A few weeks ago I was asked by the Dutch ministry of Foreign affairs to help with a special project. During the time it was a big secret that during the Dutch National day at the World Expo in Shanghai (18 May), the crown prince of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander would visit with his wife, Maxima Zorreguieta. A very exciting thought to help out with a royal event like this! I can’t really disclose what I did, but as complimentary gratitude, I received tickets for the event. The day started with a reception at the Expo site and ended with a special show of the “Netherlands Dance Theatre II” in the shanghai theatre.
We visited the expo for the first time. At around 3pm, we arrived at the dutch pavilion. The Dutch pavilion has an open architecture – you can walk through. (So one of the few without lines on the expo) and instead of a hall, allows people to walk by. (Hence the name Happy street) It shows typical Dutch artifacts like the process of making cheese, ice skates, Miffy, but also modern things like Armin van Buuren (dutch DJ) and our princes Maxima. They also put stone sheep everywhere which proved to be useful as seats as well.
For the day, the whole area was closed down to the selected people that had an invitation. It felt like the entire dutch community from Shanghai was present. Also some VIP’s including the earlier mentioned Dutch royalties, but Suna and I also ran into Dutch rapper Ali B. Funny to meet him here.
The catering was superb. from Champagne to special dutch kroketten that included Beijing duck filling and Chinese shrimp. I still prefer the classic dutch croquette’s. After the reception at the expo, there was a show by the Netherlands dance theater in the Shanghai Theater. The contemporary dance was interesting to watch. There were expressive scene’s with two intermissions. The royal members were welcomed with a big applause. I wonder how this royal appreciation was received by the Chinese. It was a special day which I won’t forget soon!
These cars are obviously being put to good use. Close to Xinzha road Shanghai, there is a police depot filled with (confiscated?) cars. Whilst the particular car in the picture doesn’t fit my taste, it should be quite an expensive car, but it has been there for months (obviously) and is covered by the dust by now. There are lot’s of pearls beneath the dust – BMW’s, Mercedes, Lexus etc. I wonder how these cars ended up as dust catchers underneath a shady bridge in Shanghai. Perhaps the owners were racing (Street Racing In Shanghai & Drifting In China), drinking (Shanghai Cops Catch 1200 Drunk Drivers in 10 Days) or is in jail? Is it a myth that one can buy the cars from the police after x years? (Like in the movies?)
While walking around Shanghai last weekend, we came across the most particular scene at the People’s Park. Hundreds of elders had gathered and were having a market like situation where a few were adverting something and others were inquiring. We found out that they had eagerly gathered to exchange information about their children/grandchildren in search for their perfect life mate. These pamphlets with information were often hung on tree leafs or a washing line, and included information such as: -height (seemed exaggerated), -age, -telephone number and income. (!) These attempts are not always performed with their children’s consent! It seems that most Shanghai men and women enjoy their single life and strive for career first and consider marriage later. It seems that the ancient arranged marriages made place for arranged dating. Is this killing romance?
With the whole Seoul Hangang Marathon experience still fresh in mind, I decided to subscribe for half a marathon in Shanghai. This particular run is quite a bigger event, taking place in the heart of the city. Isn’t Shanghai a terrible dirty city to run the marathon? While some might expect that this ‘smoggy city’, once called the ‘opposite of nature’ by Yan Arthus Bertand, would be a bad place to be running *kuche kuche*. Actually, I can see stars at night, and there are a number of great facilities to exercise in the city. Out of curiosity, I compared world records the local ones and it seems that Shanghai can compare itself with the other world marathons. The overall record of men’s Shanghai marathon being 2:09:28 (world record is 2:03:59, ran by Haile Gebrselassie in Berlin) and the record of women’s Shanghai marathon being 2:26:19. (world record is 2:15:25, ran by Paula Radcliffe in London.) So I feel pretty comfortable running here. I am just trying to avoid running on the street as it is a bit dangerous. Perhaps the biggest difference to last time is that besides colleges, both my dad and my girlfriend will be joining the half marathon run as well. I will commence training from this week, if I can find the time to tear myself away from the computer.
A 40 year old Chinese man drives his motor bike with carrier filled with barbells, dumbbells and a radio to the park outside my Shanghai compound every evening. Upon arrival, he marks an area of roughly 40 square meters and unloads the heavy weights. Shortly after, the place is packed with shirtless muscular Chinese men working out. I have seen and walked by this scene on a daily basis over the last few weeks and enjoyed the scene a lot. It’s also really funny to see the trespassers sit down for a while and look at the people working out. Intrigued with this Chinese version of ‘muscle beach‘, I decided to ask the guy for the price. He smiled and told me that I could join them for 2 RMB (about EUR 0.20). My official (indoor) gym at Raffles costs me about ¬ 20 per month, if I would workout with these fine men, I would pay just 30% of what I am paying now. I’ll think about it… While the guy is hawking, and most certainly can be closed down instantly, he has shown me that with little budget and some creativity, it is easy to make a few extra bucks.
Old meets new – Taken at the Jingan temple “Temple of Peace and Tranquility” this afternoon.
Wiki: “The first temple was built in 247 AD, at the time of the Kingdom of Wu, during the Three Kingdoms period. Originally located beside Suzhou Creek, it was relocated to its current site in 1216 during the Song Dynasty. The current temple was rebuilt once in the Qing Dynasty. Its most recent renovation was in late 2008.”
Some help please? I’m not particularly proud of this picture, the woman clearly had trouble getting her goods up the bridge. Instead of helping a hand, I decided to take a picture instead. I found out later that a guy was pushing the goods from the back as well. Must be quite hard work to scrape goods around the city…
Firm stands – Chinese police blocking the road at Shaanxi Nan Lu during the opening parade of the Shanghai tourist festival. The streets were so full of people that there was actually nothing interesting to see, except for these cops.
I have experienced some Chinese culture, one of the things that made me interested in the country were the fireworks. In The Netherlands, we can only light fireworks for a number of hours per year, during new years eve. From the age of six, I used to spend every new years eve with my Chinese friends (in a small town Chinese restaurant) to celebrate the new year and to play with authentic Chinese fireworks.
Now I am actually living in China, I decided to live in a recently finished residential compound. When signing off, I knew the place would be clean and new, but I did not consider that recently married couples moving in are accompanied with a lot of … noise. While I’m watching every ‘entry ceremony’ with enjoyment, I decided to record one when I heard firework on a early Saturday morning. The only thing I can think when I start my day like this is: Good morning China!
I decided to buy a simple (20 euro) bike at the Carrefour last week, as there are many more bikes and bike roads in Shanghai then in Seoul. Finally I feel free in the city! Is it dangerous to cycle through Shanghai? My first response would be that it’s certainly not easy to cycle here. First off because there are many electric bikes here, these bikes have a high velocity but emit zero sound. These bikes are potentially really dangerous! I have to say that after some close encounters, I got became very aware of traffic while commuting, otherwise I’d better leave my bike at home. There is another big difference in commuting here that is worth noting: Red traffic lights in most of Europe means that you stop. In Korea, a red light is interpreted differently. One has to slow down to see if traffic is approaching and continue. In China, I’m not even sure if people pay attention to the traffic signs. Traffic, including city buses just keeps going on some places! I sat down and looked at this phenomenon for a while; Shanghai traffic from an outside perspective looks like a beautiful flow of bikes, scooters cars and buses intertwining seamlessly. From the ‘participating’ perspective, it means paying attention and drive defensively. Awareness is key, and being aware – not dozing off like I just to do on my bike in Barcelona – forces you to your peripheral view and create better overview of traffic situations. Last Friday I was cycling home and the traffic lights got my attention. Both green and red are burning! This picture is not photo-shopped. The mixed signal confused me; should I stop or continue? I thought it was funny because a Shanghainese would interpret almost any stop sign like this. Did city hall just gave up?
The hotel was nice to stay for a week, but it’s still a hotel. I found a decent place to live, close to my office, and I am moving in this Wednesday. While settled down in a comfortable place, I am prepared to dedicate myself to my job to the fullest. Good times!