December 21, 2009

Karsu Dönmez - MISTRESS

Latest musical discovery

December 20, 2009

Snow Snow Snow

As in a big part of Northern Europe I think, the weather had been insane here - it's been snowing on and off for four days, but today has been the heaviest snowfall yet. I can't remember a time when it stayed for this long. And there's more expected. My mum just called to tell me to bring my iceskates when I go to their place for the holidays this week as people are already iceskating on natural ice! Insane.

Anyway, some snowy pictures from my new town.

Oh, and there are more at flickr of course.

November 24, 2009

Vegetable Overload

One of the things I started doing when I moved into my new house was take a 'subscription' on a weekly vegetablebag from the local eco-supermarket (unrelated to the No Impact Week, even!).

I'm really enjoying it. Although I don't mind cooking, I'm not very creative in my kitchen and usually make something standard with mushrooms/leek/zucchini/bell pepper.

For the past month or so I haven't been able to cook with that combination at all - I can't remember when I had my foolproof, unimaginative pasta-with-veggies-and-sauce for dinner last. Because at the moment I'm forced to cook with parsnips, brussel sprouts, endive, winter purslane (winterpostelein in Dutch, no idea what this is in English), cabbage, beets etc etc.

This means that most nights when I eat at home I need to find a recipe and work with that. And it is actually working!

Or rather, it would really work if I'd eat at home more often. I realized today that I really have an overdosis of vegetables at home right now. If anyone has any bright ideas on what to make with all this food that can freeze? I'd love to hear! (and yes, I down-graded to a smaller selection as of next week)

Still, fun though!

November 23, 2009

No Impact - how it ended

Uhoh - I realized I never continued my daily No Impact posts.

I guess part of it is due to guilt - the last couple of days became a lot harder to properly 'do'. Day #5 was 'energy', day #6 was 'water'.

But on those days I was also pretty much constantly out of the house which made it almost impossible (excuses, excuses - I know). But fact is, I can't turn off the lights in my office - they are always on in every room. And I need my computer also.

Then again, I could've done better: planned my dinner instead of rushing out of the office to pick up some snacks before jumping on a train to an evening event. And drinking coffee from plastic at that event! Eek!

Complete failure. Right?

The water-day, I'm embarrassed to admit, wasn't much different - I suppose it is also to do with not wanting to sacrifice some things: like a dishwasher and a washing machine.

But it's not all bad news - even now that I've finished, I do pay more attention to what I do: not buying unnecessary plastic, buying biological food and eating local as much as I can, taking the stairs instead of the elevator - and of course doing the usual things that make sense: turn off the light in rooms I'm not using, keep the doors closed so the heat won't leave the different rooms etc.

And I think that's what I wanted to get out of it also - a better sense of what you can pay attention to, and awareness of what you can do (even if I'm not losing my washing machine).

Another good thing: I sent out the manual to loads of people, spoke to a lot of colleagues about it, and did a speech on it last week. So: Impact. I hope :)

November 11, 2009

Day 4: Food

Today's challenge: eat local!

This was actually difficult, and I don't think I've kept to the challenge very well. Part of the reason is that my work seems to limit my commitment to this week.

Being in the midst of another manic week, I don't have much time to stop and think about other stuff while in the office. So when I only have 20 minutes to have a quick lunch, even if I take care not to pick anything wrapped in plastic, I don't make the effort to ask the kitchen staff to find out what from the different food choices were produced locally. And I wonder if they would even know....

I did better for dinner: all the main ingredients were locally produced - endive, potato, milk, cheese, and I think also the mushrooms. Courtesy of this week's vegetable selection ;-)

And one good side-effect: I'm making others stop and think about this as well. Colleagues who look at me strangely when I am agonizing about how to take down my lunch if I can't use a plastic throw-away plate. But also friends, and it seems some of them might be taking this up themselves :-D

November 10, 2009

Day 3: Transportation

Ah... an easy one! I don't have a car, and since I had no out-of-town appointments I could happily cycle to and from work. I've not been in an elevator either today, but that's helped by the fact I never have to be higher up than the fifth floor, which is still somewhat manageable.

The trick is everything stacking up. Today is not just about transportation, but also about not creating any trash, and no consumption. Whereas yesterday was fine without trash, that was partly lucky: dinner was Sunday's leftovers. Today, however, I did need to shop for new food. I had to go to the eco-shop anyway to get my vegetables for the week (only one thing in there I didn't recognize this week luckily). But it's amazing to find that even in that supermarket almost everything is wrapped in plastic!

So it becomes a choice of either eating very very basic meals (and even then it gets tricky) or just trying to stick to a minimum usage of plastic for biological products (such as parmesan cheese for tonight's risotto...).

Tomorrow is food - no clue yet what the challenge is exactly. And am curious to see what comes after that.

So far I seem to be coping. Or maybe I'm not strict enough on myself?

More inspiration

Over the past few weeks I've been talking and thinking with different people about sustainability, and 'greening up' my life a bit. Not because I'm being swept up by the hype, or because I want to be the next environmental hippie. But because it makes sense to use a little less energy if I don't need it, to eat vegetables which aren't sprayed with pesticides or flown half way across the world if we can grow them here, to use the stairs a bit more often.

So I was very curious to see cheruchan's stories about her No Impact Experiment.

It coincided with my trial subscription to a 'vegetable basket' - a weekly bag full of fresh vegetables, from local (or sometimes not-so-local) farms. Apart from it being healthy, it's also forcing me to expand my culinary comfort zone. I've cooked with parsnips, red beets, misome - for the first time ever during the past week. Challenging - but fun, at the same time.

This week, of course, I started my own No Impact Week - so far so good. Even if I haven't been able to completely dismiss trash out of my life.

Today I came home to a very surprising package in my mailbox: A Life Stripped Bare. It seems that No Impact Man wasn't the only one with the idea to live Impact-free for a while... Looking forward to this read!

November 09, 2009

Day 2: No Trash

After an 'easy' first day of the No Impact Experiment, today was a bit harder. The challenge was to not create any trash during the day.

And although for the most part I could manage fairly well (bring a mug to the office, eat fruit instead of wrapped snacks) I've discovered that living 'sustainably' takes planning.

For instance, although I think I could manage lunch reasonably well in my office canteen without anything plastic - I need to have time to actually sit down upstairs and eat. And not have only 15 minutes in which to rush upstairs, start wondering what I could possibly take back to my desk: because I couldn't resort to the other stuff like salad, soup, warm meals which would all be served on actual plates and stuff.

Oh well, more luck tomorrow if I manage to find some time.

What I did notice is that I've started paying attention mroe to things. And for me, this week is mostly about that: thinking about living 'greener' and becoming aware of what I would do otherwise, and what little things I can (and want to) change.

I was actually feeling guilty about having to use paper coffeecups to get coffee/tea for my guests today. Maybe I should get my own collection of mugs in for the week :)

November 08, 2009

Day 1: Consumption

The first day of my No Impact Experiment is about consumption - and listing the things you need to buy that week. But do you really need those things?

I cheated a little bit as I didn't exactly start immediately when I got up (part of today is also collecting trash). When I did get around to making my list I got stuck very quickly.... I'm either doing something wrong - or I have a very low intensity consumption week ahead of me.

The only things I could think of that I needed to get where new tights and a baby gift for friends. Apart from the 'necessary' stuff = food.

Do I really buy so little? Hmm.

One dilemma was: do I list the new sofa that is arriving on Friday? I still need to pay it off on Friday so technically it is a new purchase this week. But the purchase itself was already months ago - and I can't really do anything about it now.

I also chose to list only material items. Then again, buying tickets for a dance performance on Wednesday is also 'consumption' - except that I'm not spending that money on something tangible. Or do I need to take into account how 'sustainable' that particular dance troupe is? If so, buying tickets will need a lot of research beforehand...

To get back to my very short list: instead of buying something standard from HEMA or somesuch for the new baby boy, I'm using a friend's Etsy shop for something original & cute. Much better - even without this challenge!

[edit - 10 minutes later - I just realized buying something from a friend's Etsy will make a great gift. But it's going to be sent over from Japan. Hmmm. Not a very good score on day one huh.]

No Impact Experiment

Have you ever considered how much trash and waste you produce in a week? How much energy you use in your house? Basically, how big your carbon footprint is?

Inspired by Cheruchan's No Impact Week, I got curious and I'll be spending a week - starting today - to become more aware of my impact on the environment, and more importantly, what I can do to decrease that. But also how I can fit it in in my current life.

A week, instead of a year as 'No Impact Man' did. Very curious what this week will bring.

November 04, 2009

Ja, dat is Den Haag

Getting to know my new city - and discovered the local hiphop crew apparently.

Via Ongetemd

September 06, 2009

September = chaos

The chaos is starting... one more week until settlement on my... on Twitpic

A new month, September. It's hard to believe that time is going by so quickly.

Summer's over (and very clearly also) - but it barely feels like I have had a summer: I haven't seen the beach, I have had 2 barbeque's at most and I've spend most of my time at the office. I guess I've done something wrong this season.

This month is the start of many new things though. I'm very excited, not too stressed, and can't wait until everything has fallen into place. But, it will be chaos from now on.

What is happening:
* started a semi-new job on Sept 1. I say 'semi-new' because it's the result of a reorganisation at my work, which means my actual work has been split in three. Luckily, I've been moved to the part which keeps the most challenging and interesting tasks and adds various others as well which will hopefully make it a lot of fun. I'm also broadening the (geographical) scope of my work, which basically means I'll be covering a huge area of Asia.

* I am moving into my new house!! Hm, maybe that should have come first because it's the single most exciting thing in the last few years. I'm not actually moving this month, but settlement/completion on the house is next week and I'll be taking some time first to renovate and redecorate before moving all my stuff in. But because after this week I will hardly be in my current home I've started packing up already. See above picture: the physical reflection of a chaotic month.

* In between those two things, I'm heading off on another work trip in two weeks' time. Again: very exciting as it is to a place I've never been to: India! Unfortunately it's a quick visit which will give me only two days in Delhi, and three in Mumbai so am not expecting to see anything other than hotels, meeting rooms and taxis but still. It all feels a bit surreal because I'm so busy with other things both at home and at work that I can't quite get my head around the fact that this time in two weeks I'll be on a plane. Eek.

August 25, 2009

A tourist in my own country

My mum and I went walking in the eastern part of the Netherlands for a few days last month. Lovely! I love how everything is so green! (well, how could it not be with the rain that we got..... )

[edit: these pictures turned out too tiny, but for more, go to flickr]

July 19, 2009

All grown up

I really have been neglecting this blog, but I'll pop in to share some big news:

I'm buying an apartment. Woohoo!

Still can't quite believe it, somehow it has felt as if I'd never really get around to it - but somehow it has suddenly happened within a week or so.

I've been going crazy at Floorplanner trying to see what interior will make the most sense, but I've wisely retreated to the stack of information and paper on mortgages etc to try and chose the best one for me. Once I get that sorted, I can really start thinking about the fun stuff.

So much to do though, so little time. Should be doing the official handover in less than two months!

If anyone has any fabulous interior design tips, websites, ideas, etc I'd love to hear them. I have plenty of ideas, but no real things settled yet.... pictures will follow at some point too I guess.

Oh, did I mention it's pretty much in Chinatown? I'm going to be overdosed on China for the rest of the year I think....

Wheeee! Excited!

June 22, 2009

Kodo - Irodori

I'm trying to write up a speech for tomorrow night (yes yes, I know) and while searching for information I found this clip of a Kodo song. I absolutely LOVE it.

They're apparently playing in Antwerp (Brussels?) in the summer and tickets are really expensive but this is starting to tempt me....

Okay, time for a re-play.

June 20, 2009


Wow, I've been very quiet lately posting on this blog. I'm still around. And well, no news is good news. I guess I'm not very inspired right now to write big stories here.

A few quick things:
* my first Bucharest post is now updated with a couple of pictures, but everything else can be seen in my Romania and Budapest sets.

* no definite plans on new foreign travel, though I'm taking a week in the Netherlands next month. Yay!

* still (or rather, again) househunting. Am now properly excited which is good.

* events lined up for the next few weeks: Raw Rhythm Festival, Museumnacht, Pechakucha, We Solo Men, Kunstfort Asperen.

It's going to be a good summer.

May 31, 2009


My parents came to visit on Ascension day last week - so we took advantage of the weather and visited estate De Horsten after cheruchan's recommendation.

May 07, 2009

Back in Bucharest

After today's continous journey I finally made it back to Bucharest. Although I was considering sidetrips to Halmyris and/or Istria still, in the end I went straight back - thinking that I'm done adventuring and that it's time to just go home. Even considering of pulling my flight forward a few hours.

It's funny to notice how quickly a mood can change. After having checked in to the closest option for accomodation (a very quaint hostel with old British men and whole family albums up on the walls) and chilling in the kitchen with a cup of tea I felt some energy returning. Why go home early, and settle for dinner in McDonald's while I'm still in Bucharest - the city that positively surprised me only a few days ago? Or had that suddenly changed?

Starting the long walk into the city where L. had shown me around extensively on the weekend I could see again why I enjoyed it so much. The roughness, the unpretensiousness, the feeling of being alive - it's all there. It's definitely not a 'pretty' or 'nice' city but it's worth getting to know I think.

P.S. But not in the middle of summer - it'll be awful with 30/35C temperatures, too muggy, dirty, dusty.

Observations from a village festival

Visiting the Danube Delta was high on my wishlist for this trip. I'm not a bird person but the area sounds beautiful so after leaving L. in Bucharest on Sunday I departed for a new adventure: reaching Sf. Gheorghe - and maybe more importantly - coming back to Bucharest in time for my flight home.

All the ferry schedules I had found, gave different information so after arriving in Tulcea (an easy-to-forget city) I decided on Monday morning to just go and see what would happen (knowing that there are only three ferries a week so turning around halfway wasn't an option).

The ferry there was absolutely packed - not only with people but also building supplies, food, plants, the list goes on. After asking my neighbour she said it was because of a local festival this week.


In my usual unplannedness I had expected Sf. Gheorghe to be as deserted as everywhere else so far and had not booked anythign ahead. Once off the boat, it turned out that there wasn't a map of the town anywhere, no discernible streetnames, and no clear signs for the pensions. By then I was picturing myself wandering the dirtroads of Sf. Gheorghe for the rest of the night, unable to find accomadation.

The place I did find with the help of some locals was a lovely cute pension where I was all of three guests. With the hour my host had a grilled fish dinner ready and I'd discussed plans to share a boat for a trip up the Delta with my Romanian fellow guests (a Bucuresti-couple who looked bored for their whole stay).


Currently I'm sitting on the upper deck of the ferry back at 6:30am - three days after the above happened. Well-rested, I suppose (apart from the 6am wake-up) - after two days of enforced laziness. I spent half of both days lying at the beach. A pretty much empty, long stretch of shelly beach on the Black See. Deserted, apart from a couple of cows, and myself of course.

The rest of the time was spent sitting at one of the boat jetties, reading and looking out over the water, and for a short two hours on a little boat to spot white pelicans in the Delta.

And then there was the festival. A celebration of St. George, patron of fisher men, but on the date of the old Russian Orthodox calendar. It started off with a ceremony in the local church, with a huge meal in the churchyard. After that, the party moved to the main square where a big stage was set up. Throughout the day there would be performances of the local band, ropetowing & dancing competitions and the highlight of the evening: a Ukrainian song and dance troupe, boated in for the occasion (the Delta stretches out into the Ukraine and the people have a shared history with many people in Sf. Gheorghe speaking Russian).

So, I had fun watching and observing the village celebrating the party of the year. All of the above was of course combined with plenty of beer and meat.

At some point, I had collected a fanclub of kids trying out their "Do you like [sports/pink/chocolate/etc]" phrases on me. And I had to do my best to keep a straight face when a Bucuresti dude in a cool PUMA-jacked told me about his trip to the Netherlands two years ago to see a concert of his favourite band, BZN....

But for now, my adventures are up. I'm heading back to Bucharest (a long day of ferry and bus) before flying home tomorrow. It's been a good two weeks, for the moment my travel bug is sated again.

May 06, 2009

On Budapest

It already feels weeks ago since I was in Budapest, while in reality it's only been about 8 or 9 days. I haven't managed to write anything about it yet, and having seen so many other places in between I'm finding it difficult to think back to it. I wonder how people on a 6-month RTW do it - and not let each city go up into the next one. Or maybe that is what happens but no one wants to admit it...?

The weekend in Budapest started out with an important realisation: I had assumed we were seeing Hungarian friends of M. in Budapest. Until she said - on the airport transfer into the city - that it is kind of exceptional that two Pakistanis are living in Budapest. That's when something clicked: uhm, who exactly are you talking about?
So the boasting to my colleagues that I would see the 'real' Budapest didn't come true - or at least, not in the way I envisaged it. I haven't had one bite of Hungarian food either, but homemade Pakistani food tastes great.

It was still a very good weekend of course, with lots of sunshine and kilometres of walking the city and hearing stories from T and B to go with them. The city really is beautiful, something of an older Paris but with maybe a little more life to it. I think that's mostly because everything isn't as perfectly restored yet as it is in cities such as Paris.

The division into the two parts is interesting. I knew that it was Buda and Pest but hadn't realized the two sides are so different. Pest really is downtown, busy streets, lots of big buildings, long shopping streets - everything a city should have. Buda, across the river, has the green, the lush trees, the hills with castles and palaces - and also the posh areas to live in.

Thanks to friends of B & T we also found the funkiest teahouse possible, and a couple of very cool cafe's. One of which caused major deja-vu. I still have to figure out what caused it, it was surreal walking around Szimpla but I cannot figure out at all which city, which place was so much the same.

May 05, 2009

The end of the world

Last week in Sighisoara I spoke to someone who was telling me how great the Danube Delta is, and that the small villages on the coast feel like the end of the world.

I am now in Sfante Gheorghe (or, St. George) and it does feel a little like the end of the world. It's only reachable by boat, in the village itself I've seen maybe three cars (the main form of transport is horse and carriage, and there are no paved roads.

I'm fascinated by these remote little places - they seem so cut off from what I consider to be the real world, but yet there are people living here, working here, going to school (up to 14 at least) and just living life.

For myself, I can't imagine living here - 5 hours by ferry to reach it, and then only a few times a week. But spending a few days here is bliss. I wish I could show how quiet it is here. Or actually, it isn't quiet at all - the noise is deafening: frogs, cows, lots and lots of birds, chickens, dogs, etc. Plus, if you chose your spot well - the Danube waves breaking against small fishing boats. Or even better: Black Sea waves coming in to land at the deserted beach.

May 03, 2009

On Bucharest *

I've had an afternoon on the bus to think about what I want to write about Bucharest. The city doesn't have a good reputation: grey, dreary, full of communist remains and not-so-safe. At least, that's what I was expecting.

With a friend living in the city at the moment this weekend was the perfect opportunity to find out what holds true of the above image. As it turns out, not much.

The word that describes the city best is unfinished. It is, quite literally, a city that isn't ready yet. Of course, every city builds, rebuilds, renovates - but Bucharest is the extreme version of it. Some buildings are really not finished; such as Ceaucescu's Palace. He was executed before the second biggest building in the world could be built the way he wanted it.
And there are so many old buildings which just stand empty, of of which only the front is still standing. And buildings that have scaffolding put up around them but no one seems to actually be working on those buildings. The same goes for plenty of broken-up streets.

Luckily, sometimes, there is a building renovated - back to what it was in the early 20th century. Seeing those buildings, and the potential of so many others, it's no wonder Bucharest was once called the 'Paris of the East'.

In the midst of all this urban chaos it mostly feels as a city that's coming alive. People out on the streets are either dressed in expensive brands or just very cheap stuff (there is no in between) - but they are out in the city. Eating, drinking, shopping. Because there's a big range of restaurants and plenty of cool bars and cafes with an edgy underground feel to it.

It's the type of city I like - one that you can see growing, evolving, finding a new fit for itself. Budapest is similar but much further ahead (more later). I wonder what Bucharest will be like in 10 years from now...

* Pictures to be added in later

May 01, 2009


Usually, when I travel by myself, I start writing up the various things that happen, impressions from different places and people. So this notebook has become a fixed part of my must-pack items.

Somehow this trip doesn't do that. I've started off two, three stories - but I have no inspiration to write any further than the first paragraph. Is this country not inspiring enough?

The landscapes I travel through are beautiful, the towns I'm staying in are pretty and pittoresque - but other than that? I'm not so sure...

It's one of the first times that I feel limited by travelling by myself. And that I feel a sense of adventure is lacking.

That might sound contradictory - to many people, travelling alone is a big enough adventure as it is. And maybe that's true but the things I do so far seem pretty common (I've been paying more attention to it after the responses over the last few months). But there's plenty of stuff that I just don't have the guts to do. Like, hiking up a mountain by myself. After I'd psyched myself up for it (after all, it was only a trail of two hours), stocking up on food and water, and digging out my raincoat from the bottom of my backpack - I chickened out at the bottom of the mountain. I'm just not comfortable enough hiking in unknown territory.

The vague disappointment disappeared though, when I was almost at the top of Postovaru (reached by cablecar) and saw that there was still quite a bit of snowand ice around. I definitely couldn't have handled that - I guess it pays to listen to my gut!

I'm still debating a next adventure. I would really love to go to the Danube Delta. It sounds stunning. It's a unique part of the world, where the Danube reaches the sea and wetlands have emerged with their special flora and fauna. It's also difficult to reach, or actually - it takes time. And I'm afraid to get stuck.

I doubt it will really come to that, but still - you don't know. However, the alternative would be mountains and small towns. I've seen the latter (Oradea, Sighisoara, Brasov) and have discovered that I won't tackle snowy big mountains by myself. On top of that the hostels are deserted so I'm not counting on meeting potential hiking partners anymore.

What to do? Resort to something semi-familiar, or head into something completely unknown?

April 28, 2009

Posting from: Sighisoara

Only a very quick post to say that Budapest is a gorgeous city and Romania so far is beautiful (though I've mostly seen it from trains for now - hope to change that tomorrow).

April 18, 2009

Selah Sue - Raggamuffin

I'm not a huge fan of female singers but this girl sounds pretty amazing. 19 year old, from Belgium.

April 12, 2009


Despite the Easter holidays I'm having a very relaxed and quiet Sunday. This holiday doesn't mean anything special to me personally other than an extra day off. I had considered going to see my parents but as I had been there only two weeks ago, and I've had a really busy couple of weeks, I decided to stay at home and just relax.

That has worked perfectly. I spent the morning sleeping (after two long but very fun nights at Motel Mozaique), and the afternoon wandering through the city taking pictures and reading a book in the sun at a cafe.

My evening was spent making myself a yummy Easter dinner: chicoree/salmon lasagne. In preparation here:

And I know the end result looks like a big plate of mush, but it was actually pretty good!

Tomorrow will be more of the same. Yay.

Just like Japan

March 27, 2009

Travel styles

The more I discuss this spring's holiday plans with people, the more I get the feeling that I have a pretty strange travel style compared to a lot of other people.

The current trip is probably a good example of this.
It all started with having earned up enough frequent flyer miles to qualify for a Europe-flight. So I thought I'd spend that this spring on a trip to somewhere not too obvious (like London or so where you can fly cheaply anyway) but somewhere where I wouldn't immediately think of going myself.

I settled on Romania - inspired by the 2007-trip to Bulgaria which made me interested to see more of the Balkans.

Then a friend announced he'd be working in Bucharest for a few months this spring, so I figured I try to fit in my plans with his.

Then another friend asked if I wanted to go to Budapest for a weekend to see friends of hers. Sure, sounds great.

So it would make sense to combine it. But now it turns out my Bucharest friend might not be there. But then I thought I'd be able to take some more days and add on Odessa as well as it looks close by on the map.

Fast forward to this week and I now have a one-way ticket to Budapest, travelguides to Budapest and Romania and a contact in Odessa. But I have no clue at all how I'm supposed to travel around those places, and where to go, and how much time it will all take.

As it turns out it takes 37 hours (!!) to get from Bucharest to Odessa.... Nice thought, but maybe a bit too much travel time to make it worth it (although it would give me 15 hours in between to explore Chisinau, capital of Moldova).

I guess I will be spending much of my time on a long train tomorrow actually reading my travel guides.... And deciding when I'm flying home from where!

It seems to be difficult to explain why I like the above though - but in a way it seems like the only option to me.

March 24, 2009


I've re-discovered an old favourite - playing taiko!

I joined a local group yesterday, and practiced this song. Can't wait to go back again last week. I love percussion.

March 01, 2009

The Whitest Boy Alive - Keep A Secret

More new music - found this in the shop today. Very happy with this discovery!

Happy up here

Happy Up Here from Röyksopp on Vimeo.

Am looking forward to the new album, but am also hoping that it will be more and better than just this song....

February 21, 2009


As always, more here!

February 19, 2009

Beijing: Day 3

It turns out that I'm a bad shopper. On my last night here I'm trying to find some cute souvenirs for some friends. I usually find my buys by accident and I don't care much for the tourist shops and markets. This time I've had to resort to those anyway, but I'm not succeeding at all. Everything's so ugly and kitschy. Yuck.

February 18, 2009

Beijing: Day 2

Today was strange - the day started out as planned but slowly all afternoon and evening plans got re-scheduled. So I took the afternoon off after lunch. Well-deserved, I thought.

One of the areas in the city which has been increasingly popular and been covered in the Western media is District 798. A part of the city with loads of galleries, showing mostly contemporary Chinese art. Some are professional, international galleries. Others are tiny and underground. I'd just read an article on how the economic downturn is also hitting this part of Beijing - no one is spending money on paintings anymore. I was curious to see for myself.

The afternoon turned out to be really good. Wandering through this huge district, peeking through open doors of rundown warehouses to find huge spaces with paintings, photography, sculptures, video installations and so on. An afternoon of interesting art (including a great exhibition by Belgian Hans Op De Beeck) without having to enter a colossal museum. I finished the afternoon with a 'Dancing Latte' and New Orleans Cheesecake in a funky little bookshop before heading back into the mayhem of Chaoyang.

February 17, 2009

Beijing: Day 1

After six days of continuous company, entertainment and a planned schedule I am now in Beijing and actually by myself this evening. Which means: wandering through Beijing streets in increasingly heavy snow in search of food.

This trip has, so far, been good but strangely I still don't feel as if I've really been in China. And I'm starting to like that feeling less and less.

Some of it has to do with the fact that I've been here before. So I already have an image of this country which it is supposed to match. But that time I was with a backpack, a phrasebook and just me. The Beijing that I'm staying in now is not the same Beijing as 2,5 years ago. It might have changed a lot, but so far I can't really tell as I'm actually staying in a part of town that I never really made it to last time with nothing but tall hotels and embassies.

It also has to do with the very different type of trip this is compared to my previous work trip. The week in Malaysia last year was all about Malaysia. Five days of talking with Malaysians from Malaysian organisations about Malaysia. This time, I'm talking to a lot of Dutch people inside Chinese buildings about how we do our work. .....
Work-wise it's still very useful but well, very different.

But I also seem to be different myself this time around. I'm not nearly as 'adventurous' (for lack of a better word) as I normally would be. After five days of just following Chinese speakers and not having to think about what to do, where to go and how to communicate - I find myself hesitant to finally have to start doing that tonight. Getting out of my hotel room, to walk around an unknown city, to find an unknown restaurant, to try to order unknown food. It all feels like a LOT of effort, instead of being excited about a 'new' city. Instead of taking public transport, I'm in taxis anytime I can and am becoming very lazy.

So I'm starting to understand why people stay in their hotels when on business trips instead of going out discovering new places.

Nevertheless, I still hope I will have some time on Thursday to do a bit of sightseeing and shopping. To find out if the city really has changed since summer 2006.

February 16, 2009

Harbin -> Dalian

* Unit 731 - Harbin hosts one of the most gruesome remains of Japanese aggression during 1932-1945. At least 3000 people, maybe more, died in experiments that were performed on them to study the effects of biological war germs. They had stuff injected in to them and they'd be watched to see what happened. Then they'd be cut open. And anything in between. The Japanese destroyed it at the end of the war, and denied it for a long time. This morning we visited the small museum that remembers this laboratory. Pretty creepy.

* Dalian - we arrived here early evening with a busy schedule ahead. Within minutes of being driven downtown, the city (with only 3 million people) already felt much more comfortable, modern, relaxed and fun than Harbin. Maybe it was the cold in Harbin, but although I didn't spend much time walking around it felt very 'heavy' and grey with huge communist buildings. Not very appealing, it seemed. Dalian, on the other hand, seems extremely livable. Which was confirmed by dinner at a nice Japanese restaurant with sake and Kirin beer. Bliss.

* More bliss: ending the day with a 45-minute foot massage. It must have looked funny though: four foreigners, spread out on beds, with Chinese guys working away on their feet.

February 14, 2009


We spent the last night in Harbin in a local nightclub. Or rather, a wannabe-nightclub. From the surface it seemed normal: pletny of dressed-up people, fancy interior, expensive drinks and very loud dance music. Except, there was no dancefloor, big bowls of fresh fruit and popcorn were on the tables and - most importantly - there was no space to dance. So strange. Especially because it wasn't actually possible to talk to each other at all and all the people there looked very bored.

In other news:
* skiing in China is the same as everywhere (the same chairlifts, the same pathetic attempts to get down a mountain by me) - except for a very different (and pretty lousy) lunch.
* contrasts are everywhere.

[I've since had explained that the lack of a dance floor has purely commercial reasons: the argument is that when people dance they don't buy enough drinks so the club won't be able to make enough money. To fix that, every space is filled up with standing tables that you pay a fee for to be able to use, and instead of chatting and talking you play games with the dice or look around. No interaction is possible though with any of the other people. Quite weird, but after asking around this seems to be the standard club formula in China.]

February 12, 2009

Harbin: day 1,5

I'm at the end of my first proper day on my work trip - but it feels strange. I miss the amazement, fascination and adventure of when I was first in China 2,5 years ago. Not that it's become bland - I just don't feel 'in' China - being in a fancy hotel all day and night.

The first time I properly felt in this country was when going to the toilet in tonight's restaurant...

February 10, 2009


[I guess I really only write things when I'm travelling - I just opened this notebook to see the last entry of New York in September. Hmm.]

I'm on my way to Bijing, 20 minutes away from landen, for a week of work and China. And while staring out at the desolate mountains below, I can only wonder why this isn't a real trip - instead of a suitcase with business clothing I should have a backpack and my hiking boots. Despite my luxurious seating arrangements currently, my appearance right now is actually more of the latter: jeans and a funky new fleece. For a trip of in total 16 hours I think I'd rather be comfortable.


I'm also excited about the destinations of this trip. Although there won't be much time for sightseeing, I hope to still catch glimpses of those areas. Apart from Beijing the other two cities are very new to me. Harbin boasts the annual Ice Festival and the best skiing in China. Both are on the social agenda of the meeting I'm attending. And I just found out that Harbin is the city where the Japanese established Unit 731, a laboratory used during the Second World War. I'll definitely have to make time to fit this in the schedule.

My second destination, Dalian, is called the Hong Kong of the Northeast (according to the LP at least). I'm starting to regret nog having more time but maybe it's also better in summer with beaches and plenty of areas to stroll around.


Did I already say I'm excited?

February 08, 2009


Wow, it's been ages since I've posted anything substantial here! So, a quick rundown of the past few weeks:

> I quit the 365-project. Too much hassle of always having to think 'I need to take a picture!' while I wanted to just enjoy whatever it was that I was doing at that time without taking pictures.

> Work is really busy, but really good as well. It almost feels as if I'm (almost) playing with The Important People. Very fun.

> Two more sleeps and I'm on my way to China! Harbin, Dalian, Beijing. Very hectic and full work schedule but I'm so so excited.

> Am back to (internet) dating - why do I always get the weird guys? Gah.

> Every January's highlight: the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. Saw some very weird (Lazarus 1-2-0; A Climate for a Crime) things, some interesting things (Jerichow; Er Dong) and some really good things (12 Lotus - fantastic!; Left Handed).

> Am househunting! Very scary. Eek.

> Am also finding new friends. Very fun :-D

Will be posting some travel stories hopefully in two weeks' time. Will definitely be posting travel pictures in two weeks' time. Stay tuned.

January 18, 2009

A Brand - The Bubbles

Today's music discovery - Belgian band A Brand!

January 03, 2009

365 - December

Woohoo, I made it through another month of daily pictures.

I'm cheating slightly on this shot from December, but hey, I'm not nerdy enough to figure out how to do it differently.

January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!

The new year is traditionally welcomed in the Netherlands with a lot of fireworks going up in the sky. This year I was watching everything from a rooftop terrace, great views!

For all of you reading, I hope 2009 will be a fabulous year with lots of good and new adventures.