Today marks my third week in China. This week has been completely in the field. I was very worried about how it would go, but it has been going very well! We have done about ¼ of our surveys. We have had no time to do anything at night. I would like to be further along in my work, but I guess when you are in a car for minimum 3 hours a day and barely sleep at night, I have the right to not do work. Tomorrow is a new day though!
Below are some observations from the field. By no means are these meant to be rude or anything of that sort. They are just some things I have seen and by no means apply to the entire population of China.
Sanitation: In many developing countries, sanitation is not a top priority. Sometimes people do not even know what they are doing is not the best thing to do. For example, many people do not cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. Mind you, this is a trend I have seen everywhere, not just villages. Another is the toilet. Many of the villagers have a pit toilet. It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a hole in the ground with some wooden slats around it. You put your feet on the slats and hope you have good aim. Besides the ability for feces and urine to splatter, many times the toilet has an opening in the back to allow the waste to flow out. This then goes into these small canals where water can flow. As you can imagine, people walk through this, drink from here, etc. Even in urban areas, most sinks or water sources for hand washing do not have soap. It amazes me the small, inexpensive fixes there are for major problems in the world. If people were taught the “germ theory of disease” or basically how disease spreads, I think
Another is trash. Educated people here throw their trash on the ground. I was walking behind a guy who pulled his last cigarette from the box and then proceeded to toss the box on the ground. In the rural areas, you pass large heaps of trash that seem to have come together by luck, not purpose. In other countries, I see people burning trash. These environmental sanitation issues can have major consequences.
In my group, there is a girl who speaks decent English. The concept of population is very interesting. She was annoyed that many of the poor farmers in the villages have more than 1 or 2 children. She was frustrated that they could not wrap their heads around the idea that the more children you have that the poorer you will be. She talked about how if everyone just had 1 or 2 children then the parents could invest all of their money in those two children so they could have better lives than their parents. I find this interesting because of the One Child Policy. I feel from the outside many people see it is an invasion into people’s personal choices, but in China, it seems the citizens respect and approve of the policy. The Chinese people I have spoken to think there are too many people in China. Actually, they are highly disapproving of the amount of inhabitants. The girl I was speaking to said it is hard because the majority of the Chinese are very poor. While in the US there is a wide gap between the middle class and upper class, it pales in comparison to China. The majority of people are very poor. They lack clean water, electricity, and even sanitation. I have not gone in depth on these connections with my new friends, but I hope I get to over the next few weeks.
I have sad news and good news, I guess! My trip here will be shortened to early September. I have little work to complete after this time, and my professor and I feel I will accomplish more if I am back in Blacksburg. Unfortunately, a thesis does not write itself. BUT on the other hand, I get to come back with Brian! He was planning to come October 9-23 and meet me in Beijing. Instead, we get to fly together! I am really looking forward to travelling with him and not having to meet with him in Beijing. It will make our travel much easier.
So, I will leave the field next week. After all the kinks are worked out, I am essentially useless. I cannot speak Chinese so my time will be better spent in Kunming. I will be working with a Chinese colleague on the “seed mystery” as I am now referring to it as. As a quick refresher on my project, I am studying a specific type or variety of potato. We are now finding out that potato seed is not purchased very often and even then… IT IS NOT PURCHASED! A large plot twist! So in economics we assume farmers have the choice in which varieties they adopt. Well, in China, many local governments decide which varieties farmers adopt. This is a large plot twist because my econometric model assumes they have the choice. I think it makes it more interesting though. We can still study what characteristics farmers like in a variety, but now we can dig into who makes the choice and how they make the choice for which varieties are grown. The local government gives away the seed for free which is why many farmers do not purchase new seed after 10 years or however many. Why would you buy any if you got the first batch for free? I wouldn’t. Even then, many of the villages or even towns do not sell seed potato! So I am Nancy Drew on the case of the Missing Potato Seed. The mystery will be solved by May 2016.
Since I have no other pictures, below is another picture of where I get to do my fieldwork. Rough life.
Quick story before I go: One day on the back from dinner, we were walking past a plaza and we saw people doing the Hustle! The actual dance Hustle... not the song, 'Do the Hustle'. So we joined in! It was a lot of fun! I was so glad I got to participate. Mind you, the other girls I were dancing with had no idea how to do the actual Hustle... but oh well. I really miss dance classes so I am glad I go to work on some of moves while being in China! Another quick story... below is a picture of a little girl who followed me for the 2-3 hours I was in this village. She was very shy, but we clearly because best friends by the end.
The Potato Lady