Let’s jump right into the fun. You chose to read this blog because 1) you think I am cool (not sure about that one) 2) you really like potatoes or 3) you think China will be cool. If you think all three, then you may be in for a treat! And why Little Lady, Big World? Clearly the world is big. And I am a little lady. I am only 5’3” and wear petite sized clothing. I always forget that I am shorter than average until I see a picture of me with friends. But as John Mayer says, “I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for.”
Anyway, how does one get ready for an almost four month trip about taters? Good question, because I am also unsure. I will be travelling to China from July 10 to October 23. I will be working on my research from July 10 to October 10. Then Brian, my wonderful adventure partner and boyfriend, will be travelling with me from October 10 to October 23. More updates on our route once we iron on the details but HINT: It will include an intense hike up the Yellow Mountains.
So, why do I keep mentioning taters? The reason I will be in China is because I am collecting data for my Masters’ thesis in Agricultural and Applied Economics. My field focuses on applying mathematical, statistical, and economic theory to real world problems. Mine is about potatoes. Every time I think of my project, I think of this video from Lord of the Rings where Smeagol asks what a tater is.
So, why would anyone study potatoes in China? China is the world’s largest potato producer. It produces over 4 times the amount of the US. The amount of potatoes grown in China has quadrupled since 1960. A lot of this is attributed to the breakdown of communes and the expansion of potato markets to urban areas. The Chinese government is pushing for the potato to become a staple in the Chinese diet. If stored properly, it can last months, uses less water, and takes less land than wheat, corn, and rice. Potatoes are a large part of the agricultural economy for China and will continue to grow. A large portion of the growth in potato production has to do with the expansion of Western fast foods. Apparently, KFC is the largest American fast food joint in China. With incomes increasing in urban areas, the demand for processed potatoes (mainly French fries and chips). Moral: potatoes are awesome. Boil ‘em, mash’em, and stick ‘em in a stew.
My study focuses on a specific potato variety, Cooperation-88 or C88. The amount of land that C88 is grown on is expanding. The real question is why? That is my job. I will be writing and conducting a household survey which will ask farmers questions to gain a better understanding of their potato production and reasoning (or reasoning not) to adopt C88. I then will want to gain information to better understand the economic impacts of C88. Here is a short article, if it interests you, where you can see what the adoption of agricultural technology does to the economy. The method used is the economic surplus method: http://www.tropentag.de/2004/abstracts/full/48.pdf
I will be spending the majority of my time in the Yunnan Province. It borders Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand. It has the most ethnic groups in China (I believe over 30?). China in general has hundreds of ethnic groups which makes the country interesting and great. I am excited to be in Yunnan and to get the chance to learn more about these groups. We chose this area for our study (to collect over 600 surveys), because Yunnan has the most C88 adopters.
What am I doing to get ready? Doing some Chinese studying… that is for sure! I thought learning Chinese would be extremely difficult, and it is, but I have come to see how beautiful of a language it is. If you listen carefully, it has a musical flow to it. Try it! I am also trying to figure out how to get 4 months of medication at once, every medicine I may need to survive, a lot of Cliff bars, determining how many pairs of shoes a woman may need (this is a huge struggle), how to pack for two seasons while being able to carry a backpack, and how many and which books to bring. Suggestions? I have the Help, Reading Lolita in Tehran, the first two books of the Lord of the Rings, and I believe that is it. I also am getting a few immunizations. Nothing screams excitement like getting a shot for a disease transmitted by mosquitos that makes your brain swell and sends you into a coma. Ironically, where I am going and for how long I am going qualifies me for the most shots and preventative medicine in China. I deserve some sort of award or merit badge.
I am preparing by trying to spend as much time with friends and family as possible. Three and a half months is a long time to spend away. I will miss everyone, but this really is an opportunity of a lifetime. When I went to Ecuador, I loved every moment of it. I loved working with individuals in foreign countries in an attempt to conduct research that can hopefully better people’s lives. It is hard work that takes a lot of time and thought, but I really do enjoy it. I am not good at expressing myself most of the time, but there is something about riding in a truck through the countryside of any country. It is beautiful and quiet but very lively. It is basic living but it takes a lot to be a farmer, and that is something I respect.
I hopefully will be able to update this blog periodically. Continue to check in on me and my Chinese tater adventure. I promise you will learn more about potatoes than you will have ever wanted to know. They don’t call me the potato lady for no reason.
Don’t call me tater salad (Ron White reference…),
PS If you are interested in my research trip to Ecuador, see my other blog: http://aventurasalegres.blogspot.com/
I had to make a new one since Blogger would be censored in China.