About

Welcome to the “Feet on the Ground…” blog site!

So, is this a blog…or a website?

Well, it’s basically a blog…with website characteristics!

My name is Kevin Beaty and this site is dedicated to sharing some of the more interesting and relevant experiences that naturally result from living cross-culturally.  Some of you have expressed interest in this “journey”, so I will share a few highlights along our path… starting with:

  • Background
  • Language? Culture?!
  • Why China? Why Dali?
  • What is YUNEV?

Background

After 28+ years of leadership and executive service in the Clean Transportation world, my wife and I decided to go on “sabbatical” to study Chinese.  Prior to this move, I worked as an innovator and leader in the Automotive/Clean Transportation industry.  I had the rare privilege of building and leading award-winning teams/programs – working on advanced powertrain product development with global cross-functional and cross-cultural complexity.  These general management (GM) roles allowed me to lead innovative global growth businesses in consulting, start-up, technology (R&D), non-profit and corporate (manufacturing) environments.

Why make such a drastic move?  While working as an executive for Eaton Corporation, I spent considerable time and effort helping launch Eaton’s hybrid business in China over a 10 year period (2002-2012).  Those efforts yielded several successes and setbacks that seemed unique to doing business in China.

With each trip to China, I watched (along with the rest of the world) as the congestion and air pollution in China’s major cities became progressively worse.  It became obvious that China must find solutions to its energy and environmental challenges over the next 10-20 years, and I became increasingly interested in helping China and US partners work toward that goal.

For more info on my professional background, please visit my Professional Bio page, or LinkedIn site.

Language? Culture?!

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First Day of Class – Dali University, Sep 2014

Over this 10 year timeframe, I concluded that in order to help Chinese and US partners work together more effectively, I would need to be able to communicate much more effectively in Chinese language and culture.  Naturally, I considered exploring traditional expat roles in China with Western multi-national corporations (MNC’s).  But frankly, I was concerned that I would end up like many western expats who use English as the primary “business” language in the office and have relatively little time/energy for learning local language and culture during the evenings/weekends – especially a difficult language like Mandarin Chinese.

So, my wife and I decided to take a 2 year sabbatical from the corporate world and study language/culture full-time in a more immersive context.  My goal is to reach HSK Level 3 fluency in Chinese language before returning to work full-time.  Based on actual results of having reached HSK Level 2 in August 2015, I am working to reach HSK Level 3 in the summer of 2016 timeframe (at the earliest).

Why China?  Why Dali? 

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Dali Old Town Tower, Yunnan Province, China

China represents one of the world’s greatest energy and environmental challenges over the next 10-20 years.  This is a country with a fascinating history and rich culture that often gets a bad rap in the Western press.  We chose Dali (Yunnan Province) for its rich ethnic culture and diversity, mild climate, beautiful scenery, great food and clean air/water.  It is truly one of China’s national treasures!

What is YUNEV? 

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YUNEV (Yunnan-US New Ventures, LLC) is a new venture focused on helping China and US partners work more effectively together – especially where collaboration across different cultures can create beautiful and functional designs and outcomes.  Initial clients/collaboration partners for YUNEV have included Michelin, Rocky Mountain Institute, strategic corporate/institutional investors, and other private equity firms.

OK, let’s start blogging!

Copyright Notice:

© Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2014-2015.  All rights reserved.

What’s Next?

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Beautifully functional rocking chair inspired by Sam Maloof design, perfected by Hal Taylor, hand-crafted by Cecil Braeden (used with permission by Cecil Braeden)

Good question!  As I mentioned in my previous post, after 2 years in Yunnan Province my wife and I returned from China sooner than we had planned.  There are so many ways to approach the question: “What’s Next?”  I’d like to describe our plans in terms of 3 key areas:

  • Lifestyle
  • Lifestyle
  • Lifestyle

Nope, that’s not a typo!  Basically, after living in a much different culture for 2 years, we just don’t think we can go back to the same routine we were in before.  Some of our priorities and values have shifted, others have been clarified, strengthened and renewed.  And we are resolved to have our lifestyle reflect those changes as much as possible.

The first lifestyle change is our budget.  While we’d like to be able to live on our Chinese budget in the US, we know that is just not possible (unless you know where I can find a bowl of fresh, hand-made noodles for $1.50!).  Nevertheless, like many others we know, we are committed to simplifying our expenses and streamlining our consumption with the goal of having more to share with others.

The second lifestyle change is how we spend our “free time”.  While we know it is healthy and important to enjoy recreation and fitness, social time with family and friends, worship, and even personal “recharge” time, we also want to be more intentional about carving out time to engage with others in our community who are struggling in various waysfinancially, emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually.  Living outside the U.S. for 2 years emphasized to us how much we have been given.  Like a number of our friends and family, we want to give back more of our time to help others who are not currently enjoying such abundance (e.g., fatherless kids, orphans, single moms, recently released inmates, immigrants/refugees, unemployed, and others).

The third lifestyle change is in terms of our work.  After almost 25 years of “domestic engineering” and “household logistics”, my wife, Gienah, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Library Science to prepare her to return to the elementary school world.  She is hoping to help teachers, students and parents use today’s library resources and technologies effectively.

In addition to my ongoing interest in product design and development, Chinese business relationships and collaborative innovation activities, a new area of interest for me is in what I call “functional art”.  Designing and making products that are functional, yet also have a strong aesthetic appeal.  They say “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so instead of trying to explain exactly what “functional art” means to me, here are just a few examples of products I consider beautiful that also perform a specific function:

nakashima-stand

Burled Elm and Walnut Music Stand by George Nakashima (see photo credit #1 below)

conoid-dining-table

Black Walnut Dining Table by George Nakashima (see photo credit #2 below)

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Walnut Side Table by George Nakashima (see photo credit #4 below)

I’m hoping this very small sampling will give you a better idea of where my interest lies and the types of functional art that inspire me.  You may have some of the same questions I do:

  • Can I make functional art similar to the above examples…today?  Not yet.
  • Can I learn to make them…eventually?  I think so, but…
  • Will it be quick…easy?  No.
  • Will it require a significant investment in time, energy and money?  Absolutely.
  • Will it be worth it?  Sure hope so!

In those instances where “functional art” has an authentic cultural element (i.e., folk art), excellent craftsmanship, and a reflection of the incredible beauty of natural wood and other organic materials, my level of inspiration and engagement are off-the-chart!

Basically, this new change in lifestyle means I’m likely to begin using my hands, heart, and head to do work I hope others will find functional and beautiful.  For me, this is a natural extension of my career in the clean-transportation and automotive industry!  And, it captures the essence of one of our favorite Chinese sayings:

“活到老,学到老”.  The literal translation is “Live till old, learn till old”, or as we say in America: “Lifelong learning”.

If you’re in the Austin area and would like additional details, give me a call and I hope we’ll be able to connect in person.  Or, you can watch for updates on this blog.  We may not be “on-the-ground” in China any more, but we’re definitely “on-the-ground” in Central Texas and I look forward to sharing a few of the interesting twists and turns ahead.

Photo Credits:

  1. Music Stand by George Nakashima: 1stDibs @ https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/more-furniture-collectibles/music-stands/george-nakashima-adjustable-music-stand/id-f_1946862/#0
  2. Conoid Dining Table by George Nakashima:  1stDibs @ https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/tables/dining-room-tables/conoid-dining-table-george-nakashima/id-f_747065/
  3. Frenchman’s Cove II Dining Table Close-Ups:  George Nakashima Woodworker @ http://www.nakashimawoodworker.com/furniture/3/22
  4. Side Table by George Nakashima:  1stDibs @ https://www.1stdibs.com/furniture/tables/end-tables/pair-of-george-nakashima-conoid-side-tables/id-f_643327/
  5. All other photos by KDB (me!)

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2017.  All rights reserved.

What happened? Why return?

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Our “family vehicle” while in China – the local city bus.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written (that’s putting it mildly!).  Here’s why:

To recap: my wife, Gienah, and I went to Yunnan Province, China in August of 2014 to spend 2 years studying Mandarin language and Chinese culture full-time.  That part of the plan went well and our 2 years ended in June this past summer.

The next part of the plan was to buy, start or join a small business in China’s Yunnan Province with plans of being there for the next 10-15 years (or more).  Ideally, that business would have a strong clean transportation element.  That’s where we encountered some headwinds (putting it mildly, again!).

I’ve been trying to decide how to explain the challenges to people who are not familiar with the economic, regulatory and market conditions in Yunnan Province, China.

The shortest version is:  Our plans failed.

There, I said it.

Was it a lack of faith?  A lack of confidence?  Lack of vision?  Lack of determination?  Lack of skill?  Lack of effort?  I’ve asked these questions over and over and there is probably some truth to each of these shortcomings and more.

There is a longer version of the story, but I’m pretty sure no one wants to hear that.  There is a really short version, but it lacks the nuance and contextual grasp of conditions on-the-ground, in-the-street.  So, one option is to just pass, not even try to explain.  In a way, that’s the option I’ve chosen during the past 6 months since we returned to the States.  But, that seems pretty lame to me, so just in case anyone is interested in our experience, read on!

First, the cost structure of doing business in Yunnan has been increasing dramatically over the past 5 years.  For example, many local (Chinese) business owners regularly close their doors because their rent has unexpectedly increased by 2x…or more.  Labor rates have also seen upward pressure and as a result, for a number of industries, exporting products from China has become less and less competitive vs. Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Second, the local (micro) competitive environment among small businesses is extreme.  It is not uncommon to see a number of competitors (sometimes as many as 6 or more) open new businesses on the same street after a new business has achieved visible signs of success.  In some cases, these competitors are virtually next door and on the same side of the street!  Of course, if you’re the last person to open a store and struggle to differentiate your value proposition, the first thing you do is lower your price which often destroys the market for everyone, including the first mover.  These dynamics are common in the small (to medium) business space, but less common where the first mover has a clear technological advantage (as was the case in my previous work experience in China with clean transportation).  The bad news was that as a small (very small!) business investor, we were unlikely to enjoy even a fraction of the technological advantage I had experienced in the corporate world.

Third, the local regulatory environment and “business customs” were more difficult than anticipated, even for Chinese nationals.  I simply could not “get my head around” attempting to operate a small business as a Westerner with limited language skills and knowledge of local customs.  A quick example might help explain:  One of my local (Chinese) friends obtained the management contract for 3 hotels around the local lake.  This lake is a major tourist destination for Chinese and international travelers.  Less than one year later, he was preparing to sell/exit these contracts and relocate to Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Why?  According to him, the local authorities and sub-suppliers were impossible to do business with.  That was a daunting thing to hear, since he had over 28 years of tourism experience in Yunnan Province and as a native, he knew the local language and culture far better than I ever would.  There are many more stories like this one, but I must also say that we know several Westerners who have been doing business in Yunnan Province successfully for 5, 10 and even 20 years.  In some cases, they have recently closed their doors, or are struggling to figure out a sustainable strategy for keeping their doors open.  Others appear to be doing just fine.  I have a tremendous respect for these savvy entrepreneurs.  You know who you are…keep it up!  This experience has also produced in me a tremendous respect for those who immigrate to the US and start new businesses from scratch, often with very limited financial resources, limited local language skills and little knowledge of the local culture or regulatory requirements.

Fourth, it was really difficult to separate “fashion” from true “policy priorities” when it came to clean energy and clean transportation in our area.  Just before we arrived in Yunnan, the local government had taken on a visionary initiative to install wind/solar powered lighting around the lake – almost 100 miles of continuous street lights.  After less than a year or two, it was not uncommon to see 50%, 70% or even 90% of the small wind turbines on top of these light poles no longer functioning.  And, I never could figure out where the batteries were located for storing the solar or wind energy to power the lights after dark (or when the wind was not blowing).  Yet, the lights continued to operate.  Were they simply connected to the grid and the wind/solar elements were just window-dressing?  Or, was each solar panel and wind generator tied to the grid to provide distributed power generation?  (Not likely).

Perhaps I could (should) have been part of the solution to help local officials turn these aging and non-functioning assets into much more productive elements of a clean-energy system.  On the other hand, the fact that they were visibly dysfunctional yet not receiving any maintenance or repair attention may have been an indicator that these were installed to achieve a goal that was not purely related to clean energy.  In addition to this example, I was daily reminded of the razor thin margins that local transportation companies faced and the direct impact these economics had on the level of technology in their fleet.  Our primary “family vehicle” (the local city bus) was so old and poorly maintained that it was hard to imagine clean technologies would be introduced in the near-term.  Like many things in China: so many questions…not so many answers.

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Yes, these are actual photos of the bus we often caught into town.

Finally, after 2 years of language study, my wife and I did pass the HSK Level 3 language fluency exam (thank you Li Laoshi, Zhou Laoshi and Ellen!).  Passing the HSK 3 was a real win for me since I struggled with the language much more than my wife.  Nevertheless, for me personally, HSK 3 hardly felt like sufficient language fluency for me to be competent doing business with financial investments in a responsible way.

That’s the short(er) version.  Somehow it sounds a little better to me than the shortest version!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should also say there were opportunities to do general management work in the major cities, including the possibility of work as a “New Energy” executive with some of the domestic vehicle OEMs.  But, the one part of our vision that never changed was a strong desire to live in Yunnan Province.  After 2 years on-the-ground in China, that part of the vision was only reinforced.  Our desire to live in one of China’s major cities and forge a completely new life with new friends, new communities, new utilities, new water supply companies, new markets, new transportation systems, etc. paled in comparison to our desire to be in Yunnan.  Furthermore, we did not go to China with the support network many expats experience, and if we were to stay, we would have wanted to remain in the local community where we had built close friendships and felt connected to the local community and culture.

All that to say we have returned to the States.  It broke our hearts to leave many special friends in Yunnan, and we continue to miss them and so many things about the local community and culture.  After spending several months in Colorado studying to take the HSK 3 exam, we migrated south to Texas where we are now much closer to family on both sides.  For those of you who have lived outside the US, you will appreciate the reality that “returning” culture-shock can be just as difficult as the “going” culture-shock.  We are living witnesses to that reality.  We are also living witnesses to the beauty and unique cultural elements that make the US, Colorado and Texas great places to live and visit!

Despite the disappointment of not seeing our plans come to fruition as we had envisioned, we are so thankful to God for our time in China.  It was truly one of the most enriching experiences of our lives.  Now, we’re excited to see what He has planned for us next.

If you’re interested, please watch for an upcoming post entitled:  “What’s Next?”

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2017.  All rights reserved.

Top 10 Things I will Miss

Sunset-Last Night

Sunset in Dali Old Town our last night

As you may have noticed from my previous blog posting, we will be returning to the U.S. following our 2 year language and culture studies in China.  In fact, our departure date is today!

While it would be foolish to believe I can anticipate exactly how reverse culture-shock will impact me, there are several things I “think” will be true.  Here’s my best estimate for a Top 10 List of what I think I will miss and what I will enjoy about returning to the US after 2 years in SW China.

Obviously, I will miss the many special friends and relationships we have developed over the past 2 years.  This will be the hardest part of transitioning back to the US, and I am omitting this most important category to keep this article light and enjoyable (at least for me!).

I THINK I will miss:

  1. Noodle shops (especially “拉面/lamian” which means “hand-pulled” or hand-made noodles)
  2. LOTS of daily human interaction (the relaxed, outdoor lifestyle here includes interacting with people on the street, on the bus, in the vegetable market, shops, restaurants, etc…)
  3. Being able to practice Chinese (everywhere!)
  4. Weekly traditional Chinese massage (< $10/hr)
  5. Riding motorcycle in the crazy local traffic!
  6. Shopping/buying from local shop owners/vendors (not the self-check-out at “big box” stores)
  7. Creative, artsy culture of Dali
  8. Natural beauty of Dali (Cang Shan mountains, vibrant flowers/colors throughout the year, beautiful skyscapes with dramatic light from the clouds as they roll over the mountains near sunset…and of course, Lake Erhai!)
  9. Farmers working in their small village gardens/fields
  10. Time…for spending with friends and building relationships
Version 2

My favorite “egg lady” – How can buying eggs be so much fun?!

Version 2

My last bowl of hand-made noodles…couldn’t resist!

I THINK I will enjoy:

 

  1. No longer living behind the Great Firewall (see upcoming article for why this is #1 on the list!)
  2. Being closer to family
  3. Butterfingers
  4. Ability to communicate with majority of society!
  5. Steak (think Ribeye!)
  6. Riding motorcycle in more predictable traffic patterns
  7. Tacos, Chips, Salsa
  8. Central heating (or effective winter heat of any kind!)
  9. US “standard” height countertops, tables, chairs…even vehicles!
  10. Fewer fish bones and bone shards in meat!

I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises during the coming months (and even years) as we experience life in our previous culture, but one that is no longer our only culture.  So, I hope to share some of those surprises in this blog with those who might be interested.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

Stuff – How More can be Less

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Investing time around the table with old and new friends…priceless!

After almost 2 years in China, I’ve observed among several local friends that those with less stuff often appear to enjoy strong relationships with others.

Why might that be?  It is said “time” is the currency of friendship (or relationships).  Perhaps those with more stuff simply have less time.  One thing is for sure, many of our friends in this part of China seem to have a lot more time than we have observed elsewhere.  And, it’s also safe to say that most of them have a lot less stuff than we’re accustomed to.

Why would having more stuff mean having less time?  Here’s a short list of possibilities that might correlate with having more stuff:

  • Better job (sometimes with longer hours)
  • More bills to pay
  • More credit cards, bank accounts and investments to manage
  • More “stuff” to use (enjoy), clean, straighten, maintain, insure, organize, store, repair, upgrade, sell, give away, throw away…it all takes time
  • Yes, those who have more can (theoretically) hire others to handle many of these chores.  But think about it:  It also takes time to manage and pay those who are handling all the “stuff”!
  • Having more stuff can easily become a vicious cycle that is not easy to manage…in fact, managing it well can take…yep, you guessed it: Time!

Yes, I have a few friends back in the States who truly impress me with their ability to manage their “stuff” and also build strong relationships.  So, I’m not saying it can’t be done.

All I’m saying is the next time I think about buying more “stuff”, I intend to ask myself, “Who might enjoy a little more of my time instead of me shopping, and using, then maintaining, occasionally repairing, perhaps even insuring, then storing and finally getting rid of more stuff?!”

P.S.     Yes, these thoughts are undoubtedly influenced by the process of getting rid of all of our stuff here in China as we finish 2 years of language learning this summer!

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

San Yue Jie

1-San Yue Jie GateEach year, our local town, Dali, hosts an event called 三月节 (or “San Yue Jie” which literally means “3rd full moon festival”).  Because it is based on the lunar calendar, this festival is usually held in late April or early May.  For over 1,000 years, people from across China and neighboring countries like Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam and Tibet* have made the trek to Dali for this annual event!  Today, over 1M people come to Dali for this event each year.
Historically, this was the time when people from the region’s villages gathered to buy and sell handmade crafts, tools, Chinese medicine and other special items that would last for the next year.  One source says this is the largest fair of its kind in all of China.
This year, I managed to attend the opening ceremony which features a variety of local minority songs and dances, including the traditional Chinese dragon dance.  One of the things that makes this type of festival special to me is the realization that most of these dancers are local parents, daughters, sons, siblings, shopkeepers, farmers and students.  These are our neighbors!
Horse races are also a big draw each year and this year I went on Day 1 (which features much better horses than Day 2).  With all these people coming to town from all over the SW part of China and beyond, it’s a great opportunity for people-watching.
Rather than write too much more about this event, I’ll share some of this year’s pics in a photo-essay format.  Hope you enjoy!
2-Crowd

Opening ceremony crowd

3-SwatOfficer

After watching this officer for an extended period, I concluded he was genuinely serious about giving his very best to the job of providing public security.  Impressive, since crowd control in China can be a seemingly impossible task!

4-BaiLadies

These are not “costumes” per se.  They are traditional ethnic minority clothing, still worn by many local minorities.  These are local Bai ladies.

5-EthnicLadies

My favorite minority dress at this event.  So colorful!

6-EthnicLadies

7-DragonLadies

Dragon ladies waiting patiently for the official start.

8-DragonLadies

Local Bai ladies having fun with their dragon dance!

9-DragonLadies10-ManinHat

11-BlueDancers

12-GreenBoys

I thought the umbrella and flowers really completed these men’s pretty outfits!

13-BoysinHood

Boys from the “hood”

14-BoysinLine

Boys all lined up for their dance.

15-BaiGirlsinLine

My guess: beauty queens for the event.

16-BaiGirlsinLine

And the winner is…?!

17-VIPs

What’s a big event without the local VIP’s?!

18-DaliDragonLadies

Even after a long event, these local ladies were willing to pose for pics…thanks!

19-Zacheas

Modern-day Zacchaeus!

20-Girl

21-Lady

22-Girl

This little girl was so tired and bored while waiting for the event to begin.  I watched as she tried SO many emotions and distractions to deal with the long wait!

23-Lady

24-GirlwBalloon

Couldn’t resist sharing 2 pics of this cute girl!

25-GirlwBalloon

At times, she seemed fascinated with her new balloon!

26-3Ladies

So glad these ladies were willing to stop and allow me to take their photo.  Thanks!

27-BalloonMan

What would a fair be without a clown making balloons!

28-Granpa+Grandaughter

Such a sweet granddaughter just sitting on the curb with her grandpa.

29-Lady

This lady was very friendly, did not mind me taking her picture and even happy to chat!

30-Lady

31-Lady32-Man33-Lady34-GirlwGlasses35-Lady36-Boy&amp;Father37-Lady38-BoywHat39-Lady40-Girl
41-Lady42-Granpa&amp;Child43-Lady44-ManwHat45-Lady46-LadywChild

47-LadywChild48-LadyCloseup49-Girl

50-MuslimGirl

Young muslim girl…she seemed to have such a gentle, quiet spirit.

51-Selfie

Look, an “old-fashioned” selfie without a stick!

52-ManwHat

I watched this man for a long time, as he stood near me…likely waiting for family or friends.

53-Lady

It took a long time to get a picture of this elegant lady…and it was worth the wait as the camera captured her having a friendly banter with a man who seemed to her husband.

54-Lady

Too bad this photo could not capture this woman’s walk…not to mention the stories I’m sure she could tell of living in China over the past 65+ years.

55-Girl

56-ManwSmoke

Even in a crowd of thousands, it would have been difficult not to notice this striking man walking by!

59-Child60-Lady

61-Lady2

Not sure “who” or “what” she sees…just glad it’s not me!

62-LadywChild

63-Trouble

The photo that almost got me in big trouble!

64-TroublewHusband

The photo that saved me:  June with her husband (they are from LA!)

65-RaceGate

Entrance gate to the horse races

66-CrowdatRace

Crowd-watching at the horse races…

67-RaceHorse

68-SanYueJieGate

Parting shot of the entrance gate to San Yue Jie

Final-BaiHouse

This view tells you this is “Bai country”…more on that later!

In case you’re interested, there are two leading versions of the historical origin of San Yue Jie.  The following story is the most popular among locals today:
“Once upon a time, a young fisherman near Er Sea married Third Princess of Dragon King.  On March 15, the moon was round and bright.  The Princess looked at the moon, and remembered the Yue Jie held by Chang E.  Therefore, she and her husband went to Yue Jie by riding a dragon.  She liked all the goods on the moon, but she couldn’t buy them.  The couple made up their mind to hold a Yue Jie of their own at the foot of the Diancang Hill, so that the civilians could buy anything they liked.  Subsequently, they planted a tree on the slope of the Zhonghe Hill and the fair was held every March 15.”

*NOTE:  Today, Tibet is an Autonomous Region under Chinese government authority.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.

Springtime in Dali!


After a long, cold winter, there really is nothing quite like the explosion of vivid cherry blossoms and the beautiful scenery that unfolds here each spring.

Please enjoy these photos – gathered over the last couple of weeks from our University, our neighborhood, and Dali’s Old Town. No explanation required!
  
  
  
  
  
  
 Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016. All rights reserved.

Why “some” Chinese adult children don’t go home for Spring Festival

  
Perhaps you’ve read that more and more young adults in China are choosing not to go home for the most important holiday of the year: Chinese New Year (also known as Spring Festival). 

This is the largest annual human migration in world history, and there seems to be more than a negligible cultural shift underway.

Just as many newcomers to the U.S. are often unable to be with family during the major holidays in America (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, etc.), we were also “homeless” in China during this year’s Spring Festival.  We spent Chinese New Year with a group of local friends who were also without their immediate or extended families.  Several of those who joined us were young single adults here in China (early twenties to mid thirties). You will see why their single status is important to this discussion below.

Several articles have been published suggesting this trend of choosing not to visit family is a reflection of the new “selfie” generation.  

Listening to our friends, we learned that it is not just for selfish indulgence (travel, unique experiences, time with friends, etc.) that more and more young adults are choosing not to go home for this holiday.  Like most places, there is a lot of family dysfunction that is just too painful for some young (single) adults to want to endure “one more time”.

Here is a list of the Top 10 reasons our friends shared for why some young adults choose not to go home:

1. Eat all the time

2. Drink (liquor) all the time

3. Match making (Xiang Qin) – this is where the parents work hard to arrange a marriage with local eligible men (this seems to be much more prominent with daughters)

4. “FBI” – this is the “interrogation” by parents about: job, salary, employer, guys (girls seem to get more pressure about marriage than the guys), everything personal like bank account, how much money is saved, size of house, value of house, car model, value of car, etc., etc., etc.)

5. Playing Majiang – one of China’s most popular games (played with tiles similar to dominoes) almost always involving gambling (sometimes to catastrophic levels – see #2 above)

6. Red Packets (Hong Bao) – these are red envelopes with cash inside that are given to family members as gifts.  With China’s increasing affluence, the pressure is growing for these gifts to be “significant”.  Some nieces and nephews of these young adults now expect 500 RMB or more per envelope (almost $100 US).  For a young, single adult, meeting Red Packet expectations among extended family members can become a real financial hardship.

7. Class Reunions – in China, class reunions are not restricted to high school and college.  Primary school and middle school classes also have class reunions, which basically amount to a repeat of Items #1, 2 and 4 above.

8. Visiting Relatives – there is a LOT of this and it is basically a repeat of Items 1-6 above.

9. Travel expense and hassle – joining the mass of humanity to travel across China during the peak travel season is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult.  Given the choice, why not catch a direct flight to Thailand and enjoy some peace and quiet on the beach…or just stay put and avoid this entire list?!

10. So they can be with us! (not really…but hey, it’s better than nothing!)

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016. All rights reserved.