Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mr. Kim's visit to China

This week World Bank president Jim Yong Kim is in China to meet with high-level Chinese officials, visit Bank projects, and also launch some new initiatives and collaborations. Here's a report of Mr. Kim's visit. The World Bank also posted a few pictures.

A snippet from the World Bank news flash:

BEIJING, November 27, 2012 – The World Bank Group and China today launched a new knowledge hub to improve development outcomes, aiming to spread practical knowledge from China’s successes in reducing poverty both within China as well as to other countries. Initially, the knowledge hub will help find environmentally friendly solutions to expand urban transport in China’s cities.

And if you are wondering why this focus on urban transport is important:

Managing urbanization is a priority for China, with about 75 percent of its gross domestic product generated in the largest 120 cities, and 350 million rural residents expected to move into its cities over the next 20 years. The Bank is helping China introduce transport improvements in about 30 cities, focusing on low-carbon emission options such as public transportation, walking and cycling.

The new knowledge hub will speed up the process of analyzing the successes and lessons learned in implementing solutions to urban challenges. [....] The knowledge hub will also help Chinese cities learn from each other. An integrated corridor management approach was introduced in an urban transport project in several cities in Liaoning Province to improve people’s travel speed, reliability, safety, and security in a comprehensive manner, based on successful examples in London and New York. It is now making public transport more attractive in other cities including Taiyuan, Wuhan, Changzhi, Xiangyang, and Xining.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Wet Wild Wall

I heard some rumors that people were getting tired of looking at the red doors in my last blog post. True, both China and the U.S. have since moved on, with a new fearless leader, Mr. Xi Jinping, in charge of the world's second largest economy and most numerous population. (By the way, I love the story about him visiting Iowa in his late twenties.)

While I don't have any pictures of Mr. Xi, I do have a few photos of Paul and I and some friends at the Great Wall on a very rainy day recently. It's not much of a story, but at least it is something else to look at than those red doors...

It so rarely rains in Beijing, that we hadn't even prepared with the right clothing.

It's hard to even see the beautiful landscape.

A bit of "wild wall" near Mutianyu. The "wild" refers to the fact that this part has not been restored. You can see the tree growing in the middle of the wall!

The eighties' wet look is back.

This is the path we came through :-). The wild wall is not for the average tourist.

Slippery when wet.

One of the watch towers.

A final peak at the Fall colors, before we headed back cable car. It was the end of a wet adventure!

In het Nederlands: We hadden lekker "Hollands weer" toen we laatst met vrienden naar de Chinese Muur gingen. Het regent hier niet vaak, dus we waren niet echt goed voorbereid!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Leadership change

This week is a big week around the globe. Coming off the back of super storm Sandy, America is preparing itself for the final showdown in the fistfight that is called the U.S. General Elections.

Today, in the Netherlands, the new coalition government--Kabinet-Rutte II--was installed by Queen Beatrix.

And in China, my Internet is coming to a grinding halt because of the enhanced security related to the top Communist Party meetings in Beijing this week, at which the CCP (Communist Party of China) will reveal its new leadership.

What will the future hold for us?

In het Nederlands: Het zijn nogal wat wisselingen van de wacht deze week! Het kabinet Rutte II is geinstalleerd. In America gaat Obama kijken of hij nog vier jaar door mag. En in Beijing zijn de top vergaderingen van de communistische partij van China begonnen. Volgende week weten we ook hier wie de nieuwe leider wordt!

"Dancing in the Park"

There's something super endearing about all the activity in the public parks in Beijing. In the Netherlands, if you put out a volleyball net, chances are it will be used for anything but volleyball. Put out a table, and some vandal will carve his name in it. Here? People exercise using bright yellow and blue equipment, they dance on their own or in a group, and they play Mahjong or cards at designated little tables.

Pay attention and join in with the steps!

Here are some more pictures of the hutongs around this park:



This women could use a little dance in the park!

In het Nederlands: Het is altijd gezellig in de parken in Beijing. Er wordt gedanst en gezongen, er wordt gekaart, en de ledematen worden goed gestrekt.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shopping spree

Recently Paul and I went on a shopping spree. That is: We bought a random tie, some Halloween items, and a plate of noodles. I am sure you can't wait to see the pictures of our eventful half-day near the Hongqiao Pearl Market.

Size matters.


Chinese style tea cups.


Noodle man.


Super noodle soup.


Noodle woman.


Looking for a tie for Paul's Halloween outfit. I guess he only wears ties with Halloween!


Hongqiao, one of Beijing's indoor markets with a million stalls with clothes, accessories, (fake) pearls, and other miscellaneous items you are sure you don't need but can't resist to buy.


Street view in front of the Hongqiao market.

An important photo taken by Thomas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy and the Chicken

Last night we were watching the news coverage about superstorm Sandy battering the East Coast of the United States. A monumental event, almost as serious as the fact that I can't read anything on the remote control of our TV.
And in other important news: This morning, on the way to the school bus, I spotted this chicken across the street. I didn't realize we were neighbors! Tomorrow I am going to look for the egg.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Olympic Sailing

The Olympic games in London might be history, but just last week we were still celebrating the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Simon had a birthday party in the middle of Beijing's Olympic rowing park, about 30 minutes north of our house.

The kids got to sail and kayak for a couple hours, and the parents enjoyed the pretty park and amazing view. It was a clear day and we could even see the mountains in the distance.

As if it were yesterday!

Boats at the Aofan sailing club.

Some basic sailing instructions...

Time for action.

At least they will be safe.


Paul and Simon set out for some Olympic level kayaking on the official 2500 meter rowing course.

Hurrah for birthday cake!

In case you can't remember where you live.

It was a great party and a looooong day. At night, the boys didn't even make it to their beds.

In het Nederlands: Afgelopen zaterdag had Simon een verjaardagsfeestje by de Olympische roeibaan van 2008. Ze mochten lekker een paar uurtjes zeilen (onder begeleiding) en kayaken (meteen in de hoek gewaaid). Het was superleuk... en lekker vermoeiend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Novak Djokovic

Last night we watched the number 2 tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, beat Michael Berrer to advance in the China Open. And earlier in the day we watched Jo-Wilfried Tsonga win his match against Denis Istomin.

It was a pretty exciting afternoon -- though not if you are only six or nine years old. After a couple hours the tennis got a little boring; and I suppose popcorn can only entertain for so long.

(If you are into tennis or would like to see how we age, see my post about An Na & Li Na from last year :-).)

I did record Djokovic's match point though, which I thought was pretty cool. Reuters, here it is:

Match point! Djokovic is in red; Berrer in white. Note that the Dutch don't waste any time in packing their bags and leaving. :-) We thought the match would have been settled in two quick sets, not three. The final score was 6/1, 6/7, 6/2 for Djokovic.

Here are some more pictures from a fun afternoon:

First Tsonga (blue) against Istomin (white).

Then red against red: Djokovic and Berrer.

The pop corn bag is more interesting than watching Djokovic.

A captivated fan.

So close to the trophy... yet such a long way to go!

A glimpse around the tennis area. It's commercial bonanza.

"Hello Simon"

The Dutch audience section.

Good night moon, good night tennis balls. I certainly hope someone was telling Berrer and Istomin a bed time story ;-(

Hutong bike ride

On October 1st, China's National Day, we biked around our neighborhood. I apologize for the "Blair Witch Project" kind of camera work, but with one hand on the iPhone, one hand on the steering wheel, one eye on Thomas, and one eye on the traffic, I couldn't do any better. The clip is just under a minute, but should give you a bit of a sense of the street life here. Now, if only I could also send you the street smells! :-)

In het Nederlands: Een rondje om de kerk. Nou ja, er is geen kerk hier, maar afgelopen maandag, op China's nationale feestdag, fietsten we een klein rondje door de buurt. Nu ik het clipje weer zie denk ik eigenlijk dat de geluiden nog meer zeggen dan de beelden!

Educational Saturday - Trip to the water source

On a recent (sunny) Saturday, we took a little trip around the corner to explore the origins of our tap water. Because we live in a housing compound with modern houses with running water, heating, and air conditioning (and bathrooms), we are a bit separate from the rest of our Chinese neighborhood, the villages around us.

The water treatment plant -- it turns out -- actually takes water from a private well in the skimpy woods behind our compound and cleans it up before it is is pumped to the homes. In our house, we then have an extra filtration system at the sink downstairs, to further clean the water, before we drink it. (Everyone I know either has this kind of filter at home, or buys their drinking water in big bottles, the kind you use for water coolers. Sadly though, there have been quite a few reports of people tampering with these bottles of drinking water and just bottling unsafe tap water, sealing it, and selling it as drinking water.)

When we arrive at the plant, first we dress up as scientists. Thanks to a four-year science degree I still remember which way to button my lab coat.

We're off to explore.

We were lucky to have an English speaking guide. My Chinese lessons still haven't covered "water treatment" and "filtration."

Storage tanks with clean water. 

A personal tour by Thomas.

The m.a.d. scientist.

One of the lead scientists at the place.

Checking the pH. Phew, pretty good.

pH findings confirmed by a second assessment.

I felt right back at home, as if it was 1992 and I am taking "Waterkwaliteit 1", an introduction to water quality, at Wageningen University. I even explained the concept of color titration to the boys, though I am not sure it made a lot of impact considering the vast knowledge they already have about Harry Potter style experiments.

And this is what it is all about!

In het Nederlands: we maken een tripje naar een waterzuiveringsinstallatie die hoort bij de wijk waar we wonen. We wonen hier niet echt in een Chinese wijk, maar in een "gesloten" wijk speciaal aangelegd voor rijkere Chinezen en buitenlanders. De huizen hier hebben allemaal water, electriciteit en W.C.s, wat in China nog niet helemaal de norm is. Het water in ons huis komt van een bron vlakbij. Nadat het gezuiverd is, komt het naar ons huis. Daar filteren we het zelf nog een keer en dan kunnen we het drinken. Gewoon kraanwater kan je hier in China niet drinken.