Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finally in the Heartland

I touched down in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou, two days ago.

The "Iowa of China"

Someone told me that out of China's 32 provinces, Guizhou is the 6th poorest. As such, I came prepared- while in Beijing I purchased a box of tasty beef jerky in case there wouldn't be enough meat to go around.

How wrong I was- the streets (at least in this college area of Guiyang) are very lively, with lots of students, meat, and even alcohol. The most noticeable differences between here and Beijing is that it is very green, hilly, and unfettered here. The ambience keeps the weather cool and pleasant, not too hot.

(I can't wait until retirement)

I was greeted by Professor Ye at the airport, who teaches econometrics and enterprise management at the University of Guizhou School of Management.

I will be working primarily under him on this project, but as he is busy teaching courses and has several other graduate students working under him, he has assigned two of his to help me in the meantime.

Their names are Stone (he doesn’t have an English name, and his last name literally means 'shi' or 'rock') and Sophie. Sophie’s family lives about an hour outside of Guiyang, while Stone’s family lives further away.

(Mai on the left, Sophie in the middle, and Stone on the right)

Just to be clear, my project here will be to help Guizhou’s organic tea farmers to market and brand their tea for export to the world’s primary organic markets, focused especially in the US and Europe. In addition to assistance from China's universities, I am hoping to leverage support from the local governments here. I am staying on-campus at Guizhou University.

Prior to coming to Guiyang, I did a decent amount of research, including speaking with students who had previous experience working on organic farms or in advertising with large organic retailers such as Whole Foods. I also visited a number of tea cafes in Ann Arbor and San Francisco to see what it takes to get product stocked on their shelves, as well as data on the type of customers that frequent their businesses and purchase organic consumables.

Yesterday, Stone and Sophie took me to a village outside of Guiyang, about 30 minutes away. The village is a popular tourist destination for locals. I’ve attached some videos (with translation) for your entertainment and edification.

Stone introducing the village we visited, Qing Yen

Sights and sounds of the village market

Eating pig feet with an excitable Sophie

In the meantime, I'm working on putting together a business plan of sorts to hopefully get their tea to market. It is difficult because this region isn't known for tea-growing, but rather for Bai Jiu, aka Mou Tai, aka expensive, Chinese hard liquor.

Hopefully these videos will help. A big challenge will come when I finally get to go out to the 'real countryside' to see how these farmers really live.

1 comment:

  1. Great pics and videos Rob. Looks like you're having a blast over in Guizhou. I especially like the fact that you added subtitles. The video from Qing Yen Village kind of looks like some of the Philippine countryside (except of course for the stone building in the background!) The pigs feet looks pretty tasty too, though I didn't see you eat it on the video. haha. Keep the videos and pics coming! Hope you're doing well.