Old China Hands lunch 2 August

Our monthly lunch at Morel’s Restaurant

Old China Hands lunch 2 August saw fewer of our members, as expected. We were exactly 20 despite being a low-season sauna weather day. Not too bad anyway.

China Today

The journalists were there again as they had more to discuss with the restaurant, for another interview. In the meantime we got the first version of their video, I must say they did a great job. Footage is from our lunch on 5 July and from their visit to my office on 9 July.
See the new link: http://mp42.china.com.cn/video_tide/video/2019/8/22/20198221566447489029_386.mp4

Another longer version is in the pipeline!

Our next lunch: a change!

Our next lunch will be exceptionally not on the first Friday as the restaurant is closed due to the October 1 holidays. Instead of cancelling we decided to have it on Friday 11 October. Take note! Renaat and Susan will not be back yet but the restaurant will be open. I will also be away during the unpleasant October 1 restrictions, back on Monday 7 October.

Old China Hands lunch 5 July

Our monthly lunch at Morel’s Restaurant

Old China Hands lunch 5 July was rather quiet, as it in the middle of the expat holiday season. We were over twenty, still.

China Today

As you all could notice we had a team of journalists shooting movies and doing interviews, see the pics. That made our rather quiet lunch a bit lively… Victims were Greg, Bruce, Edwin, Terry, Renaat and myself.

The magazine and website are now called “China Today”, a well-known media outlet that comes in several languages such as English, French, Arab, Spanish and German. Formerly “La Chine en Construction”.

See: http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/ctenglish/index.htm

The team was from the French section, “La Chine Au Présent”.
Once I have the link to the video, I will distribute. They expect it to be published in late August.
A few days later they also came to my office for a longer interview, in French. I keep you posted!

Our next lunch

Join us for the sauna session on Friday 2 August. For the hardcore!

Human flesh search engine

What is that?

A human flesh search engine is a term invented in China, see the Wikipedia definition. “It relies on voluntary crowd sourcing: Web users gather together to share information, conduct investigations, and perform other actions concerning people or events of common interest.”

Without really thinking much, I launched such a search, unaware of what would happen.

It all started when I was looking with a Chinese friend at a picture, taken in 1981, of me and my Chinese secretary, Mr. Chen Jilun, at the door of the ACEC office in Beijing Hotel West Wing Room 5109.

We worked together till 1988 when I left for Hongkong. We kept in touch till 1995 (I guess) but then we lost contact as I moved from Beijing to Shanghai.

How to find my Monsieur Chen?

In those times there was no e-mail, no mobiles as today. He had been working for what was at that time a well-known company, “Friendship Company”, that was the sole supplier of staff for foreign companies. Obviously long gone and out of existence.

So I had no idea how to search. Then my friend said, let me try Douyin (the Chinese TikTok). So she posted the 1981 picture along with a recent picture of me and explaining a foreigner was looking for his old friend Mr. Chen Jilun, who was originally from Henan but living in Beijing.
See here the Douyin video:

190710 douyinvideo

I also gave her some more old pictures:

Then it went all wild. We had close to one million hits. People asked questions. Henan Radio and TV called me. My friend was panicking with the success.

Three days later she sent me a WeChat. “We found him!”. She sent me his mobile number. I called and he was already expecting my call…

I found Monsieur Chen

We were both so happy to make contact again.
He explained that actually six people in China had identified him and called him, and he authorized to pass on his number.

We had dinner!

As I suggested, we met for dinner in Morel’s Restaurant on Sunday 14 July. I asked my friend who did the Douyin to join us too.

Mr. Chen still looked much the same, while he is a few years older than me. He brought me a nice present, of course from Henan! See the short video:

190714 chenjilun3

We had a lively chat and will keep in touch, through WeChat, of course.

Human flesh search engine

Douyin hits

Many people that connected through Douyin wanted to see our reunion, so we posted several videos of our dinner, and a picture with chef Renaat Morel. See the Douyin overview with the numbers (units are w = 10,000).

Unique wine dinner

A gastronomic dinner

To enjoy my rather exceptional wine collection, I organize from time to time a unique wine dinner.
The recipe: tasting very old wines, supplied by me, accompanied by a gastronomic dinner feast organized and personally prepared by Chef Renaat Morel.
See the menu for the dishes and the wine list.

Participants are always carefully selected. This time, Ambassador Nicolas Chapuis (EU) and his wife, Ambassador Marc Vinck (Belgium) and his wife, along with Renaat, Susan, my wife and myself.
As it happens, I know H.E. Chapuis from the nineties when I was working in Shanghai for ALSTOM.
I was again asked for the “occasion”: did I become grandfather? I am since long, nope. It is simply to experiment unusually old wines along with exceptional food, and with nice company. It would be insane to open those bottles at home where I am the only one to drink.

The food and the wine

It was a unique wine dinner as I brought along two bottles of a very famous French wine, exactly one hundred years old. And a Rioja from 1963, plus a not so young Médoc.
See my tools; opening those bottles is pure surgery. Normally impossible to extract the cork without some mess. Then the wines were filtered and transferred to a decanter. See one successful “surgery”:

190626 winedinner

Only the Médoc cork came out nicely.

The verdict? The 1919 wines were just “drinkable” and as one said, tasted a bit like Chinese rice wine. The Spanish one was, as usual, pretty nice.
What counts is the unique experience to say, “I tasted a one-hundred-year old Chateau Lafite (Rothschild)”.

Now I am already thinking of the next wine experiment!

Luxembourg National Day

The mandatory sauna

Luxembourg National Day in Beijing is always celebrated in the sticky hot month of June. Real sauna weather. But I normally never miss it!
This year on 20 June 2019 I convinced Sun Bin to join me, with the excuse I needed help in my (still) sorry state, with my wrecked collarbone.
As usual the garden of the residence, hidden in a hutong (Nei Wu Bu Jie, close to Middle School Nr. 2), was full of guests.

Meeting friends

Good to stumble on some friends, including our Belgian Ambassador M. Vinck; Harvey, Sydney, Ignace (Mr. TRB!), Mark and others. Sydney did his rounds meeting the U.S. and Luxembourg ambassador, among others.

A sentimental visit

I do have a special connection with the residence, as I became close friends with the first Luxembourg Ambassador in Beijing, Carlo Ketter, his lovely wife and the first secretary to the Ambassador, Dory. We all stayed in the Beijing Hotel, different buildings, where we met many times for lunch or a drink. He often told me about his challenges getting the building ready to open the embassy. That time electric power supply in the area was erratic; mice had also made a home there. I understand the building was formerly used by the Pakistan embassy. In the first years the compound also housed the embassy. Later the embassy offices moved to the new office on Gongti Bei Lu.

See one of the pictures I managed to dig up: Mrs. Ketter, attending my small party in my home/office in the Beijing Hotel, on 27 June 1981.

I passed on my story to the current Ambassador Dr. Marc Hübsch who later invited me to his residence for a private talk. In his speech that day he mentioned the 40 years of history China-Luxembourg, and the first ambassador, without mentioning his name.