Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keep on following our adventures in Norway

Saturday, July 4, 2009

If Only I Had One More Day...

(One Day Short Of 1050)

…I would have another meal of Peking Duck or and Hot Pot, one last Jiang Bing in the back alley, see one more time the Great Wall, get lost in the park of the Temple of Heaven, ride my bike in the little Hutong lanes and take more pictures, stop and do some more people watching….

Though there have been many challenges living here if I could do it all over again…. I wouldn’t change a thing (maybe learn more Chinese)

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.
Clifton Fadiman (1904 - 1999)

2 years, 10 months, 1 week, 6 days and a few hours or 1049 days since we arrived in Beijing, China on August 20th, 2006

Or to put into another word number: 481
That’s the number of posts I wrote on this blog… Thanks for reading it!

zhong guo, wo hui xiang ni - China, I will miss you

谢谢, 再见
XieXie, ZaiJian - Thank You, Good Bye

XiLin (aka Celine)

Beijing, China - July 4, 2009

"Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened."

Dr Seuss

On our way...

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Very Own...

...Top 3

I will miss each and every one…


  • Lunch with the girls
  • Bicycle riding
  • Cultural shock & endless photo opportunities


  • Tailor
  • Jewelry
  • Lunches


  • Great Wall Ball
  • Birthday Extravaganza
  • Going to the Opera


  • JianBing
  • Hotpot & Pekin Duck
  • Home-made Chinese dishes (烧茄子 (Shao QieZi ) Stir-fried Eggplants, 烧芸豆 (Shao YunDou) Fried Green Beans, 西红柿鸡蛋汤 (XiHongShi JiDan Tang) Eggs & Tomato Soup, etc…)


  • TianTan - Temple of Heaven
  • YongHeGong - Lama Temple
  • ChengChang - Great Wall


  • Guilin
  • Hakka house
  • Xian & Harbin


  • Vietnam
  • Japan
  • Cambodia

A few pictures were supposed to be posted here too.
See perfectly good excuse on yesterday post!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It Seems Like...

...It Was Yesterday

A few weeks after I arrived in China I wrote the following post but never published it. Here is it, unpolished! I have added at the end what I would write today.

That Sense of Belonging

"A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles."

Tim Cahill

You know that feeling of belonging to a place. Well for me it’s often when I start not being bothered by the new place different smells anymore and also when I come upon somebody I know in the street. No I’m not talking within the complex building that would be way too easy, I’m talking about in the big wide open streets of Beijing (and that’s a good challenge since there is 15 million legal inhabitants in BJ). Well that remind me of a conversation that I often have with people when I tell them about our life style (aka expat life)

I have been asked a few times already of all the places I have lived in which one was my favorite, and to my surprise I couldn’t pick one. Each and everyone hold a special place in my heart for multiple and diverse reasons. And I’m not trying to be cheesy. I might have a different opinion if we are sent to a camp in Africa but even so I think it’s what you make out of the situation that make it special and the people you meet along the journey.

I absolute love Colorado and Denver. I was 20, took a year off to go to the States to brush up on my non-existent English and I absolutely love the freedom. My surrogate family (the Stahl) were adorable with me and made me part of their family. Cosette and Nicolas are in their 20’s now. Let's not forget Dany, Catherine and Aurélie my fellow Au Pair companions. And of course I met Jeffrey which prompts me to extend my stay a little bit longer in the states. (He still owes me that year I was supposed to spend in Italy to brush up on my then very good Italian!!)
Texas was different than Colorado, I missed the mountains that reminded me of the mountains back home in Grenoble (France) but this is where I for the first time find out about the world of Expats: my “adopted” family away from home, who was a French expat family (lovely Mr. and Mrs. Braun and their two adorable boys) and the young crowd starting their expat life. We formed friendship that lasted to this day (marriage, children….) no matter where our next assignment takes us we try to stay in touch (Claire & Vincent, Philippe & Florence, Francesca, Christel….)
Paris was a blast. Even though I was a French student, broke, and lived in a tiny apartment. I remember Mrs. Braun paying me a visit in our apartment and telling me that I will remember this apartment with fond memories. The friends have scattered around the world but our paths cross from time to time. (Arthur & Anne, David, Olivier, Philip…)
Buenos Aires: young bride and a brand new big apartment. An amazing group of friends (Leith & Eric, Elisabeth & Bill, Cheryl & Tim, Stephanie & Paul, Aida & John, Julie-Ann & Michael, Yvonne & Jeff….) we partied a lot, went on trips together and even started a family for some of us at the same time. We haven’t physically seen each other since we parted but I have fond memories from each and every one of them and they hold a special place in my heart. And let’s not forget Bryan & Anne which we will meet again in Scotland (Our own B&B in Edinburgh, we love your apartment and your love of trying new restaurants)
Scotland was a surprise post for us since we were on our route back to France when Aberdeen came up. I had a slower start there but this time the Frenchies took over the friendship. Elisabeth, Claire, Sophie (who I had briefly met in BsAs) and toward the end Aline, Sophie and Christine who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t had stayed longer than expected…. And I’m sure glad we did. Aline the craft companion, Sophie the patient teacher and partner in shopping. And last but not least chef Christine which I didn’t mind being her guinea pig for new recipes!!!!!
Even Pau turned out to be fine. The idea of returning to France after such a long time seemed daunting. It’s hard to readjust to your own country where you are supposed to know the code but those silly codes have changed and you don’t quite fit anymore. Beside Midi Pyrenees is way out of the way from my home in the French Alps. I didn’t have time to meet a lot of new people (even if I reconnect with old pals from Aberdeen (Carole) and even Aberdeen/BsAs (Sophie) but I ended up with 2 crazy girlfriends that I was sad to part with so shortly after meeting them. Heather and Emily, we did have some great time anyway and I wish you'll be there when I come back (if I come back) to Pau but I sincerely hope that you’ll be on your next adventure.
As for Beijing, well it’s a little too early to tell but I’m sure that I will be sad to leave it behind, which right now seems an odd thought. Although I’m pretty sure of one thing: I won’t master the language but I do hope that I can reach the survival level. Well I’d better go back to my Chinese books. Until next time….

If I was writing the same one now I would add the following:

Only time will tell if we stay in contact over the years but no matter what’s the outcome I will cherish the time (long or short) we had together in this defining moment in China’s history: the pre and post Olympics years (2006-2009).

Jodi, Kim, Paige, Christine, Robyn, Sharon, May, Justine, Tac, Roshni, Isabelle… for following me in my crazy ideas: Let’s Do Lunch, Wii’lympics, Hutong cuisine, 4am rising of the Flag on Tian’anmen, Go-karting, Laser tag, etc, etc…

Even if the French crowd of friends was thinner they will nonetheless be missed too. Let’s start with my partners in crime Charge of Pekin Accueil: Christie, Magali and Hui Ying but let’s not forget Violaine my (favorite - most ardent) supporter for pushing me to publish posts on my Blog so she could have at least her daily weekly English lessons and also for bailing me out with the French newcomers when I try to ignore them (“Do I really need to talk to/meet them?”), Joelle the other Total Tai Tai and my partner in another crime diamond and/or jewelry buying. Genevieve for always sharing her “Bons Tuyaux”, Catherine for her “Bonne Humeur” and taking time from her busy working schedule (!?) to share good food and good company at our Seasons Park monthly lunch.

If life keeps us apart from each other we will at least have those memories in common. I will miss each and every one of you and I have been greatly enriched by our friendship.

"Those truly linked don't need correspondence.
When they meet again after many years apart, their friendship is as true as ever"

Deng Ming Dao

(Chinese author, philosopher, teacher and martial artist)

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart". Elizabeth Foley

A picture was supposed to be published here but I already packed my hard drive with all my photos on it so it will be posted later!!!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Prayer Of...

...The Expat' Wife

From yesterday post, I found this a few months ago:

Heavenly Father,

Look down on us your humble obedient expat wives, who are doomed to travel this earth following our loved ones, through their working lives, to lands unknown.

We beseech you oh Lord, to see that our plane is not hijacked or doesn't crash, our luggage is not lost or pillaged and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.

Give us this day, divine guidance in our selection of houses, maids and drivers. We pray the telephone works, the roof does not leak, the light bulbs quietly terminate without shorting out the house or exploding, that the power cuts are few and the rats and cockroaches even fewer.

Lord, please lead us to good, inexpensive restaurants where wine is included in the meal and the food does not cause dysentery. Have mercy upon us Lord, if it be the latter and make us fleet of foot to make it to the loo in time, and strong of knee in case we have to squat.

Also give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand.

Make the locals love us Lord, for who we are and not what we can contribute to their worldly goods.

Grant us the strength to be kind with our maids, even though our most treasured dress resembles a rag or they take bleach to clean our well admired silk rug. Give us divine patience when we explain for the hundredth time the way we would like things done and Lord, if we ever lose our patience, have mercy on us for our flesh is weak.

Dear G-d, protect us from so-called "bargains" we don't need and can't afford. Lead us not into temptation for we know not what we do.

Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us and save them from making fools of themselves in nightclubs. Above all, please do NOT forgive their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.

And when our expat years are over Lord, grant us the favor of finding someone who will look at our photographs and listen to our stories, so our lives as expat wives will not have been in vain.


Spending the hard-earned money...
every Tai Tai's challenge

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At Least There Was...


Friendship [/ˈfrɛnd ʃɪp/]: A co-operative and supportive behavior between two or more people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, and affection and respect along with a degree of rendering service to friends in times of need or crisis.

I am part of all that I have met
(Lord Tennyson)

I don’t like to be part of a group but on the other hand I like to be part of groupS.

I’ve always been like that…I’m claustrophobic when it comes to be part of a small group that do everything together, see each other all the time. I like to have my options opened, I’m like a bee going from flowers to flowers or groups to groups. Being between two groups in the expat community serves me right… I usually have at least 2 groups to mingle with: the Frenchies and the English speakers and even within those two groups I tend to have sub group.
Maybe it’s my tendency of getting bored too easily or not wanting anyone to know every single thing about me.

I would be the first one to tell you that when you start to move around like we do (Expat’) you need to connect to people as fast as you can because you won’t survive without them. They are not your family but they almost become. Friendship abroad develops way faster than anywhere else because you share so much with each other, not only time but the ups and downs of your new life abroad. You might think that you have all you need back home but it’s not the same. It’s not the same talking on the phone and sharing you joy and sorrow around a cup of coffee. Your friend back home will be there but they cannot understand what you are going through, how could they (unless they lived where you are living right now). Expat are a breed apart. Unless you’ve done it yourself you’ll never know what it feels like. You might read about the cultural shock, but unless you experience it yourself you’ll never fully understand.

So all the people I met along the way being for 1 hour, 1 day, 1 month or 1 year you will always be part of me and I’ve cherish those moment spent together. I have been greatly enriched by our friendships.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
Anais Nin (1903-1977) - author, diarist

Sunday, June 28, 2009


..."You Know You..."

Some of those are already so true for my kids! (My favorite: *)

You know you went to an international school when...
* 1) You can't answer the question: "Where are you from?"
2) You speak two (or more) languages but can't spell in any of them.
* 3) You flew before you could walk.
4) You have a passport, but no driver's license.
5) You run into someone you know at every airport
* 6) You have a time zone map next to your telephone
* 7) Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to..." five times (or six, or seven times...).
8) You speak with authority on the quality of airline travel.
9) National Geographic (or The Travel Channel) makes you homesick.
10) You read the international section before the comics.
11) You live at school, work in the tropics, and go home for vacation.
* 12) You don't know where home is.
* 13) You sort your friends by continent.
14) Your second major is in a foreign language you already speak.
*15) You realize it really is a small world, after all.
16) You feel that multiple passports would be appropriate.
17) You watch a movie set in a 'foreign country', and you know what the nationals are really saying into the camera.
18) Rain on a tile patio - or a corrugated metal roof - is one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.
19) You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.
20) Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons: wet and dry.
21) Your high school memories include those days that school was canceled due to tear gas, riots, demonstrations, or bomb threats.
* 22) You get back to your home country and seriously cannot remember the currency exchange
* 23) You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
24) You automatically take off your shoes as soon as you get home.
25) Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks a little like a museum with all the "exotic" things you have around.
26) Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
27) You go to Pizza Hut or Wendy's and you wonder why there's no chili sauce.
* 28) You know the geography of the rest of the world, but you don't know the geography of your own country.
* 29) You have best friends in 5 different countries.
30) It takes 24 hours to reach home in a plane
* 31) You can only call your parents at 8am and 8pm
32) You never really use a seatbelt
* 33) School trips meant going to a different country
34) Your high school football team had to play against itself.. if it had one
35) When you were in middle school you could walk into a bar and order a drink without being questioned
36) You got sick a lot and often had food poisoning
37) It wasn't unusual to find a lizard or cockroach in your house
* 38) You got to go home twice a year ...that’s if you're lucky
39) Home almost felt like a museum
* 40) You are a pro packer, or at least have done it many times
* 41) Living out of a suitcase, you find, has it pros
42) You bump into your old teachers all the time
43) Family photos you sent every year took months to arrive and often were in front of some exotic statue or endangered animal no one has heard of
44) Your check from your parents takes a month to reach you
45) Talking to your school office and getting signatures from your parents is a week-long event
* 46) When you return to the States you are overwhelmed with the number of choices in a grocery store (I stood by the chocolate syrup for about 20 min. because there was a whole row)
* 47) You literally have real friends (not Facebook friends) from different schools all over the nation on your friends list
* 48) Everyone had a 'staff'; maid, house cleaner, driver and babysitter
* 49) Most of the 1st graders have cell phones
50) You get excited when a relative sends a video tape of regular TV with commercials. It’s in ENGLISH!
51) There was only one grocery store. Usually at the embassy that resembled the ones at home.
*52) Once you get home you miss your adopted home and visa versa
53) You are never content in one place, be it city, state or country for long. You're a mover.
54) You never had a job until you reached college
55) Blackouts are quite common, yet after a while no one seemed to notice and sometimes you would find yourself doing homework to the light of your phone or flashlight
56) Class reunions are not at your old school…not even close
57) Police, imported from a different country, guard your school...carrying machine guns
58) You know everyone else in this group, because he/she went to school with one of your friends
* 59) Your passport has more stamps than a post office
60) When the power cuts out and you sit there wondering when the generator is going to kick on... only then you realize there is no generator
* 61) When you carry converters because you actually realize there are different types of outlets
* 62) When people give you funny looks because you are a gold or platinum elite member of your airlines
* 63) When you constantly feel like you have to catch up with TV programs, actors and other people or songs you are not familiar with
* 64) You don't think it’s strange that you haven't talked to your best friend in a couple years, but you know you will always have a unique bond
65) You wake up in one country thinking you are in another
* 66) You don't feel at home at home anymore
* 67) When a friend talks about their dreams of traveling across the world to a secluded country and you can give them all the best restaurants and places to visit. You're like the traveler guidebook.
* 68) You don't even bother to change your watch when traveling
69) You hate subtitles because you know there is someone that can make an accurate translation…you!
* 70) When you have little or no contact with he locals but are best friends with people across the globe
71) When you think everyone else is a foreigner in a county foreign to you
* 72) When something unusual happens and it just doesn't seem to faze you as being something unordinary
73) When you speak many broken languages at once when you are drunk
* 74) When your friends take you to an 'ethnic' restaurant as a joke and you can read the menu, order food for them and actually stomach the meal
* 75) When you start introducing yourself followed by your country of origin....
76) Your yearbooks are all different; made of fabrics known to that area and have stuff like elephants on them. It’s your favorite keepsake.
77) Famous people like Uma Thurman went to your school and you had no idea until you researched (AES)
* 78) You have to change your passport because it's full... not because it's expired... and this several times during your school years
79) Paying a cop is not considered a bribe
* 80) You've dated people from other countries
* 81) You start to keep your experiences overseas to yourself because people look at you as though you are spoiled for having the opportunity to indulge in a new culture... sad
82) You are afraid to go back to visit your school because you know no one will be there that you used to know, they all moved
83) You have the opportunity to intern at your Embassy/Commission over summer without qualifications
* 84) When you have free accommodation in any city you travel to around the world because some friend from the old days lives there!
85) You're scared of going 'home' because you haven't been there in so long, and changed so much, that you think people might not like you anymore
* 87) You have more than one driver's license, none of which are valid at home, that, or in college, you still can't drive!
* 88) You always have to think which side of the road to drive on
89) When you greet someone you start bowing or kissing them on both cheeks.
90) When you and your siblings know different languages or at least studied different ones.

Friday, June 26, 2009



The day has finally arrived… boxes are being packed and on their way to Norway. One more week left in an almost empty apartment. This will give us great excuses to dine out and visit one last time our favorite restaurants around town.


and Moved!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

D/J -10

...Wo Shi Beijing Ren*

You Know You're a Beijing Ren When...
Everybody love those lists (my favorites are in italic).

  1. You've been spit on countless times
  2. When you go back to your home country, you try to bargain in shops
  3. Stop signs? Traffic lights? What?
  4. You never look both ways before crossing the street
  5. Going to the Great Wall is really boring
  6. You have tons of designer clothes, none of which are real
  7. You own movies on DVD before they come out in theaters
  8. 5 kuai is a big tip to give a taxi driver
  9. You don't think it’s weird when you see hundreds of people trying to squeeze into one bus
  10. It's not weird when 50 year old construction workers check you out
  11. You've been called lao wai
  12. Bing tang hu lu!!!!
  13. You love the pollen in spring because it's the closest you get to snow
  14. Getting clothes tailored is cheaper than buying them
  15. Manicures, pedicures and massages aren't considered luxuries
  16. Anything can be put in the back of a truck (flowers, humans, beer, chickens...)
  17. Nothing is official. Nothing is against the law as long as you don't get caught
  18. Guards don't have guns, they have sticks
  19. There is no legal drinking age
  20. You are "very good friends" with numerous shopkeepers
  21. Liu kou shui is yummy. You buy it by the box
  22. Horn honking means nothing. It's just a habit.
  23. You learn to appreciate a taxi driver that actually wants to take you where you want to go
  24. You get excited for the winter sweet potatoes
  25. Everything you own is from Ikea
  26. You don't drink water. You just don't
  27. Sparks fly when you move your blanket
  28. Your lips, hands, skin, and hair are always dry
  29. You think Chinese food from your own country is disgusting
  30. You get really excited when Wikipedia is unblocked
  31. You add an "er" to everything you say in Chinese. (Sanlituner, wan er, zai na er?")
  32. It doesn't bother you when people stare. You just stare back.
  33. You no longer clean anything; you know the dust will be back in an hour.
  34. You carry toilet paper everywhere and you are very good at using a squatter
  35. You stock up on toothpaste and toiletries whenever you're in your country
  36. You have multiple piercing your parents don’t know about. And a tattoo.
  37. You buy lava lamps at the black market
  38. You sleep better on night trains than in your own bed
  39. You love fang bian mian
  40. Roads go in rings
  41. You have to pay to use the bathroom. It's easier to go in a bush
  42. You can tell anyone exactly how many days there are until the Olympics
  43. You can spot a tourist a mile away
  44. You know how to ride the subway
  45. You've gone for a wild ride in a san lu er che
  46. When you're watching a DVD, it's not strange to see people's head popping up, from when it was filmed in the theater.
  47. You can always see cranes. No matter where you look.
  48. If you can't find a place you're looking for, chances are it's not because you're lost, it's just been torn down
  49. You don't buy or wear white clothes; they'll be gray by the end of the day
  50. You love Beijing and you never want to leave!

* I'm a Beijinger

Monday, June 22, 2009


...Seal(ed), Delivered - Part II

One last shopping stop… Chop making. Because I couldn’t leave China with only my self made chop !
Jeffrey had his own signature engraved!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

He Said: "I'll Be Back"...

...And He Is

Barely time to land that we whisked him to Sofitel Wanda for a Father’s Day Brunch

Jeremy's calendar

Saturday, June 20, 2009

They Make What...

...Beijing Really Is

Typical Beijing “Small Jobs"

A few examples among many others

Click on the picture to enlarge
Click on the "Back" button of your browser to come back to this page

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm Not Sleeping...

...I'm Just Resting My Eyes*

It is safe to assert that few Chinese have insomnia. On the contrary, the ability to sleep anywhere, at any time, is downright stunning.

It's always the right place at the right time

But the cutest of all is this one:

"My parents are wearing me out"

Two great websites to see more people of the "Sleeping Giant": Bernd & Eric Leleu

* Jeffrey’s favorite quote

Thursday, June 18, 2009

We Are Still Breathing...

... Barely!

Good thing we had 23 blue sky days in April*; the best April since 2000 (and 73 blue sky days in the first 3 months of the year or 81.1% of the total which is 6 more blue sky days than in the first quarter of last year) because June is not going to qualify!
500…That’s the end of the scale!

If you want to know what we are breathing when we go outside check twitter

Yet Jeff (and Chloe) never suffered from asthma… I wonder what Norwegian pure air will do to us!!!

* A blue-sky day is when the city's API falls below 100, meaning there are no health implications. However we shouldn’t get too excited over the “clean” air since The Beijing EPB claims that the average PM concentration during this month was 120 ug/m3 which is still well above China's national air quality target (100 ug/m3) and six times higher than the WHO recommended guideline (20 ug/m3).

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Better Remember To Bring A Tote Bag...

...Next Time I'm In Uganda

And I thought we had it bad in Beijing when they switched to the no free plastic bags policy last year

Any person caught using plastic bags in Uganda from early 2010 will be jailed for three years or be fined an equivalent of 1,500 dollars, press reports said Saturday, quoting government environment lawyers. The penalties fall under the country's revised law on the waste management act, which will be put into effect in January by the state-owned National Environment Management Organization (NEMA), The New Vision quoted the organization's lawyer, Christine Akello as saying.
Uganda's finance minister announced a ban on the sale or use of plastic bags during the reading of the East African country's national budget on Thursday and ordered all factories manufacturing the plastic bags to wind up business.
Discarded plastic bags - too thin to be reused - are a major polluter in many African cities, where they clog up rivers and pile up in mountains.
Government further said that taxes of up to 120 per-cent will be levied on imported plastic materials currently on transit into the country. (EarthTimes)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beijing's Sky Is Crying

...Over Our Departure!

At around noon the sky seemed like it couldn’t hold all the tears anymore and started to cry. Maybe in an attempt to show us and remind us how it feels like to live in a country when it can be very dark in the middle of the day (in the winter because in the summer we’ll barely see a dark sky) Beijing was plunged into darkness.
The Sky is Falling - Part II
(almost to the day, 2 years later)

The meteorological Bureau of Beijing said that the capital city is experiencing its longest period of rainfall. [...]
The humidity in the city exceeded 95 percent. Visibility in some areas in the city was lower than 300 meters in the morning [...]
The city's average rainfall was 14 millimeters in the 24 hours. The heaviest rain was in the northeast part of Beijing, which had 68 millimeters.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Will miss that too…

山竹 (ShanZhu), 荔枝 (LiZhi), 杨梅 (YangMei)
Mangosteen, Lychee, Red Beyberry

Sunday, June 14, 2009

So Many Things To Do...

...So Little Time

D/J -20. I can believe in 3 weeks we’ll have to say good bye to Beijing. Until then I’m a busy bee, multi-tasking even more than usual!

What should I do first?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pride But...

...No Parade

If the 2008 Olympic Games was Beijing's coming-out party, last week it was finally Shanghai's turn. The city of 20 million held the country's first ever gay pride festival.

Shanghai Pride featured seven days of film screenings, plays and panel discussions capped, on June 13, by a blowout bash. There were drag shows, drumming and (symbolic) same-sex weddings. But there was no parade. Public gatherings are verboten, and organizers decided it wasn't worth the risk.

Though references to same-sex pairings dot the Chinese literary cannon, the People's Republic has taken a hard line on homosexuality. Sodomy was decriminalized in 1997, but it was not until 2001 that the Chinese Psychiatric Association ruled homosexuality was not, in fact, a mental illness. For the majority of China's estimated 30 million homosexuals, discrimination, isolation and stigma persist.

The government's hands-off approach is sometimes called the Triple No Policy: no approval, no disapproval, no promotion. It is the Chinese equivalent of "don't ask don't tell," an opaque tactic that critics claim leaves both activists and ordinary people caught in an invisible web of rules that dictate when and how you can and -- or can't -- be gay.

It's a start

Wednesday, June 10, 2009



After July 1st, all international companies selling personal computers inside of China will be required to preinstall government software that will block access to "harmful" content. It claims that the "Green Dam" software is designed to specifically keep porn from kids, but given the government's history of blocking browser access to a wide range of content, critics aren't so sure.

Information technology industry organizations have appealed to China to drop the initiative. Testing by independent software engineers has found that besides protecting children from pornographic content, Green Dam is also capable of filtering and blocking political content, and carries serious security risks for those who install it

And since nothing replace human “touch”

The city will seek to employ at least 10,000 “internet volunteers” before the end of this year to monitor “harmful” websites and content, said an official at the municipal authority’s information office.
Chinese local governments and Communist party branches often pay web commentators to influence online opinion. But it is unusual for officials to admit the practice and the big recruitment drive gives a rare view of the resources China uses to try to control the internet.

As civil servants, many low-class officials are designated to do a part-time job in work time. Which is rumored as "5 mao party".

They are asked to spend some time on internet everyday. Their jobs are to post or reply in popular forums, in order to control the direction of the public voice. Rumor has it that these civil servants will get 0.5 RMB per post, so they are vividly called "5 mao party" or wumaodang (5 mao = 0.5 rmb or 5 cents). By some estimates, these commentary teams now comprise as many as 280,000 members nationwide.

Internet Black Holes

Notification regarding requirements for pre-installing green filtering software on computers

In order to build a green, healthy, and harmonious online environment, and to avoid the effects on and the poisoning of our youth's minds by harmful information on the internet, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), Civilization Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, and Ministry of Finance, in accordance with the Government Procurement Law, have used CCP financial capital to purchase one-year exclusive rights to use “Green Dam Youth Escort” Green Online Filtering Software (hereinafter referred to as “Green Dam Youth Escort”) along with related services so that the whole society may use it free of charge. After comprehensive testing and pilot use, the software has been shown to effectively filter harmful content in text and graphics on the Internet and has already satisfied the conditions for pre-installation by computer manufacturers.
– Ministry of Industry and Information Technology

According to the Epoch Times, hackers in China had accessed the keyword library and administrative codes, revealing only 2,700 keywords relating to pornography, and over 6,500 politically sensitive keywords. Chinese users of the software have apparently found that it injects a DLL file into Internet Explorer that prohibits the usage of FreeGate, one of the programs commonly used to bypass the Golden Shield Project.
According to tests conducted by a group of IT professionals in Hong Kong in June 2009, the software not only filters incoming contents, but also monitors the activity of the computer user. An example is that if the computer's user types "June f0urth M@ssacre" with the Notepad or Microsoft Word application, the application will be shutdown automatically without any notice. It is alleged that the Green Dam software also initiates unknown outbound internet connections which might be used to report activities carried out on the computer
The Green Dam Youth Escort recognizes pornographic images by analyzing skin-colored regions (hence the ban of pictures of pigs). However the software is incapable of recognizing pictures of nudity featuring black- or red-skinned characters but sensitive enough to images with large patches of yellow that it censors promotional images of the film Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. (Wikipedia)
The software runs only on Microsoft Windows, so Mac and Linux users are ignored

Green Dam Girl

Monday, June 8, 2009

It's That Time Of...

...The Month Year Again

When I woke up this morning it was raining like it never rained before in Beijing or at least like it wasn’t a “natural” rain. I couldn’t figure out why they would have wanted rain at this time of the year (no national holiday in the next few days, no long period of drought…). Then it all became clear when I step out of our apartment complex which is located next to a famous school (School n°55) and I saw the hordes of parents waiting patiently outside the gates. But of course it’s Gaokao time. Construction sites near school were asked to be quiet, cars have been diverted and since it was way too hot in the past couple of days something needed to be done to lower the temperature.

Kao means test, and gao, which means high, indicates the test's perceived level of difficulty—and its ability to intimidate. It is China's SAT—if the SAT lasted two days, covered everything learned since kindergarten, and had the power to determine one's entire professional trajectory.
Students become aware of the gaokao, the sole criterion for university admission, at an early age. Pressures and preparations begin accordingly. All schooling, especially middle- and high-school curricula, is oriented toward gaokao readiness. Students often joke that it takes 12 years to study for the test. The results of the exam determine the student’s entrance to college, or not, their future major, and which university they can attend.

In Beijing, the prompt students were given was “I have a pair of invisible wings” (我有一双隐形的翅膀), a line that comes from a popular song sung by Angela Chang (张韶涵). Students were required to write at least 800 characters in any form of writing apart from poetry.

Apparently cheating on the gaokao is not an option: The penalties [for cheating] are severe: a student convicted of peeking at a neighbor's paper is never allowed to take the gaokao again, and his name is entered in a public database for prospective employers' perusal.
Stressed the parents? no!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

D@Lai L@ma received In France…

...…By Paris' Mayor

Well I guess France will have to send more people to smooth things with China. Not sure we have any more former Presidents available!

China opposes Paris mayor awarding Dalai Lama (Xinhua)

BEIJING - China protested the awarding of "honorary citizen" to the Dalai Lama by Paris mayor, saying it posed "grave interference in Sino-French relations".
"We feel strongly disgruntled and is resolutely opposed to Paris' award for the Dalai Lama, regardless of China's opposition," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.
Earlier reports said that Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe on Sunday met with the Dalai Lama and conferred him a certificate of "honorary citizenship" at a ceremony in Paris.
"This was another overt provocation against Chinese people after Paris' city council voted last year to give the Dalai Lama 'honorary citizenship'," Qin told a regular press conference.
"Such a move stirs a strong indignation among the Chinese people," Qin said, noting that inevitably, it would severely undermine the cooperation between Paris and related Chinese cities, and gravely disturb China-France relations. […]
The China-France relationship was confronted with severe difficulties not long ago due to Tibet-related issues, and now the relationship got back on the track of healthy growth under the joint efforts of peoples with insight from both sides, Qin said.
"We hope France would join with China in cherishing the hard-won achievements in bilateral ties, carefully fulfill related agreements between the two sides, make efforts to remove all disturbances, and promote the healthy and stable development of the relationship," Qin said.
Qin urged Paris to stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and immediately correct its wrongdoing. […]

The Chinese government has a hard time understanding that the Mayor of Paris and the French President are not from the same political party and do not have to agree. It is inconceivable for the Chinese to understand the concept of a Mayor of a (major) city doing something against the President of the country.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Would You Like...

...To Dance?
Doesn’t the world know that Beijingers protect themselves from the summer and cannot go anywhere without their umbrellas?
The Umbrellas Gang

It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad!
Check out the videos here

I asked the cameraman of CBC if they got the same umbrella treatment and he said that they went earlier with a photographer so they didn’t but their paper were checked which took more time than usual and when he cheekily asked if today (June 4th) was a special day because of all the passports checking, the policeman replied that for Chinese people is like any other day but outsiders were making it a special day!

Friday, June 5, 2009


The Iconic Photos of the T@nk M@n...

Yesterday was May 35th (as some Chinese like to call it in order the bypass the censorship) and it’s the 20th anniversary of VIII-IX-VI-IV (another way of writing those infamous 4 numbers).

“It all started with a man in a white shirt who walked into the street and raised his right hand no higher than a New Yorker hailing a taxi,” James Barron wrote the following day in The New York Times. The picture appeared on the front page of this newspaper as well as in countless other publications around the world.

To this day, the identity and fate of the man in the picture remains unclear. A riveting documentary, “The T@nk M@n” by PBS Frontline in 2006 explored his fate. Yet still no one knows for certain who he is or what exactly happened to him. The image is largely blocked on the Internet in China. Despite its iconic status and historical significance elsewhere, most young people there do not recognize the photograph.

Few images are more recognizable or more evocative. Known simply as “tank man,” it is one of the most famous photographs in recent history. There was not just one “nk M@n” photo. Four photographers captured the encounter that day from the Beijing Hotel, overlooking Changan Avenue (the Avenue of Eternal Peace), their lives forever linked by a single moment in time. (photo from NYTimes)

Stuart, Arthur, Jeff and Charlie

And a never published one:

... And Daring The Censorship

In late February, Zhang posted without comment a Roman-numeral T-shirt design that's now making the rounds of other blogs as well as the foreign media.

VIII= 8 ; IX=9 ; VI=6 ; IV=4

Blogger's T-shirt gesture breaks taboo on Ti@n@nmen rebellion (Timesonline)

References to the 1989 army crackdown on student demonstrators in Ti@n@nmen Square are taboo in China. If mentioned at all, the protests are described as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion”. […]
His T-shirt reads VIIIIXVIIV. The photos are accompanied by a hint that reads: “Here’s a clue – these are four numbers.” […] “This year this kind of T-shirt is very much in fashion. The design is very beautiful (those who don’t understand should do some careful thinking, those who understand shouldn’t say a word)." […]
Chinese refer to the day when the People’s Liberation Army swept into Beijing to end weeks of demonstrations led by students encamped in Tiananmen Square with the loss of hundreds of lives simply as “6/4” or June 4. […]
Interview of Zhang Facai here

It also happened that yesterday was the day of site maintenance in china
Earlier this week the government blocked access to a number of popular western websites, in what was widely seen as way of controlling access to information about the events at Tiananmen Square. Among the sites that were screened out were photo-sharing website Flickr, Microsoft’s Hotmail email service and the popular online messaging site Twitter.

Check out some picture of popular website under maintenance here

What else happened 20 years ago?


  • Salman Rushdie publishes "The Satanic Verses". Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issues fatwa against him, declaring that his book is offensive to Islam.
  • US planes shoot down two Libyan fighters over in Mediterranean over international waters.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev is named leader of the Soviet Union.
  • P. W. Botha quits as South Africa's President.
  • Deng Xiaoping resigns from China's leadership.
  • The Czech Parliament ends Communists' dominant role
  • Romanian uprising overthrows Communist government. President Ceausescu and wife executed.
  • US troops invade Panama to capture General Manuel Noriega.
  • George H. W. Bush (a.k.a. "Bush Senior") becomes the 41st president of the US.
  • Cuban troops begin withdrawing from Angola.
  • Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is complete.
  • The Ayatollah Khomeini dies.
  • Berlin Wall comes down.
  • The first of 24 satellites of the Global Positioning System is placed into orbit.
  • Last but not least Celine Mandaliti (future Suiter) turned 19!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

D/J - 30

...Only One More Month

So I have one more month of Blogging and I’m for once trying really hard to complete something I’ve started and not quit before the end of our life in Beijing. Because it seems like I take on a new hobby each time we move.

It all started in Argentina with a casual mud podge afternoon party, because the girls and I couldn’t only do so much Spanish lesson, shopping, and champagne luncheon (ah those endless luncheon!!!) followed by framing and a little needle points (everybody needle point when they are pregnant, no?). Hobbies frenzy took on a full swing in Scotland with patchwork (made my mother in law really proud), “cartonnage” (creating object with cardboard), book binding, a little Black and White photo development and even carpentry (yes I did!). We did stay almost 5 years in Scotland hence the myriad of different hobbies! In France I didn’t have time to start on a new hobby (we stay only 10 months), girls night out doesn’t count as one does it (Heather, Emily and Missy thanks for keeping me sane!) but I decided instead to go over all the projects I had started over the previous 7 years and tackled the task of finishing the unfinished business. In China I had a try at porcelain painting but mostly it was all about computer: blogging, learning HTML and graphic design but also about photography (you want to have your camera handy every single day, because there will always be something interesting, puzzling to document). I’m in no way as good as my sister-in-law (graphic designer and great photographer) but I’m having fun learning.
As you can see I’m a real butterfly when it comes to hobby. I like the learning process but once I get a grab at it I need a new challenge. My friends here were often joking that I could do everything (I kept saying oh I use to do that, and that…), the only thing I don’t know how to do, is how to knit so they forbade everyone to teach me! Oh I’m also the laminate queen (I know, I know you are just dying with envy!!).

So before this long babbling about my hobbies I was saying that I have only one more month of blogging because let’s face it life in Stavanger won’t feel as exotic as here and you’ll probably get really bored about the posts I could put on the blog!

Day 1: Had to scrub my own toilet AND do the laundry AND think about what to cook for dinner. Exhausting!
Day 2: Trying to make Jeff fold his own socks while ironing 20 loads of laundry. Where is Ayi when you need her?
Day 3: Another blue sky day and not a sight of pollution. How I miss the surprise of finding out if I can see my next door neighbor house every morning!
Day 4: Feel depressed that nobody tried to cut in line at the grocery store.
Day 5: Home sick today. I miss the sound before someone spits just inches from your feet.
Day 6: Could visit every single website I wanted to check and so fast that I don’t know what to do with the rest of the day. At least I could go get a cup of tea and go to the toilet when I was in Beijing between page loadings.
Day 7: Another beautiful picture of Stavanger and surroundings... expect the same from the next 600+ postings
Day 8: see day 1

I think that my next project (because I ALWAYS think my life will never be as fulfilling in the next expat’ so I tend to prepare myself) will be to compile my thousands and thousands of photographs to a 1049-picture photo album. And that’s a great challenge for those looooong nights awaiting us in Norway!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


...Is On THE List

It was just a matter of time. After YouTube, Blogspot and a myriad of other sites being blocked ahead of the multiple anniversaries celebrated this year… Twitter seems to be on the banned list since yesterday, alongside MSN and the new (wonder what Microsoft did!).

Please don’t take my sunshine Facebook away.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another One...

...Bites The Dust

The end of Super Bar Street (星巴路 – Xing Ba Lu)… Apparently the place should be made into yet another mall (because the ones already built are doing so good!) unless it’s for an apartment building, or embassy or… anyhow within a week every shop, restaurants, etc should find another place to do business.
The dreadful "Chai/拆" sign

Monday, June 1, 2009



Today some kindergarten schools were closed in China due to Children's Day, but my kids’ school didn’t close. (well they already had a 4-day weekend courtesy of Dragon Boat festival!)

Jeremy came back from school and told me I should have gone to school today. Being afraid I missed a sports day, swimming gala, music concert, assembly or open day (all happened within the last month) I rush to my computer to check my Google calendar. Either I had forgotten to write why I was supposed to go to school today or Jeremy was mistaken. When I asked him what I missed he just said: Well today it’s Children’s day so you should have gone to school and I should have stayed home.

Wonder if he would have managed to do more than me from my 100+ items on my to-do list!!!

A little background (like always!):
The International Children's Day had its origin in Turkey in 1920 (April 23, 1920) and later in the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland in 1925. It is not clear as to why June 1 was chosen as the International Children's Day: one theory has it that the Chinese consul-general in San Francisco (USA) gathered a number of Chinese orphans to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival in 1925, which happened to be on June 1 that year, and also coincided with the conference in Geneva. (Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Does It Sound...

...Greek, Chinese or Hebrew To You?

And because the previous post didn’t have enough maps to look at I will give you another one.
Not technically a map (more like a cartogram) but anyhow an interesting mapping of how different nationalities use different languages to express their incomprehension of a word.

When an English speaker doesn’t understand a word of what someone says, he or she states that it’s ‘Greek to me’.

In France we apparently have trouble with a lot of languages since we can refer to Chinese (like most people), Hebrew or Javanese (we are the only one using this language as reference) but we don’t find (like a lot of other country) Greek to be a difficult one (maybe because we study it at school just like Latin – we like “Langues Mortes”*… at least nobody can correct our accent like that). Also I can believe Turks think French is a difficult language… pleeeease!!!!

But the palm goes to the Chinese because the only language they find hard to speak is “Heavenly script” (well at least they are well aware that Chinese is one of the most difficult language!). I’m also surprised that Arabic is not a big point of reference as a difficult language.

The use of Greek as a diffult language comes from the Middle Ages when the monks’ knowledge of Greek was waning, they would write in the margin of texts they could not translate, in Latin: “Graecum est, non legitur” (”This is Greek to me, I can’t read it”).

* “Langues mortes”, “Dead” language is used as a reference to language not spoken anymore such as old Latin, Greek. We also use “Langues Vivantes” (“living” language) as an opposition. So for example when in school you can have a period of “Langues Vivantes” in your schedule where students will go to the class according to the language chosen (English, Spanish, Italian, German…) and a period of “Langues Mortes” (which is usually Latin or Greek)

It's Really Just...

...A Question Of Perspective

How China sees the world:
That's one way...

How the USA sees the world:
... and that's another!

When I received our magazine the Economist and saw the cover with “How China sees the world” it reminded me of another cover so I went on a search and I came upon this really interesting website with all kind of different maps. There’s also a version of how the French sees the World and if you are confused about the kissing thing in France a map also exist

There are a few that are really interesting like the map that compares the population of China’s province (+ Taiwan), autonomous regions and municipalities with those of whole countries. Beijing has the same population of Angola!

Another one I found interesting is a satellite view at night of Korea. With the contrast of lights between North Korea and South Korea you can really see how far apart the two countries are.

A few months ago I talked about how puzzled I was by the way the world maps looked in the States… well I’m not the only one!

And I also ponder about getting this one. I will of course change the city!

But my favorite is definitely this one. Beijing to Grenoble on the same subway line!

Take the red line and it's direct!

Friday, May 29, 2009

One Step Forward...

...Two Steps Back

Well since it was too late to come for a last visit, you can always blame it on visa issue!

Conspiracy theory

Once again the season of visa renewal anxiety is upon us.

It would appear that the Chinese government is even more antsy this year than last about the possibility of us troublesome foreigners making some embarrassing public show of our namby-pamby liberal-democratic political stance. Last year, the Olympics was the main focus of concern; this year, it is any one of a number of "sensitive" anniversaries.

Yet, curiously enough, there doesn't seem to be a big push to drive the foreigners out of the country right away - prior to 6/4.. No, it would appear that the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in the first week of October are the thing they're really worried about us spoiling. I heard recently that 'F' Visas (for "business travellers" - although that's what the majority of people are on, because it's so damned difficult to get any other kind), in addition to being difficult or impossible to get within the country (or even in Hong Kong, long the traditional 'last resort' of the visa-challenged, since the visa issuing regime there is usually much more lax than on the mainland [and technically it counts as "overseas"!!]; lately, many people, it seems, have been forced to go properly abroad, often back to their home countries, to obtain a new visa), are no longer being issued for periods extending beyond mid-September; and new visas thereafter are unlikely to be issued until at least mid-October. It seems likely that it will be very difficult to get tourist visas during that period either

No foreigners here (or as few as possible) around the great national celebration?? It's even worse than last year's Olympic crackdown.

Is it just because we might "shame" China in front of the international media by unfurling a "Free Tibet!" banner? Probably. It seems a bit of an excessive response, though.