02/24/11

Rate My Chinese! (Audio clip included)

 

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Last year I wrote that my Chinese pronunciation sounds like my boyfriend’s. That is because I mainly speak Chinese with him and less with other people. So this time you can actually hear how my putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) sounds like!  I know it is far from standard Mandarin because I live in Guangzhou and people around me doesn’t speak it either.

After listening please leave a comment and tell me what you think. How bad is it and did I miss all the tones? Can anyone even understand what I’m reading on the audio clip? If you have any advice how to improve my pronunciation I am more than ready to listen!


02/22/11

Could buying a fake bag be an ethical decision?

When thinking of pirate and fake products two things come to my mind. It’s kind of wrong and it’s cheap.But things aren’t so black and white as I have learned while living here in Guangzhou. In the picture a traffic policeman is not arresting the guy for selling pirate products, he is buying a fake Nokia headset for himself. Right and wrong seems not to be so clear here in China.

Today I accompanied my friend who wanted to buy few bags for herself and as a present for her family members. We head to the Guangzhou Baiyun World Leather Trading Center that locates near the main railway station. That is a fake bag paradise! You can buy a Gucci or Dior bag for about 40 euros. Are these bag real? No, or almost.

There are three kind of bags. The truly fake ones, the truly real ones and then something between. Those are made in the very same factory as the real bags, but just sold in other place with an other price. That is the reason they may be identical with the real bags and the only difference is the price tag.

Lots of brand bags are made in Dongguan, very close to Guangzhou. In those factories the workers have long days and are really fortunate if have their Sundays off. Basic salary is about 100 euros per month. The factory offers accommodation but it means sharing a room with 20 other workers. If you want to know more about these migrant workers I really recommend a book Factory girls by Leslie T. Chang.

I started thinking could buying a fake bag actually be an ethical choice? If you buy it from a guy selling stuff on the street, the money is probably going to his pockets. If you buy 1000 euros bag from a Gucci store, then who is getting your money? If I would use so much money on something I would like to know how that product is made and who am I supporting with that purchase. Where is the Fair Trade for bags?

Today my choise was to buy a non-brand leather wallet. It can’t be fake because it doesn’t have any labels. I paid 40 yuan which was good for me and to the lady that sold it to me. I would call this a win-win situation, but with so many fake bags around me I couldn’t help thinking which would be the best choice. Fake or not?

02/19/11

And Sometimes I Have Nothing To Say

Living abroad isn’t all excitement and adventure. Sometimes it’s like I never left Finland. I have days when it’s raining outside and my fridge is full, then I don’t have to go anywhere and I can spend the day with my morning robe. I can be lazy and get bored when the Internet connection is getting slower and slower when lovely neighbours start using it in the evenings.

I don’t have to go outside and make comparison about customer service in local shops between China and Finland. Sometimes I even spend the whole day alone and doesn’t even need to open my mouth in Chinese. I can stare my IKEA furniture and eat my ryebread, just I could do back home. Sure there are some things reminding me that I’m in China, like when I need to use the toilet. But I can also put those things in the back of my mind and just relax.

If you haven’t lived in China you might think why I came here in the first place if I need a break from it too. In a foreign country it sometimes takes more energy to even go outside your front door. Here people are looking, you can’t disappear because even from the behind people can see you’re a waiguoren, foreigner. People are rude, but you have to keep in mind that they are just Chinese. What is rude in Finland isn’t so in here.

I am living my dream, but sometimes for a while I don’t want to think. What do you do when you don’t feel like experiencing the foreign country you’re living in?

02/6/11

My First (or second?) Chinese New Year

Last year during Chinese New Year I was travelling and kind of missed the whole celebration. New Year’s eve I was in a train from Beijing to Pingyao, on Lantern Festival I saw fireworks in Guilin (see the picture). This year I spent the most important holiday at Guangzhou with my boyfriend, my mother and my younger little brother.

First two days were for shopping because we were worried that the shops would close soon, as they did. On 30th and 31st we made some good deals at Haizhu square and near the railway station. It didn’t even matter that some of the shops (all at railway station) were closed, because they were still selling rest of the stuff outside.

We also took a two hour cruise on Pearl river admiring the lights and tall building. As well as spend some more money at game hall and saw some cute and not-so-cute animals at Chenglong Zoo. Following the tradition we went to two temples to wish lots of success, money and love for the year of the rabbit. Accidentally we also found a flower festival street near Chen Clan Academy and ate lunch at a very Cantonese restaurant. My little brother was brave enough to try to chicken feet!

The first day of the new year my mom and little brother finally visited my home. “You really live in a place like this?” my brother asked me when he saw the village I’m living in. My boyfriend made some potatoes, beef, shrimps and pork for us to eat and rest of the time we spent playing billiard by the river. I’m a really terrible in it and it didn’t really help that all the Chinese people where staring at us.

The last night I spent in the Pullman airport hotel with my mom and brother. They had a early flight the next day and it’s quite hard to find a taxi in the University Town where they were staying in the island’s only hotel. The taxi driver didn’t really understand my first when I was trying to explain we want to go to the hotel next to airport but finally asked that is it the hotel that has man in the name. Seems that Pullman is something like pu’er’man in Chinese.

All in all I managed to have quite a traditional Chinese New Year even I forgot to wear my red lucky underwear. I depended on my boyfriend a lot and he did his best to explain to me what kind of decorations we could buy and what does the holiday mean to Chinese people and to him. I really enjoyed the holiday and think it will become more and more important to me in the future.

One worrying thing is that now the time from December to February is not only time to celebrate but also time to spend money. Chinese workers work really hard the whole year in order to go back home for Spring Festival and give money to their family members and relatives. Sometimes it makes me feel really selfish because I’m just dreaming of buying a new camera, and not to giving all my money to my loved ones.

I think I understood this week that my boyfriend doesn’t want money just for money. He wants me and his family to be happy and have a better life. He doesn’t plan to success and earn much to buy things for him. He wants to buy things for me and his relatives. Of course in order to do so he is talking about money all the time and what could be the best way to earn as much as possible as soon as possible. But I think that I understand him much better now.

This Chinese New Year was a time for me to learn and experience something new. A time to have fun with my family. But of course the holiday season isn’t over yet and I’m already waiting for the Valentine’s Day and the Lantern Festival.