Thursday, October 30, 2014

A weekend in Beijing

Hello again!

I will just pretend as if I have been updating my blog regularly over the last month and roll in to the post straight away.

During the second half of the Golden Week mentioned in my previous post, Linn and I, accompanied by her Swedish friend Charlotte, took the train from Jinan to Beijing to spend a few days in the Capital city of China.

We arrived in Beijing early afternoon and checked in to our hotel. There really was not a lot we felt we could do this first day, so we did some research on what happenings there were about. Linn found out about a, as far as I am aware, very traditional-styled play called The Golden Mask Dynasty to which she booked tickets later that evening by contacting a man going by the name of Dragon.

Before it was time to head to the play we took a stroll looking for a place serving some fine food. What we found was at the very least convenient, and a place which I believe I have mentioned before. Also, Linn is a big fan. I am sure you can guess where we ended up.

With full stomachs we took a taxi to the theatre and met up with Dragon, who also mentioned a tour of the Great Wall that we immediately displayed interest in. Well inside the theatre it became apparent that phones and cameras were not welcome so the following pictures are taken with the approval of:

It is obviously very difficult to give you an idea of what we witnessed, but in one word, it was very Chinese. I believe the pictures should provide some insight though.

Chinese costumes. I wonder if Linn would ever suspect one of these in her christmas gift...

The two main characters of the play.

Bongos and a tree of great significance, I am sure.

The whole theatre got pretty excited when the water started pouring down.

The actual show was pretty cool, and it felt like something that I am glad to have seen during my stay in China. Some decent acrobatics and great scenography. This thorough review, courtesy of renowned theatre critic Dennis Nilsson. You are welcome.


The next day we followed up with some sightseeing. We took a taxi to go to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. But first we took detour to an adjacent park where we got a good view over what was to come.

Well, okay then. We actually walked up to the gates that you see in the picture below. It however appeared to be the entrance to a museum, so we started walking in the opposite direction. It was some time later that we found out that the museum is in fact inside the forbidden city, and this is not the most iconic view of the Forbidden City.

Overlooking the Forbidden City

After climbing up a couple of stairs to reach the top of the hill and taking this photo we wanted to find somewhere to eat. During the lunch it became clear that the issues that Linn have been having was only getting worse, so Linn and I left Charlotte to continue the sightseeing, and sought a hospital.


Later that evening, after getting Linn some medicine, we joined up with Charlotte to try and find ourselves a good restaurant serving the famous Peking duck. Two of our teachers have been speaking very highly of this duck that we just had to try it for ourselves. 

Nearby our hotel there was a very fancy restaurant with great reviews. Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant. It does not take a genius to realize what specialty dish they might serve.

40 minutes later we were sat down by a table and began to search the huge menu. I realize this might be interpreted as a joke, but I mean it. The menu was enormous. We went through it, pointing out a bunch of different dishes that appeared super yummy. We came there to try the duck though, so it was all in vain, almost. I ordered some extra meat to the table.

Somewhere behind the menu you can find Charlotte.

The chef cooking our Peking duck

Linn soldiered on despite her troubles with eating.

The plate of  vegetables was largely unnecessary.

It sure looks fancy.

The duck was really good. I believe they presented us with a bunch of different things, all cooked with different parts of the duck. The drink that you see in one of the above photos we believed was caramelized and seasoned through some duck part, I don't really know. We also had a soup sent in that tasted of duck. 

It was kind of neat, to have a whole course attributed to the duck, although it was really just the actual main course duck that was elevated to a special kind of level. At the end we were also presented with some mini apples. A fancy, fun sort of snack I suppose.


Our last day in Beijing and we were heading for the Great Wall, Mutianyu. 

We joined the tour that Dragon advertised and entered a buss together with 40 or so other tourists that drove us about an hour north of Beijing. Then we traversed the full length of the wall pretty much. I really don't think there is much to say about the wall. The whole thing is quite impressive and if given the opportunity definitely worth the trip.

Pictures doesn't to the place much justice, but I am sure my family will enjoy seeing them anyway. 


Would you look at that, a bi-weekly blog! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

China's National Day

A wild blog post has appeared!

The 1st of October marked China's national day. This day is the start of what is called the Golden Week. It is not entirely surprisingly a week long holiday and with this holiday comes certain events. I don't know a whole lot about it, but here in Jinan they were supposedly offering free bus rides and entrance to the zoo. So that is what our plans for the day was. A day in downtown Jinan, starting with going to the zoo. As it turns out we were not the only ones planning a trip like that.

Hello, every person in Jinan, it was a pleasure riding the bus with you.

We had decided to get an early start to the day and so at 8:30 the six Swedish students accompanied by a German one met up with two of our Chinese buddies nearby campus and started walking towards the bus stop. 500 meters later we joined up with 30-40 or so Chinese people just waiting for the bus. Together, we could all do nothing but watch bus after bus just breeze past us. Each bus was already full. We stood around for thirty minutes or so before we started walking towards where the buses came from. And to make a very long and painful story short, we arrived at the zoo four hours later. That is three hours later than what I had planned. Good times were had.

The entrance of Jinan Zoo, plus a smiling Alvis.

We were all pretty psyched about finally getting to see a panda. That was about the only decent thing about this zoo. It was quite a sad story for us. The native Chinese though, got to watch and take pictures of the exotic foreigners.

Ni hao! 
The zoo was really just a public park. There were funfair-like happenings going on. There were large areas, semi-closed off, where parents could let their kids roam wild. Some parts of the zoo actually contained some animals, however they were not very well taken care of. The zoo was supposed to have both lions and tigers, but we found no such things.

Taking photos of other things than animals while at the zoo can't be a very good sign...

When we finally left the zoo our initial plan had been to get something to eat and then do some shopping. We walked the streets of downtown Jinan for a while, trying to catch a bus at several different bus stops, but with similar experience as earlier during the day. Eventually we got somewhere by foot and entered a somewhat shabby shopping mall looking for a place to eat.

Anton found a delicious, and supposedly rotten, meat soup sort of blend. And he later spent some time returning this food to a nearby toilet. The others did not have any issues and they all later joined Mariam and I as we ate elsewhere. It was McDonald's, I am not ashamed to say.

As we had finished our lunch (time-wise it was more or less dinner) Alvis wanted to go home. I pounced at the opportunity and joined him. We eventually found a bus and I'd like to remember that we got back home at 19:00-20:00-ish. The others stuck it out, eventually got some shopping done, had a fight with an unreasonable taxi driver, and got back home close to midnight. It was not a good day.

The rest of the golden week did not carry as many people around the streets. It is just that one day when they celebrate their National Day by venturing into the province's capital to enjoy their day. Halfway into the week I went to Beijing, and that will be the content of the next blog post. Quite the cliffhanger.

Spoiler alert. I visited the great wall.

Good night.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

An amusement park is supposed to be crowded


What is this? Another update? Taxi fares and other dangers China has to offer has yet to succeed in keeping this blog from another post. Not that it hasn't tried. Did you know that the taxi has a whole lane to themselves, the side walk. Should they need to cross the road, they have what we in Sweden refer to as a pedestrian crossing. This post is about a whole different sort of danger. One that really isn't supposed to be interpreted in such a way.

We are going to an amusement park, keyword: amusement.


Ever since we got to China we have been getting a tremendous amount of help from a couple of Chinese students, and two students in particular. Alvis and Tiffany have been helping out whenever possible with all sorts of tedious things. I really don't like asking for help. But trying to acquire a service provider for you phone is difficult when you don't speak the language, and getting an actual decent provider prove to be difficult even when speaking the language. Anyway. I think I speak for everyone here when I say that we can't wait to give something back and help them out with whatever problems they might have when they come to Sweden and Borås. Until then, arranging a trip to this entity of fun was the least we could do.

Europark Dream World - Where dreams are made and ponchos are mandatory.

I have never been to Disneyland/World however during our visit to this amusement park I was constantly told about the likenesses.

The princess was in another castle. This one housed sleeping Chinese parents instead.

The parade consisted of about 40 staff. An equal number was watching said parade.

Linn and Pierre was invited to join in but reluctantly had to refuse, they did not have the moves.

The actual roller coasters were not that bad. A bit jerky but quite fun. Their newest roller coaster though was up to par and super smooth.

The Chinese who I have always seen as very efficient did not really put that on display here. The queues where quite bad in relation to the amount of people visiting. When the water slide below only had a single boat going up and down with a capacity of twenty-ish people i found it hard to justify why. Surely there was no reason of not having a second one at the very least loading the next twenty people while the first boat was preparing for the drop. Anyway, this was seen all over the park and put a small damper on the experience.

if (nationality == "Chinese") { gear = poncho; }

People kept walking into my shot. I mean come on!


This very same day as our trip to the amusement park was the two-year anniversary of Linn and I. Woop woop.

On the way back home we separated from the pack and went out for some dinner at a great Korean BBQ. It was my first time at a place like this, so I guess I don't actually have another K-BBQ restaurant to compare it to, but we were both very satisfied and for all intents and purposes, it was great.

Happy anniversary, my love.

More photos!

Stop it, Tiffany!


Oh right! I should probably also mention that my application for residency has been collected and we are now all awaiting our results.

I trust the next post won't take another week. But there is a lot of school work to be done, so I can't make that promise knowing myself!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

A week of travelling back and forth


This past week has been eventful in all sorts of way. We have been going back and forth to downtown Jinan to meet with various authorities to prepare for our residence application at the end of the week. And to finish off the week, we invited two of our Chinese friends to an amusement park at the outskirts of Jinan. I'll leave that part out of this post so that I won't have to think of something to write and post pictures of for the next one.


So. To apply for the residence permit we have been filling out a bunch of paperwork. And when I say we, I really just mean Yin, a Chinese professor who has been all sorts of helpful with a lot of things since we arrived. Taking care of both paperwork and apartment issues.

One day we ventured downtown Jinan to go through a medical examination. We were greeted by a group of Chinese girls who shoved their faces up against the window as we approached the hospital and unleashed wail-like noises, maybe it was excitement, when we walked through the doors. One of us, Anton, decided the embrace the inner Chinese girl within him and joined them for a photo session and general tomfoolery. You know, your general hospital visit.

With the help of Tiffany and Alvis, we sped through seven different examinations throughout the hospital. They were all weird and did not feel very legitimate. Apparently I have shrunk since I last measured myself. And this time I wore shoes. Accuracy was not the name of the game tonight. But then again, the results of the weight and height examination was not likely to deny anyone the permit.

We left to get some dinner before we moved on to the next item on our agenda. Registration for our HSK Level 1 (Chinese language course) examination. It turns out you physically need to show up at an office and register for the exam, supposedly you might have to take the exam at this same location. I am not quite sure.


Early morning on campus.

School is in overdrive and we have several projects up and running, including a messy programming project where me and another one of the Swedish students team up with three, maybe four - still unclear, Chinese students. Interviewing the local population about computer software is not easy. Specially when the one Chinese student who had the opportunity to show up has some trouble understanding us. What is actually being said in Chinese and then passed on to us, I have no idea.

It's a good thing the students of Shanghai are still blogging about all the fun stuff they are doing as they have yet to start school.


The freshmen of every Chinese university has to go through a two week long military training process. In one end of our campus they have occupied six basketball courts and the soccer stadium where they march about, sing, shout and train.

Such march, much discipline.
If there is one place in Jinan where I would have expected a foreigner to be able to walk around somewhat unnoticed, or at the very least, being paid very little attention, it would have been here. But no matter how hard the Chinese work on their discipline it is much too fun to wave and giggle as the foreigner approach. They were very discreet about it though, can't let their commanding officer see it.

Large open areas, perfect for a morning march.

Yi, Er, Yi - One, Two, One

A couple of documents, plus passport, needed for the residence permit application.

Finally it was time to apply for the residence permit. We met up with Professor Yin who was accompanied by a student of his who will remain nameless for this post. Mr. Yin had to attend a meeting, so he assured us that the student of his would help us instead. He mentioned that his English was lacking, but that he had gone through this several times before and that he would use his body language if needed. It was going to be needed.

Once again we headed somewhere in downtown Jinan. The place is huge. The bus driver and the student ushered us into a very official-looking building. The student spoke to a man, who proceeded to give us our position in the queue.

We sat in the waiting room for just a minute or two before the student hurried away towards the clerk and motioned me to follow. I sat down in a chair as the student and the clerk conversed. The student glued a picture of my face to the application and tore a piece in two before he ran out of the room and got the other students applications and did the same to them.

The clerk said something in Chinese. And as I sat there with a big question-mark over my face he asked me to get my teacher, in perfect English. I brought back the student helping us out. They once again spoke a bit before I was handed my application and was supposedly done.

I join the others in the waiting room as the student continues on with the applications. Eventually he comes out and starts to speak to me. He really tried but it was very difficult to make out actual words. The words: 'Your application is denied because we don't have matching passport numbers for you' are probably ones he doesn't use very often.

His body language did show it all though. He seemed concerned. That, and the fact that the other students did not get their application back, but instead a slip of paper, gave it all away. The student hands me his phone and Mr. Yin is on the other end to confirm what I assumed. He wanted to make sure that I knew what this meant for today and so that was nice.

He asked me whether I ever have changed passports. I have. To apply for the visa I had to create a new one. And in the process my passport numbers had changed. I remember mailing my coordinator in Sweden about this. And I also distinctly remember getting that confirmation email about having received my new passport details. But somewhere along the way someone messed up. Yin apologized time and time again and reassured me that we would fix this but he also mentioned that he had never gone through this specific process before.

If there is one thing the Chinese has showed so far it is a surprising helpfulness.

Two minutes later I am handed the phone again. It is Yin calling me to tell me about a supposed easy fix. All I need to do is sign a paper confirming that I indeed have changed passports recently. He says we will take care of this as soon as the weekend is over.


The weekend is soon over and hopefully I will be able to apply for my residence permit tomorrow. At least my medical examinations result say my development is Excellent, and they found no abnormal findings. So I have got that going for me, which is nice.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

First week of school


A week of lectures has passed and we were immediately hit with a lot of differences in comparison to how it usually goes down back home in Sweden. Our teachers have already presented us with our projects and essentially sent us on our merry way to work on them. The lectures have been filled with a lot of discussion, contrary to in Sweden where the teacher speaks most of the time.

Not to mention the materialistic differences.

The local Chinese enjoy her cubicle-styled desk.

It does the job.

Two hours into your school day, that chair is just as comfortable as anything else would be. You will have lost your senses by then. I only jest. It is not that bad.


And then we have the different good: The following pictures are taken just outside of the International students' building. These are all taken from the same spot, as a result of my laziness or perhaps more accurately, I forgot my camera when we toured another part of campus. I hope it can give you somewhat of an idea of the scope of the campus. If not, I think you will be able to piece it all together as I post more updates and pictures.

Along the lake/river it is common to see a group of 15-20 or so Chinese students practicing their English through just reading out loud all at once. Whatever works, right?

This is just a small part of the campus. In the other end there are a lot of student dormitories and stores. Supermarket, electronics. That sort of jazz. And then there is some construction going on elsewhere on campus. I have got no idea what they are building.

Anyway. It is definitely not something that you would see in Sweden. It doesn't come through in the photos, but the weather was great. Thirty degrees Celsius and I think I recall some sun shining through the thick smog hovering the province. It is certainly an environment one could quickly get used to being around.

Lake outside the International Students' Building.

I think that building houses some sports activities. There's also a boat.

A likely artificially created rock formation.

The mountains in the background are probably the same ones that I have a good view over from my bedroom.

A possible library.

The building in the far back is where our classroom is.