Typical School Day in China

Last weekend we had a 15-year-old Chinese foreign exchange student with us. During a hike, we had lots of time to chat. He lives with his parents in Shanghai. His school day starts at 6:00am every day and ends at 6:00pm. After he comes home at night and has dinner with this family, he sits down and does homework. Yes, 12 hours of school, five days a week, plus homework, and then he goes in for additional lectures on the weekends. I do not know if this is customary for all schools – but it was for his.

Where do we think the “rise of China” comes from? Cheap labor, large population, abuse of workers in sweat shops?


But think again.

High Heat for AFS

Last Sunday three AFS exchange students, who are in San Diego for the summer to learn English, spent the day with us. We took them on a tough hike up and down Mt. Woodson. Here we are at the entry to the hike, with Trisha and the three boys, from China, Turkey and Italy.

High Heat

After the hike, they cooled off in the pool, then Trisha took them to the mall. Yes, the boys from Europe liked the mall and our low prices, but the boy from China said that things were too expensive. We told him that’s because everything in the mall is from China. They wanted donuts – something Europeans see in the movies and don’t ever get. So a trip to the world-renowned Peterson’s Donuts in Escondido and a full box to take back to the dorm with them took care of that urge. After a BBQ dinner, we ended the day with a board game.

Everyone should spend some time with foreign students – it really spins our perspective.

What’s Your Slavery Footprint

In China, soccer ball manufacturers make their employees work 20 hour days, for a month without interruption. Have you bought a soccer ball lately? If you did, you have slaves working for you. How many leather shoes are in your closet? How many gadgets do you own? Do you use coffee? Do you have jewels? Silver or gold?

In Pakistan, boys get placed in servitude at age 13 and don’t get released until age 30. You know how long ago 17 years was? Clinton was dilly-dallying with Monica 17 years ago. That’s how long.

Take the Slavery Footprint Survey and be amazed how much your actions and your purchases contribute to slavery all around the world.

I found out that 29 slaves work for me. I think my score is low.


Book Printing in America

Some books I still buy in hardcopy. Picture books, books with statistics, books I need to jump around in a lot. Here is one I picked up in a gift store at the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia:

What did I find inside?

Quirk Books at 215 Church Street in Philadelphia has its books printed in China.

I would never have thought that.

Locally grown produce anyone?


Retail in America

Yesterday I was at REI shopping for hiking boots.

The prices for these boots run between $150 to $375. What is not readily apparent, but struck me nonetheless as I investigated, is that everyone of these boots…

…is made in China.

Every one of them.

You cannot buy hiking boots at REI without buying Chinese product.

I didn’t buy any boots though, I bought a new backpack.

I dug inside and found the tag:

Made in Vietnam. Yeah!



Suicides at Apple’s Foxconn Factory

The Foxconn Factory in Shenzhen, China produces the iPhone. Worker conditions are so bad, pay so low, that there was recently an epidemic of suicides. The company installed suicide nets at the dorms.

The Success of KFC

Yesterday evening Trisha and I sat there looking at each other with no idea about what to have for dinner. So I went all out – only the best, classy that I am – and “took her” to KFC for some chicken.

Sometimes the craving just hits. We were the only “dining in” customers, and we sat at a shabby formica table enjoying our meals eaten out of cardboard and plastic, while teenagers paraded in and out and the drive-through was humming.

If I don’t go too often, I actually enjoy KFC. I order their original recipe and I generally like it.

I remember hearing about Col. Sanders (supposedly the founder and the guy on the logo picture) in motivational programs decades ago. When he got out of the military with nothing to do and not enough money to make it, he wanted to start franchising his chicken recipe. Nobody was interested. He went on the road and started knocking on doors. He was turned down, turned down and turned down. Legend has it that he was rejected by more than 1,000 owners of restaurants before he convinced the first one.

Today, every day, more than 12 million customers are served at KFC restaurants in 109 countries and territories around the world. KFC operates more than 5,200 restaurants in the United States and more than 15,000 units around the world. KFC is world-famous for its Original Recipe® fried chicken — made with the same secret blend of 11 herbs and spices Col. Sanders perfected more than a half-century ago. Customers around the globe also enjoy more than 300 other products — from Kentucky Grilled Chicken in the United States to a salmon sandwich in Japan.

In China alone, starting with one restaurant in 1987, KFC now operates 3,200 KFCs stores. Col. Sanders’ picture is far more popular and displayed in China than that of Mao. Their target is to have to 20,000 stores in China. KFC is far more widespread in China than McDonald’s is, the world’s largest restaurant chain.

So what is my point? The seemingly runaway success of 15,000 stores worldwide, with far more to go, did not come by accident. If Col. Sanders, more than 50 years ago, had stopped knocking of doors  after 999 tries, there would be no KFC today. A good chicken recipe made KFC, but perseverance and iron will, against all odds, against better advice, is what really created the company.

Time to Start Learning Chinese

Xinhua Net reported that there were almost 300 million people learning English in China in 2007. The entire population of England in 2007 was 51 million.

Six times as many Chinese are learning English as there are people in England.

I think it’s time that I started learning Chinese.