Naxi Orchestra

Lijiang is the capital of the Naxi Kingdom. The Naxi are an ethnic group who descended from a race of Tibetan nomads.I read about their music, which is an ancient form of Chinese music, that survived the CR, among others because the musicians buried their instruments to save them. Naxi music is also called “the living fossils” of music in China and is a combination of literary lyrics, poetry and music styles from the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties and also has influences from Tibetan music. When I arrived in Lijiang, I didn’t really like this town. The old town of Lijiang which is in the top of favorite touristic places in China.  It was just too touristic, and feels a bit like a big Nanluoguxiang (Beijing) town. Then I read about the Naxi orchestra and for sure I wanted to check that out. It turned out to be the most interesting thing that Lijiang has to offer in my opinion, even though the Orchestra plays every evening for tourist. To me, it still has an authentic feel to it. Reading about this ancient music from China and then seeing the members of the Orchestra… Well, have a look yourself:

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The oldest member of the Naxi Orchestra is 87 years old!

Continue reading “Naxi Orchestra”

Harbin

A few weekends ago I went to Harbin to see the famous Ice and Snow festival. The first time I heard about this Ice and Snow festival was many years ago, I think it was in 1997, when ice sculpture artists from Harbin came to my hometown Groningen to create ice sculptures to be exposed in the Chinese Garden in Botanical Garden Hortus. That year I worked there, and it was early in the year, pretty cold. I was standing outside of the big hall ( huge freezer) with the ice sculptures, dressed in traditional Chinese clothes, to sell crappy souvenirs. The exposition was open until 10 pm, and it often became very cold outside. After the first few weeks, it wasn’t that crowded anymore, and I would often stand behind the souvenirs for hours, without any visitors dropping by. What I did to warm myself up, was go into the big hall, and have a walk around the beautiful ice sculptures (not so big as in Harbin of course). That was beautiful, as there were often no visitors around late in the evening. And I stayed in that big freezer until I was getting really cold before leaving the freezer again. And the outside temperature was just lovely. It felt like a nice Spring day!

Anyways, that was my first encounter with the ice sculptures of Harbin. Forgive me for being lazy, and not posting my pictures on my blog. I will give you a link where you can see some pictures!

Go to this link for the pictures!

Impressions: Studytrips

CHONGQING

The “Gang of Four”, photo by Filippo Leddi aka “Leidi”

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Seminar on the Economy of Chongqing

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Visit to a mobile phone company

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The cups of the workers

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Official dinner

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The skyline of Chongqing

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MA’ANSHAN

Newly opened Crowne Plaza in Ma’anshan, I believe we were the first guests.

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Seminar on the economy of Ma’anshan

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Visit to factory, followed by local tv station

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Meeting with the mayor of Ma’anshan

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Our team leader and the mayor of Ma’anshan

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Party in a club in Ma’anshan

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NANJING

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Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall

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Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Father of the Nation) Mausoleum

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XIAMEN

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Seminar on Xiamen, one of the first Special Economic Zones in China

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Visit to light bulb factory

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Local dinner on the streets of Xiamen

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Last night in Xiamen

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TIANJIN

Visit to the Airbus factory in Tianjin

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The rebels of the group – METP FOR BLUES!

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Sichuan

After two months of studying, we got a well-deserved two week Summer holiday! Where most of my classmates went back to Europe, I decided to travel a bit in Sichuan. It happen to be that Erika joined an exchange group of Dutch students who were going to Sichuan to visit some areas that were hit by the big earthquake a year ago. In order to get acquainted with developmental work, they had meetings with a.o. NGO’s, and they visited schools to organize activities and games with local schoolkids.

I met up with Erika and her group in Chengdu, and joined them for their last week in Sichuan. Sichuan is located in the South-East of China and from its capital Chengdu it is a 3 hr flight to Beijing. I arrived in the early evening and while having a walk with Erika in Chengdu’s city center, we saw these statues of “Western” people. Chinese people pose next to these statues as to be on a picture with a “Westerner”. I know that Chengdu is less of an international city as Beijing, having less foreigners as their inhabitants, but still.. Is it really necessary to pose next to a statue of a foreigner? I sometimes feel that the obsession that some Chinese have with “Westerners” is not healthy. Towards the end of my holiday, I was in Chengdu with Simon and I showed him the statues. We thought of a nice business plan in which he would stand next to the statues, eating a Big Mac and drinking a Coke, and I would ask 10 kuai for every picture taken with him. Now that’s a business!

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The next day we went to see Sichuan Opera. This was actually the first time for me to see a Chinese Opera. I have never been to any Beijing Opera, because in my mind (and this might be incorrect) it is an play, with continuously high pitched singing to which I can listen to to a certain extent. Not for more than 30 min. Sichuan Opera is famous for its mixture of several acts for example slapstick, erhu performance, puppet-shows, face changing and fire breathing. The show was obviously set up for tourists; it was possible to get a massage before the performance or even during the performance, which Erika and I signed up for ;)Even though it is not really my cup of tea, the Sichuan Opera was quite entertaining. I might give the Beijing Opera a chance now as well..

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One of the best kept secrets of Sichuan Opera is the changing of faces. The performers change their masks so fast, that within a blink of the eye, they suddenly have a difference face. I must say that the effect is quite impressive. As with most magician tricks, you’ll never find out how they do it, unless you become a magician yourself.

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Chengdu and the East of Sichuan has a subtropical humid monsoon climate. The summer season is the season of rain. Here is a picture of Wangjianglou park. This park is also known as Bamboo park as it has more than 150 varieties of bamboo. Since last year, the local government has cancelled all the entrance fees to the parks to stimulate the tourism. As the rain was pouring out of the sky, there were not many people visiting the park.

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And the people that were present, preferred to drink a nice cup of tea in tea houses like this:

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The next picture was taken on the road to Sichuan’s second largest city, Mianyang. Also known to be the cleanest city of whole China. The city itself was only lightly damaged by the earthquake, other areas within the Mianyang prefecture were among the most heavily hit areas. The houses with the blue rooftops are prefab houses, temporary houses for the people who lost their homes to live in.

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We visited two schools near Mianyang. This is the first school, and as you can see, the kids were all lined up to welcome us. This school only has around 30 middle school kids, coming from different villages in the area.

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The Dutch youngsters organized activities for the kids like musical chair, football and singing class and the Chinese kids had a fun morning. I spoke to one of the teachers and she told me that their school was visited often by foreigners who come and undertake activities with the kids. The tour guide who was with our group told me that she is happy that people from the West are concerned and even though there’s nothing that these activities can do for the kids on the long-term, at least for the moment, for this morning, everybody was having a great time.

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In the afternoon we visited another school. Our bus was too big for the little road that led to the second school.

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This school was attended by considerably more children.

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Handling a classroom full of kids is certainly not an easy job.

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Many people from the villages in this area had come to the school to see what was going to happen. Considerably more people were watching and curious about these foreigners (of whom most have Chinese origins) coming to the school and doing activities with the kids. I guess this school was not used to visitors as much as the first school.

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The contrast between the old and the new houses was tremendously big!

New house:

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Old house:

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What I heard was that most newly build houses were funded by companies or individuals. It is not so clear were the money of the government was spend on exactly, except for some of the prefab houses and schools.

 

I wonder what all these kids were thinking..

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Next item on the programme was a visit to Leshan (“Happy Mountain”), home of the world largest stone-carved Buddha, ?? (dxe0fxf3 = big buddha). The construction period lasted for 90 years, and the 71m high Buddha is the protector of the boatmen. The first thing you see when you arrive, is his head. Then you can descend a stairway on his side and slowly see his grandeur be revealed to you.

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Unfortunately, many Chinese had a holiday and of course they ALL wanted to see Dafo! I don’t remember anymore how long we stood in line to reach the stairway down. But it reminded me all too much of Xizhimen during rushhour.

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When we finally arrived at the stairway going down, we were hoping for a somewhat fast descent, but of course we should have known better. The line just continued on the stairway down to the feet of Mr. Dafo.

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One glance of Dafo..

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Many glances of the tourists like me.

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His big toe is 8.5 meter long..

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Very impressive to stand as his feet and look up to him.

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After Leshan, we went to Emei Shan. Emei Shan is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China. We arrived in Emei city, about 7 km away from the mountain. Here I said goodbye to Erika and her group and I went to Baoguo village; a one-street village at the foot of the mountain. Here I would meet up with Simon who had been travelling in the West of Sichuan. I wandered around myself that day, waiting for Simon to come, and I walked a bit up the mountain already. The scenery is beautiful, and it was great to be surrounded by nature as in Beijing it is hard to find. I wasn’t the only one enjoying the greenery and the freshness of the little river.

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Macaques live on Emei Mountain, and we were warned for them harrassing travellers as you climb up the mountain. The Lonely Planet actually recommended to bring a fixed-length umbrella to use for the rain, as a walking stick and as a warning to the monkeys! Well, 99% of all the monkeys I saw were the ones that this little boy is carrying around his neck.

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In the early evening, Simon arrived in Baoguo village, and to pay our honours to the good ol’ times when we were both living in Beijing, we had the street BBQ with Baijiu!

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The next day we left at around noon. We took a bus to Jingshui, about 500m up the mountain and starting walking up the steep steeeeep stairs! Another option was to get carried up the mountain as quite a lot of other people were doing. What a job!

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I don’t recall having walked up so many stairs before in my life.

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But the views were amazingly beautiful!

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This little horse gave a good example of how to walk down the stairs. Do it zigzagging!

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We spent the night at Huayan temple, after walking for more than 6 hours.

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During the walk we hardly saw any other tourists.

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And there is nothing better than arriving at a peaceful monastery, after an intensive walk up the mountain for several hours.

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There was even a hot shower!

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Simon has fans everywhere in China! The next day a couple with their three daughters arrived at this summit and they were just lovely!

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This is the only monkey we saw during our whole walk up the mountain. He wasn’t harassing anyone!

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On the way up ,there are many little snack corners like this one. No need to starve on the way up!

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Again the steep stairs!

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The more we ascended, the more misty it became, causing these mystifying views of the huge trees.

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I love this one!

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We walked until we were at about 2540m in height on the mountain. At that point there was a connection to the road, and buses were just pouring out the tourists. It was just so annoying, after having such a long walk through a very peaceful environment. The fog became thicker as well, and we decided not to go to the top of the mountain. After walking more than 20 km, ascending more than 1500m, spending the night in a monastery which gave me the feeling of sleeping in the sky, amongst the clouds, we decided not to ruin the good memory of Emei Shan by going to the top and be overrun by tourists. The fog would not have allowed us to see anything anyway. So we took a bus back to Baoguo village, and then got a ride back to Chengdu.

 

Chengdu cannot be mentioned without thinking about Panda’s! The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base is located in Chengdu.

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The baby panda’s are so tiny!

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I am back in Beijing and enjoying my last free days before school starts again on Monday!

Brussels

Somewhere last year, I was in Salud, a bar in Beijing, and I met two Dutch guys. Considering the fact that Salud is a bar where the whole French community of Beijing goes to, I was delighted to hear some Dutch in the dominant French chattering. Even more surprising was that they both came from the north, Groningen! One of them was in Beijing as he was a participant of METP: The EU-China Managers Exchange Training Programme. It was that evening that the idea for me to apply for METP came into my mind. I had never heard of this programme before and it was pure luck for me to come across it.

METP is an ” intergovernmental cooperation project between the EU and China in thefield of international trade. Built within the dynamic context ofcontinuously developing relations between the EU and China, theprogramme will enhance business expertise by developing European andChinese human resources.” See their website for more information.

It took some time for me to finalize my project plan and I worked hard on it, as the end of the year 2008 came closer. On Jan 23, I received an email that I was pre-selected, and was invited for the final selection round in Brussel. Feb 25 was the big day of the selection and I arrived in Brussels way too early, just to have some time for a nice walk in the center of Brussels. I played the tourist, and felt the atmosphere of Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union. As a true tourist, I took my pics!

 

The “Grote Markt”, or ” Grand Place”, the central market square of Brussels.

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Brussels’ beautiful City Hall

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Of course you cannot visit Brussels without seeing this dirty little fella: Manneken Pis. He was nicely dressed up as it was carnaval.

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Maybe you are not really interested in watching the below movie. I like streetmusicians who don’t give a shit and just play.

 

 

A typical little street

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Then it was time to be on my way to the hotel where the final selections were being held. On my way there I passed Jubelpark, or Parc du Cinquantenaire. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to actually go in it and see it.

 

The entrance of the park

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She’s watching you as you enter.

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Then I saw the impressive Berlaymont building; the headquarters of the European Commission.

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The selection was held in a hotel next to the Berlaymont building. It took the whole afternoon, and around 5 pm, I left the building, to catch my train back to Rotterdam, where I would have dinner with friends.

Less than 4 weeks ago, I received an email with the results

I’M IN!!!!

Back to Jinshanling-Simatai

Haha, Koen thought I was going to announce that I was pregnant! Noooo… not yet!

After 3 and a half years I returned to the Jinshanling – Simatai portion of the Great Wall. For the loyal readers of my blog, you might still remember that the follow up of my last visit to this part of the Wall led me all the way to Montreal. Long time ago already.

Kirsten came visiting me in Beijing a few weeks ago and on a very nice Autumn Sunday (Autumn is the best season to visit Beijing) I gathered a bunch of my friends together to do the Jinshanling – Simatai walk. We hired a mini-van and with a group of 9 people we took off!

So.. Where exactly do we have to go?

Photo by John Celestian
Photo by John Celestian
Photo by Mark de Jong
Photo by Mark de Jong

This part of the Great Wall is just amazingly beautiful!

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Group picture. One of the few attempts to make a good jumpshot.

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No place better to have a lunch than a lunch on the Great Wall! With Gilles sitting in the sun, eating Sushi from the 7Eleven.

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Kirsten and me!

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The shadow of an old watch tower.

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It is not easy to grasp the beauty of the Wall on pictures. Maybe a movie is better!

At the end of our walk, we sat down and had a delicious STROOPWAFEL!

Photo by Lisa Cheung
Photo by Lisa Cheung

Trip to Datong Area

A week ago I went together with Anita and Erik (my friends and colleagues) to Datong area. We got on the midnight train to the city Datong in the province Shanxi (West of BJ). This province is one huge mountain plateau with an average height of 1000m above sea level. As it is dominated by the proximity of the Gobi desert, you can imagine the sand and dust that is shifting across the province. Nearly a third of China’s coal reserves are to be found in Shanxi province. In the larger cities there is a major development of mining industry. It is been said that Datong is even more polluted than BJ.

View of the city from our hotelroom
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It took us 7 hours by train to get to this place. We hadn’t booked any hotel or organized trips to the sites we wanted to visit as we just wanted to go check out the place ourselves without being stuck to something. We arrived at the trainstation at 7 in the morning, had some breakfast and then went to one of the first hotels we saw. Just next to the trainstation, we went to Feitian hotel, and it turned out to be a nice reasonably priced one. Immediately after getting of the train, a guy was offering us his car to bring us to the sites, and he was so persistent that we got very annoyed by it. Never go along with the first guy that offers you his services as soon as you get somewhere, especially not when he is too persistent. Just doesn’t work like that. In our hotel we met another guy offering his services, he had a friendly appearance, being patient and not pushy at all. He became our personal driver for the next two days.

On our way to the Hanging Monastery, we stopped at a little village. As soon as we stopped the car, little kids and women came running towards us, holding little colourful self made decorations to sell to us.
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Our driver told us about the caves opposite of the village where an old man lives. The old man was very hospitable and eager to show us his place.

The old man’s house. The cave is 500 years old.
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The old man is 73 years old, and has been living here for 30 years. He is not married and has no children.
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He showed us around in his place, and told us to take pictures of everything. He was happy to receive visitors interested in his house.

A Kang is a sleeping platform made out of bricks or a form of fired clay. The heat of the cooking is being channelled into the interior of the bed creating a heated bed floor in times of coldness.
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The “kitchen”
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The view from his place
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We were invited by the people living in the old village and who were trying to sell us the colourful thingies to see their homes as well. They lived opposite of the old man’s cave.

A part of the village
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On our way to one of the homes
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The entrance
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Mother and Daughter
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The daughter is participating in Project Hope. A project initiated by China Youth Development Foundation (a NGO) to ensure that children in rural communities today and in the future have the opportunity to go to school. I bought the thing she is holding in her left hand.

Hanging Monastery

The Hanging Monastery (65 km from Datong) is one of the main historical sites of this area. This Monastery was built 1400 years ago and is considered an architectural wonder. It also contains Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements: a combination that is quite unusual.  From a distance it is very impressive, especially when you keep in mind how incredible old it is already!

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Heading towards the entrance of the Monastery
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Inside
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Tall, narrow stairs and plank walkways connect 6 halls with shrines of the three main religions/philosophies in China.
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I liked it more from a distance
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Yingxian Pagoda
After our visit to the Hanging Monastery, we went to a small town called Yingxian. In the centre of this town you can find the oldest wooden building in China: The Wooden Yingxian Pagoda. Originally this pagoda was constructed without a single metal nail, although nowadays there are plenty of them. The small town itself was not interesting. It is a typical town made for tourists, with fake old traditional Chinese architecture.
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A closer view of the Pagoda
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Inside of the Pagoda
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Back to Datong

After the Wooden Pagoda we went back to Datong city.
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Back in Datong we had streetfood for dinner (these crispy bowls were delicious!)
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And then we went to the Habitat Bar (beer and Skittles) where there was live music! Nice ending of a great day!
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Next day
The next day we got up on time and after checking out the breakfast of the hotel, we all agreed on just having breakfast on the streets. Anything was better than what the hotel had to offer. We walked on the streets of Datong and came across a nice little event. Older women playing the drums. Check out the movie I made of it. The lady in pink is just great! She got swing!!

Ancient Great Wall
On this day we went to see the Ancient Great Wall. That it is ancient and much older than the ones around BJ was quite obvious when we arrived. It can hardly be called a wall anymore.

On the way to the Ancient Great Wall
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Our driver stretching his legs
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The Ancient Great Wall with on the right Inner Mongolia, on the left Shanxi province
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We crossed the border to Inner Mongolia on foot
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Yungang Grottoes (

The Yungang Grottoes are ancient Buddhas grottoes consisting of more than 200 caves and about 51000 statues, spread out over a distance of 15 km. What is now most accessible for tourists (and of course you pay a fee to get in) is a small fragment of about 1 km. The rock-cut architecture of the Yungang Grottoes were made a UNESCO World Heritage site and are considered as “the outstanding achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with their strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.”
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Very impressive to see the huge Buddhas in the caves. Many centuries ago, people carved these out of solid rock!!
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There were not only big ones. Here is a wall full of little ones
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Inside one of the larger caves
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To give you a better idea of the inside of one of the larger caves, check out the next movie

I know I am not supposed to be playing in caves, just couldn’t resist the urge to climb in one and enjoy the scenery
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Insomnia in Hong Kong

Hi from Hong Kong! It is Wednesday night and I am suffering from insomnia. It is 05:30 (HK time) now. Of course it is a jetlag I am suffering from right now. I am wide awake! And this isn’t the first sleepless night since I am here. Last Sunday I left Amsterdam at 13:45 hr (Dutch time) for London Gatwick where I catched my plane to Hong Kong after waiting for about 6 hours as the plane to HK was leaving at 21:10 hr (Dutch time). London to HK took 11 hours and I arrived in HK on Monday at 08:40 (Dutch time), that is 15:40 (HK time). Although sleeping in the plane wasn’t such a problem, you can imagine I was quite tired. It is important to try to adjust immediately to the new time zone and I did well that first day! Went to bed in the evening, slept like a baby and woke up next day at 9! Great!, I thought, Take that! You won’t get to me, you annoying jetlag!

Unfortunately, my cheering did not last long. Tuesday was filled with enough stuff to do so I was quite tired. Sleeping would not be a problem, I thought. Tuesday night the jetlag surprised me. The first sleepless night for me in ages. So frustrating, not knowing what to do except endless attempts to fall asleep over and over again. Wide awake until 6 am! Or something like that, last thing I remember is hearing the trams starting their shifts. Woke up again at 2 pm. That is exactly the time I would have been asleep had I been in The Netherlands. Argh!!

Not making that mistake again. This night, my third night here, the jetlag strikes again. I went to bed at around 11 pm and have been wide awake until now. Am doing it differently this time, tried enough already to fall asleep, didn’t work, won’t work, so it is better to do something else, like writing this post. I will not go asleep anymore today in order to tire myself out until this evening. Sleep will and shall come back to me!

Great to be back in Hong Kong! I stayed at my aunties place the first two nights and just arriving in her street that first day, sniffing up all those familiar fragrances of dried seafood while listening to the lovely sounds of the old trams on their old tracks made me forget all about my tiredness. With my pack on my back, my saxophone case in one hand, the laptop bag in the other, I made my way through the bustling street and enjoyed the fact that I knew exactly where I was and which way to go. It is not bloody hot here at all, as I wrote in my former post. The weather is just fine, about 18 degrees Celsius, mostly cloudy although the Google forecast is telling me that there will be more sun later on this week. Another two days before I leave Hong Kong again. Hope to catch some sun!

Calling from London

Here I am, at London Gatwick airport. I am waiting until boarding the plane to Hong Kong. It is awfully quiet in this zone of departure. Left of me I see a huge Tax And Duty Free shop but it is closed. I checked my gate and saw a few people waiting already although it still takes 45 minutes before boarding.

This morning I left Leiden for Schiphol (aka Amsterdam Airport) and took a plane to London Gatwick. All went smooth and I had several hours to kill until my next flight. I went to a nice cafe/restaurant and sat there to rest a bit and eat something. Of course I could not resist ordering the fish and chips (with mushy peas). I am in the UK now right?! And I got into a nice chat with some British Indian guys. Killing time was not as boring as I thought.

Nevertheless this day is a long one. Tomorrow morning 9 am (Dutch time) or 4 pm (HK time) I will arrive in HK. It is a bit strange not to be in NL anymore, as it is a bit strange to be in the UK now and in many many hours in HK and in a week back in BJ.  Hopefully I can get some sleep in the plane to HK. It is bloody hot in HK, about 25 degrees Celsius, well, ok not really bloody hot but the transition from NL weather to HK is quit large, as will be the transition from HK weather to BJ weather as in BJ it much colder than in NL. hihihihih….. Wat zit ik toch weer te lullen he! Ik mis jullie nu al!!

That’s it. End of transmission. See you in HK!

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City once was the imperial palace where many Chinese emperors lived. It is immensively large and just going there for one afternoon like I did, is not enough to see even half of it. I plan to go there again once Niels has arrived in Beijing (fourth of July!!) Nowadays it is the Palace museum and people all over the world come to visit this huge palace, including lots of non-Beijing Chinese. They come here in tourbuses and offer you the same sight as if you were in Amsterdam on the Dam. The Forbidden City is 960 metres long and 750 metres wide, thus having a surface of 720.000 sq metres!

Map of the Palace. (Click to enlarge)
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I went by subway to the Forbidden City and got off at the Tiananmen West station. It is only a short stroll to the Square and the Palace. In the distance you can see the Palace already.
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These fellows in their green suits are marching along the street and the closer you come to the Square and the Palace, the more of them you’ll see.
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Here is the famous picture of Mao hanging at the Gate of Heavenly Peace. It was from this gate where Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic on 1 October 1949. Eggs were thrown to this gigantic portrait during the demonstrations in 1989. We all know how the demonstrations were brought to an end.

The guards always seem to wear oversized green jackets. And you see the fire extinguishers next to him? Always good to have one near I guess, if the picture of Mao suddenly burst out into flames orso.
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The entrance to the Forbidden City.
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Under renovation?! The Lonely Planet says the following: “The palace is so large that a permanent restoration squad moves around repainting and repairing it. It’s estimated to take about 10 years to do a full renovation, by which time they have to start repairs again.”
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The Forbidden City harbours many courtyards, pavillions and mini museums. The next picture was made in such a mini museum with an exhibition of canons. They like to give the canons names!
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Walking around here on a fresh sunny day, made it all just perfect.
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The corner of this hall’s roof were decorated with mythical and actual animals following a figure mounted on… what is it? A chicken?.
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In summer it will be really crowded here with visitors. This year’s winter is a nice one as it is not as cold as former years, like everywhere in the world I guess. Global warming has its effect here too.
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And here we are at the Imperial Garden, a classical Chinese Garden where I made the pictures of the ancient trees.
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At the end of the afternoon I sat in a corner and watched over this square in the Forbidden City while the sun shone upon me. An impressive day it was!
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Time seems to fly..

but actually it doesn’t…

Today is the sixth day that I am here in Beijing. Not even a full week and already it feels as if I have been here much much longer. That is often the case when you move to another place, especially when this new place is totally different from what you’ve known before. So many impressions to process in your mind and the adjustment to another surrounding. At this moment I am sitting in the “Internet Cafe” of the hostel although it really is not worth its name. Just a small room, cold and boring. This hostel is just plain boring. I was asked to put more pictures on my blog. One should be carefull with what one is wishing for 🙂

Housing

I told you there were several possibilities considering housing during my stay here. A few days ago I went to the university campus to check the prices of the housing at the dorms. It depended on the building one would stay in, the newer modern buildings are relatively expensive, think of about 10 eur a day for you own room. Sharing a room with someone else is cheaper but bear in mind that this means that you will never have any privacy. The prices of a shared room in the oldest dormitory building is around 5 eur a day. I know that to Chinese standards it is pricey. Another thing about living on campus are all the regulations. For example, when you have a visitor, she/he needs to fill in a visitor form and must leave before 10 pm. You yourself need to be inside the dorm at midnight cause otherwise the gate to the dorm has been shut and you cannot get in anymore. It is safe to live on campus but to me it sounds a bit too restricted. I’d rather rent something off campus.

I’ve told you about my roommate Tracy in the hostel. Here you see a picture of her and us:
Tracy

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She is just wonderful and I am very glad to have met her. She offered me her help in finding a place of my own. Thursday we went to a very nice cafe called Sculpting in Time, as I had seen advertisements there for renting rooms and apartments. We pulled down some of the phone numbers and just started calling. The second one we called sounded really nice, a room in a shared apartment very near my soon te be university and we immediately decided to take a look at it. It is located in the WangZhuang Lu (Lu means street).

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The ChengFu Lu is the street where our hostel is located. In the next picture you see the street where the apartment is located.

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The two high buildings in the distance are of the Bank of China.

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The apartment is located in a building complex, DongWangZhuang, and although from the outside it really looks like a crappy shithole, the apartment and especially the room itself is really really nice!! So I GOT MYSELF A ROOM!!!! It is a very cute little room (110 euro a month!!) and I can move in this Friday! I am happy but I dare not to be to happy and joyful about it as different versions of worst case scenarios pop up in my mind quite often. I am a bit sceptic cause it is almost to good to be true. Finding a perfect room within a week of my arrival here?? Can that really be true?? After this Friday I will allow myself to be truly happy about it

Here you see pictures of the building that is soon to be called my building.

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My neighbours seem to have this bike/taxi. You can see these old taxi’s (or how to call them) in the city quite often as you will see later on in this post.

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After I have moved in, I will of course show you pictures of the room and the apartment, and of the front door and the stairways as those are really crappy and gloomy. But you know what wisdom says:”Do not judge the book on its cover!”.

Supermarket

How does a supermarket in Beijing look like? A question I received and and easy answer I can give. Take a look at the following pictures 🙂

These are little food stalls in the entrance hall of the supermarket.
Supermarket

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This supermarket is really colourful! I guess it is because of the upcoming new year.
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Veggies
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Dumplings! Mjummie!! Really good!!
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Noodlesoup!!
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The cashier.
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Two days ago I ate something for dinner that looked like… hmm.. well.. not very tasty, and that is an understatement! These are balls made of black sticky rice and the inside is filled with sesame smudge! You may not believe it, but it actually is very tasteful!!
Grijzeballen

Porcelain
Yesterday I went out to explore the neighbourhood again and to make pictures and I ran into this porcelain market. I really like the large porcelains but I don’t think I can bring them home without damage.

Porcelainmarket

Porcelain

I would not want to have the dog in my house though it is made of porcelain. So kitsch!
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Porcelainboxes

Oh yeah, and this is something you see often here in BJ. Men wearing army suits! I have no idea why, guess they like the colours?

Armysuit
Bicycles

They sure do know how to pack their bicycles here!

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They also know how to park their bicycles!
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This is the Wudaokou subway station.

Wudaokou Subway

A bicycle cab. The man looks very grumpy though. No wonder if you need to wait for a customer all day to drive around. The cell in the back looks like a prison cell.

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But the bicycle cabs are still in use! I saw this old man transporting a very old woman to the supermarket. Here he is waiting for her to come back.
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On the street

If you walk down the street you’ll see salesman and woman trying to sell their goods on the streets.

This man is sitting on the fence, waiting for someone to buy his bags and stuff.

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Wanna buy some roasted chestnuts?

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My room in the hostel which I share with Tracy and Yi does not have any windows! I went to the stairways of the hostel to have a view from the hostel, as the hostel is located on the fifth floor. Notice that on this picture, a tree is growing out of the roof. Hihihi. Or did they build the roof around the tree?
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Lovely, all that fresh air! I haven’t really noticed anything of the pollution, except that the city is often surrounded by a vague layer of mist. Physically I feel really good. Except for the fact that it is really dry here and sometimes that irritates my eyes.

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So we have come to the last picture of this log now. Some of you might still remember how I love to photograph trees. I saw this beautiful tree just outside the campus.Trees can be sooo photogenic! (Note: It was only some time later I realised that this tree is fake.. booh)

Tree

Thanks for your attention! And keep me posted!

Third day in Beijing

Hi all!

I feel much much better now. In my first night in BJ I slept long and deep. I waited long before I went to bed in order to fight as much as possible the jetlag. My plane landed on Tuesday in BJ at 10 am, while the Dutch time was 3 am. And I went to bed at 11 pm, Dutch time 5 pm. I can’t remember the last time I stayed awake for more than 24 hours. So no wonder Miss Grumpy arose.

I already met some nice people here. My roommates are Tracy and Ji, cool girls. Yesterday I went out for dinner with Rudmer’s girlfriend, Xiaolu, another cool girl. And today I met Eddy, a guy from Congo, cool dude!

I am amusing myself here although today I got really tired again because I went orienting on the housing market. There are three options, namely, live on the campus, live in the hostel or live in a (shared) appartment. All three have disadvantages and advantages. I don’t feel like writing about it right now. What I do wanna do now is show you some pictures. Here are pictures of what I am seeing everyday here in my neighbourhood. Just so you get an idea of the surroundings I am in right now.

First, my hostel:

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The right upper bed is mine.

Street scenes
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The local supermarket
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Paperguy
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Huge intersection
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The traffic here is a mess!! At this intersection it is nothing but chaos. Although you might not get that by seeing the pictures. It is just if I stand still to make a picture of the chaos, I will fear for my own life! I cannot find any logic or rules in the traffic and many many car horns were already used against me. The clue is to stick together with the other pedestrians, and together we make a stand and we can cross the street!
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So that is it for now! Next time I will spent some more time on the housing subject.

Safe arrival

Fear no more, Maysha has landed and is now safe and well in Beijing.

I am so tired and will have a jetlag, but at least I am here, and I am in my hostel and this will be a short message just to let you know that all went right with the flight. I am so tired, I am going to bed and sleep. Haven’t slept for 25 hours. Grumpy is my second name now and Beijing suddenly doesn’t seem all that appealing to me. Cities in far far away continents are always like that the first days on solo trips.

Talk to you later!

Paris

A few weeks ago, I went to Paris for a short holiday. As if it is a shame that a girl like me has never been to Paris before, people were surprised to hear that it was my first time in Paris. There are a few pictures I wanted to show you.

We went to the Notre Dame, and to my surprise there was a modern confessional! All smooth and slick with walls of glass. Good to know that Church is coming along in these modern times.

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I simply love stained glass windows. A good friend of mine makes them himself and sometimes when I am visiting him at his place, my mouth just falls open when seeing a new stained glass window creation of him. Ofcourse the Notre Dame has plenty of these windows. Making close-ups of stained glass windows gives you the opportunity to see it in a different perspective.

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Making close-ups in any case of views you normally only see from a certain distance gives you a more beautiful deeper perception of it.

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.. and the last picture of Paris, isn’t of the city itself although it does contribute to the atmosphere of the city. I haven’t seen these cute little guys for a long time in The Netherlands. We are losing our house sparrows!!! Here is a picture to refresh our memory. This little fellow seems to have a hard time with the heat wave and all. I gave him more bread than he could eat. So at least one house sparrow in Paris will not die of hunger!

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Fujian province

My mother and my brother have just returned from their trip to Hong Kong, Beijing and Fujian. They have visited the villages near Fuzhou in Fujian province where my parents were born and raised. I wanted to show you some of the pictures, especially the ones taken in the Fujian province, as this is the place where my origins lie.

This picture is taken standing on the balcony of my uncle’s house in Fukien, the village where my mother was born and raised. A large river runs alongside the village. My father was born and raised in a village called Hokin, at the other side of the river. He used to tell us a story about how he stood alongside the river shouting out things to the other side of the river, to my mother. How he was calling her and talking with her with a river between them. My mother denies everything. According to her that had never happened. My father is a great storyteller.

My grandparents passed away a long time ago. The parents of my mother were buried in a mountain. My mother told me stories about it but I never really could imagine what the graves looked like. And now for the first time I’ve seen pictures of the graves of my grandparents.

This is my grandfather’s grave.

View from the mountain where the graves are located

In the distance, the grave of my grandmother.

Beautiful evening

A busy river with ships probably going to Taiwan, and back.

Here is a picture of a very old tree, growing next to the house where my mother was born. We have a cutting of this tree in our living room. I never knew that. I thought it was just a plant my mother had bought one day on the market. I never could have guessed that this plant has made the same journey as my parents have. My parents never told me either. They often do that, with surprising revelations as a consequence.

Hong Kong still occupies a special place in my heart so I cannot hide these pictures of Hong Kong for you.

The apartment building of my aunt is totally covered with scaffolding, cause the pink colour desperately needed to be pink again instead of greyish pink. All bamboo!!! Consider that this is a very high building!!

Hong Kong views!! I just can’t get enough of it.

I am definitely going back next year!!

Almost back

Hi people.
I have to apologize for the fact that I did not keep my weblog updated for the last few weeks during my stay here in Montreal. Unfortunately I am spending my last few days here now, and will return to Holland on Sunday. I discovered that I could not change the return date of my ticket due to some stupid reason, so if I decide to stay here longer, my current ticket will be lost and I will have to buy a new one for my return. My financial situation does not allow that, so I am coming back soon. It was great to be able to spend three weeks with Yannick, we only have three days left now, but we surely plan to be together again. For now it is still not sure when that will be.

I know I promised you pictures of Montreal, but the digital camera suddenly broke down, and does not function anymore. So I have but a few pictures for you.

A view of the city from the Mont Royal, the mountain of which the city is named after.

The old port by night

Right now I am at the appartment of an old friend of mine of highschool. I haven’t seen Martijn for more than four years, but I knew that he was living in Montreal at the moment. So who could have guessed we would see eachother again in Canada after all those years. I like these kind of meetings.

I have met wonderful people here in Montreal, all friends and family of Yannick, and I really hope to come back here again. Hopefully with a working visa so I can really stay here for some time and work. We shall see how the story continues. Next monday morning I will be in Groningen again. See you soon!