Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dinner at the Embassy & Speech Contest at Beijing University

Yay, Beijing subway during rush hour

Normally I just ride my bike everywhere and stay close to the comfort zone of Liudaokou/Wudaokou area. 

Once in a blue moon I have to move out of this comfort zone and go to other parts of town, and I tell you, I'm sure glad I'm not depending on riding the subway everyday - especially not during rush hour

It's like a zoo! 

China is truly a dog-eat-dog (ehr, or was it man it dog?) society, and if you want to go somewhere, you gotta hustle (seemingly like an American football player)! When you need to get off at your stop, make sure to be close to the exit, or else you won't be able to get off at all. And people getting on sure won't wait for people to get off, so you really gotta hustle your way out. Naturally, I've actually gotten pretty used to this by now, being fairly able to adapt to tough environments that requires, ehr, hustling.

Hopefully I'll be able to quickly acclimatize once I get home, or else I won't be very popular when commuting.

On Wednesday all of the Norwegian students studying in Beijing were invited to a fancy dinner at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Sanlitun.

Luckily I'd brought reinforcements, also known as Isak, and somehow he was magically able to clear some room on the subway, despite it being in the middle of rush hour. (And I know it couldn't have been me, because I had taken a shower that day).

  I love Isak

Hey, my nail polish matched
 the subway thingamajig! 

Isak and Christian
Haha, we've all been living in 
communist China 
for too long 


When we arrived at the embassy, I immediately felt out of place.

The first thing I did when I got through the door was clasp my hands and exlaim "Right, so where's the free booze?", not realizing that the two people right in front of me was in fact the embassador and his wife waiting to greet their arriving guests. It might sound like a cliché, but if you know me you know it's plausible.

I mean, I'm a simple girl with a very big (and loud) mouth - at fancy shindigs like this, I feel so stupid and unsophisticated. I get the urge to say whatever is completely inappropriate in any given situation, and the problem is that I act on those urges most of the time. 

Anyway, a lot of important people in suits were there and a lot of mingling was expected. Ugh, mingling.


(Found the free booze, btw)

But, oh, the food! 
It was super awesome. 
- all a Norwegian student after five months away 
from home could wish for
- like lasagna,
which after all seems to be
our staple food,


Lurch from the Adams family's
Chinese relative
So cute!


The Chinese "Silje"

Also invited to the dinner was a class of Chinese students studying Norwegian. They had only been studying for three months, but I tell you, the language skills they'd accumulated after such short time was really impressive! They were so sweet, and each and every one of them introduced themselves with a "traditional" Norwegian name and a Norwegian "hometown".

And Vidar, you've got fierce competition!

My 18-year-old Chinese "Vidar" - from "Sandefjord"
(Maybe a little too young for me)

They performed a Swedish folk song called "Who Can Sail Without Wind?" with Norwegian and Chinese lyrics. It was really great.


(They sure knew what to serve the 
Norwegian students, haha)


Normally the party aint supposed to be over until the fat lady sings, but in lack of any fat ladies I kind of took the hint when they sadly took away my wine glass..

.. and Christian started to play with the table decorations.

But it had been a great evening!

The pin that I got at the embassy

On December first
I got a small bar of Norwegian
milk chocolate
in my advent calender 
provided by Dag

Waa, only two weeks left of this semester
Thank God.
I'm getting tired

The big speech contest was held on Thursday at one of the fancy hotels on campus (lol, there's a hotel on campus). 

The Norwegians were greatly representing with five contestants out of around twenty in total.

Isak's speech was super awesome. 

He's such a character and a great performer, and his speech about his "ideal family" (where it's necessary to beat the kids and marry Danish women because they're the most obedient, naturally) inspired by Mao Zedung, Kim Il Sung and Josef Stalin, left the judges (and the rest of the audience) in knots laughing.

I could watch him perform his speech all day long.

Gianna and I

The speech contest lasted for three hours
- luckily I'd brought lunch

Lotte was also up there, giving a speech about how it's like studying foreign languages and about her dream for the future.

She was so charming and charismatic, and I was so proud to see her up there!

I was also very happy about not performing any speech myself, because there was a lot of people watching.

Oddly enough, and to what seemed to cause a great deal of confusion among the people watching, the person who won the competition out of all of the contestants was a girl that had left the least impression among the audience. I still am not sure what her speech was about.

I realize that of course the content is very important when giving a speech - but you'd think the performance itself, and being able to connect with the audience too should be an important factor. After all, it's a speech contest, not a write and essay, memorize it and say it out loud-contest.. ?

Anyway, what a load of bull crap.

The girl who won was from Yale, and I guess it's more important to maintain the guanxi - "relationships", a central idea in Chinese society - between ivy league institutions, rather than letting someone who actually deserve it win, but hey, we're in China!

And this, ladies and gentleman, was the last photo I was able to take with my beloved (and very outdated) Nikon D60 that's been with me through thick and thin for these past almost three years.

Suddenly it died on me after taking that photos, and I think reviving it will cost more than it's current worth, sadly.

We've been through so much together, and I've been a pretty abusive owner - dragging it along with me everywhere, juggling three lenses,  taking it to the beach, to the US, to Japan, to Thailand, to China.

It was my first (and only camera), and it's been a real champ - enduring every kind of abuse imaginable, except for being dropped on the floor.

It has been used to take 99% of the photos on this blog.

And now I don't have a camera anymore. Very sad!

Dear camera, you will be missed. May you now get some much deserved rest.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Being Abused in China (Gua Sha & Fire Cupping)

One of the things I'll miss the most about living in Beijing will be to be able to afford luxuries like frequently going out to eat and drink, and getting a massage from time to time.

There's a massage place right nearby the place I live that is awesome

129 Kuai (approx. 115 NOK) for a two-hour massage: one hour foot massage and one hour oil body massage. I've been there a few times, and always kind of let them do their routine on me, not giving them any "special requests" (ay, this is kind of heading the wrong way, quick, get to the point). The massage is of good quality, but I've felt frustrated that they didn't work enough on my problem areas (shoulders, SHOULDERS!!), but I didn't want to be a troublesome costumer (unlike when I'm in a restaurant - God knows I've probably consumed my fair share of waiter-saliva and pubic hair). 

The other they, having just finished a hellish week of exams, I'd finally manned up to go and request massage for specified areas (still shoulders). They of course took it as a given, and I felt really stupid for not having done it a long time ago. 

The girl massaging me was so funny, and we chatted about how complicated Chinese women are in relationships and how abusive they are towards their boyfriends ("you mean, Norwegian girls don't hit their boyfriends??"). Chinese girls are really feisty. And bad tempered. Numerous times I've seen Chinese boyfriends receiving lash-outs in public, even having their girlfriends slapping them, pull their hair and pinching them. One of my class mates even saw a girl spitting on her boyfriend.

Lol. Feisty.

If physically abusing the one you love is considered as normal, than something is seriously wrong, I think. I'm glad I don't have a Chinese girlfriend, even though some of them are pretty hot!

Speaking of abuse.

As the girl was massaging my aching shoulders she convinced me to try Gua Sha, an ancient Chinese traditional medical treatment, which literally means "to scrape away fever".

It's supposed to treat various conditions as fever (as the name itself indicates), muscle injuries, stiffness, pain etc. by applying pressured strokes over oiled skin with a ceramic device with a smooth edge, causing a rash which color is said to correlate with the "severity of your state". (I'm obviously dying)

It's seemingly commonly used to treat fever in China, and in 2001 it was even made a move called "The Treatment" about a Chinese boy in the US that was taken away from his family there because of a confusion of child abuse when the gua sha marks was discovered on his body.

But it does not hurt at all. 

Afterwards you're supposed to feel all relieved, and stuff.

What did hurt, however, was what happened next. 

When I thought we were done, she suddenly pulled out a big tong that she used to hold a ball of cotton, dipped in some flammable liquid before she lit it on fire, and I was like "What are you doing with that?!", upon which she said "It'll only hurt for the first few minutes, DON'T LOOK, PUT YOU HEAD BACK DOWN!", and I was like "Oh, I don't want to die..". 

Soon enough I realized that she was doing the fire cupping thing, which I had read about, that is supposed to promote healing by mobilizing blood flow, where she used the flame to create vacuum inside a bunch of glass cups that she put on my body. 

AUCH! I had 23 of them on me, every one of them violently sucking in any excess skin on my back. I've talked to other classmates who've had it done, and many of them said they didn't think it hurt, and that they rather worried that the glass cups would fall off. Mine were not in the risk of falling off, that's for sure.

Sleeping on my back that night wasn't very comfortable, having 23 bruises. I do think it might have some effect (at least mentally, if not anything else), if you do this regularly. It was interesting to try it at least once, and I don't have any special need to do it again.

Besides, it left me looking horrible.

The other day a long sought after care package from Dag arrived in the mail.

"... repacked by Beijing Post Office"

I've heard that the post office in China open any package that goes in or out of the country: not only for what might be considered as "normal" security measures, but also to check for what can be used to spread, oh I don't know, ideas. For example, if you've wrapped something in newspaper, they'll take that away and re-wrap it for you - the same goes for packages heading out of China. 

Don't regard any of this as a fact, tough, I might be way off.

The care package from Dag was filled with carefully individually wrapped belated birthday gifts - none of them seemed to be opened by the Beijing Post Office, haha!

I was so happy! Dag sure is a great friend.

I've saved all of the gifts for December, when I'll be opening one every other day until I go home the 18th.

Except for one gift that I wasn't able to save: 

Yay, my fuchsia hot-pink mac lipstick!
Reunited at last!
I gave the one I had to mom last summer, 
thinking that I'd easily be able to replace it, 
which turned out to be impossible

But Dag tracked it down for me!

It was one of the biggest colors
for the past summer
- that's exactly why I'll be wearing it all winter!

Speaking of cosmetic products.

Recently I splurged on a couple of polishes from OPI (from the Miss Universe 2011 collection, if you're interested).

And let me tell you, OPI is way overpriced and the quality is not any better that most of the 1 dollar nail polishes I own, but sometimes it's worth the splurge because many of their polishes are so unique.

"Crown me already" is packed with 
the same glitter in three different sizes
that makes your nails look like 
disco balls!

"Swimsuit... nailed it!"
Blue foil
- love, love, love this!

One of the "Black car"-drivers 
(pirate taxi) outside our building
and yours truly

Yesterday Lotte and I went to the China Science and Technology Museum

 We took a regular cab

Inside the gigantic museum we spent a few hours pushing all buttons and pulling every handle we could find, together with all of the other kids.

And I got to design my own roller-coaster and then "ride" it in a simulator! 

(Sounds way more cool than it actually was)