Monthly Archives: August 2013

8 Things to Love About China

A bit of everything.

This post will be solely dedicated to loving China. I actually felt a little depressed after googling ‘why I hate China’ and finding so many results. I was interested in what other people think and realized their opinions don’t differ  from mine so much. There is so much hate out there it makes me feel cold and scared. What greatly surprised me was that I found so many blogs about hating China but when I googled ‘why I love China’ I found only a few blogs and the rest were either forums or articles about what kind of men Chinese women like. Whatever. So here is all the love I am able to give.

1. It’s nothing like on the paper: My friend once said “The more time I spend in China the more I realize it’s nothing what they write about her in the west.” Once you visit China you will realize it’s nothing what you thought it would be. What you read in papers and books can give you a direction but  the real thing is going to be different, very different. People are going to tell you a lot, what they liked and especially what they hated, you might feel like you don’t want to go there but I tell you, don’t give a fuck and just go because you are going to enjoy it in your own way. If you can’t speak Chinese that’s not a problem, you might have to pay a bit higher prices that’s all.  If you don’t know much about the culture China will teach you in a rough but loving manner like a mother, you will grow up a bit and become wiser.

2. It’s safe: I have never felt as safe anywhere else (not even in South Korea where the atmosphere was often uncomfortably tense for some reason). Chinese might cheat you but they won’t steal. There are stories about kidnapping people and selling their organs but have you ever heard this happen to a foreigner? You know how in India the cows are sacred? In China a foreigner is a sacred cow, like my friend once commented. There are CCTV cameras everywhere. In the end the punishments in China are pretty strict so people are afraid, especially when they grow up in an environment where they are taught to blindly obey the rules.  Besides, Asian people have strong  Confucian values and stealing, getting caught then losing your face is something unforgivable already. Besides, doesn’t matter where you are, it’s dangerous everywhere. My wallet was once stolen, in Finland. But no matter how many times I have forgotten my stuff somewhere in China, I have always gotten it back. I don’t recommend to risk anything, though.

When they give you back your change they calculate the money carefully. In train you can safely leave your bag on the seat while going to bathroom and you don’t need to watch your suitcase non stop, nothing will be gone. Once I saw an old Chinese man open his wallet before entering the train, to take out his ticket, and there was a fat stack of 100 yen bills in there, he just slipped it back in his pocked without a worry.  The more you suspect the less you enjoy traveling.

In China we sent a completely drunk friend back to dorms, gave the money to the driver and told him the directions, she got home safely. I have argued and bargained with black taxis, they always took me to my destination without a problem. I have walked on darks streets during the night and I am still here writing this blog, once a suspicious man followed me though, but I might have been just paranoid. You can leave your bags at left luggage at train and bus stations, you will get your bags back, untouched.

The shadiest hotel I ever stayed at was at this one town by the name of Wudangshan. I arrived late, came out from the bus and there were some old ladies renting rooms. I followed this old lady to some dark shady little street, turned several corners into the maze of houses and when we arrived I got a room but no key, also no receipt for my payment. Next day I wen to climb a mountain, when I came back I called her like we had agreed and she came to open the door to my room, my stuff (netbook too)was there untouched.

Just think logically, people are trying to conduct business there. If a rumor breaks out something was stolen or someone has disappeared, they are pretty much finished due to bad reputation. And don’t worry, your best buddy Chinese government will always know where you are and if something happens they will track you down, even if you manage to stay one or two nights in a hostel that has no qualifications for foreigners (don’t register you), they will find you if they want.

Of course, you should use your common sense at all times. I’m still alive and on the road, nothing has ever been stolen from me, I have survived by only using my brain that’s all (and I am not that smart either so). I am stupid to keep my credit cards all in the same bag with my passport, phone and all of the cash, every time I tell myself to separate it all into different places but why don’t I ever do it? One of these days I am going to end up in the middle of the jungle without a phone or money. Hmm, sounds exciting.

3. The laid back atmosphere: This is what I always miss about China the most. Somehow, the atmosphere is always relaxed there and the people don’t seem to stress too much or be in a hurry (you will notice when you will be annoyed by the fact everyone walks too damn slow, during hot days it’s siesta everywhere). In China I feel at ease, I feel like everything will always be all right. It’s such a pleasant atmosphere that makes you enjoy your time and want to stay longer, hard to explain you have to experience it. Of course, if you stress non stop because you are scared of Chinese, you will ruin one of the most wonderful experiences you could have. That’s your loss then.

In the parks people are dancing, doing sports and just hanging out together, especially in the evening it can get quite full and never boring. The feeling of community is strong. It feels comfortable to stroll in a park during a sunny afternoon, old people play ping pong while their cats bask in the sunlight.

 4. The food: Oh yes, it’s oily, really oily but god damn delicious. Of course, after staying in China for a year I got tired of the food but even then there were many foreign restaurants (and ketchup chicken). Though, foreign food never tastes normal in China, never. Anyway, there is Mc Donalds and KFC.

What I like about Chinese food is that it tastes good, they know how to cook their vegetables, trust me. Also it’s different everywhere, Sichuan food is my favorite but it’s good only in Sichuan. This might sound weird but they are good only with the local dishes, for example Beijing chicken tastes like Bejing chicken only in Beijing and Ma Po Tofu is only edible in Sichuan (after you have tasted the real thing everything else will taste like shit, trust me (if you prove me wrong I will dance a chicken dance). So, they don’t only mess up the western food but even their own foods.. Well, I guess it’s all about the ingredients. Chinese…

One of the things foreigners can’t stand is that many meat dishes have bones, because apparently (just my own theory) in China they don’t separate different meats, just cut the whole animal into pieces in one big machine with the bones and all that shit, the fish is never deboned either. But, since I am crazy, I love it. When meat is cooked with bones the taste is completely different, I don’t mind spitting the pieces of bones on the table next to my plate, I feel like a local. Besides, you should work a bit for your food. And aren’t we westerners a bit too spoiled? Complaining whenever there are bones in the food, so freaking what (if it didn’t taste good they wouldn’t be there)? It’s just annoying whining. You can act as sophisticated as you want, everyone is an animal in the heart anyway, and I am not afraid to let that bear out whenever I am in China.

After China I have come to a realization that Chinese in the west is not so different from the Chinese in China (they fuck up mapo tofu everywhere except in Sichuan, and they fuck it up exactly alike). The difference lies in different ingredients (in China it’s cheaper to buy good quality than in the west), the cooking heat (since in China they use either gas or charcoal, even that makes huge difference) and hygiene (have you seen a Chinese kitchen in a restaurant in China? That’s how the Chinese taste is born, they don’t wash their wok that often). Heck, even Chinese in Hong Kong differs greatly from the mainland what comes to taste. In South Korea the Chinese is as far from China as sun and moon are from each other.

If you are now wondering is it safe to eat in Chinese restaurants in China (what if they are too dirty), seriously… You can just go to China then and not eat anything, go on a diet and just eat cup noodles every day or even better: crackers, do whatever you want. One Korean guy once asked how could I eat Chinese cup noodles when Chinese factories are so dirty. He was also sure that all cup noodles sold in Korea are made in Korea. Good luck with your life dude.

My suggestion is that you should taste everything from street food to the fancy miracles. Me and my boyfriend went to the best seafood restaurant in Guangzhou, ordered over 6 dishes which were huge and spent 50 euros. Mind you, 6 dishes in the best restaurant only 25 euros per person.  All the fish was killed just before cooking or while cooking, I had never tasted such delicious sashimi before and the octopus, MY GOD. On the other hand an old couple in a small village sold the best Jiaozi ever, just by the roadside. I used to buy a few every day before going to class. And don’t forget to buy bubble tea, I always ordered it without the black balls, bubble tea without bubbles. Still remains my favorite drink in China.

 5. Rich culture and never ending surprises: In one temple they had photos of the renovation project, first everything was destroyed and then built again. Riiii-ight. But if you wander around you will be able to see enough remains of the history, especially in Shanghai where new shiny blocks of flats and old shabby houses stand side by side, reminding you about the uneven development and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Forget about that and go to the countryside where the people live in idyllic little forgotten villages, dusty roads and wooden houses, rice terraces on the hills and nomads with their tents.

You will see that in some areas people still use their traditional clothes in every day life, you will see posters of Mao on the wall’s in the houses, you will see music cassettes being sold in the shops, see ancient tractors, and find candies of your childhood again (those not available in the west anymore). You will meet people who haven’t seen the world, who can’t read or write, uneducated and simple but you will love these people because they are friendly and have a good heart, people who won’t care whether you are Chinese or not and will welcome you with a wide smile on their faces. Those will be the best discussions of your life.

You will also notice the development everywhere, even the nomads have cellphones and know how to use computers and Internet, you will be surprised to find out they follow news and have their own opinions about politics. Even though many nomads can’t read they have application in their cellphones that reads the text aloud. There will be contrasts everywhere, old and new melting together. China is different everywhere in so many ways, sometimes you will feel like even Chinese from different areas are foreign for each other.

6. China makes you think: Like I mentioned above China is full of contrasts. Once you travel there for a while or yet better, live for certain period of time, you will see many things which will make you think. You will think, come to conclusions and mature, become wiser. China definitely has this kind of effect on people.

As for me I realized how scary it is to have so much people around and how meaningless individuality can become, one person suddenly stops meaning anything. It’s always the wellbeing of many you start concentrating on and to sacrifice an individual for many, that’s nothing.

Life is restricted. Even though at first look life in China doesn’t seem that controlled, people do what they want, you will slowly realize the weight of rules and regulations. When someone above makes a decision you have no right to oppose it and have to accept it quietly. Or you can complain but no one cares, if you complain too loudly you get into trouble.

When we had to move from our dorm to another one just a few days before leaving the campus forever, a few girls went to complain to the King of the university (yeah, it’s even hard to find out who is in charge of anything since there are deans, directors, vice presidents, chairmans and presidents. Of course, no one admits anything and no one is responsible for anything because the orders come from somewhere even higher above no one knows where, probably Justin Bieber) but the man just said to “Suffer along with the school, you should give all your love to our university” this kind of shit.

Forget about human rights, the party decides to move 7 million people from town A to town B they have to move despite anything, if you happen to be a foreigner and part of that community you leave too.  Later the party might change its mind and not use the area of the emptied town A after all, so in the end you went trough hell for nothing. Swallow that, worm.

I had heard about the ghost cities where no one lives but never saw one before this summer, Qinghai province the province of the ghosts. You drive by a highway and suddenly there is a town on your left, you can clearly see schools, apartment complex buildings, police station, kindergartens, shopping malls, parks and even a little channel for river, with few cute little bridges for crossing, just there is no water (you start wondering how are they going to make this river and come to conclusion to rather not think about it) and most importantly this town is completely empty. I think it’s a scary sight, makes you think.

When you travel in full trains and experience the shit times of standing ticket, man, I believe that every person in this world should once travel 30 hours standing in a Chinese train, alone. During that time, by looking at people and just being there, sitting on the dirty floor, eating cup noodles, feeling dirty and low. There is no room for being haughty. I’m just saying, I saw this little kid and really wanted to tell him to study hard so he could get a good job and would never have to travel like this again but then I wondered why should I say it? Would it make any difference? Why must everyone have a good job, what if he fails? Is it realistic for him to even attend school, does he have any hopes for better future? Will he ever be able to buy any other ticket than the standing one? Traveling like an animal will certainly teach you the meaning of reality and hopelessness. When you return home you will start appreciating everything you have in a different light.

Even though China might be rough with you, somehow instead of making you evil it will turn you into a honest person, at leas that’s what it did to me. I became more compassionate and little less cold, a bit more understanding and reasonable.

Once you return from China you are a changed person.

7. Dirt cheap: Do I even need to explain this? When bargaining remember to at least cut the price in half, 60-80% off should be pretty close to the original price, but at least 40%  if you are too embarrassed to bargain for too low and well, it’s not always that easy either. China is one of the safe heavens of budget travelers, cheap accommodation and food. The cheapest breakfast me and my boyfriend had cost us 25 cents per person, we had porridge along with steamed buns and tea. The cheapest hostel room cost 2,5 euros, breakfast included. If you go for a Chinese cheap hotel, one room for two with private shower and toilet should cost about 5-6 euros.

8. People: As much as I hate the people I love them. They can be rude, cold and indifferent towards you but then again you will always meet someone nice who will make you smile and feel grateful. What I appreciate in Chinese character the most is the honesty. They don’t try to be what they are not, they just are, no unnecessary pretenses. Even of they cheat you they do it kind of honestly, I am a cheater that’s who I am. Even though it soon becomes annoying when they comment about your clothes and looks (you are fat or your shirt doesn’t suit you, why are you wearing it?) when you get used to it and understand they don’t mean to hurt you, it’s easy to push aside. I have this Chinese friend who kept mentioning about my skin, first it was so good and then so bad, I got annoyed at first but later realized it’s no use to be angry, Chines just are like that. They just say stuff, giving each other nicknames like Big Butt just because someone’s butt is big. You will see couples yelling at each other and fighting in public, they have nothing to hide from you.

You can arrange cars for reasonable prices if you can speak Chinese and negotiate, mostly they won’t cheat you in the end (of course, there are rotten people everywhere, in China too). You can trust Chinese, not with time tables but you can always ask if you can leave your bag in a shop and come get it later, you will get it back untouched.

Sometimes you really need help but people will ignore you or have indifferent attitude in the style of “Take care of your problems yourself” but then again, someone will definitely approach you and ask if you need help. This year in Guangzhou I couldn’t find my hostel because the directions they gave me were bad. After 3 hours of walking back and forth this one street asking in a hotel and travel agency and getting the cold shoulder in both, some guy asked if I needed help. We spent 30 minutes looking for this place and finally found it (just because it was a normal apartment in a normal apartment complex building, no signs or anything). I have to say without him I would have never been able to find the hostel, never.

Chinese try hard, always. It’s amazing how there almost are no beggars around, with such huge population you’d expect more. I believe this is because Chinese work so hard (and probably they wouldn’t be able to give money to beggars even if they wanted to), they don’t give up and instead of being miserable do something about their problems. They are people who keep trying.

Maybe it’s because of their pure honesty but Chinese are extremely kind, at least towards their close friends and family, sometimes towards total strangers too. They are kind in a way it’s totally visible that they have no ulterior motives. An acquaintance of mine lost her wallet, all cash and credit cards along with her purse. She was far away from the place she lived (still in China, though) and the only way for her to get money was to ask her friend to wire some or to go back home, the problem was that she had absolutely no cash. The woman who worked at the hostel reception that time understood her situation and lent her some money to buy a ticket home, in return my acquaintance promised to pay back once she gets home. Overall at hostels they always try their best to help you and get the cheapest deals.

We did a trekking trip to Amnye Machen mountains with my friends, I befriended one of the nomads quite well and after our trek spent 5 days at his house with his family, they were all friendly, gave me food and shelter for free and asked lots of questions about my country. I had lots of fun. The problem now is that the boy thinks we are dating and wants to marry me, but anyway I hope he gets over that soon.

 China is an adventure.


13 Things to Hate About China

China is indescribable.

If you ask me about China I will forever be unable to answer your question because I honestly don’t know whether I love her greatly or despise with passion. This is an indescribable love-hate relationship for life and for some insane reason I like it.

I guess it’s normal to rage and go crazy when you consider cultural shock and what we are accustomed to prior to arriving somewhere else. We often forget that we harshly criticize the countries where we live long term, thinking that only the native citizens have that right, God forbid if any foreigner criticizes your country (taking out your shotgun already?). When we enter a new sphere and stay there for a long time, of course, we are bond to see all the faults too, not only the pretty frosting. However, I am planning to write another post about these things. Now I just want to concentrate on the things I hate and love about China.

I will say it right away, I’m going to be extremely honest and my words can be sarcastic to the max, might seem harsh and controversial. No one will be spared. Truthfully speaking I am sick of balless stories when people only write what others hate (without adding their own opinion) or tell their colorless opinions which mean nothing because they are afraid to be honest and hurt someone’s feelings or that someone might get upset or angry.

In my opinion this world needs honesty so I will write about my sincere feelings without thinking about anyone’s personal feelings. Firstly I have that right and secondly I don’t give a fuck. Excuse me. If someone gets offended and cries then that’s too bad, world is harsh baby, you better get used to that.

So, of course you are welcome to criticize me but know that as much as I hate China I love it too, I know the culture, understand and accept it (doesn’t mean that they have no flaws!!), and I know what I am talking about. I believe I am not being unreasonable. If you have never been to China before, then please… Don’t make me laugh! How can you criticize me  for criticizing something you haven’t ever truly felt under your skin? Think about that. Plus, I believe 3 months is the line between love and hate, once you pass 3 months in China your rage will finally catch on flames.

Rage

1. Too many people: At first this is not a problem, all big cities in the world have a big population, do’h naturally.  Why else would they be big cities, could I get any more stupid? Anyway, then little by little you finally realize that there is one little problem in China, there are too many people. When the bus you have to take almost daily is always so packed your only opinion is to squeeze trough the back door, when you have to queue everywhere at all times, when there is always a rush hour in subway, when all the tickets are sold out weeks in advance, when there are people everywhere you go, everywhere. In the end, (this is not just my opinion, just ask anyone who has lived in China and has even a bit of sense of humor) you feel like it would be okay to drop a few bombs here and there, no one would notice and it would be only for the better.

 2. It’s dirty and stinky: When I came back to Guangzhou after a few years the first thing I noticed was the smell, of shit and vomit all over, like you know waste disposal. In the end you get used to it and forget all along but, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I am almost 100% sure the origin of the smell is that the trash is usually disposed on the streets from where the garbage truck collects it. If you walk wander to a smaller area in a big Chinese city (like a market area) during the evening you will see huge piles of trash everywhere, in the morning everything is gone.

The air is so polluted you will not get tanned even during the most hot and sunny summer days. The good thing is that you won’t burn either. Don’t even ask me about public toilets (I don’t get it, even though there are the holes for doing your business why is there shit everywhere on the floor?)

If you have ever seen how nomads live you will agree with a statement of my friend (without a blink of an eye) “Nomad culture is also the culture of waste and trash.” Have you seen it with our own two eyes? How they eat drink and toss the plastic in the nature without caring. How at the back of their little village the hills are covered in trash and their kids play there, their yaks pasture. And this doesn’t necessarily happen because they do it consciously, they probably don’t know as many of them don’t attend school. You can’t blame them, really. The only solution to this problem: don’t give plastic to nomads.

And anyway, everyone alway admires how clean it is in Finland, my comment to that is always: “It’s not clean because people don’t litter,  it’s clean because our janitors do their jobs.” We are all nomads.

Another example is a high school friend of mine who once asked me “Why does anyone want to go to Russia? It’s so dirty there?” After she finished eating her chocolate bar she threw the wrapper on the street. So how should I think about her? How?

 3. Cheating: You have to be constantly on alert. It’s not like you are in danger but for example, if you buy a train ticket from black market, pay the double price and then realize it’s a fake. Just great… If you ask a driver to take you around, you have to bargain at least 40% off the price (this rule applies to anything you buy). If you can’t tell fake from real when it comes to clothes, bags, watches, electronics etc. then no one will tell you. And always bargain for everything.

In China nothing is ever worth the money and if it is, it’s too damn expensive that you won’t be able to say it’s worth the money, only that it is good.

4. Time and plans: If you ask Chinese about times, like when will some bus depart, how many buses there are to a certain destination during one day or on what days there is a train to a place x, they will tell you but usually it’s wrong information (even if they use the service themselves). I have walked into this trap so freaking many times even though I’ve always known that the only place you can inquire about the schedule are the ticket booths and maybe Internet.

Okay, never let a Chinese person plan your trip. Trust me, just don’t let them plan everything or at least check the logic of the plan carefully before going with it. This might be purely just the cultural differences between the Asian and western but I am just saying, if you don’t want to lose your mind just plan everything yourself.

 5. No one wants to take the responsibility and how they conduct their work: An exchange student goes to the exchange student office to ask a question completely related to his exchange studies. When he enters the office none of the teachers are there and their replacements are some young useless girls who know nothing and are probably volunteer workers. They ask him to come later, he comes and finally manages to meet one of the teachers, who listens to his question, blinks her eyes, and calls someone, who calls someone else, who calls someone else until they have reached Justin Bieber who says “Baby, baby baby, yeah” and the answer of the teachers is THA DAH “I don’t know” The student has wasted half of his day in the office for nothing. This is how China really works, the huge secret is out.

Once me and a friend went to get our transcripts from the office, we had called the teacher in advance (a week!) and told her we need the transcripts early, she said there would be no problem. We arrive on an agreed date and she asks us to wait, meanwhile she leave somewhere. 1 hour later she comes back and asks if she can give us the transcripts some other day, we start complaining (after all, the next day I was leaving for Shanghai in the morning) and she agrees to give us our transcripts that were not yet done!! FUCK! We wait another hour or so and she finally prints the transcripts but gets almost all of our personal information wrong, we wait for her to correct it all. In the end we have spent from 2 to 4 hours in that damned office. I was happy leave that university for good that time. The rude bastards we were, we wrote on the blackboard (in Finnish) Fuck you all, we hate you, and thanks God we are leaving. Now, naturally, I miss those times.

 6. There is no logic: When you go to China, forget about logic for good. It all starts in embassy already (you get pissed off even before you arrive to the country), my friend (after presenting all needed documents to the embassy to get a student visa fro 3 months) got a student visa for 1 week. In the Chinese embassy in South Korea you are not able to get a tourist visa if you don’t have a Korean alien card that is valid for at least 6 months after expiration of the visa (yeah, who needs a passport anyway?!). Naturally no one knows about it, it’s not specially mentioned on the website either, only when you have booked all your cheap tickets you can’t cancel and submitted your documents you come to collect your passport to find out you have been rejected. In Hong Kong you don’t even have to fill a visa application form to get a visa (trough an agency though). ARGH!

Me in my turn, had to extend my student visa in China, I asked the teacher if I can do the extension a bit early because I was going to travel and wouldn’t be able to do the extension in January. She called the visa place and told me everything would be okay. They extended my visa for 1 week, just enough for me to be able to extend it for another half a year when I come back  from my travels. … … … I almost shot myself when I got my passport back. Moreover, when I brought my documents the worker started complaining that the paper I got from my university was wrong shade of yellow. ARGH! I am sure the people who make visas are brainless idiots who decide the durations of visas arbitrarily based on nothing but their own madness.

We, exchange students, had 1 week left of school and most of us would leave for good in a few days. They bring us a notice that we have to move to another dorm for the renaming few days because someone somewhere had decided to start reconstruction of the dorms now and not a few days later (when the semester would be over). Communism, how come not everyone has committed suicide in China because of brainless idiotic ways of that politic.

All the hostels have to seek government’s permission for hosting foreigners, when it comes to renting an apartment sometimes it’s the same story. First some official has to come to inspect the place, whether it’s good enough. First reason is that Chinese government is afraid that foreigners might think badly of the living conditions in China (as if no one does?) and the second is that they are afraid something will happen to the person (might disappear or something is stolen) and they would have to bear responsibility.

Me and a friend moved out from the dorms to this cheap place, about 60 euros a month with electricity and Internet included (while the dorms cost me unreasonable 270 euros, besides the price was different for everyone for some reason). One day the police came to inspect that place, they found us but didn’t tell us anything, instead they contacted our school and told them to tell us to move out. Because we are foreigners, of course, we didn’t want to let it slide so we went to the police station to find out about the sole reason on why couldn’t we live in that cheap place. The answer was simple “It’s not a safe place, you better go live somewhere where they have fence around the building, that way it’s more safe” … What can you say to that? WHAT?! We complained and insisted until she finally told us that we are free too live in that cheap place but if the police finds out they will force that place to close it’s doors. There would be no problems for us.

You don’t know how annoying it is to arrive to some city during the evening, there are tens of dirt cheap accommodations around the train station or whatever, but no foreigners allowed. Fuck them! Instead you have to go to an unreasonably expensive crappy hotel. Suck my dick, you fucking idiotic Chinese government, I hate you all fat ugly old geezers.

My friend was told that his school has a special agreement with the Chinese university, he could live in the dorms for free. Four months later they tell him that they had made a mistake and now he has to pay after all, also for the past months. Dickheads.

Before Asian Games they build huge fences around small villages near our university so by passing people wouldn’t see those poor areas. This already sounds so stupid I want to hang myself.

In China never ask “Why”, because either the answer is so stupid you will kill yourself for asking or there is no answer because no one knows.  They just follow the orders (of Justin Bieber), blindly.

7. Chinese education system and people in general: It makes people naive, extremely simple minded and stupid. It kills creative thinking, people grow into blindly obeying the rules and become helpless because everything is done for them. The classes are too crowded, the materials suck and the professors often don’t know what they are talking about. That about sums all the shit. Since ancient China, everything has been pure downhill what concerns education.

Someone once said that there are very intellectual people in China too, I just didn’t meet them. I guess there is some space for a few accidents in those billions. I am sure there are some fun and intelligent people, but like I just mentioned, I just didn’t meet them. Where the hell are they all hiding? Why is it that in China they are masters of copying but suck at inventing their own? Nevertheless, I got some really good, independent and smart Chinese friends, really and I like them a lot. But when I think about the crowd in general, I think there is no hope.

One example is that no one around university area knew where the police station was, not even our teacher. “Well, the police always comes to our school so I don’t need to know” I wanted to register my friend but in the end we gave up because we seriously couldn’t find the police station and got sick of people asking “Why do you need to go there?” and commenting “But why don’t you ask your teacher to do it for you” In the end I called another teacher and asked about the location of the police station, without answering my question she kept asking why do I need to go there and who is this my friend, where is he from, whether he is coming to study to their university next year or not and such.  The last drop was when I met a group of Chinese students and asked them, I pretended I didn’t know Chinese since they insisted to speak in English, but they were so incredibly rude I got really pissed and gave up on ever going to the damned police station.

Whenever I went to to eat at the canteen alone some student would always approach me and ask if we could be friends because they wanted to learn English. What about me, maybe I wanted to learn Chinese?!  One girl gave me her QQ number and asked to add her, I forgot (I never log in QQ anyway!). The next time she saw me she yelled at me, she was fuming. The other girl came to my room and refused to leave. In the end I had to ask my friend to come to my room and tell me to go somewhere with him, we hid in his room until the girl was gone.

Everyone asked me if I like ping pong, commented that I am fat and told me not to eat spicy food because that’s why I had pimples. I gave up on getting Chinese friends. Though I also made a few wonderful friends and we had a lot of fun together, they helped me a lot.  I remember them with warmth.

I met this Chinese man who had lived in Canada for years and only came back to visit some relatives. I asked him about his thoughts of China and Tibet, he was very reluctant, as if afraid someone would hear so he didn’t comment on anything political. To the question what progressive/good has the prime minister done he answered “Well, nowadays people who are older than 60 and retired can get retirement money 50 yen a month (about 5 dollars)” Of all the things he could have mentioned he said this… He also said he wants to move back to China because he has seen how rich his relatives and friends have become (he moved away because he wanted to have more opinions in his life, felt too restricted in China), the problem was that he had to give up his Chinese citizenship in order to get Canadian citizenship (duals not allowed) and now he had problems getting it back.

In Guangzhou everyone was studying French, when I asked why they said it’s such a romantic language and France is such a beautiful country. Why not Russian, English or Korean instead? Why? Why must you choose romantic over practical? I went to see one Russian lesson and they were learning how to say “Dad likes soup” repeating it all over again. “This is soup, this is dad’s soup, this is mother’s soup. Dad likes soup, I don’t like soup” No wonder no one could say anything even though they had studied Russian for years.

And the most outrageous thing was that during every Chinese lesson I had I only became more stupid. By studying individually I learned more so in the end  it was pure waste of time to attend classes. In the university of Guangzhou they didn’t give us real teachers they just sent other students to teach us, and my friend was always making sexual comments, lol. Anyway, I am happy to hear some other and better universities have it better, real teachers and good programs. But then again, of course everything is good in Beijing and Shanghai, still that’s not whole China. One friend studies in Sun Yat Sen university in Guangzhou, she says it’s good and I am happy to hear that. But just because some universities have it good it doesn’t matter others are allowed to be crappy.  My friends in Lanzhou say their university sucks ass and I believe them.

I met this Chinese girl who didn’t know where Russia was on the map. And I thought I was bad at geography.

8. No manners: Whoever said that Chinese are extremely polite was wrong. In business world that is extremely important and they have a complicated etiquette but when it comes every day life people can be so rude and mean it hurts. Shameless staring, they poke their noses, spit on the floor, burp in public, spit the bones or whatever they don’t want to eat on the table, don’t say thank you/sorry in many occasions, push and shove, ignore you when you need help, diss you, cheat you, laugh at you and whatever. But I guess that’s part of the culture, you just have to blend in and become like them.

Okay, one of the biggest objects of my disgust are the pants with holes between legs for children. I have seen a kid poop at the train station in the waiting room, no one cared nor cleaned after him.  Also, in the train a grandma let her grandchild pee in a plastic bottle, later she was standing next to me with the bottle hovering extremely close to my face. By then I had already suffered of 20+ hours of standing ticket and sitting on the floor, I didn’t care anymore.  Anyway, I have read about  many other stories with parents letting their children pee and poo anywhere, like shopping malls and subway. Whatever, you live like you want there.

In the train or bus or anywhere they will start listening to music from the speakers of their phones as loudly as possible, it’s normal (ear phones do not exist to Chinese).  Or they will talk on their phones, no they will shout on their phones because in China no one talks on the phone, you must yell.

All the men smoke all the time everywhere.

9. Chinese don’t know how to queue: No matter how much I think about this I can not understand how can it be possible since on most occasions they have to queue. In the subway there are special guards at the platforms to instruct people how to queue. In all cases they are trying to slip past you no matter what and you must secure your position or you will be the last, the queue will never end and you will stand there for the rest of your life.

Once the door opens everyone rushes in, sometimes even when the elevator is empty and there is no one else but two people in the queue. The biggest problem is that people who want to go in don’t let people to exit first and this creates a chaos especially in the trains in cars with seats because there are people with standing tickets who stand around, there is no space to move and it’s just crazy.

I faced the most outrageous cutting in the queue for Mao’s mausoleum. There were two white lines drawn on the ground, the people were supposed to stand between them and queue, but the lines were pretty far apart from each other and it was not a queue with one person behind another but just a group of people between two lines. Everyone was constantly cutting in the line, everyone. Once a group of old geezers, grandmas and grandpas, walked trough the center holding each other by hands and thus creating a chain, they pushed others aside and walked straight, without a stop. Surprisingly no one seemed to get pissed off and people let each other to cut. There were also guards, to make sure no one cuts in line, if they caught you cutting they sent you back to the end of the queue. But once they turned around, like little kids all the adults separated from the queue and ran forward, then merging back in before guards noticed. Not surprisingly, I did it too, I also rudely prevented people who tried to cut me in the line by pushing them back behind myself.

Though, queuing is not always too peaceful. Me and my boyfriend were standing in a line for cable cars to go see a festival on this one mountain. This was one of the biggest mistakes of my life because it took us over an hour to queue, it would have been faster to go by foot. Why did it take so long? Because yet again the Chinese were cutting and the guards didn’t give a fuck, this time the relatives and neighbors who came late shamelessly joined their family members or random friends who had queued already, so the queue didn’t move at all because mote people kept joining others in the front. This was so frustrating. Apparently not only did I get pissed but also two women in the front, suddenly they started fighting, screaming and hitting each other with their bags, pulled each other’s hair until someone separated them. The guards didn’t give a fuck. I hope they didn’t get paid either, fuckers.

10. Only in the city where it all started: Why is it that I am able to buy a sim card anywhere but can only charge it in the city where I bought it. Why is it that if I open a bank account in a certain Bank branch would a problem arise I’d have to go to the city where I opened the account, to that exact bank and also if I withdraw money from that card, in the same branch in another city the commission is much higher? Why is that I have to pay my tuition fee to a certain Bank branch but can’t do it in the city center, I must do it in the bank which is next to our university even though it is the same branch (without knowing about this rule I went ahead and did it in the city center, my teacher almost fainted after finding out. Later another teacher was put in charge for payments and she didn’t believe I had made the payment because one receipt was missing).  And anyway, why is it that the cost of the dorm room depends on the country where you come from?!

A woman I met during my travels accidentally lost her purse one evening, all her credit cards were in there. We were in Chengdu and she had opened her bank account in Wuhan in the Bank of China. She went to the Bank of China in Chengdu and was told nothing could be done, there was no way she could be able to access her account trough the Bank of China, where she had opened her bank account, that would be possible only in Wuhan and in that exact bank only. If she had no money to go there then it was her problem. In other hand, nothing is as easy as to open a bank account in China.

And all this pleasure just because the Chinese government doesn’t want people to move around, extreme restriction have to be made. Idiots.

10. The Great Firewall of China: I do not care about anything you fuckers, just let me access facebook, youtube and twitter. Fuck you all! One of my friend had a theory on why myspace wasn’t cut off in China, because the prime minister got himself a facebook and twitter account but no one wanted to be his friend so he decided to ban them, what comes to Myspace, he still doesn’t know about it.

 I just don’t get it. Chinese have their own versions of everything, what’s the freaking difference? Let the idiots mingle together so the level of stupidity can raise? Most of the citizens know how to access all banned sites without being caught anyway. The government does everything half assed.

11. China in world politics: Have you watched any interview of Chinese politicians, high ranking officials, anything related to culture, consultants etc? Now that their economy does a bit better than (the rest of the world) in the past they are basically laughing at everyone else, peeing on our faces and proudly announcing that their shit system is the best one in whole world that everyone should follow China in everything (and get ruined). China is so special, intelligent society, beautiful rich culture and all other shit, the pretty icing of a rotten cake. Sure, western politics are all the same but I have never seen anyone as arrogant and shamelessly straightforward as high ranked Chinese. The most outrageous thing is that they close their eyes from all possible social problems and lock away anyone who dares to complain. They are all balless, completely balless.

12. Snoring Chinese men: Pray to God you won’t have to encounter any of those tanks. Trust me, you don’t want to.

13. There has to be noise everywhere: In the bus they always turn on the radio, preferably as loud as possible (the best part are the music videos, ages old American videos with Chinese songs playing on the background). If the bus ride is long they might put on a movie without English subs (I once watched this hilarious Hong Kong movie. I was lucky to finish watching it because most of the times when bus stops for a break the movie stops in the middle and they won’t put it back on, instead put another movie. I never understood this ). In the shopping malls, coffee shops, parks, streets and restaurants there has to be music playing on the background, HAS TO BE! Me and a friend came up with this theory that if Chinese have to sit in silence they will grow confused and fall asleep so to keep them awake there must be noise pollution EVERYWHERE. If there is no music they will sing or yell on their phones or something else unimaginable. The parks are full of teens who play music on their cellphones or if you manage to escape from them and find a quiet place there will be a speaker hidden in the bushes, playing music.

That’s all folks

Okay, in the end I want to conclude with my box theory. They (many) live in a box, a small box, they can not understand, don’t care or don’t know what is going outside the box.  Also, they can only think about one thing at a time, multitasking is an impossible superpower (like all men in the world).  When you keep this in mind you will be able to understand those people. Don’t blame them, who would want to live in a box, seriously. But if you think in wider aspect China really has only two opinions either put it’s citizens into boxes or then let them kick the government’s ass.

In the next post I am going to write about the things I like about China. And who is Korean, Russian or Finnish, you wait for your turn!! I have plenty of rage left and no one will be spared.


A Short Story

A few words about my great grandpa.

I think it was a few years ago when I participated in a short story battle on a forum where I post my stories.  The topic was to use the following quite of Haruki Murakami “People leave strange little memories of themselves behind when they die.” And for some reason my great grandpa came to my mind. I decided to dedicate a piece of text to him and only him, actually almost everything in the story is true, except the postcard thing, and of course the fact that in the story he is grandpa instead of great grandpa, just because I was too lazy to always type ‘great’ in there too. He would be ashamed of my laziness if he knew…  So, my parents in this story are my grandparents. This is getting a bit complicated, no?

Why do I post this story here? Well while writing the previous post I was reminded of him and the place where  he lived, then I remembered about this story, this is part of me as well so I thought I should share it even though it’s nothing special. It took me one hour to dig it out since I had lost the original file, phew but here it is now. I hope you will enjoy it.

The roles have changed

“People leave strange little memories of themselves behind when they die.”                             – Haruki Murakami

I remember so little about my grandpa. These small and weird things like how he told me not to go out with a sandwich because last time when I went to play with my friends with a sandwich in my hand, one of the boys kept looking at it so hungrily. Why do I remember this and why did grandpa even care? I don’t know, for some reason this is a memory that I will never forget. Now I think that it was my first lesson about understanding other people, maybe the boy was really hungry, maybe he was so poor his family could not buy meat, maybe I made him miserable? I should have understood the feelings in his eyes during that time.

My grandpa lived a very long and, I think, a very happy life. He lived in a small village far away. I used to call it a far away place because it took us several days to get there by car and the village indeed was like from a fairytale. We used to go there every summer and I remember it being really hot. Oh, how I miss that dusty road and that old crooked house, how I miss grandpa. After his death I haven’t been there even once and it’s been so long you’d think I am starting to forget but no, I can remember that village so vividly it hurts.

My grandpa lived alone. When he was really old and couldn’t even go to shop by himself his neighbor helped him. But she wasn’t a nice lady, I heard from my mom that she stole money from grandpa. He didn’t really care nor understand anymore. But I was really angry “Why must grandpa live alone in a far away place? Why can’t he live with us? We would take better care of him. I don’t want some stupid, old lady take care of him! Let’s take him to our house” To me it seemed that my mother didn’t understand what I meant. “Look, at least she takes care of him. He can’t live with us.” Back then I thought it was a heartless thing to say but now I finally understand. What would grandpa do in a big city when he had never before been to one?

My grandpa died a happy death. One evening he fell asleep on his own bed and the next morning he didn’t wake up. My mother told me that his soul went to search for another body because this one was really tired. I thought maybe he fell asleep and was waiting for my grandma, whom I had never seen, to come and give him a kiss and then he would wake up. I actually waited for that to happen, then I kind of forgot… and time flew buy, suddenly it has been years and I grew up, in the process, forgetting how to believe in miracles.

Once grandpa went to funeral of his good friend. Not understanding what funeral means, I wanted to go too but he wouldn’t take me “I’ll bring you something good” he promised before leaving. Associating funeral with some kind of happy party with lots of yummy foods and the fact that he didn’t take me along, I sulked for a while but forgot about the matter very soon. Later when grandpa came back he gave me a chocopie. I glanced at him, he looked happy, peaceful and carefree. Maybe that was the time when he started slowly accepting the fact that soon would be his turn too. “What kind of party was it?”
He smiled an patted my head “A really happy party” just like that, without even a drop of sadness in his eyes. I wish, I would have been able to go to his funeral and then, after it, give a chocopie to my child and say with a wide happy smile “It was a good party, a happy one with lots of food and good music” I wish… I was that strong and open minded.

People become silly when they grow old. Is it because they understand that their time has come and accept it? Then all what’s left for them to do is just live the rest of their days enjoying their life to the fullest. Like children, without a single worry, day by day. A funny thought crossed my mind: as people get older they turn back into children while their children grow up and turn into adults. The roles change. My grandpa used to like watching TV late in the evening, I always angrily asked him to turn it off. When he got old he got constantly angry at me watching TV so late. That moment was the moment when our roles switched even though back then I was still very young, just a child. I remember laughing at him when he took out his glasses and started reading children’s books by himself. He enjoyed them as much as I used to… he was so old and funny and I was so young and stupid.

I liked to go to the forest with my parents, we would stay there whole day picking berries and mushrooms. When my grandpa got older he always scolded my parents “Don’t take my little girl there, she will get lost” I laughed at him “Of course, I won’t get lost. I will come back later” and when I ran after my parents he would look out of the window and shout “Don’t go! It’s dangerous” back then I thought it was weird, I didn’t know how to appreciate his worry. Now I feel grateful, he truly loved me without asking anything in return. And I still remember how happy he was when we came back. He sat outside waiting for us, complained that we were so late and then I would rush to him and start showing all the mushrooms I found, one by one. He took me on his lap and listened patiently with a happy smile on his round face.

Grandpa’s only passion were stamps. He would often take out this notebook with all kind of stamps and start introducing them to me. Next to every stamp was written a small number. You see, he only collected stamps from letters and postcards that were sent to him. So every stamp had it’s own story and he remembered every one of them. Maybe because he didn’t have so many? Now I feel guilty for not writing him even a single letter, I barely knew how to write but I always could have sent a picture. If he forgot about the story behind the postcard he took out a small box with all the postcards and letters all numbered and in perfect order. I don’t know where those box and notebook are now, maybe, no, probably my mother threw them away. I can even imagine her saying “Psh, all this junk…” It’s funny how some people’s treasure can become trash in other people’s eyes so easily.

When he got even older my grandpa became sillier day by day. He would often say he is going to die “Next summer when you come I won’t be here anymore” Even then, I felt the weight of the words. I’d be sad and confused “Why?” Nobody answered. But he didn’t die so fast “I’m happy I am still alive” he said every summer when I rushed in the house to find and hug him “Must you go? I’d like it if you stayed with me longer. Don’t take my little girl away” he would say with tears in his eyes when it was time to go back home. “Why is grandpa so sad?” I asked my mother “He is very old and a little sick” she would answer “Can’t we take him with us then?” but to my disappointment her answer was always no. Silently I obeyed “Don’t worry grandpa, see you again soon” Now I realize, I was the only happiness, the only ray of sun he had. It was me and no one else. Yet back then I wasn’t able to appreciate it. Indeed, it was grandpa who taught me the secret of happiness, love.

I wish I was older then or my grandpa would have lived longer. Then maybe we could have sat on the veranda in the evening, gaze at the stars and start a deep conversation. Maybe he would have told me his thoughts about life and death. Him, off all people in this world, I would have wanted to ask “How do you feel?” Maybe he would have said something meaningful, something I could remember now and tell my children. Then I was too young so now all I can remember are only these silly and weird memories. But in a way, I am glad. He reminds me of my happy, carefree and pure childhood as if protecting my memories, keeping them fresh and alive. Every time I remember him, I learn something new. I was my grandpa’s happiness and now he has become mine.

The roles have changed.


Childhood on the Road

Old Lada, packed lunch and angry grandma.

Just now I started wondering why do I like traveling so much. And after traveling for a while I realized that what I love about traveling the most is moving from place A to place B (except if it’s in an airplane. Those hellish boring boxes, who likes them?). You should see me every time I board a train (in Russia especially) and that smile ripping my face into two.  Train, it means I can sleep all day long, drink tea and eat my packed lunch (in China it’s just noodles and shady snacks in Russia cheese, sausage, bread, tomatoes, cucumber and tea/coffee. I have a knife but still eat everything by just biting them in the order that repeats. Cheese-tomato-cucumber-cheese-tomato-cucumber, bite bite bite). If you have been in  Russian train you might know how atmospheric it can be, especially with me on the background, biting stuff.

The story

My mom is from Murmansk and my dad from St. Petersburg, I have no idea how they met, wait I do, in university, and somehow they ended up together (until I was born and they divorced almost right after, wtf?) During Soviet times Murmansk was a restricted area even for Russian citizens and my dad told me my grandpa smuggled him there in the trunk of his old Lada (it had green seats and there was a blue rabbit, a small soft toy that had always been in the cabin, since the very beginning) for a family meeting. What a good beginning for me to be born into this beautiful world and our magnificent Soviet Union. Anyway, when I was little I remember attending kindergarten in Murmansk and in Petersburg, this means I was constantly traveling between the two cities. If you look them up on the map you will notice that they are quite far away from each other.

The methods

During soviet times flying was dirt cheap, I remember only one time when I was playing with wooden little animals and the flying attendant asked me to close the table for a while because we were taking off. I kept asking million questions and my grandma got angry. Oh yeah, I remember worrying that the plane will fall down, grandma said it won’t but I kept insisting what if… and asking if it would be possible to make a huge plastic bag for the airplane, I have no idea why I thought about this.

The trains, my dad would always spoil me with cupe, a bit better tickets and we often had that little cabin just for ourselves. Once we had to travel in an open car with my grandma and I was so disappointed an complained until my grandma got angry. I still remember that awful feeling, that it wasn’t right to travel that way, that I must have a cupe. The spoiled brat I was… Now, when I look at the prices of cupe I just sigh, it’s the double compared to open car. Damn it.

I guess the worst part about Russian trains, the cheap old soviet shits, is that they close the toilet usually 15-30 min before a stop and after. If you forget to relieve yourself, you are doomed so check the ‘only in Russian’ schedule on the door!

Once I was going somewhere with my mom and she told me to wait in the train while she went to buy something. I was afraid she would not make it back on time and I would be left alone in the train. She told me she knew what time the train leaves so she would be back on time for sure but I wondered how can she know when the train leaves (someone didn’t understand what schedule means…), I thought if a train stands and we get in it should leave very soon.

At first I agreed to sit in the train but as soon as my mom was gone I went out on the platform and yelled after her, she ordered me to go back in the train but I refused and promised to wait on the platform, too scared to wait in the train. I kept imagining (like in a movie) how my mom would miss the train and I would be left there alone, the train would be moving fast and I would be panicking like crazy. Imagine a movie scene, camera filming the train window and there is a lonely child sitting alone, that’s how I imagined it. In the end my mom came back and we boarded the train together. Kids…

The best trips, I guess were made on my grandpa’s old Lada. The longest trips took us from 2 to 3 days and the nights, of course, were spent by the roadside in the car. Just me, my stuffed animal (a fox I always kept with me. My grandma once got angry saying I should throw away this dirty toy but I hugged it tightly and said NEVER! I still have it. It smells like childhood.) and my grandparents. Grandma would be the one reading the map and my grandpa drove, in the end they always started arguing and bickering about the directions because grandpa always took at least one wrong turn. In the end we had to ask someone for the right directions. So much help from my grandma and her map reading skills. But, naturally, everything was always grandpa’s fault.

Once my mom was with us, she had gotten her license not long ago and was practicing driving, changing places with my grandpa once in a while. Me and grandma sat in the back. Then one time when we stopped the car by the roadside and my mom got out to change places with my grandpa she suddenly started panicking and her eyes were as big as plates. Grandpa wondered what was going on and when he got out he was shocked. “Faster! Get out, get out” and “Ahhhh!” A truck hit the car from behind but it was driving on a very low speed, the glass at the back shattered but no one got hurt. I remember, the power of that lovely kiss the truck gave to the ass of my grandpa’s Lada sent me flying at the back of the front seat. I cried mostly because it gave me a fright but my grandma scolded em and told me to shut up (Russian love?). It turned out that the driver had fallen asleep while driving…

Luckily, even if we were in the middle of nowhere, we were not far away from a town. The truck driver let me sleep in the truck, on the bed behind the seats. One of us sat in the car while it was being towed. My memory about this accident is a bit foggy. But I definitely remember the truck driver, he was really sorry about what had happened and promised to compensate everything. I remember pitying the truck driver and asking non stop about the fate of our brown Lada. My grandma was really angry and grandpa kept telling her to calm down. What happened after I don’t remember, but since the damages were small we got the car back pretty soon.

Every time I see a light brown Lada so many memories flow into my mind. How we stopped for a lunch break or dinner and used the trunk as a table. The Russian black bread which still tastes the same, as it has always tasted, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, sausages and apples. Once we stopped by a huge sunflower field and stole a few, yes Russians eat sunflower seeds but usually roasted. At some point there would be peach trees growing by the road, I remember seeing trucks stopping just beneath them and people collecting the fruits. Grandma always commented it’s bad to eat those peaches because they are too close to the road and polluted. But darn they were good!

The destinations

1. And lessons about life.

So where the heck did we travel since I am talking about the peach trees Surely not only between Murmansk and St Petersburg.My grandma is from Siberia, a small town not far from Perm (by the Urals) and we went there every summer as long as her father was alive. A typical Russian village with dusty road and a small lake filled with water lilies, I still remember the smell. All the houses were build by the main road next to each other so they made a big wall. What I mean you could never walk between the houses, there was always a wooden fence connecting the houses. You could not see from outside but on the other side there were huge potato fields. It looked like one big field but it was actually divided into smaller ones, owned by each resident (remains from the Soviet times?). My grandma spent days on the fields collecting Colorado potato beetles, which damaged the plants, into glass bottles. I remember my great grandpa’s little garden, several berry bushes, apple trees and such, but it was so wild and overgrown with all kind of plants it was almost impossible to get to the berries. I guess I was too small.

*Side comment: it’s 1am here and my grandma is cleaning the fridge…

Now that I think about it that was an idyllic Russian village in the middle of nowhere, something what doesn’t exist anymore. You were rich if you had a car, not everyone had a TV and people gathered to someone’s home to watch it. Now my memories feel like a movie, unbelievable. My dream is to go visit there once more and maybe next summer, I might have a chance to finally go. I still have some relatives living near there and my grandma’s sister in Perm. Whenever I look at her I am reminded of Soviet Union somehow. I hear, everything was better then.

Nowadays I hear the dusty road has been covered with asphalt and only my grandma’s alcoholic brother, she seems to have forgotten about, lives in the ruined house of my great grandpa. My precious fox toy, that house is where I found it and decided I will never let go of it the first time I saw it. And I wonder if the toys I hid under the stairs are still there, my mini kitchen consisting of empty plastic cups and such. I was afraid my uncle would give them away to this one little girl, he always mentioned how she didn’t have many toys and that he pitied her. Every year I came back and something was missing, I was so angry at uncle Misha. I still remember how he looked like, faintly.

I remember me and some friends chasing a rainbow after a rainy day, it looked like the end was just around the corner and we strongly believed there would be a treasure. A story about a man who sat under that huge damaged tree during a storm and  a lighting hitting him, but not deadly, he survived. And the nut tree, I never got to taste the nuts because we either came too late or left too early.

I also learned about telling the truth instead of lies. We came to visit a friend, her grandparents weren’t home. As we went to play in the garden my friend leaned on the loose chicken wire, sounds weird but it looked like fun. I wanted to do it too but as we both leaned on it it broke. Of course, I was blamed for it alone. Later when I came visit her grandma asked why did I break the chicken wire to which I answered  “Well, she started doing it first and it looked fun” My friend got great scolding for that and also for lying while i was left off hook and she had to apologize to me. I remember being shocked about the turn of events. That grandma was awesome.

Once those girls bullied me and a friend (don’t ask me why, but they climbed on a tree and called us names from up there), they wanted to come to our house later but I wouldn’t let them in. In the end they were literally barging in and calling us names from behind the door, I opened it and threw a cupful of sand on one of the girl’s face and hair. She started complaining loudly that she will tell her mom, she even started crying. My grandma came out and asked what was going on, the girls told her that I called them names and throw the sand. She started scolding me but when I said the girls started bullying us first and then wanted to barge in the house she started yelling at them and told then to fuck the heck off. My grandma is awesome too!

At some point some rich people build a stone house in the village, everyone’s house was made of wood. I heard a rumor that a rich family was moving in, parents and their son, about our age.  One day the girls were standing at the stairs of the house, they said the mother invited them for a birthday party of the boy. I asked if I could join too but they said I can’t because I wasn’t there when the mother invited them, moreover I didn’t have a present. I said I would be waiting for them outside, soon the mother invited them in and I stayed behind but she squatted down beside me and asked why didn’t I go in. I said I wasn’t invited but she just smiled and said she was inviting me now. “But I don’t have a present” She said it didn’t matter. Gosh, my heard fills with warmth when I tell you about this woman, she was so gentle and had a very beautiful smile. God bless her.

I remember the interior was very rich and we all felt shy, not knowing how to act in a rich person’s home. One of my friend’s accidentally broke a glass, the mother of the boy said it was okay but someone whispered that the father of the boy was really scary and he better not find out otherwise heäd scold us. After eating we went to play to the boys room and found coins on the floor, we gathered those and for us it summed up a great sun, probably something like a few dollars. One of the girls said no one would notice if a few coins disappeared, for the boy it would be nothing when for us poor that money would be more useful. My comment was “Do you know what’s that called? Stealing!” Haha, I’m so proud of myself.

At some point it was getting dark and I realized I hadn’t told my  grandparents where I was, at that time I couldn’t read clock and could not distinguish time that well. So I suddenly left, more like ran away. I remember the boy coming after me and me thinking why did he notice I left!! I ran really fast to my great grandpa’s house but it turned out it wasn’t that late yet and everyone asked why didn’t I just stay at the party, I regretted leaving so fast, still do. I’m not sure if I ever played with the boy again. Oh yeah, I think he had  a weak heart, asthma or something, that’s why he couldn’t catch me when I left.  My friends scolded for making him run.  I wonder why did he even come after me?

Another time my friend had a birthday party but I forgot to ask my grandma to buy a present. I rushed home to grab some of my stuff to give, though my grandma told me no one needs my trash, but I couldn’t understand why she treated my precious bottle caps and chocolate wrappers in such a way, those were so important to me, and pretty and I thought, of course the girl would like them. I don’t remember how this ended.

2. Abandoned.

Another place where we often travel by car was Ukraine, the city by the name of Odessa. My grandparents had an apartment there and since we came only in the summer it was rather empty. I remember when Soviet Union broke apart and suddenly we needed to show our passports on the border. That time we had to stand on the border extra long and my grandma was getting angry. The people didn’t believe or reacted late, Soviet Union was no more. And after that people in Ukraine suddenly became proud of their own language which sounded so weird to me, they speak hella fast!

What do I remember about Ukraine? Water melons, we would eat them every day and they were so good. Once I remembered finishing half of a HUGE watermelon and spending the rest of the day in the toilet. Sometimes me and a friend would eat the watermelon on the balcony and spit down the seeds, some by passing psycho old woman would always scold us but we’d just laugh at her. We were safe on the 13th floor. The sand on beaches and the asphalt were too hot to walk on bare footed.

Once I saw a little homeless puppy in front of the house and gave it some food. My grandma scolded me so much, she said I could catch some sickness from it. I remember being mad at her, the puppy was so cute and I pitied it, without a home… But when me and a friend found a wounded bird, put in a box and took care of it she said nothing. Never mind, the bird died after 2 days.

I was scared of elevators during that time (hey, have you seen a soviet elevator? You’d be scared of them too!! A total death box) So I would always walk up and down, to and from the 13th floor. Once my grandparents and uncle got stuck in the elevator and I was sure they’d die there and I will never see them again. They told me to go the third building under the window on the first floor and tell the elevator man to come fix it. I think the man said he’ll come soon but it took him hella long to drag his ass there. I was already thinking how the heck will I get back home to Russia without my grandparents and uncle but was too fast to bury them, they survived.

Once my grandma said she was going to the market and asked if I wanted to come too, I didn’t want to but once she was gone I got scared. What if she never comes back? So I went out to follow her, I remember seeing her turn the corner but when I got there she was gone. By now I was completely sure I would never see her again and that I was abandoned for good. A bypassing woman asked what was wrong when she saw me crying as if it was the end of the world, I told her that my grandma left me and will never come back. She said it couldn’t be that way.

The woman had a really gentle voice, she was sweet and kind, I remember having these feelings. She gave me a snickers and told me to come to her apartment to wait. I don’t know if she knew my grandma or something but later she came over to get me and she was SO ANGRY! I just told here wasn’t it such a good luck I met this nice woman who gave me chocolate and she even protected me from my grandma’s wrath by saying your usual “But she is just a child”. I remember my grandma asking what if she could never find me and me answering that I could have then just continued living with the nice woman.

Look at me, accepting candies from adults I don’t know and going to their apartments, this could have ended badly…

There is this one Russian card game we always played, it’s called Idiot. I remember we were visiting some friends and I always lost while we played. In the end I started crying because I felt like a loser.  Later I heard Homer Simpson say following “You know Moe, my mom once said something that really stuck with me. She said, ‘Homer, you’re a big disappointment’, and God bless her soul, she was really on to something!” Haha, now I know why I lost.

The sad ending.

Nothing is like before anymore.

Later when my parents divorced and I moved to live in Finland my grandparents would pick me up every summer and we would go traveling. It all ended eventually. When I was 10 or 11 my grandpa died from a heart attack and the old brown Lada was sold. The end. I asked if my grandma kept that blue rabbit, the mascot of the car, but she said I should have reminded her earlier. I guess the bunny was destined to stay with the car forever.

I always become so happy when I think about  my childhood, it was special and wonderful. I guess memories grow sweeter with time but I clearly remember being happy then too. Now, what is left are black and white photographs and bittersweet feelings. Hmm, I just realized my grandma got angry with me pretty often, well she still does. Some things never change.

What’s left is… to move on.