Is China scary? A look at mundane life

When I was back in the Netherlands last month, one thing I often heard was that people see China as a scary country. And I don’t want this to be some justification for all of China’s flaws — nor whether you should agree with it. If you’re a journalist, China can be scary — but […]

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Up the Yangtze

When flying back from the Netherlands to China, I watched ‘Up the Yangtze’ from 2007. It’s not a masterpiece but precious video material from China two decades ago. (And I’m always looking for more film material from the 90s and 00s.) The documentary follows several stories — the main focus being a poor Chinese family […]

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Along the IJssel

Cycling with my brother from our hometown to Kampen and back, along the river the IJssel — which in this season has flooded the summer dikes and is held by the winter dikes. Such a long bicycle ride with my brother is always one of my favorite things to do when back home. 46 kilometers […]

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Chinese New Year banners

I love the Chinese tradition of hanging up New Year Banners (春联). For me (and I guess for many) it’s not really about bringing fortune or warding off evil spirits. It’s more the signal of a season, to take part in something familiar that unites you with your past, as well as so many homes […]

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Hometown forest

The forest around my hometown. Soft ground under your feet, a hundred shades of green, leaves rustling in the wind, and paths that go on and on. Not a single path is the same. Nature has left dozens of markers to let you know exactly where you are, or how to get back. There’s a […]

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Things forgotten and learned

I’m in my pajamas reading a book in bed in my parent’s guest room — back in the Netherlands after living in China for over five years now. My mom walks into the room and sits on my blanket for a chat, but I tell her that’s so gross because she has been wearing those […]

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In Pale Battalions review

My dad has all of Robert Goddard’s books and this was my first time reading one. I picked Pale Battalions because it’s highly rated online; because its name sounds like a Fischer Z song; and because when I asked my dad to suggest a Goddard title, he suggested the same one. Plus we’ve been to the […]

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Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains

PVG to AMS flight, another movie: Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (春江水暖) from 2019 — shot in Hangzhu’s Fuyang district (富阳区). A slow but deep film that packs so much about a changing China and culture. Family, money, marriage, housing prices, the rising economy, taking care of elders.

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The name and city of Chuzhou

My phone’s keyboard can auto-suggest names like Amsterdam or Canberra, and names like Spotify or Maserati — but it does not know nor auto-complete the name Chuzhou, despite four million people living here. Many Chinese cities are like that. They exist and they’re huge — multi-million populations — but auto-correct (as well as many people) […]

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No signal

After attending the world’s biggest tech event, it’s nice to go to a place without any cell phone signal: Calico Basin of the Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas. ‘No cell phone signal’ isn’t a metaphor or anything. Having my Uber drop me off here wasn’t an issue, but when I finished the trail, I […]

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