Personal Note: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order a copy from the USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. We are slowly approaching the end of the book. Share it. Peace, steve, November 6, 2019 firstname.lastname@example.org blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
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From the farm I returned to the Holiday Hotel (with internet and wifi and the Western sitting toilet) outside the campus where I had taught for seven years because I felt I needed time to regain some normalcy in my existence and also to recuperate from days of Spring Festival feasting and partying with Jake’s family and Jacob’s family before I would travel to Quanzhou to spend the Lantern Festival with David and his wife and his parents. Before I return home to America.
In the past seven years, I had traveled often to see David after his college graduation in 2011 when he first started working for a big company HengAn International, with its headquarters in Anhai, near Quanzhou. “Hengan International Group Company Limited is an investment holding company,” according to its website, “principally engaged in the manufacture, distribution and sales of personal hygiene products, including sanitary napkin products, disposable diaper products and tissue papers products. The Company is also engaged in the manufacture and trading of skin care, food and snacks products. Through its subsidiaries, the Company is also involved in the trading and procurement business.”
David, fresh from college, held a different philosophy about pursuing an advanced degree in a foreign country. He told me then that because of his interest in international trade, having an advanced degree would not be to his advantage but real practical hands-on experiences with a company, like HengAn International, would be his best training ground. And option. His parents could afford to send him overseas like some of his friends. But he insisted on working to gain real world practical experiences in the career he had chosen. He only went for one interview and that was with HengAn International, then looking for students with an English degree. He was hired by the company after six months of internship. He is right about not wasting time for an advanced degree because he is now pursuing his career with a vengeance, confidence, basic know-how and desire to create his own niche in the business world: international trade. He worked three years in the International Division at HengAn International. But David felt this company was not paying attention to its international trade but focused more on the domestic markets. He felt he could not go any further with his career if he continued to stay with the company. And he decided to go on his own, armed with the rich experiences he had with HengAn International.
And Quanzhou is just the right place for his entrepreneurial spirit and endeavors, with the support of his wife (whose father also owns a factory to produce children’s products) and parents who have their own factory to run. He is surrounded with
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people who will always be there to support him and his career goal…to build his own company in a very competitive Quanzhou. Armed with practical and pragmactic experiences, self-confidence and ambition, David wanted to create his own products (baby diapers, adult diapers and baby wipes) with his own brand name and he acquired a factory to produce these products. His dream is to participate in the Canton Fair 2016, the 120th China Import and Export Fair. According to ChinaExhibition.com, “With the support from plenty of exhibitors and visitors, China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) has now become the most comprehensive trade show with the longest history, the highest level, the largest scale, the most complete in exhibit variety, and the broadest distribution of overseas buyers and the greatest business turnover in China.…Canton Fair shows a variety of high quality products with reasonable price.”
David told me he is on the way there now.
David is the future of China and many young people, especially new college graduates, entertain and harbor the same dream: one day, I will have my own business or company. I heard it loud and clear from my students the past seven years. Today’s young people are the future of China. And if you can survive, grow and expand and prosper in Quanzhou, you can survive in any part of China.
For the 2016 Lantern Festival, David had arranged for a Quanzhou taxi to pick me up at Xiamen Ferry Terminal. Many taxis operate between these two cities. Usually, the taxi would bring a group of people from Quanzhou to Xiamen and he would then gather enough passengers for his return trip back to Quanzhou. His phone is always busy with calls. If I was lucky, I would always pick the front seat, next to the driver. This time I could not be standing where I used to stand, in front of China Construction Bank building almost directly opposite the ferry, because of the traffic in and out of the bank parking lot for the regular clients. Now Xiamen has decided to mark this area as off-limits to all taxis, and I would have to find a spot right near the bus terminal, a block down where I used to wait for a taxi. The taxi man was given my phone number and he would call me when he would be driving by for me. The bus terminal was always crowded with people but this taxi (using a regular car) would slow down when he spotted where I was standing with my small luggage (a sign I was his passenger). We would be driving around a few neighborhoods for him to pick up his other passengers, who were either visiting (like me) or returning to Quanzhou. For a small fee, he would deliver me right at the doorstep of David’s parents’ apartment in Quanzhou in about two hours or so. I had always enjoyed this short trip.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I arrived at my destination and David and his wife
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Nina were waiting for me. His mom and dad had guests for late afternoon tea. They were all happy to see me since my last visit was a year ago at David’s wedding. Besides the traditional tea set and tea, there was a variety of Spring Festival snacks like dried fruits, peanuts and watermelon seeds on the coffee table to entertain their guests.
I had spent my 2015 Spring Festival with David and his family. It was a totally different experience for me because we attended only one big New Year Eve’s dinner at the old traditional family residence of David’s father’s parents. It seemed the whole Cai clan was there with uncles and their wives all working harmoniously together to put on a huge hotpot dinner. Because it was a large Cai family gathering, there were in fact three hotpots, one in the middle and one at each end of a makeshift long table. That meant three sets of all kinds of ingredients: Chinese black mushrooms, different fresh mushrooms, dried lily flower, dried fungus, thinly sliced precooked carrot, precooked bamboo shoot, sea cucumbers, fish balls, pork balls, beef balls, shrimp balls, roasted pork, squid, sliced beef and pork and chicken, tofu, fried tofu, bean curd, fresh shrimp, crawfish, sauces, green onion and ginger root, eggs and different kinds of noodles. Some sat precariously on the edges of the long table. And David’s cousin brother was lavish with his collection of the best wine for the dinner. And there were soft drinks to please everyone, young and old.
David’s grandpa is a healthy man and he ate just like everyone else in the room. Grandpa is unusually tall while David is of medium height, like his father. He also loves to play the traditional Chinese mahjong, the hobby of many senior citizens—especially females—in China. I remember one day his grandpa suddenly appeared at David’s apartment and David told me grandpa has keys to all the residences of his children and he could visit any house any time as he pleases, without any prior announcement or warming. He is free to roam and visit at his convenience and leisure. I had never heard of that before, not even in America.
Even though David’s mom has three brothers and no grandparents and his dad has four brothers and two sisters and grandparents, because David’s parents own a factory they did not have the luxury of time to go from house to house to celebrate their Spring Festival. His parents did entertain in their beautiful apartment business friends, college classmates and relatives during their holiday break from the factory. In fact, two of his dad’s brothers and families continue to live in the traditional big, old family house with his grandparents. I saw one floor of the original building where David and his parents once lived with David’s elementary school books still there. That floor is still vacant because David’s parents were able to make their own money and bought an expensive apartment in the newer part of the city. Like my cousin brother in
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Fuqing, most families would just build new additions with modern facilities (like a modern kitchen and bathroom) to the original structure, instead of totally demolishing the old and built a new one in its place. I remember once I visited my student’s grandparents up a mountain in Putian where they had added a new room with the modern sitting toilet to the old building because his grandparents are getting old and would prefer the sitting toilet instead of the old traditional squatting toilet.
The New Year at Jake’s parents and Jacob’s parents were a whole different affair. Jake’s parents are both teachers and so they had the time to go from house to house to celebrate their Spring Festival and for that reason I had too much of their hospitality and the hospitality of their relatives. I desperately needed some free time now to get away from all the Spring Festival special snacks, specialties and foods and the hectic schedule. Jacob’s parents are farmers and life was simpler. Now a short stay at the Holiday Hotel would be good for my sanity and some peace and quiet for my well-being. I did not need to be a Muslim to fast because I had plenty and was saturated with food and travelling. I am so used to a simple life and to living alone in a three bed-room split-level house in America. As a writer I love a lot of space to enjoy my solitude and serenity, a privilege few of my Chinese friends in mainland China could appreciate and understand.
I was very happy to end my special trip back to China to spend time with people I care for and love. And now to end the Spring Festival, David and his wife and his parents would introduce me the meaning and celebration of the Lantern Festival, the last day of the official Chinese Spring Festival.
This is China.