The all new Cecilie's Pen & Wok Blog
To beat the US and be biggest, fastest, best and most impressive, the central government were for the last two decades concentrating on building un-needed infrastructure while tightening the grip on civil liberties as they became more technologically savvy - that is to say, as the US invented more tech stuff that they could steal copy.
They have thousands of miles of new highways with hardly any cars, thousands of new tower blocks that no one lives in, hundreds if not thousands of new airports and enormous railway stations that fewer and fewer can afford or are allowed to travel from because of the social credit score system - and now this: they don't have enough people.
Yes, the one thing that catapulted the Middle Kingdom into the moneybags stratosphere 30 years ago was an endless supply of cheap labour. Millions and millions of young people left the countryside to go and work in factories in Guangdong and the eastern provinces, leaving grandparents and aunties to look after the children.
Did I say children? I meant child. As early as 1957 Mao had been grumbling about people producing too many children, not long after telling them to have as many as possible. So in normal central planning fashion and seemingly without a thought for the consequences, by 1970 it was decided that couples should be strongly encouraged to have only one child.
By 1979 'encouraged' had become 'enforced'. An orgy of abortions and sterilisations, voluntary and not, ensued. Long story short, 37 years later the one child policy was considered a roaring success with an estimated 400 million children hindered from being born, one way or another.
Great! But ... hang on. How about the endless supply of cheap labour? Sorry, should have thought of that before you killed it off! Now China is suddenly the fastest 'greying' country in the world, where the responsibility for one set of parents and two sets of grandparents rests on just one person. A shortage of people to produce stuff in the "world's factory" combined with foreign businesses pulling out of a country where freedoms were rapidly diminishing even before covid, and government coffers empty from endless projects that never paid off, is now sending China's economy into a dangerous downward spiral.
Talking of children, in this week's edition of CantoNews from Exile ah-Hei has some good news! Better than the future of China, that's for damn sure.
But while the Mandohooligans are pricing themselves out of the market, as it were, the people of Hong Kong keep plodding on. As the social experimenters mentioned above keep tightening the noose around the formerly free city, many of its residents are leaving. I tell you, every country in the world could do worse than importing a few thousand of these hardworking, enterprising people who never ask for handouts.
Help them and the Cantonese culture to live on by Learning Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian!
However, sometimes, when I hear about other countries, so near I can hit them with the proverbial swung dead cat (or something) I feel such an urge to travel. Every day in a new place seems like a week, and a week on the road seems like a month. Therefore travelling prolongs life. I dearly want to prolong my life, so I should travel more.
Why don't I? Well, one effect moving from Asia to Europe had on me - apart from, shockingly, not being very interested in learning the local language - was being plunged into poverty.
I mean, not poverty poverty; I have more than one pair of shoes and can afford to keep my dog in poo bags and fresh innards, but I have to think about what I spend; can't afford both new chandeliers and trips to interesting sounding places. And I can't afford a cleaner nor a dog walker.
Oh yes the dog, Koldbrann! He is another reason why I can't travel much. I am member of Trusted Housesitters (website for people who want to look after dogs in exchange for a place to stay) and can easily find people who want to spend a week in Mallorca gratis, but I feel worse and worse about leaving in the hands of strangers, however capable.
So for the time being I have to live vicariously through other people's trips, like those of my co-host ah Hei on the podcast CantoNews from Exile.
In two short weeks she managed to go to Wales as well as Portugal AND Bulgaria! Grrrrr envious. And bugger me if the wretched bint isn't now in Hungary.
No, I suppose I have to contend myself with journeying into my own travel filled past. One such past was last Easter when I went to Portugal. All well and good of course, but not exactly China. But then again, nothing is. Nothing.
My latest Cantonese Podcast CantoNews from Exile got me all drooling and hungry, for in it ah-Hei started talking about food. Yes, Chinese food. She wanted to know the Cantonese words for a series of ingredients so she would be able to speak with more confidence in her Chinese (Sheffield) supermarket next time.
Funnily enough, of all the ingredients she mentioned; red sugar, white radish, jasmine rice and carrots, I have only ever used carrot - red radish or red turnip in Chinese - (apart from ginger, but that goes without saying) and that in a dish I have half invented myself. Why not the other things? Because, although I loved Hong Kong and almost everything in it, the local food, bland and chilli-less as it is, wasn't really on top of the love list.
No, I had to travel further afield, to the foothills of the Himalayas almost, to find the food of my life: Sichuan food.
After a month working there as a volunteer English teacher I was hooked on the colourful and fiery cuisine; in fact after the very first lunch in that verdant province I was hooked, and as soon as I got back to Hong Kong I went to Chengdu to take a course in Sichuan cooking. One of the dishes was Gongbao Chicken, a well known Sichuan dish also known as Kung Pao Chicken or sometimes Spicy Chicken with Chillies and Cashews.
I have tasted so many variations of this I can’t count them, and the only thing they had in common was the chicken. The worst, or least good ones are the ones with fried cucumber. Cucumber should never be cooked.
At the cooking course the chef used green turnip as vegetable, but I thought it was too bitter, so I started using delicious lotus root
instead. I’m the only one (that I know of) who uses crunchy lotus root in gongbao chicken, and also carrot for colour and more crunch. It's an impressive and complicated looking dish, and serving it is guaranteed to give you enormous face among your peers.
But how to cook it, you ask? Just get my book CHILL!ies, Sichuan Food made Easy! Or if you can't be arsed to cook, hop over to my gaff in El Terreno for a taste.
Full disclosure, the title photo, the "Sichuan food in beautiful surroundings" one is from my roof terrace in Hong Kong. However I have a terrace here in Palma too. It is at least semi beautiful, so it counts!
I can cook for up to 14 people.
"What's his name, what breed is he, how old is he (or she)" - these are the kinds of questions you can't ask a random person in the street about himself, but about his dog it's all systems go!
Most people of all the nationalities I have met so far love it when you pay attention to their dogs, and need little prompting to let it rip about their canines' toilet and food habits, and how it's too hot to take them out in the afternoon. Talking about dogs in Spanish is what I call bearable small talk and is the shortcut to finding new friends.
I'm so convinced that dogs are the key to good living that I have started working on a new Spanish textbook, a follow-up to Plonkers Abroad (Learn Spanish about Really Trying) where you learn Spanish the easiest way imaginable: Through talking to dogs! With the odd comment to their owners thrown in. I think I can finish it this year.
Dogs were also the theme of Episode 2 in CantoNews from Exile, where ah-Hei suddenly found herself in Wales and just as suddenly won a dog show. Or rather, her dog Maloney did. Well done, Maloney!
This podcast was also much less maudlin than Episode 1 Hong Kong - thank God. But I double dare you to have lived in that city for 30 years and not get maudlin, or rather, irate, while talking about it. Indeed, thinking about it is enough to send me spiralling into a raging heap of fury.
But neither fury nor sadness is any match for the Chinese communist party of course, so the only thing I can do is to keep speaking and teaching Cantonese. Not only to irritate the Party, but to make sure that the language will be spoken by someone - anyone - when the great mandofication of Hong Kong begins in earnest.
If anyone in Mallorca is reading this and knows someone who has lived in Hong Kong and is interested in being on the show, please let me know!
That person will be able to Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! - free.
Hoi hoi, it's finally happening - I have started a podcast again! Of course it's about Cantonese, but this time from a different position: From exile in Spain.
I have found the perfect partner slash wingman; ah-Hei who used to live in the same Hong Kong village as me back in the 90s or early 2000s. Now she lives in exile in Sheffield.
It is true that Hong Kong always was a transitory place - especially since many were sent there by their company as a "hardship" posting with a company car, live-in servants etc for a limited time - but it seems that most of the people I ever knew there (including many Chinese) have now left. Did all the patriotism get the better of them?
This must suit the communist Chinese government to a tee, for wherever there are irritating locals; Tibet, Inner Mongolia, East Turkestan, they just swamp the place with their own people and voila, it's a Han Chinese place where only Mandarin works. Even when I lived there, they had started with the "patriotic" education in primary schools, strongly suggesting that English won't be a world language for long and that Mandarin is the ticket to the future. Cantonese was only to be scoffed at if it was lucky.
And considering that the Hong Kong government has been importing 150 mainland Chinese PER DAY since 1997, possibly but not necessarily pausing for a few days during Covid, it's no wonder that the unwashed Mandohooligan masses are elbowing out the indigenous people and language. Like the scorpion on the frog's back, they just can't help themselves. It's their nature.
So anyway, like the aforementioned Tibet and Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong will soon be a place where the culture and language are no longer living things, but curiosities to be gawked at by mainland tourists. If that! Because Hong Kong people have never been into handicrafts, funny colourful costumes and dancing.
Ah! I'm getting all maudlin again. As did the podcast before long, because it IS very sad to see a great place like Hong Kong slowly, then faster and faster sink into the morass of corruption, lawlessness and fear that follows that scorpion whenever it catches a ride.
Still, now you can learn Cantonese from ah-Hei and me - free!
Or you can take lessons from me.
This category contains episodes of the CantoNews From Exile podcast.