Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Home Sweet Home: Baidu Map Shows Chinese Lunar New Year Migration in Real Time

China's annual migration is well-underway. Four years ago, when Paul and I first visited China to check out our new 'hood', we managed to find ourselves at the Beijing Railway Station just a week before Chinese New Year. What we saw? An ocean of people hoping to buy a train ticket or already 'hop'on the train and occupy their 'standing seat' for the eight or more hour train ride home to their 'laojia', the family home. (And this of course only when the ticket you just bought doesn't turn out to be fake.)

Well, our laojia now is Beijing, so Paul and I are not going anywhere and I am just going to observe the migration from my desk with this very cool map that the Chinese search engine Baidu has set up:

The Baidu map shows people on the move on January 16 (top left) and today
(January 29, top right). The photos on the bottom show today's movements into
and out of Beijing (left) and Shanghai (right). 

The map is based on the number and location of people using the Baidu search app on their cell phones and shows destinations, cities of origin, and routes (on the Website, use the three big blue buttons on the right to toggle between the three). Beijing is a big departure and a big destination city, so--as can be expected--the whole thing is just a giant reshuffling of people.

Not everyone is going home though - this year I read a couple articles about the immense pressure and stress a lot of young people experience when they go home. Why are you not married? Why don't you make more money? Apparently these are some of the more gentle questions that might be shared over the Chinese New Year, along with the dumplings and fire crackers. This article in particular has gotten a lot of coverage:

Newspaper front page: Mom: "Please come home for Chinese New Year,
we won't ask you about marriage ever again!

In het Nederlands: In China is op dit moment bijna iedereen op reis. Vrijdag begint hier het Chinese nieuwjaar en dan moet je thuis bij je pa en ma aan de dumplings zitten. Het is een hoop gestress natuurlijk, die volksverhuizing. En dan moet je eventueel ook nog jezelf bij pa en ma verantwoorden waarom je nog niet getrouwd bent of waarom je niet al een betere baan hebt. Sommige mensen ontduiken tegenwoordig deze stress en blijven lekker thuis. Zelf gaan we morgenavond even Nederlandse oliebollen bakken en een fles champagne opentrekken!

Friday, January 17, 2014

You wouldn't believe it...

You wouldn't believe it...until you saw it with your own eyes.

Yesterday was another one of those crazy Beijing pollution days. I spend a lot of time (or at least some time!) on this blog telling you so much about all that there is to like about China and Beijing. But the pollution remains the one thing that makes you question your own sanity for living here. 

Here's what my Air Quality app said yesterday:

On an index of 0-500, we were once again "Beyond Index." I had originally been planning to go for a run, but decided to scratch that plan when I stepped outside in a cloud of smoke. At an index of 500, the world looks drab, it smells, my eyes itch, and I don't know if I cough from a cold or the pollution.

Visibility is much reduced.

This is on the way home from work (sadly I am contributing to the pollution).
Of course, it would be better to show you pictures of the same spot with and without pollution, but it seems that as soon as Beijingers see a blue sky, we immediately forget all the pollution days that came before it. Worse, we say crazy things like: "Oh, today is not so bad. The pollution index is only 173." (I am serious, we say this kind of thing! )

On the positive side: Never in my life will I take clean air for granted again. I wish you all a clean blue-sky kind of day!

In het Nederlands: We wonen graag en goed in Beijing, maar die vervuiling...die is toch wel het lastigste om mee om te gaan. Hier zijn wat foto's van gisteren toen de vervuilingsindex letterlijk van de kaart was. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Architectural 'Selfie' - A Visit to Beijing's Museum of Ancient Architecture

Recently, with a cold wind outside and our boys happily playing at a neighbor's house (thank you!), Paul and I went on a mini-adventure to the Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum. The museum is located on the grounds of a renovated Ming Dynasty temple and--as we discovered after paying a hefty 15 Yuan entry fee (about US$2.50 or Euro 1.80)--includes lots of interesting information about the construction of the many temples, palaces, and pagoda's in China.

Museum entrance: 15 Yuan. Temple value: Millions. Taking your first selfie?  Priceless!

This might have been our first selfie...

Old (though re-painted) grain storage sheds on the grounds of the museum.

This particular exhibit showed how the temples can be constructed without the use of nails. Everything just neatly comes together to create the corner-structures for the building.

A typical building corner using the pieces shown in the pictures above. (I suppose there is a more technical term for 'building corner'?)

I can't even think of putting this together.

China's temples also usually have the most beautiful colors. Much more than I have seen in Europe, older buildings here are typically restored and repainted with original (?) colors.

After leaving the museum, we walk through the other ancient architecture: Beijing's nice hutongs and small streets.

In het Nederlands: Nog net voor kerst waren Paul en ik een middagje in het museum. Na drie jaar tempels bezoeken was het leuk meer te leren over hoe ze gebouwd zijn. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Seafood Alley

During my recent visit to Hainan, I went to a really fun kind of restaurant. Technically it wasn't actually one restaurant, but more an indoor market square with lots of small businesses that could each prepare the seafood you had just bought at the market. So, to get started, you would first buy some fresh shrimp, crab, and fish at the market, then give them to a kitchen/restaurant of your choice to prepare. 

Kind of a big place. All the signs hanging from the ceiling indicate the location of different restaurants.

The signs explain how much it costs to prepare the seafood, for example for each fish or pound of squid. 

At the market in the back you buy your seafood. 



Sea urchin.


There are many sellers to choose from. 

When you are done buying, you move back to the restaurant area, plop down at a table, and give the kind ladies in the kitchen your goods.

This lady is cooking up our shrimp.

Crab on my plate.

Over dinner, our table quickly turned into a battlefield. 

I just got home with my veggies from the store. Who is going to cook those for me today?

In het Nederlands: Tijdens mijn recente bezoek aan China's Hawaii-achtige eiland Hainan--helemaal in het zuiden en dus lekker warm--heb ik een avond ook heerlijk 'seafood' (vis, garnalen, krab, etc.) gegeten. De ruimte waar we aten was een overdekte hal met heel veel eetgelegenheden. Om te eten moest je eerst zelf je vis (of iets anders) kopen, waarna het restaurant het allemaal voor je klaarmaakte. Lekker en gezellig. De prijs op de borden in het restaurant geeft dus aan hoeveel het kost om zo'n vis klaar te laten maken. De vis zelf had je op de markt al betaald. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year - Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Sinterklaas and Santa Claus have been long gone, the new year is here, and China is getting ready for its own lunar new year at the end of this month. Happy 2014 everyone -- may your year be full of good health and happiness. 

A rare family picture.

We always have a photographer with us these days.

Yesterday morning I saw this cart with red lanterns: Chinese New Year is coming!