Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, born in Geneva, Switzerland
Adrian Flynn, 9, born in Geneva, Switzerland
Stephanie: We came to Beijing for my job. I’m the Northeast Asia Director and China Adviser for the International Crisis Group (www.crisisgroup.org) – an independent think tank focused on global conflict analysis, prevention and resolution. We started in 1995 as a response to the tragedies in Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia. I opened the Beijing office in June 2008. My specific work in Beijing focuses on research and advocacy on Chinese policy towards troubled countries. I spend my workdays thinking about things like nuclear weapons in North Korea, firefights on the Burmese border, and maritime clashes in the South China Sea.
Adrian: Even though Mom and I were both born in Geneva, we are American citizens. Except for two years in New York, I’ve always lived in other countries. My mom says she’s lived outside the US longer than she has lived in the US. And we have one other member of our family … our cat. He’s 9 like me. We found him on the street a few years ago here in Beijing.
Stephanie: Before being asked by the UN to work in China in 1999, I had spent over six years working for the UN in countries such as Rwanda,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, Liberia, Iran, and Albania. My current job allows me to combine my interest in China (and the relative safety and comfort of living in China) with my past experience working in some of the world’s toughest conflict zones.
My work involves a significant amount of travel, and Adrian often travels with me. We spent his eighth birthday in North Korea. While there, Adrian hit it off with a North Korean general at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Adrian was carrying around his Star Wars action figures and explained to the North Korean general all about General Grievous’ powers. Throughout our time in North Korea, he asked many questions about the lives of children in North Korea. He asked, for example, why he saw kids working in the fields. Our guide replied that the kids go to the fields several times a year to help their parents. He said that outside activity is very good for kids, making them strong, exposing them to fresh air, and that it is much better for them than computer games. Of course, I fully agreed! Adrian also asked why kids go to school without breakfast (after the tour guide said that the government provided children with breakfast at school), and she said that it was because children like to sleep late and don’t get up in time for breakfast. Adrian agreed that we sometimes we have that same issue at our house.
We have also spent two weeks traveling around Myanmar, and most recently, we went to Jakarta – which ended in Bali [and included]a trip to what Adrian thinks is one of the best water parks in the world. It’s called Waterbom (though we also love the waterpark in Beijing’s Water Cube).
When we are not traveling, Adrian and I can usually be found in Beijing exploring all its corners by bicycle (often on our tandem) and by foot, haggling in the local markets, spending time in the parks, hiking on and around the Great Wall, discovering new restaurants, and indulging in the city’s vibrant art, music and underground rock scenes (though Adrian doesn’t get to tag along for the latter!).
Adrian: I go to school at the Western Academy of Beijing. I love to play baseball and am a huge fan of the New York Yankees. I also practice Taekwondo, and love to film and edit my own movies. I’ve been trying
to get my mom to buy me Final Cut Pro for my tenth birthday in October – iMovie can’t do what I want to do. My mom says I’m a real entrepreneur, because I’m always looking for ways to make money. But really … I want to make movies when I grow up.
Stephanie: Each time I have a dinner party he does something like "selling" cookies or cupcakes for dessert, or putting on a magic show with an admission charge. He once performed an event called "Flips for Charity,” where he did flips from our window ledge onto the couch for money, which indeed went to charity. More recently, he likes to show guests some of the movies he has made.
Outside of work and spending time with Adrian, my interests are in art, foreign policy, social justice, social media, urban design, subculture, film, theater, haphazardly discovering new music, yoga, underwater photography, National Public Radio, Jon Stewart, and Eddie Izzard. And I love Ashtanga and Bikram yoga. Perhaps I’ll teach yoga in my next life.