Thursday, 30 August 2007

Beijing: The Marathon Girl or Another form of Child Abuse ?

3.560 km from Sanya, Hainan Province to Beijing in 55 days. Little Zhang Huimin, 8 years old was running and running and running. She weighs only 20 kilo and is 1,25 cm tall. Every day she got up 2.30 am and ran an average of 70 km, accompanied by her father on his motorized bicycle. They arrived in Beijing on August, 28 where they made it to the front page of the China Daily.

Is this another form of child abuse? Chinese parents are very ambitious with their offsprings. You might call it pro-active parenting when a four year old get tennis and piano lessons. But when a father sends his three year old daughter running 3 km a day dreaming her to win the marathon at the 2016 Olympics. What is that?

The father's training methods have been widely criticized (see relevant Independent article) and the girl's picture on the front page of a Chinese Newspaper at Danwei.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Beijing: About Drivers

Drivers know everything. They know where your new colleague lives. They know who had dinner where and when they went home - after which bar and probably with whom too. They know who is entitled to which company car and who has changed the car too early. Our driver also knows that apple juice is cheaper at Jenny Lou than at Carrefour. He knows which ham my husband likes to eat and which milk my son prefers. He also knew that a police control in Sanlitun’s barstreet was scheduled for the other night.

Drivers hear lots of things and they like to share information. That’s why we know also lots of things about our drivers.

Working as a driver in Beijing is a well respected and well paid job. At least it was for many years. It might change. However, our driver seems to drive for fun. He was waiting to finally drive his dream car, a Mercedes. He is happy with that. He owns a house and his wife does business trips to London. Never had a driver before who was living at that standard. He does not buy his cashmere sweater like I do at the Silk market for 240 RMB. He buys a better quality for 600 RMB at Lido Holiday Inn. Then there was a time he was thinking of buying an apartment, just for an investment. And last week he tells that he made a great deal. He sold an other apartment for 1,5 million RMB that he bought four years ago for 500,000 RMB. 1,000,0000 RMB profit (about 100,000 Euro). Our driver. Unbelievable. Do you still want to work for us?, I asked him. He just laughed and smiled friendly like always. He is one of the best looking Chinese around and he always dresses nicely. He does not spit on the street at a red light like taxi drives do. And you won’t believe, but he is also good in driving. He is the best driver we ever had (5 years in Thailand, no one could drive like that). And in China, someone who really knows to drive is hard to find. His English name is ‘Michael’. He said, his previous boss gave him this name after ‘Michael Schumacher’. He worked for Volvo and Siemens before. But his dream was to drive a Mercedes.

All visiting family members love him. My sister said that a certain distance with a taxi driver takes double of the time than with ‘Michael’. Our driver knows his way. With him there is no traffic jam in Beijing. He just avoids the traffic jam. He goes on the fourth or fifth ring road to avoid the traffic on the third. He burns more gasoline on more kilometres but he is seldom stacked in traffic. He knows that we will arrive in 7 minutes. Not 5 or 10 minutes, no he knows, it will take 7 minutes. He can always at anytime point in my fathers map where we are. When we go back home for summer he buys green tea for my mother and mother-in-law as a gift. He owns two mobile phones, latest models only. We already suspected him to spy on us. Maybe he has another job, maybe not. We don’t mind. We are happy with him.

Yesterday, we had dinner with another couple, friends, which happen to work for the same company. They told us, that their driver saw our car outside and said to them, that we are already in the restaurant. And of course he knows our driver. They probably will go for dinner together. So it happened that we had a small conversation about our drivers. We learned from our friends that their diver is an even bigger businessman than ours. He owns 6 shops in Yashow and Silk market. And he or his wife owns a spacious and apparently recognized Chinese restaurant that can host up to 800 people. One day, our friend told us, the driver asked him if he could stop at the bank. He might need some cash, he thought. Wrong. The driver opened the gloves box and took out an envelop 10cm thick, packed with 100 RMB bills. Money from his restaurant. This one definitely drives just for fun.

Our next dinner date will be at our friend's driver’s restaurant.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Matchmaking in China

The Chinese matchmaking website held a Chinese Valentine's Day(*) meeting at a Beijing park last weekend. More than 2,000 people attended. The organiser said 30 % of the attendees were parents of singles trying to find the right match for their children. Parents even register on the website to find online potential partners for their children.

Matchmaking has a long tradition in China. In the countryside parents would go to see the matchmaker of the village to find the match for their son or daughter.

(*) The Chinese Valentine's Day takes place at the seventh lunar day of the sevens lunar month and flowers a given to loved ones, same like on the worldwide Valentine's Day on February 14th.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Flickr Photos partly unblocked in China

Amazing! I see my flickr badge on the blogroll showing colourful pictures again! I immediately accessed flickr to see whether China's 'Net Nannie' has finally unblocked flickr... I couldn't believe my eyes: from all my sets only the one with the title 'China Style', the one feeding the flickr badge on this blog was deblocked. Well, the 'Net Nannie' must be really busy deblocking pictures/sets by tags or names... Amazing!

This is my unblocked set at All other pictures are still not available in China.

Update: Thursday 2.30pm, the Censors are not that generous anymore... all gone again. However some minutes later some other pictures, not my China Set, were visible...Maybe the Censors play around or the filter does not work right. I don't know if you know how censorship in China looks like, therefor here the latest screenshot:

Fang Xiang at Creation Gallery in Beijing

It is time to post something beautiful. I have not been painting or posting paintings for too long. Yesterday I got another email from Lolita from Creation Gallery at Ritan Park in Beijing. The gallery shows new paintings from Fang Xiang, one of my favorite Chinese painters. He is more popular among expats than among Chinese as his paintings are not 'traditional'. I like his paintings because they are calm and lively at the same time. They are full of Chinese elements, like bird cages, Chinese doors and chairs, lilies and bamboo - without being 'too Chinese'. The colours he use are vivid, the compositions just beautiful....

I am not a professional painting reviewer, just look for yourself and visit Creation Gallery.

From the gallery's website I got Fang Xiang's resume:
His works have appeared 'in many provincial and national art exhibitions and have won numerous awards. Many of his works have been exhibited in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Czechoslovakia, America and Canada. His works are part of the collections of China Art Museum, Associations of Chinese Artists, the Academy of Chinese Painting, and etc.'

The painting above is called 'A Narrow and quiet path', 136x34 cm, Wash and Ink, 52,000 RMB (about 5,200 Euro).

This one is called 'Courtyard'. It is in horizontal format, that means you do not necessarily need to have a pair. (34x136 cm, Wash and Ink, 52,000 RMB - about 5,200 Euro).

Sigh, the price is high. I should have bought something from Fang Xiang in Singapore many years ago, when I first saw his art. At that time I hesitated. Cannot remember the price, but he also was not cheap at that time.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Beijing: Beachvolleyball and Tips Before Wearing a Bikini

The final and the bronze medal match of the 2007 FIVB Beach Volleyball Women's Challenger were staged in Chaoyang Park in Beijing last Sunday. This was the first test event for Beach Volleyball one year before the Beijing Olympics. The Brazilian pair Angela Vieira/Danielle Vivian remained unbeaten for the title with a victory over the Chinese pair Yue Yuan/Zhang Wenwen. The Thai pair Kulna/Yupa Phokongpoly edged out the Swiss pair Sarah Schmocker/Isabelle Forrer to finish third.

The participants praised the venue and were happy to simulate the situation of the real Olympics, including weather conditions.

Pictures from Beach Volleyball 2007,

Will Beach Volleyball bring the 'Bikini' fashion to China?

The magazines this summer are full of sexy beach fashion. However, most of the Chinese women (as other Asian women as well) usually do not wear these two-peace beach wear. It is not decent to show bare skin and not popular to get a sun tan. So they avoid the beach, sit in the shadow or wear t-shirts for swimming. Quiet reasonable and healthy ...

But then there was this article in China Daily for Chinese women:

- Tips before wearing a bikini -

With the opening of China's economy, women are also becoming more open about showing their bodies, and they can do it with bikinis in the summer.

This swimwear is becoming popular among Chinese girls. But before wearing a bikini, there are a few things women need to know before donning a bikini.

Many women will try to lose weight before wearing a bikini. Yet fashion experts say that in order to look attractive in a bikini, the following things are more important than weight.

Tip 1: The color of your skin means much more than the color of the bikini you wear.

According to a survey conducted by an international fashion magazine, tanned looking skin is more attractive to men than perfect body curves on beaches. So when going to the beach, apply foundation darker than the one you use in office.

(...) And for a glittering touch, add shimmering powder to your collarbone, shoulders and cleavage to make you look sexier.

Tip 2: Pay attention to little corners of your body.

Women don’t pay enough attention to their backs, elbows and knees when in the office, but you need to make up for it before setting out for a beach.

Before you go, have a hot bath. It will help soften the hard skin on your back. If you can have someone scrub your back, it works even better.

For knees and elbows, apply a polishing cream with big grains in it to exfoliate the dead skin.

Bruises can also diminish the looks of a charming lady. The way to get rid of them is to use a tube of yellowish correcting cream, apply it to the bruised area, and then cover it with some dark foundation powder.

Tip 3: A bloated body is far from attractive

During traveling, lack of sleep and adapting to a strange place can both lead to a bloated body.

To prevent the body from swelling, don’t wear tight pants or socks and wear low-heeled shoes. If you body is bloated, here are four life savers:

No.1 Drink four to five glasses of Job's tears water (Chinese barley) the day before you go to the beach. This helps drain extra water from your body.

No.2 Massage slimming cream or massage oil onto your body for 15 minutes, and the next day you’ll have a slimmer body.

No.3 If you don’t notice you have a bloated body until just before starting for the beach, drink a cup of black coffee with an empty stomach and that can drain extra water out of the body quickly. But this method isn’t very good for the stomach, so avoid it if you have a weak stomach.

No.4 If all three above tips fail, here is the last suggestion. Make your arms look slimmer by putting your hands on your waist Akimbo arms make arms look slimmer and leaning the body forward at a 45 degree angle makes whole body appear slimmer!

Tip 4: Have a pair of charming feet.

A pair of neatly groomed feet adds to your charm. Moisturize your feet. Bathe them in hot water and then apply some body lotion to your feet. Wrap them with thin plastic wrap and warm the feet with hot towels for 10 minutes. Paint your toe nails. Pearly white and bright red are mostly commonly used nail colors. When applying nail polish, leave some room on nail edges to make nails look more delicate.

Tip 5: Give skin after-beach care.

Direct exposure to salty seawater and strong sun rays harms the skin and makes it dry and then peels. Some skin is even allergic to ultra violet rays. So it’s necessary to take special care of the skin within one hour after coming back from seaside.

Cool your whole body by having a green tea bath. Soak a make-up pad with a cooling lotion and then keep the pad in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Pat burning areas of the skin with this pad and keep it on sensitive areas like shoulders, back and chest for 20 minutes. After this cooling treatment, apply a soothing gel to supplement water to the skin.

(from China Daily, August 13th 2007)

? What do you say?
Dear China Girl, if you think about wearing a bikini, don't be afraid after that article. Life on the beach should be fun. And btw, who has hard skin on the back?

I don't know if the author of the article was male of female. It is quiet entertaining, but scary regarding this is meant seriously. One more tip from me, that was forgotten in the article and is the most important thing before going to the beach: SHAVING!

I think the Chinese Beach Volleyball girls did all right, see picture above.

Beijing: Air Quality this August

To you I must seem obsessed with air quality and pollution. Well, I am living here! I am breathing this air. And my son and I have often respiratory problems, but more at night than during the day. The latter is probably because the new paint in our house contains more lead than what they found in the Mattel toys in the U.S.

Coming back to the air quality this month in Beijing. For two long weekends in a row (2 x 4 days) about half of the cars were taken off the road, which reduced traffic jams, but I think the effect on the air was not that big. The SEPA records for Beijing show, the air this August was quiet good, lots of 'level 2 days', however, no matter cars were off the road or not. The air was better than last July, however about the same as in August 2006 when there were no even-uneven-car-reduction-tests. 'Level 2' means under 100 mgr particulate matters per cubic meter. A 'Level 2 day' in Beijing is considered as a 'blue sky day', a good day. I have posted here about pollution levels and different standards in Europe (good is below 50) and Australia (good is below 30).

Anyway, today all the cars are back on the street and the sky is the bluest since I am back in town (one week).

When checking the air quality data published by SEPA on Monday 20st, I first thought that there is a database problem because it showed only the air quality of one single city (instead of 84 major cities in China). I did not pay further attention until I found out today via Danwei that there are still no data for Monday 20st, last day of the car-reduction test! The next available data after Sunday 19th are from Tuesday 21st, a 'level 3' day, that, btw I mentioned above, was a very clear deep blue sky day! So what air quality we had on Monday? I guess level 3, above 100 mgr.PM/m3 ... (picture via Danwei)

Summary: The car-reduction-test was a success for the traffic situation, but not for the air quality, although it is communicated to the public as an overall success.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Beijing: Measurements to improve the air and traffic

'9 million bicycles in Beijing' a beautiful song by Katie Melua gives a false impression. There are more cars than bikes around nowadays, according to what I see in the city center. Beijing faces 1,000 newly registered cars every single day and reached 3 million registered automobiles this May.

Today was the last day of Beijing's second four-day experiment to test whether 'pulling 1.3 million cars off the roads each day would prove effective in reducing air pollution during the Olympic Games in August 2008'.

Drivers with even-numbered license plates, excluding taxis, buses and emergency vehicles, were told to stay off the roads on Friday and Sunday - or face a fine of 100 RMB (10 Euro). Odd-numbered cars were banned on Saturday and Monday. Switching time was 6am.

From what I saw, Beijingers respected the rules. Saturday morning my husband and I rode a bike to Houhai lake with our son. It was the first time in two years that I dared to ride that short distance of about 3 km from our house. The crossing of the second ring road was absolutely no problem. There were definitely less cars on the road. Although the air did not seem cleaner, but 34 degrees Celsius do not make the air feel fresh anyway.

When a car was necessary this weekend and this morning for work, we shared cars with friends. So we contributed to the test.

Other measurements took place at night. Dongzhimenwai Dajie, all six lanes, was totally flooded around midnight on Saturday. It was not only sprayed wet by these cleaning trucks to ground the dust, it was flooded. I don't know why only this road and what kind of test this has been. Not to mention the water shortage situation.

Today I read in China Daily, the Olympic city plans to put 50,000 bicycles for rent across the city ahead of the Games 'to curb pollution and ease congestion'. Brand new bikes will be available at 230 outlets close to subway stations, Olympic venues and hotels according to a "rent a bike" program carried out by Beijing Bicycle Rental Services, a Beijing-based company. The daily rent will be around 20 RMB (2 Euro).

I also read last week that several national daily flights will be cancelled soon. But the explanation was for safety reasons. I think this might contribute as well for better air.

Further more the government plans to have finished all ongoing constructions (there are no new construction activities allowed in the city until September 2008), to stop earth moving activities and shut down polluting industries for the time of the Olympics.

The weather in Beijing will be controlled by the 'Weather Modification Department'. They will launch rockets into the clouds containing silver iodide ('cloud seeding') to make them rain before the opening ceremony. This kills two birds with one stone: no wet opening ceremony and better air quality. The rain clears out air pollution and washes away the dust from the streets and trees.

Photo Reuters, China Daily

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Beijing: Passport Photo Shooting

Today I had to get photos of myself. My visa for China must be re-newed and I need two photos same style as for passports (light blue background, new regulation).

First I didn't want to go as I felt terribly tired (jet-lag) and I looked even worse. But then I thought, come on, it is only for a visa application and not for the passport that you have to show for the next ten years. So I went there, smiled, click, click, done. What I totally forgot was the editing part. The editor eliminated all my freckles, deleted my latest pimple, cut off my mole on the neck, 'botoxed' my wrinkles on the forehead and whitened my cute suntan! After this beauty surgery, the editor became a hairdresser and cut some of my hair sticking out of my ponytail.

For job applications or sweetheart's wallet you can get the prettiest picture of you if you want, but for a passport or visa? I mean, does the police agree with that? Maybe they need to know about my mole to identify me one day? Beside I do not really know where I have a mole and maybe I do not care when they need to identify me ... but these edited pictures look so immaculate. Although I am happy with my look, today I didn't mind the little pimple erasing job. And I can picture what botox could do one day ;-)

Anyway. I got nine of it (I only need two) for 50 kwai (5 Euro).

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Back in town

I am back in town after a seven weeks holiday...

Did I miss Beijing? - No.

Was I looking forward to return 'home'? - Well, let's say I was looking forward to the change. I like my different life in China. And in Europe, our Italian holiday at the sea was over and in Germany all friends are on holiday right now.

Today at the airport it was very crowded at the immigration. I have never seen so many people in so many lines. We had to wait over an hour! This must improve within one year!

The only one in the family who really couldn't wait to return to Beijing was our son. He was talking about his Chinese friend and his ayi the whole flight. And he was jumping in our drivers arms and asked him to drive faster, faster to our house.

At home the ayi was waiting and our son jumped in her arms with a scream of joy while I was wondering what she was doing all the time since one third of our fish population in the aquarium has died and two third of my flowers and plant died. My bathroom I am cleaning myself. At least I know that its cleaned then. I gave up to tell her or teach her as she has a total different understanding of 'cleanliness'. What's wrong with dirt behind some flower pots as long as you do not see it? And what is wrong with lime stain in the bathroom when you are used to share a squat toilet with 100 other people on the neighbourhood? I just have to get used again to the difference in hygienic standards. She is great with our son and that counts more.

Some good news: the sky is blue and clear. Indeed, the air looked not that bad from the plane. And its hot. I thought August is the worst month in Beijing. But today I was told it is July. So maybe the Olympics will have blue sky in 2008, as planned! Although Chinese are already afraid of a 50% chance of rain on 08-08-2008 at the opening ceremony. But the Chinese weather makers are able to control the clouds.

When I was on holiday I did not check my links from China Daily or Danwei for news from Beijing. So I am not sure what I missed beside the pre-Olympics-Party. Before I left Beijing in June, I read these breathtaking stories about poor job seeking men who ended up in slavery in brick kilns in western provinces. Meanwhile these stories went around the world and Beijing government is acting - although a lot are still missing, as I read in a German magazine (Der Spiegel). This is the dark side of the world... every country has its crimes. But this kind of organized human right violation is frightening.

The bright side I am looking forward to right now is a foot massage in the next days and some updates about Beijing, refreshing my Chinese, maybe painting and some more writing.


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