For a fruit seller in China, it's impossible to deny that the hours and work are demanding. And yet you can judge by the smile on her face that Zheng Hui (郑慧), a fruit vendor at my favorite Guandu wet market, is a woman who loves her occupation.
Demanding would be an understatement for her job description. Zheng's normal workday begins with a drive together with her husband. Each morning at 5am, they visit her distributors at a wholesale fruit market in Jinma Zhengchang Village (金马正昌村), near the intersection of Erhuan Dong Lu and Dongjiao Lu in the city's east. Back in Guandu, Zheng closes her shop when the surrounding market shuts down at about 8:30pm each night. She works seven days a week, every week of the year. No days off!
It's not easy to find good tasting fruit, even though Kunming is very close to many of Yunnan's fruit farming areas. Zheng's challenge is of course to find the best produce at the best price. How she does this each day is truly amazing and she has four criteria. Early each morning at her wholesalers, she judges the fruit by its color, its texture, the place where it was grown and the flavor, tasting each and every batch before making a purchase.
Although the majority of the work rests on her shoulders, Zheng has trusted helpers to assist in managing the daily jobs that keep her attractive shop running so well. It's simply too much work for one person. She takes great pleasure in knowing that her family is always behind her. Her husband, who runs a flower shop at a market nearby, helps her out from time to time in the busy hours, and her mother-in-law and father-in-law are often on hand during the afternoons. As a bystander, it is easy to tell she has a wonderful relationship with her family.
Zheng originally came from Chongqing, and says her incentive for starting in the fruit business was a simple love of eating fruit. She decided to move to Kunming to open a fruit shop because in her words, "Kunming has a lot of fruit." If she is near the source, she reasoned — near good fruit — then she would be successful.
In addition to her trusted family, Zheng has some business partners who are farmers and distributors from different places around the Kunming area. Her distributors live in Lanyi Village and they have been working together for many years. Over time, they have come to trust each other completely.
With farming and distribution methods constantly improving in China it's easy to imagine that she could solve her major difficulty soon, that of procuring products that are up to her exacting standards. To this end, she sees her early morning task as an integral part of her job, "I just can't find good quality fruit on a daily basis for my valued customers, that's my biggest problem."
To my amazement, Zheng has told me there's a new method of marketing fruit that has popped up recently — that of selling fruit on WeChat. It's hard to imagine buying fruit without seeing, touching, smelling, and maybe even tasting it first, but this way of doing delivery is starting to take hold in certain areas around university campuses.
WeChat aside, it's hard to beat coming to her shop. Zheng is always happy and smiling and as a regular customer, it makes me feel so good. With her prices fair and her advice honest, buying delicious fruit and nuts from her is a pleasure. I am fortunate to have found her and I quite agree when she says the thing she likes most about her business is that it gives her the opportunity to get to know people and become good friends.
Editor's note: Roz Weitzman has been working in China since 2005 as an international school principal and writer. An avid cook, Roz has published two cookbooks entitled "Roz Weitzman's World of Chinese Comfort Food" in both English and Chinese (a French language version will be available soon) and "Roz Weitzman's World of Yunnan Cuisine". Both titles can be purchased at www.rozweitzmansworld.com where you can also find more about her and her writings.
Images: Roz Weitzman© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.