Tuesday, January 25, 2011

International Day

Last week Friday -- yep, life goes fast -- Simon and Thomas' school, the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) celebrated International Day. More than 50 countries were represented and for each country, a flag was carried across the stage. After the flag parade and some performances, the kids did activities related to the varous countries.

It might be interesting to know that the school definitely has a lot of Chinese kids (lots of cheers for the Chinese flag), but a Chinese kid can only attend the school if one of the parents has a foreign passport. "Real" Chinese children have to go to the regular Chinese schools with a government-controlled curriculum. Because WAB is an international school it can use a different curricum and align its teaching with international education standards.

Here are some pictures of the event:

The flag parade.

Dutch representation.

"We are the World" - or a song with a similar meaning. Definitely too cute though.

"Koekhappen" - A traditional Dutch game where you try to eat a cookie hanging on a little string. ("Not with your hands, Thomas!")

Koekhappen goes international.

The "koekhappen" master in "traditional Dutch outfit".

Yes, we introduced "Spijkerpoepen" (I cannot translate other than "nailpooping") to the kids in pre-K. In this traditional Dutch game you have a string around your waist with a nail hanging off it. Just try lower it down into the bottle....

International lunch in Simon's class. My "hutspot" (a traditional dish of mashed potatoes and carrots) was not as popular as the little pancakes from Norway. Surprise surprise... Next year I am bringing poffertjes.

Mr. International, also in traditional Dutch clothing. Note the hutspot... oh no, little pancake he is eating...

In het Nederlands: Vandaag een paar foto's van "international day" op Simon en Thomas' school. De kinderen deden allemaal leuke spelletjes en andere activiteiten om over elkaar's landen te leren. Overigens zijn er wel Chinezen op deze international school, maar zij (of hun ouders) moeten dan wel een international paspoort hebben. WAB, de school, heeft een internationaal lespakket en reguliere Chinese kinderen moeten gewoon het Chinese lespakket volgen op een Chinese school.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beware of the Rabbit!

The year of the rabbit is nigh. I know this, because all the stores are stocked with red underwear, red paper-cut rabbits, red lucky charms, red... red... red everything. Even Ikea had a "red-with-rabbit" version of its regular plastic cups and Simon made a cut-out rabbit at school (see photo).

Old Year's Eve is going to be Wednesday February 2, and New Year's Day is February 3. So from February 2 till February 8th, the world will (apparently) come to a grinding halt here. This is like our Christmas and Thanksgiving combined, and everyone will just go home and party. (When I ask people what they'll be doing, the answer invariably is: "Zuo fan, chi fan, mai dongxi" (Prepare food, eat dinner, buy stuff), so really, culturally we're all not that far apart.

Let me know if you need some red shorts. They are on sale and will bring you good luck.

More red.

Holiday decorations along the third ring road in Beijng. (At least now when you are stuck in traffic, the view is very good.)

In het Nederlands: Vandaag een paar fotootjes voor het Chinese nieuwe jaar--het jaar van het konijn. Volgende week dinsdag 2 februari is oudejaarsavond. Geen oliebollen, maar veeeeeeeeeeeeeel knallers, en een weeklang vuurwerk (zegt men). En mijn impressie is dat we toch allemaal niet zo anders zijn, want ook de Chinezen gaan met hun nieuwjaar lekker veel koken, eten en winkelen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Schaatsen in Houhai

Geen koek en zopie, geen erwtensoep, maar wel schaatsen! Vandaag zijn we een uurtje heerlijk gaan schaatsen op Houhai lake, niet ver van de Verboden Stad. Het is een supermooi gedeelte van Beijing, midden tussen alle hutongs (de orginele Chinese laagbouwwijkjes met binnenhofjes).

(English-reading friends: Sorry, today you are going to have to do with just watching a few pictures. I think skating at Houhai brought out my inner-Dutch person. Please do check out the picture of the Chinese Starbucks below. Nice design, huh?)

Het was wel erg koud, maar met dubbele broeken en dikke mutsen op lukte het wel. Er stond ook een gezellig muziekje op en zo zwierden we over het ijs. We huurden ook superhandige metalen stoelen op schaatsen die je lekker over het ijs kon duwen. "Mama" (dat ben ik dus) ging harder dan wie ook maar - op een paar heel goed schaatsende Chinezen na. (Dit geeft misschien wel even het niveau aan hier, want zo'n goeie schaatster ben ik echt niet.)

Paul vond de stoel trouwens ook fantastisch (zie foto's). Tja, opgroeien in Brazilie maakt niet echt een Evert van Benthem. Ook het vele pindakaas-eten van Simon heeft nog geen zoden aan de dijk gezet, al schuift hij (zeker met stoel) al een heel eind weg. En Thomas? Die kan wel op z'n schaatsjes blijven staan, maar verkoos toch de stoel boven de schaatsen.

Na afloop zijn we natuurlijk lekker even warme chocomel gaan drinken bij de Starbucks. Dat kan dus ook in Beijing :-)

Skating at Houhai Beijing

Lekker zwieren op het stadsmeer in Houhai.
Great skating in Houhai, Beijing.

De Braziliaanse slag.
Brazilian skating.

Waarom schaatsen als je kan zitten?
Why skate when you can sit down?

Een Chinese Starbucks (een bekende Amerikaanse koffiezaak).
Chinese Starbucks - cool design, same logo.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Happy 2011! Our New Year Started in Yunnan

Happy 2011! We jumped into the new year in Yunnan.

While of course China is China everywhere, Yunnan really felt like the China you might picture in your mind: Small villages, lots of little vegetable plots, rice terraces, colorful clothes, interesting (in a good way) food, and lots of very friendly people and beautiful nature.

We travelled from Yunnan's capital city Kunming up to its northwest, to Dali, Xizhou, Lijiang, and finally to Shangri-La.

Here are some pictures from our days in Kunming and first few days at Xizhou, which is just to the north of Dali.

Simon and Thomas in the Stone Forest (Shilin) about on hour outside Kunming.

Now you know why it is called a Stone Forest.

Relaxing in the Stone Forest.

Going up and down the stairs in the Stone Forest.

In the middle of Kunming, we took a boat ride among lots of birds and people.

More boats in the city park in Kunming.

Yunnan hotpot: Delicious food that you cook yourself. It's kind of like fondue. You just boil your vegetables, meat or fish in the hotpot in front of you.

From Kunming, we took the bus to Dali, and from there went to Xizhou, a little town just north of it. We stayed at the Linden Center, which was a wonderful place to stay, for both kids and parents. The picture above shows the view from the patio. The weather, by the way, was cool but lovely.

Back in Dali, we took a chair lift up and did a wonderful hike in the mountains. The hike was definitely China-style: up with one chairlift - walk 10 kilometer on pavement - and down with a second chairlift.

View of Dali and nearby lake Erhai.

After our hike, we explored downtown Dali. While Dali is nice, the hot pot vegetables were the most eyecatching!

Near Xizhou and Dali, we went to another small town to see how batik clothes were made. The boys loved watching this young man stir the pots with dye and fabrics.

The end result. (The real end result was of course that we bought a piece.)

From the "batik factory" we were taken to the house of someone's mom (and surely someone's grandma) who was weaving fabrics.

Before we arrived at the batik place, we stopped at this place along the road where a few women belonging to the Bai people (a minority group in China), were offering up a chicken.

Village man. (We promised to send this photo to him.)

We rode home in this motorized tricycle - great fun.

In the afternoon, we went out by horse carriage. Thomas made a new friend.

By horse, we went to the lake, where we watched the local fishermen fish. (Well, we watched them put on a tourist act, but we did see fish). They cormorants (aalscholvers) are trained to catch the fish and bring them back to the boat. (It helps of course that they can't swallow the fish because of a ring around their necks.)

Some local fishermen.

Home of the cormorants.

We often made quick prayer stops at local temples. Temples always include lots of colorful statues, beautiful art work, and interesting temple keepers.

Scary blue man. (I suppose each religion has a way of whipping people into shape.)

Beautiful -- and hard working -- woman.

Street view...

Yummy fruit at the market.

Samenvatting in het nederlands: Dit zijn natuurlijk foto's van onze vakantie in Yunnan. In Kunming zijn we naar Shilin, een "bos van steen" gegaan, en vandaar naar Dali en Xizhou.