Monday, October 21, 2013

No news is good news

After getting together with Ann (张晓) I have not been sending any updates here to the blog, leaving some people wondering whether that is a good sign or a bad sign of how things are going.

It is a good sign. In short, we have been chatting a lot every day, sending each other letters, I have visited her in Beijing twice (three weeks in June and one week now in October), I have spent much time with her and her parents, she is planning to visit Finland in January and in summer 2014 we are planning to get married in China and then move to live together in Finland. She is very sweet and sensitive and thoughtful woman and we value and respect many things in each other.

So a lot of good things have happened, our love relationship is progressing well and we have had very happy moments together. These things have kept me busy and the free moments I have for writing I have mostly chosen to write directly with her instead of updating this blog.

The fact that Ann has so much time available for our relationship is in stark contrast to the sad and silent times I was increasingly experiencing with Jinlin during the last year of our relationship. I can see now, that writing the blog was for me often a way to keep up the commitment and feeling to the relationship in the days and weeks when Jinlin could not be or would not be in contact with me. Like I wrote in August 2012 in To wear a robe, to write a blog: "The main reason I am writing a blog is to reflect and focus on my thoughts, emotions and identity regarding my life and relationship to Jinlin." Still I did not start to write the blog until being together with her for 10 months, mainly because in the earlier times of our relationship she had enough time for me for us to reflect on these things together and directly.

So... things are good, hopefully continue to keep getting even better and I might still send later some updates here about my adventure :-) 我 也 继续 学习 中文 , 现在 知道 更 多 单字 :-)

Me and Ann in Beijing in July

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Meet Ann

Just a few weeks after returning to the Chinese dating scene I have hit gold. Her English name is Ann, Chinese name 张晓 ( Zhāng  Xiǎo ), she is 27-year old building architect from Beijing. She has done part of her studies in Netherlands and she speaks good English (not a strict requirement for me, but handy for possible later integration to Finland). But most of all she is very sweet and thoughtful and we have spent lots of time virtually together and things are moving fast - as they should when there is good mutual match and interest. What a world of difference to the sad stagnation we ended up with Jinlin!

So my flight-tickets for a three-week holiday in June in China, originally bought to see Jinlin and later re-assigned for some personal travel in Sichuan, have once more been getting a new and very lovely purpose: spending time together with Ann, learning more of each other, planning our future together and meeting her parents (which, if you know about traditional Chinese parents, is a Big Thing)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ending on a higher note

In some way, the ending of my relationship with Jinlin resembles the death of a beloved but very old and ill grandma: all parties know (or at least sense) that the end is near, all have been preparing to take the hit, and when the time comes it is a "good death" as far as deaths can be. And still, of course, it does sting occasionally for some time, especially when the good moments, the commitment and earlier small successes in the relationship come to mind.

To end the story of me and Jinlin on a more cheerful note than the previous blunter words, I post here the Karaoke-recording and picture slideshow I made for her for her twentieth birthday in April. We both used to enjoy Karaoke  together and in the beginning of our relationship used to send each other similar recordings of songs. This is Stings "Fields of Gold" and some of my pictures from our time together:

Jinlin was happy about this piece and that's a nice thought even if relationships are not always meant to last.

Me and China, part 2

When I started this blog in August 2012, one of my aims was to strengthen and focus my commitment and understanding of our relationship, especially on times of low communication. While the low communication in the end become insurmountable and this purpose can't be served any more, some purposes still remain, at least for a while. There are still many topics about Chinese culture, Chinese language and my travel experiences left in my list of planned writings and I want to finish those. Perhaps this blog will after that drift to hibernation, perhaps it will remain alive with a slightly adjusted direction, I don't know. In any case I have enjoyed writing and am happy of each moment of reflection these posts have given me. The page views will soon break 10 000 mark and I have also had interesting discussions with some of you readers behind the scenes.

Another side-track that evolved during my relationship with Jinlin is of course my Chinese language studies and the related software I developed for reading and writing Hanyu. These have definitely grown to be enjoyable and valuable hobbies on their own right and I am likely to continue both, seeing how far the slightly reduced motivation in my new situation will take me.

Furthermore I still do have flight tickets in my pocket to Chongqing in July for three weeks. I bought them in April when we still planned to do travelling together with Jinlin and I am not planning to throw them away. But instead of travelling from Chongqing eastward toward Xinxiang, I think I'll head westward to the mountains of Sichuan, that feels good idea :-)

Fish in the sea

Because in the last times of our relationship, Jinlin was almost completely fading away from communication, the ending of the relationship does not bring any immediate dramatic changes on practical level. The most significant effect of letting go of course is the world of possibilities that follow: Like Jinlin said: 我 不想 浪费 你的 时间,你 可以 重新 寻找 你的 爱 ("I do not want to waste your time, you can find your new love"). That is, of course, is a prospect to cherish in this wonderful world: new wonderful women, new possibilities of finding new love.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's over now

It's a cliché, but sometimes love is not enough. We broke up with Jinlin. 

After the promising rise from silence in April, things soon turned bad again. Our last good mutual chat was on Tuesday 23.4, on her twentieth birthday. She had been ill and weak again but was still expressing happiness about a karaoke-song I had sent her as birthday present. We also did some planning for my next visit to China in July (she wanted to travel to the seaside). After that day I continued to write her daily messages - some smaller, some bit longer - about my life and asking her small questions about how things are going. But her communication to me fell again to close to zero, to lower level than ever. During the past three weeks, she only come on-line to our chat program for five short occasions, writing some individual disconnected sentence and disappearing quickly again, leaving my replies disappearing to silence.

This kind of silence leads to sadness and frustration. I grew increasingly pessimistic about the future prospects for our relationship, the future prospects of me being able to tolerate the kind of empty sad missing. While love is natures way of keeping people together, frustration and it's brother anger is natures way of distancing people and helping them to split apart when things are not working out. So even though I had not received answers to my earlier emails, I wrote few days ago another longer letter, this time being very direct about my frustration:
"[...] If you do not want to be with me, if you do not want to have relationship with me, you should say so and I will stop writing to you. I very much hope you could directly tell me if you want to continue our relationship or not. 
But if you do want to be with me and do want to continue relationship with me, you really must start writing me more often, replying to my messages more often. There is no other way. Your silence towards me cannot continue like this. I understand you have love for me hidden in your heart and I appreciate that. But that is not enough.  
You do not need to talk about your love if that is difficult. You do not need to talk about our future plans together or about your mother or your studies if that is difficult. You have said it is difficult for you to open your heart. I am not asking you to open your heart. But you do need to talk of something, anything. You can for example write: "it was a hot day in Shanghai today", or "I ate some nice noodle soup today", or: "today in school we were studying oil painting." You do not need to write long messages, just something small every day, perhaps single sentence, perhaps two. With your new cellphone you should have no technical problems in writing me something small every day. 
And you need to reply in some way to the messages I send you. There is no other way. Do you know how much sadness, pain how much fear and frustration I have gone through when I have sent you positive and supporting messages, small messages or large messages, questions and comments, frequent messages and infrequent messages - just to get absolutely nothing replied for several days and having no other way to reach you? Things cannot continue that way.
In the first months of our relationship we could chat and talk for hours every day. We have written each other hundreds of pages of all kinds of topics from love to careers and families and hobbies. That was great and lovely time, but I fully understand and accept that you do not have any more the possibility for such high level of communication and I am not asking you for such level of communication. I am only asking you very little: one minute of your time every day writing me something small about your life. That's all I ask. But if you cannot give me even that small thing, if you keep me enclosed in silence like in the recent weeks, it makes me too sad and frustrated. 
I don't want to continue a relationship that makes me so often so sad and rarely happy when I would be content with so little words from you. I have spent several hundreds of hours learning Chinese to better communicate with you and now you only write me one random sentence per week? I do not deserve such neglect. If you continue to ignore my messages, if you continue to write me so rarely despite me writing you more often, and if you do this without explaining why you cannot do this simple small thing I ask from you, I cannot continue my commitment to this relationship with you, we cannot have a future together and I will not any more be your boyfriend and you will not any more be my girlfriend."
I did not want to send this letter in English, so I decided to wait for the next weekend to have time to rewrite it in hand-crafted Chinese to minimize translation errors. I did not expect any reply from Jinlin to this letter either but I had decided I would unilaterally declare the relationship over and myself single two weeks from her expected non-reply.

Fortunately I never needed to bring her more guilt and pain by these harsh words of ultimatum: in a remarkable coincidence she wrote me email today - her first email in two months - and suggested herself ending the relationship. She was citing mostly the same reasons I was going to send her but also added a significant new piece of information:
我们   分手        吧 我们   可以  做    朋友 ,
Let's split up. We can still be friends.
我  基本    没有     时间      上网,
I basically don't have time to be online.
我  最近     憋        了  很  久   ,我  这样      不好  
I have been withdrawn for a long time, I have been bad
大约           还有     5 年   我  才能      离开       中国  ,
It will still take approximately five years until I can leave China.
我  会  好好     的  学习      然后     赚钱           。
I will study well and then earn some money.
我  不想          浪费      你 的  时间 ,
I do not want to waste your time
你  可以   重新       寻找      你 的  爱 ,
You can find a new love
I replied her agreeing to split up, confirming my unwillingness to wait for five years with such minimal level of communication. The end definitely feels sad - as it should - but my life is currently in other ways very stable, happy and rich with content, so I don't doubt that I will get over the ending of our relationship.

Her mail also had some words that I found at the same time cute and displaying surprisingly mature character for her age:
在   五   年    以后    你 如果    没有     爱 ,
If you do not have other love after five years
我们    可以   选择       在一起。
We can then choose to be together
That seems of course highly unlikely but it was still a nice gesture from her to think of such possibility.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Compliant and the Rebel

In China appearance is often more important than content. In Confucian philosophy one should keep calm, cover emotions and display a standard façade regardless of turbulence, individualism and rebellion one has inside. This can be seen in much of the art teaching in China: more priority is given to studying and faithfully reproducing classic painting styles and conventional motifs rather than individualistic, controversial, unique, modern or radical approaches to art. Perhaps the communist leaders consciously encourage such conservative ways, since radical art and radical artists often correlate with radical political ideas as seen in the famous case of Ài Wèi wèi.

Jinlin has produced many paintings and drawings during her comprehensive school, high-school and university times. Most show such classical styles and motifs executed with admirable skill. I have discussed before some of her earlier paintings, including a work that won a significant art competition, and here are some more examples:


While these are very beautiful and display great talent, it is also great that she occasionally makes more personal drawings "outside the curriculum", displaying spicy personal flavour and fire from the rebellion she is going through at the moment. Look for example at this wonderful beauty she sent me recently:

Quite a deviation from her mostly modest and prudent ways ;-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Silent love

Ah, poor girl! Once more Jinlin has been quite silently suffering of multiple troubles before opening up about them. One month ago I wrote about her dramatic breakup with her mother and hope to her her to Finland rather soon. Well, that did not happen. In our rather patchy communication in the following weeks she was telling that she has not been able to proceed with the bureaucracy related to VISA and travel arrangements. I guess her intentions also changed, her moments rage to quickly leave everything behind fading somewhat. Now it seems that while her relationship to her mother has not been restored, she does continue her art studies in Shanghai for the time being.

Our communication has been patchy partly because of technical problems (her phone has been broken and the internet connection in her dormitory is not working), partly because of her overtly busy study schedule, partly because physical illnesses (she has been at times in hospital for treatment) and partly because of her ongoing insomnia, stress and anxiety. What is the relative contribution of these different factors is not quite clear to me: patchy communication makes it also difficult to find out exact reasons for the patchy communication.

But every now and then we do have long chats and she opens up about her worries and feelings and I try to comfort and help her as well as I can. Telling of the woes of her recent weeks, she wrote sad words:
我  最近     很  委屈    。 我 哭  了 快    一 个  月
wǒ zuì jìn hěn wěi qu 。 wǒ kū le kuài yī gè yuè 
I have had much grievance recently. Nearly a month I have been crying.
我  想    摆脱     自己   内心     。 很   多  不好    的  毛病      。
wǒ xiǎng bǎi tuō zì jǐ nèi xīn 。 hěn duō bù hǎo de máo bìng 。
I want to cast away my heartVery many bad defects.
She had also been running out of money and she had been resorting to getting some money in ways I found quite desperate and sad:
我  把 我  的 头发    卖掉    了. wǒ bǎ wǒ de tóu fa mài diào le  
I have sold my hair
我  剪   了  短   发  。把  长发      换成        了 200元
wǒ jiǎn le duǎn fā 。 bǎ cháng fà huàn chéng le 200 yuán  
I cut my hair short. I got 200 yuan (30 euros) from the long hair.
Why, oh why, did she not tell me earlier of her troubles? Why did she not ask for help earlier? I cannot do many things from far away but I can write her comforting words and I have plenty of money I am happy to use to help her. She had me some answers, the crux of the matter being:
我  不想      麻烦    你 。wǒ bù xiǎng má fan nǐ 。  
I did not want to trouble you.
Well, there we go again. The overtly polite, non-demanding and secluded nature of Chinese mentality and Confucian philosophy: taking you almost rather to your grave rather than complaining or asking for help. It might still barely work if the other partner is fully in tune with the subtleties of the mentality and physically nearby to read all non-verbal hints. But neither of those is the case in our relationship. So then, as the Chinese say: 我 没办法 wǒ méi bàn fǎ : there is nothing I can do if she does not talk to me.
Bunny doll Jinlin crafted for me as a gift
in 2011 and pillow I made for her.

I have now sent 10 000 yuan to Jinlins bank account to ease at least her money trouble if not anything else. I have told her (once again) that I love her, that she should not be afraid to talk with me about anything at any time and urged her to buy immediately a new phone (she said she will) so that at least there would not be any technical difficulties in keeping in contact with me.

And she did give me something: some very beautiful words, words that I can keep in my heart when I patiently wait for a better tomorrow for us together:
抱歉      . 我 不善     于  表达     爱 。
bào qiàn . wǒ bù shàn yú biǎo dá ài 。
I am sorry I have not been good in expressing my love.
和  我 小时候         经历     有关    
hé wǒ xiǎo shí hou jīng lì yǒu guān
It has something to do with my bad childhood events.
谢谢     你  理解    我 。 默默   的 爱  。
xiè xie nǐ lǐ jiě wǒ 。 mò mò de ài 。
Thank you for understanding me. Understanding my silent love.
中国       的  爱 。 是  在   心里    。我  爱 你  在  心   。
Zhōng guó de ài 。 shì zài xīn li 。 wǒ ài nǐ zài xīn 。
Chinese love is hidden in the heart. I love you in my heart.
给   你 个  礼物   。我  的 爱  。
gěi nǐ gè lǐ wù 。 wǒ de ài 。
I give you gift: my love.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fuck you, politely

Each language seems to have developed their own interesting culture-specific ways of cursing. Consider, for example, the extremely versatile work "fuck" in English languageIn addition to the purely sexual meanings, it can be used to express, among other things, resignation ("Oh, fuck it!"), trouble ("I guess I'm fucked now."), aggression ("FUCK YOU!"), Disgust ("Fuck me."), Suspicion ("Who the fuck are you?"), Directions ("Fuck off.").

Cursing is something that is usually not taught in language courses and lessons, so it takes some time in a realistic language environment to start getting grasp of the bad words. Chinese is very polite language and Chinese are polite people, so it is no wonder that swearing in Chinese language usually involves clever disguises and alternate expressions. Jinlin in particular is very polite (perhaps too polite?) in her correspondence with me, but she sometimes posts messages and status-sentences on QQ social network that show more natural Chinese slang. Some time ago when she was outraged about one of her university study-mates being robbed on street in Shanghai, she posted:
想不到 TMD 什么 上海 ? 还有 抢劫 ? 
xiǎng bu dào  TMD  shén me  Shàng hǎi  ?  hái yǒu  qiǎng jié  ?
Literal word-by-word translation for this is: "Unexpected TMD something Shanghai?  Also robbery ?" The interesting part of course is "TMD", inserted with western characters in middle of the Hanyu sentence. As was revealed by my later chat with Jinlin and interesting article on Chinasmack site, this turns out to be a doubly-disguised swear-word.

The first layer of disguise involves the usage of western characters that act as initial characters of the underlying Chinese words pinyin. In this case the underlying Chinese is 他 (Tā) 妈 (Mā) 的 (De), therefore the letters T, M and D. What's the meaning of those? 他 (Tā) means "he", 妈 (Mā) means "mother" and 的 (De) is possessive suffix, so the meaning is "his mothers".

Not so bad, huh? Well, now comes the second layer of disguise. Turns out that the three-letter curse leaves the critical first and last character away from the full five-character curse. The full sentence is:
肏     他   妈   的    屄 
cào    tā    mā  de    bī 
肏 (cào) means "fuck" (in the sexual sense) and 屄 (bī) is "cunt", so now after the deciphering we have "fuck his mothers cunt". Fluent readers or listeners can infer this from the seemingly innocent letters "TMD" :D

Fucking Alpacas

The subtle tonal variations of Chinese language also provide endless possibilities to disguise swear words. For example, in todays slang, you can tell your fellow Chinese to go fuck their mom by saying "Alpaca" in Chinese. Alpaca, as we know is a small Llama-like animal of South-America

So how is this possible? In Chinese Alpaca is called with a literal meaning "Grass mud horse". "Grass" is 艸 (cǎo), "mud" is 泥 (ní) and horse is 马 (mǎ), so pronunciation for Alpaca is "cǎo ní mǎ", which is just few innocent tone changes away from "cào nǐ mā" which is 肏你 妈 meaning "fuck your mom". How convenient ;-)