40 years of China

Celebration or?

On 9 December 2020 I celebrated my exact 40 years of China with a dinner party for 40 guests in Morel’s Restaurant in Beijing. I arrived in Beijing for the first time on 9 December 1980 to open an office for a Belgian company (Ateliers de Construction Electriques de Charleroi, ACEC) and never planned to stay that long. Somehow I hesitated, should I celebrate, observe a minute of silence or ?

Forty years of China is a lot to digest. As I mentioned in my short speech, some suggested I show pictures or a PowerPoint. But condensing 40 years of changes in a slideshow is impossible. It’s like calling yourself a China Expert, which I never do. The longer you stay here, the more modest you become. I still have so much to learn.

The early days, my room in the Beijing Hotel, serving as office, bedroom, living room, (improvised) kitchen

It was a tough one to select whom to invite, as there was a limit imposed by the restaurant’s space, and my budget. Sorry to those who missed it.
Chef Renaat again prepared a fabulous buffet. In February it will be also 20 years I have been coming to his restaurant.

Friends and food

I had the pleasure and honor to welcome the ambassador of the European Delegation (we know each other since the nineties), the Belgian ambassador, and many other friends from our Old China Hands group.
We also welcomed our colleagues from UWEE with whom we work together for the Foreign Experts Committee under SAFEA, see here. They also gave me an unusual present with the socks!

Happy to have sold a few copies of my books, as I requested not to bring any presents.
There was plenty of food and drinks in the packed restaurant.

Speech, interview

I gave a short speech. Renaat and others then gave me a set of “bottles”, to make fun of my so-called month of not-drinking: a range of imported mineral water…

The EU ambassador brought a special present: a white board for all participants to sign as a souvenir.

I was also interviewed by China Today (La Chine au Présent), see here the online link (all in Chinese) with the UWEE video: http://www.chinatoday.com.cn/zw2018/spzg_4957/202012/t20201211_800229877.html

Or see here the PDF of the interview, along with a translation: 201209 ChinaToday interview


For those who cannot open the Chinese link and watch the video, see here (need VPN):

YouTube video: https://youtu.be/vXcAlD4Aheg

“On 9 December 2020 I celebrated my exact 40 years of China with a dinner party for 40 guests in Morel’s Restaurant in Beijing. I arrived in Beijing for the first time on 9 December 1980 and never planned to stay that long.”

Thanks to Mark of UWEE for the great video!

Old China Hands 4 December

Full house

Our lunch for Old China Hands 4 December saw a full house with a total of 38, while two could not show up, otherwise we were 40.
Good to see a few of the missing members who made it back to Beijing.

Our friend Kent again surprised us with his culinary skills, bring deserts for all of us, cannoli and Apple strudel. Well done!
Cannoli: see here the details of the Italian pastry dessert: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannoli. Not to be confused with the Italian pasta dish, cannelloni.
Apple strudel (German: Apfelstrudel): see here the details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_strudel.

Next lunch

As 1 January 2021 is a Friday, the lunch will be exceptionally on Friday 8 January.
Chef Renaat has kept the very low price for the set lunch in 2020 but he will have to increase the price to RMB 130, the normal price being 148 (without coffee or tea) and we also get a coffee extra, value 28.
Happy Holidays to all and see you in 2021!

Old China Hands 6 November

Full house

Our Old China Hands 6 November lunch had a nice crowd of 34 people. New faces and also some who managed to come back after the imposed quarantine. We can now say Beijing is the safest place to be in this dangerous virus world…
Again our friend Kent surprised us all with a big box of his home-made cookies “Halloween” theme. Thank you Kent!
While the “official” start time is 12:00 half of the tables are full well before midday. All eager to join the lunch!

Renaat Morel, the boss of Morel’s Restaurant still sticks to his special price for our set menu. I guess an increase is due for January as it is really (too) cheap.

Next lunch

The next lunch is set for Friday 4 December, the last one of the virus year.
We hope to see more of our members back from abroad.

Morel Restaurant full house

Old China Hands

Morel Restaurant full house started on Friday 2 October with our monthly Old China Hands lunch. Right in the middle of the October 1 holidays we attracted over 30 people in a full restaurant. Happy to see some of our friends coming back from abroad.
A film crew was there to make a movie about our Belgian friend Wilfried and his China story.
Again a nice mix of nationalities. But we need more ladies!

Next lunch Friday 6 November.

We had to wait

I went back to Morel’s Restaurant for dinner, finding a totally full house. Even our usual table was taken, by some American friends from Amcham. So we had to camp outside waiting for our turn, to have a table and to be served dinner. Yeah tough as we had to compensate with great Belgian beer and French rosé.


Most of us went for the famous Martino sandwich, my one with the extra anchovies. Delicious! This sandwich, as some other ones are not yet on the menu. Only on demand and prepared by chef Renaat in person.

Great to see people again resuming normal life in Beijing, the safest place to be!
Morel’s did not close during the October 1 holidays and has seen full house most of the time. Interestingly, most of the customers are now Chinese, except for some groups.

Old China Hands Lunch 4 September

Back in numbers!

We had our Old China Hands Lunch 4 September with a very nice attendance: 30 plus one child! That is the best we had this year. Of course we miss the thirty something of our members still stuck abroad.

Our friend Kent brought a big tiramisu as a desert for all. It was wonderful. He also got the praise from Chef Renaat!

Next lunch

Planned for Friday 2 October, right in the middle of the October 1 Golden Week. It’s a gamble as always: no excuse you need to work. Bored at home, as many (like me) still avoid travel and the annoyance of being targeted as “dangerous foreign virus carriers”.
Anyway, Morel’s Restaurant will be open, so let’s go for it!