Team Moxie Cycling goes to China // Brooke and Deb visit China to visit & see production firsthand
Post Holidays, Moxie Cycling was excited and felt it was appropriate to welcome in the new year with an exciting trip to China to visit our factory and review first product off of the line for the 2013 collection. What a wonderful and enriching trip it was! Here are some especially memorable aspects of the adventure.
Trip Highlights: CULTURE CULTURE CULTURE!
Travel: We had a few interesting encounters taking taxis in China, mostly in result of the language barrier. We learned after our first encounter at the airport that having the English address for a location got us no where except for kicked out of a cab with an angry cabbie. We adapted and eventually our addresses included the Chinese symbols AND the English version. We were in two cities with populations of 16MM+ so even with that, getting around was quite the adventure!
One cabbie called the phone number of a restaurant we were going to to get directions and even with that we got a bit lost and ended up a couple blocks off course and one of the servers came to meet us at the cab and walked us back to the restaurant. I can only imagine what they were thinking of us independent female Americans.
We were amazed by the amount of scooters, motorcycles, bikes, and motors on anything with two wheels. Whole families (dad and mom with a baby on her lap) drove on these through the cities at incredible quanties. Our hotel restaurant sat on the corner with a wall of windows and we watched a flurry of traffic every morning. Traffic signs and markings were merely suggestions, not rules, and sidewalks were for scooters and motorcycles too. If there was a space open, you could take it and no one was phased by being cut off or honked at.
Work: We were so intruiged by what we learned about the working culture in China that we picked up a book called Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. The book tells the stories of migrant workers that leave their families in the country side to travel to the city for work, an provided us some insight into the factory worker’s daily life.
At the factory in which our jerseys are produced, the floors were filled with men and women in their early 20’s and some in their 30’s. From the Western perspective, the best way to describe the atmosphere of the workshop was like college. We toured when the workers were coming back from break and they were upbeat and just had finished a game of badminton in the lobby. You could tell that they either made friends with their co-workers or travelled to the factory together as there was lots of chatter in the hallways.
We learned that the factory jobs, though highly turned over, are highly sought after. Workers work long hours and work 6 days a week, but they are compensated well by Chinese means. The idea of migrant workers sending money back to their families in the countryside is not a new concept – it’s common for migrant workers in the United States, but what surprised me was the reasoning; In talking to our project manager who was in her early 20’s, it was because the Chinese culturally believe that they owe their existence to their parents, and it is their responsibility to repay that debt.
Food: From our first interaction with congee and dumplings at the breakfast bar, we knew our taste buds were in for a treat! We loved the food so much we returned for a second serving. Apparently that caught our server by surprise – when we returned to the table they had cleared our place settings and had to bring us new silverware and napkins. We tried several new foods while in China and Deb managed the chop sticks without drawing too much attention to herself.
We had a traditional Chinese business lunch in a private room with our contacts at the factory. They served us on a giant glass lazy susan and the host of the meal served both Deb and I first as is traditional in the Chineseculture. We tried fish served just as it had been caught, head, tail and skin intact; whole chicken prepared similarly to the fish; an amazing vegetable dish with lotus roots and fungus, and finished the meal off with “dessert” which was a bowl of fruit.
We had a steak lunch while meeting with our contacts at the factory. It was served on a skillet with a lid and our contacts held up their napkins to keep the splatter from getting on them. Once we watched this a couple times, we learned why. The steak was only partially cooked prior to arriving at the table and there was quite a bit of splatter once the lid was removed. Eggs were served with most everything, including our steak lunch.
Our favorite meal was hot pot. All of the people involved in the production of our line (pattern makers, sample makers, designers, quality control manager, production manager, project manager) joined us for hot pot. We loved it so much, we bought a hot pot to try and recreate the experience in the states. For those who haven’t had it, it’s like fondu with a soup base instead of cheese or chocolate. The server brought out several different plates of thinly sliced vegetables, meats and noodles and they were cooked in the hot pot a couple ingredients at a time. The flavor was so fresh and yummy! It was a perfect way to end our trip and give thanks to all of the people that make Moxie a success. Lots of wine toasts and Great Wall Cabernet!
Team Moxie Cycling