Happy New Year! My Highlights of 2012

With new year’s eve around the corner, business is a bit slower than usual. It allowed me to reflect a bit on the past year and think about the next. Here are some of the highlights of my year categorized by spring, summer, fall and winter, I wish you a happy new year in 2013!

Spring: A lot of sports activities – In the spring we spent some time in Austria where I did an 65km speed-skate marathon. Since then, Suna gotten some real speed skates and she’s getting very serious about it. This fall and winter we still skate almost every week.I also played my first game of table tennis with my father in law. Table tennis is incredibly fun and it inspired me to buy my own table-tennis bat and play at least once a week for the remainder of the year. Over the year we made a few trips and the trip to yellow mountain (黄山) was one of my favorites. We kept costs really low by travelling hours by bus and sleeping in a tent. The mountains are beautiful and the local people are very friendly. We gotten a ticket from Marc van der Chijs and family to visit the Shanghai formula 1 training with them. Not only did we enjoy the race sounds, we also got a ride in Hamiltons private Maserati and Suna got her picture with Porche cup drivers Ho Pin Tung and Alexandre Imperatori taken. A non sports related highlight was a DJ gig at the first Dutch carnival party in Shanghai wth DJ Angrybird. I discovered that being a DJ is very cool, the experience of putting on songs received with cheer is exhilarating. To hear what I mean check this youtube video.

Summer: With unitedstyles to Silicon valley – I am thankful for the opportunities that I’ve gotten though unitedstyles. Not only was launching the site in Russian and Chinese very exciting, I learned a lot about foreign payment systems and culture. Due to the business, I got to know some prominent people in the fashion and Internet industry. I’ve received an entrepreneurial prize from my former professors at a university gathering in Amsterdam. I also visited Singapore and Silicon valley. After visiting San Francisco too briefly in another business trip in 2009, I was happy that I booked some extra time to enjoy the city a few days as well. Fall: Moving to The Netherlands – For Suna and me the year of 2012 will go into the books as the year that we moved from China to The Netherlands, which is my home country. We moved here after being more then five years abroad. Still after all these months we miss our friends, food and our neighborhood in Shanghai. However, the few months here have been very good. I started working at Sanoma media, where I’m involved in a job where I meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot from the way they deal, so I consider myself very lucky with these experiences. Suna and I live in the middle of the Netherlands and enjoy simple things like cooking and the fact that we have a garden, it’s great to meet with old friends and having family close again. Winter: Working hard and enjoying Holland
The winter isn’t over yet but we enjoyed a nice marathon in Rotterdam where Suna was interviewed by local tv. Furthermore I’m finalizing my first semester at the Korean school of Amsterdam. Besides that we celebrated the holiday season with my family. Suna and me also made a nice trip to a place called Valkenburg in the south of Holland. 2013 – new year resolutions –  This last day of the year, you hear a lot about new years resolutions. I’ve been rewriting mine for the last day and realized that I’ve achieved 4 out of 5 goals of last year. I read a tip that it’s best to pick just one challenging goal and keep focussed at that, I can give a tip to write it down and stick them to your fridge. In any of your quests and goals, Although we didn’t really celebrate new years in Asia, we are celebrating with the family tonight with traditional oliebollen – I missed those the past couple of years. I’m wishing all my readers the best for 2013, not sure if you set goals but good luck with them if you do!

Bruggenloop Rotterdam

20121209-212630.jpgToday we ran the bruggenloop in Rotterdam. The run, a humble 15 km but with nice views on the skyline of Rotterdam, with about 5000 participants had a good vibe even though it was windy, 4 degrees C and rainy! The days running in warm Asia seem long gone… Anyway, we came in at the Feyenoord stadium 1 hr early, the christmas themed warmup suddenly turned to Suna be20121209-212650.jpging interviewed by local television. She managed to suppress giggling while explaining the interviewer that she came from south korea especially for the event. At the second “really?” she has to oblige. It was very funny to see. Quickly after, we were ready to run! 20121209-214202.jpgThe run itself was a round from the stadium to the Erasmus bridge, which for me was the best part, it’s not often that you can walk over there! Then we continued 7km along the maas and then to the van Brienennoord bridge. I tried to walk calmly until the last three kilometers. I finished the 15km in 1hr 15m, exactly what i was aiming for today! Now i had enough of running, let the holiday season come!

How is it to be back in Holland?

607 grotere
I keep hearing the same question: “How is it to be back in Holland after living abroad for over five years?”

We worked hard to get here, then explored opportunities and took residence in the middle of the country. Right now I’m preparing to start working full time soon and we are very excited about the time ahead!

Takes three weeks to get Internet but good to be back!

With the typhoon behind us we left China for Holland. Before we could move into our final destination we stayed with my parents for a few days. Ofcourse it’s also immigrating back; Living in the Netherlands is different than China; Holland is more organized/formal we have to get used to that! We have a few stories but one of the first realizations came to me when I applied for Internet: The largest ISP’s in the Netherlands say they can deliver my modem in 3 weeks! Apparently, there is added time to change your mind about your purchase… Even though the Internet in China has it’s perks at least China Telecom could come the same day that you call! This is just one event which is easy to overcome; but things do go more formal around here. Writing and posting letters and making appointments. It’s no problem, we just start planning ahead and we will do adapt in the other things as well! I won’t compare Holland to China too much, I’m not annoyed but it’s a clear difference! Last week, we focused on moving to our new house, but had time for some activities too! The after-summers in my hometown haven’t changed much; Everybody seems happy with the warm days and they enjoy their time outside. The day we arrived there was some rain, we even saw a rainbow while walking my parents dogs. In the evening we were treated for a French dinner at Os and Paard (Ox and Horse) with the entire family. During the weekend the temperature rose, we even had a barbecue. We even visited a festival and enjoyed a metal performance from a band called Bush. I found time to do some running as well, it’s nice to run in these neighborhoods. Just last Sunday, we found a completely deserted beach along the Waal river. We enjoyed a picknick and took a dive with the dogs swimming along. The coming days we will be focusing on organizing and getting back to a rhythm.

Alternatieve Elfstedentocht: Ice skating on Weissensee (2012)

I went to Holland together with Suna and joined my parents for a trip to Weißensee, Austria. Weißensee is a huge (12km long) lake in the south of Austria at 900m height. During winter, Weißensee usually freezes, making it a perfect location for the Dutch to find a alternative for the 200km Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour). The alternative version exists because the Dutch Elfstedentocht is not held every year, mostly because not every Dutch winter permits skating on natural ice. The last editions were in 1985, 1986 and 1997. Adding to that, the tour currently features about 15,000 amateur skaters taking part, putting high requirements on the quality of the ice. Instead of waiting for the Dutch weather to improve, the skate fanatics drive 1100km to Austria to experience the same distance on natural ice.

Thousands of people from Netherlands in a small Austrian village…

Suna and me obviously weren’t trained for such a distance. Actually, we first had to buy some skates when we arrived in Netherlands. Both Suna and I didn’t have skates and I was aiming to buy Dutch speed skates so we could bring it to Shanghai for potential future practice. We bought the skates from a small dealer in the neighborhood of Utrecht and drove to Utrecht to try them out. We were ready for our holiday to Austria! After a drive with a break in a hotel in South Germany, where we met-up with a dozen familiar skate friends, we arrived at our hotel Nagglerhof. The Nagglerhof has a beautiful view over the lake and is quite traditional Austrian. (This is the third time I’ve been here and the first that they have Internet) You feel like you are visiting a austrian family. The hotel features a spa, small gym and a cozy restaurant. Every dinner is at least four rounds and breakfast always consists of amazing fresh bread and all sorts of dishes. A very cozy place with nice people.
Upon arrival on Monday morning, Suna and I noticed immediately that we felt great in the icy-fresh Austrian air. Temperatures were -10 degrees Celsius but would go down to -25 degrees Celsius in the end of the week. We realized the area is indeed a great place to do sports – as long as the sauna was warm upon return. A quick skate practice on the lake and we felt very excited about the rest of the week. It’s amazing to skate on such a large lake, thousands of people doing their high-speed rounds.

View from our hotel

Suna with Gretha Smit

 

 

 

Tuesday had a serious note: Just like a real Elfstedentocht, the 200km race starts early in the morning (before sunrise) and ends after the sun sets. Suna and I were intrigued by the sportive people, but weren’t members, so we decided to have a look at the opening.

The tour starts in the dark; many people sport helmets with light to see ahead

After the start, we had some coffee in the bar to warm up again. About a hour later, both of us felt that we just had to skate as well. Even though we didn’t have a official start license, so we put on our skates and also did a round. I realized that the weather was great, so decided to do another round, and another. In the end I was able to complete five rounds in less then five hours. (65km) The best part was that my body wasn’t so tired, so I decided to aim higher in the next opportunity. This ofcourse changed after the apres ski party (blarenbal), jumping on tables is standard after a 200km race, your hips will not get stiff that way. My dad and his friends Willen and Wilbert completed another 200km race and got the award, even though they completed the real or alternative elfstedentocht multiple times, they were very proud. I have a lot of respect for someone who skates 200km, especially now I have a bit of an idea how hard of work it is!

Wilbert, Johan and Willem after they finished their 200km ice skating tour for the day

The next day we went skiing at Weissbriach. Another first experience for Suna. We had a lot of fun teaching her on the baby slope. I was surprised to see her ski on the red slopes after dinner! Together with my dad I was able to explore the remaining ski areas.

Weissensee is a lake in the shape of a pear. Usually people skate in the smaller top part to guarantee the safety. (thousands of people skate on the ice which add a lot of pressure besides the cars that follow the race and clean the ice) We got used to the small lake and this was fine. But due to a steady cold front of -15 degrees celcius, we were fortunate enough to skate on the big lake on Thursday. If you’d ask me, i’d already consider the ‘small lake’ huge. According to our group, whom has come here since 1994, the freezing of the big lake only happens one in five times, so we were fortunate! I’ll remember skating on the big lake that there are almost no houses, just trees. Due to its steep shore, the eastern part of the lake is almost uninhabited. A fierce wind made it hard to skate the first half. We made a ‘train’ where one would skate in front to catch the wind and switch ever so often. The ice was pitch black, a indication that it’s smooth skating. I didn’t put much thought in the clearness of the lake until we got closer to shore where the pitch black turned green – I was actually able to see two meters down to the sandy bottom of the lake! Ofcourse the water in Weißensee is drinkable but living in China, it’s amazing to see such a clean waters. We head back to Netherlands one day early on Friday. This time we rode back in one time, to arrive home just before midnight., six hours later then planned, due to some bad weather. Actually, that night, the Netherlands experienced the coldest night in the last 30 years!

Drinking coffee in the freezing weather, enjoying the sun

Upon return, it became very cold in Netherlands.

I saw the thermometer on the car go down to -21 degrees celcius, extremely cold for a country so close to sea. The day after arrival, the night before we left to China, my friend Jing made us a feast meal for my entire family. Lobster and Oysters with great French white wine. The day of my departure from Netherlands, the entire country started talking about that the real elfstedentocht might happen this week, for the first time in 15 years! All tv/radio stations and newspapers don’t talk about anything else. Ofcourse we already tasted the experience a bit in Austria, and I’m not allowed to start this year, but I’d like to think that i’ll do a real elfstedentocht some day!

Holiday in the Netherlands

During Chinese New years, Suna and I visited my parents in the Netherlands, a week packed with activities. It started with an early Finnair flight to the Netherlands right after Chinese new years in Shanghai (Can’t recommend to fly this day due to late night fireworks the previous day), we arrived Monday evening at my parents house in the middle of the Netherlands. The holiday started with a welcome home dinner with Cheese fondue and champagne. Of course we were still in Shanghai time so we slept early and woke up at 4AM Dutch time the next morning. Whilst all of us were up, we went for an early stroll with the dogs at sunrise.

Cheese fondue welcome dinner

Playing with the dogs in the yard

Day 1/4: For the day we planned a trip to the Hague. The trip to the Hague was to meet my friend, and coincidentally meet with a friend of Suna. The friend, and American living in the Netherlands for many years, gave us a great tour in the ‘binnenhof’ (senate of Netherlands). I also took a stroll to China town in the Hague and a walk around the Binnenhof. Afterwards we met with friends from school and we shared some memories over some drinks whilst playing a boardgame.

Joop and Suna at Binnenhof the Hague

Playing boardgame ‘koehandel’ (cow trading)

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2/4:This day was really special to me. I received a great prize and met a lot of people! We left early to Haarlem to meet up with former professors – Martin Haring and Alex van Heeswijk. They were kind enough to meet us in the city of Haarlem where we met with another former student, who brought a Belgium fashion franchise to the Netherlands. Next was a visit to my former bachelor university in Amsterdam, a creative breeding-place in the awesome Vijzelstraat ABN building in Amsterdam. I met with students who are planning to start a company in the coming half year, which was a exciting experience. Afterwards we left to AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) where I met professors that work closely to 3D and fashion. A great experience to see and understand how closely related the trends are regarding what universities are doing world wide in the virtual fashion sphere. Afterwards all of us left to the big event – the elevator pitches for the graduating students looking for money. Suna and I were invited for a dinner at dutch classical food restaurant 1984 with the the ACE team for entrepreneurship and it’s jury board, in which “serial entrepreneur” Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten and investor Gabor Sommerhalder were part of. Afterwards we watched the pitches of graduating students, when they were finished I was asked on stage. It turned out that I receive an award from my university for entrepreneurial activities! Afterwards I enjoyed talking with students about their plans, I noticed a lot of then consider China part of their plans. Read more about that on acemag.nl – However the event was very interesting, we had to leave early to get back to my parents house before public transport closed down for the day.

With Martin, Alex and Marijke from Acemag.nl in Haarlem

Visiting various locations in Amsterdam during the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3/4:The next day, Suna and I visited my primary school in the morning and bought ice skates in the afternoon for our upcoming trip to austria. In the evening we met with drinking buddies for a party in Utrecht. After a dinner, we started gambling at the casino and soon made our ways into the bars in the city. Like every dutch evening out we ended up eating streetfood, I really missed a ‘kroketje’ in the middle of the night. For the first time that week, we weren’t in a rush thanks to Joery whom’s house we could crash at.

Suna finally has real speed-skates now!

Dinner with friends

Day 4/4:After a slow morning, we met my parents for a trip to the icerink in Utrecht where Suna was able to skate her first kilometers. Afterwards we left to meet my sister for a walk in the in the forrest of Amerongen.

On our way to forrest it started raining and we saw a crazy vibrant full-bow rainbow

All the family together. Dad, Mom, Gijs, Mirrin Joop and Suna.

All and all, Suna and me had

All and all we spent a good two hours on the ice rink

a great holiday in Netherlands. A week packed with appointments but all very valuable. We are excited to jump in the car and leave for ice skating in Austria in the morning!

A visit to Holland town, Shanghai


Im currently in holland, well almost. I’m still in Shanghai, visiting the ‘Holland town’. After I read about this place, we’d figured to see it for ourselves today. Holland town is actually one of many ‘international satellite cities’. Shanghai’s city planners are carrying out an ambitious scheme to relieve population pressure: They are resettling 500,000 people in nine new towns in the suburbs. Others include Swedish town, an Italian and an English town. There are plans for more, adding an American, German and a traditional Chinese town to that list. Back to Holland town. The peace and quiet is quite unique for Shanghai. Thinking about it, Holland town is a real estate investment project and a photo scenery at the same time. Many Chinese newly weds probably had their wedding pictures taken in this scenery. Suna and I took a stroll around the area, we started at the church, walked down the mainstreet had a look at some villa’s, and walked back to the windmill. There are a few places for shops, but not all of them are operated. Here’s a question: What does Holland town (CN) have, what real Amsterdam (NL) doesn’t have? ;-)

  1. Excellent photo opportunities for newly weds. – Photo studio’s everwhere, you can even take a picture from a windmill. (We kindly asked and could just walk everywhere. A professional photoshoot cost about 600 dollars)
  2. Smog – Contrast to Amsterdam, this place features a nearby nuclear plant, harbor, factories and the close town of Gao Qiao.
  3. A quiet place – Try sitting in the heart of Amsterdam without getting your bike stolen, harassed by a dog or being annoyed by all the noise. For that matter, more places to relax in Holland town.
  4. Church bell – The church bell sound goes on for twenty minutes straight and it’s a CD, not a actual bell
  5. A mixture of cultures – Holland town mixes Dutch architecture with Chinese habits. Think: Kite flying grandpa’s everywhere, laundry hanging on bamboo from the Dutch houses, Chinese street names and ofcourse little differences like aircon’s hanging on all the buildings.

It’s quite nice actually. We were gonna stay a little while but decided to stay and read a little in front of the church. In front of me is a grandpa with kids playing with a kite, girls studying and some couples in the grass picnicking.

If I haven\’t told you this was China, you would have thought it would be Europe right?

A Dutch windmill in China.

Good old Shanghai Holland town… The high rises being developed in the back of the picture gives away the true location.

The wedding party in Mariënwaard

Today we celebrated our wedding with Suna’s Korean direct family, my family and good friends. The party was held in Mariënwaard, the Netherlands.

Beautiful day, wedding white outside!

The party was kicked off by Martin Haring who did his world famous Freddy Mercury impression. The crowd went wild, ‘this thing called love’ has gotten a special meaning to us.

At around four o’clock, the band started playing. My dad hired only one harmonica player at the local supermarket but the musician got all his friends to play as well, they came from all over the country and rocked the day for us!

The Bulgarian band

The white snowy weather was great to see… some people couldn’t join but had good reasons because it was very dangerous outside. My family side arrived from both my mothers and fathers side but some friends got into car trouble because of the snow. Thankfully, everybody arrived safely. Some, like Wesley and Arie I didn’t see for almost 8 years! Also some friends and colleagues arrived, Jacco Bouw and Marta were there. My old friend Jing Jing (The one who took me to China in ’99) was there with his mom and sister.

My uncle Adriaan did a speech and a song. It’s great to see all the family together with my friends and see the fusion of people meeting. Too many to mention, incredible! Later, my dad announced that both my mom’s and dad’s family came together and all chipped in to buy us a ticket to Kenia. KENIA! Suna has a special relationship with the country since she went to school there and now she finally can show me. We were very touched and perplex.

 

 

 

 

Friends from France and Sweden, Taiwan and China did speeches in their native language. I felt the world is so small and I was touched people came from all over to celebrate this party with us. Looking back at our party, people dancing with the great music, I feel we are really married. We’re very happy! A party like this will get us though tough times in the future. I want to thank everybody for coming, I’m sure I forgot to mention some but we really appreciate all of you being there. Terrific!

wearing Korean clothes

My father in law dancing with my wife