Chinese children

This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

… truly amazes me. They are like little buddhas, sitting there all quite and contemplative without bothering their parents the least bit. How is this possible? Mårten and I have been going around spotting them over and over again and we are baffled by them over and over again. These are not like western children, they’re not even like a well-behaved western child. They simply sit, calm, still, quite, obedient and look at what his happening around them with an expression that can only be interperted as if they’re quietly medidating on the meaning of life.

The other night we were even at a dinner a, for a child, boring, long dinner. A dinner during which the parents did such terrfying things as wanting the child to pose with foreigners. Allthewhile the child was completely calm and quite. How
many parents could say that their 2-3 yr child would be have like that?
I’ve been trying to ask my friends here what the magic key to this behavoiur might be – but they haven’t really given
us a satisfactory answer.. they’ve been saying things like “well, you know, it’s the Confuscian way”. I doubt many 2-3 year olds care about the Confuscian way enough to last through a dinner….


This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

Shandong province is clearly not one of the richest places in the world. In an unbearably hot train on the way from Caoxian to Qingdao (an almost 12 hr journey) I passed a lot of very rural country side, real country side, not the fake type that you get in Sweden.

With the help of our lovely hosts Chenglei & Jianglei (using the widely know and well-used method of smiling a lot and using their favourable appearance) we managed to upgrade our tickets from “hard seat” to “hard bed”. Apparently normally you cannot buy the “hard bed” seats in Caoxian (the start station) so the wagons with beds were completely empty apart from us and a few men who probably had some guanxi with the railway staff. While the rest of the train was completely packed with people, our part of the train was empty for several hours until we came to one of the larger cities!

Anyhow.. we arrived in Qingdao early morning Wednesday (4 am) having only a vague memory of the street name that hostel was on and after a taxi ride to a street that didn’t possibly contain a hostel we decided to give up and decided to wait until the tourist information opened. We found a restaurant and got a breakfast of youtiao (long deep fried “bread”) and lentil soup (chinese soups, porridges or broths deserve their own chapter!!). Eventually we found a 24/7 internet cafe and located the hostel..

Qingdao is a very pleasant town, it was founded by the Germans who had a concession here during the beginning of the 20th century. Their influence can be noticed in many ways… The city itself looks (in the old parts) more like a European city than a chinese one also the amount, availability and quality of the beer is something competely different than in the rest of China (the Germans actually founded a brewery which is still active producing the famous Tsingtao beer). Every night a beer truck comes and drops off kegs of beer at every little fandian (food place) which is then sold by weight in plastic bags or, if you’re not taking the food with you, in pitchers.

Apart from drinking beer – what have we done? Well we’ve spent quite some time strolling around Qingdao. We spent one night going to a fancy korean restaurant and then, when we told the laoban that we wanted to find a bar, we were told to follow “a boy” into a taxi taking to a weird korean bar that was completly empty – after having a polite beer we got out and eventually found another bar which we soon discovered was one of the expat’s hang-outs, they gave us loads of tips on where to find the best baguettes and pizzas – I doubt we’ll ever visit those restaurants.
Thursday evening and today (Friday) we’ve spent with a nice chinese guy who we met while eating lunch at his place. During the evening yesterday we first had dinner at his & his mother’s place, then we went to the pier and he & Marten played guitar and we drank baijiu (distilled liquor). Today (Friday) we went to the “No. 1 beach” together with him and had a swim, the temperature in the water was fine and the beach itself was very pleasant with good white sand.

As always, there are a lot of things I could write about but too little space..
That’s it for Qingdao.. Saturday evening we’ll go back to Caoxian.


This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

Caoxian is quite different from what I expected.. actually I still don’t know what I expected but a place like this I could probably only have imagined. It is unlike any place I’ve been before and this is not something I say in a negative way – I don’t mind different…

Anyhow, Caoxian is apparently about the size of a larger Swedish town (200k inhabiants) but it feels very rural. The roads are wide (as seems to be common in Chinese cities), most of the houses look very run-down and many of the people who live here are quite poor. This is a place where many earn less than 1000 yuan per month.

Jianglei and her sister, Changlei, have, since we came, set up a very detailed schedule for us (mostly me – but Marten also tags along) – a schedule we never quite know in advance, they simply tell us “now let’s eat”, “now we’re going into town”,
“we’ll go and meet some students now” and so on. We express our general wishes but in the end we’re at their mercy :). No worries though, they take very good care of us. We live together with their family in their parent’s apartment in Caoxian. Everyone here is very friendly and their mother cooks the most tasty (no I should say delicious – all Chinese people use the word ‘delicious’ when speaking about good food in english for some reason) meals for us!

The actual english course won’t start until the 15th of July and right now we’re doing some heavy “marketing”. Marketing basically means that me and Marten hangs around smiling, saying things in a mix of Chinese and English. This is enough to create quite a big commotion – when we went to one of the local secondary schools I had probably 50-60 students gathering around me, shyly responding when I ask them “Hello, what is your name? nice to meet you! how are you?”.

I don’t think I’ve at any point previously attracted so much attention, when we go bicycling (me and Marten likes going bicycling – when Jianglei wants to take a “taxi” we insist on bicycling) everyone’s looking and pointing – mind you, everyone here seems very friendly.

I won’t make this much longer but I’d just like to say that it’s certainly very intense. Currently, sometimes, things seem a bit overwhelming but most of all it’s fun, I try to take it as easy as I can and always try to find things amusing rather than stressful – so far it works pretty well! 🙂

That’s it for now… I’ll try to write shorter and more often… Make sure you have a look at my photos and post comments so that I won’t xiangjia (miss home).

Arriving in China

This is an imported post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

So.. this Monday I finally arrived in Shanghai. I must say that I hadn’t quite prepared for going to China, neither mentally nor in terms of packing and fixing all the practical things that need to be done. Travelling to China was a breeze, I slept most of the way and the person sitting next to me was a pretty nice Finnish guy who didn’t speak too much nor was he uncomfortably silent for an 8-9 hour flight.

Anyway I arrived in Shanghai and met up, mostly by luck, with Jianglei – the Chinese girl who is in charge of the “english language summer teaching program” that I’m going to be the waijiao, foreign teacher, in. Just to recap, for those of you who didn’t know, until about 1 1/2 month ago I hadn’t actually planned any trip to China but then Jianglei approached me over MSN and asked me wheter or not I would be interested in working with her. So, I thought: “Why not? An excellent chance to practice Chinese without having too spend too much money – and teaching english would be a lot of fun.”

The first day, which I spent sleeping and taking a stroll around Shanghai, I got to stay in Jianglei’s nice Shanghai apartment. Shanghai is a somewhat odd city. It feels more modern than any western city I’ve seen. There is so much you can say about Shanghai (from just being there one day!!) that I’ll leave it for another post).

Anyway, the second day me and Jianglei went to the “old style district”, a few streets with old – “traditional style” – buildings.. all of which, naturally, where refurbished and fitted with tacky shops selling mostly high-priced jewelry to foreigners. After this visit we went to a local McDonalds to have a drink – I wouldn’t myself have chosen it but she thought it was good since they had air condition… though, I must say it was a good experience – McD in China is truly something for the rich, bald and beatiful ;), with a pricetag of 30 yuan for a meal at McD it’s quite the luxury dinner in a place where your standard lunch goes for 5-6 yuan.

Having cooled down at McD we went to pick up Marten, one of my coursemates from Stockholm University. If Shanghai is bigger than most cities, I would say the train station doesn’t compare to anything else, you could easily fit several thousands in there at a time (they did… constantly!) without it feeling too crowded. Marten had already been traveling around China for 2 weeks or so and was getting quite comfortable here, you can read more about his China experience by clicking the link to the right.

Naturally, after we’d done the excursion to pick up Marten, it was high-time for some rest and a shower (they do insist on lots of rests in china – xiuxi)!

The stop in Shanghai was, though, only temporary as the same day (Tuesday) we were going to continue to Caoxian, the place were I’m going to working and Jianglei’s hometown. The trip to Caoxian consisted of an about 10 hour long train ride through Jiangsu and Anhui provinces and finally to Shandong which is the province where Caoxian lies… after a quite comfortable train ride, sleeping in pretty good bunk beds (three high, six to every “department”) we arrived in Caoxian and was picked up by Jianglei’s father and twin sister which took us on a taxi ride involving running over a dog, sightseeing the old courseof Huanghe (the Yellow river) – a sight of great importance still 300 years after it changed course and a lot of run-down countryside – quite exciting indeed! 🙂

I think this is quite enough for now.. I’ll write more about Caoxian later on.