Saturday, September 29, 2012

The art of eating...

Recently we went to a restaurant in the Huairou district, which is a bit north of us, towards the Great Wall.

We went for lunch (around 11:30am in good Chinese fashion) and had some yummy food. Because we were with Chinese friends, we were even introduced to a couple new dishes we had never had before. Hurrah!

The restaurant not only had great food, but it was also a pretty place to visit. Simon and I took lo-o-o-o-o-ots of pictures.


Walking in. (Number nine does not seem all that cooperative...)

The tables all consisted of four parts, each displaying some kind of item. The big circle on top is the part of the table that will later carry all the food. You turn it around in circles so that everyone can easily get to the food.

Ordering food is a breeze, especially when others do it for you :-)

Getting ready. Thomas is already swirling the glass top on which they'll later put the food.

So under all the table tops are these kinds of items. This is a close-up of one of them, presumably some white beans. Simon made it a true art project (and in the process killed the battery in my phone). Here's the art gallery:

Eventually, some items also appeared on top of the table!
This might not be your grandmother's home cooking (unless you are Chinese), but it is delicious.
And this is what a good swirl at the dinner table looks like :-)
In het Nederlands: Een paar weekjes terug waren we in een mooi restaurant een stukje buiten de stad. Het eten was lekker en de vele kleurtjes binnen waren een genot voor het oog. Simon maakte een hele fotoserie van de verschillende voorwerpen die in de bakken onder de tafels lagen. Bovenop de tafels zie je de typisch Chinese draaischijf (deze keer van doorzichtig glas) om de schalen met eten mee rond te draaien zodat iedereen er goed bij kan.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Saving the world - one edit at a time

In the busy run-up to the summer, I completely forgot to tell my trusted readers that the book I had been working on for so many months (as one of several editors) had been published.

In between fixing the run-on sentences and straightening out the jargon, I actually learned something about how China's cities might reduce their dependence on fossil fuel energy.


Here's the one-page overview, taken directly from the World Bank's website. I couldn't have said it any better myself :-). (In fact, when I said it, it took 516 pages in English and 325 in Chinese, after the translation.)


Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China.

Cities contribute an estimated 70 percent of the energy-related greenhouse gases and are therefore crucial to meeting China’s carbon reduction targets. With China set to add an estimated 350 million residents to its cities over the next 20 years, the case for urgent action is strong.
There is a strong alignment between low-carbon and locally appropriate sustainable development strategies for cities. A low-carbon city is, above all, a sustainable, efficient, livable, and competitive city.

An estimated 40 percent of city emissions comes from power generation and industrial activities each, with the remaining 20 percent from transport, buildings, and waste.

  • Cities will need to act on multiple fronts, from improving their land-use and spatial development to energy-efficient buildings and industries, from public transport system to efficient management of water, wastewater, and solid waste. Also climate change adaptation needs to be incorporated in the planning, investment decisions, and emergency-preparedness plans of cities.
  • Actions affecting land-use and spatial development are among the most critical because carbon emissions are closely connected to the urban form. Spatial development has also very strong “locked-in” effects: once cities grow and define their urban form it is almost impossible to retrofit them because the built environment is largely irreversible and very costly to modify.
  • Five key cross-cutting actions for low-carbon growth include: setting the right indicators to encourage low-carbon growth; complementing administrative measures with market-based approaches and tools; breaking the link between land use, finance and urban sprawl; encouraging more intersectoral and interjurisdictional cooperation; and balanceing mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • Actions will need to focus on addressing specific sectoral challenges, particularly those related to energy, transport, and other municipal services including water and waste management services. There are lessons to be learned from the experience of Chinese cities and World Bank-supported programs.
  • Implementing a comprehensive multisectoral policy agenda requires coordinated action from a range of stakeholders including different levels of government, civil society, and citizens.
  • China has an opportunity to implement low-carbon strategies and approaches during the 12th Five-Year Plan period and beyond. This will make its future cities more sustainable, more efficient, more competitive, and more livable.
From: Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China.

You can buy the book on Amazon, or just download it on your Kindle. It's only over 500 pages of blood, sweat, and tears (see photo). :-)

In het Nederlands: In mei dit jaar is het boek Sustainable Low-Carbon City Development in China gepubliceerd. Ik heb daar als editor aan meegewerkt. Zo blij was ik met de publikatie dat ik helemaal vergeten was dit heuglijke feit even te melden op mijn blog!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cake time!

Zhu Siming shangri kuai le!  Yesterday was Simon's birthday and his Chinese teacher made him this super cool chocolate brownie cake.

The text used to say "zhu Siming shangri kuaile (祝思明生日快乐!)" or "To Simon Happy Birthday." The Chinese lesson didn't last long though, because the "zhu" was quickly gone. :-)

Today at work I got my own cake: a golden box of mooncakes to celebrate the upcoming mooncake (or mid-Autumn) festival.

The exact date of the mooncake festival is based on China's lunar calendar, so the date is not the same every year. This year, by chance, it's just one day before China's National Day on October 1st, when the country celebrates the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. To celebrate this joyful event, kids have a whole week off from school and offices also close for a couple of days.  Woohoo: this year in China, you can have your mooncake and eat it too!

The wrapping says it all: a pretty bag for my cookies.

Out comes a golden box.

And in it are delicious (?)  mooncakes. These actually don't look like the traditional mooncakes you often see, but I am sure it's the real deal :-)

My two mooncakes with "their" birthday gifts.

In het Nederlands: Gisteren was Simon's negende verjaardag. Hij kreeg een leuke chocoladecake met gestippelde felicitaties van zijn Chinese juf. Zelf kreeg ik vandaag ook vast cakejes: twaalf mooncakes (maankoekjes) om het aanstaande maanfeest (ook wel mid-herfst feest genoemd) te vieren. Dat komt mooi uit, want volgende week hebben we ook nog de hele week vrij om China's nationale feestdag te vieren.

Weekend bike ride (or: Enjoying the weather while it lasts)

Just two weekends ago (the same weekend as our excellent camping trip), Paul and I also made a fun little bike ride.
China of course used to be a bicycle kingdom, but over the last 20 years its bikes have slowly been replaced with cars and other motorized vehicles. People's driving styles, however, have not kept pace with this change and often it seems people are driving as if they are still on a bicycle. (For example -- and this might be hard to image -- we actually often see people stop along a highway and back up to go back to an exit they missed.)
So two Saturdays ago, Paul and I felt a great need to get out and bike in this crazy traffic. Besides, it was gorgious weather and in Beijing you have to enjoy that. Before you know it, winter will set in and I'll be dressed like an eskimo again.
We biked about 34.64 km in 1:53 minutes; at an average speed of 18.29 km/hour -- this information  brought to you by the Endomundo iPhone app, which nicely tracked our route. (According to the same Endomundo, we also burned 1313 kcal, a fact I immediately celebrated by eating a giant chocolate muffin.)


For the most part we biked along a canalized river. This is Beijing too, you know!


Paul enjoying the view.


Another view from the same bridge.


It's kind of hard to see, but the dots in the river are fishermen (and one woman), catching fish with a big trail net. If you like heavy metals, it should be a great dinner.


Just like The Netherlands: a nice bicycle trail. The only difference with Holland was that this trail all of the sudden was interrupted by a big fence, and we had to bike all the way back and take the regular road again.


In the middle of the trip, we came past this construction site.


I made Paul go in and take a picture of this monster (the "tree root," not the man). It's not actually an old tree, but a gigantic, enormous, humongous tree-like construction made of stone. It wasn' taste.


Back out on the street again. It looks like I am dressed for the Gobi desert! Well, I was going for a run, but then (literally) switched gears. The Chinese don't mind at all when you dress in a top and shorts, but it is a bit unusual as Chinese women usually cover up and protect themselves from the sun. (You might have read about China's facekini's earlier this year?)


The Great Wall. (just kidding--I don't want you to cancel your upcoming trip!)


The bike ride continues.


Oncoming traffic. By the way, look at the width of this road, compared to the amount of traffic. Sometimes China's infrastructure is just a little bit grandiose, as if it is planned for giants, not humans.


Again closer to home, we cycle through this village area. (Note the pipe on the right.) 


More village view. It's Saturday morning and people are just millling about.


And with this last look around the neighborhood, we returned to our own house (not pictured in this photo). It was a fun little trip and if the weather holds, we should do it again soon.

In het Nederlands: Vandaag gewoon wat fotootjes van een fietstocht dichtbij huis. Het is niet altijd even makkelijk een leuke fietsroute te vinden, maar interessante dingen zijn er altijd wel te zien!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Camping near the Great Wall

Saturday afternoon we left our home for a camping adventure. (I can't say we left Beijing, because Beijing is actually a really large area, with several districts and counties surrounding the core city.)

We drove up the JingCheng expressway for about 20 minutes. Next, we zigzagged through the country side for another half hour, until we arrived at our final destination: A chestnut orchard with a view of a Great Wall watch tower.

It was all very idyllic: The kids built a campfire, the parents had a glass of wine, ....and the local Chinese enjoyed a tourist attraction! See below for an impression.

On the road to Huairou district. This is the JingCheng express way.


Just follow the signs.


The backseat gang -- Simon and Thomas and a friend. Look how excited they are about going camping!


Urban renovation. The last few weeks Simon has been studying the challenges and opportunites related to "changing cities." Here's an example of the old making way for the new.


Just another roadside picture of the construction. There's a lot of construction (and construction dust) wherever you go in China.


More bricks, no mortar.


The landscape is turning more green.


Already in the mountains of Huairou district.


A new house.


Charming alley (that might be scheduled for an urban upgrade some day soon.)

Our campground! It's impossible to see, but on top of that mountain is a Great Wall watch tower, watching over us.


Boy camp.


The badminton tournament got underway.


Camp fire and marshmallows at night.


In the morning, some Chinese visitors came to study our camping habits! Four cars -- presumably on their way to something else -- stopped and everyone got out--camera's in hand :-). It was pretty funny. It kind of seemed they were on safari and we were the wild animals. Our visitors walked through the campsite, poked around with the fire, and took some pictures of our (weird?) habbits and those odd white-haired kids, and then went on to their next sight-seeing adventure of the day.
Watching the wildlife :-).  (See the Chinese with their camera's sitting on the little wall next to the cars.)
In het Nederlands: Afgelopen weekend zijn we gaan kamperen. Het was wel een avontuur. Eerst een stukje snelweg, dan wat kronkelen door de bergen en over de dorpjes, en toen waren we in de kastanjeboomgaard. We hadden van te voren geregeld dat we hier konden slapen, maar toch kwamen veel mensen nog even kijken wat we hier deden. Zoveel buitenlanders in een tentje hadden ze denk ik nog niet vaak gezien!