while the world sets their eyes in the middle east, there’s different war silently being prepared by 1.3 billion people: the chinese new year.

words are vague to describe the insanity that this country goes through during the coming week: tons of explosives are going to be lit in the whole country. the war is going to last several days and there’s no bad time for yet another blast: every minute of day and night will be filled with loud, colourful and repetitive explosions coming from all directions possible. it’s a huge party and chinese spend large amounts of money to get it done properly. and needless to say that since their buying power is growing fast, so is the amount of explosives used.

for such a big party, they need to get ready in advance. which means, right now everyone is buying ammo and filling up their home stocks of explosives to make this new year the loudest of all. and where does one get all this gun powder? basically, everywhere. from the improvised street warehouses occupying to whole sidewalk to the wobbliest of all tables holding piles of it.



everyone is stocking up to the roof and quantity is the key, not safety. chinese see buying explosives as normal as buying vegetables, and they carry it as such: on the back of their old bikes, falling apart scooters and otherwise in their shopping bags which they hold indifferently while taking a smoke. one would hope nothing serious happens, but always does, and of course, it does so in a china scale.

i’m not very good at packing bags for long trips. i always take ages doing it and go over the items way too many times to double-triple-check everything. on the good side, i usually don’t miss anything important for the trips. usually anyway.

i just spent the last few hours packing – tomorrow i’ll be flying back to portugal for a two week holiday. quite eager on catching up with friends and family and all the goodies i miss here in china. the food, the good coffee, the proper driving, the food. oh, and the real egg tarts!

but, can’t avoid thinking how much of a reverse cultural shock is going to take place. a year in china did change me and my view about things. curious to see how it goes this time.

merry christmas everyone! :)

picture a language exchange session. in this particular one, her with a chinese colleague which was practising her english. suddenly, this question arises:

– what is this word, “jesus”?

now, how does one answer that to someone who never heard about christianity before and:

a) be completely unbiased;

b) not sound just plain weirdo;

c) resist the temptation of leaving the person in the bliss of ignorance.

any takers?

so yesterday i went for an haircut. wanted it short and simple, but it never is around here. having an hair cut in china is everything but trivial. chinese have a whole cult around cutting their hair for which i still don’t have a good explanation.

for starters, a barber shop is not just that. it’s usually a hair salon and a massage parlor and a spa, all-in-one. they are all open till late in the night and that’s when they get crowded with the clients. in many things, they resemble a bar: you go there at night, it has loads of colorful lights, loud disco music playing and a very young staff crew running around. chinese love it, which doesn’t necessarily mean foreigners do too.

if i overlook the fact that communication is always an issue, there’s still plenty of oddness involved. a simple man hair cut, as i see it, means sitting down, getting it cut, possibly a quick washing afterwards to tidy up, pay and leave. but not in china.

the whole ritual involves many runs to the sink to wash: before, after and in between. if it’s a real chinese place, after the first wash they will want to clean your ears with cotton swabs. and let me make that clear, they don’t hand you the cotton swabs for you to do it. they stick them into your ears and start swirling around while they get distracted with a passer by or look at the time.

and then there’s the massage act. it always comes in the package and sometimes is good, others not really. usually it starts by massaging the hair and then it goes down through the neck and might even reach the arms and hands. one would hope it’s soft and relaxing, but it’s not when they shake you so bad that make you look like having a seizure.

the one i went yesterday had a particularity: all their mirrors had written “you are quite attractive”, together with a large yellow smiley face. is this a whole new level of head washing which also includes the brain component? no idea. at least hair cutting in china is never boring, i’ll give them that.

one year and a half ago we arrived in shanghai eager to learn about a different culture and experience how is to live in a city with 15 million people. coming from an european country with little over 10 million – total, it was quite a change of scenario.

so was it professionally. i started by having do decide between going to the rat race of a large corporate company, or follow my passion for web development in a smaller company whose rooftop leaks in rainy days. i’ve decided for the later, and haven’t regret since.

but, life is made of decisions, and yet another big one just came by. it’s now time for me to rethink goals and trace a new plan for the future. to face the white canvas and pick the right crayons from the box.

and while the plan boils, it’s the perfect time for the geek in me to recover it’s digital life, and with it, save this long abandoned blog – more posts to come. it’s time to refresh.

according to my mandarin teacher, destiny – or mine at least -, fits in a tiny little post-it. and it is easy to predict: my birth date and time, some page flipping on some mysterious book, and there it is, my faith on a piece of paper.

and of course, a big part of chinese people believe in all that, but who can blame them? americans invented the fortune cookie and the world still believes they are chinese, so in the end who’s the folk story believer?

my destiny

0.50eur for a large flower bouquet. it’s easy to be a nice boyfriend in china.


we live in a 31st floor. on a good day, the elevator takes a full minute to get up here. but that’s when it doesn’t stop every other floor, so in average it takes a lot more than that. and of course, this goes at least twice a day.

it could be quite a waste of time, but then we have a view over shanghai skyline that makes up for all those lost minutes.

Shanghai Skyline

photo by her.

it’s 6am. the sun is out and about for one hour and outside it’s already 30°c. down in the park i can see a bunch of old timers doing tai chi or playing badminton. and on the streets, streams of bikes and scooters ride in every direction.

yesterday she said that sometimes it’s still hard to believe we are in china. sometimes it’s not. :)

despite we are both having mandarin classes, none of us dares yet to speak it: even the very basics take a long time to grasp; and, since in general chinese people don’t have any english skills at all, we haven’t been talking much with locals here.

having said that, i would like to announce that yesterday we were able to communicate with one chinese couple we met in the elevator. in dutch.