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Beijing and flying away

Hi all,

I arrived in Beijing on Tuesday. We had a 7:40 am flight from Kunming to Beijing. The time I spent in the Kunming airport was a complete mess. Most flights allow you to have 50 lbs (about 23 kg) but this airline of course only allowed 20 kg so I had to pay a baggage fee. In Chinese airports, you are supposed to take out battery packs so I decided to put it in my suitcase that I was checking in. I assumed this would not be a problem then. Of course not. I had to go through a full security check of my bag and tore everything apart for them to tell me it should have been put into my carry-on. Wouldn’t you think putting it in your checked bag would be OK? Apparently not. What is my life.

Anyway, the flight was fine. I found out on all Chinese airlines you get a meal. My friend was shocked when I told her that on US airlines you only really do if it is like 8 hours or longer. Her longest flight ever was 3.5 hours. The flight went well otherwise.

As you may have seen on the news, Beijing was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 and “China’s triumph over Japan”. As you may not know, during WW2, Japan invaded China and killed many Chinese people. When Japan surrendered, it was a big deal for the Chinese. As far as I know, this is really the only time (ignoring ancient times) that China was invaded and had many, many people killed. The point of me telling this story is they basically blocked half the roads for a huge military parade on the 3rd. My hotel is next to a large shopping street. All the stores were closed and it was deserted. It was really weird but actually kind of nice.

So once I got here, it was around lunch time. I decided to go on a walk to look for food. I walked for 2 hours without finding anything. I was kind of delirious and starving at this point. It was like 85 degrees Fahrenheit out so naturally I was dying of thirst. This all could have been avoided if I had turned LEFT instead of RIGHT out of my hotel, but what can you do about it? I eventually found a 7-11 and got some steamed buns. I came back to my room with blistered feet and watched television. This hotel has English shows! It made me so happy. They have HBO, Cinemax, National Geographic, and BBC. I like all of these. I have been watching many nature documentaries which are some of my favorite shows to watch.

On my crazy walk, I was able to walk near the Forbidden City. I was unable to go in, but it is beautiful in this area! I know some of it is kind of staged to look old, but I like this area of Beijing for the reason I like DC. There are no skyscrapers and it feels kind of like “home”. It doesn’t feel like a big city. It actually feels like you are just walking down a street in some town. I guess part of this may have been because there was no one there, but I will take what I can get.

Later that night, my friend invited me to have Beijing duck. Beijing is famous for their speciality duck, and it was delicious! We even wrapped it in some tortilla type thing which made me really happy, because I miss tacos like crazy. I am really happy I had it. But due to the holiday, I was locked in my hotel and not legally allowed to leave on September 2nd 10pm to 1pm on September 3rd. I got back to my hotel just in time. I was mad at first that I would be locked away for so long, but I am really happy I was. I need to relax and take it easy. Being unable to leave was actually really good. I woke up without an alarm. I rolled out of bed. Went to breakfast. I had my first waffle in 2 months. It was such a beautiful moment I almost cried (not literally). I had orange juice as well. I knew I loved breakfast food, but I was not quite sure I loved it this much. Leslie Knope sums it all below.

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After that, I went to my room and laid on my bed as I watched Nat Geo. I worked on some things I needed to get done that were relatively easy. While I was lying in bed, I hear some strange noises. I knew the parade was going to pass on the street over, but I did not know they would have helicopters and planes as well! Below are some pictures from my hotel window. I am not quite sure how I got so lucky to get a corner room facing the direction of Tiananmen. How cool!

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By the time 1pm rolled around, I was just about ready to leave. I left around 1:45pm. My friend had said that all the historical sites would be closed all day, but she was wrong! I decided to go look if they were even if she said they would be. I figured if all fails I would get some walking in. I wanted to go to Jingshan Park. Jingshan Park is also known as Coal Hill. It costs 2 Yuan to get in (about 35 cents). It clearly has a giant hill. People enjoy this park because the hill allows you to see the entire city. Below is a few pictures from the top. There is not much in the park otherwise, but the few is totally worth 35 cents. During the spring, there is a peony garden but it was closed when I went. There was also the tree in which an old Chinese leader hung himself. I don't remember the full story, honestly. I just remember he was ashamed of his actions so he hung himself. I am really glad I went to the park because it was not crowded. I think many people were avoiding the center city due to the parade.

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After this, I went to Houhai Lake. Houhai is an absolutely beautiful lake. There are many over-priced shops, restaurants, and bars around it. I enjoyed just walking around and people watching. I genuinely enjoy just walking anywhere so this was right up my alley. Below are a few pictures from my walk along the lake. I am not quite sure what the tower is because it was closed when I was there. It makes for good photos though. This was the type of location and scenery I had been wanting to see while in China. People are fishing, swimming, playing ping-pong, and more. After this, I walked a few hutongs. Hutongs are small alleys. There are many mom and pop stores there. I would recommend just taking a stroll if you ever come to Beijing.

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The next day I had a cooking class! I have never taken a cooking class before. I walked down a small hutong to get there. It was at a Chinese woman’s house. Most of the Chinese houses I have been to (which is actually a lot since I did so many surveys) are sort of like small compounds. They have concrete walls that block their house from the others. They have small concrete patios with a few steps up to their house. Hers was very similar. It was very cozy! It felt like I was home (but clearly in China). There was 1 English woman, an English family of 5, and a Belgium couple in the class as well. Making dumplings is HARD. Rolling the dough into a perfect circle is near impossible. Below are my “circles”. Anyway, I really enjoyed the class! It was nice to be around other travelers and to discuss their experiences. It also was one of the only home cooked meals I had my entire trip. It was nice to be doing something different!

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It rained for the rest of the day after my cooking class. I relaxed in my room. After a little while, I went out to Wangfujing. It is a high-end shopping area about 2 blocks from me. I window shopped and drank a coffee. It was pretty relaxing. At night, I went to the Wangfujing street food area. It was very interesting! Below are a few pictures of what they have. They have the usual dumplings and steamed buns. They ALSO have some very intriguing BBQ’d things such as scorpions, starfish, and seahorses. I did not try any while I was there because my stomach had not been in good shape the past week.

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The next day I spent shopping. I went to the infamous Silk Street. This is a six story shopping palace. This is the place where they have the fake goods that require you to be an expert bargainer. I was pretty good at bargaining. I just learned you say no repeatedly until you give a price and they say OK. One lady even complemented me on my skills! I then went to Panjiayuan Antique market. I did not buy any antiques (it is illegal to bring antiques from China back to the US). It was cool though. I really enjoy looking at markets of all kinds. I guess it is the economist in me.

I fly to America tomorrow. It truly has been an adventure of a lifetime: the bad and the good. I have learned more than I ever thought was imaginable. It has been good, China. I cannot lie though. I am ready to return. I am happy I spent some time in Beijing. It gave me a little time to relax and enjoy China from a different perspective. China is a marvelous country with very kind people who want people to love their country as much as they do. Thank you for the good time, China.

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Stay classy, China. This is not goodbye. This is see you later. Literally. I will be back in a month.

Xiao xiao (Stephanie)

Posted by snmyrick 06:41 Comments (0)

DONE

Hi errybody,

I officially have 1 week left in China. It has been one heck of a ride… that is for sure. I cannot think of a trip that could encompass the word “adventure” any better. The first day in China I literally ran off the plane when it landed in Beijing to catch my next flight in 1.5 hours, was pushed around by the security guards at the airport, got super sick on my flight to Kunming, was so tired I felt drugged, and basically fell over into my bed upon arrival. The next day I had a 9:30 am meeting where my jet lag was so bad I was waiting to just fall out of chair and fall asleep comfortably on my floor. I spent two weeks in Kunming. I then went to the field for almost 3 weeks which involved in staying 6+ hotels and driving over 4 hours every day. Due to all the driving, I finished all of the Hunger Games audiobooks. I stayed in Xuanwei City for a week conducting interviews of value chain actors. I returned to Kunming for about 2 weeks and am not back in the field for 3 days. Oooooweee! It has not been easy but it has been a great trip. The people of China are kind and thoughtful. Actually tonight my friend told them I love fried potatoes so they ordered them especially for me. Little do they know my French fry obsession is pretty serious. I will miss the Chinese street food. My favorite is the spicy fried potatoes. They fill a wok with some oil and fry the potatoes in front of you. They are so crispy! They then cover it in red pepper flakes, scallions, and a few other spicy ingredients…. And I think soy sauce. For a big container it is 5 Yuan which is like 90 cents. It is the way to my heart!

The other day my friend decided we should go on an adventure to a specific dumpling restaurant. Apparently the dumpling in north China is better than south China. I would agree if these dumplings were any indication. Any way, we walked like 5 kilometers in about an hour to get there. Kunming weather is nice most of the time but we are in rainy season so it is usually overcast and kind of chilly. Not the kind of summer weather I had hoped for. Let’s just say I am as white as I was when I came to China. Anyway, to get there, we have to walk through downtown Kunming which is a shopping metropolis. I like this area because there are many things to see and to do. Well, anyway, we walked past a Starbucks. I have not had a real coffee since July 10. I love coffee. I have at least 1 a day every day. After lunch, I made us stop by Starbucks. Of course on the way back it began to pour. After some waiting, we made it to Starbucks. Thankfully the baristas spoke enough English that I could order a black coffee. This Starbucks has an atrium in it which means it has floor to ceiling windows and the ceiling has windows too. My friend and I sat and watched the rain fall as I drank my coffee. Even though we were really doing nothing, it is probably one of my favorite memories in China. I think it is the only time I have ever felt fully relaxed in China. Even if I get enough sleep at night, I feel tired because my mind is constantly running. It literally never stops. It makes me so exhausted as I think of all the things that may have gone wrong or may go wrong with the project. It is difficult not to feel this way when there are so many things to do, no time to ever stop working, and the plans are constantly changing. So we sat and watched the rain for about an hour. The sidewalk slanting downhill so a small river had formed down the sidewalk. I watched people jump and skip over the small river but many of them failed to avoid it. I sipped my coffee. I was really happy. The sound of rain is one of my favorite sounds. It drowns out every other noise. Rain is something I have no control over. Mother Nature decides that. I have had to make many decisions while being here regarding our methodology and what to do. I was pretty happy, in this instance, I had to make no decision other than when to sip my coffee. These are the days I enjoy the most. Light conversation while it rains over coffee.

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I leave to Beijing on the early morning of September 2. I am really excited for this. My time in Yunnan has been exciting and eye opening, but I am very excited to go sightseeing and to relaxxxxx. I hate pools and swimming, but I have never been more excited to go to the pool in my hotel and read Lord of the Rings (I finished The Help and am now on the Fellowship of the Ring). I am excited to finally decide everything on my own. It is funny how sometimes I say, “ugh, I hate making decisions.” I am so grateful I can make my own decisions. As I have said, the locals decide what goes on most of the time. This entire trip I have been told where to eat and where to go (for the most part but not the entire time). Beijing will be the first time in which I get to decide EVERYTHING on my own! I think we need to remember how incredibly amazing it is to have choice even if it can be hard.

Next week I will be in Beijing. I will be alone, but as I said before, I am so excited to do what I want to do … even if it is just going on a walk. I am also excited because I will likely have access to REAL coffee. I have been living off instant Nescafe coffee and it just doesn’t cut it. I am sad my days in the field are over, but I am so excited to not have to think all the time. I am constantly on my toes waiting for a phone call that says this is wrong or this changed so what do we do? I am usually the one who has the final say. This trip has given me indispensable friendships, wonderful memories, and more. I have so many skills that will (hopefully) improve my chance on the job market at the end of this school year (maybe…). I love the work I do because I get to “solve” mysteries and determine what may have happened. I think this is exciting. I am more excited to write my thesis than ever before. BUT first I need, like, a 1 month break. I basically worked for 2 months straight so… overtime pay? I wish. Oh well.

Other interesting notes:
I have seen many Chinese people eating tomatoes like they are apples. Sometimes they dip tomato slices into sugar.
They eat pizza with plastic gloves.
They do not like cheese.
The Chinese dictionary is separated by parts of a symbol. There is a specific order in which you draw a symbol. The first part you draw is the first part in which you look up in the dictionary.

Until next time mis amigos,
Steph

Posted by snmyrick 21:45 Comments (0)

"Eat Pray Love": China edition

Hi friends,

I wrote this blog in segments so when I refer to “today” or “yesterday” see the date above.

8/20

I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned in China is how to be alone. Major parts of my life have been trying to find a group so I would not be alone. It has been trying to find someone to connect to so I feel like there is somewhere I can call home. Well, during my time in China, I really have no friends here. This means I have to learn to be OK with myself. I think many people struggle with this. Even in college, people thirst for acceptance. I cannot say I am not part of this group, but in China, I have learned it is OK to be alone. The people who think others are “losers” for eating dinner or doing an activity alone are the ones who need to learn.

On this topic, today is Chinese lover’s day aka their Valentine’s Day. I will say excuse me as you read this because this post will get very Eat Pray Love very quickly. Anyway, the day does not really bother me. The US Valentine’s Day is not until February and I will be with the one I love at that time. So today I was on my own for dinner so I decided to try out a nice American coffee shop/restaurant that was recommended to me by a friend’s sister who spent last summer in Kunming. I heard many expats go there to hang out and eat so I thought why not. I was craving some Western food anyway. So I Google Maps where to go and go on my way to dinner. I feel pretty comfortable walking around Kunming now so I was not very nervous about getting there. Once I walked in though, I was riddled with nerves. Where was I going to sit? Do I read my book and wait for a waitress? Do I read while I eat? What do I do? I plan everything in my life so no wonder I was already planning my escape plan.

I sat down at the bar and a waitress quickly handed me a menu. I had already looked at the menu online and had decided I wanted a quesadilla. If you know nothing about me, you should know that there are few things in the world that I love more than Mexican food. Back home, I probably eat Mexican 2-3 times a week. Anything with black beans is worth eating. Anyway, I looked over the menu and knew I wanted a Mediterranean quesadilla and a pineapple juice mix. Once I ordered, the woman nodded her head and I began reading my book. One of my favorite traditions I have is with two of my best friends, Molly and Charlotte. We only give each other gifts if they are from a thrift store. Most of the time it is eclectic housewares (like the giant gold spoon I gave Molly which I still don’t know what it is used for). Of course there are exceptions, but it is more fun to have to be creative. Anyway, one of the last gifts I got from Charlotte was “The Help”. Charlotte and I both share a mutual love for books. I have been reading “The Help”, and I absolutely love it. One of the most popular lines from the book and one of my favorite lines is from a maid who tells a little girl “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This one line has a lot of power behind it. I say this because I don’t think many people in the world love themselves. We get our self-worth from others. In reality, it should only ever come from yourself. I know this can sound hypocritical from myself since I don’t always love myself, but I think it is really important to remember this. When you are alone, you don’t have to be lonely. If you are OK with spending time by yourself, you will never truly be alone.

Many people feel uncomfortable because they fear of being judged or feeling alone. Tonight at dinner, I was alone, but I did not feel alone. I read this interesting opinions article by a woman who says travelling alone is better than with others. In this world, too many woman are afraid to do anything alone. I cannot say I have truly ever travelled completely alone, but I think it is a triumph for myself to eat dinner alone even if it is considered small. One part of me dreads it, but I think another part of it is exhilarating. I can choose what I want to eat, where I want to eat, if I want to go on a walk afterwards, if I want sorbet, if I want a donut, and I do not have to consider anyone but myself. This trip has mainly been me with 10 other people. Sometimes it is nice to eat a donut stuffed with chocolate and watch an indie flick. Sometimes it means eating dinner and being able to actually read. Anyway, this trip has meant me learning to be OK alone. It is a learning process of course, but I think it may be one of the most valuable lessons I can learn. I mean who else can you count on more than yourself, right?

Here is the article I am referring to http://time.com/3708374/women-travel-alone/

8/22

Yesterday, I went to the Shilin Stone Mountains. The Stone Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was pretty interesting! The mountains are Karst limestone that have moved above ground due to the movement of tectonic plates. It is quite remarkable what Mother Nature can do! I walked almost the entire park. Plus, I was too cheap to purchase the ticket for the electric car so I walked about 1.8 miles to get there and 1.8 miles back plus whatever I did in the park. It was quite the experience though! It was the first real day off I have had this entire trip. It was not as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was more exciting to feel the wind on my face as I sat in a pagoda overlooking the stone features. I am not the type that enjoys relaxing too much, but I have to say this time was one of the best.

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A quick note on culture:

Chinese weddings. I won’t get into great detail, but I think they have some interesting traditions. So for one, if you are from a village, the first born son must live with his wife and his parents after getting married. I think this is interesting because most American couples would refuse to ever follow this tradition. Also, the groom’s parents may have to purchase the couple a house and a car. If you live in a city, the groom may be expected to purchase the bride a house and a car and a house for his future in-laws! Of course this does not hold for all of China, but I sure think it is interesting.

Anyway, I have been hanging out in Kunming. We are not really sure what the plans are while the team finishs up in the field. I have been doing some data entry (oh, sooo much fun) and trying to start working on Ch2 of my thesis. I haven't finished Ch1 but my advisor said it may be easier to that last so I think I will take that approach. The introdution to anything is the hardest part.

Steph

Posted by snmyrick 01:01 Comments (0)

Random thoughts

Hi all,

I really have nothing too exciting to say in this one.

This week, as I said, I have been in a small city. It has not been overly interesting. I work every day from 9am to 10pm or whenever we get done. It is difficult with the US and Peru having a 12 and 13 hours difference, respectively. That means if we have a Skype meeting it will be at night. If it is important then we are staying up late. I want to work-out, but I am always so tired all day that I really do not feel like I have the energy to do so. I have really enjoyed my time here, but I look forward to relaxing for a few days in the States. I will be back in less than 3 weeks! It is OK because Brian and I will be back October 9th for 2 weeks then I will *likely* be back in January or February to do workshops for my project. It will be sad to leave, but I will be back… guaranteed for at least 1 more time (more likely 2).

It scares me because we have so much work to do here, but I am sure we will get it done… we have to so we will. Long story short, Brian and I misread a time for a tour when we were in Vienna and we told the taxi driver we needed to be somewhere very quickly. He said it may not be possible, but if we must, we will. I now use that for many things. Today I return to Kunming. I miss Kunming because it is a bigger city and I am more familiar with my surroundings. I have stayed in at least 8 hotels since I left Kunming so it will be nice to be in a place that feels familiar even if it isn’t the greatest hotel. Chinese culture has been a little difficult for me to adjust to so I like feeling like I am familiar with my surroundings at the very least.

I have to say what has made the trip the best has been the kindest of the people. The Chinese people are very thoughtful and hospitable. We have been conducting interviews all week and every person has been more than happy to help us. Many even invite us to dinner or to do anything we need when we have only met them once. I wish I could communicate my thankfulness to them, but I guess this gives me motivation to learn more Mandarian before my next visit!

So, I want to talk a little more about food. In case you do not know, usually I am a vegetarian (with a little fish). When I travel I eat meat though. I don’t like being a hassle and the last thing I want to do is to tell a local I will not eat their food. If a local tells you to eat a certain food, you eat it. If you don’t, it is considered very rude in the Chinese culture. Therefore, I eat meat. Plus, I want to experience all the food of a culture so that includes meat.

But…I am not quite sure I am the biggest fan of Chinese food. It is pretty spicy which I am assuming is influenced by the rest of Southeast Asia i.e. Thailand. They drink and eat hot food because they believe it cools them down. I am sure it does, but I like a cold drink. A “cold drink” to the Chinese means a room temperature soda. I have drank so much soda in China because it is the only thing they keep in coolers which are vaguely cold. One of the first things on my to-do list for the US is to have an ice-cold drink. I want it so cold it makes my teeth hurt.

I think the hardest part about the food is breakfast. Basically, they eat vegetables and noodles. I find it difficult because I do not want to have vegetables for breakfast at 7am. As Americans, we normally eat something slightly sweet like cereal or bacon and eggs or a ton of carbs. Noodles do not cut it for my carb intake. I feel like I am eating dinner. So I have started eating rice porridge, which is their version of oatmeal, and steamed buns. I love trying new foods, but I think breakfast is one thing I want to feel is a little closer to home. I mean, we all know breakfast is the greatest food on the planet anyway…

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(Source: http://urmindace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/breakfast.png)

The one thing I have really enjoyed is steamed buns. Basically they wrap meat with some vegetables in dough then steam it. They are the greatest things on the planet. I love carbs and carbs with a surprise in the middle have to be amazing. My favorite are the ones with a little bit of bacon mixed in a slightly sweet sugary syrup with a smidgen of fat. I think I eat around 4 (plus other food) every time I see it is for dinner. When we are in the field, I do not have much choice over my food which has been a little difficult. It is custom that the locals choose the meals, so I kind of have to eat whatever is on the table. Since the Chinese eat family style, where you use your chopsticks to pick off the plates in the center, it has not been a huge deal.

Here is a list of the new and odd things I have tried since being in China.
Things I know have eaten and some that I think I have eaten but who really knows in a pot of soup:
Gelatin animal blood (no clue which kind of animal)
Pig’s stomach
Pig foot
Pig ear
Cow and pig stomach
Intestines (no clue which animal… I stopped asking and just eat)
Chicken kidney? I think?
Chicken knuckles? The part of the foot that connects it to the leg.

There is more… but I cannot remember.

And of course, as I near the end, here are the highlights of my trip:
Potato chip factory- if you know me well enough, there are few things I love more than a salty snack

Travelling through the mountains- I somehow end up in the mountains, but I won’t complain! The mountains are my favorite place to be.
Trying new food- although real Chinese food is not my favorite, I am always interested in a culinary adventure.
Working with an international staff- I love that I can sit in a meeting and have to translate Peruvian English to American English to then Chinese English (this is a joke… since we always made fun of each other’s English). But really, I do love working with people from all over the globe and working together across cultures means really trying to understand how that other culture works. Example: Meet at 5pm. Chinese comes at 4:57. American comes at 5:02. Peruvian comes at 5:07.

I think that is all for now. More updates to come as my work progresses! I probably should be writing more of my thesis here, but I wrote an outline yesterday. That counts, right?

Oh… here is a picture of me in the potato chip processing plant with the variety I am studying!

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Best
Steph

Posted by snmyrick 19:25 Comments (0)

Sleep is for the weak

Hi all!

It has been awhile. I have been incredibly busy. My Chinese handler returned and we have been working until 12-1am every night. I have not had much time to think let alone to write a blog. I am back with many topics to write about. This week has been the week of learning about Chinese culture as well. I always enjoy working in the field. “In the field” means going to the rural areas and speaking to farmers. I do not know Chinese (clearly), but I enjoy hearing the stories from my colleagues who graciously translate them for me. What I enjoy the most about economics and research is our attempt at solving “mysteries”. I hve always enjoyed science and the idea of finding solutions to problems. I think it is very frustrating, but I think it is incredibly rewarding personally and to society. For example, in middle school, I was the kid who absolutely loved the science fair. I loved the thrill of thinking of a scientific problem and seeing what results are and then applying them to the real world. I won regional awards both years, and I wanted to do it in 8th grade, but my teacher said we couldn’t do it unless we “really” wanted to. This really means she wasn’t going to do it which is really unfortunate because why would you ever discourage a student from doing anything that interests them academically? Oh well.

I have been in the field as I said before. It has been so tiring. We travel minimum 3-4 hours every day in the car. I cannot wait until the day I can sleep in… which is probably never. It has been so exhausting, but I am grateful I am with such fun people. The students I work with are 22-23 years old so we are the same age. Many of them do not know English very well, but they speak it well enough that we can have basic conversations. They are silly and love selfies and very weird photos. Example A is the photo below. In this place, we visited a dam. China is well-known for their many dams and use of hydroelectricity. We then walked along the river. China is absolutely stunning when it comes to the mountainous area. Mind you, I have really only been in the mountains. I think it is so ironic that whenever I do anything I somehow end up in the mountains. In Ecuador and Honduras, I was in the mountains. I also ended up in the mountains at school. But the mountains are so beautiful here, because you can see the millions of years the rivers have carved through the stone. The cliffs are steep and you can visibly see the wear of a river alongside the mountainsides. Field work is also great because I get to see many people and places that almost no one ever sees. While I have not doing anything touristy in China, I think these experiences are far more important in giving insight into this complex and interesting culture.
So in the next few days I will be working with my handler to interview potato chip processors, potato starch processors, potato wholesalers, and potato seed companies/breeders. I get to attend a Chinese Potato Seed Exhibition this weekend. I think it is will be a really interesting experience! I am actually kind of excited to see what it is like. We are one step closer to solving the Great Potato Mystery! And during this time, I have completed 1 annex of my thesis. In the scheme of things this is small, but hey, it is one step closer to being able to sleep!

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So in this next section, I will describe some of the information I have gathered about the Chinese culture and way of life. It is just a description!

Education: The education system here is very interesting and somewhat similar to other developing countries. You can attend primary and middle school for free, but you must pay for high school. This discourages people from continuing their education since many poor families in the villages cannot afford to pay even a few yuans for books. I think college is the most interesting. When students apply to schools, they rank their top 5 universities. Students must be accepted into the major they ask for and if they are not accepted into the major, they can allow the school to choose their major. When students get accepted, they only get accepted into 1 school and do not have a choice in which one. So basically, they get an acceptance letter from 1 school and they go there and have to major in what they say. Students are not allowed to change majors. I think this is better for efficiently, but I know this would be difficult for many students, because how many 18 year olds know exactly what they want to do? I even changed my major!

I was supposed to post this yesterday… but here is more from today!

Today I visited a potato starch processor and a potato chip processor. It was great! I found it so interesting! We first visited the potato chip processor. The manager of the company graciously answered all of my questions (which took about an hour) and then took us on a tour of the processing plant. The company uses a few really interesting “tricks”. For example, the process releases a lot of excess water that cannot be drank or returned to a water source. Instead, they have a pipe that runs from the plant to the grass surrounding their property and they use the water to irrigate the grass! I think that is really neat. They were also very kind and gave us this entire box of chips… don’t mind if I do! The best part was this company prefers the variety I am studying! I got a lot of very interesting information for my thesis.

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Then I visited a potato starch factory. I had no clue what cooking starch was until this visit. It was also very interesting. The man was so excited that I came. He took a ton of photos. He says I will be on their website… this story to be continued if I am on their website.

Something I do not think I have written about is about being a “foreigner”. I had read about this phenomenon many times when studying for China, but I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. In non-city areas, people rarely see foreigners. In fact, many times, they never have. This means I receive a lot of stares. People stare intently for up to a minute. It can be very uncomfortable, but I am OK with it. I realize that I have probably stared at someone before when they looked very different from anyone I had seen before too. The part I feel most uncomfortable with the yelling. People like to yell, “hello!” at me from long distances. It usually is loud and actually scares me a little. I don’t like having attention drawn to me as a foreigner. It honestly makes me feel a little like an animal in a cage. I am the newest attraction to the town. Come one, come all to see the American. The more it happens though I am beginning to see it as their way of welcoming me and just having fun. These people probably have never and probably will never see a foreigner again. Instead, now I say hello back. The funniest thing is that they love taking pictures of me. Sometimes they are posed and sometimes it is of me just sitting and paying no attention to the camera. I think it is actually kind of weird, but hey, whatever. I think it is fun to take all these pictures.

That is all for now. I have many more stories to tell, but I am exhausted and tomorrow will be the first day I get to sleep in on my entire trip. Praise all that is good in the world!

XOXO
Stephanie, the potato economics lady

Posted by snmyrick 07:11 Comments (0)

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