Friday, September 20, 2013

Not the Usual Kind of Shopping

Last Saturday night, Paul and I went to the one-year anniversary gala of the (despite the name of the gala) recently opened Parkview Green Fangcaodi, an office and retail space in the center of town. Basically, yes, you could say that we went to a giant Mall Party. :-) We were invited by some friends of the China Greentech Initiative, which had recently opened up their new office space inside Parkview. (Thank you Greentech!)

I am not a huge shopper and I have now discovered that--really--the best use for these spaces is to just turn them into a gigantic party platform. Those mall spaces are the perfect dance arena. It's probably very environmentally sound as well: using the retail space at night and pouring all that shopping anxiety into one crazy party!

The event even included performances by Cirque du Soleil performers, followed by two DJ's getting the crowd on its feet.

Crazy space.

Cirque du Soleil performers hanging from the ceiling.

Paul checks out a brand-new Tesla electric car -- about to be released on the China market. (Yes, there were actual shops in the building too.)

Snazzy shoe shop.

The Mall was designed to look like an outside space, kind of a city square with buildings around it.

The show and the DJ's were in the city square...

(I'll let the art speak for itself.)


Even great parties are followed by a 9:00am game on Sundays....

In het Nederlands: Afgelopen zaterdag waren we bij een openingsfeestje van een groot winkelcentrum in downtown Beijing. Het complex was al een aantal maanden open, maar dit was toch een beetje het openings feest. Ik kom niet zo vaak in de shopping malls hier--als je het mij vraagt zijn ze allemaal super groot, te luxe, ongezellig en onhandig--maar dit vond ik toch wel een heel leuke manier om in zo'n mall te zijn. :-) . We waren uitgenodigd door vrienden die in deze ruimte hun kantoor hebben. Het was een superleuk dansfeest...maar de volgende ochtend stond ik wel al weer vroeg langs de lijn!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Button Mania

Last week I was invited by a friend to come see a private exhibit of "button art." I have to admit that I wasn't immediately overexcited about the idea of spending an afternoon observing buttons...but I was pleasantly surprised.

Upon arrival in the exhibit hall -- a large room on the second floor of an elegant hotel -- I saw rows upon rows of framed buttons. 

The artist, "Sabrina," from Shanghai, had started out years earlier working on qipao's, the traditional Chinese dresses, but over time had gotten more involved with the design of the buttons on the qipao. These are tiny little buttons, consisting of a little dot and a tiny hole--all made out of fabric. 

The buttons then took on a life of their own, and over the last fifteen years she has been creating an incredible amount of beautifully designed buttons. The buttons are all made of silk and are little depictions of Chinese or western objects, animals, flowers, plants, or even buildings. I know they are still buttons, but the colors, patterns, and art work were really quite amazing.

I don't think the pictures below really do them justice. :-)

The artist (on the left) and three happy visitors.

The exhibit area: Button mania!

Flower button

More flower buttons.

It all started with qipao's. (I wonder what the embroidered silk phoenix is thinking about.)

Shanghai's famous zigzag bridge in Yu Garden, now all in silk.

The same bridge.

Cute birdie button.

Bamboo buttons

I don't think you can buy this outfit at Walmart.

Don't try this at home. Quite a few hours went into the design and embroidery of this dress.

Building button.

More building buttons and mask button. (The dude on the right kind of looks like a "button della verita.")

Outfit button.

Warrior and vase buttons.

More vase buttons.

Cute animal buttons. (I took a picture of the Tigers because--born in 1974--my Chinese sign is Tiger.)

Black and white animal button.

More outfits.

Last but not least, the sign for "fu" or happiness. You can see the character written by a famous (though to me unknown) artist, with the embroidered version of it below.

In het Nederlands: Ik was laatst uitgenodigd om een kijkje te nemen bij een prive tentoonstelling van...knopen! Het begon allemaal met de vrij eenvoudige knoopjes die op een Chinese qipao jurk zitten. De artieste maakte honderden varianten op dat eeuwenoude concept.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brave New (Digital) World

As the homework goes digital, Thomas himself
(the third kid in line) turns into paper at the Elementary
School Open House
I still remember the first time I got an email account. It must have been 1995 or 1996 and I was the proud "owner" of a brand new Pegasus email account at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), where I was doing an Internship.

Not my children. Thomas is barely seven and Simon is almost ten, and at school they already have their own email accounts. And not only that: they also have their tiny little hands on the latest MacBook Pro. ("Mom, your computer [a 4-year old Sony Vaio] is sooo slow!") Simon of course already had some digital delights for a few years, but Thomas has now also joined the masses.

The boys' homework now also arrives through the digital world. No more excuses about dogs eating homework - the only possible excuse can be that Internet was down (which happened Monday night) or that the electricity was out (so far so good).

So--dear friends and family--if you want to follow along with the boys' academic activities this year, try this:
  • Simon's class Website, with homework and a schedule of events each day. (You can quickly spot Simon in the top banner with his Heerenveen T-shirt.)
  • The Grade 5 Website, with information for all the classes in Grade 5 (such as their upcoming 5th Grade Camp.)
  • Simon's personal blog, a not-to-be-missed blog with regular updates, videos, and answers to homework assignments.
And, continuing to 2nd Grade:
Thomas also really enjoys checking the Website of his performing arts class, to listen to his teacher sing the songs they are learning in school.

Finally, even Dutch information is online.
It's a Brave New (Digital) World. If only Aldous Huxley could have blogged about it.

At the Elementary School Open House (where we, the parents, take copious notes on the ever growing number of blogs, "digital desks," and online resources our kids have access to.

At the Open House, an old-fashioned hand-written note by Thomas was waiting for us on his desk. I suppose the computer was not working that day.

In het Nederlands: Op de school van Simon en Thomas nu bijna alles digitaal: huiswerk, rekenen en soms zelfs ook digitale leesboekjes. Je kan op de blog van Simon kijken wat hij elke week (digitaal) uitspookt.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Picture Perfect

A friend sent me the following article:

If it's too smoggy for your tourist photos, Hong Kong has a fake blue-sky backdrop
Tourists didn't pay good money to go to Hong Kong and have their vacation Instagrams ruined by light-impervious smog. That's why the city has set up a backdrop showing a skyline against a clear, blue, entirely fake sky. (Read the full article here.)

Here is how that works:

Or like this:

Living in Beijing, I think this is pretty brilliant! How many lovely photos have been perfectly ruined by that nasty old smog. So, determined to at least improve our photo archive, I went outside and took the following picture:

Doesn't that look amazing? This year, this is going to be the backdrop for all our pictures. Birthdays, Sinterklaas, Halloween -- you might get familiar with this sight.

It actually hasn't been so hard to take some good blue-sky images of Beijing the last few weeks. The winds have been blowing and the pollution index has been nicely low:

Here are some other good-weather pictures.

At the bus stop around the corner from our house. The WAB bus already pulled up to pick up Simon and Thomas.

Lounging in the backyard...

At the school, where a traditional lion dance opened up the new school year. (There are two guys sweating away inside that lion costume!)

After the lion dance, the kids work in teams to accomplish some wet and wild assignments. The purple building in the back is part of the WAB Elementary School where Simon and Thomas go to 2nd and 5th Grade.

It was mighty hot that day!

In het Nederlands: Het is de laatste weken PRACHTIG weer. Heerlijk warm, maar met een briesje en een prachtige blauwe lucht. We genieten erg, ook omdat we weten dat het dadelijk -- zo rond eind oktober -- allemaal abrupt weer afgelopen is. Het wordt dan snel koud en de lucht ook vaak vervuild vanwege alle kleine kacheltjes en later ook de centrale verwarmingen die weer aan gaan.