Friday, February 29, 2008
I'm fairly sure that I'm no longer in the minority of those in the group who have had enough Chinese food for quite some time. I want to publicly thank Dr. Joe Williams, Dr. James Trapp, Ron Hays, OALP, and the many sponsors for making our trip possible. Thanks to my dad, Jerry White for allowing me to miss work for this program over the past two years. Overall the program has been a good experience. The networking and international experience stand out as the most beneficial aspects of the program. For anyone reading who would be interested in applying for Class XIV, applications can be downloaded at http://oalp.okstate.edu/about.asp.
As time permits I will sort through the pictures and post more that stand out. It is my goal to continue blogging on a more consistent basis relating to my topic: Moving the Line Between Intention and Resolve.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
It's about 5:00pm in Seoul and we have been given free time until tomorrow morning at 11:00 when we are to board the bus for the airport to come home. I don't know if I will have another opportunity to post before we return, so I'll summarize our day today and give some thoughts on Korea and the trip.
This morning we visited with the USDA Foreign Ag Service Ag Trade Office (ATO) where we saw several presentations on the status of US trade with Korea. We discussed in detail Korea's blockage of all US Beef, the reasons for that, and the potential to gain back the $80 Million market.
Lunch was at a Korean restaurant, and then we met with the National Ag. Cooperative Federation of Korea. They gave an impressive video presentation and talked about agriculture in Korea. We then toured an impressive 3-level Agricultural Museum in the same building. The concept of telling an urbanized culture the story of the farm is new to most of us, but necessary here and in the U.S. Many class members talked about the need for something like this in Oklahoma City with agricultural classrooms as an educational tool.
General thoughts:Korea is a country with a violent and war torn past. Since the beginning of recorded history here they have been invaded by neighboring countries from the north (Mongolia), west (China), and south (Japan). Not unlike Israel, it is a small country that is desirable for other countries to occupy. Japan has obliterated much of the city at least twice and bad relations continue with North Korea to this day. We haven’t been able to see the countryside, but I’m sure it is beautiful as a large portion is mountainous. Approximately 70% of the food here is imported, which gives the people a lower level of confidence in their food supply. It is hard for Americans to understand that because of how safe our food supply is. Overall, I think the country is blessed to be free, and I hope we can find a mutually beneficial trading agreement including beef soon. That said, I’m glad to be an American, and ready to come home. See you soon!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
We started the morning in Shanghai meeting with some Chinese representatives of an Agricultural Development District. We really didn't know what to expect here, but basically it is an area of land set aside for agricultural experimentation and development fairly close to Shanghai. Because the city is so crowded every square inch (mm) is precious, but this area has been set aside for this purpose. The director put in a plug for U.S. ag-related businesses to come and develop there. They showed us a complex of greenhouses growing all kinds of vegetables. Our time was limited here because we had to catch a plane out of the country.
After a long day in transit, we met our next tour guide in Seoul, and boarded a bus to a restaurant for a traditional S. Korean meal. The most interesting thing about the meal was that we had to remove our shoes before going in the room, and sit on pads on the floor and the table was about 12-18 inches high. The meal included the staple rice, many vegetables, Korean sauce, and beef in a sweet tasting sauce. The idea is to wrap the meat up with the sauce in the lettuce and eat with your hands. We did have stainless steel chopsticks though.
Mr. Jin Kim met us for the meal. He is from South Korea and has spent a lot of time in Oklahoma working for the Department of Commerce.
Tomorrow will be the last full day of the trip. We also are scheduled to have some free time in the late afternoon which I think all of us are looking forward to.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Our first stop was the USA Agricultural Trade Office where we heard three very good presentations from the US perspective on trade with China. One of the topics was the $40 Billion Ag. Trade the US did with China in 2007, which is up from $10 Billion in 2001.
After the Ag. Trade Office we stopped by a government run model kindergarten to see the kids and give them some small gifts we had brought. The children were full of energy and buzzing just like our own children would have been. They all said "thank you" in English, and some of them offered to show off their English counting abilities.
Next we visited the Temple of the Jade Buddha, which is basically just another tourist attraction because the vast majority of Chinese are atheists. Our tour guide said that China is one of the only countries in the world that is officially atheistic.
Finally we visited the Bund (a scenic stop in the city on the river) and had an hour and a half to shop on Nanjing Street, one of the busiest shopping streets in China with approximately one million shoppers daily.
After our shopping expedition we returned to the hotel and were treated to pizza from Pizza Hut and another full Chinese meal.
Tomorrow we check out again, visit with a development district in Shanghai, and then fly to Seoul, South Korea for two days before boarding a plane to come home.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
How long has it been since you thought about what the American Dream really means? I’m not talking about the dream of a poor or middle class American to become rich, but the dream of someone living in a communist country to be free. This morning our tour guide talked about her own life. Both of her parents worked in a factory and she never knew anything else. She must be very intelligent because she majored in English and became an English teacher at a university in China. At that time, the government paid for higher education if they passed a test, and guaranteed a job after college. She talked about her struggles with a job she really didn’t like and how risky it was to change jobs away from a government-provided job with benefits including insurance & retirement. In the late 1990s she made the leap to become a tourist guide and seems to be doing well. She said her daughter is fluent in English and has a dream of coming to America for college, to work, and maybe to live. She has excelled in every exam she has taken, but there are many hurdles including having to fly to Hong Kong just to take the American-recognized SAT exam. Because the cost of tuition for an international student is so high, if she doesn’t get a scholarship, it probably won’t happen. Her story reminds me again how blessed we are to be free and to have opportunities so many others just dream of.
Our last day in Xi’an was interesting and cold. Because the weather has been so mild over the past few days, many of us took a risk and didn’t dress as warmly… bad idea. It was snowing all day and extremely cold. We thought we would be inside, but as it turned out, the restaurant for lunch was the only heated building we were in until the airport.
The first stop was a hot spring and palace at the base of a mountain where one of the Chinese emperors lived. Multiple bathhouses were built over the spring for the emperor and his concubines.
Next we went to the site of the Terracotta Warriors. As one theory goes, the first emperor of China, emperor Qin, was so obsessed with immortality that he searched for the ultimate drug to make him immortal. His doctors thought Mercury was a wonder drug. Over time, Emperor Qin would take mercury with his tea every morning, eventually killing him. The official story just says he died unexpectedly on a site visit.
Either way, he died and a few years before his death, he ordered that his entire army be immortalized in the form of the terracotta statues. This would ensure that he would still have his entire army with him in the after life. The 8,000+ terracotta warriors were discovered by Chinese farmers digging a well in the 1970’s and have been considered the eighth wonder of the world.
After the Terracotta Warriors, we rode to the airport and caught a flight to Shanghai. We will be in Shanghai for two days and two nights and then fly to South Korea.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
The next stop was a university greenhouse and then we stopped at a dairy. Adjacent to the dairy was a university owned sheep farm and cloning company. Following the dairy stop we drove through a small village and were able to get out and walk around. Then we were taken to a milk processing plant where we had a brief tour before returning to Xi'an for dinner and back to the hotel.
All of our Chinese hosts have been very gracious. As the speaker at the U.S. Embassy said, "Americans have something to learn from the Chinese about how to host a guest". On the flip side of that, a lot of what they say contradicts what we know or suspect to be true when it comes to statistics or anything that could potentially look negative for their country. The gap between the rich and poor is huge. Since the government owns all land, there is little incentive for the people to improve it. Even if they wanted to, most farmers are too poor to afford any type of mechanization. The system is terribly inefficient, and even the government officials admit to being behind the rest of the world in technology. There is definitely a sense that we see only what the government is allowing us to see, which would be true to some extent even in the U.S. Many web sites are blocked here, including this one.
Tomorrow we visit the Terracotta Warriors.
Also, links relevant to the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program Class 13 trip to China include:
Ron Hays of the Oklahoma Radio Network and OALP Advisory Board Chair is traveling with the group and blogging and reporting daily from China.
The OALP Website has detailed scribe notes and general information about the program and participants.
Friday, February 22, 2008
After lunch we went to a Buddhist Pagoda. I wasn't too interested in this stop, so there isn't much to write. We then went back to the hotel for a while and then went to a Dinner/Chinese Opera. Dinner was an 18 course Dumpling meal. Dumplings are the national food of China, and this meal signified something relating to the Spring Festival. Everything has some meaning or symbolism in China. Each course included one dumpling for each person at the table. The dumplings were in the shape of the type of meat that was inside of them: Duck, Fish, Shrimp, Beef, Pork, Chicken, Pickle, Walnut, Shark Fin, etc.
The show after the meal was great. My wife and daughters would have loved it. Bright, colorful costumes, dancing, and music. I will try to post some pictures or video shortly.
Now that I'm off my soap box, about Xi'an. We had another western breakfast at the hotel, and went to visit the city walls. This wall isn't related to the Great Wall of China, but is a barrier wall that was built by When Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to protect the city. It is 40 feet tall, 40-46 feet wide on top, and 50-60 feet wide at the base. It has a moat around parts of it. I rented a bicycle and rode the nine mile square in about an hour.
I will post part two later.
By Cody White and Doug Ritter
(revised from earlier post)
Most of the class was exhausted again after another long day. Traveling wears you out, but the smog really started messing with our heads.
This morning we ate another "western style" breakfast at the hotel in Beijing that was very good. After checking out of the hotel, as we were leaving in the tour bus, a Chinese woman in a small car with Pooh Bear seat covers tried to pass us on the left as we were making a 90 degree left turn around a concrete wall in the hotel driveway. The driver sandwiched the car in between the bus and the wall. It didn't do too much damage to either vehicle, but both drivers were mad and yelling at each other (even though it was the woman's fault). We were actually amazed that this didn't happen sooner from watching the crazy drivers in Beijing.
After the excitement we were dropped off at the Tong Ren Tang Pharmacy for our first stop. The pharmacy is like a clinic/pharmacy and has been operating since one of the Dynasties. It was previously only for elite government officials and has been open to the public for two years. One of the doctors gave us an acupuncture demonstration on himself and then gave a lecture on traditional Chinese medicine. One of the points made was that western hospitals tend to treat symptoms more and herbal Chinese medicine attempts to treat the source of the problem (inside the body). The doctor noted how well organized and complicated the human body is, "much more complicated than a computer.
After the lecture, a whole team of doctors came in and sat down with each of us to check our pulses, look at our tongues, and give us their assessment and recommendations. The doctors made expensive herbal recommendations (prescriptions) for each class member, and many in the class took them up on it.
Quote of the day: "If you never lose a bike in Beijing, you are not a true Beijinger!", Su Lin, our tour guide. (In route to lunch) She also mentioned that you can see people walking on sidewalks holding cages (they are walking their birds).
Our lunch was yet another traditional Chinese meal with what appeared to be the exact same food we have been eating every day except this time we named one of the dishes "Bloomin' Fish" because it looked just like "bloomin' onion" except it had a fish head on one end and tail on the other. The meal also included homemade potato chips with garlic and red chili peppers. Many of us are starting to miss American food now. Some of us bought a chocolate ice cream bars after the meal for 10 Yuan.
After lunch we went to the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to see a presentation by Dr. Gong Xifeng, Deputy Director General, Department of International Cooperation. This was a typical government presentation of the state of agriculture in China. The five areas they covered were:
- The Status of Agriculture in China
- Research Achievements
- Priorities for future research.
According to the presenter, the agriculture production has increased eightfold over the past 30 years. A typical farmer now makes the equivalent of $800 per year. Their research achievements are along the same lines as those of American agricultural scientists such as cloning and manipulating germ plasms. Challenges mentioned include increasing of the population overall and decreasing of arable lands. Even with a 40% farmland degradation rate, they still have a goal of a 95% self-reliance on production. He talked about an extension network to communicate technology down to the village level. We were given an estimate of 70% of the Chinese population that is still involved in farming, though that is rapidly decreasing as people move to the cities. Strategies include an effort toward vertical integration.
Next we visited a farm equipment manufacturer "MAE Northern" that is owned by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Services. They make and sell many types of farm implements from silage cutters to potato harvesters to rice harvesters. Cindy Wang, the International Sales Manager was our speaker. Many of the component parts are imported from various countries. The oil and hydraulic fluids had been imported from the U.S. from John Deere. A no till Drill cost approximately $28,000 USD. When asked how the poor Chinese farmers afford their equipment, she said there is a 30% government subsidy and the remaining 70% can be financed with a bank loan over eight years. One village will own a tractor, the next village will own a drill, and they will share it back and forth.
The last tourist stop of the day was a Hutong tour of peasant life in Beijing riding on rickshaws. A rickshaw is a human-powered tricycle with a two-person carriage on the back. Most of the class paid approximately $25 USD for the one-hour tour. The class was hoping for an authentic experience, but even this area of Beijing was saturated with peddlers pestering the tourists hoping to make a sale of just about anything. Many class members were very intrigued and thankful for the experience. Six of the class members took a walk down the Lotus Strip of bars and stores, and paused for a break at Starbucks. After fighting off the street peddlers, the two groups met and boarded the bus.
After the tourist stop, we stopped at another restaurant for more rice (another 9-course Chinese tourist meal) and then headed for the airport. With minimal problems, we caught a flight to Xian and checked into our hotel.
After checking in, we caught a glimpse of the city from the 20th floor of the hotel. This was the last night of the Spring Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year, which has lasted for several weeks. Fireworks were everywhere.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This morning we ate another "western style" breakfast at the hotel in Beijing that was very good. I think those three breakfasts are what has kept me going so far. After checking out of the hotel, as we were leaving in the tour bus, a Chinese woman in a small car with Pooh Bear seat covers tried to pass us on the left as we were making a 90 degree left turn around a concrete wall in the hotel driveway. I yelled at the bus driver, but it wasn't enough, and he sandwiched the car in between the bus and the wall. It didn't do too much damage to either vehicle, but both drivers were mad and yelling at each other (even though it was the woman's fault). I was actually amazed that this didn't happen sooner from watching the crazy drivers in Beijing.
After the excitement we were dropped off at the Tong Ren Tang Pharmacy for our first stop. The pharmacy is like a clinic/pharmacy and has been operating since one of the Dynasties. It was previously only for elite government officials and has been open to the public for two years. One of the doctors gave us an acupuncture demonstration on himself and then gave a lecture on traditional Chinese medicine. One of the points made was that western hospitals tend to treat symptoms more and herbal Chinese medicine attempts to treat the source of the problem (inside the body). The doctor noted how well organized and complicated the human body is, "much more complicated than a computer". It is interesting that this is supporting evidence of design... even doctors in a pagan society can recognize the complexity of the human body, something that couldn't have evolved by random chance.
After the lecture, a whole team of doctors came in and sat down with each of us to check our pulses, look at our tongues, and give us their assessment and recommendations. The doctors made expensive herbal recommendations (prescriptions) for each class member, and many in the class took them up on it. My recommendation was Dong Chong Xia Cao and Yang Gan Pills at a mere cost of $174 per month. The recommendations were for three months. He said I had liver damage from alcohol. That is interesting since I don't drink beer, have never been drunk in my life, and only drink red wine in moderation! I tried to tell the interpreter this, but they maintained that I had damage and needed to abstain from any alcohol and buy these pills. Time to move on...
I liked a quote that our guide said today: "If you never lose a bike in Beijing, you are not a true Beijinger!" (enroute to lunch) She also mentioned that you can see people walking on sidewalks holding cages (they are walking their birds).
Our lunch was yet another traditional Chinese meal with what appeared to be the exact same food we have been eating every day except this time we named one of the dishes "Bloomin' Fish" because it looked just like "bloomin' onion" except it had a fish head on one end and tail on the other. The meal also included homemade potato chips with garlic and red chili peppers. Many of us are starting to miss American food now. I skipped most of the meal and bought a chocolate ice cream bar for 10 Yuan.
After lunch we went to the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences to see a presentation by Dr. Gong Xifeng, Deputy Director General, Department of International Cooperation. I believe this was a typical government presentation of the state of agriculture in China.
Next we visited a farm equipment manufacturer "MAE Northern". The make and sell many types of farm implements from silage cutters to potato harvesters to rice harvesters.
After a tourist stop in the city, we stopped at another restaurant for more rice (I'm already starting to lose some weight) and headed for the airport. With minimal problems, we caught a flight to Xian and checked into our hotel. Tomorrow begins three days in Xian, a city of 8 Million people. I'm on the 20th floor of the hotel looking out over the smoggy city with fireworks shooting nonstop. Tonight is the last night of the Spring Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year and lasts for 2-3 weeks.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Our group started the day with a visit to the largest meat and vegetable market in Beijing. It was very different to say the least. The meat was laid out on tables in booths leased by the farmers (the owners called it a COOP, which I suspect is a bit rich of a term) in a large building. We couldn't see any cooling vents in the room, but I can't imagine how it would work in the summer without it. There was a lot of pork and poultry and sea food... every part of the animal was sold there. We saw eels, jellyfish, turtles, fish, you name it.
After the market we visited a flower seed company that sells hundreds of different types of flower seeds including some "magic beans" that have words and pictures laser engraved on the side and key chains attached. When you plant the bean it produces a flower with the same words carved on the side.
Next we traveled a ways out of Beijing to a beef cattle feeding and packing operation. They fed us a traditional "hot pot" lunch and gave us a tour of their feeding operation.
We then traveled back into Beijing to a Chinese Opera where we had another traditional meal and saw the hour and a half show. Most of us weren't too excited about the opera, but it was neat to see.
The pictures posted below are some of the highlights so far from the Forbidden City, a Tea Ceremony, The Great Wall, the new Olympic Stadium (that isn't finished yet), the Silk Market, the meat market, the Chinese Opera, and a couple of "people pics".
That's the summary for today. Tomorrow we fly to Xian.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
After lunch we went to the U.S. Embassy. It was great to see that American flag flying there. We had interesting discussions with William Westman, Minister-Counselor for Agricultural Affairs, and Jorge Sanchez, Agricultural Attache. We learned about U.S./ China relations and some of the challenges in agricultural trade.
We then went to the Xiushui Silk Market where shoppers are bombarded by aggressive men and women trying to sell their goods in an upscale flea market type of atmosphere. After shopping we had Peking Duck in a restaurant on the top floor of the silk market.
Tomorrow is our last day in Beijing.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I thought it was a catchy phrase; one that embodied a constant struggle I have with society. Not that I am perfect or ever find myself with good intentions without follow through, but that society seems to land almost completely on the "good intentions" side when it comes to every day activities, conversations, and commitments. As a Christian, I would expect this from the world, but fellow believers seem to struggle with it as much as anyone. I see examples every day with the people I associate. Maybe it is a problem inherent in our sin nature. With this blog I hope to work through this issue with biblical basis and pose a challenge to recognize the difference in our daily lives that will ultimately restore integrity and trust with those closest to us.