Saturday, October 14, 2006

Good Morning Baby.

I have found a new favourite song:

Dan Wilson of Semisonic & Bic Runga - Good Morning Baby . (American Pie Soundtrack)

Check out the lyrics:

Between an overload of information
And a striving for a pure dedication I
Find myself looking for the exit sign
See your pretty face in the sunshine
In the morning after staying up all night I
Want to wake you just to hear you
Tell me it's alright
And all I want to be is too much
Sometimes for me
Good morning baby
I hope I'm gonna make it through another day
Good morning baby
I hope I'm gonna make it through another day
See the stars and all the planets
Fly the great wide world and have it all
Yeah better get a ticket better get in line
I'm praying now for beautiful weather
Take a car and drive forever but I'm
Only ever sitting at the traffic light
And all the world to see is too much
Sometimes for me
Good morning baby
I hope I'm gonna make it through another day
Good morning baby
I hope we're gonna make it through another day
(And when you rise)
And when you rise you'll find me here
(Open your eyes)
And see myself reflected there
(And for a while)
A little room becomes an everywhere

Great sound :-)

So, tell my baby that "And when you rise you'll find me here, (Open your eyes) And see myself reflected there..." I hope, I can tell her that one day. So long...

Bonjour :-)

Yours Cockatoo

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On Alarm clocks.

I hate alarm clocks. I cannot remember one day, when I enjoyed the sound of my alarm clock. And I also cannot remember one alarm clock, that I liked. Even these alarm clocks, where you can put your own music... As soon as it is always the same song, causing this effect in the morning, I start hating the song and not liking the alarm. In Oestrich, I had a radio alarm clock. But at that time, when you need to wake up, (7:00, 7:30, 8:00... choose one) there is normally either commercials playing, or the weather situation or traffic report or news. I only remember two times, when I loved, what woke me up: The first time was "Cecila" from Simon and Garfunkel and the second time was "Bohemian Rapsody" from Queen. All the other at max. 8758 (24 x 365-2) times, I consequently must have disliked it.
I am pretty sure, this is because an alarm clock brings back all the stuff, you successfully avoided to think of during the last 6-8 hours. It most of the time is like a smashhammer full of To-Dos and To-Think-Abouts and To-be-discusseds, of Still-Not-Dones and Like-it-Should-not bes or Like-you-don't-want-it-to-bes, that quite agressively pulls you from the land of dreams. Not enough, it most often confronts you with a (1) too cold, (2) too early, (3) too dark morning.

Two aspects to proof this direct connection to alarm clocks: (1) when I am on holiday, I hardly set my alarm clock. And, when set it (let's say on a backpacking tour), it makes me curious, what the day will bring. It wakes me up and I am already in an exciting situation, because in an exciting place. Because when on holiday you better do what you were always dreaming of, a holiday alarm clock does not smash hard, grew office reality into your face, but it just transfers you to another phase of dreaming. I never had a problem getting up after I heard the alarm clock when I was on holiday.
(2) Other ways of being woken up never annoyed me like the alarm clock - except maybe the noise of the fuwuyuan (or other noise). No matter what they were (music, my family, girlfriends (when I had one), the sun, birds, a muhezin) they might all have been closer to the state of sleeping (dreaming?) then an alarm clock.

Conclusion: I either need a girlfriend to get rid of this problem, or I need some good advice on how to transfer that holiday attitude towards my normal life. Or both. Any suggestions? Any proposals? :-)

Good Morning, may that day be one of your best. May you get up and feel good. May happen, what you always wished to happen (like I am waiting for something to finally arrive :-) ). And may the things that did not happen just don't bother you, so that you can smile about them. May it just be a sunny great day.


(Inner Mongolia)

God bless you,

yours cockatoo

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The "Wetten, Dass..." Show.

Friday one week ago, all the people from my program went to see the Chinese Version of "Wetten, Dass". For my non-German friends: This is a very popular German TV show, which is held maybe every 4 month in Germany, where people place bets on things they are able to do. On guy for example once bet, that he would be able to catch 20 flies with his hands within 60 seconds... stars are invited to this show and they have to pledge whether or not the candidate will do it and have to offer to do something if the opposite happens.

In China they made a regular series out of this, which is broadcasted once a week. Further they made it international, meaning that there are either international guests or international candidates or both.

This time there were German candidates in the show, and the German Chamber looked for some Germans to visit the show to make the audience look a bit more international as well :-)
That is basically the way, how we got in there, and the reason why got it for free (unlike the Chinese visitors, who had to pay for it) and especially, why we again got VIP tickets :-) - Andreas and me already joked, that, if it continues like that, we will be quite known in Beijings high society quite soon :-)

At this place, I have to thank Björn very much for managing it all with the chamber, it was quite a hassle, because it had to be rescheduled about 3 times. (First, we had an exam. Then the exam got postponed. Then it got rescheduled... a big issue)

So, after a painful test in the morning and the surprising message, that the DAAD appointment with the German Chamber on the same day had been cancelled (which basically was the reason for all the scheduling and postponing and rescheduling), after a suicidal run across a 6 line street (and traffic here is the third worst that I have seen, behind Moskow and Istanbul) we finally waited in front of the CCTV building, when suddenly...
a whole hord of teenage (or at least teenage looking - you never know, Chinese all appear younger then they really are) girls started lining up left and right of the entrance door, having their cameras loaded and ready, waving banners and screaming like hell... because of us.

naaa, joking, that would be too nice :-) there was a Hyundai or whatever car driving inside the area, which had toned-glass windows and our CCTV contact person (Mrs. Shen, a very nice and 漂亮 (pretty) lady... we talked for quite some time. unfortunatley she seems to confuse me with Björn, because she has not answered my e-mail yet, but his. :-( Even though we had a much longer conversation) then told us that this is the star of the evening - something like the Chinese Robbie Williams. Anyway, neither them, nor we got even a glimse on the person, so all the poor teenies lined up for nothing *evilgrin*.
But, First lesson learned: Stars in China do not necessarily get shipped arround in Mercedes or BMW cars.
We then quickly entered the building through our special VIP entrence and were lead to our first and second row seats from backstage.
There we realized, that we were not only kind of overdressed, but even more, we were dressed boring. All the supporters from the other nations - especially from their ethnical minorities were dressed up in their traditional clothes, or at least normal clothes like T-shirt and jeans or polo. Again, it was only us who showed up dressed with white shirts and nice trousers.... But this also had its advantage, as we should shortly be learning....

We were given some inflatable plastic tubs that - on command only - were to be banged together instead of clapping. This had two side effects: first some fooling arround by... ehem... some participants ( :-) ) and second by a lot more noise then normal clapping.

Maybe some general impressions about the "live"-aspect of the show are of interest here:
It was very interesting to see it live. On the one hand, you are again closer and you feel a bit like being part of the whole show (we really hoped that the show master would not have such stupid ideas like "let's ask somebody from the first row" and we strongly insisted that we do not speak any Chinese when we were asked in advance), but the really interesting thing was (a) the atmosphere and (b) the glimse behind the scenes.
The atmosphere was very interesting. I mean it was strange to realise that there is not only you sitting there and watching the show, but that you were more or less (in terms of audience, our role for the atmosphere was clearly greater) the less important part of the audience. The more important part was only connected through the cameras - it was not present but somehow it was also omnipresent. On the other hand, we at the site had no idea about what exacly was broadcasted right at that moment, and there were no screens either. It further was strange to sit there and watch the people at the call center in the same room and hear via speaker how they talked to somebody outside... actually the sphere that we are used to belonging to most of the time...
The glimse behind the scenes directly connects to that. On TV you never see what happens at the commercial breaks, you never see the instructions given to the people on stage from behind the cameras, you never see that the decoration is actually made of quite cheap plastic and that it bears already the traces of frequent usage, you never realise, that the fancy looking door is actually a piece of plastic being hold by two assistants. You never see the female assistance sneaking up behind the stage, waiting and then reappearing with a bright smile and the next guest. You never see the camera people that actually enter the stage and move arround the people there (because, when they do, they are on air, so by that time, you see what their camera records) and you also do not get the feeling of a camera man standing right in front of you, blocking your sight, just to record the rest of the audience. You further never realised, that even the applause is planned, controlled and steered by the TV station, as well as the people from the audience who get tasks.
Finally, you also don't see who the smiles vanish from the ladies and show masters faces, once they left stage or they are not on air due to a commercial break. To sum up, life, you much better realise, how much show it all is, and how easy it all is done. It was really fascinating.

But, back to the show. As I said, we were seated in the first row, and that happened on purpose: During the show, the Showmaster introduced us to the rest of China as the representatives of various European TV stations... Björn was actually briefed on that, because he had to play the role of the German head of the "Wetten, dass" programme, but even he did not get told his new name. :-) And nobody ever told me, that I am responsible person from the BBC, but now I am. like officially. enthroned by the Chinese Thomas Gottschalk (the showmaster of the German "Wetten, dass... programme). I will go and ask the BBC for my paycheck soon :-D

---> "The boss", we were moved to the first row shortly after that picture :-)

Very funny. At least, we did not dress up for nothing :-) Björn and Thea (The Girl, who went to the Alpha with us) were even asked to be taken some pictures with... that's China and we suddenly felt important :-) In that function, we also happen to be on air much more often then the rest of the visitors.

The programme:
In short: There were four bets: The first one was a Chinese, who memorized cards in a certain order only after they have been shown to him for some seconds. The second one was a young Chinese who was able to tast the name, year and concentration of spirit that was given to him (finally an interesting task :-) ), a German lady who made baozi (dumplins) while balancing on her bike (she has actually been to the German "Wetten, dass" before, she won that night and she won back in Germany as well, as far as I remember) and a Singaporian, who dressed up like Tarzan and who walked on switched on lighting tubes.

Unfortunatley, I have not received any pictures of the German candidates. Maxie, bitte übernehmen sie :-)

One interesting fact was, that in Chinese TV, the bets were - from our point of view - a bit manipulated in a way that the candidate will win it. E.g. the first Chinese could not remember one card, so they just skipped that one. Maybe loosing the bet would mean loosing face?
Very funny were also the comments of the interpreter to the German lady, while she was balancing on her bike, making baozi - "Machen Sie weiter, sie sind sehr gut..." (Keep going, you are very good) - just as somebody would step down and say, that she does not want any more... Strange comment, at least for Germans.

It was basically the second German candidate who one an evening in that week - the first won impressively smashed beer cans on time with his hand :-). We saw him and his swoolen hand, as he sat behind us :-)

Again supporting my former hypothesis, that Chinese need to have many people, action and noise to be happy was the fact that (a) Tere were two showmasters who played the ball back and forward - one serious one and one clown and there was always a representative of the candidate on stage, who actually did much of the talking ( in the end you could also vote for the best of these representatives not onl the best candidate)... And, while in Germany during the actual performance of the bet, it is nice and quiet to not disturb the concentration or to not miss anything, in China, the whole show just continued... Sometimes to purposely distrub or distract the candidate.

Of course there were also music acts: The Chinese Robbie Williams song a heartbraking ballad which made the teenies totally freak out. The second act was performed by a rock star and the male fraction of us finally saw some appropriate music comming up... but we were so heavily disappointed. This rock star turned out to be the even better son-in-law then the Robbie Williams with his ballad... Strange China :-)

So far about the show
So, after a very nice night, we went home, smuggled a Chinese friend of us into our dormitory, as her dormitory was already locked and we did not want her to sleep in the street in front of the dormitory. This is no joke. Domestic students do that regularily, because after 10:30 they cannot reenter their dorms until 8:00 in the morning (hello Turkey :-) ) and you can see them sleeping on banks sometimes. or partying until the morning...
She actually really refused, as she said that she needs to register... So we gave her a first lesson on good Western risk assessment and decision making in this cicuumstances (the risk of getting caught and its consequences, multiplied by our sneaking and smuggling skills and experience calculated against the outlook of a night on the bank). She stayed in a friends room, while he went to sleep in another friends room. To sum it up, a very exciting night. I hope we soon get a taped version of the whole show. (Then you will see us on TV :-)

Take care, keep smiling (I hope you still are, after that long story...)

Yours cockatoo!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hola Amigos!

Sorry, I actually promissed to write a lot today about our visit of the Chinese Version of "Wetten, Dass..." and especially about our trip to Inner Mongolia... But as life is.... did I get ill. I spent the whole day in bed, with some slightly too high temperature, head ache, etc.


So, I cancelled my trip to the Great Wall (which was scheduled for tomorrow) and tried to get rid of my sickness. I hope that I am in better condition tomorrow and can write some things.

Just one thing, as it fits perfectly:
Look at the following picture, which I found on --> here
(I think it is better to just link it - due to copyright issues)

I cannot exactly identify the place where the flags were (as I did not go either) but I think it must be Tianan'men. Anyhow, the important issue in this context are not the flags, but the air. This is not fog, this is smog. Do you now understand, what I wanted to say when I stated, that you can literally cut the air here?
So, now, imagine, that I just came back home from Inner Mongolia, which means especially grasslands until the horizon, clear, (especially in the morning) very cold air and the only thing that you hearis the wind in your ears... It literally hit me like a hammer yesterday with my illness... I arrived at Beijing and it did not take me more then 4 h to get ill. I somehow imagine, that there can be found a connection between the arrival at this 15 Mio. city, with its traffic, noise, dust and smog...

So far for today.

One first picture from Inner Mongolia:

(Alleeeeeeys, Alleeeeeeys :-) --> Running Gag ;-)

Take it easy,

Yours cockatoo...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Tennis Match.

Ok, I admit, "the Tennis Match" is a bit understated of what we went to see last weekend. It was more like "THE (!) Tennis Match" here in Beijing....
The story is, that Andreas (a German friend from my program), me and three other Germans won tickets for the China Open (compare Frensh Open, US Open...) Finals of the Ladies...

Finals means that there was the ladies' doubles final (Virginia Ruano Pascual/Paola Suárez (Esp/Arg) vs. Elena Vesnina (Rus)/Anna Chakvetadze (Rus)) and the ladies' singles final (Amelie Mauresmo (F/Nr.1 in the world) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus/Nr. 4 in the World)... and we won VIP-Passes (Sponsored by Mercedes) :-D

So we dressed up (and basically were the best dressed people in our category)

(I know that I put on some weight again. You don't need to tell me. But on Friday, I ran the 15 km distance in 79:30 min, which equals an average speed of 11,3 km/h or 5,3 minutes per kilometer - which is NOT BAD! ... as a consequence I decided to sign in for the Beijing Halfmarathon if I am still allowed to- this is no joke! You will read about it)

and went there...

just to find out that VIP does not equal VIP. I mean, we were booked into the ordinary VIP category which still leaves you the seats the closest you can get to the players, which provides you with your own launch (which basically was full of homosexual Chinese men), which included a free lunch and - more important: free beer, but which still did not provide us with a special entrence, tables and service which had the VIP - VIPs. So we somehow sat in the Business Class and not in the First, as expected... Again I learned something :-) But this does not change the fact that we had a great time and that it was totally cool.

Some people might now think "yeah great, they got VIP tickets for the China Open Ladies Finals... But it is still tennis and so it is ment to be boring..." Wrong. I did not believe it myself either, but it was totally different from watching tennis on TV (which can generally be said for all live events). You are not only physically closer to the players and the match... You better understand what is going on. Maybe not in a tactical way - there the overview on TV is unbeatable, but you get a better feeling for the game, for pressure, emotions...

Anyway. The double finals were clearly won by the Spanish speaking team...

But my personal highlight of that final happened just before the award ceremony:

We all got off our seats for that ceremony, while the players waited at their banks. Suddenly, I realized that Elena Vesina was looking right up towards me and was smiling ...
So, what would you do? I couldn't help it, but just smiled back... Her smile got greater, mine as well, she wispered something to Anna Chakvetadze, I told Andreas... So, there was me, a German student in Beijing, standing in the Mercedes box at the CHina Open Finals and eye-flirting with one of the worlds best tennis players (and she also was pretty :-) ) for about 10 seconds, until the players were called to the ceremony....
This is one of the stories only life can tell, as we would say in German.
Unfortunately that was also the end of the story... There was no Russian bouncer standing in front of me 15 min later inviting me to the players' launch or telling me, that I'd better make it to Moskow soon (again ;-) ) :-(
I was a bit sad about that, but this moment still saved my day and was a very nice story to tell...

One funny thing: after the awards have been passed, the presenter announced very happily and excited that the players will now stay on the court for another moment to take a..... GROUP PHOTO!!!! And I thought only the Japanese are crazy about taking pictures ;-)

After that ceremony, we took our sponsored dinner in the VIP dinner tent... Which was very relaxing and very Western, except the food, of course... (I told you about chinese eating habbits before ;-), so it was really (!) relaxing :-) )

After that, I went straight into the LaCoste Company launch and asked, if I could have a glass of wine. The manager told me, that unfortunately this is the Lacoste VIP launch and that I would not get any glass without an invitation from the company. I told him that I was from Mercedes (which I literally said - as it excludes the fact whether or not I was only invited by Mercedes or a company representative) which opened the door and got me a glass of very nice red wine :-)

The second final and definitely the climax of the night (beside my flirting.... *sigh*....) was the singles final.

I would best discrib this final to have been a match between the winner of the America's Cup (Mauresmo) and winner of the Volvo Ocean Race (Kuznetsova). Mauresmo played very sofisticated, very elegant, while Kuznetsova was more the fighting type of player, that definitely had more force and could take more pain.

The game itself was a very interesting one: First Mauresmo had some problems, because it took her some time to get into the game. Then, she clearly dominated it and gave Kuznetsova a very hard time. Kuznetsova just rebreaked to 4-4 when....

the game was interrupted due to rain for 90 minutes. We all did not know what to do and the only information we got in that time was that "The game is interrupted due to rain and the referee is going to decide if the game is postponed or resumed. If the game is not resumed within 2 hours, it will be postponed" So, we stood there, waited, did not know what to do and enjoyed the fresh air - because the smog was washed away by the rain. We helped ourselves to the free beer and tried to get some give-aways from other sponsors. One of the employees of the launch (also homosexual) was convinced by Linda to get us some Wilson tennis balls - which he did with the words "I get the balls".... and as he returned he told me that they were "for my special friend" (which was me)... no comment. I was scared.

We further observed this:

Which was commented by the speaker as "The court is being cleaned at the moment". No comment. This is no joke. It happened about 3 - 4 times. The towels were very dirty in the end, but this was only one take away :-)

Finally the game resumed and Mauresmo was totally out of it. She lost the first sentence, did not get in the game again and received a break early in the first sentence. Now, from my point of view, the nature of her play broke through. She is an artist, a virtuoso... but if it is not her game, she does ot try and change that. There were one or two moments when I thought, she was fighting, but she gave up very early and, like a bad chil,d seemed to be a bit in a snit. She definitely was the better player in terms of technique, style and elegance, but she was lacking the down-to-earth fighting/working attitude.

Another intersting aspect: Mauresmo developed a ritual before she served: First, she looked at her racket and set up the strings (?), then she bounced the racket twiceagainst her hand and danced a bit, while looking at the ball boy and waiting for the balls. This happeed before every serve.

Anyway, Kuznetsova won 6-4, 6-0 and she deserved it, because she was the more continuous player and she did not let the cicumstances affect her so much.
So, after the awards were passed again, we tried to find the exit:

and went home... unfortunately without me being pulled into a black limousine from a Russian bouncer... :-( but c'est la vie....

All the best,

Yours, Cockatoo

Goooood Morning World!

Today is Sunday, 01.10. and it is the Chinese National Holiday., which referes to the foundation of the People's Republic of China. This holiday has 4 effects which I am going to outline now:

(1) everybody in China gets one week of. This leads to crowds and and crowds and crowds of people in the streets, the busses, the taxis, the underground of Beijing. It does not onla seem like, literally the whole of China is on the move. Imagine the whole of Germany, Danmark, Holland and Belgium having their summer holidays at the same time and they are all driving through Frankfurt. Do you get the impression? My blond head must look like a rubber duck swimming in a black sea when I move in that crowd...

(2) Parades are going to be hold all day at the tiananmen Square. This on the one hand leads again to an enforced point (1) situation, but onthe other hand will be quite a show. So I am not going to miss it. OK, OK, OK I already missed the first and supposedly for the Chinese more important part - The hoisture of the Chinese flag. But since this event is going to happen at dawn and is very popular, I had two opportunities: (a) stay up all night and take my drinks to the Tiananmen, which would not be that popular with the police, or (b) get up at.... 4? 5 at last and try to go there (and very possibly miss the whole thing because I am 10 min to late...)

(This picture reminded me of a movie from M. Bully Herbig (German Director) ... remember what the Shoshones did to declare their war on Ranger and Abahachi?.... :-) )

(3) my uncle's negotiations should be finished by today, as the chinese clients would like to take their holidays as well.. So my aunt is comming over today and you bet we have some real good fun here :-) we (雪芹, my uncle, a collegue of his and me) already did some warming up yesterday :-) - have you ever cocktails made of tried pepper flavoured wodka? excellent, I can tell you!

(4) I myself got a week off... And what would you do in that week? Consider point (1) for that decision and the fact that, although there are lots of nice parks here e.g. like that one:

(This is the park of the old summer palace, where I went yesterday. Incredibly beautiful. But I did not get a student discount at the entrence, because I am 留学生 - liuxuesheng - a foreign student. Student discount is only granted to domestic students- 中国学生 - zhongguo xuesheng price differenciation at its best ;-) ) I am still missing the feeling of some fresh, clean air (that you cannot see and that does not give you the feeling that you need to cut it to move through) some real nature and just some silence...

So, 3 German friends and me, we decided to book a 5-days trip to Inner Mongolia - This is really going to be great fun! We will take a 10 h train ride there and then start our tour together with about 16 Korean :-) I will keep you updated on it. Fact is, that I am really looking forward to going there. It is good to be on the move again and basically travelling the country is one of the major apects why I came here...
Somehow, I get the impression, that I am acting quite anti-chinese with that plan. Because - and here comes my hypotheseis: Chinese always need a crowd of people arround. As I said before, the more noisier and busier, the better is the place. This seems to be true for restaurants, but I think it also applies for the gym and e.g. a supermarket.
Especially the supermarket is an interesting field of study: I told you, that there is a whole army of shop assistants (Xiao Shou Yuan 销售员) inside that shop.. and it does not really seem as if they were to busy. So, my hypothesis is that these shop assistance are necessary to give the place a (1) busy and (2) crowded atmosphere. I mean seriously, if Chinese clients judge the quality of a place by the number of people, which are there, you need to ensure that there are already enough people there when sombody new enters the place. Maybe this is an importnat factor for marketing and sales when you wnat to do business (especially retain business9 in China. I mean, basically it is ot different to running a club or having a party back home. You need that critical mass of people who have a good time, dance and/or are enjoying themselves to make the overall party/location a good one. So, what you do is inviting all your friends, let them in for free and pay them a couple of drinks that they get going and fire the atmosphere. That is the whole concept of organising a party, isn't it?
I realised that connection last weekend, when we went to a "Neue Deutsche Welle" party in a bar here. The boss (a German) missed out that essential factor, beide making the next two critical mistakes of having no good music and running out of beer after two rounds... Basically that party was an excellent example of how not to do it.

So conclusious: If you want to run a retain business in China, you better transfer our business models and marketing concepts for event / party management in Europe to here. Anybody who is more experienced in this field is very welcome to discuss or contradict.

One more aspect: I think it is necessary for Chinese supermarkets to give them a real market flair. Whenever there is a promotion, there are not only displays and advertising, but there are really specially dressed shop assistants who are standing in front of their stand... shouting their advertision through the whole room...

Ok. I think it is a good point to stop here... I will start a new post to tell you the fascinating story of Andreas and me being at the China Open Tennis Tournament... It was really, really great fun!

Ahhh, one more thing (just to see, who of you really reads my posts :-) ) I will be going home for Christmas! So, the Uttenreuth way of celebrating Christmas can be applied in the normal way :-) My flight leaves on Decembre 22th and I will go back to China on January 2nd.

Take care and have a good weekend!

Yours Cockatoo.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hello World!

Ok Ok Ok, this was a really extended lunch brake... Sorry. I somehow got lost on the way to the restaurant, was distracted by some nice ladies passing by, found myself in a taxi to... naaa, ok. just kidding. The point is, that (a) nothing really big and interesting happened and (b) that I have a hell lot of Hanzi (汉字) to learn... Which somehow don't feel very comfortable in my memory, because they keep on escaping...
And I had my first "I-am-fed-up-with-China" phase. It was basically kicked-off by the combined effects of too little sleep, too many Hanzi, a little to much illness, too many, too noisy Chinese arround me and some other factors. It started last Sunday, when I actually planned to sleep in and recover from Saturday night, but actually was nicely desturbed by my friends the 服务员 (Fúwùyuán) which did not leave me in the best mood.
The thing is, that it is not the fuwuyuan in particular that seem to steal a bit of my energy... well ok, it is as well, but it is more particularily this country: I have the impression, this country never sleeps. It seems like it is booming (which in fact it is) and you can feel that, wherever you go. Construction work is going on 24/7, workers sleep in the street (under bridges, next to 4 lane roads on the loading space of their trucks/bicycles.. and there is always something going on, somebody working. This country is vibrating, it is humming and seems to never need to settle down. The concept of a weekend at least cannot be felt here, when you walk down the street. This lack of silence, of slowliness, of rest and relaxation (although our teachers are very keen on us having our brakes (xiuxi) during classes, even during exams - strange thing) is something that I need to learn to cope with. I somehow miss that feeling of a slow and easy sunday afternoon, where you can recharge and recover...
My progress in learning added its part to my China-fed up feeling and then... The cantine... I don't know if you can imagine that... I mean it is a about 100 x 20 m long room crowded with chinese students - all about 1 foot smaller then me, twice as quick , acting twice as hectical (and I am sometimes hectical) and about twice as noisy. If you do not move towards the counter they push you, don't imagine it like a line, it is more like a crowd, the people preparing your dish cannot wait to take your money card (you load money on it, then the book it off for payment)... I don't know. but, when I am tired and hungry, I prefer the opposite. At this place, maybe some general facts about Chinese eating manners need to be stated...
Right before, I need to point out, that I do not want to judge. I do not want to say, this or that way is good or bad. I just want to state and describe the facts from my perspective.. And maybe with one twinkling eye :-)

Imagine a normal German restaurant. I mean, not the Sausage Shack arround the corner, neither the McDonald's nor the Ritz. I bet the imagination of everybody reading this (I would not make a big difference between European /American countries in the essential points of this explanation. I would also include South America and Turkey) would be about the following:

A decent, nice, clean, quiet atmosphere. People on the tables are sitting upright, ellbows down, talking (more or less) quietly. Everybody has his own dish, the table is pretty organised and clean (ok, more or less ;-) ) Smoking is only started when everybody has finished eating. It is meant to be a relaxing atmosphere.

No, we take a look at the chinese situation. I would say, it is the total opposite. First, nobody has HIS own dish. All the dishes are placed in the middle on a rotateable glas plate. People have their little plates and bowls in front of them, where the food is normally transfered to, if not eaten right away. A spoon is sometimes found for this process. But most of it is done by using chopsticks. and, here the difference starts. Imagine eating with 7 other people on the table. I would say 7 people means about 8 - 10 different dishes (always an even number, odd numbers mean bad luck). And, as every dish normally at max existing twice on the table, you'd better catch what you want to eat, when it is passing by. This sometimes ends up with stress. Second factor is, that people feel like there is never enough for everybody from the particular dish they like best, so getting some puts you under pressure. Next thing: Catching your "flying-bye" food with your kuaizi 筷子 (Chopsticks). I mean, this is kind of an easy exercise when trying to get some of that nice gulaorou 古老肉 which is a nice meat dish, where the meat is big enough and sticky enough to be taken easily with the 筷子.But trying the same exercise with some slippery mushrooms, peanut dishes 宫保鸡丁(gongbao jiding - also very nice) or even for removing a part of fish meat from it (also a very nice dish. Unfortunately I don't know its Chinese name yet - we ordered by pictures - but it seriously looks like exploded fish and tasts very nice - kind of sweet and sour fish) is a harder thing to do, which (a) leads to some funny scenes and (b) leaves a whole mess on the table. But it is not that Chinese would judge your manners to be bad from that - it is more or less a common habit in China. This leads us to one of the most significant differences. When you leave a table in a Chinese restaurant, it is more or less a mess. And - you will (can ?) never finish all the dishes on the table (which is a very German habit). If there is no food left on the table, the host (normally one person pays for everybody and that person changes every time, a little bit similar to Turkey) is considered to be stingy. So basically such an amount of food is thrown away that my grandmother would never talk to me again, if she saw that...
Next - try and eat your rice with your kuaizi - especially after it has soaken with some gravy. It has to be mentioned that rice is normally considered to be a dish which finally fills up your stomach. So, in a restaurant, rice is not eaten at all, or only at the end of the meal - not with it (only if you are an ignorant Westener that does not want to eat his small cut meat and vegetables without a side dish - like me ;-) ) So, what you need to do is shovel it in your mouth. And what would be the best position to do so? Right, hang down your head right until it is about 10 cm over your bowl and start....
Smoking can be started right while you are eating with your other hand. Even some gunnery (compare older post) might happen.
Some funny dishes leave funny feelings in your mouth...
Waiters are basically called for throughout the whole restaurant (did I forget to tell, that it is normally that noisy that you can hardly talk to the person sitting next to the person sitting next to you? Ok , it is normally that noisy that you can hardly talk to the person sitting next to the person sitting next to you...) and they wait nicely and smiling at your table until you have found your dish and decided upon it (an about 10 min lasting process with westeners... I admire their calmness and paitience) and sometimes understand what they want to understand or don't understand at all, while another time tell you that you better have that and that and not these, because these are all too hot for our degenereated European stomaches...
The difficulty of ordering depends on the restaurant. Roule of thumb: the more upscale and international, the easier. A real Chinese restaurant at the corner has only got a menu written in Chinese characters, which leaves us to some kind of lucky guess games. Many restaurants have menues with pictures. When ordering a dish, be aware, that in different restaurants, they might bring you different things, although you said the same: e.g. 酸辣土豆丝 (suanla tudousi - sour-spicy shredded potatoes) could either be a dish very similar to french fries, or steamed potatoe strips...
Waitresses further wear traditional chinese dresses. Especially the chief waitress is dressed with a ver tight - one piece dress, that is sliced at the side from the bottom till the hipps... I try to get a picture of this, because I think it looks really gorgeous.
One more word about the noise: I think it is an important fact for Chinese to go, where are many people, where it is hectically and noisy. This is a kind of socialising element. If it is noisy and hectically, it is a good place and the Chinese are really enjoying themselves.

Basically the size of the food (you need to be able to eat it without cutting it) leads to a very much higher speed of eating, because you do not need to chew so much... which leaves to a frequent overload of your stomach and a hectical eating style.
Dishes basically contain the ingredients, which you would normally think of, when you think of Chinese food - so, the scorpions and other nice animals on the last pic can be found as snacks in the street, they are eaten but this kind of food is rather unusual.
Two last things: Breakfast is not as sweet as in Europe - Chinese have jiaozi (Sesame rolls with or without honey filling), baozi (dumplings filled with mean or herbs or nuts or plum) or a soup I have not tried so far - and soy milk.
(Any Chinese who reads this and disagrees is very kindly invited to comment and/or correct on my statements - I am only a stranger observing the people and trying out)
Second: Be careful with ordering shuiguo shala (水果沙拉 - fruit salad) you might get a bowl of fruit, but covered with mayonese. For the best 水果沙拉 west of Tianan 'men please ask Andreas or me. We always get stared upon when we (e.g. 4 people) entre our favourite place and order four times shuiguo shala. I think something like that has never happened to the waiters before...

In total, we pay for a meal about 25 - 50 Yuan = 2,5 - 5 € in a restaurant (cantine: 1 €)

Further, Chinese love dried meat, fish, fruit, nuts etc. as snacks...

So... I'd better finish that post, before I get mailbombed that I am writing to less frequently, but to much...
i just give you some nice shots that I took during the last weeks.. (For the people who do not love reading :-P)

1. The central and most important mosque for muslimes in China (yes, it is a mosque, no buddist temple!) I visited it with 2 Austrians and one Chinese. WE had a very nice day and a beautiful dinner! Unfortunatley we were not allowed to enter the mosque but still had to pay 10 yuan entrance fee - in Turkey I got in and for free!

Partying in Sanlitun after winning the VIP passes with a nice German intern I just met that day...

Sanlitun Lu:
Me at the Browns Bar (still wearing that *nice* team shirt of the day)

Manu at the Browns bar (still wearing the participants' shirt of the day):

Jägermeister Promotion Girls dancing in the bar (slogan: Dance on the bar, drink on the floor) and a guest making a fool out of himself. The free trial Jägermeister the ladies served tasted like everything but (!) Jägermeister (and I know how it tastes... at last since Stefan or that night at the Erlanger Berg...). It came close to Jägermeister flavoured Red Bull, but I would not bet on that...

My official "here-I-go-check-out-my-CV"-picture of our official introduction booklet. You can feel it, can't you? :-)

Sunday I will go to see the ladys' finals of the China Open Tennis Tournament in the Mercedes Benz VIP launch :-D I won that ticket together with my team in a tournament of dodge ball (Völkerball) last Saturday :-) Very nice, so we hopefully will get to see a nice match, have some nice food, make some interesting contacts and meet some nice and piaoliang ladies, ehem....

Take care and all the best for everyone!

Yours Cockatoo!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Good morning world!

How is everybody doing? It is more or less exactly one week ago when we last spoke... I actually planned to post more frequently, but somehow I haven't managed so far. So, fasten your seatbelts, put your seats in upright position, close your traytables, we have got a dream of a weather, good wind and we just received a strong "GO" from flight control! So, relax and enjoy a nice flight above China!

Ok, I am going to have food and will be right back.

Just: Guess who won a VIP Pass for the China Open Tennis Tournament? RIGHT, exactly. ME! So I just hope that Anna Kurnicova is making it through the qualification (or at least to the VIP launches:-) ) and we will be approaching a perfect, decent day!

See you in an hour!