Tuesday, 24 June 2008

100 Best Travel Journal Blogs

Beijing Notebook, along with 99 other blogs, was voted as one of "100 Best Travel Journal Blogs" by TravelHacker.

Thank you! I feel honored to belong to such an interesting community of travel blogs.

I was informed about the result over a month ago. But as blogspot was blocked here in China for a long time and even the proxy servers couldn't help everyday, I could not post about it.

The more glad I am to see some traffic from TravelHacker's list.
For free virtual travel fun surf the list.

Countdown to Move

7 days to go... and my husband - just back from a business trip - says he might have to go again on a business trip. His return to Beijing would be the day of our one-way-flight out. I would be alone when the packers storm the house.

6 days to go... I check my email between two farwell parties and find an email from the moving company: due to this busy week (every second expat moving seems to move this week) they are cancelling our first packing day. Anyway two days would be enough for our household. Please confirm....
Well, it was Saturday evening and I picked up the phone and lost my temper.
Although we anyhow thought of starting the packing a day later due to my husband's trip, I was disturbed by the service. They have my phone number and could have called right away when they knew they have to pack for someone else (maybe more important than us). Email is not appropriate and cancelling a packing day two working days in advance is even worse!

5 days to go... my husband is packing for his business trip back home and I am lucky to be able to give him and his collegue both again each a full suitcase of summer clothes. This means less volume for the container and summer clothes right on place when we come home.

Instead 4 days to go it is now ONE week to go! Yes! Great. Winning some extra time comforts me. I might not get a heart attack after all. But what do I do with my extra time when the container is gone? Shopping? Suitcases will be packed tight.
We are winning time for friends! And say good-bye again. One family had to leave earlier then planned to find a house in another destination then they thought they will move to. They will be back in some days. And another family that has to leave to Hong Kong due to visa renewel issues will be back this weekend. So this is very nice! We will be able to see both families one more time!

It is a very strange time right now here in Beijing for expats. All is about leaving. Even the magazine That's Beijing has on its June cover this subject:
"101 things to do before leaving Beijing".
Of course there are not 101 things to do in Beijing before leaving. Much less!
And that's why a lot of the points are meant to be funny.

But some of the points I recognize. E.g. getting a qipao. I lived without qipao, a traditonal Chinese dress, since my whole life... but the last time I went to Muxiyuan fabric market, my friend encouraged me and I got the silk to do one. And I went for the first time to a tailor at the Friendship Store (it was 10 days to go at the time). When I saw myself in the mirror, I wondered why I have not bought more silk, in different colours to get more dresses... No, stop thinking! No more fabric market trips (I got addicted, since two months I go there weekly, once even twice a week) - and will I ever wear it back home? Also, all tailors are working at their limits right now. Everybody leaving wants something done in the last minute. Meaning quality is suffering.

I have to go back to "work" and get my cupboards and drawers de-cluttered and sorted. I am also wondering what I find next that I have not thought I still have it. Maybe posting it on BeijingCafe, that serves these days as a very efficient Beijing version of ebay. I am not going to post a flower pot for 20 kuai or free shampoo ... this is what my ayi carries home every evening. But a kid's night pot? Or a toy tool bench? Mmhh, I am still looking for someone I know, who could use it. I am not going to let this be packed up in bubble wrapping and use up high valuable cubic meters in our tiny 20 feet container. So it gets the "Don't move" sticker.

I am glad about everything that I can get rid off, but on the other side all the farwell gifts are floating in and using up new space... Especially the bulky comapny gifts, like car grills... All these things get a "Don't move sticker" and at the end we will see what still fits in.

Today my ayi came with a "new" bike. It is just a tiny bit less shabby then her other bike. She declared her old one is broken. Very tricky... she knows that I have a nice Giant bike. And if it fits in the container, I might not leave it for her. How bad she makes me feel if I take my lovely Giant bike, with only one speed, useless for my hilly hometown, just for the sake of memories... I will feel bad every day I see it standing unused in the garage. Very tricky. I wonder if her bike is really broken - just 1 day before the packing starts?

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

BeijingCafe and how a Yahoo Group helps moving

It took me almost three years in Beijing to get to know BeijingCafe and its advantages! Last year I heard of BeijingCafe, a yahoo group, for the first time. It seemed to me an amazing source of information. If you want to know where to buy e.g. silk, you raise this question at BeijingCafe and the members who know where would eventually write back.

Well, I thought, I am living here since a while and did not feel the urgent need to get more information that I already had about life in this city. But who knows, there might be some shopping secrets out there that this group likes to share more openly with you then your neighbours or friends ....

So I asked my friend who had told me a couple of times about BeijingCage to invite me (it took me a while to find out, that you need to be invited). She tried once, we forgot about it and she tried twice. It did not work out. Some more monthes passed by until another friend told me that she had heard about this and that and I wondered how she got these hot info - BeijingCafe, you know? Oh, yes, please invite me. She forgot about it and so do I. Until a third friend told me that she has found something, maybe a great tailor or so, via BeijingCafe. BeijingCafe? Can you invite me? Please! Sure. She did it the same day and I received an invittion the same day! Great! And since I am a member, I am "branche", connected.

It turns out very handy!

One might think, why becoming a member of a Beijing online group when leaving?
It is the right time!

I had to find a job for my ayi. In July? The month every expat goes on holiday? I thought this will be impossible. Probably I need to pay her a month salary for bridging the gab until she finds a new job. But, wait a moment. Why not post her on BeijingCafe. This group has 1.300 members by now. So I wrote a nice recommendation and I got answers! My ayi had over a dozen job offers and enough interviews to find herself a convenient job in an even more convenient location at a higher salary!

Then I thought. What to do with my big Mercedes pedal car? We have no more space in the container, and my son definately does not play with it anymore. Where to sell it when not in China. I asked the neighbourhood, thought about posting it at Jenny Lou -but wait - BeijingCafe is the solution. A minute after I posted the used toy, I got already the first requests in my email box. And the next day it was gone! For a fair price. Fantastic.

Right now, in BeijingCafe the most popular topic is about Olympic tickets: The hurdles of picking them up, during holiday, with middle names and how to transfer it etc. I also checked here whether someone would buy our tickets. Oooh, what a flood of emails I got....

One last BJC story for today: For our farwell party I miscalculated the need of alcohol and am sitting now on a stock of liquor that I cannot pack in the container. What a pitty! I was trying to figure out which bottle I would give to whom, when I read another post on BJC about 'free tampons' that have already been picked up (!). People sell / give away and are looking for some strangest things sometimes...
So I thought, when someone would go to a strangers house to pick up two boxes of tampons, maybe I can find someone via BJC that would come to my house and buy my stock of various wines - white and red, new and old and gins and digestives. So I wrote: I am selling the lot, all 13 bottles together... and I just pressed the sent button when I got a phone call, several emails and one sms - all agreed the price and wanted to buy my leftovers. (Mmmh, maybe the French 1999 bottle is a collector item??)

Amazing BeijingCafe.

PS: When you are interested, please don't ask me to invite you... I am leaving and busy. But check out this link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Beijingcafe/

Sorry for no perfect link - I entered blogger via an anonymous proxy and it does not show all the features for posting links and photos etc.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Olympic Ticket Hurdle

It is not easy to get into the Olympic Games. Once you won the option to buy tickets for the Games the 'hurdle run' starts. You need to fill out forms, bring your passport to a pick-up point at a certain pick-up time. If you are out of town, you might send a messanger, but also with id and your copied documents etc. If you have a middle name there is confusion too.

Now, what if you have tickets - or at least will have them soon - but cannot attend the Games and want / need to re-sell? More hurdles... You can re-sell, but each ticket can only be transferred once. And most complicated are the Opening and Closing Ceremony tickets to transfer.

Here are some legal info that I received today from our friend Marc's legal counsel in Shanghai:

"The Legal Affairs Department of the Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) has not issued ticket transfer policy yet.

According to Ticketing Centre of BOCOG, ticket transfer policy will be
issued very soon.

I googled some relevant info and hope it will be of some help:
Those who want to transfer tickets in a rightful way should pay for their tickets in advance. Any resale of Olympic tickets for profit, however, is illegal (!).

Ticketing Centre will handle the application to transfer the
tickets in July 2008 until 3 days before the competition or ceremony.

Tickets for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are not transferable
indiscriminately. The transfer of tickets for the Opening and Closing
Ceremonies shall be approved by BOCOG and follow the procedure as
prescribed in ticket transfer policy. The deadline for opening ticket
transfer: August 4; deadline for closing ticket transfer: August 20.

The tickets shall be transferred only once. The transferor shall be the original ticket buyer. The transferor shall come to Ticketing Centre in person to transfer the tickets. No special requirements for the people who lives outside China. (...)"

Thank you Marc!

So regarding all these hurdles, we prefer not to re-sell and try to give the tickets back, if still possible (we are moving, otherwise we would go of course!). Otherwise we have someone who will buy all six tickets - so please don't email me anymore.

I hope that despite all the hurdles around the ticket purchasing and transferring the stadiums will be full with cheering fans! I know, it is all for our own safety. And I am pretty sure that these will be the safest Games ever!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Olympic Tickets for Sale

We have 6 tickets of the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing for sale:

2 tickets for Athletics on August 21st at 19.00 (AT15) Category B

2 tickets for Football Final on August 23rd at 12.00 (FB39) Category A

2 tickets for Closing Ceremony on August 24th at 20.00 (ZC01) Category A

The tickets will be issued in July. Only the tickets for the closing ceremony need to be transferred in your name before August 3rd (you need to fill out a form).

If you are interested make us an offer at writing(dot)Suzie(at)yahoo(dot)com

We ordered the tickets for us and now we are moving away from Beijing. As it is not sure we will make it back for the Olympics, we decided to sell the tickets to someone who is interested. Many of our friends here in Beijing have already enough tickets, therefore I thought I go public for this sale.

Update: The tickets are gone.
Our company helps with the transfer as a collegue takes them over.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Pictures from Beijing

One of the things the city of Beijing is doing before the Olympics is painting all the grey and a bit sad looking apartment houses along major roads. They get a quick paint job. Almost overnight. No scaffolding. No repair. Just paint. A quick face lift.

It is difficult to see in the picture. But this house looks so much nicer and cleaner than before! And when you drive a long e.g. the 3rd ring road, you see lots of them. They don't look that much different then before, but somehow different, and when you look closer, you realise, they have been all painted! I should have invested in a paint selling company...

In Beijing new bars and restaurants open weekly - and some may close for the Olympics, if they do not meet some standards. I discovered this "Italian" gelateria behind the Russian Market. It sounds almost Italian.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Don't Underestimate the Power of the Dragon

I am just a little blogger girl and I have not much time to fully research the two stories that I think are related. If you like to know more, you can google around.

1. story: Sharon Stone and her big mouth

By know you might have heard the Sharon Stone Karma story.
It is not that stupid, as one might think, as I read in some other news paper, was it China Daily?, something similar about the last big earthquake and that Chairman Mao died 2 or 3 month afterwards. Chinese are supersticious. They like to "read signs".

But these days, in the pre-Olympic phase, the Dragon is especially sensitive ...
Chinese Media published the story on the front page. I don't know the wording, but I guess, it was ment to dislike the actress. Her new film (I don't know the title) will be boycotted.

But what I thought is most interesting: Dior dropped adds with the actress! This is the Power of the Dragon. Either Dior's marketshare in China is really high, or their business with China will have some disadvantages when they don't dropp her - or both.

2. story: what the NBA has learned

I read that NBA basketball games were suspended from TV. It was said that it is not appropriate to show basketball games during the three days mourning period. But after these 3 days, all channels were broadcasting again (before 3 days of black TV screens! Only newschannels like CNN and BBC were broadcasting and Chinese channels of course. But not even Deutsche Welle DW was on). So people were wondering - and I had a guess - I won the bet with myself - later in May it was reported that NBA donated several millions of dollars (I forgot the amount, maybe 28 mio $ ?) to the victims of the earthquake. They should be back on TV by now.

Dior knew faster then NBA how to please the Dragon.

Remark: This story is not ment to offend anybody. It should help to understand a bit more the way things work here and to not understimate the power of 1.3 billion people.

Beijing: Photo update

New Parking at Panjiayuan Weekend Market! "New York style car elevator".

The origami lamp at the new Sushi Bar next to Kunlun Hotel, opposite Jia Yi (Taka Kura Sushi Bar, minimalistic cool interior, expensive, cannot beat Hatsune)

A kids party in Beijing. Most of the kids' birthday parties are big. All classmates are invited together with parents on a weekend. Sometimes there is a bouncing castle, sometimes a magician, sometimes there is face painting, there are some little games to play, there is always food and drinks of course and a big birthday cake with a sugar spiderman or barbie on top. And there was this party that had all of it plus an acrobatic show. Amazing.

A tree gets a police escort. Maybe a new tree in front of a police station?

The other bird nest(s) in Beijing. Can you see them? Actually despite the pollution there are many birds in Beijing.

Today I am glad to be able to access my blog, to sign in and to post words And pictures. What a progress!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Kind of Update

I just lamented that I cannot access my blog and now I am in. It is confusing. Yesterday I found a way via websurfing.cn and today I try the same but get error messages from google. Then I tried to comment on my last post - I am really glad that some readers care - and I realise I am kind of signed in! Now, while I am writing here, the post cannot be saved... it seems hopeless, at least today.
- Until later.

I cannot save the post, but I can publish it. But none of the tools above (insert link, image, spell check etc.) are available. So no pictures. I only have nice pictures to post!
Hello Mr. Internet P*licemen! Bring back my Blog !

But ... maybe .... if I try to surf back and forward, slowly, again and again, I might be able to dwell another hole in the Great Firewall ...

It is time consuming, but challenging. If anyone has an idea, let me know. Comments are forwarded into my mailbox.

Thanks for not giving up on my blog !

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Update from Beijing

I am still here. I just lost my voice through censorship. And after pkblog.com and other useful sites could not help me to get back to blogspot I gave up. Of course I was angry and sad. Not only could I not write about my thoughts and little daily adventures, I had no access to all my favorite blogs hosted by blogger, blogspot, typepad etc. But after a while I almost get used to a blog free life...

Every now and then I checked my statistic (via statcounter.com) and wondered that I have still lots of hits although I am not updating my blogs.

And just right now, checking again, I see that a lot of hits come via ... www.websurfing.cn - and I followed the link and found this free proxy server that not only allows me to see again my blog - but also to sign in ! THANK YOU THANK YOU !

It feels great! I am back online !

I had so many little daily adventures to tell, that right now I do not know where to start. I see that my last post was May 6, more than three weeks ago (it felt longer to me).

Maybe I should start with what I posted last - about "the virus".
Mmmh.... tricky, I guess, politically not correct to talk about it, I can feel it.
Or why does no newspaper gives any update about it? In the beginning they promised weekly updates. Or was it only monthly? I read somewhere that they do not report statistics anymore (about how many kids have the virus and about how many died - in Beijing) because the blood test with HMFD (hand mouth food disease) is optional, so any reported figure will not give a clear picture. This explanation - I recognize the style - might have been given. So for now, nobody, including me, seems to know anything. Everybody pays attention to the kids hygiene (washing hands as often as possible) and hops that their own kid(s) does not get sick before they leave Beijing for summer holiday or before they move away.

Shortly after the virus subject, a far more dramatic nature disaster happened. The earthquake. I have been in the car on the 3rd ring road on May 12, at 2.28 pm when the earth shaked - even in Beijing. The epicenter was 1545 km away from Beijing, but the quake with magnitude 7.9 (or 8.0) was still to feel in Beijing. Some did not feel it, like me. But many, working on higher floors in Beijing office buildings, or even in schools could feel it and left the buildings or were evacuated respectively. Many people were seen in the streets while others still wondered why, until it was on the 3.00pm news on the radio and was spread my word of mouth and SMS. There were - apparently - thank god - no casualties in Beijing - and no news about what the impact was here in the capital. You get your picture from talking to many different people. Not from reading some newspaper.

I am glad that the Bookworm Beijing organised a donation for Chengdu. They were collecting clothes, blankets, dried food etc. until Saturday May 17, 4.00pm. I was happy to donate kids clothes and our blanket together with my son at the bookworm. It was impressive to see all the big boxes packed so fast by DHL and stored in several yellow vans and trucks - and knowing that the needed goods will arrive in Chengdu the next day to be distributed via the Bookworm Chengdu. I am glad to have been enabled to contribute a little bit, and thanks to the Bookworm, the goods hopefully have arrived at the right moment at the right place.

All other things since the earthquake appear minor and unimportant. That is why the newspaper concentrate on the earthquake, the rescue works, the survivors, the heroes. There seems (almost) no space or time for other news.

Later that month I had an issue with the Bank of China... I was at the ATM machine waiting for my money, that did not come out, but when checking the bank account it showed that 2.500 RMB were debited. It was solved in about 10 days, but with some minor headache as the customer service staff did a very bad job, indeed they did not do their job at all. Anyway, maybe later more. Maybe not.

The air quality last month was not good at all. It seems to get worse. Due to the strong winds all the dust from the many construction sites was blown all over the city (they are sill building like crazy, until there is no more between July 20 and September 20).

And last but not least the news that I have not told yet:
We are moving! June is my last month. In less then 4 weeks (!) from now we are moving. And this is another story.

I am happy to start this month with a new post. And I have many pics to post soon.
Good night from Beijing.


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