在北京的时间一半过了

English translation below.

好久没有用中文来写。现在放假,同学们都走了,留下我一个人。我来北京五个月了,天天都上课我的汉语水平提高了不少。我因为期末考试考得不错,所以可以跳班了。如果我跳班我会觉得难一点,可是那样我的进步会更大。这是学习的事情,当然还发生了很多其它事,所以我想写下一些我的经历。

我对北京的生活早就习惯了。空气污染、危险的交通、难吃的面包,在北京遇到这些困难,不过好东西还很多。我特别喜欢的是中国菜,又便宜又好吃!瑞典饭店的菜差不多都有肉所以我很少去,可是在这儿大多数饭店有好吃的素菜。我最喜欢的一些菜是家常豆腐、香辣土豆丝、鱼香茄子、炒面、老醋花生米等等。

北京菜好吃,可是我不喜欢北京的面包。在瑞典面包外面硬、里面软。在中国呢?面包的外面和里面都软!包装上印着“有牛奶!”,可能这是主要原因之一。一般面包不应该有牛奶,我不知道为什么中国人喜欢这种面包。我很想念瑞典的。

中国的谦逊很有意思。这个“哪里”听起来很假的,但我被影响了。有人夸奖我的汉语时我一般说“还差得远呢”,可是我有时候感到不舒服,什么也说不了。有一次一个瑞典人夸奖我,我一下子回答“不是,我没有什么”。以后我就觉得很奇怪,在瑞典说谢谢就行了,说“我没有什么”太谦逊,其实有点不礼貌。

我最快乐的事是私事,不过现在我想让大家知道。我来北京以后很快就爱上了一个天使。她是我的同学,又聪明又漂亮。去香山、做面食、看黄金甲、过圣诞节都是跟她一起的。我们已经在一起四个月了,能当她的男朋友我非常自豪。现在她回越南去了,我当然很想她。我不应该写下来一封情书,我只想说:清娥,我爱你! Thiên sứ, anh yêu em!

My classmates have all gone home over the holiday, leaving me alone in Beijing. I’ve been here for five months now, attending class every day, so my Mandarin has improved quite a bit. I did well on the final exams so if I want to I can jump up a level. It will get harder if I do, but that way I would be able to improve even more. These are school matters, there have been a lot of other things happening too of course and I’d like to write down a few of my experiences.

It didn’t take long to get accustomed to life in Beijing. Air pollution, dangerous traffic and bad bread, these are a few of Beijing’s downsides, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I especially like Beijing food, it’s both inexpensive and tasty. I very seldom eat out in Sweden, since as good as all dishes have meat. Here however, most restaurants have good vegan food. My favorites include jiachang tofu, fried thin potato strips, sweet & spicy eggplant, fried noodles and peanuts in rice vinegar.

Beijing food may be good, but I do not like the bread. In Sweden bread is hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Here, however, it’s soft inside and out! The packaging says “CONTAINS MILK!” and perhaps this is one of the main causes. Bread shouldn’t generally have milk, I don’t know why the Chinese like this kind of bread. I really miss Swedish bread.

Chinese modesty is very interesting. The standard reply to praise, “where do you get that?” (literally “where?”), sounds very put on, but I’ve also been influenced by it. If someone praises my Mandarin I usually reply “it’s still far from good”, although sometimes I’m too uncomfortable to say anything at all. A while ago a Swedish person complimented me and I instantly replied “oh no, I’m nothing”. Afterwards I thought that was very strange as in Sweden saying “thank you” suffices. Saying “I’m nothing” is too modest, even a bit impolite.

The most joyous matter is a private one, but at this point I’d like the world to know. After arriving in Beijing I very soon fell in love with an angel. She is my classmate and is as intelligent as she is pretty. Going to Fragrant Hills, making pasta, watching Curse of the Golden Flower, celebrating Christmas, we did all of that together. We’ve been together for four months now and I am very proud to be her boyfriend. She’s gone home to Vietnam now, so obviously I miss her a lot. I don’t mean to write a whole love letter, I just want to say: Nga, I love you! Em đẹp lắm, anh yêu em!

Curse of the Golden Flower

I have just been to the Beijing premiere of Zhang Yimou’s new film, Curse of the Golden Flower. (Zhang Yimou is the director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers.) This is allegedly the most expensive film ever made in China, and it shows. Furthermore, it is the first time Zhang Yimou and Gong Li have worked together in over 10 years. Also joining the game is Hongkong action star Chow Yun-Fat and Taiwanese pop-singer, first-time actor Jay Chou.

The story is set in the Forbidden Palace in 9th century, the Tang dynasty. It revolves around the dysfunctional imperial family, plotting and counter-plotting against each other while trying to maintain a facade of family unity. The cold-hearted and brutal emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) has a chilly relationship with the empress (Gong Li). Although the empress does not consider herself sick the emperor makes her drink medicine every other hour, with her health steadily declining. The crown prince has a secret love affair with the imperial physician’s daughter and wants to leave the palace in order to be with her. The second prince (Jay Chou) is concerned by the empresses failing health and her obsession with embroidering golden chrysanthemums. The third prince is all but forgotten. As the plot unfolds, action ensues as dark secrets are revealed and the private armies of the members of the imperial family fight it out with each other.

Gong Li truly is a wonderful actor, and it’s great to see Zhang Yimou and her working together again. The result is, not surprisingly, splendid. Chow Yun-Fat is obviously also a very experienced actor and does a great job as the emperor. Before watching the movie I was very worried that Jay Chou (obviously cast for his popularity as a singer and not his acting skills) would ruin the movie, but I am happy to report that he speaks relatively little and isn’t an horrible actor, albeit not a great one either. I feel that the acting of Liu Ye (the crown prince) also deserves mention, not bad at all.

As you can expect from a Zhang Yimou film, it is a treat for the eye. A replica of part of the Forbidden City was built for this movie, and it is truly grand. The outer palace is covered with yellow chrysanthemums and the inner palace is clad in bright, beautiful colors. The costumes are all very beautiful, the emperor and empress are literally covered in gold. My sympathy for the women in this movie, who all had to wear push-up costumes showing a lot of bosom. A few sequences of the movie that are set in the mountains are also very impressive. The music (which feels surprisingly un-Chinese) of course also helps to add to the grandness of the settings.

The action sequences are different from Hero or House of Flying Daggers in that they are less stylized and feel more real. A group of assassins who dress in black and fly through the air with the aid of grappling hooks are seriously cool. An army of 10,000 men in golden armour is also very impressive, given that they are not computer generated but actual people (there are a lot of people in China). There is also a level of brutality that is completely new for Zhang Yimou in that the violence isn’t just violent, at times it’s also deeply emotional and personal.

Seeing this movie at the premiere here in China is special to me since I liked Zhang Yimou’s movies long before I came here and might even attribute some of my interest in China to him. Sitting in a cinema full of Chinese people was interesting. First, everyone laughed when Jay Chou was first shown. Jay Chou is a very well known face here and seeing him in armor is obviously very funny to a lot of people. Also, there is some humor in this movie that I would never have picked up without the help of a cinema full of laughing people. At first I didn’t get it, but after thinking for a few minutes it came to me (much too late to laugh). It’s all word play, so it just doesn’t translate into the English subtitles.

Needless to say, I like this movie. Although it is not perfect, I have nothing in particular to complain about. I hope you like it too.

I can’t believe it’s not pasta!

Since I have mid-term exams next week I need to spend a lot of time on elaborate cooking experiments instead of studying. In Sweden I often make pasta (spaghetti or macaroni) with some tasy sauce. Yesterday I accidentally made something resembling pasta sauce when I used a kind of tofu that disintegrated into small pieces much like the soy granulate I use in Sweden (which in turn imitates ground meat). Therefore, today I set out to make pasta!

Making the pasta sauce was simple enough, I used onion, garlic, tomato, disintegrating tofu, ketchup, pepper, bouillon and parsley. However, my local store doesn’t have any kind of pasta, so I ended up buying a type of noodles. After all, the ingredients and shape are the same… Actually, the Chinese really like to claim all kinds of inventions as Chinese, and pasta is no exception. Allegedly, Marco Polo saw noodles in China and brought back the concept to Italy. As of recently, however, we can all consult Wikipedia to learn that this is not true (if we understand English anyway). Nevertheless, using noodles as pasta kind of works.

Eat me!

Wikipedia accessible in China

My life online hasn’t been quite the same since I came to China because I haven’t been able to access Wikipedia. It seems that tonight, however, I can. The Wikipedia article on the issue claims that Wikipedia may have been accessible as early as October 10, but today is the first time I’ve had such luck. It doesn’t work completely reliably however… Also, it seems that only the English Wikipedia is affected, the Swedish and Chinese Wikipedia are still inaccessible. Still, it’s progress.

Long live Wikipedia! Wikipedia万岁!

童话

I really like this song by 王光良 (Wáng Guāngliáng). The first time I heard it was in Sweden. The second time was outside a market here in Beijing. I recognized it and asked someone what it was called. I thought he said 红花 (hóng huā) but when I came home I couldn’t find a song by that name, nor did I remember the melody or lyrics. A few days later I heard it again but again failed to remember anything afterwards. One morning I suddenly remembered the melody and sang it to my computer. With a little help from friends I now know that it’s called 童话 (tóng huà), fairytale. In the unlikely event that it might be useful to someone else, here is my translation of the lyrics:

忘了有多久
再没听到你
对我说你最爱的故事
我想了很久
我开始慌了
是不是我又做错了什么

I’ve forgotten how long it’s been
since I last listened to you
tell me your favorite story.
I’ve wondered for so long,
I’ve begun to worry,
have I done something wrong again?

你哭着对我说
童话里都是骗人的
我不可能是你的王子
也许你不会懂
从你说爱我以后
我的天空星星都亮了

You cried when you said to me
fairytales are all make believe,
I can’t be your prince.
Perhaps you can’t understand,
after you said you love me
the stars on my sky are bright.

我愿变成童话里
你爱的那个天使
张开双手变成翅膀守护你
你要相信
相信我们会像童话故事里
幸福和快乐是结局

I’m willing to change into
the angel in your fairytale,
stretching my hands like wings to protect you.
You must believe,
believe that we can be like that fairytale.
And we will live happily ever after.

你哭着对我说…

You cried when you said to me…

我愿变成童话里…

I’m willing to change into…

我要变成童话里…

I want to change into…

我会变成童话里…

I can change into…

一起写我们的结局

Together we write our ending.

I’m still alive

Things have started to become familiar now. School is good, the food is good, my apartment is good. Yesterday I successfully took a taxi to pick up a package at the post office. I chatted a long while with the taxi driver, which feels like real progress since previously I’ve had serious difficulties understanding what the taxi drivers are saying. After being here for a while, a few things seem to come up more often than not:

  • Do you speak English in Sweden? It’s hardly strange that Beijingers don’t know, but I still find it a little amusing that so many think that English is Sweden’s official language. I recently learned that Sweden actually doesn’t have an official language.
  • 瓦尔德内尔 (Wǎěrdénèiěr) J O Waldner, the Swedish ping pong player. Alot of people seem to know of him. I’ve heard that he has a bar in the embassy area here in Beijing.
  • 啊,这么高啊! “Woa, so tall!” Especially children say this. I pretend not to notice.

One thing that is less than cool is the massive amount of security guards, surveillance and the like. Gated communities are the norm for the middle class (I live in one). Trying to walk in the general direction to where you’re going will often fail because there is a brick wall stopping you. There are cameras everywhere and every building has someone sitting in a room watching it all.

Of course this is all for our “protection”, but it feels quite uneasy since the thing it protects us from is all the people who have nothing. Not only is the gap between rich and poor very big, the poor are also very poor. There are often beggars on my way to school which isn’t exactly what I’m used to. I hate it when they thank me, I shouldn’t be allowed to decide if they live or die, shouldn’t be thanked. It’s very easy to become cynical about it all, and I don’t know if it’s really any use giving them money. Nothing I can do makes me feel “good” anyway, and my pity is utterly useless.

So long.

我的一天

Today’s homework is to write about a typical day in my Beijing life. Enjoy.

我每天早上六点半起床。早饭我常吃米酒汤或者馒头。因为大学有点儿远所以我差一刻八点应该去教室。虽然走路比较长久但是我喜欢。八点半上课。我们每天都有四节课、十二点半下课。下课以后我跟同学们一起去吃午饭。我们有时候在食堂吃、有时候在校园外面的饭店吃。然后我回去家。下午如果我累我休息一下。我常常用电脑编程、听音乐、上上网跟朋友们一起聊天儿、给爸爸妈妈发电邮。晚上我做饭、做作业、洗澡。我大概十一点钟睡觉、以后做梦奇妙。

Don’t worry mom

Since my previous food related post, I’ve actually succeeded at ordering vegan food every time. Today I went to eat dinner without any friends or dictionaries and still succeeded to communicate my wishes. There weren’t even any pictures in the menu! My standard phrase is now 《我什么肉也不吃,你有素菜吗?》 and it hasn’t failed yet. The problem now is rather that my diet isn’t very varied, I mostly eat tofu and rice. I just moved to an apartment of my own, so I should start making food myself to get a bit of variation (in terms of taste and nutrition). Just thought I’d share…