Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Much Is...

...Too Much?

We all know that the economic situation is tough and that finding a job is no small task, especially in China… but when is too much just too much?!!!

Jeremy exhausted by homework

And he’s only in Reception (Pre-kindergarten in the US!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Customer Service In China...

...Or How To Waste One Hour.

Only in China would it take more that an hour to have 8 passport pictures taken…and no there wasn’t a long queue in the store: we were the only one there.

First round: The ladies behind the corner took almost 10 minutes to write on the little pink slip what we wanted… well we had quite a complex order: 4 pictures with US standard (5*5 cm or 2*2 in) and 4 pictures with European Standard (3.5*4.5cm). Since they had a composite with all the different countries requirements on it, it was just a matter of pointing and showing 4 fingers with our hand…Simple enough. Then they proceeded to ask us when we wanted to take the photos and when we wanted to come pick them up… I don’t know let see: let’s take the photo tomorrow and we’ll come pick them up in about a week???!!!

Second round: The photographer (?). The guy tried to take the picture the best that he could… I’m pretty sure I could have done a better job but the best part was yet to come.

Third round: The Photoshop expert (?!). Another guy started to work on the picture, first by removing the color background then filling it with white. I don’t know but let’s pause for a moment and see if it wouldn’t be more time efficient (and easier) to just use the proper background color from the start like white most of the time and blue for Chinese visa photo?… again just a suggestion. THEN came the resizing and that’s where our full 2.5 years of experience in China really helped us keep calm and focus on our goal (i.e. getting those $!*?# pictures!). First there was too much body part (i.e. the size of the head was too small) then the head was too big, then the head was too small (well we did tell them that in the previous picture the head was too small). I actually lost my calm (slightly) for a moment and decided to ask to take the command of the computer and Photoshop (in CHINESE) to actually resize the photo myself. Celine’s timing: 2 minutes top and that’s mainly because I struggled with one or two Chinese characters!!
All in all they had to redo it maybe 4 times and since they never save their previous work, they had to start from scratch each and every time (yes, erasing and filling the background!)

1 hour and 15 minutes later we left the Kodak store with our 8 passport photos, hoping both Embassies accept them now. For some reason they had no problem with the European version and since the American embassy is really peculiar about the photos we had to have them right.

That's the picture he'll have on his passports for the next 5 years!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Joy Of The Administration...

...The American And The French

Jeremy turned 5 a couple of months ago and since his passports' expiration date is coming soon we had to go and renew them… first at the American Embassy then the French Embassy

American Embassy first:
My, my,my how much proof do you need to show them that you are indeed an American citizen? You would think that a previous passport and a birth certificate would be enough.

First you need to make an appointment via the embassy web site (appointment only available during school/business hour of course! - 8.30am to 3.30pm), then you need the previous passport, the child’s birth certificate, the DS-11 form (not signed!), two recent 2 inches by 2 inches photos (photo requirements post to follow!), Parents’ passports (both parents need to be present) and $85 (ouch!).

Then they asked us if we brought pictures of Jeremy to show that the child in the previous passport is identifiable with the applicant [...] if the passport photo was taken when the child was a baby. (?!!)… Which reminded me of how frustrated I got when we registered Chloe’s birth at the American Embassy in Argentina. One of the papers needed was my Ultrasound (??!!!). We, in fact, forgot it and I offered to show them my C-section scar while pointing out that it might be a better proof that an ultrasound (because everybody knows how ultra sound pictures look like the actual baby!!).

French Embassy second:
We didn’t plan to go to the French embassy that day but since we drove by we decided that since we were on a roll we’d better keep on playing (paying?)

We showed up (no appointment required), gave them the birth certificate, the previous passport, 2 pictures and 15 euros. We also did a French ID (1 additional photo – free of charge!)

Well next year is Chloe’s passports renewal: French, American and Argentinean… I’ll keep you posted!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Galette, Crepes...

...And Now Pancakes

You can never have enough crepes/pancakes; so after celebrating La Chandeleurless than 3 weeks ago, it is now Shrove Tuesday which is traditionally celebrated with Pancakes in the United Kingdom. The kids had their share at their British school and another round at home for after-school snack.

Whatever you call it: Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras it means one thing and one thing only for the kids…. Pancakes! Good thing I’m not on a diet plan or I would never be able to stick to it!

Shrove Tuesday is a day of celebration as well as penitence, because it's the last day before Lent, the date dependent on that of Easter, which is based on cycles of the moon. People indulge themselves on foods that traditionally aren't allowed during Lent. Pancakes are eaten on this day because they contain fat, butter and eggs which were forbidden during Lent.

How many calories in a pancake, again?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


...Who's Who

This is the problem when a company starts to dress their employees. You don’t know who’s who anymore.

The driver and the “drivee”

Hint: the driver is called 王 - Mr Wang!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lost In...


I was doing some tidying up when I found the following “名片 - Ming Pian” (Business Card) at the bottom of one of my bags.

This is probably the worst translation I came upon on a business card…. Not even sure what they are selling anymore!

Parlicuarly Cahinet?
Add: East four particularly the cap store
the pricess’grave branch

Note: Do not translate the name of the street because it doesn’t help at all

Not sure where to go...?

I know it’s where I’ll found textjle… or at least I hope so:

The my plant accepts to do each big guest house, hotee,
and other organizations group work to take

Not sure what they do...?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Snow Maker...

...Too Apparently!!

It’s the first significant snowfall of the winter. Beijing Weather Modification Command Center said the snow was artificially induced. A total of 426 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide were seeded into clouds from 28 weather rocket launch bases in the city.

The city mobilized more than 7,500 sanitation workers and 2,2211 vehicles to remove ice and snow from the capital’s streets. 443 tons of the salt and sand mix were spread around the city to keep the roads clear.

Walking around my neighborhood trying to capture on camera Beijing under a white blanket I was amused by this sanitation workers spreading salt on the street.

I'm going to miss China...

Every little help

Monday, February 16, 2009



Beijing received its first rain on February 12th after 110 days - a 38-year record.
2008 marked the 8th consecutive year of drought in Beijing and things are even worse in the surrounding provinces, with at least 9.53 million hectares of farmland affected

The government had - for the first time during a Beijing winter - performed cloud seeding by both plane and rocket. Previously, it had done so only from the ground.
By 5 pm, 12 silver iodide rockets had been launched into the skies of Beijing's suburban […] districts. The local air force had also dispatched a transport plane to release 400 liters of liquid nitrogen in northern Beijing.
Twenty-one rocket launch bases in the city and 25 ground precipitation enhancement facilities in the mountains of eight districts were used to seed the clouds.
These actions could increase rainfall by 10 to 15 percent. The precipitation enhancement involved at least 200 people.

Rain, rain make it rain

Saturday, February 14, 2009



I didn’t come up with an appealing photo like last year or a nice handy tool for lingerie shopping like the previous year.
Sorry my male readers, I know you really look forward to this particular post but this year I could only come up with this design:
情人结快乐 - Qing Ren Jie Kuai Le

Well at least you can say it, just like me, in Chinese, English, French, Italian and Spanish (in that order) now!

Thursday, February 12, 2009



And you thought competition was fierce back home (wherever “home” is for you!)…. Check out this picture of a job fair in Beijing last week. 30,000 people crowded into the National Exhibition Center for 4,000 positions offered by more than 300 companies. More than 7 million college graduates will enter the job market this year

Where is Waldo?!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009



Yesterday marked the end of the Lantern Festival which means one thing in Beijing: the end of day-long fireworks and firecrackers. But China being China there is always a twist! It turns out that the end of fireworks started one of the biggest fire.

What was supposed to be the flagship hotel of the Mandarin Oriental chain in China has turned into a 40 story inferno.

The fire has lit up the Beijing skyline, and took place in the final hours of the Chinese Lunar New Year - when many people are setting off fireworks.

The Mandarin Oriental Beijing is located next to the new headquarters of China Central Television, but that building is said to be undamaged.
It is NOT the CCTV tower that burned but the building right next to it called TVCC (confused?!!). The 116,000m2 building includes (included?) a hotel, a visitor’s center, a large public theater and exhibition spaces and was designed by Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA.

Apparently CCTV executives had hired people to illegally set off fireworks. The fireworks they used were dangerous and needed approval before being allowed in downtown Beijing. CCTV did not get approval and ignored police warnings that night.

Firefighters and their equipment, who could only reach up a dozen or so floors, could do little to contain the blaze. One firefighter died and 6 other persons were injured.

Ironically CCTV (which is the National Chinese TV) who is responsible for one of the biggest fire in recent year didn’t show footage of the blaze, relegated the story to the second last item and kept it brief. China’s propaganda authorities had instructed domestic media not to run photos, video and in-depth reports on the fire and to carry only the version put out by Xinhua. (but the directive was leaked online!).
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
The aftermath


  1. There is discussion on whether to reintroduce a ban on fireworks in downtown Beijing. The 12-year ban was lifted in 2006.
  2. The air quality in the city also plunged to a heavy pollution level Tuesday, the worst since May 28, 2008, as a result of the firework celebrations on Monday night.
  3. Since January 25, the eve of the new lunar year, 403 people have been injured and 103 fire incidents have been reported.
  4. Apparently a text message that had been circulated on Monday among CCTV staff had asked them to contribute 19.90 yuan (€2 or $3) toward the cost of a Lantern Festival event and fireworks display at the new headquarters. (!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

End Of...

...The Festivities

That’s it… our last Chinese New Year festivities have come to an end.

After you have this:

REUTERS/Reinhard Krause*

You get this:

By early morning the streets were spotless

* more amazing pictures here

Sunday, February 8, 2009

6 Months Ago...


Signs are slowly fading away...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is It For...


There are numerous temples to visit in Beijing: "Temple of Heaven", "Lama Temple", "Confucius Temple", etc... but the one “temple” most visitors like to tour is the temple of fakes or counterfeit goods. In these several stories high buildings you’ll find all the “Gucci”, “Prada”, “Louis Vuitton” or “Rolex” (to name but a few) you want. They are several of these markets around town; Yashow (just around the corner from us), Hongqiao or Pearl Market and probably the most famous among tourist, the Silk Market.

So I was a little surprise to learn that 7 stalls at the above mentioned Silk Market were being closed for 7 days on Sunday for selling fakes good. Which made me wonder: What about the other 1.000+ stalls do they really sell genuine goods?!!

Beijing Silk Market Vendors Closed For Selling Fake Goods

Seven vendors at Beijing's Silk Market have been ordered to stop and rectify their business for selling counterfeit famous brand goods.[..]
A representative from Silk Market said that according to an agreement signed between the market and an anti-counterfeit company, whenever the latter issues a notarized document as evidence that there are fake goods in the market, the market must punish the seller concerned immediately.

Things got a little heated among the cramped aisles of the Silk Market on Sunday morning as stall vendors and market management clashed over an order to shutter 7 stalls for 7 days as punishment for selling fake goods.

We are safe... no more fakes!!

Doing some digging around for this post I found out that the Silk Market has its own Wikipedia entry!

Silk Street (秀水街 - Xiu4 Shui3 Jie1, aka Silk Market) is a shopping center in Beijing that accommodates over 1,700 retail vendors, notorious among international tourists for their wide selection of counterfeit designer brand apparels.
The Silk Street (aka Xiushui Market) attracts approximately 20,000 visitors daily (from 9am to 9pm) on weekdays and between 50,000 and 60,000 on weekends as of 2006. This 35,000-square-meter complex house 1,700 retail vendors and over 3,000 salespeople spread over seven floors with three levels of basements.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


...Or Crepes Day

After talking about the Galette des Rois a month ago, today is the “Chandeleur” or Crepes Day.

A little Wikipedia to explain all of this… while I’m tossing crepes with my left hand and holding a gold coin in my right hand!

In France, crêpes were traditionally served on Candlemas (La Chandeleur), February 2. This day was originally Virgin Mary's Blessing Day but became known as avec Crêpe Day, referring to the tradition of offering crêpes. It is believed that if you could catch the crêpe with a frying pan after tossing it in the air with your left hand and holding a gold coin in your right hand, you would become rich that year.
I also learned that the crepes should only be eaten after eight pm… Oups, I’ll know not to blame it on the economy if we don’t get rich this year!
Miam, miam

Being a French AND American family we try to celebrate traditions from both side of the Atlantic. Today is also Groundhog Day, so let me give you a little Wikipedia background on this tradition too. Sorry reader from the US, you probably already know about this… just re read my very own Groundhog Day experience in China, here!
Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada on which folklore tells if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny and the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

Why but why did you see your shadow, Phil?

I’ll have to say that on this day, French traditions are much easier (if a little fattier, but who cares) to follow…. I looked high and low for a groundhog but couldn’t find a single one in Beijing.

UPDATE: Punxsutawney Phil’s saw his shadow… I guess there will be six more weeks of winter in the States but what about us here in China!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

At Least One Of Them...

...Knows The Truth

Why I love my children…

Yesterday late afternoon Jeremy came up to me and asked for some cereal. I told him no, now it’s not the time, it’s almost time to eat dinner. He pleaded with a big pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaase. When I said that Daddy wouldn’t want him to have cereal at this time he replied: “You are the boss here; you can do whatever you want”

He got his cereal and I got a kiss/hug!

I love you... Me too