Sunday, August 26, 2007

Random Beijing

Sorry for the delay in posting. We have both been really busy with work, and I just recently figured out how to view our blog from China.

I read a quote in the English version of China Daily. It stated that as a Westerner, "the moment you think that you understand Asia, you are fooling only yourself. You will only understand 90% of Asia." We think it is more like 20-30%...

Here are a few observations of westerners in China; things foreign to us, but do not raise an eyebrow to our hosts...

One perplexing conundrum is the vast array of luxury vehicles. Based on the conversations we have had with our Chinese friends, there is no lease (due to a problem with selling of the lease vehicles in other Providences), only very affluent people posses credit cards, and there is no financing/bank loans. Most pay cash! I understand the unprecedented amount of millionaires created by year over year GDP growth, a burgeoning middle class, and a stock exchange that increased 300% in one year. The staggering quantity of quality is astonishing: BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, Buick, Porsche, Donkey Carts, Cadillac, Range Rovers, Ferrari, etc. Audi especially (given the early entrance of VW in China). These luxury vehicles litter the roads with the less expensive domestic brands. It is like driving through Birmingham (affluent Detroit suburb).

Clearly the Yuan continues to valuate against the USD ($ is used as baseline for all global currencies in terms of growth/valuation/devaluation), inflation is steady yet rising, and the demand for goods within the middle class of China is increasing. The fact remains that salaries in China are significantly less than those in the USA. In addition, the expectation within the culture is your retirement plan is your kid. Meaning, as a child, you are expected to take care of your folks. When your kid gets married, your portfolio has doubled. Your parents either live with you, or you furnish their apartment (at least you don't have to pay for child care or an Ayi -maid/cook/errand lady). Considering all this, it is baffling to me how so many people can afford such expensive cars. It may be simply as a lesson in normal distribution.

A mule car shares the road with a $60k Lexus

Food is a major part of the Chinese culture in many ways. During the week I spend my time in Changchun, in the rust belt of northern China where my supplier is located. I enjoy three squares of dim sum a day while there. Nadia also enjoys Chinese cuisine for lunch every day at school. HOWEVER, on the weekend, we try to enjoy a little slice of home. Another tidbit of random China is the interpretation of western food:

  • For instance, yesterday I ordered a club sandwich. On my club sandwich came on three pieces of toast bread, ham, bacon (so far so good), tomato, carrot, fried egg, thousand island dressing, pickles, lettuce and onions.
  • Chicken breast sandwich = chicken meat loaf. Your basic meatloaf ingredients minus beef plus minced chicken.
  • Peanut bread = white toast with peanut butter.
  • Chicken burger = a Big Mac (two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, all on a sesame seed bun) minus beef patties, plus chicken patties.
  • Cheese pizza = thin crust like a baked tortilla, stewed tomatoes, cheese and carrots.

Lastly I thought I would insert a few new pictures, enjoy!

Children, run and play with hazardous nuclear waste

My office when not on the road... Chimo's cafe

Mmmm, eel surprise, what's the surprise??? IT'S EEL!


At September 7, 2007 at 7:36 PM , Blogger Christina said...

Well, it sounds like you have settled into your new pad nicely. I enjoy hearing about your everyday activities and the Chinese culture. I'm taking Roman to the Renaissance Festival this weekend to check out all the weirdos dressed up. Remember how much fun we had, Nadia? Nothing better than a Turkey Leg and glass of Harp. Except an eel surprise, or course. By the way, did you eat that? From the picture it almost looks like some sloppy enchiladas. Yum.
Keep writing.....

At September 12, 2007 at 7:59 AM , Blogger Abby said...

Hello from the Rocky Mountain state!
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your take on China so far - interesting about all the mac daddy cars, and the eel for that matter...not so sure about that one. :)

Nadia - I tried to get a hold of you before you guys left, but I think I missed you by a day or two. Can I get your address? How does the mail work, is it pretty secure? Shoot me an email when you get a minute -

Take care & keep in touch! Miss you guys!!


At September 13, 2007 at 9:53 AM , Blogger Steve said...

I had eel for lunch a couple days ago. Yay eel! Glad to see you got through China's Great Firewall. Hope it's getting cooler in your area, I've heard the summers can be hot out there.

At September 28, 2007 at 11:24 AM , Blogger Zach & Nadia Rahaim said...

Just this week, last week of September, it has dropped below 30C or about 85F. DAMN HOT! Humid too.

Yes, I ate the eel, and yes, it was actually VERY tasty. Don't know that I would request going back, but if they put a plate of eel in front of me again, I would eat it!


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