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The all new Cecilie's Pen & Wok Blog

Beer-Linda Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comOh no. Just as I thought my life was going fine - boom! The Health Department of Norway hits me (us) through VG (the Norwegian The Sun but woke) with a deadly blow: The only good alcohol is no alcohol. 



Mind you, this is the same dept of health that said the more "vaccinations" against a certain flu, the better it was. No one was too young to be medically experimented on. Closing down of schools: Healthy! Closing of most businesses, especially restaurants: Nothing could be better! 

Beer-pouring Pen & Wok Blog -

But yes, almost everyone I know, including me, could probably do with drinking less. But nothing? Ever? I think we have seen recently what happens in societies where alcohol isn't allowed. To get the necessary sugar they have to rely on sweets, with which they celebrate in the street when they have just butchered 1400 Israelis, for example. 

Drinkers, although they can get individually or sports relatedly violent, don't as a rule behave like that. 

Anyway, whether one should enjoy a beer occasionally or not, no one can deny the beauty of beer in the afternoon light. It shines like an amber necklace. Beer is beautiful. 

Beer-a-beautiful-amber-jewellery Pen & Wok Blog -

So although I agree that alcohol can be devastating and has been the ruin of many, I also don't trust the Department of Health in Norway. I think I will leave it up to me to decide, and anyway I live in Spain. 

This week's Cantonese podcast is also about alcohol to a certain degree; it's a chat with my old student Peter,  

also known as ah-Dak, fond of beer but doing alright. 

Toilet-beer-Xinjiang Pen & Wok Blog -

I would say a beer enhances language learning too. Especially Cantonese! 

But with or without beer, now you can Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese: 飲多啲啤酒  Yam doh di beeh jau - drink more beer

CantoNews from Exile:

Sorolla-mother-and-child Pen & Wok Blog -

The Arts Society of Mallorca! Although it is a club that wants to have me as a member, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I want to be a member of it. 

A few months ago I wrote about the painter Joaquin Sorolla, known as Master of light (as were Rembrandt, Vermeer and several others) and how I would never have known about him if it hadn't been for an excellent and entertaining talk at said society. 

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Why Sorolla? Because I like beautiful things - and skill. In a time where, in my home country Norway for example, a guy spurting paint out of his arsehole on stage is called "artist" and receives millions of taxpayers' money, it's such a relief to look at real art and know it's arty art for art's sake.

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Sorolla is of course a big part of Spanish culture, and so prolific - he churned out about 3,000 paintings, most of them large to enormous, as well as some 20,000 drawings. He became rich and famous from the get-go. Well deserved! 

I had been itching for a trip for a long time and now I had my excuse - I would visit Sorolla's gaff in Madrid. 

As usual I chose the slow route: Balearia's tried and trusted boat to Valencia, which is fast becoming my favourite city. It looks and feels very much like Guangzhou, home of Cantonese culture, with its colonial style buildings, laid-back atmosphere and canopies of mature trees. Walking around and sucking in the wonderfulness was a holiday in itself, and bugger me if I didn't see, as I was walking to my now favourite coffee shop, a Sorolla extravaganza! 

Sorolla-Clotilde Pen & Wok Blog -

It turns out he was born in Valencia and it really is so much more him than the stern and forbidding Madrid. 

The extravaganza was laid out like the immersive Van Gogh show that toured the world last year, set to evocative music and with the pictures moving, water twinkling, birds flying etc. 

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But I thought the Sorolla one was much better as it didn't have the same self portraits popping up again and again. Sorolla's pictures are much more romantic and dreamy anyway, and of course he was the Master of light. Van Gogh's Potato Eaters, why is that supposed to be so great - in fact the most expensive painting in the world? Naw, give me some people repairing a sail in sunshine. 

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Then it was on to Madrid by train with my tarjeta dorada (gold card, yeah, one of the few good things about being seen as a pensioner) to find the main train station so far away from the town centre it might as well be an airport. I think stations should be centrally placed. But I was on a mission, so just dropped my bags at the hotel and walked over to the Sorolla gaff - it took 41 minutes of mostly insane traffic on six lane roads.

Sorolla-garden Pen & Wok Blog -

Only to find it closed for some festival. 

How about putting it on the website? Just a thought. 

The next morning I tried again, and this time it was open, with lots of people already waiting in line. Yeah, worth the trip! Do it. Also, he wore a suit even while painting. The arsehole "artist" has probably never seen a shirt in his life, let alone a suit.

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What has this got to do with Cantonese, you ask? Well, a lot! Cantonese is also art. 

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese: 畫家  - Wa ga - painter

Today's Cantonese: 

IMG_2932 Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comIn Mallorca we have an excellent Facebook page called I Have a Question where all your enquiries about Spanish bureaucracy, parking fines and the opening times of supermarkets are quickly and succinctly answered.

The other day somebody was asking about an area of Palma called Son Gotleu. "...does anybody live in the area. How is it? I hear it has a bad reputation." 

An avalanche of answers ensued, ranging from "It's great, I have lived there for nine years, never had a problem, can walk home at night" to "avoid, it's full of squatters, dangerous, a ghetto". 

I had to see this mysterious place for myself, and legged it over there the next day. As I thought, it was completely calm, quiet (admittedly it was All Saints' Day, a national holiday but all the shops were open) and, to my joy, with waving and greety people. 

Mallorca_map Pen & Wok Blog -

There was a lot of what looked like four and five floor government housing, and I was immediately transported back to my beloved China whose cities and towns used to look like that. Surrounded by mature trees and a couple of little parks, the public housing in Son Gotleu looked very village-y and neighbourhood-y, not at all the Irkutsk anno 1972 that I had been envisaging. There you go - reputations are important but one must also look for oneself. 

It made me think about Shenzhen, the Chinese mega-city just across the border from Hong Kong. It was my favourite overnight or short weekend trip destination, with its Lo Wu Shopping Centre directly connected to the station through tunnels and walkways. 

IMG_2682 Pen & Wok Blog - PenAndWok.comMy tailors and I.

You could spend a month inside that shopping centre. It had tailors and cobblers, even a hat maker. It had everything in food and spices, electronic toys and phones, and all for a 10th of the price in Hong Kong. It had several shops where you could have your eyesight tested and get designer glasses - but they cost 150 HK$ instead of 4000. 

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Fake handbags, often made in the same factories as real ones, were a must, as was a lot of fake jewellery and somewhat real semi precious stones, as well as a jewellery shop that made sparkling stuff for dancers and other entertainers:

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There were foot massage parlours, full body massage parlours with and without happy endings, a "western" restaurant (shudder) and at least four large dim sum places. Yummeeee! 

You could have a full set of bed linen and several cushion covers made in a couple of hours, and a shirt overnight. 

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I used to take my students there on "language seminars" to have clothes made and learn how to haggle. Oh, how I miss haggling. What's the fun in paying what it says on the price tag? Price tags are just there so you know where to start haggling, namely at a tenth of what it says. No one respected the foreigners who just paid up, thinking it was already cheap. 

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Anyway, that place, like Son Gotleu, also had a terrible reputation among people who had never been there. You would get robbed, killed, yes eaten alive. One particularly stubborn story had a foreign woman, nationality unknown but, you know, white, abducted from the staircase between the 3rd and 4th floor. Or was it the 4th and 5th? 

Several people told me this, wide-eyed and in all seriousness, when I said I was setting out on one of my hundreds of trips to this shopping and enjoyment paradise. 

But no matter how many hours I spent inside that shopping centre and how many kilometres I wandered into Shenzhen itself, I never saw or fell victim to any crime. 

Shenzhen-Lo-Wu-restaurant-yam-cha Pen & Wok Blog -

So that's why I took the Son Gotleu stories with a pinch of salt, although it has to be mentioned that during lockdown, that area was twice as locked down as other areas, with a cordon around it. It is densely populated, that's true, and not everybody there seems to have caught on to the idea of rubbish bins. 

But I didn't see any human poo anywhere, which is more than I can say about the very nice, high reputation neighbourhood I live in! 

Talking about poo, here is the latest Podcast from CantoNews from Exile, featuring my dear former student and friend ah-Bek. I recommend seeing the poo of others ONLY under glass in the Viking museum in York, and NOT in the street where you live. 

Learn cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese:屎 - Si - poo



CantoNews from Exile:

Dim-sum-5 Pen & Wok Blog -

There comes a time in the life of every exile when you simply MUST have the food of the old country. 

Such a time came to me yesterday when I was editing episode 7 in my podcast CantoNews from Exile. In this episode, former Cantonese student Gregg (ah-Dak) who now whiles away his days in California, joined me in reminiscing wistfully about Hong Kong.  We lingered especially long on all the wonderful dim sum we had had there, and what the real meaning was behind the names of the dishes. Innocent sounding Chin Cheung Fan (煎腸粉)for example, actually means pan friend intestine flour. 

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And Chinese people don't even say "dim sum" - they say 去飲茶  (heui yam cha, go to drink tea.) This and many other misunderstandings can be totally got out of the way when you take Cantonese lessons from me! 

But I digress. 

So while editing this stuff I felt an uncontrollable urge to eat ha gau, siu mai, lou mai gai... NOW! I started googling dim sum in Barcelona, dim sum in Valencia, even Madrid! For I had to have it. I planned to go and come back on the same day, leaving my dog with some tins of food and a can opener. 

Then I thought, hang on, I haven't even checked if they do any dim sum here in Palma. I knew Kung Fu China used to do it and good it was too, but that closed during Covid. But bugger me if a new restaurant called Made in China (haaaa) hasn't sprung up, 25 minutes' walk from my house. And they had dim sum. 


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Living in exile you can't ask too much, that a restaurant calling itself specialists in Cantonese cuisine should have any Cantonese speaking staff, for example, but at least the ha gau tasted like it should. The less said about chicken rolls with mango drenched in curry mayonnaise, on the other hand, is perhaps the better. 

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I will still go to Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid, see if I don't! But at least I managed to stave off the worst hunger pangs. And it took the bitter edge of re-listening to this podcast: 


Thank you again, ah-Dak! Please come back soon. 

Meanwhile, everyone who wants to delve deeper into the wacky world of Cantonese can just contact me here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese: 蝦餃  Ha gau (NOT "kau"!) Prawn dumpling 






CantoNews from Exile:

Titanic_4 Pen & Wok Blog -

Summer had been going on for a while and I hadn't done anything cultural for months. I was feeling, quite simply, uncultured. Culture-less. Then on a dog walk one morning I was riveted by a beautiful yet poignant sight: The bow (stern?) of the Titanic, rising up from the waves, unaware of what was to befall her only a few days later. It was, in short, a poster for a Titanic exhibition.

I was in there like a shot - well, a few weeks later - because I am fascinated with the story of the Titanic and have read many books about it. I also accidentally watched the film Titanic, against my will, on a long haul flight. 

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The exhibition was... well, beautiful. They also played the kind of funereal music that will make the tears start running as soon as you walk through the door, even if the coffin contains a total stranger. The best thing about the exhibition was a large model of the Titanic with openings cut out of the sides so you could see where all the state rooms, ballrooms and rooms for the plebs were. 

A particularly poignant sight were the instruments - the actual instruments according to the plaque - on which the orchestra were said to play Nearer my God to thee, as the ship went down.  Titanic_2 Pen & Wok Blog - 

This has since been well and truly debunked; in fact, unwilling to bring the whole evening down, they were, according to survivors, playing a somewhat cheery waltz. All the musicians perished.

But if all the musicians, only one of whose body was found, died, how could their instruments be recovered and now injury-less, in an exhibition? A violin, yes, but surely a trombone, or the trombone exhibited,  couldn't float to the surface. Also, none of the musicians are listed as a trumpet or trombone player - in fact they played in a string octet. Is it churlish of me to question whether the instruments are authentic?

Talking of drowning, the same week as I went to the exhibition, Hong Kong was first hit by a typhoon number 10 (8 is the highest, normally) and, a few days later, torrential rain and flash floods. It was strange to see film clips from the MTR (Hong Kong's underground train system) with water cascading down the escalators in a Niagara like fashion and onto the trains. HK people, being level headed, didn't flinch or run away, but calmly put their feet on the seats and kept filming. Nothing can stop Hong Kong people from going to work. 

By an amazing (?) coincidence, that week's podcast was also about weather, primarily rain! 

Now you can learn, not only rain and flooding related words in Cantonese, but ALL the words! All you have to do is: 

Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! 

Today's Cantonese: 十號風球  Sap hou fung kao - 10 number windball (Typhoon signal number 10 -all is explained in the podcast! )



CantoNews from Exile:


This category contains episodes of the CantoNews From Exile podcast.