Christmas days in Hong Kong are jam-packed with productive meetings, delicious luncheons and copious dinners on North-side of Hong Kong Island in and around Central and Causeway Bay. Obviously this city never sleeps or even takes a holiday. The food itself ranges from dim-sum in the morning, Sichuan spicy dishes, Korean fondue and of course Cantonese stir-fried. Luckily a little time remained to enjoy some great scenery of this vibrant Asian metropolis.
Half a year flew by working, while my diary notes covering the week after the Beijing Olympics in August 2008 were left untouched. Back that time, my wife Shanshan and daughter Nicole had returned to Brussels, so did my Belgian colleagues Zhijun and Rik, while my other colleague Fred had hopped to Japan to realise his Tokyo dream.
Seldom in a lifetime one is offered the unique opportunity of becoming the heaven's one and only Jade Emperor (or yù huáng dà dì). This great honour was bestowed on me during the act performed by our first year of the Eurochine Chinese School (Floralia in Woluwe) on Saturday 24th January 2009. The entire crew has been working extremely hard on the play composed and directed by our Li lao shi (teacher Li).
Learning mandarin Chinese (a.k.a. "pu tong hua") is a real challenge compared to most European languages. In some ways it is easy, as words do not change with gender, number or even tense, and there are few grammatical traps. However you got to pronounce the five tones correctly (flat, down-up, up-down-up, up-down, neutral) and peculiar sounds such as "c", "x", "ch", "sh", "zh" ... (as transcribed in pinyin) or you might say very rude or totally absurd things without being aware.
After my VUB ("Free University of Brussels") post-graduation a week ago, what I already knew since mid January 2008 – being selected as a Belgian Volunteer of the Atos Origin Olympic IT Support Team – is now slowly but surely dawning upon me: Within 25 days I will be granted the joy & honour of becoming a piece of the clockwork behind the XXIX Olympiad staged for the first time in history in the capital of the Middle Kingdom.
Nowadays the People's Republic of China is often being caught in generalities - communism & capitalism, economic wonder & danger, natural medicine & ecologic catastrophe - but there moves a lot more beneath, and - like viewing through a kaleidoscope - colours compositions continue to shift suddenly, while underlying patterns endure. To fully appreciate it's rich cultural aspects, one has to be forever vigilant & curious, below a selection of some interesting facts - and stepping stones to more background information - which caught my eye this month.