inside thoughts on China and beyond

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People Persons

 I am not a Catholic but I do want to congratulate Pope Francis wholeheartedly. (Though I do think he would want me to call him Jorge, given his achievements of the last 9 month as a People’s Pope, so I shall.)  Being chosen as Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ doesn’t happen often (well, it happens once a year, of course, but not to the same person). And that Jorge is chosen ahead of Snowdon and Assad is a sign; a writing on the wall. The Great Wall, I hope. Read the rest of this page »

Patriot Talk

My Chinese language teacher is a fervent traveler and true patriot. Had she only lived in, let’s say, March 8, 1421, she would surely have joined admiral Zheng He, whose ships (each an impressive 5 times the size of Columbus’ dinky boat!) crossed many seas. She would have explored the new worlds of Australia and Africa and beyond and enjoyed the cultural diversities and tried to comprehend it all. That’s how curious she is. She would have returned home with spoils of arts and animals and sing glory to the Middle Kingdom’s achievements and greatness. That’s how patriotic she is. But then she would also have been uncontrollably upset when eventually the emperor burned all ships, shut down China’s borders and closed off the country for any contact with the outside. That’s how headstrong she is -and angrily disappointed. I won’t say it aloud, but I am sure she would have started a rebellion, back then. Read the rest of this page »

Big Business

Disclaimer: do not read this article while eating! And with that said, let’s dive right into it: China is changing rapidly and its toilets are changing with it. Notably slower though.

But toilets have always, how shall I put it, intrigued me. After all, we spend quite some time there. As a boy I would sit and study the patterns of the floor and walls while doing my business. In the shapes and lines on the concrete floor I would see the outlines of countries, of wild roses at the point of withering; the list of what I saw was endless and always growing. Sometimes though, I would see faces. An old man with a sharp nose and deep eyes, a girl’s face with wavy long hair falling down her bare shoulders. Sinterklaas. Well, today it happened again. Read the rest of this page »

Portfolio – On The Road

Portfolio – On The Road

October 2013

Chinese roads are amazing. Some are new and hectic, others are ages old but quiet. Some wind across high passes, others cut through endless deserts and grasslands. But all have their own story to tell. All we need to do is travel them, listen, and learn.   As Aldous Huxley said long ago: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”  (read more)

The Stroller

My traffic light is red. I stop. (Do take note of this; stopping for traffic lights isn’t anyone’s second nature after more than 10 years in China – remarkable, really!) I wait and watch thick raindrops splash on my windscreen. Soon I will need to switch the wipers from interval mode to constant. A young woman is crossing the road. With one hand she pushes her stroller loaded with Aldi shopping bags hanging heavily on the handlebar while holding an umbrella with the other. Read the rest of this page »

Milk Rush

It’s been awhile since I last was in Holland. One year to be precise, or, as my assistant puts it: 12 boxes of Nutricia baby milk powder ago. She measures time by what is dear to her, and don’t we all?  My daily drive to work used to take me 4 songs, but after we moved to our new home it only takes one song. Sometimes even less than that and then I drive around the block just to hear the end of a Mozart cantata or Sting’s ‘Mr. President’.  Read the rest of this page »

Lamentations

LamentationsBuckets of tears we shed, and believe me, it was a real family happening. Everyone joined in. Eyes watered and messed up mascara -not that we have mascara, but it visualizes the flow of tears so nicely- and soon enough large murky floods poured out from us that would dwarf the 3 Gorges Dam. Noses dripped like leaking taps. My son handed me a tissue -again. It was the same one I passed on to my wife just a minute ago. Tissues were shared. For the last time. The last time! “Whaaah!!!” And off we went again. Read the rest of this page »

Photo Story – Baptism

Photo Story – Baptism

August 2013

My blog’s tagline explains the purpose of my blog: ‘show & tell’ about China and beyond. This photo story is then clearly a ‘beyond’. It is not taken in China -it took place in the center of The Netherlands. It is not about the Chinese: these are (Dutch) Indonesians. Nor is it about buddhism. This is a short impression of a Christian baptism that took place in a little pond in the gardens of De Hught, on a cold and very wet day…  (read more)

Chinese Dream

In 1963, Martin Luther King spoke his legendary words: “I have a dream” and within days it became the dream of millions.  Exactly 50 years later, Xi Jinping revealed his slogan: “Zhongguo meng” the “China Dream” (also translated as: Chinese Dream). That was months ago, and millions are still wondering what he meant by it.  Read the rest of this page »

Photo Story – Schools of Hope

Photo Story – Schools of Hope

May 2013

Victor Hugo once said: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison“. This is surely true here, in the Land of the Yi, around Xichang. Long have the local people of the Yi ethnic minority lived in extreme poverty that lead many of previous generations into alcohol and drugs abuse, leaving deep scars in the younger generation. Here, a few determined teachers with small budgets but great hearts have started schools for the Yi children. Many students walk hours through the mountains each day to come to school, their school of hope…  (read more)

Earthquake Expert

There are those days you will never forget. They stay with you forever. Not that we always want to, but they do. Just take a second. While reading this, I’m sure something is popping up in your head ‘while we speak’ so to speak. And for your sake, I surely hope so. No life can possibly be so boring that it has not one moment of deep hardship or glorious fortune, not one moment of lonely obscurity or unbridled fame; not one moment that you will always remember. All that to say: today was just one of those days. Read the rest of this page »

Portfolio – Land of the 4 Seasons

Portfolio – Land of the 4 Seasons

April 2013

I’ve always appreciated seasonsAll seasons. Each season has its own particular beauty and drama. And just when you start getting bored with one, the other is knocking on your door or banging on the windows. Chengdu doesn’t really have this; it’s either hot or cold, with only a few transition days in between. But as soon as you reach the Tibetan mountains, the song ‘Four season in one day‘ comes true. Here are some impressions of these majestic and at times mysterious seasons….  (read more)

Fleeting Freedom

20130402_106-2You know how big-city life and a busy job and, now I’m at it, a family, can make you feel confined; imprisoned in inevitable routines and unchangeable habits. Tired. Then it is time for an escape; time for wilderness and raw freedom. Then it’s time for the Tibetan mountains. And so I planned a 10-day trip to Sertar monastery high up in the far western mountains of Sichuan and made the necessary preparations: talking with insiders; watching the latest news; taking my altitude tables. All was fine -that is to say; as fine as can be expected in these parts- and I was ready. How little did I know… Read the rest of this page »

Superstition and other Luck

Fireworks were shot into the sky -twice, mind you: first on Chinese New Year’s eve and again fifteen days later – and devils and other evil fled from China, to the far ends of the world. Scared. Although I wouldn’t be surprised that they were, more than anything, scared of the polluted air. And I would flee too, if I could, Read the rest of this page »

Red Alarm

AQI

(Monday 174 red)  The sun is shining -though somewhat watery. The sky is blueish and the temperature is just right. The peach trees in front of our kitchen window are blossoming -spring is in the air! These are those rare days that I just can’t stop myself from running. Running my lazy winter sweat out. Loosening my stiff muscles. Pumping blood through my vessels and spring air into my lungs. Reason to rejoice, was it not that there is more in the air. More than meets the eye. It’s called pollution. Read the rest of this page »