Friday, December 4, 2015

Loitering in the Lama Temple

It seems I have entered my second period of 'honeymoon weeks' in Beijing. When I arrived here over five years ago, I was fascinated by China, and I was interested in everything Beijing had to offer. Now that I am leaving, my mind is opening up to again absorb the city's mighty sights with new enthusiasm, as I am hoping to commit it all to memory for a long time.

Two days ago, with the skies blue again and a cold (or rather, deep freeze) in the air, a friend and I ventured out the Yonghe Lamasery, better known as the Beijing Lama Temple. As an active Buddhist temple, it is an amazing place to visit. The inside courtyards, in spring and summer, have lots of green; monks always putter about, and non-stop people come in to pray.

Lots of red and good fortune signs in the shops around the temple.

One of many smaller buildings you step through as you go through the temple complex. Inside are always different statues of the Buddha or other presumably helpful entities.

On days like this, you honestly forget pollution ever exists. Blue skies and red buildings; it doesn't get much better than this.

Pass me that ball, lion!

Trying a new panorama setting ;)

The giant Buddha in the last building of the temple is apparently in the Guinness Book of Records. (So Europe, where are your giant Maria statues?)

This is the study hall. The red cloths are some kind of blanket/coat that must come in handy when you are studying and chanting for a couple of hours in the Beijing sub-zero temperatures.  

Even Beatrix was here! See if you spot her in the picture. 

In het Nederlands: Deze week ben ik even teruggegaan naar de lama tempel. Ik ben daar vaak geweest tijdens onze tijd in Beijing, en het is altijd een feest er te zijn. Je kan er een half uurtje zijn of twee uur ronddobberen. Heel groot is het niet, maar wel heel mooi. Omdat het nog een actieve tempel is met echte moniken is er altijd veel activiteit. Zelfs Beatrix heeft ooit de tempel met een bezoekje geeerd! 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ode to the Wind

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

                              From "Ode to the West Wind"
                              by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822

O wild North Wind, thou breath of sweeping clean
Thou, from whose unseen presence the pollution particles
Are driven, like ghosts, in the morning to not be seen

                              Ode to the Wind, Beijing 2015

This is what pollution looked like for the last three days.

On Tuesday, pollution is literally off the charts again. We didn't see the sun that day. Just a grey and later eerie brown-yellow sky.

Everyone stays inside. Our village becomes a ghost town. In the evening, Thomas' soccer team even discusses canceling its indoor training because of the high pollution levels in the gym. (Outdoor trainings are automatically cancelled with these pollution levels).

And then, in the night, came the magic North Wind! This photo is from this morning: We have a sunrise! Seeing a bit of red in the distance is always the best sign for a new day in Beijing.
Thank you, O Thou North Wind!

In het Nederlands: In plaats van over het weer en de regen gaat de conversatie in Beijing vaak over de vervuiling. Is het vervuild? Hoeveel? Gaat het snel waaien of regenen? De vervuiling komt natuurlijk door alle emissies (van fabrieken, auto's, steenkoolcentrales, en ook alle kleine kacheltjes in de winter), maar heeft ook veel te maken met de weerspatronen. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

China the Beautiful - Winter Wonderland at Jinshanling Great Wall

I have officially entered my last few weeks in China!* I can honestly say I love this country. China gets a lot of bad press most of the time--and yes, pollution and human rights are not issues one can step over easily--but it must be said that this place and its people are more than wonderful and I have enjoyed every day that I was here.

For one, China is just beautiful. Gorgeous, jaw-dropping beautiful. Despite the fact that about a sixth of the world population lives here, you can still find places out in nature where you can be all alone. Such as during this hike last week at Jinshanling Great Wall.

Notice the man hard at work to clear a trail in the below-zero temperatures.

Modern day and ancient time warriors.


Once in a while a bit of color is a feast to the eye!

In het Nederlands: Een mooie wandeling bij de Chinese Muur van Jinshanling. De Chinese Muur bestaat uit eigenlijk uit heel veel stukken. Dit is een stukje natuurlijk dicht bij Beijing en nog niet zo touristisch.

* We are soon moving to Brasilia, Brazil.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Time Travel to the Bell and Drum Towers

Thomas recently went on a school field trip to the hutongs near the Bell and Drum Tower. What a magic spot in Beijing, this square between the two towers. The towers were used to keep time and indicate when the gates of old Beijing would close in the evening or for special occasions. Very similar, I imagine, to the gates of old European cities. If you were outside the city wall when the gates closed...well, then you had a whole night to try to keep yourself safe and think about getting back in first thing in the morning. 

Below are some photos, or you could go straight to Thomas' own blog to see more sassy details in how own Hutong Field Trip Reflection.


The tour guide for the walk was someone from Beijing Postcards, a great organization that collects stories (for example through interviews with elderly residents) about China and in particular Beijing. The guide really made the kids think about where the food and water in the old Beijing used to come from (from far away, water from the mountains to the northwest) and how to get rid of human waste (bought up* to be used as fertilizer).

(*An interesting note about this purchasing of human waste was that it was more expensive to buy the waste (people's excrements) in the richer parts of town than in the poorer parts. Why you wonder? Because of the good nutritional value of the pooh in those parts of town. Even the pooh was richer!)

I am positioning myself in old Beijing. The guide used a gigantic map to show the kids the old city.

The guy with the gourd-flute made an extra effort to bellow out a tune in the hope I would buy one of them.

In the hutong streets around the Bell and Drum Towers.

From the number of electricity boxes you can derive the number of families living in a courtyard. A long time ago, one courtyard (with three rooms around an outside square) would be for one family, but these days many families live together in the same space.

Beijing and its rags


Thomas writes about these 'stars' (the blue wooden pegs) on his blogs. This home only has two 'stars'. More successful citizens would have three or even four!

Sweet dreams...

At the end of the field trip we all gathered at this restaurants for a lunch of pretty much only dumplings. Yum! (I think only the parents touched the greens on the table).

In het Nederlands: Excuses voor het gebrek aan blogposts in de afgelopen maanden! Soms neemt het leven het even over van het rapporteren. ;). Laatst was ik dus mee met Thomas op deze excursie. Misschien hebben jullie het al gelezen op z'n eigen blog: Hutong Field Trip Reflection. Het was een prachtige dag. De hutongs van Beijing doen me altijd denken aan kleine dorpjes in het hart van een grote stad. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Robust Growth and Totally Fine! Hilarity!

When I moved to China five years ago, somewhere in the first week I bought this bath towel. It amused me to no end to see the text "Robust Growth + Totally Fine + Robust Growth..." at the bottom of it. Or the "Lapse of Time" and "Hilarity" slogans across the picture. What on earth could it mean? Five years later I still can't work out how something like this even gets printed and produced. Is it just a bad translation of a Chinese towel print?

In any case, despite the "Lapse of Time," I never used the towel, and two weeks ago offered it up at a yard sale. It was snapped up immediately!

Our yard sale in general was a big success. We sold lots of old puzzles (including a puzzle we had borrowed from a friend; oops), Pokémon cards, a pair of flippers, old cables and CDs, a pre-historic PlayStation, and some books the kids had rejected.

Someone's trash is another person's treasure!

Thomas says goodbye to his old bike.

We hired batman to do the sales. (That, or we had some old batman masks to sell...)


Not bat business!


Only the car is not for sale.
In het Nederlands: Een paar zaterdagen geleden deden we mee met een "yard sale". We verkochten wat spullen die of te oud of te lelijk waren, of waar de kinderen niks meer mee wouden doen. Het is nog best ontnuchterend om te zien hoe sommige (ooit) geliefde spullen totaal niet interessant zijn voor anderen!