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During my last trip to China, I was at a store which is much like a Chinese version of Walmart. I almost always do some shopping for the special needs orphanage supported by Global Partners in Life when I am in town and this day was no different. There is an escalator that takes you from the clothes, electronics, toys, office, and home products to the grocery area. Usually the walls in this area are bare or they will have an advertisement for some product like toothpaste on them.

Let me state that I don’t consider myself a speaker of the Chinese language and I definitely don’t know all of the characters commonly used in their language. Having established that, I can’t tell you for sure what the pictures I am about to share with you say, but I think it is like a get to know your farmer program.

As you can see in the first two pictures, a couple of different types of cabbage are shown. China has several cabbages and I must say they taste very good. The larger cabbage is called “da to cai” which translates out to big head cabbage and yes, I probably didn’t spell that correctly.


farmers2 Next we have some things we all will recognize – potatoes and cucumbers. The cucumbers in China are like the cabbages in that they come in many different shapes and sizes.


farmers4My grandparents on my father’s side of the family loved to grow vegetables so I like farmers and I love to eat! I have had the honor to teach the children of many farmers in China. I wish you all could know how humble and hard working they are. In fact, the young lady who was probably my best student was the daughter of a farmer. Also, Global Partners in Life has given scholarships to the children of farmers. They are extraordinarily appreciative of the financial aid given to their child.

Hopefully my stories can help bridge the gap in our cultures and help us to see how much we have in common! Perhaps one day you can join me on a trip and get to know some of the wonderful people of China!

My last blog was about snow, and the recent weather in China has given me material to continue with that topic. So far this fall, China has had multiple snows. I have a friend in Shenyang, which is in the north east section of the country. It gets plenty cold to have snow, but their climate is dry so usually they don’t have much snow. There just isn’t enough moisture in the air. Well, he recently sent me a picture of himself in a hot springs hot tub and it was snowing. In fact, he said it was so cold that his hair froze, but the water was 110 F, so his body stayed very warm.

Moving southward to Beijing, I received another set of pictures with lots of snow on the ground. I have also heard of horrible traffic there and many canceled flights. I can’t imagine the chaos in a city the size of Beijing to have a heavy snow storm!

Still further south in the Shandong Province, a friend sent pictures of their snow. They are receiving the most snow in 50 years. Some of the sheds built to protect bicycles and scooters are falling down due to the weight of the snow. My friend has a thriving garden, and they had to shake the snow from their plants to keep them from breaking under the weight of the snow.

I think there are two big winners from the snow. The children that get to play in it, and the farmers who will use the moisture from the snow for their crops. Here are a couple of pictures of the snow around China this year.





March 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

OK, so this title isn’t very catchy, but it is descriptive, because cabbage is what I am writing about today. In China there are many types of cabbage. The one most of us in the States are used to eating translates out to “big head cabbage” in the Chinese language, but that isn’t the one I will tell you about today.

The cabbage I want to inform you about today is longer and thinner than the round cabbage we enjoy in the States. This particular cabbage is very commonly eaten in China and is grown in abundance.

In the winter, some people would consider this cabbage a staple. In the fall, when it is harvested, it is laid out to dry, so it is very common to see all around town.


As you can see, this cabbage is large and it can be heavy. I have heard stories about how people will have shallow shelves at the top of their walls to hold their cabbage in the winter. Also, I have heard stories of the cabbage falling and hitting people in the head and hurting them badly. So, to be safe, keep your eyes open for falling cabbage in China!

The Ginkgo Tree

November 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

On a recent trip to China, I learned that the ginkgo tree’s leaves are about the first to start changing color in the fall.  My college campus had a ginkgo tree on it near a cafeteria. I remember people talking about the leaves in the fall.  I always found the shape of the leaves very interesting, and I have never seen any other tree with a fan shaped leaf.


I did a little research and found out that the ginkgo is a living fossil recognizably similar to fossils dating back 270 million years. It is also native to China. The Zhejinag Province is known for growing this type of tree very well.  The ginkgo comes in both male and female trees and are considered to be a very good tree for cities.  The reason for their being considered a good tree for cities is that air pollution doesn’t seem to bother them as much as other trees.  Also, the quality of soil doesn’t seem to impact them as much as other species.  Many people enjoy eating the seed inside the nut of the tree, which is said to have medical powers.  Many people believe consuming the ginkgo seed will provide enhanced cognitive functions.

To say the ginkgo is a hearty tree would be an understatement.  Extreme examples of the ginkgo’s tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where six trees growing between 1–2 km from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast.[34] While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day.

So, you can enjoy the ginkgo for its shade, beauty, unique leaves, and enhancement to your thinking!

Water, Water Everywhere

Since my grandparents were great gardeners, I observed a few things while watching the Chinese around my campus work in their gardens.

One of the first things I noticed is that my Chinese neighbors would use lots of water on their plants. The diameter of their water hoses was probably four times the size of a standard hose we would use around our houses in the states. These hoses seemed to usually be about the color of rust, not green like we usually have in the states.

I have seen farmers water each plant individually using a metal bowl with a long handle dipping from a big bucket of water. Yes, that does take a long time if there are many plants. Sometimes, the gardeners would just pick up the bucket of water to water the plants.


watering the garden_BeauSides_1


My campus apartment was high enough for me to look across the street and over a neighborhood’s wall, so I could see my neighbors working on their garden. This community garden was interesting to me because there was a well in the garden, but a person had to pump the water by hand. Another interesting thing about this garden is that there was an outhouse near it, and I could watch the people who worked in the garden not let anything go to waste from the outhouse.


pumping well water_BeauSides_2


Everyone living in the compound came to do a little work in this garden. I saw children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents all pitching in and doing what they could do to help their garden flourish. I must admit, they had a very nice garden, and it was fun to watch it grow. I am sure they had many delicious meals as a result from all of their hard labor―and watering!


family gardening_BeauSides_3




To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!

Green Thumbs


In my recent post, Heaven on Earth, I mentioned how the gardeners on the university campus where I had the honor of teaching didn’t have many modern tools or vehicles to carry their tools. I was very impressed with how well these workers kept the grounds looking, and knowing the resources they used made it even more impressive. Regrettably, I didn’t speak Chinese well enough to tell these workers how impressed I was with their work, nevertheless I will show you some of the fruit of their labor.


Roses in China_BeauSides


The Director of Foreign Affairs at the university was a wonderful man; however, one thing in particular made my trips to his office so enjoyable: An area behind his office had beautiful roses and a long hedge going the length of the next building.


One day, I was surprised to see a man with manual hedge clippers trimming the row of hedges. I couldn’t imagine how long it would take him, but he was doing a great job with the tool he had.


Trimming hedges_Beau Sides_Lessons from China


The gardeners did have a lawn mower, which they used to cut to cut grass in large open areas. But on more than one occasion, I saw people using hedge clippers to cut smaller sections of grass. Even though the hand-clipped areas of grass were smaller, I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to complete that task.


One project that was reported to be completed on time and under budget for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the planting of trees. One million trees were planted! I have noticed that when many trees are planted in China, they are kept in a very straight line.


Beautiful trees in a row_BeauSides

To learn more, check out my book Lessons From China




To learn more, check out my book Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education!