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What does "normal" mean?

Hi all again,

I know this post is quickly after the other, but I am behind on writing! Today is the 1 week mark. It has felt like I have been here forever, but it has only really been one week. This week I spent the majority of my time working. As I had mentioned, the day after I got off the plane, I had a meeting bright and early. Since then, we have been working rigorously to get the surveys complete. For my project, we have a household survey and a community survey. We interview farmers for the household survey and interview a few members of a community for the community survey. It is pretty straight forward. The difficult part is asking questions that are clear and provide us the right information for the analyses we want to do. To see if we accomplished this goal, we pilot the surveys. Piloting basically means practice. We go to a village and ask them the questions from the surveys and see if we get the information we need. We have been meeting with Chinese colleagues at the Yunnan Normal University. Below is a picture of the campus. Isn’t it a pretty campus? The Chinese woman I am with asked what "normal" meant. I said oridinary and she thought it was hilarious that the university is just "ordinary". Although I am very sure that the naming of the university was not intended to infer it was only "ordinary". In fact, they conduct a lot of research so it is not by any means normal!


Piloting went very well! There were a few questions in which we had to alter or delete all together, but it was a very great experience seeing what the Chinese countryside is like. It was absolutely beautiful out there. Below is a picture. It is not the best, but you can see the mountains. Many of the mountains had terraces which is when farmers try to make layers within the mountain that are flat so they can grow crops. It creates a beautiful landscape!


Out of piloting, I learned a lot about Chinese culture. The two main things were drinking alcohol and smoking. To get on the good side of many farmers, you must drink Chinese wine (which in the US would be like moonshine or a very strong alcohol which is about 40% or 80 proof) and smoke cigarettes. When I say you, I mean men. During many of the interviews, as you can see below, men would smoke between 3-5 cigarettes EACH. You can imagine how smoky the inside of a house can get as men chain smoke. It really hurt my lungs since I have never been around cigarette smoke that often or that much in my life. The Chinese women I am with said that smoking is the most popular in Yunnan (where I am) because they grow the majority of the tobacco in China.
Drinking is another interesting idea. At dinner, many of the men drink and drink until they can no longer stand. I think it has something to do with “proving” how big of a man you are. If you refuse a drink, it can be considered rude. It seems many of the people are not fond of the tradition, but they say it is just the way it is. I think everywhere has some of these “just the way they are” type of traditions.
Now, at the end of my second week in China, we will begin surveying. It is a little nerve-racking because if we do not get the information we want then my thesis is going to be bad. It is hard to talk-up bad data no matter how good of a writer you are. I am excited at the same time though. I think it is so exhilarating to see people discussing with farmers about their work. From my experience, farmers are some of the most proud people and rightfully so. They GROW something. They FEED people. They NOURISH bodies. I think that is an absolutely incredible accomplishment, and I think farmers deserve to be proud of their work. I mean, to be honest, we would all be dead if it was not for them. So next time you talk to a farmer, thank them.

On a lighter note, some observations I have made about driving.

I always thought roads had lines for a reason, but that is not true. Roads are fluid in China. If you are driving in the left lane and the person in front of you is going slow, you just go on the other side of the road to pass, why not? And if you are in the way of an oncoming car, they will just honk. Also, many people ride scooters or vespeda here. I cannot help but laugh at them every time, but they make a lot of sense! There are a ton of people and cars here. Gas is also expensive. Also, scooters have their own lane so it makes it easier to move around. All around, it makes sense to buy one even if I laugh every time.

I am going to Dali on Sunday, so I hope to have an amazing time! Dali is about 3-5 hours away from Kunming, and we are travelling by car. It should be great! Then it is back to work on finalizing the surveys, conducting training, and preparing for the field!


Posted by snmyrick 06:11

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