Radio Ulaanbaatar

'If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.' John F. Kennedy

Sunday, February 18, 2007

head-shaking


a skinny fragile-looking man was selling water at a train station, clenched jaw, shouting, sounding like a beat bop singer of Sal Paradise's description, like he alone was bearing all the pain and agony of the world, a sound i'll never forget.

the grandma in Varca, who looked like she was at least three hundred years old and made of brown thick paper, had incredibly deep penetrating eyes when she glanced at me before continuing with her chores, bent back chicken legs

at the train station of Jaipur a little boy, with an adorable smile which was full of promises and possibilities for the future, was entertaining two Korean girls who in turn were taking pictures that would end up in their homes in Korea, to be shown to their grandchildren 'when grandma went to india'

after his tired sister in a pink sari and a head scarf failed, and refused to acknowledge the disapproving stares, a young boy was feeding his yelling and crying little nephew on the floor of a general class train carriage with incredible patience and care, which together with the soothing movement of the train made everyone feel calm and safe

I was cursed by a hand-clapping, fierce-eyed hijra in a black flower-patterned dress on a train in the afternoon heat, and blessed by a wrinkly, decorated elephant in a temple in Madurai, where the only sound at dawn was the flapping of bare feet on the cold stone floor. I saw dozens of pilgrims bathe, dobi wallahs beat tons of white clothes clean, and a cow die on the bank of the Ganges, I saw the glittering Taj Mahal by sunrise, and a desert full of camels near the Pakistani border by sunset. I scooped lassi from a ceramic jug and ate masala dosa off a banana leaf with my fingers, felt the breeze on my face in the southernmost tip of India, and in the backwaters of Kerala, watching a man climb into a palm tree to milk the coconuts. I bought unidentified spices from big white sacks, political books from a western bookshop, and tunics from a man whose grandfather had sixty years ago bought the tailor shop for fifty rupees.

Now, after a big circle on the sub-continent, I'm a bit tired, confused and uncertain about certain things, and once again trying to adjust to something. Beijing is cold, empty and clean. I'm watching videos of the Yodok camp in North Korea, and the people dressed in brown, working in silence have a weird air around them, like in silent movies, or something from a history book, doesn't feel like it could be happening now.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Save me /

so much has happened, again, and i'm ill, again (like Jack said, I have the immune system of a small, little thing with a poor immune system..). now let's see, this is what's been going on:

two weekends ago there were three birthdays. first on friday swiss Chris had his, we all started off in sanlitun and kept running from kai to shooters and back after cheap shots. Ellen and Hukai came to kai as well, although after a bottle of vodka E didn't really feel like joining us in Babyface.. then Del's bag was stolen, and we all felt angry, but continued to babyface anyway. there was a break-beat dj playing (very very good) and me and Dave danced for ages. then on saturday it was Lizzie's and Chris's birthday, they had a house party in Chris's tiny flat, with sangria and all, and afterwards we went to Propaganda for a quick dance with Vas, Kat and Adam, and it reminded me of September when we used to go there more often. On sunday Hukai cooked a massive meal at our place and Dave and one of Hukai's friends came over as well, yam yam, and even though I was the only vegetarian he didnt use any meat, very nice of him.

Last week was very eventful (I'm clearly getting this urge to do everything at the same time now that I'm about leave Beijing for a while). On monday we went to the tea house to study and it was full of soas people, afterwards we went for dinner at a jiaozi place, it was nice seeing Max and Ben after a long time, and Del since she then left to Europe.
on tuesday I went to the gym after a very long break and felt very good about myself. in the evening we went for dinner with dave's guests Jon and Anna, it was interesting seeing them pay attention to all these little things Ive already got completely used to (like getting excited about the spinning tables..), afterwards we went to Dave's place for shisha, beer and chocolate (real chocolate from England, none of the replacement stuff), and although the tobacco smelled of baijiu when in the package, it tasted nice when smoked.
on wednesday me and Vas went impulsive shopping, I bought a camera (yes I finally gave in to digital photography), and together we bought an oven, woohoo all the possibilities that come with it, I no longer have to eat fried food every day!!
on thursday i didnt go to class so Kat came to our place for our thursday tradition, and after a few bottles of China's finest beer we decided to go to the indie night at Kai. we danced for a long time, and saw some people we knew (like Liumiao from 2kolegas who claimed the white-framed sunglasses that Hukai gave to Ellen and Vas was wearing that night were actually his, hm).

last friday we went for a vegetarian (read: fake-meat) meal first with Ellen, Kat, Dave, Mark, Jon, Anna and Robert, and then continued to 2kolegas where we finally saw Hukai's band play and it was surprisingly good (not that I expected it to be bad), and then danced to the reggae/ska jamming afterwards. on saturday me and Vas had a very unsuccessful go at seeing Dashanzi: after spending about an hour and a half in a cab with a lying bastard of a cab driver it was too late to go there (although it was very interesting seeing the scenery outside the city in the north-east, very very different), so then we ended up going to a tiny Turkish coffee shop/restaurant, where we drank proper coffee and I had a falafel sandwich (!!), and had a couple of beers at our house afterwards with Kat, and watched bad chinese tv (oh i guess it could've been good just as well, we didnt really understand what was going on).

yesterday we actually managed to go to Dashanzi, which is an art district in north-eastern Beijing, in an old eastern German designed bauhaus-style factory. the whole area is full of galleries, cafes and little (art) shops, and a lot of the artists also live there. we saw a photography exhibition about Chinese train travellers by Wang FuChun (very powerful and emotional images), a pop art exhibition about Mao by Pop Zhao ('Read Chairman Mao's book - Just do it') and a mix of contemporary painting and photography at the Chinese Contemporary gallery, and we went to the opening of 'Someday, Somewhere' by Liu ren which consisted of magical and dream-like photos of the artist herself. i wanted to buy a book about chinese photography for my project but the bookshops were too big, too many options, so I bought a couple of dvds instead, from a little shop that had a very good selection of European art cinema. if it hadn't been that cold I could've stayed for ages, just walking around and popping into a gallery whenever you feel like it..

now im eating fruit and drinking coffee, hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow so I can go to class. i can't believe christmas is in less than a week.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

golden brown

i just heard our spring holiday is actually SIX weeks long and not 4 like we thought, which is AMAZING because it means i've got two weeks to go south when i come back to china, and dont have to go straight back to school, woohoo. i know i keep saying this but time flies past so quickly i dont usually even remember what month it is, soon (too soon) half of our time in bj is behind and living in london seems like this distant dream or a movie, rather than real life, arrg i feel weird.

another funny story from the alcohol-filled life of the Gaoliangqiaoxiejie crew (plus del): last friday me Vasiliki Ellen and Del, equipped with sunglasses and unimaginable amounts of energy, took a cab to sanlitun, raced with a chinese couple in the car next to us, found three guys who tagged along and although none of them was called Frankie Chan that's what we called them, danced at shooters for a while, found it boring and decided to move the party to our flat, talked talked and talked, and in the morning found dried blood on the floor and ordered pizza to kill the hangover.

on monday i finally went to check out the famous 'be time for tea house', actually got some work done, and went on to pour everything that was going through my mind on poor Ellen. on tuesday i had dinner at one of the chengdu xiaochis with a bunch of people i havent seen for a while and proceeded to drinking beer at the tea house with Kat. yesterday we had dinner in our flat with a couple of guests and now i'm tired. maybe the fact that i've watched almost the whole season one of the l word in a couple of days has something to do with that.. uh.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

je ne t'aime plus

My new obsession.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Steady As She Goes

Del's pictures from Vasiliki's birthday party:


first the cake at our place

























then the beijing duck (and the beer)


our crowd at 2kolegas


apparently there was something really interesting about the brick wall... or at least Matt was very excited about it




soas takes over the dj-ing in the form of James




Vasiliki looking gorgeous and Dave looking funny

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rewolucja

... we went to gulou dajie area for some sunday strolling with vasiliki and it was nice nice, a lot of old beijing style courtyards and very street-credible old men, we also found a coffee shop that couldve been in europe (the fuwuyuan didnt even let us smoke there because of a baby, i mean hello! this is china!), nice and careless afternoon. then when we came home and vas made me do this death test in the internet and the result was: I'm gonna die in 2037 (when im 52 that is) with alcoholism as the most likely cause of death!! god, i think i need some serious detoxing...

paper bag/don't leave the light on baby

probably the first sunday since i came to china that i got up before 12.. today i got up at nine still feeling a bit shaky from friday's mass alcohol consumption. the mid-term exams are over and i might even have passed them, thursday and friday were spent revising, hanging out at e-station revising, and come to think of it, having 4 exams in 2 days is a bit heavy, especially since they always start at eight in the morning. so on friday we went out to celebrate vasiliki's birthday (nineteenth that is, and i cant even remember what i did on my nineteenth birthday) and the exams being over of course. we started with a cake at our house (the first chinese cake that actually tasted like cake), then went for dinner in the restaurant we went with lee and the agency guy after signing the contract, it was the three of us, kat, del, dave, pat, mark, salome, cathy and joanna, and a lot of good food and the beijing duck pancake thingies were quite good even without the duck. then we met up with a lot of people at shooters which was infiltrated with american teenagers(?), got quite drunk (tequila!) and after a lot of hassle got into four cabs to go to 2kolegas (or 两个好朋友 as its called in chinese). the band was just finishing when we got there and pretty much everyone else but us (which was still a lot of people) left at that point, we did some crazy dancing and they played such a good mix of rock, indie, reggae and other stuff (some paprika korps for example, which I havent heard anywhere else except in finland and now in china) and started jamming again in the end, I didnt even think i was that drunk but the next day vas told me i was, and i felt good about a lot of people having fun although 2kolegas is not really their cup of tea, ellen & adam sang to vasiliki and ellen got a major crush on a chinese rocker guy (so it does work that way as well, not just western guys and chinese girls). yesterday i was pretty hungover, but the tube station pizza and la mala educacion helped with that. now im listening to music i used to listen to in london, feeling happy, were thinking about going somewhere nice to chill out and everybody's dancing in the moonlight.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

lighting a fuse might result in a bang with a bang-go!

my energy levels have been frighteningly high the last couple of days, i just cant stay still for very long, and yesterday after I asked if vasiliki's tired she said: the whole world doesn't have to be on speed although you are, hm m, we've been going out a lot (despite the mid-term exams next week) but it's all good, i havent been in this good mood for ages. oh, and last night in my dream we went to Särkänniemi, which is an amusement park in finland, but they had chinese style no-door-no-toilet-paper-piss-everywhere-squatting toilets!

so. last saturday after crashing jamie's dinner party and some misunderstandings about a club night, we -me, Ellen, Vas and Matt- ended up going to 2kolegas (because everybody kept recommending it to us) which is a tiny pub/club inside a drive-in cinema somewhere north of chaoyang park, but what kind of a place (!!), it reminded me of some places in Kallio Helsinki, very scruffy, and the crowd reminded me of band nights in Annis in my hometown, and they played all kinds of punk, grunge, indie, rock, and people were jamming on the stage as well. so, after experiencing millions of nights in horrible cheesy clubs in sanlitun where everyone is constantly scrutinizing you and the shorter your skirt the better, the no-one-gives-a-fuck attitude was great, so we went crazy & all aggressive, and were moshing drinking smoking and playing table football until late. and we were happy.

the day before yesterday Kat had a national dish dinner, and i would've never thought people would make such an effort, we had at least french, italian, greek, finnish, british, korean, hong kong(er) food, and it was all soooo good, and afterwards we proceeded to the drinking, which included beer (both the from a glas and the from a shot glas power hour version), great wall red wine, fake jack daniels, chinese champagne that tasted like normal apple cider, baijiu from bags and the korean version of baijiu.. then two cab-fuls of us continued to fusion to a drum'n'bass party with dj logistics and it was seriously the best party and dancing i've been to in beijing, and lasted until four thirty with me, Vas, Dave and Mark the last ones standing, then after some horrible dumplings i went to bed at six.

yesterday although my thighs were aching from all the d'n'b style jumping it was good pain you know, i got some studying done and then we -me, Vas, Ellen and Del- started at our place, i even put some lipstick on, and then we went to another leeds house party, this time a more chilled out one, although that didnt stop us at all, so i guess now our reputation among the leeds people is "the drunken girls who crash parties and get even more drunk and dance funnily and laugh all the time" which isnt really that bad.

now im hungover but the energy's still there, we just ordered pizza and were going to a tibetan restaurant later tonight. with my energy levels this high, its starting to ressemble autumn 05 in london except that i bike slower because of the weak quality of my (chinese) bike, i think im gonna have to start directing it to something, like going to the gym more often. and here's a couple fo pictures from Kat's party:










































(and vasiliki wants everyone to know she's not a lesbian)

Friday, November 03, 2006

pressure point



(me and ellen at the beijing pop festival)

november that feels like finnish august (especially now that i hear finland is pretty much covered in snow), and i'm ill again, luckily this time its an ordinary flu/cold. last night i had a nightmare including my duxie teacher telling me ive missed too many classes so i cant take the exams and have to go back to england, and i keep wondering if this is normal.. but to the important stuff: whats happened besides classes.

me and vasiliki went to an indie night, yes theres indie in china, at kaibar and danced like mad, we were the first and last ones on the dancefloor, which the dj appreciated at least and told us about some other places where you can hear proper music and not just the 'wo ai ni, wo xiang ni' crap. and my finnishness was proven again, wanting to get me drunk vas made me have three vodka shots (which i havent done for a while, and baijiu barely makes up for it, missing you l & m) and after that i was just as drunk as she was after one..

we went to a fetish halloween party at dashanzi, and the party itself was ok, good music, a lot of people and interesting outfits, except that my heels broke down in the beginning so i couldnt really walk with them, so i walked barefoot but it kind of took the edge of my costume.. but what was even funnier was the preparation for the party. i mean, if you go to a fetish party you might as well do it properly, no?

You all everybody/

Pictures from where it's hot.













Sunday, October 22, 2006

viivakoodi

it's almost november but it feels like the end of summer in finland, it's only been getting a bit cold recently and we dont know how to turn the heating on in our flat (in fact theres a lot we dont know, for example how to pay the water bill that came one day, any ideas anyone?). Ive been spending a lot of time watching dvds in the flat lately (masterpieces like 'the devil wears prada' and 'butterfly effect 2'...) because i was very ill for a while and missed almost an entire week of classes, and took antibiotics for the first time in 21 years, but hey at least i got to experience a chinese hospital.. the amount of studying is still a pain in the ass but ive changed my attitude so im not that worried/stressed anymore. now that im feeling better again we went out on friday to shooters (of course its the only bar in beijing no?) and it was so nice to see people again, and dance and eat some of that mm so delicious nan bread from the little stall outside shooters, and yesterday we went to a house party which was full of NEW (western) people and it just made me so so happy, now i know that it is actually possible to meet people in beijing without going to those horrible flashy clubs in sanlitun, and they were interesting people as well.

for a week we had (2) guests over from finland and it was so much fun having guests again, its such a big house that it just feels so much more homely when theres people around. we taught the boys to drink baijiu and to bargain for everything (what else do you really need to know in china?), and went to see some chinese rock bands with them, and had a massive party for ellen's birthday (seriously, were talking about approx 50 people) allthough i spent most of the night on the phone directing people to our flat (and its not THAT difficult to find), the climax of the night was definitely when ellen sat on her birthday cake.. it was very sad when the guys left, and I admit im extremely jealous for them travelling for at least half a year, i wanna go to places and not be stuck here studying all the time, for a split second i seriously thought about just going with them and forgetting all the pressure and studying, but then i decided that i do want to learn chinese after all.

recently ive been thinking about sweden and that i really want to live in stockholm at some point, and about india, and about all my friends all over the world (spain, finland, the us, israel, ghana, england, scotland, austria...) and how i would like to go and see all of them feeling at home in very different environments/on the road, but now i have to stop thinking about that and start studying for tomorrow.

oh and theres pictures of our trip to guanxi on dave's page, just click 'dave is chilling out in beijing'

Monday, October 09, 2006

the pink invasion

it's monday and i feel like a completely new phase has started somehow, so very revitalised, for which i blame the overdose of fresh air we all got out of the city last week, we went to Guanxi province in southern China (quite close to Vietnam) with the intention to see extraordinary rock formations and rice terraces both something you kind of have to see when in china right? although this is only our fourth school week it was a needed break and hopefully with the energy reserves collected last week I can go until the next holiday (which is in JANUARY no mercy for the spoiled international students) which i already even doubt myself (sigh)

me, ellen, vasiliki and dave started off from beijing west train station a week and a half ago with a million chinese people all crammed into a hard sleeper compartment (although it seemed more like a cattle cart), which by the end of the journey was filled with sleeping, eating and socialising people spread all over the floor, seats and each other (its crazy in what kind of positions chinese people can sleep), it was really one of those things that when you see it, you think no one's ever going to believe you if you explain what you saw in detail. from Guilin we continued straight to Yangshuo (a 'laidback backpackers mecca' according to lonely planet, but in reality a very touristy middle-sized town with a very westernised main street - West Street, of course - and millions of rich tourists spending a fortune on 'authentic minority handicrafts'), and active holiday -activities started on day one with a mountain biking trip, and it was amazing, really really amazing (you know when seeing something extremely grand and beautiful you start crying because it's just too much to take in at once?), although after 32km of constant up-and-down-up-and-down my thighs gave up, but then there was the last down-hill which lasted for a very long while and was worth every single up-hill before it. on the way we saw tiny tiny villages with rough and wise-looking people; a lot of kids who all shouted 'hello, hello' to us when we passed with our fancy shiny bikes except for the older kids who shouted 'money, money' instead; an old grandma who smiled at us from the other side of the road for the whole time we sat in a little shop drinking pineapple juice that tasted like soap; a man who had a dead pig on the backrack of his bike; and cows slowly descending to a little river with big satisfied smiles on their black faces..

then kat and kristen joined us and the next day we all went to a town called Fuli by bus, and while the others where eating (chicken i think although the town was filled with little stalls selling dog meat) me and ellen explored the back alleys which looked somewhat like beijing hutongs but with a more southern atmosphere and a lot of fan workshops (and all the doors had new year's decorations above them). then after a bit of frustration and hassle we managed to rent a boat and a driver to Puyi, on the way we couldnt really talk about what we saw (=a lot of the same black cows, people on rafts collecting sea weed and interestingly shaped mountains) because of the loud engine, but sometimes you need noise to create silence and its good to be silent sometimes, Puyi was getting dark when we got there (a lot of tiny little maos/cats, and in a cornershop a toothpaste called Li Tong like me), then a very bumpy minibus ride back to Yangshuo on improvised wooden seats. soon after this i got ill (the combination of a food poisoning or something along those lines, a splinter in my foot and a neck cramp DOES affect your ability to enjoy an ACTIVE holiday) and I wasn't the only one, in fact dave and kat were the only ones completely uninjured and healthy, so a couple of days we spent taking it easy, we for example vastly improved our bargaining skills (only me and ellen though as we were the only ones with practically none before the trip) (no longer afraid of the silk market!!), walked along the river, drank a lot of coffee, and continued to Ping'an which is a village with no roads (just stone paths that go up and down all the time) in the middle of the rice-terraced mountains.

in Ping'an we stayed in a hotel with cranky wooden floors and no name, and ate more western food than in a month in beijing. after our jingshen got well again we did a little hike up to the terraces, and walked onwards to a little - but very deep - lake to swim and oh oh it was brilliant, so brilliant that next day when it was only me vasiliki and ellen left we went there again, this time we finished swimming just when a massive tour group of westerners showed up from around the corner. the second time we also continued hiking further, to a smaller village called Zhongliu which was very picturesque but full of women from the long-hair-minority dressed in pink, and no one would give us directions without money (if in Russia everything was for sale, in here nothing was for free). in the end we got so frustrated that we just left the village with one pink woman following us a long way, and accidentally ended on the right path and just after the village high up on the mountain there was complete silence and i couldve just stayed there, so peaceful. in the evening we spent some time with the family in the guesthouse eating mooncakes (since it was moon festival) and drinking beer, and the next day we took a bus to Longsheng, where we ended up being herded around like animals by a stupid American woman, who had no idea about Chinese (bargaining) culture, was completely ripped-off (and still she thought she got a good deal) and treated all Chinese people who didnt speak English like a piece of shit, but at least we got to Guilin and made it in time to our train. this time we had beds so the 28-hour trip was actually quite pleasant, and its ok to be back in Beijing although its cold and theres no time to do anything interesting, at least im kind of enjoying studying now (since I can understand most of whats going on in the classes all of a sudden..), am spending very little money (more for travelling) and am becoming a gym addict again.
(pictures will follow at some point in the distant future)