Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 1- The GreenTree Hotel and Green SMEs

I took the train from Qingdao to Beijing, leaving at 10:27AM and arriving just after the scheduled time of 4PM. From there, I took Line 4 and Line 13 to an area of Beijing know for its universities. I saw, from the window of Line 13, the GreenTree Hotel so I decided to walk there, but they could not find my name on the reservations' list. I was starting to get worried when they told me that there are 17 GreenTree Hotels in the city. I got into a cab and 21RMB later (and a couple of phone calls from the cabby to the concierge) found myself at the right place around 6PM. I am rooming with a man from Barcelona.

There are three people, who will join as soon as possible, stranded in Shanghai due to a typhoon. My friends from work, Jason and Dom, are in the Philippines. This weather is scary. It is pouring in Changchun again, but here it is nice weather, relatively (relative humidity is 85% or so).

The people who have arrived include a girl named Alice (my li'l sis' name) from Australia; two smiley boys with the map of Ireland on their face, to whom I awkwardly announced that I had been reading William Butler Yeats on the train; a sharp fellow from South Africa, who has been in Beijing for six months learning Chinese; an analyst for Shell of French origin and a male classmate of hers from France, as well; a Dutchman; an East Indian from London; and a Chinese woman from Dalian, who seems very educated and well-connected.

After a nice welcome dinner, we headed to a Beijing Energy Network BEER event where a gentleman reported on the Impact Report of Green Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). It was a first of its kind attempt to explore and develop a methodology to evaluate the business, environmental and social performance of green SMEs in seven green sectors and evaluate the contribution that green SMEs have made to China’s economic transformation. It also highlights the challenges to the development of green SMEs and discovers their needs as well as explores different ways in which SMEs can realize “environmentally friendly” and “resource-saving” development.
The report is based on the Impact Performance Indicators System developed for SMEs in China, jointly developed by New Ventures Global (part of WRI), the Institute for Environment and Development, and the Information Center of MIT. 
One of the companies (aka SMEs), named Landwasher, has created a new waterless flush toilet that allows rural villages in China to use the by-product (aka night spoil or humanure) to fertilize their crops. While most of these toilets are probably not replacing toilets that do use water, the claim is that if the 10,000 that they have in the market were each used 100 times per day, there would be 1.64 million tons of water saved annually.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tsingtao Beer and Qingdao Seafood

Qingdao, PRC- This is a city that was built from a fortune made on beer. It is a place of fishermen who used to live on the other side of the tracks, but now they are rich as we deplete the seas and charge 188RMB per kilo for flounder. I have had a lot of seafood. The first night we drank a pitcher of beer and had a couple sea chestnuts as well as this fish.

Wandering the streets you see many places where they are drying fish...right on the sidewalk. Make sure you wash your dried fish seems to be the moral of the story.

I have enjoyed the beer, which is for sale in its raw or unfiltered form here. Have also had some great fish dumplings and shrimp dishes.

We paid 60RMB to sit under an umbrella at Beach #1 today. Beggars kept coming along to ask for money, but the most startling beggar experience I have had in China was not at the beach but right after getting off the train here. A woman and her three children came up to me and the children started to tug at my clothing. It was tragic and sad.

An old-fashioned bottle-washer

Tsingtao Brewery Co., Ltd. has been many things in its illustrious history, including owned and operated by the Japanese during the First World War. It was run as the Dai Nippon Brewery Co., Ltd. In 1922, the Chinese re-took Qingdao from its occupiers, but the company continued to be run by the Japanese until the end of the Second World War.

The brewery was founded on August 15, 1903 as the Germania-Brauerei (Germania Brewery) with a paid-in capital of 400,000 Mexican silver dollars.

Originally, Tsingtao Beer was brewed in accordance with the German Reinheitsgebot ('Purity Law') of 1516, therefore the only ingredients that were used were water, barley, and hops. This German law is the oldest food safety law in the world still enforced. However, after privatization the recipe changed; like many other beers made in China, Tsingtao Beer contains a proportion of rice (less-expensive) as an adjunct in the mash.

There was a lot of general history about beer and the process of making it.You could see hops growing and there were life-size dioramas of men malting the barley.

The company has made a commitment to environmental stewardship and had this awesome sign:

Beer was also declared a health food in 1972. Who knew?

The Old Observatory

I am staying at a youth hostel called The Old Observatory. The rooms smell like the mold that is growing on the ceiling, but the air-conditioner works and so does the TV so I have caught some of China's Olympic glory, as reported by CCTV. Just watched Zhang and Wang vs. the Germans in ping-pong. They pretend like they sometimes sell stamps at the front counter, but I suspect it is a ruse. My room is right across from the dorm room with bunk beds and is the first one you get to on the first floor after checking in so it's a bit noisy. There was a verbal fight late last night between a man and woman.

The roof deck is wonderful despite the plywood decor on the inside. The parasols hang up-side down as protection from the punishing sun (my forearms got quite burnt in just a couple hours) and water dribbles down the skylights in a continuous fountain.