My love, FB

Dear Diary,

I am so happy! Today I married the love of my life, his name is Face Book. I feel like I am the luckiest girl alive! FB and I have been together for almost 8 years now but I truly feel like we’ve known each other our whole lives! He is always there for me to talk to and you know what, he really listens! We share everything with each other. Today we got married and I truly want to spend and share the rest of my timeline with him.
Continue reading “My love, FB”

11 Weeks later..

After having a great Christmas holiday in her hometown Groningen, Maysha returns to Beijing. She has decided to do the project at Dutch Telecom, to quit her job at Intertalent, and to be away from and back to her beloved ones for three months. When she arrives in BJ, she knows all too well that time is precious as she has only two weeks before the plane will bring her back to Amsterdam again. She fills the two weeks with making arrangements with the apartment to ensure that she can come back to that little place in the hutong, and spends loads of time on the things and persons she will miss most during her stay in Holland.

Disaster strikes when she becomes sick in the last week. Having horrible images of sitting in a plane with annoying passengers, while sweating out feverish liquids, she decides to spend her last days in BJ in bed and on his couch. She recovers just in time and before she knows it, she is on the plane again. The thought of being back at work in Holland is a bit frightening and Maysha seriously ponders  why the hell she is doing this.

Very early on Sunday, the plane lands safely at Amsterdam Airport, Maysha’s sister picks her up and they stay at her sister’s place in Leiden. This is going to be the place where she will live for the upcoming three months. Having hardly any time to adjust, the next day, Monday, Maysha starts working at DT. The two worlds alternate very fast, and it feels as if BJ was just a dream. At DT in Amsterdam, she runs into a lot of familiair faces, and setting up the Delivery Academy does not give any space or time to even think about the worlds that just switched places in a blink of an eye. Let alone that Maysha has any time to update her blog. 😉

She fights against jetlag in the 1st week, starts finding her way at DT Delivery in the 2nd week, finally sees Erika again who got MARRIED in 2008 in the 3rd week, has dinner with Hok Kwan whom she knows from BJ causing her feel like being back in BJ again and to almost yell out Fuwuyuan to the Dutch waitress in the 4th week, parties with her Posse in Groningen in the 5th week, hears that she is going back to BJ for sure in May in the 6th week, breaks her 50-years-old saxophone in the 7th week, cycles with Kirsten to the beach and ends up in The Duke in the 8th week and has an old-fashioned evening with Tobm filled with pizza, pot, and bad horror movies in the 9th week…Still 5 weeks to go….No one knows what will happen..

Merry Christmas again

Merry Christmas again.. The time does seem to go faster the older you get. It is midnight, everybody in the house is asleep. It is great to be back home in Holland during Christmas. Again nothing seemed to have changed. It is great to be back in my hometown and aside from little things like the fact that my elementary school has been torn down and there is nothing but a big nothingness now, nothing seemed to have changed. As if this past year did not happen. As always it puts me in a contemplative mood. How such an artifical creation like a year consisting of 365 days can cause people to think about their life at a certain point in time. Now is that time. Another year over, a new one to start. Again the same thoughts as a year ago, and a year before that and before that..What will this new year bring us?

Everything is insecure, everything in my life can be completely different from the year before, and there is nothing we can do to enlighten this insecurity, to give one any support in the fear for the unknown nearby future. I’ve been writing diaries since I was 8 years old. Since I am living abroad, every year around this time, when I am back in my childhood home, I get out my old little suitcase that is filled with all the diaries, with all the stories I have written about my life, how trivial they are. My life fits in this little suitcase that my dad once bought when he was busy with trying to get out of China. A little suitcase for all his stuff for his great journey away from his roots.  I scan through the diaries and as soon as I start reading I know exactly what it is about, when it was written and what will come after.

When I started writing, I promised myself to keep this up until my 80th year, as I somehow thought that that is the age that will be my last in which I am still able to write. After that I would ask my grandchildren to read me from my books as by then my eyes are probably too old to read the words. I already feel like an old fool. I’m curious and scared for what will happen in the new year. I look at the empty pages in my current diary and wonder what will be written on it. Let’s just hope for a good year..

Merry Christmas!

As for myself

As for myself, after having a couple of weeks in which the fundament of my life here in BJ (Job, House, Visa) was shaking and tumbling around, I, at present, managed to get stuff (new apartment, new visa) arranged to secure my fundament again.

I work, I study, I learn, I socialize, organize, finalize, I make music, I fight for my own justice, I see messed up people, I waste my energy on messed up people, I can’t blame myself, I clear things out, I move on, I see beauty in a city polluted as hell, I adore evenings with good friends, I laugh, I know it is the beginning of the end, and the end is a beginning, and I am happy. 

Tibet

Who really knows what has been going on there and what is still going on there? I read the Western newspapers and I read the Chinese newspapers and what I find striking is that in these media there is always this polarisation of one party being the good one and the other the bad one. I found this movie on youtube, made by Chinese I guess as they talk about how Western media is trying to "slander China". Very interesting to be able to catch this issue from both sides.

Many people in the West may think that all Chinese people think like their government concerning Tibet or Taiwan. And that due to the lack of freedom of press, the Chinese don’t know what is really going on there. But of course, there are ways of tackling the internet block of the Chinese government and not only the foreigners in China are using these methods to be able to read blocked pages. The Chinese do as well. And yes I’ve met Chinese who agree with the point of view of Westerners about delicate issues. They just don’t like the fact that some foreigners are trying to teach them lessons about their own country.

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!

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Enjoy the time with your loved ones whether you can spend these days with them or not. I am happy to be here in Holland with my family, but my heart also goes out to those I love where ever they are now, somewhere out there. Know that I am thinking of you too and am missing you. Maybe we will meet again. Maybe we will never meet again. At least I have fond memories, and life just has to go on. Although I do believe that dreams can come true, that longings can be fulfilled and that everything is possible, no matter how impossible they might appear to be. Appearance is nothing. Life is simple, we are the ones making it so damn difficult. I wish I would meet some more people who still believe.

Beijing Traffic

I have been making my way through Beijing traffic by several means of transport. Of course since I have my ghetto bike (a very old 5th hand bicycle, that rides as the wind but looks so worn out that it is safe for any thief), I often go by bike to my work or other places not too far away. Riding a bicycle through the streets of Beijing is a fascinating tour, and pumps up the adrenaline in the body as you are being in a continuous flow of alertness.

Before I had my bike, I would often take the bus to places like Zhongguancun (where I used to teach and now go to if I want to buy some electronics, or go to the movies). By bus it would take 45 minutes to an hour. By bike it is maybe around 20 minutes. A cab would almost take as long as the bus sometimes as in the end it is the same traffic jam we are in anyway.

The subway is a very good alternative as long as the stations are near the place you need to go. A month ago Beijing just opened a new subway line (nr. 5) and that makes a total of 4 subway lines (line 1, 2, 13 and 5). I haven’t been on the new line 5 yet, as it is not on my side of town but I’ve heard that it was build by the same company that build the Hong Kong subway. And the Hong Kong subway is just great! So I am definitely going to try out this line soon. For a city as large and crowded as BJ, 4 subway lines is just ridiculous. Of course the city authorities know that as well, and the plans for the extension of the subway network is huge. It is more than necessary as the problems in traffic are only getting worse and worse. When the expansion of the network is finished Beijing will have largest subway network in the world.

But this is only part of what I wanted to tell you. I just heard that it won’t really solve Beijing’s traffic problems as the biggest problem is the amount of privately owned cars. I saw some statistics on that in an article in Time Out Beijing and it is just incredible!

In 1996 there were 170.000 privately owned cars, 1.4 million in 2004, 3 million in 2007! That is an increase of half a million privately owned cars in one year! That actually means that within a year you can notice the traffic getting worse and worse. 1500 new cars on the road everyday. According to professor Yang Xinmiao of the Tsinghua University’s Institute of Transportation, the current road system can handle 3.7 million cars. Either there has to be new road contruction, or people should stop buying and using cars. I wonder whether it is really possible to convince people in the middle/upper class to motivate them to use public transport. Why take the bus if a pedestrian often goes faster than the bus? In 2007, the average speed of vehicles during peak hours is 6 km/h. There are no bus lanes in Beijing, which means that if there is a jam, and there very often is one, the bus does not have an advantage. As my good friend said: “What is more annoying than sitting in your car, stuck in the jam, while seeing the bus flying past you on the special bus lane?” Yes, that would make a difference in people’s mind, you’d think.

With the opening of the new subway line, they lowered the prices as well. Now it costs 2 kuai (0.20 euro) to take the subway no matter where you go to. Before it was between 3 and 6 kuai depending on your destination. I noticed the difference, the subway has become even more crowded than before. It is true, the price has made a difference, more people take the subway. Still I wonder how many persons would leave his/her car at home to take the subway and be cramped together like tuna in a can, smelling the bad breaths of people all around you? Sometimes not even being able to get on a train as it is just full?

It is to be questioned whether the middle/upper classes will leave their car to take public transport as there is another important factor and that is prestige. People buy cars to climb on that ladder of social status and to show that they are not one of the 800 million people who are not participating in China’s economical boom. So one can make the subway as cheap as possible, build the special bus lanes, raise the prices of having an own car, reduce public transport’s travel time and make it more comfortable, but these are only matters of money and convenience. What to do about the human ego? What to do about this “investing in appearance” as that is what Beijing is doing anyway already with the Olympics coming up?

Doesn’t pride come before the fall?

Paying the internet bill

The internet bill needs to be paid once every month. It is an amount of about 14 euro a month for an ADSL connection through a phone line, so the phone bill is included in this bill. I normally discover that it is time to pay the bill again when my internet stops working. After a double check by trying to call someone by our landline, and then hear a taped voice telling me in Chinese and English that there is no service because the bill needs to be paid, it is quite clear that it is that time of the month again. To pay this bill one needs to go to the Industrial and Commercial bank of China (ICBC) and pay in cash. I first heard that this is the only bank where I can pay this bill, but later on someone told me that it’s not true. It can also be paid at the Bank of China. Going to the bank to do something normally always include huge waiting lines. As here it is not common to just have companies deduct money from your bank account (guess the trust in the bank system is not well established and most Chinese people prefer to do things by cash).

So I went to the ICBC after class, before going to work. I entered and the waiting room was full. I drew a number from the ticket machine and it became clear to me that there are at least 80 persons in need of some banking before I could pay my internet bill. I took out a book from my bag (as of course I expected a waiting line, although 80 persons went way beyond my expectations) and tried to read while standing as all the chairs were taken, but my mind was more busy with estimating the amount of time I needed to wait, and therefore estimating the time I could be at work and get off work as I wanted to work 6 hours that day and so on.  I also counted the people who were waiting for their number as I could not believe that there were actually more than 80 persons in the room. There were not 80, but around 25. Guess the other 55 were doing something else, somewhere else while waiting for their turn.

I put back the book in my bag, as I was seriously thinking about leaving the place and come back another time. But then again, there was not really another time that I could go, as the banks close at 5 pm and I do not get off work earlier than that. So I was in doubt what to do.

Every bank has a floor manager (or something like that), walking around to help customers filling in forms and answering questions and so on. She walked by me and I, while hearing The Clash “Should I stay or should I go” in my head, asked her whether I really needed to wait another 80 customers before I could do such a simple thing as paying my internet bill. All in Chinese of course. She said:”No, you can also pay it at the ATM. Come and I’ll show you.” So I followed her to the ATM and she asked for my card. I already knew that this would not work as I have a card of the Construction Bank of China, not of the ICBC. So I told her and she said that it was not possible with my card. I put on my I-am-so-very-disappointed-and-will-go-back-to-the-waiting-room-and-wait-another-80-persons-before-I-can-pay-my-stupid-bill face. Then she took out her own ICBC card, ask for the phone number and the account holder’s name and she paid the bill for me at the ATM, with her own card. She printed out the receipt and asked me for the money. I gave her, and of course needed change back. So she went to one of the counters where her colleague was helping a customer and just interrupted him, asked for the change and came back to me giving me my change. I was happy to have paid my bill. The floor manager was nice as well doing that for me, but don’t think she was acting like a very friendly manager. She actually was a bit grumpy, but not rude. I actually thought it was a bit strange to pay a bill like that, and I told a Chinese colleague of mine about it, and he also thought that it was a bit strange. Anyways, the bill got paid.

China’s National Day

On the first day of October, 1949 Mao proclaimed the formation of the People’s Republic of China. It is the China we know now. This day is China’s National Day and is the start of a week holiday for the Chinese. Actually people do not really have a week off. Officially we have three days and the other two days are actually working days. The weekend before the holiday is a working weekend to compensate the last two days of the holiday in order to give people a whole week of holiday so they can travel. And that is what the whole country does. Travel back to their hometowns. Just like with Spring festival, Beijing all of a sudden is a whole lot more quiet. People celebrate this day by for example going to parks where some festival is being organised. Nicolas and I went to Chaoyang park, the largest city park in Beijing. A huge festival was organised there with exhibitions of ofcourse the upcoming Olympics, live music, little vendors, lots of things to eat, rollercoasters and mini bungy jumps, stuff you see in theme parks.

In this park there is a Dutch village. I thought, why not go to see some Dutch stuff on China’s National Day. So we went there and ate some kibbeling with remoulade sauce, smelled the Poffertjes and saw one windmill. There was a stage with a singer singing cheesy songs. I bursted out in laughter when he started to sing a song very well-known for us Dutchies. Too cheesy for words, but it made me laugh! It almost felt like being home again.

After this, someone in the park gave me a map of Finland in case I would ever visit Finland, and we ended the day with a nice pricey meal in a French restaurant. So nice to have a good meal with a delicate taste again!

So far my celebration of China’s National day!

My summer till now

Thunderstorms

How is your summer till now? I suddenly realized that the month August has started already. Does time fly by in Europe as fast as it does here in China? My summer has been a hot one till now. Beijing’s summer is infamous for its heat, humidity and the very heavy thunderstorms. Once in a while, after a period of heat (around 35 degrees Celsius) the BJ sky is roaring like a wild animal, flashes of lightning on and on and on, and the sky turning purple. I cannot remember ever seeing such heavy thunderstorms before. And normally in Europe, when a heatwave is followed up by a nice thunderstorm, just before the storm, you can feel breezes of wind, accumulating in strength, a drop in temperature and then the thunderstorm commences.

Here in BJ it is not always like that. Quite strange. Sometimes there are no breezes of wind before a storm, the temperature does not drop at all before or after the storm, even no wind during the storm or after. Just a huge amount of rain falling out of the sky, acid rain I would call it. What we all did when we were younger, standing in the rain with your head up and an opened mouth to taste the rain.. No way you do that in BJ. Acid rain, with the immense pollution here, I will put on an umbrella even when it rains a bit. The rain just feels dirty, and is accompanied by sand. During one of the storms, we forgot to close the windows in our kitchen. After the rain dried up, the floor of the kitchen looked like a beach, sand everywhere. Just unbelievable how much sand the storm brought along. Another time, I was on my way to work, just got off the subway when the sky started to darken. A storm was on its way. 5 min later I arrived at the building and the sky had turned very very dark. I stood outside to look at the sky, and this time there was a breeze. People on the street started to run, and the tension could be felt. One minute later it was really dark, as if the night just fell in. Amazing, never before I saw a day turning into night that fast! And then of course, the roaring beast got loose.

What I like about summer here, is that summer really is summer. We are guaranteed of hot weather, and sometimes a thunderstorm. Not like in Holland, where (I’ve heard) this whole summer it has been raining. A typical Dutch summer! Here it is just hot in summer.

Housing

You remember the pics of my tiny room here in BJ? Well still living there, already half a year now in this shithole, with a kitchen that does not invite me to cook, and a bathroom with a shower of which the temperature can only be controlled in the kitchen, but.. all ok enough for me. I don’t mind living in a shithole, for a while. Two weeks ago my landlord told us to leave this hole as this hole will go to his brother who needs an apartment. Really nice. I was just planning to move to another room in this house, a larger one with a nice patio. I called/textmessaged/emailed my landlord about it, and did not hear anything for a week. Then he finally responded and told me that we all probably have to leave at the end of our lease. He said probably, not sure, maybe… I asked him, well, when will you know for sure, cause eh.. you know, if it is like that, we eh.. kinda need to find new places to live?? Yes, I am so sorry, he said, I know at the end of your renting whether you will have to leave. At the end of the renting?? Isn’t that a bit late?? Pfff, then he said his mother would come by our house tonight to talk about it with us. We waited that evening for her, and at a certain point got this feeling that she might not come anymore, so we called her. And she said, No I am not coming by, cause my son told you already that you will have to leave the place at the end of your renting. pffffffff… Ok, very strange. But at least we got some clarity, and no I do not mind leaving the place.

So, the hunt for a new place started. This time of the year it is not so difficult to find a room as many people are going back to their home countries and so. I had three methods for finding a new room. I placed an add on thatsbj.com, the inside magazine/site for foreigners in BJ, I scanned adds on internet and in cafes, and I got in touch with a housing agent who helped friends of mine as well with their place. I do not like housing agents at all, but cause this guy helped friends I thought he might be useful in my search of a new place as well.

The housing guy

I met this guy before, as we sometimes go out eating on the streets, at the bbq stands where he often is and the guy is a relative of the landlady of a good friend of mine. It is just a little man, very thin and has a bit of a rat-like face. Friendly once you are in his guanxi (network). A few evenings ago, I met him as he would show me some rooms. Nicolas came along as well, as it is always nice to have a second opinion and of course I always enjoy his company :). The housing guy looked completely wasted, he told us he had been drinking with a Korean just before and he drank a bit too much. That was kinda obvious. We looked at some rooms, very depressing. Small rooms, places with strange people and an apartment on the 15th floor where the elevator can be used until 11pm!! Imagine a nice night out, coming home in the middle of the night and then needing to walk up the stairs to the 15th floor (and I do not even drink alcohol) before you can crash into your bed. So, If you are ever looking for a place to live in BJ and you find a nice apartment in a high building, always ask whether there is a 24 hour elevator! O yeah 24 hour hot water is nice as well.

While visiting this last apartment, Nic and I spoke to the guy who was renting out this apartment and the rat-like housing guy disappeared in the bathroom for quite a long time. He was obviously vomiting his guts out, and looked even more wasted when he exited the bathroom. What a depressing evening it was. We quit the room search after this last apartment.

New place

I did find a new place to live though since yesterday! I responded on an add and took a look at the place and it was in the same compound as where I live now, and all was just fine. So I won’t be homeless after this month. My new flatmate is a sound engineer and drummer from New York and already introduced me to the club where he works. D22, "Beijing’s best experimental and undergound music club" as someone told me. And yes, it is indeed a very cool place!

Yesterday I saw some Chinese rock bands. Quite interesting as the mainstream music in China is very cheezy, all slimy soft ballads. Chinese rock rocks! Tonight is jazz night! Me happy!

Ending is beginning

Semester has ended. A period I longed for for 2 years before I actually started it. And with that ending comes saying goodbye. The power of goodbye is knowing that some things, some episode, some dear people, some feelings will never come back again in your life, and feel the peace in mind with that. I have no plan. I only know that every ending is a new beginning. And forgive me for my mood, but if you read this blog because you want to know how I am doing. This is how I am doing. Moving forward, while hearing a door behind me slamming and although I know that that is what normally happens in life, I still get surprised by the sound of a slamming door followed by the sound of the locking of that door. And it has no use to look back and stare at a closed door, as the only way to look behind that door is to search your mind for memories. Lass’ die Erinnerung erwachen. So yes, starting a new episode again in my life. Still in this amazing city Beijing, feeling the heat of summer in Beijing and the bustling continuity of daily life in Beijing. Beijing is just full of surprises. We’ll see what happens next.

Down memory lane!

Working for MS reminds me of my graduation project. In the sense that the project is very interesting, the end-product is fascinating and the work I do now will influence the results of the project. But, as I have seen before in my grad project, the work itself, very practically speaking is somewhat boring. It entails time-consuming reviewing, correcting and checking of data. It reminds me of the days I was doing an intern at the Clinical Psychiatry department, checking waveforms and so on. A time consuming job that after a while becomes somewhat automatic although not in that manner that the quality of the task suffers from it. As there are only two Dutchies in the company, I just realized that what we do and what we decide is quite important for the final Dutch TTS engine! It is nice to know this cause that really motivates and helps when I am doing a task that is time-consuming and after a while boring but still has importance and needs to be done well.

Next to this, there is another interesting aspect of the job. Working in a big international company, surrounded by so many different nationalities as the engine is being developed in several languages, you encounter many different cultures and work-attitudes. And ofcourse we are located in China, so that means that most of the people who work here are Chinese and it gives a nice insight of Chinese culture and work-attitude as well.

The same goes for my teaching job that consists of teaching and speaking with young Chinese professionals, doing exercises in which they often need to go into discussions about light topics and find good arguments to support their opinion. So yes, my working life is interesting but I must admit that my study of Chinese is suffering now as I only speak English at both jobs and I do not have enough time to study next to the jobs. But!! That will change, as soon as summer starts!!

Pineapple man

This Saturday I woke up early in the morning. Quite an exceptional case as on all the former Saturdays I would have woken up somewhere in the afternoon due to my body who desperately needs sleep after a whole night of socializing, dancing or just being awake in front of a movie.

This Saturday morning in Beijing is a lovely one. The sun is shining, the day started out with a clear fresh atmosphere, and I am happy to have witnessed that. I looked out of my window and saw a man with broomsticks trying to juggle with them. A cleaning guy with ambition to be in the circus maybe?

There were already quite some people on the street passing my window. An older man with his grandson on a little bicycle next to him. The man held his hand on the little kid’s shoulder and together they were on their way.

The sky is blue and the sounds of the city are entering my room accompanied by a breeze of cold air. It is on these mornings that I suddenly realize all too well that I am in Beijing. I am in China and am living here for more than two months already. With all the busy schoolwork and the socializing with others from all over the world, one tends to forget that one’s hometown is many many miles away from here. Forgotten are the anxiety and the pleasant foreplay of the idea of going to China. Once here normal life starts again after the period of acclimatisation. Life in The Netherlands seems like ages ago. As a vague memory that sometimes comes back to me and is in the same category as my memories of for example highschool that was more than 10 years ago.

But on mornings like this I realize all too well that I am here, far, far away from my family and my dearest friends. And I realize that I made it to here. What once was just a dream, just a longing, just something lingering in the back of my mind for such a long time is now real. People dream and dream and hope and long and crave for things and how many are actually able to fulfill their own wishes?

Human beings always want the things they do not have. Always and ever they will long for more and more and tend to forget what they already have and have achieved. Why is that? Maybe because they want to get everything out of life they can think of. Maybe it is because a human being can not be truly satisfied. And its nature is build for always wanting and longing for more. Only the ones who are able to develop themselves beyond human nature will get rid of this torture of always wanting what they do not have. But our nature is strong and even though you can have a single short moment of contemplation and peace in mind, the next moment you are thrown back into your own nature and it starts again. I want to have what I do not have yet. I want to be what I am not. I want to see what I haven’t seen yet, hear what I haven’t heard yet, achieve what I haven’t achieved yet, go where I haven’t been yet, learn what I haven’t learned yet.

I looked outside of my window again and the man with the brooms is gone. He started his job, cleaning for the whole day, day in day out. The Korean restaurant in my neighbourhood has an employee whose only task is to stand at the door dressed up in a traditional Korean dress, to welcome guests. She is just standing there, everytime I pass the restaurant. Sometimes she is standing on the right side of the door, and sometimes on the left side. Sometimes she has her arms alongside her body and sometimes she folds her own hands together. She often changes her stance, letting her weight rest on one leg and then the other. I never saw her walk from the right to the left side. And I wonder how many hours she is obliged to stand there at the door. I wonder whether she likes her job. I wonder whether she dreams of something else, whether she would like to tear down the Korean dress and run down the street to wherever she wants to go. I just wonder about people like her and I often, so often see people like her in Beijing.

Like the pineapple man and the bicycle girl in my street. The man sells pineapples, whole ones or small pieces on a stick. I once bought one for 10 eurocents. It tasted sweet. And the man was very nice. A few metres left from him there is a girl with a bicycle. I always see her when I leave my house and come back home. She stands behind her biciycle and her bicycle has a green box filled with some kinds of small drinks. I think it is Yakult that she is selling. I have never seen anyone buying something from her. I have never even seen anybody standing still to say something to her or to inquire what she sells. She has glasses and her face is somewhat darker than the average girls here. I guess she is from the countryside. Often she reads a book while standing there waiting for customers. When it is sunny outside, like today, she is there. When it rains, she is there, when it is windy she is there, she is always there. Except when the sun has gone down under. At night she is not there. She can go to sleep at night, to get up again the next morning, cycle to this spot on this street to stand there the whole day. And I am happy to see that she has the pineapple man near. Just like her, he is always there. And again I wonder about their lives. A lot of wondering since I am here.

Urges

After two months of living in Beijing, studying here and trying to get grip of this tonal language, I am living quite a structured life here. How come I do not mind to be in a structured life here? Everyday I get up, go to school, have lunch with my friends and in the afternoon do some study or hang around with nice people, have dinner alone or together, in the evening often do somewhat more homework or watch a crappy dvd bought on the streets for 80 eurocents. Day in day out it is like this now and I enjoy it. In The Netherlands I did not like a structured life like this. I find it boring, and would always be waiting for something new, would always be working for something else, another goal for which I need to walk down a certain path in order to achieve it. Living in another country makes this kind of life less boring. Everyday it is exciting to notice how my Chinese is developing when out on the streets buying stuff or whatever. This life here still contains so many new things everyday, surprises everyday and new encounters with people or circumstances that are not so normal considering the Dutch reference frame I ofcourse have. And often it confronts me with myself and so often I can wonder about things that I did or did not do, said or did not say.

Yesterday I went to the supermarket and saw a family selling shoes on the street. When I passed them two children were watching the business, a very young boy playing with a pair of shoes while his older brother sat as a professional salesman behind his salesware, looking out on the street waiting for customers. I went to my local supermarket and when I came out of it, I passed the shoesalers again. This time they were surrounded by people and policemen. The children were lost in the group of people surrounding them and their mom and dad were having a nervous conversation with the head police officer while many other police officers were surrounding them and some were throwing all the shoes in a big truck.

So it is actually forbidden to sell stuff on the street! I never knew that as you can see those streetsalesman and women everywhere here in this area. I can understand that if something is illegal, ofcourse the salesware need to be confiscated.

But I could not stop thinking about this family, trying to earn somewhat of a living selling shoes. Everything was taken by the police so what will happen now to this family. Were they depending on their shoes to buy food and pay the rent? What if that is the case, how will they feed themselves now that their main income has disappeared for the upcoming times? I often have the urge to go to people like this and just bluntly ask them. It is not possible, in the first case cause my Chinese is too poor and in the second case it is quite rude to ask things like this. Why would they tell such personal matters to just a curious girl on the street?

This evening I was walking home and there was a woman walking in front of me. I heard her sing a Chinese opera song. Very high pitched, but very in tune. Really nice. I felt the urge to tell her that she sings well. The words for it in Chinese came up in my mind, and I was now walking next to her as her pace was somewhat slower than mine. And the words kept on echoing in my head with her song accompanying it. I just did not dare to say it to her.

Urges I have and to which I do not give in.

Being a student again!

I know that it has been almost three weeks since my last real update. Busy weeks and I have been without internet for a while as well, as something went wrong with my laptop’s wireless internet connection at home, but luckily I managed to get online again. So here I am again, being a student now!

This is the third week of the semester and the lessons are very interesting though intensive. Every week we have 12 hours of Comprehensive class, 4 hours of Listening class and 4 hours of Speaking class. I know that compared to our highschool periods it is nothing, but compared to university those are quite some hours that you need to attend. Afterwards we ofcourse have homework, and they expect us to learn approximately 30 new words per chapter.

Learning new words means learning the pinyin (a system to write the Chinese language in the Roman alphabet), the correct tones, the meaning of the word, the character and the order of strokes to write the character. And I honestly admit that I do not yet have the discipline to study like I should study, day in day out. My flatmate who is Canadian and has done this as well told me that you can be happy if you are able to remember 30% of all that is taught to you in one semester. Next Tuesday we will have a test of all we have learned in the last three weeks!!! In other words, that means that this weekend will be occupied with studying! Chapters 4 to 10… so that is approximately 200 words. Pffffff….

Writing the Chinese characters itself is not very difficult, the strokes of a character need to be written in a specific order and once you have written it a few times, that is quite easy to remember. The difficult part is remembering what a character means and which tone it has. Chinese language is a tonal one, in which a word can have a completely different meaning if you pronounce it with a different tone. Words are constructed out of one or more characters. For me that is the most difficult part. Recognizing characters and knowing the meaning of it.

The levels of the classes go from A to F where F is on an academic level. And within the A-level there are another three levels, namely A-zero, A-regular and A-plus. After the placement test I was placed in A-zero. Did not expected otherwise actually, but after 3 days I wasn’t satisfied with the pace of the lessons. They went way too slow, using three days only teaching us how to pronounce ?? (hello). Well with some exageration from my side here ofcourse. I wasn’t paying full attention in the A-zero class. So I decided to switch classes and asked to be transferred to A-regular.

A-regular turned out to be a challenge and it motivated me much much more to work for it. It is better to be placed in a somewhat higher level so you can pull yourself up to that level! In addition to that, my class now is much more fun than the former one! Yesterday we had a classdinner and ate in a Korean restaurant to afterwards go to a Karaoke place! That is so common here! I had never done that before and it was just so funny! I might have some pictures for you next time of our Karaoke night. Depends on how the pictures are as I haven’t seen them yet! Hahaha!

I actually have quite some pictures to show you but I will do that another time. Tomorrow we have a trip to the Great Wall, arranged by the university. So even more pictures will be coming soon!

The little boy and the white rabbit

Only three stops from Xizimen to Wudaokou station. Xizimen is the terminal stop so the whole subway train is empty when everybody gets in. Every time I find it funny to notice that everyone favors a sitting place, so when the doors open, young and old people rush in to secure a seat. Reminds me of when we were kids, playing the game x93stoelendansx94 or musical chairs. A game in which everybody is walking in a big circle around chairs of which there are not enough for everyone to sit on. The music is on and when it stops, you need to rush to one of the chairs, claim it by sitting on it as fast as you can otherwise you will have to leave the game. Passengers getting on line 13 at Xizimen all play this game. I’ve noticed that I automatically, driven by the others, start to move somewhat faster than normal when the door opens to get a seat as well. Of course I am not allowing myself to run and push, just to get a seat. I don’t favor a seat that much, but as humans are conformists, the game is infectious and the behavior contagious.

This afternoon I managed to get a seat as it wasn’t busy at all at the subway station. Next to me a woman and her husband sat with their little son in between them. The cutest little Chinese boy I have ever seen, at around the age of four, with a large baby blue jacket and a matching blue earflap hat. At the opposite benches in the train sat another boy of around eight years old with his parents. On his lap he had a small cage and in that cage a little white bunny. Holding the cage carefully though tight, you could see the happiness on his face every time he looked at his little white rabbit. As proud as an eight year old boy can be in his life. The baby blue boy watched them and although I cannot understand anything of what people around me are saying nowadays, it was obvious that his parents encouraged their baby blue boy to go over to see the white bunny. Their son was so shy. His eyes revealed the longing to see the bunny from up close but at the same time his eyes told me that he did not dare to go over without one of his parents guiding him.

His mom and dad kept on encouraging him and he made several attempts. First taking one step to quickly return to his parents again, then two steps, then one again but each time he just did not dare and returned to his parents immediately, with smiles filled of shyness and fear. Asking them time after time to join him as he clasped his little hand to one of his parents’ hand.

I watched this with a smile on my face as it was so cute and moving to see this little boy struggling with his desire to go to the little bunny and trying to fight the fear that withheld him from fulfilling this desire. A man sitting opposite of me, smiled at me, knowing that we both were observing this scene and it made both our heart melt. I felt the urge to get up, to take baby blue by its hand and see the white bunny. I almost got up when the smiling man gave in to his urge just before I did. He called out to the little boy to come over and see the rabbit. His calling was heard by the bunny’s owner and he proved himself to be a worthy young man. The young man called the little boy to come over and see his white bunny. He took the cage of his lap and stretched his arms to bring the cage into the near vicinity of little baby blue boy. It was as if the sun came out to melt all the snow that had covered the little boy’s courage. Fear disappeared and our cute little boy with the baby blue jacket and his matching earflap hat strived forward to the cage and touched its bars. The young man opened the door of the cage a bit so our baby blue boy could caress the bunny’s nose with his mittens still on. He returned to his parents with the biggest smile his face could handle and his mother put up her thumb to show him how damn proud she was of her little boy.

That moment the train’s speakers announced that we had arrived at Wudaokou station. I got off here, but just before I left the train I got a glimpse of the little boy’s hairs, nicely messed up. All the excitement had heaten up his body temperature and he had taken off his baby blue hat. This gesture seemed to tell the world that now he’s no baby anymore after his act of courage. Really, the cutest little boy I have ever seen in my life.

Ancient trees

I like old trees that are build according to an apparently ancient architecture. In the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City several of those trees can be found. As I said before, I like them in front of my camera posing as if they are the supermodels of an ancient era that goes back much further than the history we know of. Long before humans invented the superficial concept of “supermodels”.
Tree1

The lines of their bodies are like harmonious creatures, fully in peace with the world, their place in this world and with a serene sense of being. Authentic and sincere they stand whilst giving me the feeling that they possess all the wisdom of the world. I’d wish they would share some of that with me. I can look at them for hours and hours and still they would not lose any of their mystifying appearance. In my mind it is appealing to let in thoughts about the way they would look at me, maybe even smile at me and give a little nod with their branches to me just to let me know that everything will be alright. That with all their wisdom they can assure me that I am doing the right thing, that I need not be doubtful of the future and that I as a human being can be as sincere and authentic as they are.
Tree2

Their power to arouse such a sympathetic response in my mind makes me smile. And when I walk away from them, I have the urge to look back and wave them goodbye as I do not know whether I will ever see them again. – Partir, c’est mourir un peu – I prefer to never say goodbye to anyone or anything.
Tree3

Alweer een einde en een nieuw begin.

Voorheen toen we nog studeerden, zorgde de studie voor een vooruitzicht. Een punt om naar toe te werken en vooral ook de weg die afgelegd moest worden. Een weg die je zo lang en zo kort en zo mooi en zo triest en zo interessant mogelijk kunt maken als je zelf wilt.

Nu is het anders. Nu moeten we zelf zorgen voor een vooruitzicht en de weg erheen zelf bepalen en kiezen en bewandelen al dan niet met volle overgave. Uitdagingen komen soms op je pad maar je kunt ze net zo goed zelf crexeberen. Ik denk dat het lastigste aspect hierin is de keuze die je moet maken. De knoop die je moet doorhakken en vervolgens de acceptatie van die keuze. Dus niet na het doorhakken nog gaan twijfelen over of de knoop wel echt weg is nu. Is de beslissing genomen, dan er vol voor gaan! Spijt krijgen kun je pas nadat je het gedaan hebt. Want hoewel ik eigenlijk voor het nooit hebben van spijt ben, is het hebben van spijt om iets wat je gedaan hebt toch beter te verdragen dan spijt van iets dat je niet gedaan hebt.

Ik ben weer werkloos, ik ga de komende dagen tot aan 5 februari een hoop dingen regelen, een hoop lieve mensen zien en spreken en een hoop verschillende emoties ervaren. Tis best eng hoor om zomaar naar de andere kant van de wereld te vliegen waar verder geen bekenden wonen, waar ik de taal niet spreek en versta, niet kan schrijven of lezen en om terug te gaan naar de schoolbanken. Tis ook best eng om weer iets geheel anders te gaan en geen idee te hebben van wat er daarna gaat gebeuren. Tis ook best wel een beetje eng om opeens in een stad te wonen dat ongeveer zoveel inwoners heeft als heeeel Nederland en in feite een compleet andere wereld is. Achja, he, er zijn zoveel dingen die allemaal wel een beetje eng zijn.

Wat zou er nog leuk aan zijn als het niet een beetje eng zou zijn?!