As I See It

China Olympics Finale – A Proud People

The China Olympics Finale was spectacular…all the fireworks, lights, and the thousands of entertainers were breath taking. China sure does know how to put on a show.

The stravaganza would not have been possible without the thousands of the individual Chinese people who contributed their time and labor and resourcefulness for the cause. The world was entertained, charmed by their efforts and graciousness. Thank you!

The citizens of China are a proud people… and I don’t mean vain. From my observation, I found them to be smart, ingenious, capable and a creative people.

One afternoon, we were standing on the street purchasing some antiques from a vendor when a fellow rode by on his bike toting a full size couch. Now that’s ingenious, capable and creative! It would have never entered my mind to move a couch on a bike… but I guess in that country… you do what you have to do… because there’s no neighbor down the street that’s going to rescue you with his truck.

Another time…we saw a fellow with 3 huge crates of ducks teetering on the back of his bike. The ducks were quaking and caring on. I guess they new their fate was to be Peking Duck… which by the way…I enjoyed immensely.

The Chinese tenacity leads me to the pride they take in their personal care. Nearly every factory we went into, even where the conditions were deplorable… I found there were whose who took great pride in their personal care.

We went to a factory that produces Styrofoam products. After being there for only a few minutes… we concluded most of the folks would be dead from cancer in a few years… that is… if they continued to breath the gagging toxic fumes that came from melting the Styrofoam and pouring it into molds.

These two young men were putting a glass like coating on Styrofoam apples… you know… the kind you see at Christmas time. One fellow would pull back the scum while the other dipped and turned the apples upright and put them on a shelf to dry.

They work a 12 hour shift… and the factory runs 7 days a week…24 hours a day. We learned, the workers at this factory only get a couple off days a month. They do go home for one month in Feb…. as all Chinese workers do. All factories such down for Chinese New Year.

Just take a look at what they’re wearing. I stood there in amazement. No splatters on their clothes. I can’t even hardly cook a meal without getting something down the front of myself. I would have had that red stuff all over the place.

This man was working in a Paper Mache factory. The conditions were awful! But look at his attire. From my own experience, paper mache is a messy business… all the wheat paste and all. Yuk!

These two guys were also working with paper mache. They were building Christmas trees. Look at the fellow in the white shirt and suit coat. Amazing! Not a drop of wheat paste on those cuffs.

This was not the first time we saw men working in suit coats. We witnessed them shoveling trenches, and loading cement.

I wonder if they dress well because that’s pretty much the only area where they have complete control over their lives?

This factory owner’s name is Sampson. His factory produces porcelain and resin products. He is from Hong Kong and was educated there. His family lives in Canada, where his children are being educated. (He has more than one child.)

His factory is in China… just inside the border from Hong Kong …. and it is immaculate and well organized. His employees are treated well… note the light… even the drapes are tied up to produce more light for his workers. However, we did notice there was no talking… you could have heard a pin drop. No idle “chit chat” for these folks.

Look at this gorgeous man! His name is Fang Wei, and he works for Samson and, he sculps all of the products in clay before they’re produced in porcelain or resin. He knew we were coming and he dressed for the occasion. Wow! I’ll tell you what… I never wore my Sunday best for visitors at my work. Take a look at that tie!

This is some of his fantastic work. These were three Christmas ornament I designed. His work was impeccable.

I wish all of China’s factories could be as nice as Sampson’s.

This young man was working in the most deplorable conditions we witness on our trip. There was only one light globe shining in the room… which was at least 25 feet away from him. The flies were treacherous and the smell was unbelievable, coming from open sewer areas. He was hammering one tiny nail at a time into the basket rim. He looked like a shiny diamond surrounded by muck and mire.

I learned a lot about, determination, perserverence and courage by visiting China. Sometimes, I wish I could instill just a little of what I learn to my grandkids when they whine about what’s “fair.”

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S. Hat’s off to the wonderful people of China for their contribution to the China Olympics. Again…Thank You!

P.P.S. What to know more about China? I recommend these books. Click on cover to review or purchase.

As I See It

The China Olympics – Where Have All The Children Gone?

“Where have all the children gone?” This was one of the first questions I ask when I was in China. That’s when I became fully aware of the China One Child Policy. This policy was put into effect about 1979 under the leadership of Chairman Deng Xiaoping… who was also in control during the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The consequences of this policy has had detrimental effects on the society and will continue to be a problem for the citizens of China. The government of China has just announced that the One Child Policy will continue for another 10 years.

1. The picture that emerges is that some urban Chinese make the choice to perform gender selection with the first pregnancy, since they are allowed only one child. In rural areas, most couples are permitted to have a second child, especially if the first is female. So, if the second child is female, the pregnancy or child, often “disappears,” allowing the couple to have another child in an attempt to have a son. Millions of little Chinese girls have gone missing – on purpose.

If you have more than your allotted share of children, penalties are imposed. In many areas, only one child can be educated. If a second child is born… it’s considered an illegal child and cannot receive an education. If a couple will sign a One Child Only Document, they receive extra benefits such as better jobs, bonuses, better housing, and more vacation time.

This little gal was the daughter of Professor Tao’s assistant. He was so delighted with this child, he took her everywhere with us as we traveled from one factory to another. This child was one of the fortunate girls who has been spared.

2. The absence of young marriageable women is very apparent. Men 30 years old and younger are abundant at train stations, parks and other public places. In comparison, very few women are in site. This sad situation has left some men unable to marry and have a family. The inadequate supply of females has resulted in kidnapping and trafficking of women for marriage and has increased arranged marriages of children by parents who want future mates for their kids.

The Chinese people love their children… or should I say child… and they dote over them constantly. It was sad to learn how many school children were killed in the recent china earthquake. So many parents are now left childless.

One evening, a factory took us to a restaurant for dinner. A great celebration was in progress and everyone was excited. Someone had left a newborn baby girl on the door step of the restaurant…. asking the owner, who was a single man, to take child and raise her as his own. The gentleman was ecstatic. He had not married…. but now had the opportunity to have a child of his own.

My son, Wade, pointed out an interesting observation. Many of the ads during the China Olympics featured Chinese girls. “Who are they kidding,” he said…. “They don’t even like girls.”

All is not well in China. Behind the scenes of the China Olympics…human rights abuses continue. We cannot afford to be fooled by all the glitz and glamour.

Till Later

Kathy Griffith

Insightful Nana

P.S. 90% of all children who are adopted by U.S. parents are girls.

As I See It

Behind The Facade Of China Olympics – Scratching Out A Living

Behind the facade of the China Olympics, millions are scratching out a living… burdened by hard labor.

The factory workers of China probably have it pretty good, compared to millions of folks who can’t leave their villages to travel to the coastal areas and big cities where most of the factories are located. Most of China is rural… and the people are subject to harsh conditions and hard labor… at least by U.S. standards.

Our party arrived at a particular country hotel late in the the evening. I was surprise to see such a nice hotel out in a rural area. We were told that the hotel was new and many American and European business men and women stayed there… and of course… China government officials.

Very early the next morning, my boss, and our interpreter invited me and another designer, Marie, to join them in a little hike. We walked across the street, around a bend and there before our eyes was
a scene so foreign that I felt like I had stepped back into another century… to the old China I had read about in story books.

We entered an old cemetery that was build on the side of a mountain. A steep stairway went to the top flanked by large above ground tombs. These above ground tombs are opened when a family members dies. I guess I assumed that the people would be buried underground… boy was I wrong.

At the entrance, we passed a gentleman who was busy chiseling a plaque or decoration for a tomb…by hand no less. No power tools here. (They must have sent all the power tools to Home Depot… not any left to supply the workers of China.)

These folks were lined up getting ready for their days labor… and I mean labor. The goal? Packing these bags of cement and materials to the top of the mountain. You have to be kidding. Note the young woman in the middle of the photo.

Here goes the first worker… with a few supplies. I was tired already

These bags of cement weight about 100 lbs. each. Notice the young lady. They make up to 20 trips a day… climbing hundreds of stairs. I don’t think they’d like to hear us complain about a “hard day at the office.”

The path was steep. Just getting up this high in order to take these photos wore me out… and these workers were just getting started for the day.

My question is this. Why are there conditions such as this… in a country that provides so many products that make our lives so easy? Why can’t the workers in China have a few of the same conveniences?

The hotel we stayed in proves that there is the ability to make conditions different for the masses. It seems to me that the only time convenience and luxury is apparent… is when someone is trying to impress others….kind of like the China Olympics wouldn’t you say? What a facade.

I’m not impress with a government that goes to such lengths to impress the world when it’s own people suffer from the lack of conveniences that would make their lives easier.

It doesn’t speak very highly for a “socialized government.”

I’m grateful to be living in the United States…. and I’m for protecting our liberties at all costs… what about you?

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S. One last photo of “scratching out a living in China.” This barefoot woman was breaking dirt clods with a hoe so she could plant a little garden. Just look at the size of those things. You see… all the roto tillers were sent to Home Depot… not one left for the average citizen of China.

As I See It

Food At The China Olympics – Behind The Scenes

Food at the China Olympics will be amazing…Peking duck, Duck Tongue (still in the jaw, no less,) Pigeon Soup, Pig Tail Soup, and many more delicious choices for adventuresome attendees.

The first meal I had in China was scramble eggs with tomatoes in it. The second meal presented to our table was a fish on a plate… with it’s head on… and its eye staring up at me. I was a bit taken back. But…it wasn’t long before I got into the groove of the food and loved it. (Had to pass on the duck tongue though.)

We were generally guests of factory owners, who wanted to share the very best with us. We dined in the finest places. The offering generally look like the photo. Notice the small the plate in front of us. That’s because you eat once item at a time and don’t need trencher. Using the chop sticks, you lift the food on to your plate, eat it and serve yourself the next dish. I found the food to be very good… although very different than the Chinese food served in the states.

However… when your behind the scenes… the fair can be a bit different. The “real people” of China don’t dine the way we did. A simple bowl of rice… perhaps a few greens… and on occasion… a little meat is the standard for most of the people.

This photo is, a behind the scenes experience… in a rural factory. Yes…we’re in a bathroom… and yes… that is a squat toilet. (That squatting business is a whole other experience… and one I don’t care to repeat anytime soon.)

Yes… we’re still in the bathroom…and yes… those are chicken feathers. You guessed it. The meal, that we were invited to stay for, was being prepared in the bathroom. Puck the chicken… clean the chicken… cut up the chicken. Just outside the bathroom door… a young woman was getting ready to cook the chicken. Not a pretty site!

As gracious as the factory owner was trying to be… I had no desire to join him and his small staff for dinner. I whispered into my bosses ear… “I don’t think we should stay for dinner. The chicken is being prepared in the bathroom.”

After thanking the factory owner for offering to prepare a meal for us… we excused ourselves with, “Oh we just remembered… we’re late for another factory appointment,” pretense. Whew!

Now that we’ve moved from dining in China to “potty talk”… there is just on more thing you need to know… especially if your at the China Olympics, dining at a fine restaurant. Don’t squat on the western style toilets. No, No,…you sit down on them.

Yes, this sign was posted in the bathroom of a restaurant where we dined. It was a pretty nice place… and apparently, many locals… or the common folk… didn’t know how to use the bathroom properly, and this little sign was a reminder on how to use a “western style” toilet. Yep… I’m sure you get the picture.

I’m sure the Olympic guests will be served China’s finest foods … along with the American Hamburger. They most likely will never have the pleasure of being ask to stay for dinner… where the chicken is prepared in the bathroom. Of course… you never know what’s behind the scenes at the China Olympics.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S. I bet that most of the China Olympic guests will never see a “squat toilet”. They don’t know what their missing… and I mean missing!

As I See It

The China Olympics: Behind The Glitz And Glamour

Behind the glitz and glamour of the China Olympics are the many hands of people who labored diligently, for very little monetary gain, and many, under adverse conditions… to make it possible for the world to be entertained for a couple of weeks. In another few weeks the world will focused on other entertainment… other pastimes and China will be put in the back of our minds. “Easy come…easy go.”

I kind of fall into that category of “easy come, easy go” on a personal level. I’m a part of the “disposable generation” that uses a product for a while, then tosses it in a box for the Thrift Store. Many of the products I toss are “made in China.” I’ve had little regard for how they were made, or how many hands were involved in making an item for my convenience or pleasure. It’s a little like seeing the milk in the store… nicely packaged for my convenience… with no regard for the cow, or the process it takes to provide it for me.

One day… while in China… I was faced with a bit of reality …and I’ve never viewed products “made in China” the same again.

As artists, we had designed several products for the Christmas season… one being candle luminaries. The products were being produced in China. They were made of porcelain and my particular design was a snowman with small birdhouses at the base. While in China, we went to the factory to check on the process and review the shipping schedule.

Little did I know… when we walked in the door, my design… my snowman… would be in the middle of production. Hundreds of snowmen were in different stages of creation… from the mold pours, to the cleaning, and on to the kilns. I was taken back the shear number of people involved in the process and the conditions they were working in.

Being very over-whelmed by what I saw… I return to the van and wept. My heart was full of appreciate and gratitude for diligent, hard working, under paid workers. The consumer would not only benefit from their labors… but I would benefit from their work by receiving royalty on each item that was produced and sold.

I’ve never looked at products “made in China” the same since. I always wonder… who do the hands belong to that help bring commodities to my home… for my convenience or pleasure?

Till Later,

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. Hats off to the factory workers who have so diligently worked at very low wages to bring the China Olympics to the world. You’ve made your government look good… whether they deserve it or not.

As I See It

Behind the China Olympics – China Factories

Behind the China Olympics, life goes on as usual for millions of people who work in the factories… producing goods for the world to buy. Most of China will not see the Olympic games because their villages don’t have television access. Besides… work does not slow down in the factories… except at Chinese New Year… when workers go home for a month.

Most company buyers of China’s goods don’t go into the interior of the country, where small rural factories produce much of the markets goods. Well lighted and clean shows rooms in cities such as Hong Kong and Shenzhen, represent most of the China factories. In other words… the buyers for Wal-Mart aren’t going to be bouncing around in an old van…hitting pot holes and… dodging folks who are on foot or riding bikes, in order to get out to where the goods are actually made.

My boss had been doing business in China for many years before the big market rush. He had developed relationships with many factory owners who invited him to come to their factories. For me to see the actual everyday workings of a factory was not only exciting but also quite disturbing. I mistakenly assumed the factories would be updated and automated. After all this country produces vasts amount of product for the world.

Boy was I wrong. Automation is the work of many human hands…. not machines. And, while some of the factories we visited were clean and organized… most were not.

The basket factory we went to was one of the most depressing sites I saw. Men and women were working in poorly lighted, dirty and cramped conditions. Each nail was hammered into the rim of the basket by hand…one nail at a time. No nail guns here!

Kiln dried basket slats? No way… how about sun dried…. thousands of slats drying out in the court yard.

The living conditions were deplorable… dirty open water next to the sleeping areas. No wonder they had mosquito netting around their make shift beds. Oh my gosh… and the flies.

When Chairman Mao, the leader of the Communist Party, initiated the Cultural Revolution… many of the teachers and intellectuals were taken from their classrooms and sent out to the country to be reeducated or in other words… “Agree with us or die.” Professor Tao was a Physics Professor at a university. He was whisk away into the countryside, locked in a closet for many weeks and suffered much persecution. When the Revolution was over… he did not return to the city but stayed in the country and built a factory. His factory produces small wooden trinkets that are exported to the United States.

Many of the factories are not equipped with good lighting. Notice, this woman is using the light to dry the goods rather than use the light to see by.

If the items needs to be painted… the worker methodically paints each individual item. Every detail is hand painted… one detail at a time.

Rusted metal was the rage. We designed small rusted shapes… stars, hearts, apples etc… that crafters could use to decorate with… (Some of the shapes were as small as 3/4 inch.) Problem… the rust would shed a little bit and leave a rust residue in the bottom of the package. Couldn’t have that…now could we?

So the factory was told that a sealer needed to be applied to the items so the rust would not come off in the packages. “O.K… no problem,”… came the reply from the factory.

When we came upon this scene… it broke my heart. These men were sitting in a small, poorly lighted room… applying clear shoe polish to each rusty star… both sides… one at a time. Thousands and thousands of 3/4″ stars were sitting in baskets waiting for the shoe polish to be applied. I couldn’t believe how cheerful and friendly the men were… pricked fingers and all. Go figure.

So… when I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the China Olympics… I thought of the thousands of hands it took to produce the show for our pleasure. Thanks… factory workers of China… You did a beautiful job… one bead… one stitch… one light… one firework at a time.

Till Later,
Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. I would love to go back to China. A little of my heart is still there.

As I See It

About The China Olympics – Should We Be There?

One night in China changed my thinking forever about the freedoms, opportunities, and conveniences I enjoy by being a citizen of The United States Of America. Because of my experiences… limited as they were…I have serious reservations about the Olympics being hosted in China. I keep asking myself… “How did this happen?”

The opening ceremonies at the China Bird’s Nest, was the finest display of showmanship ever presented to the world at the beginning of an Olympics. As spectacular as they were… I kept asking myself, “How many people have been forced to leave their meager homes, their jobs disrupted and their lives “accidentally” taken for the benefit of a suppressive government who is trying to convince the world…”We’re not so bad.”

For over 20 years, my business was designing products for the craft and gift markets. Going to China on business was an opportunity of a life time. The purpose of the trip was so we… as designers… could understand the production process of the products we were designing. Having that knowledge would help us simplify our instructions to the China factories so the finished products would meet our intentions and expectations.

Most of the China factories are not in the metro areas but out in the country side… in small rural villages where the labor conditions reminded me of the old photos I’ve seen from the beginning of the industrial revolution here in the United States. These small country factories are the backbone of China’s growing economy. Throughout the trip… my mind couldn’t help but ponder facts about China that I witnessed.

1. Most of the people lived at poverty level…especially in the rural areas. Over 1.25 billion people live in China. (Note: there are just over 300 million people in the United States.)

2. After almost 60 years of Communist power, the people are still at the effect of a powerful suppressive government that keeps them under control by violating many human rights.

I came home with so many questions. Just how did this happen to a country with smart, ingenious people? I immediately went to the bookstore and found 7 books on China which I read in a matter of weeks.

Several of the books were about the rise and take over of the Communist Government. The book, Wild Swans, is a excellent general over-view from a citizen’s point of view on the subject. A fast moving, comprehensive read. My two sisters, Sheila and Nicole, recently read the book and said they could hardly put the it down. They too, are wondering… “Why are the Olympics in China?”

The book China Wakes takes you into the everyday lives of people who disagree with the government… written by reporters who risk their lives by writing about what they knew and saw. Even though it was penned in the late nineties, conditions remain the same today… although China would like you to believe other wise. A real eye opener!

I will probably watch some of the Olympics this week… the glitz and glamour… but my heart will be with the people who have sacrificed much to welcome the world to their country.

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S. For the next two weeks… I’ll be sharing some of my China experiences…. my point of view and some photos that I’m sure you will not be seeing on T.V.

P.P.S. If you have any comments about the Olympics in China.. leave a comment. Love to hear your point of view!