Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of year Gala

The foreign students of local universities had their end of year party. The show featured dances and songs from their local countries, Turmenistan, Mongolia, Belarus, Ghana, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Mexico, The Philippines, Moldova and others. Some of them even spoke in Chinese, for example two of them did a classical crosstalk. Besides, students of the university for minorities performed dances of local ethnic minorities like Tibetan or Uyghur.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Journey to the West

For the October holidays, I decided to explore the West of Gansu province and go into Xinjiang. After a night on the train, I arrived in Jiayuguan, a fort of the Great Wall, providing splendid view of the Wall by the desert. In the evening, my journey continued by train towards Xinjiang, the Uyghur autonomous region and the town of Turpan, in a depression reaching until 150 meters below sea level. In town, an old minaret is the main attraction, besides, exploring the surrounding enables people to discover a few jewels of the Silk Road and get acquainted with the Uyghur culture. Another highlight is the food. I moved on to Urumqi, the provincial capital. On the first day, it was hard to find elements of Uyghur culture, many places seemed extremely Chinese. On the second day, a visit to Tianchi, a beautiful lake in the mountains was fantastic. On my last morning, I went to the bazaar and saw more of the Uyghur culture. A strange thing happened back in Lanzhou, when sharing pictures from the trip, my browser sometimes went crazy and I had to give poetical names to some of the places visited.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Mid-Autumn

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, enjoying mooncakes with family and friends

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

World's most polluted province

On the way back to Lanzhou, I stopped in Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, the center of the Chinese coal mining industry and home to a few contenders to the title of most polluted city in the world, Taiyuan having held the crown before being overtaken by Lanzhou which was then passed by another Shanxi-town, Linfen. The city of Taiyuan is more pleasant now, although on arriving by train the dammages of the coal could be seen on buildings. The provincial museum is really great and worth a morning or an afternoon for any visitor. A temple dedicated to Confucius was being rebuilt. The food is mainly based on noodles, and there are enough to choose from to accomodate every taste. Nearby Datong is a great place to visit some nearby Buddhist monasteries, as some of my classmates recommended, though my trip went to Wutaishan, a mountain full of Buddhits monasteries, enoughto keep a westerner busy for a few days.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Pictures of Wutaishan

Friday, August 27, 2010

Leaving Tianjin

It's time to leave Tianjin after 9 weeks, at least I can manage basic situations but I am still far from being fluent. Looking forward to follow the Chinese language classes for foreigners back in Lanzhou, it should be possible to follow a few weeks longer than last year. The weather here was really strange, I really only started to enjoy going out in the afternoon these last two weeks. Even Beijing was a relief from the conditions here, though that city also has a bad reputation in the summertime.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beijing, Beijing, I love BeiJing

Great blue sky again for a day trip to BeiJing, still managing to visit sites I did not know from before. The Temple of Confucius was almost as large the the temples in Qufu. Nearby there is a vegetarian restaurant offering awasome meatless dishes, and of a refined quality.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meeting Laotse and Confucius

After another three weeks in Tianjin, the second long weekend away led me to Taishan, a Taoist mountain. The climb was tough, as the stairs were not adapted to my legs, but the view from the top was awesome, and it was worth spending a weekend there. On the second day, the destination was nearby Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, with plenty of museums dedicated to the scholar. Though overpriced, the place was a great learning experience. While waiting for the train to Beijing, I stopped at a restaurant dedicated to the Chairman Mao, a statue of him could be seen in a corner. On Monday, I stopped at the Taoist monastery of Dongyue, which features displays of the afterlife according to the imagination of the local people of centuries ago. Strangely, the sky looked very blue and the weather seemed a relief from the damp heat of Tianjin.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Beidahe, a Chinese resort

For the weekend I went to Qinghuangdao, a large city in Hebei province, a two hours by train away from Tianjin. On Saturday, a visit to Shanhaiguan was on the program, the place where the Great Wall meets the sea, some places where full of tourists but there was a spot further inland where one could walk more peacefully, with only a few Chinese tourists and a group of Russian tourists. Strangely, at a shop, the vendor replied to me in Russian after I said something in English. Sunday was the day to go exploring the beach, the resort of Beidahe was easily accessible by local bus. Plenty of attractions were made to accomodate the taste of Russian visitors, there is even a statue of Gorki overlooking the sea. A large park is full of statues dedicated to various sports, a sign that some events of the Summer Olympics 2008 took place there. At the restaurant, the waitress talked to me in Russian, it took her some time to understand that I did not, and we switched to a mix of Chinese and English. The restaurant was serving a mix of Chinese and Russian dishes, and most customers came from the giant to the North.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer in Tianjin

Have arrived at the Tianjin University of Technology for a nine weeks long intensive Chinese language course. This will make my life easier next year as I will at least have the basics to hanlde simple situations like buying train tickets or asking my way around a city. The weather is much more humid here close to the coast and much hotter than the altitude of Gansu province.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New pictures

Have just updated my website on Weebly about my experiences in China with pictures from the Expo in Shanghai and a few new blog articles, you can check them out at:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=435341&id=791795443&l=988ad19e94

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Dragon-boat Festival

Enjoying the Dragon-boat races and rice cakes...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Best city in China for Tourism

Found this article on EChinacities:
Lanzhou Named "Best International Tourist City" according to a market study:
To read more:
http://www.echinacities.com/cityguide/lanzhou/whatson/InPulse.aspx?WID=12329

Monday, May 31, 2010

Saturday at the Expo

Waking up early in the morning, the travel agency at the hotel still had tickets for the Expo and therefore my plans for the day were fixed. After a quick breakfast, I walk towards the subway station, just before reaching it; I discovered that there was a boat terminal for the expo nearby, which would provide a great alternative to a subway ride. Tickets were controlled before boarding and the usual security checks were done in the meantime. The boat was quite large and looked stylish. On the way, we passed in front of the famous skyline of the city and had a beautiful view of the Bund from the river. The buildings like the Pearl Tower looked mystical in the morning drizzle.
After an hour on the boat, the first glimpse of the Saudi and Chinese pavilions appeared out of the fog. When ashore, we could enter directly as all the controls happened upon boarding. The queue at the Saudi Pavilion did not give much hope to the visitor, as even the queue for handicapped people looked like it would never end, and the Expo site had only been open for half an hour. People were queuing to enter the Chinese Provinces pavilion, and a notice indicated 90 minutes waiting time, whereby it still would have taken along time to reach this sign. Some warnings about long queues were already given on information boards and loudspeakers, for the most popular pavilion. My first destination was thus the Pacific joint pavilion, where the small island countries of the Pacific were represented. Each nation showed its own combination of information about lifestyle, traditions, tourism and investment opportunities, represented where the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, Palau, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, the Federal States of Micronesia and the world’s smallest nation Nauru. There was a souvenir shop selling specialties from all those countries and a café selling espressos and cappuccinos made of organic Vanuatuan coffee.
Energised by those new learning experiences and the cup of coffee, I decided to stay in Oceania by heading towards the New Zealand pavilion, in front of which a Maori band was playing some traditional music. However because of the queue I did not enter that pavilion. Along the same square, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and Thailand looked likewise crowded. Queuing time for the USA, Saudi Arabia and Japan pavilions were already 4 hours and visitors were kindly requested to alter their visit plans. Other popular pavilions with over two hours queuing time were South Korea, France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom , Brazil, Italy, Spain and India. Some places with shorter waiting times were suggested, like joint pavilions of Europe or Asia, where a few of the lesser known countries are sheltered under the same roof. The next logical step was to take the elevated pedestrian walkway to the African area, forgetting about visiting anything European. The Libyan delegation was announcing in big letters that visitors where welcome, unfortunately on that day a small note on the door knob apologised for the house being closed on that day. The daily parade was about to start with Chinese acrobats and people dancing on trucks on Chinese music. One group was representing Monkey King from Journey to the West a famous Chinese novel. Another group was playing shamanistic music from Inner Mongolia. They were followed by a Norwegian brass band who had stayed here since the day before was the Norway day at the Expo.
Nigeria has its own building whose entrance shows the wonders of the African coastline and near the exit there is a section dedicated to business cooperation between China and Nigeria. As most African countries cannot afford a standalone building and large pavilion they were grouped in the Joint Africa Pavilion. The list of countries includes most African nations. At the entrance there were big statues in African style. The highlights were for example Botswana, which reminded us of its wealth in diamonds. Mali was represented by Tuaregs in traditional costumes. Togo was showing its plan of a future high speed train similar to the French TGV. Sudan displayed its rich ethnic diversity. Tchad was proud of its development projects to improve the life of its people. A large section of the Sierra Leone area was dedicated to handicrafts.
Leaving the Joint African pavilion, the exploration of African culture continued at the Angola pavilion, where the importance of oil for the nation was displayed and joint-ventures between Angola and China were praised for the cooperative effort. As it was lunch, I had some seafood in Angolan style there. The food was quite expensive for the quantity eaten, especially when thinking of the prices one would pay for that amount of food in other districts of the city, but as one does not get many chances of experiencing Southern African food in this part of the world it was a worthwhile investment and enjoyable discovery.
After a morning dedicated to Oceania and Africa, the exploration was to continue to the Americas. The Argentinean pavilion was showing the beautiful landscapes of Argentina in addition to local handicrafts. There is also a large Argentinean restaurant inside to quench a visitor’s hunger. Thereafter the queues at most South American pavilion looked overwhelming, whether Brazil, Peru or Columbia. Attached to the latter was a small café selling Columbian Coffee and provided an opportune break to assimilate gathered information and plan the remaining of the afternoon. The joint South American pavilion was less crowded. Uruguay showed a video where Chinese expatriates living in Montevideo were interviewed and in particular the owners of the oldest Chinese restaurant in the capital. Guatemala was showing its Mayan heritage with amongst others buildings in the style of El Mirador, likewise Honduras was proud of its Mayan past. Salvador was represented by one of its typical volcanoes. From Ecuador were pictures about life in its cities and nature wonders like the Andes and the Galapagos Islands. The Dominican Republic was highlighting its tourist industry and the pavilion looked partly like a reproduction of a central square in former Spanish colonies. Nicaragua and Costa Rica were again showing the wonders of nature in their respective countries. The design of the Panama pavilion was inspired by the Panama Canal. Bolivia showed its rich diverse cultures and the pavilion was the largest inside the joint pavilion, there was also the need to queue. Exiting the pavilion, the walk gave a nice view of the external architecture of the Chilean, Mexican and Venezuelan pavilions.
The mid-afternoon queues to the standalone pavilions being very long, I proceeded to the joint Caribbean pavilion. Most countries were showing their attractions for tourists. There was somewhat less for potential investors. There were reproductions of the landscapes of Dominica, typical towns of Guyana, traditional housings of Surinam and many other attractions.
Even though I have been to most countries in Europe, there are still a few I know very little about. My first stop was San Marino, the world’s oldest and smallest republic with the oldest constitution still in effect. In the queue, wondering why the country was generating so much interest amongst Chinese people, a local told me they were interested in learning about a country that was so small. Inside was a small replica of its own statue of liberty, pictures of local castles and traditional costumes. Malta had a traditional café where I took a break sitting outside enjoying a Maltese cappuccino. Albania showed traditional architecture and old walls. Moldova displayed its rich landscapes with forests and prairies. Azerbaijan presented itself as a bridge between orient and occident with its heritage from the Silk Road, an interior designed in traditional Islamic style from the area. Bosnia Herzegovina has a large pavilion with a traditional coffee set at the entrance followed by other local handicrafts, pictures of various sites across the country and a local pastry shop with delicious Bosnian cakes. Belarus revealed its beautiful cities and also showed its rich biodiversity, promoting its national parks. The pavilion also had a souvenir shop selling plenty of Belarusian handicrafts. Bulgaria exhibited its old past. Montenegro was closed for the day. The last pavilion for my European tour would be Georgia, whose design represents a traditional courtyard in a Georgian house, besides there were pictures from the wonderful mountains of the Caucasus and one could see the comments in Georgian alphabet. To end my European tour, I walked past the Romanian, Dutch and British pavilions, taking some pictures of the delightful architecture, saving time by not entering them.
Back in Africa for some souvenir hunting, a band from Mali was playing traditional Saharan music. I also visited some pavilions that I had forgotten on my morning visit like Ghana and the Comoros. There was of course exquisite coffee coming from its very country of origin, Ethiopia. Most shops were selling jewellery and other handicrafts. There were few representations selling music CDs though I was looking for some Congolese music. The Algerian pavilion had a sumptuous reproduction of the old city, the Kashba, and some displays about traditional lifestyle before presenting a possible future integrating technological progress and customs. The Tunisian displayed old ruins and also elements of a Mediterranean lifestyle. The pavilion of Egypt and South Africa were still attracting many visitors, the latter had a giant football ball standing at the entrance, reminding the public that the country is hosting the soccer World Cup this year.
After culinary experiences from Asia, Europe and Africa, the arrival of dinner time pushed me towards America to finish this trip around the food world. Remembering a delightful fish dish in a Uruguayan restaurant a few years ago in Guatemala, I proceeded to that country’s eating place. There was only beef on the menu, so the choice was made simpler. There was some information about the country on the table where it highlighted its attractiveness for both tourists and investors, as one of the best place in Latin America to do business.
Due to the high prices of food at the expo, many people leave at dinner time and after sunset some pavilions can be visited more easily than during daytime, in addition some pavilions reveal beautiful night colours at that time. At the entrance of the Indonesia pavilion was a stage with instruments of a Gamelan orchestra though there was no performance the time of entrance. The large pavilion has exhibits on a few floors, showing both traditional and modern elements of lifestyle, information for tourists with pictures from a few World Heritage sites like Borobodur, old cars, local handicrafts, highlights of its environment, the diverse cultures of the archipelago, a large souvenir shop and featuring a restaurant with Indonesian food for the hungry.
The Chinese Pavilion having special access rules, it was too late to find out how to make a reservation. On the other hand, the queue for the Chinese Provincial Pavilion had dwindled, from more than 90 minutes to maybe five, and it became the opportunity to discover provinces still unknown to me, or almost. Therefore my first choice was logically to be the province of Gansu, which featured some replicas of Buddhist statues found around the province like the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang and its rich Silk Road heritage. Qinghai was displaying itself as a world of ice and reminding visitors that it was were the great rivers of China and South East Asia take their source, namely the Mekong, the Yellow River and the Yangtze inspiring people to take better care of the environment. The Ningxia pavilion was build in Islamic architecture and gave valuable information about Muslim culture on the Yellow River. The main theme of Sichuan is the “wisdom of following nature”, the land of the panda’s main focus was indeed nature. Inner Mongolia shows its famous grassland and reveals the importance of the horse in Mongolian culture. Xinjiang revealed its cultural richness at the meeting place of Chinese and Turkic cultures, and showed elements of life in the desert. The Shaanxi pavilion is in the style of the Tang dynasty and shows the life at that time especially showing the traditional dresses of the royal family of that time. The Tibet pavilion exhibited elements of life in the high Himalaya with images of landscape and reproduction of local houses. Yunnan is a place of high cultural diversity and this was reflected by elements of Bai and Dai life and display of its varied ecosystems. Guizhou likewise put the emphasis on its ethnic minorities and its main source of wealth, handicrafts of silver. Guangxi is the home of the Zhuang, a group related to the Thai, and hostesses dressed in traditional costumes were present on site. The focus of Hainan was as a paradise for tourists, this island having a tropical climate attracting many visitors from the North especially during the cold winter. The inspiration of the Guangdong pavilion came from its cities to show possibilities for a green life in a city. Chongqing was also focusing on the development of the city, with a sustainable touch. It was also possible to learn more about the history of Hunan. The development of human civilisation could be observed in the Henan pavilion. Shandong was focusing on its rivers and mountains. The speciality of Jiangxi is porcelain, and many pieces were on display throughout its space. Likewise the importance of tea in the province of Fujian was omnipresent. Jilin was showing its renowned Changbai Mountain and reproduced a world of snow. Further North is Heilongjiang, the world of Ice by the Amur River with interactive games allowing visitors to play curling or simulate a skiing race. A dinosaur fossil greets visitors at the entrance of the Liaoning pavilion before visitors can enjoy the contribution of that province to the advancement of Chinese civilisation. The entrance of the Shanxi pavilion looks like buildings in the old town of Pingyao and inside, besides history, people can have a look at ideas for a greener life and living a life with low carbon emissions. And Tianjin was demonstrating the potential of technology to contribute to development, showing off the intensive cooperation with foreign companies attracted by its nearness to the sea and to the capital. Missing some provinces as it was hard to keep track of every step and some places had long queues, maybe only opening once every thirty minutes, it was time to discover a few more countries, after all, there will be plenty of opportunities to visit Chinese provinces later during my stay in the country.
Continuing towards the West, I reached Pakistan with its motto “Harmony in Diversity”. The façade is a replica of a fort in Lahore. Various displays showed for example the Buddhist heritage of the country, famous pieces of architecture, the was Islam is practiced along with elements of past and modern ways of living, with a section dedicated to women who did a great job for that country. In addition a space was dedicated to the friendship between Pakistan and China with a display of the diversity of cultures living in the border area. Oman is a seafaring nation and this is reflected in the choice of its design, with a representation of life in the desert and a historical perspective to life in the country.
Most pavilions close at some time between half past nine and half past ten, sometimes not allowing visitors to enter or join the queue already some quarter before, it was then time to go back home , having learned a lot about many countries and with plenty of pictures to share with people from where I live and beyond through Internet to the whole world.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Norway at the Expo

Today was the Norwegian Day at the Expo in Shanghai. My arrival in the metropolis of the East was smooth and it was delightful to be in a warm part of China. Yesterday after checking-in at the hotel in the North of the city I went for a walk to the Bund at Sunset. For dinner I was surprised at the restaurant, as I did not manage to find the few Chinese characters I know for meat, namely beef and mutton. Luckily more people here speak some English than in the remote West and I followed the recommendations of the waiter.
We met with other NTNU alumni in the French concession to go to the Expo by bus. Our guide was a Shanghainese lady full of energy telling us the advantages of this city compared to the capital Beijing, namely better weather and better food. The entrance took its time as the delegation of the university was more than 150 people, including some guests from Chinese universities cooperating with NTNU. After clearing the security check, we went to the Norwegian Pavilion were a private guided tour was organized. The motto of the pavilion is “Norway, powered by nature”. The pavilion is made of pine and bamboo, as a symbol of cooperation between Norway and China. Around the pavilion various screens show elements of life in Norway, including its breathtaking scenery and modern technologies.
After this one-hour tour, a Norwegian brass-band was playing outside the pavilion, waiting for the next guests. We split from the remaining NTNU delegation to have some tea with fellow alumni in a nearby café before exploring the site on our own. Large crowds had already gathered everywhere and queues seemed endless, even the Latvian pavilion seemed to attract many people, maybe because of last night’s report on CCTV 9 about its attractions. The Ukrainian pavilion included a fine restaurant in traditional style and some inspiration about life in the city. After more than twenty minutes waiting, I managed to enter the Estonian pavilion, where various philosophical ideas were shared. The other European pavilions had a large attraction power for the local Chinese people, and as I had already visited most of those countries during my stay in that part of the world, I moved on to explore Asian pavilions.
The Thai pavilion is nicely decorated, resembling a Buddhist temple. The sultanate of Brunei shows highlights for both tourists and investors of this “Gateway to Borneo”. The Philippines showcased elements of cultural life in the archipelago, including music instruments. The Cambodian pavilion was a replica of famous tourist sites like Angkor Vat, full of statues and imitation of traditional walls. As Malaysia and Singapore were highly popular there, it was time to walk further towards the Exit Gate number 4. Events were not only happening in the pavilions. On the road there was a parade with some people in typical Mongolian costumes performing traditional dances. I had my first glimpse of the Chinese pavilion and the nearby Taiwanese in the heavy rain. As entries were restricted and required advance booking, it could not be visited on this day as my schedule was limited. From the elevated pedestrian walk, I could also observe the Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese pavilion, which were pieces of art already from the outside and of course crowded at that time of day. The queue for the Sri Lankan pavilion was somewhat shorter and offered a great offer for lunch. Besides food, one could admire Buddhist sculptures and replicas of housing; in addition a small temple had been built inside it to offer a quiet space for prayers.
Turkmenistan was also present. Pictures of the current president were hanging on some walls. The pavilion offered a glimpse of life in this country, with handicrafts and pictures of landmarks. The joint Asia Pavilion II sheltered a few countries with a smaller representation. Palestine was highlighting Jerusalem as a city of peace and selling large Christian crosses as souvenirs. Yemen displayed traditional Yemeni housing. Afghanistan portrayed itself as a land of opportunity. Jordan revived its Roman heritage and tourist attractions on the coast. The Republic of Korea and Japan pavilions were amongst the most popular and the queue was too long, I even had to forget about the Kazakhstan pavilion as the time to the next event was going shorter. Mongolia was showing a big yurt and the history of the country with portraits of Genghis Khan and even showing a map of the largest extend of the Mongolian empire, including China and many countries as far as Europe. Bangladesh was welcoming visitors with some traditional costumes. Timor-Leste highlights the importance of nature for human life. The Maldives look like a great tourist destination, and reminded us that that may not live for very long unless humankind really steps up its effort to fight global warming and other environmental damages. Whereby the Republic of Korea pavilion was crowded, the Democratic People’s Republic was less visited and therefore a rare chance of learning more about this country from the country itself. Some replicas of sights of the capital were displayed, especially a beautiful fountain. On a wall was written “Paradise for People”. The souvenir shop sold books about Juche philosophy, Karaoke music and some documentaries about various highlights of the country like cities or the Arirang games. The Kyrgyzstan Pavilion displayed a yurt and some information about life in the mountains. The Tajikistan pavilion was decorated with giant grapes, a large portrait of the president could be seen as well as documents about its religious history with both Islamic mosques and Buddhist statues.
It was then time to meet again with the NTNU delegation and we went to a reception at the Intercontinental Hotel which had been built especially for the Expo. The Chef is Norwegian and the food was mostly Norwegian with some Chinese influence. After dinner, the rector of the university gave a speech and there was a short presentation of the university for our Chinese guests. Afterwards we went back to the Expo site and went to the Red Hall for a concert by famous Norwegian artists. The hosts were Kaare Magnus Berg from NRK and You Jia from Dragon TV. Before the music began, His Royal Highness Prince Haakon of Norway gave a short speech about environment and sustainability. The Trondheimsoloists orchestra was conducted by Tan Dun, they performed pieces by Grieg. The violinist Eldbjörg Hemsing played the first violin in a special symphony called “The Love”, composed especially for the event, combining elements of Chinese Opera, classical Chinese and Western tunes and some hip hop. After the break, former Eurovision Grand Prix winners Secret Garden performed the theme song of the Norwegian pavilion “powered by nature” and Sissel Kyrkebö sang tunes by Stefan Nilsson, Jon Lord and Edvard Grieg. The next highlight of the show was a combination of Kung Fu and traditional Norwegian dances with Frikar and Qingpu Wushu, while the Trondheimsoloists were adding music to their performance.
After the show, there was still some time before the closing of the Expo site. Trying to by a ticket for a second day, I was told that there tickets were already sold out, but that I could try another sponsor at the Expo site. Walking there at night is a delightful experience as most pavilion display splendid lights. Queues were getting small at even the most popular pavilions although some had already closed. As I reached the Macau Pavilion, the last people admitted were queuing but no more people could join. Luckily Hong Kong was still open, even if maybe no more than 50 people would be behind me in the queue before closing. At least I will have been able to visit one Chinese pavilion, even if it is a small one knowing that there is no guarantee that I will be able to enter tomorrow. The most interesting element is a three-dimensional movie showing highlights of life in Hong Kong, like architecture, landscapes, nature and food.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Yinchuan Nights

For the May holiday, I continued my exploration of the Chinese Wild West with a trip to Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The night train arrived in the early morning hours in this city with about one million inhabitants. The spring was beginning to feel warmer and it was already possible to be outside with a short leeved shirt all during daylight hours. The first day was dedicated to exploring the city, enjoying local cuisine like in the evening at the Xianhelou, where the dumplings were prepared near the entrance of the restaurants by the staff. On Sunday, I went accross the border into Inner Mongolia to visit the town of Bayanhot where the buddhist temple of Yanfu Si combined elements of Tibetan and Mogolian architecture. There were very few tourists there and I may have been the only foreigner in town at the time of the visit. Bayanhot lays at the edge of the Tenger Desert and on the way from Yinchuan it is possible to visit the Great Wall at Sanguankou on the border between the two provinces. On Monday I went with HaoFengGuang Ningxia Yinchuan Travel Co. to visit the tombs of the Western Xia, the Western Film Studio, a farm specialising in wolfberries and the Sand Lake, to see the best Ningxia has to offer. I arrived just in time to have dinner in town before leaving by night train back home.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Trip to Yongling

The last days of April the Foreign Expert Bureau organised a trip to Yongling county for us. We left home early on Thursday morning and went first to the Liujiaxia Reservoir, one of the largest in North-West China. After a great lunch with plenty of fish by the Lianhua Tai Ferry Terminal, we took a boat to the monastery of Bingling Si. This old monastery is being restored. Old buddha statues could be seen. The boatride was also one of the highlights, as the landscape was awsome. In the evening there was a concert with traditional Tibetan and Hui music and dances. On the second day, we went to a museum dedicated to dinausor footprints fossils reached after another one-hour boat journey. The museum was high up in the mountains and the trek was more interesting to me than the museum itself, maybe because it is only starting to become a tourist attraction. The afternoon we went fishing by a pond and enjoyed local sanpaotai tea, a kind of tea perfumed with longan and dates. In the evening we had a great dinner in the city, with plenty of lamb in all its variations. The participants came from the USA, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, France, Mexico, The Philippines, Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Welcome to the month of May

Komm lieber Mai und mache, die Bäume wieder grün...Spring is coming and nature is coming back to life, how great it is to see trees becoming green again,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earthquake in Qinghai

There has been a stong earthquake in a remote area of Qinghai. Many people are feared dead. As the area is less densily populated as Sichuan, the deathtoll is unlikly to be as heavy as the 2008 earthquake. Let's pray for the survivors.My current location is about a thousand kilometers away from the epicentre. We did not feel anything and there was no destruction there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

农历新年 (Gong Xi Fa Cai)May the year of the Tiger bring success and happiness to you and your family.

Monday, February 8, 2010

EBBF Conference in Germany

This weekend the second German-speaking EBBF conference took place in Witten, a small town between Bochum and Dortmund. The conference started with a World Cafe session to encourage participants to discuss topics related to values at the workplace. Various presenters presented examples of successfull stories of companies and individuals making the work more meaningfull. On Saturday evening, Franz Alt gave a presentation about solar energy and how it is possible to use the unlimited power of solar energy, thus reducing poverty and pollution. Another hot topic was Social Entrepreneurship, or how individual entrepreneurs can shape a better future for humanity.

http://www.ebbf.org/conferencewitten2010.html

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Qinghainese Midwinter

As the week-end was longer than usual, I went to visit Xining, a city where Tibetan and Muslim cultures meet. Leaving home in the early morning on Friday, I managed to check-in at the hotel already before lunch. As it is the low season, most hotels offered great discounts. In this part of China, buildings are well heated in winter time and therefore it is very comfortable to go back to your hotel after a long walk outside. During the first afternoon my first stop was the North Mountain Temple, a Taoist temple complex comprising a few pagodas and caves on a hill north of the city. From the top of the hill, the views were great. Later it was the turn of the Dongguan Mosque, one of the largest in China, combining Chinese architecture. There is also a Western style café nearby called the Green House, where you can enjoy Italian espressos. Saturday it was time to go out of the city and head to Huangzhong in order to visit the Kumbum Lamasery. It is one of the largest and most important of the Gelug Buddhists, founded by the thirds Dalai-Lama, it houses about 400 monks. Many temples are open to the public. It attracts many pilgrims from the province and its neighbors. Some were kneeling to the ground many times on their way to the temples, even though temperatures were well below zero in that early morning. One interesting feature of the monastery are the Buddhist sculptures made of yak-butter tea. A stupa is on the top of the hill outside of the gates and provides a splendid view of the surroundings. On the way to the bus station, some locals asked me in English whether I spoke Tibetan, a reminder that this is where national minority cultures are still thriving a giving a distinct appearance to the province. Back in the city, a cold wind was blowing; it was to be the coldest night of my stay with temperatures around twenty below freezing. This lead to the decision of not heading to the Lake of Qinghai on the following day.Therefore Sunday was dedicated to a further exploration of the gems of the city itself. There is a Buddhist monastery on the south of the city, on a small hill providing beautiful views of the city in addition to fine spiritual architecture. On the small frozen tributary of the Huangshui River, itself a tributary of the mighty Yellow River, people were skating and enjoying other activities on the ice. On both sides, a park makes the walk along the river delightful. After some grilled squid and fruit tea for lunch, I took a short rest at the hotel before heading to the Qinghai Provincial Museum, an old mansion of a local warlord turned into a museum. It shows artifacts of various dynasties and also some elements of the life of the multitude of ethnic minorities living in the region, Hui, Salar, Mongol, Tibetan… On the walk back, I walked past a few interesting mosques, though less than the main one.Pictures of the trip are available on Facebook for those of you who are outside China, under the following URL:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=312240&id=791795443&l=b092c0c3f9

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year 2010!

Happy New Year
felice anno nuovo
feliz año nuevo
bonne année
frohes neues Jahr
с Новым годом
سنة جديدة سعيدة ; كل عام وأنتم بخير
新年快乐
gelukkige nuwe jaar
Gëzuar Vitin e Ri
Melkam Lidet
Goyosa añada nueba
suma machax mara
urte berri on
bån ân
Bu An Nof
bloavezh mat
Честита Нова Година
Bon any nou !
Bledhen Noweth Da
bonannu
sretna Nova godina
šťastný nový rok
godt nytår
gelukkig nieuwjaar
galé Bounan
feliĉan novan jaron
õnnelikku uut aastat
onnellista uutta vuotta
feliç an gnûf
Ευτυχές το Νέο Έτος
ary pyahu rory
שנה טובה
नव वर्ष मंगलमय हो
boldog új évet
gleðilegt nýtt ár
selamat tahun baru
athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh
新年あけましておめでとうございます
새해 복 많이 받으십시오
newroz pîroz be
laimīgu Jauno gadu
Bon Añu Nuevu
bonana
linksmų Naujųjų Metų
tratrin'ny taona
Is-Sena t-Tajba
Blein Vie Noa
ayü we xipantuluwün
नवीन वर्षाच्या शुभेच्छा
meeu olari ngejuk engalali
Od Kiza marxta
bòun ân
godt nyttår
felis aña nobo
سال نو مبارک
bon ann
szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
feliz ano novo
ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ
sumak musujj wata atawsami
un an nou fericit
Bliadhna Mhath Ùr
Срећна Нова година
šťastný nový rok
sannad wanaagsan
Heri kwa mwaka mpya
Gott Nytt År
Maligayang Bagong Taon
สวัสดีปีใหม่
mutlu yıllar
з Новим Роком
نیاسال مبارک
Chúc mừng năm mới
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

List made possible with the help of the Logos Project at the University of Modena, Italy:
http://www.logosdictionary.org/pls/dictionary/new_dictionary.gdic.main