Monday, June 30, 2008


...Learn From the Best

Since I'm leaving on a long well deserved holiday vacation. I let you with this post on the joy of driving in Beijing. I saw the following in a forum. The guy didn’t write it and didn’t know who did it.


As I may have mentioned before, traffic in Beijing is its own art form. The city is adding thousands of cars per - I don't even know, week? Which means you have a healthy mix of people who have never driven before interspersed with people who should never have been driving in the first place.

To introduce you to the intricacies of Beijing driving, I will start with a relatively simple concept: the left turn.


We see here a typical intersection. The light has just turned green for the east-west streets, and car [A], an enormous black Lexus with pitch black windows, wants to make a left turn into the southbound lanes. Pedestrians wait on each corner. (For purposes of this demonstration, we'll assume no one is running the north-south red light, and no one is jaywalking - a rather large assumption.)


To make a left turn, it is VITAL that [A] cut off all eastbound traffic as soon as possible. The first few brave or foolish legitimate pedestrians step off the curb; this is of no concern. [A] makes his move.


NO! Too slow! [A] has managed to partially block [B], a brand new purple and yellow Hyundai taxi, but [A] has only achieved what Beijing drivers would consider a 'weak' blocking position.


In this detail, we can see why: [A] has only inserted his left bumper and cannot move forward without contact. [B], on the other hand, is in the dominant position - by putting his wheel hard to the right and flooring it, he can fully block [A].


[B] proceeds to swerve right, cutting off [C], a tiny red Peugeot with a gold plastic dragon hood ornament, spoiler and assorted knobs glued on. Since [B] is just accelerating, and [C] is now decelerating, this has created a low-density 'dead space' in the intersection. [D], a strange blue tricycle dumptruck carrying what appear to be 40 of the world's oldest propane tanks, sees this and makes a move.


DENIED! [E], an old red taxi with its name sloppily stenciled in white on its doors, has boldly cut across two lanes of traffic, behind [D], and then swerved right, driving [D] into an extremely weak position behind [A]. Meanwhile, [B] and [C] are still fighting for position, with [C] muscling his way into the crosswalk. The only thing between [E] and a successful left turn is a few lawful pedestrians. [E] steps on the gas...


...and is cut off by [F], an elderly man pedaling his tricycle verrrryyy slooooowwwly with a 15-foot-diameter sphere of empty plastic cooking oil bottles bungee-corded haphazardly to the cargo area. He was part of the lawful pedestrians, but seeing the stalled traffic, decided to cut diagonally across the intersection. Not only has [F] blocked [E], he is headed straight at [B], giving [C] the edge he needs.


[B] concedes to [C], who drives in the crosswalk behind [F] and blocks [E]. Meanwhile, [G], a herd of about 20 bicycles, mopeds, pedestrians and wheelbarrows, sensing weakness in the eastbound lane and seeing that much of the westbound traffic is blocked behind [D], breaks north against the light. [F] pedals doggedly onward at about 2 miles per hour, his face like chiseled marble.


Now things get interesting. [C] has broken free and, as the first vehicle to get where he was going, wins. [E] makes a move to block [B] but, like [A] at the start of the left turn, only gains a 'weak' block. [A] has cleverly let [F] pass and guns into a crowd of [G], which both moves [A] forward and drives some [G] stragglers into the path of [D], clearing [A]'s flanks. Little now stands between [A] and a strong second-place finish.

STEP 10:

Except for public bus [H], one of those double buses with the accordion-thing connector. [H] has been screaming unnoticed along the eastbound sidewalk and now careens dangerously into a U-turn. This doesn't appear to concern the 112 people packed inside and pressed against the windows (although that could be due to a lack of oxygen.) [H] completely blocks both [A] and [D]. On the other side of the intersection, [B] has swerved into the lawful pedestrians (who aren't important enough to warrant a letter) and has gained position on [E].

[E] has forgotten the face of his father: He was so focused on his battle with [B] that he lost sight of the ultimate goal and is now hopelessly out of position.

This clears the path for dark horse [I], a blue Buick Lacrosse, to cut all the way across behind [H] and become the second vehicle to get where he was going (and the first to complete a left turn), since [F] has changed his mind again and is now gradually drifting north into the southbound lanes. But everyone better hurry, because the light is about to change...

STEP 11:

STEP 12:
And we're ready to start over.

And to prove that Chinese are the best drivers:

So glad I’ll be out of here for the next 2 months of madness… Will be back in September when the big fiesta is over and everything goes back to normal or at least what we took for normal in the last 2 years. Have a good summer vacation.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beijing Bad Boy

Time to leave the country and go on vacation in our 450+ inhabitants village in France…. Jeremy comes back everyday from the playground with a tattoo….;)

Born to be wild

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Counterfeit Cheers...


Aoyun! Jia You! Zhongguo! Jia You!" meaning “(Let’s) Go Olympic! (Let’s) Go China!” but when translated literally is more like "Olympics! Add petrol! China! Add petrol!"

"Go Olympics! Go China!” expresses the Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger) Olympic spirit and is in line with general international principles for cheering, at the same time it encompasses characteristics of Chinese culture."

A committee of official said the simple chants and gestures were designed to help spectators cheer for their favorite athletes in a smooth, civilized manner.

The technical diagram below does its best to demonstrate the complex movements that follow the words:

Chinese Version

If this is too complex for you the BBC have kindly tasked their top designers with simplifying things:

BBC Version

For this vital task BOCOG have teamed up with the Party Office of Spiritual Civilization Development and Guidance (GODPP), the Ministry of Education and CCTV. The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee has hired 30 cheering squads at Olympic ventures to show spectators how the gestures are done. The Ministry of Education is also arranging special training sessions in schools for the 800,000 students who are expected to attend the games.

When we went to the Bird’s Nest last month we saw first hand some of the volunteers showing their support and practicing their cheers:

Aoyun! Jia You! Zhongguo! Jia You!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Work With Me...


How am I supposed to defend the Elégance à la française and explain, once again, that no we do not usually wear a Béret or Panama Hat.

Stereotypes are hard to beat

The official outfits for the French Olympics team (I’m guessing for the opening and closing ceremony and not for the competition!) have been revealed.
I’m speechless. First of all with Paris being the self proclaimed capital of fashion, with dozen of worldwide known designers they chose the company Elis to outfit our team (when I click on the link of the company because I had no idea who they were I found out that they specialize in “Clean Services in Textile and Hygiene”…. Again what’s going on?). Secondly what’s up with the design, where is the French Elegance…

Another team's outfit that is being talked about on the web as well is the Canadian Athletes (and not good talk!)


As far as the American athlete's outfits, we only know that Polo Ralf Lauren will design them. No photos have been released… only sketches.

Apparently no women in this team!

“Athletes will wear a wardrobe of V-neck tennis sweaters and ties, Polo mesh shirts with the word "Beijing" written in oversized Chinese characters, and cargo pants. The color scheme will be a patriotic palette of red, white, and blue. Polo ponies will also make an appearance on the garments. Additionally, the Olympic logo featured on the new uniforms may include a replica of a crest with stars and stripes used by the 1932 U.S. Olympic team at the Los Angeles Games.

In keeping with Olympic tradition, attire for the opening ceremonies won't be revealed until August 8, the first official day of the festivities."

So secretive... do they think it's a fashion show on top of a sport competition AND China big coming out party.

"The company Elis specialize in work uniforms and corporate fashion and has designed the official outfit for the French delegation of the Olympic Games since 1992." Again.... what's going on?!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Number Of The Day...

...… 5,174
(Or Maybe 5,333 I Have Conflicted Statistics!!)

Number of public toilet in Beijing, the capital now has more public toilets than any other city in the world.

Not sure every toilet in the city should qualify for the term toilet!

(not photographed in Beijing)

And because everything must be perfect for August:
“The city also dispatched 8,000 toilet maintenance staff, each responsible for a specific restroom to ensure frequent and thorough cleaning. They also received training in hygiene standards and techniques, Olympic knowledge and practical English expressions!!"

A few months ago a bullet proof toilet (well in fact 8 exist) was unveiled in Zhongguancun plaza. The 800,000 yuan (€80,000 - $100,000) toilet is not only bulletproof but can withstand a 15 ton blast as well

In case of a terrorist attack, look for those ones

For background purpose:
Toilets in the city apparently have a star-rated system: three and four-star bathrooms must have toilet paper available in each individual stall. However, while one and two-star facilities must provide toilet paper, the paper can be located in a central position in the room rather than next to the toilet.

According to archeological discoveries at the Banpo relics site in Xi'an, the first toilet in China can be traced back approximately 5,000 years. We know through similar discoveries that in the Western Zhou Dynasty (BC c1,100-BC c771) and the Warring States Period (BC 475-BC 221), toilets were in common use - simple shafts used by one person or one family. And the toilet in Beijing itself has a history of over 3,000 years, which is as long as the history of the city.

Sunday, June 22, 2008



I wonder which big European Sport Company is coming in the new up and coming place in town?


Just a few blocks from our apartment complex and in the heart of Sanlitun (aka bar street!), a new mega shopping complex called The Village at SanLiTun is set to open soon (well that was being said in the last 6 months!). Apart from the Adidas’s largest store worldwide (with 3,160 sq m or 34,000 sq ft) a lot of other international brands are rumor to come; Montblanc, Sephora (both with their largest store in China), Nike, Versace, Esprit, Lacoste, Quicksilver, Hilfiger, Levis…. As well as a 1,700 seat, eight-screen Megabox Cinema, a 100-room boutique hotel and its fair share of restaurants and bars

THE Village


Friday, June 20, 2008

Ayi's World

I would say that our ayi is having a good time working for us….

A well integrated Ayi
(among Daddy, Maman, Grandma, Grandpa, Chloe & Jeremy’s Wii avatars)

Jeremy told her she could not work (ie iron)
because she needed to play with him!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Mouse That Is Not...

...Anonymous Anymore

It the year of the rat you would think that his cousin the mouse would be safe in the Middle Kingdom well not so. The beloved proxy known by everyone who set a foot on Chinese soil and realizes that the message “Network Timeout - The server at is taking too long to respond” might have nothing to do with time and more with the great (fire) wall, is no longer accessible.

Since yesterday, the mouse is dead, morte, tot, muerto, kaput, 死的, not available anymore so we need to find another way around, a new proxy which won’t be as convenient as the previous one since Firefox had an add on for an “anonymouse” tool bar right next to the existing one.
So far I found a lot of new proxies which work with some websites and not with others. The latest and more reliable one is…… (The name is the same as that big green superhero from the fictional Marvel Comics and with an org extension!!!)

Bye bye little mouse, it was nice meeting you

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Solution To...

...The 4th Floor Dilemma

I had mentioned before that in general there is no floor number 4, (13 also) 14, 24 in China because the number 4 (四si4) sounds like “death” in Chinese (死– si3) therefore is considered an unlucky number. Floors usually go from 3 to 5 and 12 to 15. Well another solution is:

12, 12A, 12B, 15

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Signs

(...Of Improvement)

It seems like there has been a new directive coming from above as part of the big spring Olympic cleaning. Every shop sign needs to be according to the new norm:

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Please Give Generously...


Going to our local market this week I was surprised to see what looks like a list of name (shop name to be exact) along with some sort of donation amount.
Information is surfacing about some of the “voluntary” donation made by Chinese citizens.

“[…] bosses have put up lists of names of employees who've donated and how much they've given.
Grumbling has erupted over the zeal at which company … have demanded donations. Feeling pressure to display generosity, some executives of foreign companies with operations in China quietly voice fears that they may be targeted for boycott if they aren't seen as exemplary in their giving.
Even foreign diplomats say that the Foreign Ministry in Beijing is pressuring them for disaster donations. One European diplomat, who wasn't authorized by his government to speak publicly, said it was clear that China was "keeping score" of how much each country gave.
Employees attached to work units sometimes are told how much they're expected to contribute, only to get new appeals from neighborhood associations and other social groups to donate to separate quake-relief efforts.”

Can you see your name?

Today is the one month anniversary of the 7.9-on-the-Richter-scale Sichuan Earthquake that killed more than 69,000 people, injured hundreds of thousand and left almost 5 million people homeless.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Paper or Plastic

Beijing is upgrading its metro ticketing system with magnetic cards set to replace the current paper tickets. Paper tickets were in service for 38 years at Beijing Subway. An automatic fare collection (AFC) system became operational at all Beijing subway stations on May 23, requesting passengers to produce their magnetic strip tickets or mass transit smart cards twice when entering and exiting the subway gates. The fare for a subway ride remains unchanged, at two yuan (€0.20 or $0.30).

Welcome to the 21st century

Monday, June 9, 2008

You Guessed It...

...It's Another Festival

This one is new this year! Well not new as just been invented no, new as this is the first time that it will be an official day off. In order to avoid the rush around the three golden week*, this year the May holiday was cut short to 1 day (instead of the 3-day holiday) and to make up for the lost day, 3 days off have been added: Mid Autumn festival (中秋节 - zhong1qiu1jie2) mid september, Tomb Sweeping Day (清明节 - Qing1 ming1 jie2) in early April and Dragon Boat Festival (端午节 - Duan Wu Jie) in early June.

Duan Wu Jie which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese calendar is also called Double Fifth. The focus of the celebrations includes eating zongzi (made of glutinous rice stuffec with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves), drinking realgar wine and racing dragon boats (long and narrow human-powered boat).

* Golden Week is the name given to two annual 7-day national holidays, implemented in 2000:
- The "Spring Festival (or Chinese Lunar New Year) Golden Week" begins in January or February.
- The "National Day Golden Week" begins on October 1st.
A third Golden Week holiday, beginning on May 1st and celebrating Labour Day, existed until 2007.
Three days paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends were re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always had seven continuous days of holiday. These national holidays were first started by the government for PRC's National Day in 1999 and are primarily intended to help expand the domestic tourism market and improve the national standard of living, as well as allowing people to make long-distance family visits. The Golden Weeks are consequently periods of greatly heightened travel activity.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

After The Strawberries...

...the Cherries

Well packed strawberries and now cherries neatly tied up

Neatly packed
Neatly tied up

And nothing much to write about!!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Over...

...No More V.P. Privileges

I’m officially not the V.P of Pekin Accueil anymore….What am I going to do with all my free time!!!!!

No we didn’t lose the election… we resigned!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Last of "That's Beijing" As We Know It..

...And No "Time Out" Magazine Either

My beloved free English language magazine, “That’s Beijing”, which has been with us since we arrived in Beijing will not be published anymore. Well in fact the producer of the magazine since its debut in October 2001 won’t be involved with the brand “that’s”. The publisher who controls the license ended their cooperation. The producers have decided to start a new magazine called “the Beijinger” starting next month.
And if this wasn’t enough another magazine called “Time Out” couldn’t be found anywhere this month. It turned out that the magazine will probably not appear in print due to China's more stringent foreign media clampdowns in the lead up to the Games.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

When Size Matters...

...How 0.005 mm Can Make A Big Difference

China put an end on the production to the ultra-thin plastic bags (i.e 0.025 mm thickness) at the end of last year and has forbidden shops to hand out free bags as of today. The new bags which are 0.03 millimeters thick are priced between 0.2 and 0.4 yuan depending on size.

I knew it was coming, we have been warned since the beginning of the year. But I still went grocery shopping without my “I’m not a plastic bag” (“genuine” of course) so I had to pay 30 mao (€0.03 - $0.05) per plastic bag to be able to carry my groceries home. On the other hand I now have to buy bags for my trash so I need to investigate how much they cost to see if I’m better off asking for the “paying bag”. I am kidding of course; I couldn’t believe it when I first arrived in Beijing some 22 years months ago (when you live in China you have to count in dog Chinese years) how many plastic bags they used. And I’ve learned not to protest when they wrap your fruits or vegetables in several bags then put them in a bigger plastic bag. Once I try to put as much things as possible in one bag, the woman wouldn’t let me do it, she didn’t understand why I didn’t want her bags and I just couldn’t remember in the spare of the moment how to say, “but it’s not good for the environment, it takes over 100 years for a bag to disintegrate in nature”…. And that’s what made me want to study Chinese more diligently!!!!!!!

Now I’ll have to coordinate my (grocery) bag with my outfit!!

China uses more plastic bags than any other country (up to 3 billion plastic shopping bags a day) and squanders 37 million barrels of crude oil on plastic bag production every year.
Ireland, South Africa, Bangladesh and even Uganda are some of the nations that already have a ban in effect. In theory, China should find it easier to switch to cloth, vinyl or bamboo bags, because many consumers gave those up only in the 1990s.