Saturday, January 27, 2018

Want some grub?

I am just back from China.  Some business, some sightseeing/vacation.

I am writing this on the flight (of course cannot post until I hit live internet).  I find long flights are excellent times to think and reflect.

China has come a long way.  It is smoggy but not as bad as it was.  The automation in the factories has definitely increased a lot.  Quality is world class (and automation helps that).  Motorbikes are out – electric bikes are in.

After doing business, we spent a few days in Unesco Heritage site – Lijiang.  It is old.  None of the streets (all cobblestone) are straight and the old city is quite large so it is easy to get lost (although there are maps every couple of blocks which helps immensely).  

Lijiang is a bit of a tourist destination for people in China.  Very few non-chinese.   It is a great adventure to get by where English is very limited.  For example – ordering dinner when the menu is only Chinese.  Hint – it involves a lot of pointing and sign language.

Like many tourist towns, there was much duplication in vendors.  From a business point of view, I am sure they are business in a box because they all sell similar or identical product.  Many of the vendors are making the product they make and sell – ginger toffee, leather goods, flour cakes (sort of a small, sweet buns that sell for 10 cents), and silver smiths making bangles and jewellery and even some dishes/pots.  

Those who were not making what they sold were most often looking at their phones – absorbed in a movie or chatting.  And many of the tourists were doing the same while walking or eating dinner.  It really drove home the lack of social interaction smart phones can cause.  I am increasingly thinking screen time is making us dumber (except of course reading this blog).  

I did not have a problem with screen time in China since China banned Google in 2010.  This includes my gmail, my google phone, my blog (Google owns Blogger), any sites with Google ads (and there are lots of those), Google maps.  And it made me realize how much I Google things – Yahoo did work though.  And Bing does too but it was all in Chinese. 

I like to tour the markets and shops when I have downtime.  The deals used to be spectacular.   Now, prices are similar to North America or even higher in the high end malls.  I still enjoy walking through the open air farmers markets and seeing how things are different – we do not have a lot of live chickens, rabbits, fish or frogs at the Guelph farmers market.   Tofu was on display in 20 Kg blocks (you ask for a chunk and they cut it like a cheese market might do.  Tofu is a real staple in the population.

I like seeing what the street vendors sell and how they prepare it.  EG – using a blow torch to cook duck.  Lots of insects for sale on skewers or as part of a meal – grasshoppers, locusts, grubs, and larvae.  I attended Ideacity in 2016.  It was like a series of Ted talks.  One of the speakers from the science centre talked of the efficiency of raising insects to solve protein needs.  Her talk is here.  She spoke of the food value in them and how good they are for people.  She was trying to convince people to try them and was even trying to market insect burgers and products.  

When I see China already eats them.  And China has over a billion people, I think the best thing would not be to try to convince a few hundred million North American’s to not be squeamish but rather lets not change China to a North American diet.  I have always been looking for something to export to China since containers going from North America to China cost almost nothing.  So let me know if you have a good source of insects and we can start a new sideline business.

Contrary to what some would think, the cats and dogs are not food – they are, if anything, (over) pampered pets and there are lots of them.

I read an article on repetition and getting back to the basics that might interest.  The gist of it is we need to continually work to keep our edge.