back in China. Unfortunately, I have to say. I was already wired up staying a bit longer in Finland, but it got all complicated, due to tax legislation and travel agent screw-up (oh, they will pay for it, they will pay dearly for cutting short my visit). Tell you all about it some day...

tiistai 16. joulukuuta 2008

Shanghai Bus Teminal

I saw a documentary of "Shanghai Bus Terminal" some days ago. From Discovery. I happened to tune on, and stayed there, fixated, after the first glimpse. You know, I got to get to know my city somehow.

How pathetic am I, I asked myself, but decided not to listen to myself. As I said, I got to get to know my city, and it is not like I really have time to sit around in the bus terminal itself. Or that I would actually understand what people are speaking, if I would sit there (especially if they speak shanghainese instead of mandarin. Shanghainese is a whole another language. I only know hello= ni hao = nong hao (the 'a' doesn't sound in this last one). So anyway, this was much better way to do it anyway, because

a) it didn't involve all the pushing and barging that would be experienced in the real situation
b) it didn't involve all the smells of the real situation. Any smells of the real venue.
c) it enables me to practice my Chinese, while I still have the English subtitles to support me d) it enables me to lower the volume, unlike in the real situation

Take your pick, there are no wrong answers in this one :o)

I have come to terms with myself with things like this: while I would not like to be the whining, western expatriate, I am. While I would like to see how the "real" Chinese live and go about with their lives, I want to live mine in relatively comfortable surroundings. While I want to see the real China, not just Shanghai, the richest most western city of this huuuge country, I have not yet got it done. Or even started, really. And I am pretty darn sure that when I do, it will be from a nice five star hotel. Okei, four star will do, too. I have no problem getting wet and dirty when I am out and about. But I am a wimp, and I know it, so I want to do it from a nice, clean "base camp". Maybe it is just the lack of practice, since I haven't really had any, in several years. But here by I promise to you all, I WILL get out of my comfort zone, some day soon. You'll hear about it. Or not.

Some westerns living in this city (/country) want nothing to do with the expat community, nothing to do with the shops carrying western groceries, nothing to do with the people who have company cars in their use. In a word, those people want to chinalise themselves (ok, ok, that was probably not a word before I made it ten seconds ago, but now it is). They want to live the real Chinese life.

That's just not the way it is for me. I guess I have to give myself half-a-point for being honest to myself. I AM A WIMP.

keskiviikko 10. joulukuuta 2008

Customer Feedback & Chinese relationships

Rahkahat lukijat,

ensinnäkin haluaisin muistuttaa että jos / kun soitatte Suomesta minulle tänne Kiinaan, en näe puhelimesta kuka on soittanut joten en osaa soittaa takaisin. Keep calling, tai jätä viesti. Better yet, lähetä tekstiviesti.

Sitten pikainen oppitunti kiinalaisista parisuhteista. Maailmassa on kiinalaiselle kolme tärkeää asiaa:
1) Minä itse
2) Raha
3) Kulissit

Mitäpä siihen olisi lisättävää.
Ps. Se on kyllä vielä pakko lisätä, että jos satutte tähän kylään tulemaan, niin menkää ihan ilman muuta Azul Vivaan syömään. Siellä käytiin taas tänään sillä tekosyyllä että meillä kävi harvinainen vieras Järvenpäästä ;o) Ja täällä nyt muistelen lämmöllä kaikkia niitä kutkuttavia makuja... Sesam prawns, seared tuna, goat cheese bruschetta, carpaccio. Mmmm...

Border crossing

I have always hold my ground firmly on all kind of pirate-product issues: I am NOT purchasing fake goods. I don't want no fake Rolex, no fake Gucci or fake Prada. It is not good for me, it is not good for economy generally. It is stealing, for Pete's sake. I don't want to be that person. But, lately, I have found my confidence to falter... It is not like I would ever ever ever buy a copy of the 600 euro Furla bag I've been drooling over, but two weeks ago I went and bought... pirate dvd's. Movies. Lot's of them.

They sell copied movies on streets, those are probably very inexpensive, since the place were I did business is a proper store, and that too was very reasonably priced. Eight full-height, wall-wide shelves of movies, music, TV series, documentaries and so worth. And they are not, excluding some of the newest TV series, copied from TV or filmed in the movie theater: they are real, working DVD's with a selection of subtitle languages and commentaries and all. Some even have FINNISH subtitles. Imagine that. Well, I prefer the English anyway, but still.

The existence of this and other similar shops allaround Shanghai is a small, but clear demonstration of the official pirate product policy around here is nothing more than a policy. I bought ten movies, and they robbed a whole 96 RMB's for that. Less than 12 euros. And a whole pile of some older movies (Rainman, Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca, and bunch of war-movies, I don't stand a change with the names, probably 'cause I don't care) without the proper plastic, authentic looking covers, total about 6 euros.

We went back last Sunday and bought 4 dvd's of nature documents, some China documents, the whole tv-series Weeds (which is surprisingly entertaining) and some season from this tv-series another one from that tv-series. Again, about a 100 RMB.

So, I have crossed the line. I am not sure I can return. They are too cheap. And I guess I am, too...

What's worse, now I have considered a fake Samsonite. I am so sick and tired of carrying my always heavy cabin bag when travelling. And in one of the markets they sell (copy-)Samsonite computer cases with wheels underneath. And heck, I don't even know if they are fakes, but they cost less than 20 euros, so they must be. Or stolen. I wouldn't even know they exist, if it weren't for some colleagues who bought bags like that recently. Based on the slightly slanting Samsonite-plates on the bags my guess is they are fake.

I have not yet bought one. I want one, but despite my recent dvd-purchases I think I still don't want a fake one. Maybe I will buy a real one and pay... say, at least 5 times the price. One of my non-chinese colleagues asked me the other day: are we stupid (for paying 5 times the price) or are the they (locals) stupid for selling fake goods? I don't have the answer to that. But I let you know as soon as I figure it out...

Ps. Jos teillä siellä loskassa ja pimeydessä on kurjaa, niin ei täälläkään helppoa ole ollut. Viime päivinä ollut tällainen, kovin kurja, sää: aurinkoista ja lämmintä.

Kamalan kurjaa kun pitää kaivaa aurinkolasit esille... ja uutta talvitakkiakaan ei nyt tarvitse. Voi voivoi voi, onneksi kohta pääsee sinne synkkään Suomeen ;o)

maanantai 8. joulukuuta 2008

Two degrees more

One of the reasons I like my colleague is that he is, in many respects, very non-chinese Chinese. I mean, the lack of spitting, the lack of the long pinky finger nail, the lack of responsiveness, the lack of , the ability to THINK and question and challenge, flexibility, hardworkingness AND ability to speak English make my day, every day. Anyway, point is, every now and then I start to speak Finnish to him, when I forget he is Chinese. But some days ago the most Chinese thing came out of his mouth. Let me start from the beginning.

During the summer, he told that his parents house does not get electricity every day, partly because they needed somee much electricity in Beijing, to get all the Olympic related things ready. And the summer in here is hot. HOT! Airconditioning and fridge are appreciated during July-August. Well, now it has gotten cold again, and I wanted to know how his parents are doing now.

Him: "We don't use airconditioning during the winter", he said.

Me: "Your parents don't use?"

Him: "No, we don't use either."

Me: "Ok, what do you use?"

Him: "We don't use anything. Air conditioning makes the air so dry it is bad for your health."

Me: "So what do you do during the winter? It is freezing here in January?"

Him: "We just wear a lot of clothes."

Moment of silence. I was stunned.

Him: "We have warm boots and winter jackets."

Me: "So how cold is it in your apartment?"

Him:"It is couple of degrees higher than outside temperature. About 2 to 10 degrees celcius."

What the heck??? So, here we are, two finns complaining about the cold floor of our apartment. And the windows that are insulated with... well, the world-renown Chinese workmaship quality. And it is about 21 degrees in our apartment (though I am a bit afraid of the next electricity bill).

Me: "Two degrees?!? That is... freezing."

Him: "It is not common for Chinese family to use airconditioning during the winter."

Perplexed from this I started to investigate a little further. When an occasion rose, I asked: "So, how cold is it in your home / apartment nowadays when it is getting colder?"

Lady 1: It is about 20 degrees.

Me: What about when the winter gets colder?

Lady 1: It is about 20 degrees all winter.

Huh. A voice of sanity. But I wasn't ready to settle with a draw (1-1).

Lady 2: Bla bla bla bla... "...we don't use airconditioning in the winter. It is not good for your health. "

Editors note: And freezing to death is, is that what you are saying to me?
Me: "How cold it is when the winter gets colder?"
Lady 2: "It is maybe 5 degrees. But during the day we are in the rooms where the sun is shining in, they are much warmer."

Lady 2:"You know, it is not good for health to have a big change in temperature, if inside is warm and outside is cold. Not good for human body." -> Now, all you Finns, quit warming your houses, it is not good for your health, you hear me!

Lady 2: "And it is uncomfortable if you go from warm room to the washroom and it is cold."

So it is much better to be uncomfortable all the time? Oh, lawsie mercy, this is the logic I need to deal with every day...

Lady 2: "Human body can take a lot. I think it can also take cold."

Next day. Me: [Trying to think of a proper ] "It's a bit cold here, don't you think. So, is it cold in your home during the winter?"
Lady 3: "It is quite cold. We cannot use the airconditioning, it's not good for CHILDREN."
Me: [quiet, people tend to speak more if you have the patient to wait.]
Lady 3: "People get sick if they use the airconditioning a lot."

Me: [Hmm, you have had a flu THREE times this autumn.]
Lady 3: "It is about as cold as outside. Sometimes it is quite cold, even minus degrees.[Teaches me how to say "minus three degrees in Chinese.] But airconditioning is not good."
Me: [Thinking what a grazy place this is].

Their homes are colder than their fridges, for goodsake. Although it would be convenient during Christmas, when even the biggest fridge is not big enough, I am humble in front of this "chinality". Sometimes it would be good to settle with a draw:

Common sense 1 - Chinese 3

torstai 4. joulukuuta 2008


It is Thursday, but I thought it was already Friday. Like on many different occasions during the day, even after I had been told it is not Friday. I stillthought it is Friday.Anyway, to celebrate this beautiful Fr... Thursday I am going to provide you a link to an interesting story, AND I am going to make this a Thursday tradition. And because this is kind of a celebration of this new tradition, I give you a second story, no extra cost. Lucky you!

maanantai 1. joulukuuta 2008

Nightly visitors

Last Saturday night we were watching Jay Leno in bed, it was just past midnight. As my daily rhytm is to wake up at around 5:45, I easily fall asleep by midnight if there is nothing special to keep me awake. So, before I knew it I had crossed the border to slumberland. It wasn't for long, though, before I woke up. J. told me to wake up, someone's behind our door.

I am not exactly awake when I first open my eyes, ever, and since I am frequently subjected to all kinds of nightly jokes, (in the likes of "We don't have any potatoes, what should we do?" and "Do you want some herring casserole, I just made it for you?") I wasn't sure whether I should just through him with a pillow or actually do something. I soon realised I actually need to get up, find my rope and check what's going on. In deed, 00:29 on Sunday morning someone was banging our door, trying the door handle and constantly pushing the door bell. Waking up the whole darn floor, no doubt.

As this is China, the thought of actually opening the door never crossed our minds. We peeked from the peephole, an saw a Chinese woman. What do you want, I sad in Chinese, but she didn't respond. "GO AWAY!", shouted my always so polite cohabitater. No answer. "Do you speak English", I tried, but she took her mobile and called someone and moved away from hour door.

Perplexed I tried to call the reception, but of course there was no one there. Cost saving, for pete's sake. A few months ago they decided to have only one reception in the three buildings of our compound during night time. Gee, the only time I would actually need them.

We went back to bed, wondering what it was all about. You know, the doors here are not like they are in Finland. It is just like a normal door between the rooms, rather than a one that is suppose to protect our apartment from nightly intruders. No dog. No stun-gun. Not even a baseball bat. Not a nice feeling.

But then, 2:04 a.m., merely 90 minutes after the first wake-up the same thing happened again. This time I was up like an arrow (after J. had shook me about two minutes to wake up). This cannot be happening again. There was ANOTHER Chinese lady behind our door, ringing the doorbell, but with somewhat more composed demeanour. Thank goodness.

This time I had had it, and was about to push the red button (that's suppose to alarm the guards to arrive like a cavalry, though I've never tested), but then calmed down and decided to try the nigth-reception first. At this point, I was mostly mad about waking up twice and being scared twice because of some 45 kilos "heavy" Chinese chicks...

It can be sometimes irritating to explain a matter (any matter) to a Chinese. And this was definitely one of those times. "There is someone behind our apartment door, trying to get in. We don't know the person." "Aah... Where are you?" "In our apartment. There is someone in the hallway that probably should not be. Banging our door." "Ok. Are they behind downstairs door?" "No. Behind our apartment door. I don't know how they got into the building. Can you call the security to check?" "Do you know them?" "No. Can you call the security. Now." "Ok, I call." "Thanks." Thanks a lot, you master of customer service.

So, we were not disturbed again during the night. But I am certainly going to follow-up what that was all about. Why the heck do we pay for the security if they don't secure.

When you think about what that was likely about... One scenario is that some lonely "gentleman" had wanted some company, you know, not to feel so alone. After the first girl never arrived, after we yelled at her to go away, he ordered another one. Who we also, hopefully, sent away :o) Or then he just thought that the more the merrier, and kept ordering more company...

Why in the world they ended up behind our door, I haven't figured out. I let you know if I get to the bottom of this.