During our many hours of travel time (including a drive home to Sioux Falls,after our flight from Chicago was cancelled), the group had plenty of time to collect our thoughts and reflect on our experiences. From those conversations we developed a top 10 list to share with you.
Top 10 Things We Learned, Observed or Experienced in China
- China is our number one customer, and is increasing their soybean demand by 4 million metric tons.
- Soybean demand in China fluctuates with the Chinese New Year holiday. As someone explained to us, Chinese New Year’s is like our Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all rolled into one. The Chinese consume a lot of meat during their celebrations, which can last up to one month. The livestock supplies are drawn down, which decreases demand for soybeans because there aren’t as many animals to feed. Conversely, the peak for soybean demand is about one month before the Chinese New Year.
- China’s population is increasing at an incredibly rapid pace. Every month they estimate the population grows by 800,000 people. To put that in perspective, the total population of South Dakota is about 814,000 people. China’s population growth = one South Dakota every month.
- Not only is China’s population growing, but so is the amount of construction. The entire skyline of China is filled with cranes constructing new apartment buildings, new office buildings and bridges or roads.
- Mooncakes. We were in China around the time of their Mid-Autumn Festival. The Chinese follow a lunar calendar, and celebrate the festival on the evening the moon is the largest all year. According to custom, mooncakes are given as presents, and are to be eaten under the full moon. Needless to say, we were given a number of mooncakes as gifts. Our airline even fed us mooncake. Mooncakes are small, round, dense cakes that have a variety of fillings (nuts, beans, carrots, etc.) The gifting of mooncakes can probably be best compared to the gifting of Christmas fruit cake. We’ll leave it at that. 🙂
- We already knew that the Chinese like fresh fish, but apparently they also like fresh alligator. One of the evenings we went to a restaurant that also has a very large fresh fish market. Customers can shop around the tanks and pick out what they want to eat for their meals that evening. Someone must have ordered alligator because before we knew it, they had fished him out of the tank, and chopped him up right in front of us!
- Obviously, when you’re in China you eat with chopsticks. As if trading in our forks and knives for chopsticks wasn’t challenging enough, the restaurant tables in China were all large, round tables with spinning tops (like a giant lazy susan.) It was like a game to quick grab your food off of the plates as they spun on by! Unfortunately, some of us were not the most adept with our chopstick at the beginning of the trip, which may have resulted in some food ending up on other people’s laps. However, by the end of the trip we had all became very accomplished chopstick eaters.
- At one point, someone pointed out that we hadn’t seen any birds. The explanation given to us: most birds are eaten for food. Not surprisingly, we noticed pigeon on the menu at the next restaurant we visited.
- The difference one syllable can make. One of our directors was meeting us in China after coming from Europe. Right before boarding his flight, he called to double check he was coming to the right city. Thank goodness he did! Instead of flying to Guangzhou (Gwahng-Joh) in Southern China where we were, his flight was booked to Zhengzhou (Jeng-joh) which is an ancient Chinese city in Northern China.
- One evening we took a boat cruise through Guangzhou on the Pearl River. The city is decorated with neat architecture and elaborate lighting on all of the buildings. It was a beautiful boat ride, and we definitely enjoyed seeing the sparkling lights of the city.