Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Will Culture handcuff Tongues?

A vineyard worker in Haras de Pirque vineyard, Maipo Valley, Chile.

On this China trip I really want to focus on the personal lives of vineyard workers.

To this point I’ve been very fortunate with interviewing workers in Canada, Spain, Italy, Chile and, of course, the United States. For my Oregon The Taste of Wine book, about two-thirds of the way through my very first interview, Dick Ponzi said, “I’m telling you things I’ve never told anyone before.” David Lett and son Jason had a father-son conversation they never had before during my recorded conversations with them. I attribute the openness to my drooling while I talk.

Will I have the same luck with workers being open here in China?

Two factors put up a wall:
First is cultural. Chinese Vineyard Worker’s roots grow in the soil of Mao Zedong’s stormy Cultural Revolution and a current government that likes to be in control. And here I am a foreigner.
Second is language. Even though my Spanish is just crude enough to give native speakers a good laugh, we all know what we are laughing about. In Chinese I can only count to a thousand and ask directions to the bathroom. I need an interpreter for everything else.

Any suggestions?

The following photographs–taken during my May trip–show vineyard workers in Shandong Province, China's premier wine region.

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