Quarantine back to China

Returning to China is an serious challenge

Facing quarantine back to China is only one of the difficult barriers one faces when trying to return, reason I am stuck here since late 2019.
Getting a valid visa is one hurdle, forget visa for tourism or a quick business trip. Lately China has started to show some flexibility but for many it is still very hard.
There are the exhaustive requirements for COVID tests, green code through the China embassy, getting a flight reservation on one of the very few and horribly expensive flights.
Every country of departure has different regulations, in principle one has to go on a direct flight from the country of your nationality. Other flight routes are possible but even more complicated.
For a family with two children, the cost is outrageous, due to the flight tickets and the cost of quarantine on arrival – you pay for the hotel and the food.
Overall conditions and regulations vary and change without warning.

Quarantine conditions vary

Quarantine back to China is mostly beyond control, it depends on the flight and the city you must first stay. If your destination is Beijing you can quarantine in cities like Xian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Xiamen, … rarely in Beijing.
Worse are the hotels. Mostly you have no choice at all, they put you where they want, not you. You can be lucky to stay in a 5-star hotel with nice room service or be locked up in a horrible local no-star hotel with rubbish food and zero room service.

The experience of a European diplomat couple

The couple landed in a local hotel. With little electricity, no WIFI, infested with mosquitos, cockroaches, ants and other insects. The poor couple is having a crash course in Chinese (unidentified) insects. Only one towel for the couple. Window (closed) to the corridor. Bathroom as in 0-star Chinese hotels. Rotten walls and woodwork.

I wish our European countries would force Chinese arriving to go through the same ordeal. European food, no hot water, insects, whatever. Oh well, the EU has no balls to enforce reciprocity.

Outdated “zero-COVID” policies

We are all permanently terrorized by draconian and arbitrary rules. One needs negative test results in the mobile that vary: last 24 or 48 or 72 hours, to the whim of the location. And pray the test result does appear in your mobile.
Worse, totally out of control is the “contact tracing”. The system checks where you go and where you enter by scanning a QR code. Bad luck if a “suspected case” was in that neighborhood, you might end up with alarm pop-ups that block you from going anywhere, you can (in the best case) be locked up in your home for one or two weeks, or worse, you are dragged away to a far-away “quarantine location” for one or two weeks. Good luck.
Several friends have faced consecutive lockdowns and quarantines for many, many weeks.
And forget travel to anywhere. That can end very badly.
In other word, stay away from China. Many expats are now leaving China for good, many being “Old China Hands”.
My American daughter is visiting Belgium. No tests, no masks, all open, all back to normal. Most of her Belgian family had COVID. That was all OK, just like a flu, a few days at home only.
We remain in our “cage”, before it was China, now it is Beijing. Or a District in Beijing.
Right now I was/am in lockdown for reasons I can call unfounded, unscientific, irrational. Who compensates us for all our losses?
The policies here were initially great and successful. Now it has become unsustainable. But the government sticks to it after adapting the wrong strategies in the past year.
And we are not allowed to complain. Hey! We love it here! It’s all great!
All in all it makes us sad. Because we considered Beijing to be our home.

Looking back Beijing Rotary 2018 (2)

2017-2018 Rotary China Conference

Looking back Beijing Rotary (2) focuses on a full day: 10 March 2018, that started in the Four Seasons Hotel with the China Conference.

The slides show our impressive past when we had so many active clubs, Rotary, Rotaract and Interact. Check the pictures to discover the situation that time and the big turnout.
It’s a piece of history…
Our president was Russell Brown.
You will see also in the pictures: Frank Yih, Ricard Zi, Mike Ma, Gary Huang, among others.
Of the clubs you find in the slides, this is as far as I know the present situation (officially active):

Rotary Clubs:
Rotary Club of Beijing
Rotary Club of Beijing East
Rotary Club of Beijing Riviera

Rotaract Clubs: all terminated as for now

Interact Clubs:
Interact Club of Dulwich College
Interact Club of ISB

Rotary Red Lantern Banquet 2018

The same evening in the Four Seasons Hotel we had our ball with many of our Rotaractors.

I am not sure when we can have any of those remarkable events again, with all the restrictions (COVID, regulations, dwindling membership…).

Looking back Beijing Rotary 2018

Cleaning up my pictures

I have been busy trying to clean up and reorganize my thousands of pictures. I managed to wade through 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018. Result is a first batch of “Looking back Beijing Rotary 2018”.
The year 2018 was a super busy year for me, trips to Indianapolis USA, the shooting of the Jialing River movie, great stay in Phuket, many events, seminars, parties…
Remarkable is the amount of events with Rotary and Rotaract. Our clubs were so busy. It is a bit sad to see the pictures and noticing how many friends left Beijing.
The President of the Rotary Club of Beijing was Russell Brown, later followed by Martin Glatz.
I feel proud to have been so involved with our two Rotaract clubs who were so active.

Buffet dinner at Morel’s Restaurant

On 13 January 2018 I organized a buffet dinner with the help of Rotaract volunteers who also took care of receiving the payments.
It was called “Rotaract & Rotary Meet & Greet & Drink”, the event was very well attended by both Rotarians and Rotaractors, see the pictures that talk for themselves. Sadly many have left Beijing… Some four presidents of our club attended!

We also had the  induction of two new members (Robert Specht & David Boyle) by (then) President Russell, after a banner exchange.
More to come soon! Rotary Conference and Red Lantern Ball!

Beijing Rotary in April 2022

Kempinski lunch

Beijing Rotary in April 2022 was still active before one more COVID scare hit Beijing, shutting down all activities.
On Tuesday 19 April 2022 we had our lunch in Kempinski Hotel with Lucia Zhou, Program Manager of HOPE as our guest speaker. Lucia is a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor recognized by PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship).
Topic: Update about HOPE and the Benefits of the Equine Therapy.

HOPE (Horses Offering People Enrichment) offers equine assisted activities and therapy (EAAT) for children with special needs. Founded by a Californian woman, HOPE was brought to Beijing to provide equine assisted therapy for children with sensory disorder, physical/visual, emotional/social disabilities, and autism. RC Beijing has in the past year sponsored an Instructor Training for one equine therapist through the Instructor Educational Course. Lucia Zhou, the program director at HOPE and a Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor recognized by PATH International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship), brought to the meeting the instructor trainer who has recently completed her trainer training program, and a young adult who has received the equine therapy from HOPE. Lucia thanked the club for the support and sponsorship. With her training completed, the trainer is now equipped with skills to design and create tailored-made programs to benefit the children in need and is qualified to train other equine therapists to further their service in the community. Lucia and her colleagues expressed their wish that the club could continue to provide financial aid toward their instructor training this year.

Haochuan Tom Zhang also shared his experience at HOPE. While receiving therapy from HOPE, Tom also helps with working around the stable, looking after the horse he had ridden, and assisting with equine therapy.

More about HOPE

I had the chance to meet the HOPE team earlier and I also saw several of the videos showing the remarkable effect of the treatment.On 25 March 2018 Rotaract invited the HOPE people to give an introduction to their program, in the former Restaurant Red Rose.
The effect on kids with mental disabilities can be impressive. We saw kids that refused all communication with adults, they started riding the horses and created a bond with them. Then suddenly they spoke words never heard before…

See also: HOPE 2021 Annual Report Final with Photos

Online China District Conference

I joined the Tencent (Voov) meeting on Saturday afternoon on 23 April.
It was chaired by SR Richard Zi who also introduced the incoming SR Andrew Hill (1 July 2022). I found that part to be the most interesting.
See here the details:
The announced program: 220423 conference1
The updated program: 220423 conference2
The guest speaker: 220423 Conference Speaker

See some screenshots of the online meeting. I only saw myself appearing “life” from our club. And yes we even had a “group picture”, try to find me…
I had hoped to see more updates of all our China clubs as some of the clubs are struggling or even closing. While the guest speaker did a good job. I thought it was not relevant to what we really wanted to learn.
And we never got the slides that were shown…

Rotary lunch 8 March

Kempinski Hotel

For our Rotary lunch 8 March 2022 we had as speaker Sjoerd den Daas, Correspondent of the Dutch Broadcast Corporation NOS who reflected upon his recent experience of the Winter Olympics from a journalist perspective.

We also concluded the auction of the Winter Olympic tea set I donated for the following Rotary Disaster Fund:
The United Nations estimates that number of Ukraine refugees could grow to as many as 5 million people displaced. Inter-country Committees and Rotary clubs in Europe and around the world have stepped up their relief work, some working on the ground to help displaced families.
Rotary International has established a special Committee that will coordinate the provision of assistance from around the world to Ukraine, funds will be used to supply water, food, medicine, shelter, and clothing.
See here to donate directly: https://my.rotary.org/en/disaster-response-fund

Times a changing

As things become more and more complicated in China, Rotary is not allowed to operate normally, so many restrictions.
How times change. See here an announcement I did in March 2005 for the Rotary Charity Ball.

This today would not be allowed anymore.
Oh well…

Gilbert on Youtube, Introducing Rotary in Beijing

3 August 2012
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKd6pKr_VQ8

Rotary eClub 3170 Guest Speaker Gilbert Van Kerckhove
Rotary Club of Beijing, China
I also talk about my origins, what I did in China…