Adventure advocate

Updated: 2013-05-07 09:52

By Xu Lin (China Daily)

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Adventure advocate

Photo provided to China Daily

He found it difficult to endure the monotonous life outside work. There were few places open to foreigners, apart from Wangfujing Street and the Friendship Store, reserved exclusively for foreigners.

Fortunately, he renewed his acquaintance with the tugboat mechanic he met in Nigeria, and through this Chinese networking, he was introduced to other Chinese friends in Beijing. It came full cycle when he met Sun Bing, to whom he is now happily married.

It was a very typical introduction. His friends had asked him to find a boyfriend for Sun, who couldn't speak English and had to use a small dictionary to communicate with him.

As an innocent foreigner, he was the last to realize that they were setting him up for a date.

His friends all had a good laugh after he was married, often joking about the first dinner date where the main dish was buffalo penis in hot sauce.

Now happily living in Beijing with his wife and daughter Valerie, van Kerckhove says he has no intention to leave despite the air pollution that has caused many expatriates to have second thoughts.

"There are problems here but Beijing's a very unique place," says van Kerckhove, adding that he loves Beijing because of its culture.

As the only foreigner among the committee members of the Specialist Working Group for the Beijing 12th Five Year Plan, van Kerckhove has used his position to counsel improvements to the city's urban traffic and environment, "because you feel part of this country somehow, and you'd like to contribute".

Some of his recommendations have been implemented, for example, the promotion of electric vehicles usage and the increase of bike lanes and parking lots.

"Beijing is my second home. If I go back to my hometown in Belgium, it now feels like a village. It's never boring in China, and I wouldn't know what to do in other countries," he says.

Adventure advocate

Adventure advocate

 A life by the wall  Life of Guo

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