This continues on from A New Zealander Working in Mongolia Part 1. It tells of Allan Scott’s observations and experiences living and working in the dairy industry deep in northern China. His insight into how he and his family efforts to culturally and socially fit in with the locals makes great reading, along with allowing us to attempt to understand what daily life is like in a land far removed from New Zealand on innumerable levels. Read on and many thanks to Allan for sharing this with us
The countryside is one of 3 colours, white in winter due to snow and temperatures as low as -20 to -30°C. Autumn and early spring means the landscape is brown and during the spring and summer it is green due to the vast area covered in corn or rice.
It is an amazing contrast over the year.
Mechanization is taking over the cropping with tractors replacing the ox but there is still a lot of hand planting and harvesting of the corn.
Many small villages service the farming areas and each week they have a market which spills out onto the main road. The number of empty beer bottles stacked outside the various establishments in these towns indicates they enjoy a beer or two.
The city is spreading rapidly and I counted over 100 construction cranes on an hour’s trip to one of our plants. This is only what I saw from the road. Construction is carried out for only 6-7 months of the year due to the freezing conditions during winter. There are literally cities being built out in the countryside. Huge trucks are the predominant vehicle on the motorways, an indication that the economy is pumping. Should there be fog or snow then the motorways are closed and vehicles are either parked up or use the inferior country roads. All motorways are tolled but they are in very good condition compared to the country roads which can be in a poor state of repair due to truck use.
Vehicle accidents are not as common as one would expect (other than after the first good falls of snow) considering the number of new drivers coming onto the roads every day. If there is an accident the vehicles remain where the accident happens while they wait for the police to come and decide who is to blame. I am still to work out if someone in a BMW that offers the police a bribe will get away free in the event of an accident. We were involved in a minor accident one day (after a fall of snow) and while we were waiting for the police the other driver decided to leave the scene after ringing a friend to come and become the driver – I found out later he had been drinking.
The number of expensive European cars on the road is an indication of the wealth of the Chinese middle class. Generally anyone getting out of an expensive vehicle tends to be of heavier build due to their increased wealth – this is the western food coming into play.
My mode of transport in the weekends is by bicycle. There are dedicated cycle/scooter lanes in all cities which makes getting around pretty easy. The greatest risk one has to watch out for is not turning taxis or silent electric bikes but the possibility of being hit by a green missile which is discharged from another rider’s mouth. Although spitting is getting less there is still a good chance you will wear a thick one.
The children nowadays are also a lot more solid – again the western influence (McDonalds and KFC play a big part). I suspect in a few years time the Chinese are going to be more affected by heart disease and other obesity issues, which is a western world trait.
Smoking is a big part of the male culture and I think the incidence of lung cancer is pretty high. There is more of a drive to reduce smoking in public places but it is only in its infancy. With cigarettes selling at less than $NZ 2 a packet it is going to be long road.
All roads around the cities are kept clean by street cleaners, either sweeping up general rubbish in the summer, leaves in the autumn and removing snow it the winter.
Recycling is big in the cites where there are poor people going around the rubbish bins collecting plastic bottles,bags,cardboard and anything else that can be recovered. You see many 3 wheel bikes with trays loaded up about 2-3 metres high with recycling material. Old buildings that have been demolished are another popular area where people are in amongst the concrete rubble breaking it into smaller pieces to recover all the reinforcing steel.
This year, during the Qing Ming Festival (sweeping of the graves) I went with our Chinese family to another city to visit the grave site of a family member. This is an annual public holiday where the Chinese people pay their respects to those who have passed away. The cemetery’s are huge but are well kept. Traffic is chaotic around these areas at the time. I think it is a great idea.
We all associate China with amazing displays of fireworks and it certainly is incredible. The climax I think has to be at Chinese New Year Eve. I was unlucky (or lucky enough) to be delayed by about 7 hours on a flight from Shenyang to Shanghai this Chinese New Year. It meant we left Shenyang about 10.30 pm. Fortunately the sky was clear and the view looking down was something I will never forget. The countryside from 30000 feet was just a maze of sparkle and colour.
One travelling the domestic routes is invariably delayed due to the present set up in the airways in China. They have a longer release time between airplanes than in many western countries. There is always comments made about the Chinese military having priority but this is generally denied. They do have to improve this aspect of the transportation system. The high speed rail system is amazing. Always on time and travelling times are decreasing rapidly as the China Rail system continues to improve. Many people prefer to travel by train rather than air. From an original travel time from Shanghai to Beijing of 12 hours when we first came here, it is now down to less than 6 hours.
The Maglev train between the Pudong airport in Shanghai and into town takes about 7 minutes and reaches a speed of 431 kmh – a great buzz. A taxi will take 40-50 minutes.
Graffiti is nonexistent and public transport, public toilets etc where we are accustomed to seeing graffiti is not seen. The people respect public property. In fact things are left outside and are still there the next day. Not the case in other parts of the world.
Yes, smog is a major issue right across China and the authorities are only really nibbling at the edges of this problem at present. It will take years to correct. I hope I have done my little bit by telling our Company that when they were going to list on the Stock Exchange that they included in their mission statement one or two actions they were undertaking to make us good environmental citizens. That is the easy part of course – putting words into action is not so easy because it costs some money.
Flying back to Shenyang from Shanghai last month I had another interesting experience on a local airline. We were about 25-30 minutes out from Shenyang when the air hostesses took up positions in the aisle and everyone started to do stretching exercises in their seats. I was lucky not to cope a stray arm or leg as the passengers went about this exercise. Only thing missing was the music. I have not had this experience on Air New Zealand.
Continuing on this theme one will find big groups of mainly elderly citizens at local parks or other open areas in the evenings going about their evening dance exercise. There is usually someone with a music box and they are either doing a line dance routine or ballroom dancing. Great for the old people, although younger people do get involved.
Karaoke or KTV is the other big social outlet for Chinese. Many of these establishments are amazing. You would go with your friends and have your own individual room (this is probably the case in Asia). A great night with alcohol to loosen up the vocal cords is the norm. The only western song of any significance that they sing is Country Road (John Denver). A great experience that I have done many times.
The Ice Festival in Harbin (north east China) is another great attraction
It is illegal to get married before the age of 22 for males and 20 for females.
Most women will have their child around the age of 28-30 so everything is well planned.
Another successful dinner
This is just a sample of life in a country that has seen the most incredible changes over the last 20-30 years, and there is no end to it.
[Editor comment: The first 5 pictures were borrowed from the internet to help illustrate Allan’s great story]