Monday, May 31, 2010

Sam's Club in China

Sam’s Club and Wal-mart both have a strong presence in China. They sell goods catered to the Chinese market, which means that the products here are very different from those you find in the states. On the first day of my trip, my grandmother and I made a trip to the Sam’s Club to buy some groceries.

Here are some interesting finds:

Pizza! I bet it tastes weird. I had tried some “cheese” for breakfast at my uncle’s and it was funky.

Crawfish. Go TD!

Chinese baked goods!

A whole bird! I think it might be pheasant or quail?

More poor birds, hanging for display.


And more veggies.

Live fish in the tank. Most Chinese people really emphasize the freshness of food, which means they rarely will buy frozen seafood or meat. Plus Shenzhen is by the coast so fresh seafood is actually affordable.

For example, here are live shrimp in a tank. You pick them out and scoop them up yourself. My grandmother bought a pound and it was only around $3.

Turtles and eels.

A whole alligator! By this time people were probably wondering why on the earth a girl was wandering around taking pictures of what is to them common food.

Live skinned eel! The worker grabbed an eel out of the tank, stabbed it with a stake to the table, and proceeded to skin in alive with a sharp knife. I had to shudder at the contrast between the violence and the commonness of the task.

It may seem disgusting and gruesome, but I think it is good to be so connected with your food and to know where it comes from. People tend to distance themselves from their food when they only buy nice-looking packaged chicken breast or already-sliced, clean deli meat. Yes, meat does come from live animals that had to die to become your sustenance. Whether you chose to eat it or not, you should recognize this fact.

On a lighter note, I just thought this display was funny. Selling toilets on the street. I like the fake person demonstrating. Just in case you didn’t know…

Gated Neighborhoods

People here live in tall apartments which are in gated neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own shops, markets, schools, daycares, etc. We have a swimming pool downstairs along with lots of tropical vegetation and gorgeous landscaping.

I went to visit my little cousin’s daycare.

The kids eat breakfast in the morning there. Today they had noodles and little hardboiled eggs. I think they might be quail eggs? They are taught to finish their food before they play. Apparently the daycare workers are very attentive and actually will sit with the kids and feed them and encourage them to eat.

This next building is housing for workers and household help of the neighborhood such as security guards and housekeepers. It seems like everything is enclosed within this gated community like a mini-world. On the lower floor of the building is an exercise room.

Notice the rooftop garden! I wonder if this is for attractiveness or for environmental sustainability.

Here’s a squad of security guards doing exercises. Shenzhen seems like relatively safe city, so I’m not sure why there is a need for so much security.

My uncle lives on the fifth floor. He is definitely better-off than the average Chinese citizen. His apartment is relevantly large and nice, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room. However, there are also eight individuals living here currently – my aunt, her mother, her brother, my uncle, my two baby cousins, my grandmother, and me. Additionally, there is a cook and a person that washes clothes. It makes for very cozy living! Unless you are extremely wealthy, square footage is scarce.

Here’s a sign of the spreading western culture.

Sumi, I hope you’re reading this. I found a “tree!”

See you soon!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Long Way to China

So the flight from Newark to Hong Kong actually took 17 hours because there were some delays due to leaking from one of the wings. At least there were no snakes. The plane had movies on demand which was awesome! I watched Avatar, The Lovely Bones, Wedding Crashers, Bride Wars, and Forrest Gump. Each person had an individual screen operated by touch. However, my screen was very insensitive and as a result I had to practically punch each button with my finger. The individual sitting in front of me definitely felt the effects of my indecision. I felt bad, but what could I do? I needed to go through all the movies to make my decision! The airline food was bad as expected but for one of the snacks which included a small carton of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Yum!

When we arrived in Hong Kong, I was immediately struck by the heat and humidity. Seriously, I felt as if I could cut through the thick, dense, muggy air with a knife. Customs at the airport was a breeze compared to entering into the U.S. but we had to drive through an immigration checkpoint where we had to open the doors and trunk of the car. Then inspectors with face masks came and pointed strange instruments at as. I thought they were breathalyzers but apparently they detect temperature. My grandmother explained that the instruments check for signs of fever. Maybe they are still worried about H1N1?

We drove about an hour to Shenzhen, the city in which my uncle lives. It is a modern, vibrant city. Thirty years ago it was still a small fishing village but Deng Xiaoping, in his opening up of China, declared it a Special Economic Zone. This meant that Shenzhen had more lenient trade laws which made it attractive for foreign investment. Therefore the city now is very affluent and has a lot of western influence. It has a different appearance than many of the older cities. For example, the air pollution is not as bad, public areas are much cleaner, and there is more attention to landscaping and plant life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting Ready

It's almost time to depart! My flight from Richmond to Newark is at 10 am tomorrow. Then I have a four hour layover until the flight to Hong Kong. It is supposed to be almost 16 hours long. Then I'll travel to Shenzhen where my uncle lives. From there on, who knows what will happen! I will probably travel to Shanghai, Changsha, Xian, and maybe Beijing within these eight weeks.

I feel much more knowledgeable about the country after taking the class "China in World Politics" this past semester. This last time I was there three years ago, I did not understand much about the economic, political, and social aspects of China. This time I will be able to observe and study environmental problems and solutions, attitudes towards foreigners and Americans, urbanization, migration, the education system, spread of western culture, government-controlled media, attitudes towards the government, the one-child policy, and much more. I definitely will take lots of photos and notes.

My goals include improving my Chinese language skills and understanding the country from the new perspectives gained in my class. Also, I am going to try to not forget my Spanish! Therefore I am going to bring a Spanish novel to read in my free time.

Now I better get to finishing my packing. I have a whole suitcase just full of gifts for relatives such as vitamins, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and candy. I'm trying to be practical and minimal with packing my own clothes but it is really hard. I'm sure I'll be able to stuff everything in at the end.