Sunday, June 24
Today I ate Dinner/Lunch at the home of a British guy named Michael who teaches at the high school. He has been living in China for ten years and is married to a Chinese woman with whom he has an 18-month-old son. I must admit that it was quite nice to have a relaxing few hours of speaking 98% English. I understand how easy it is for international students to band together by language and culture and mostly speak their native tongue. The comfort of one’s native language is pretty potent.
Having lived in China for a decade and being married to a Chinese woman, Michael has some interesting insights on Chinese culture. Overall, he reports that he loves it here, otherwise he would not have stayed for so long. Even so, there are some things that still get to him, such as the insanity of the traffic and the poor sanitation. I am glad to see that he has taken the time to study and learn Chinese—I am always sad to hear about or meet westerners who live in China, even for long periods of time, and don’t learn much if any Chinese at all.
An interesting topic of conversation over dinner was related to the ease with which street vendors in China can set up shop and sell just about anything they want. We spoke mostly of those who sell food from carts, and I thought of my friend Harris Roberts, a Bryant Student who incidentally came to China with me in January and is currently starting a business selling Kettle Corn at Farmer’s Markets and community events in Providence. On his blog Harris recently posted about the process of getting a business license, including health department and fire department inspections as well as approval from local, state, and federal authorities. Here in China, street vendors dump waste in the gutters at the end of the day, something that is obvious on certain vendor-lined streets. They also clearly don’t have health department inspections given the state of many of their carts, and based on what I’ve seen I’m guessing they don’t have to pass any sort of fire code either. I’m not necessarily recommending opening a food cart in China, but if you wanted to it appears to fall within the informal business sector, at least here in Handan anyway.
Harris, here are a few photos of people selling corn in Handan, China. I know it’s not “kettle corn,” but if you take a close look at these carts you’ll see that they are boiling corn on the cob in big kettles—Chinese kettle corn at your fingertips! One of the vendors seems to be having a rough day at the office—remember this when you get discouraged in the summer heat of Providence: kettle corn vendors around the world have bad days now and then. Regardless of how business is going, know that you’re in good company and that there is a large market for selling all kinds of corn.