The funniest thing I have done in New Zealand is sit at a bus stop and engrave my surname onto a can of baby formula with a stone I picked up off the road. You may ask me why.
The most guilty thing I have done in this country, which is famous for its good quality milk, was buy six cans of infant formula – double the daily three-can limit per customer set by the supermarket.
My childhood friend Du Baoqin, who lives in China, had a baby girl two months ago. She asked me to send her a box (six cans) of New Zealand baby formula. I thought she was crazy when I first heard that she wanted a box. But I felt this was reasonable after she told me her girl needed more than one can each month.
How could I get six cans of milk powder when I am only allowed to buy three? Do I buy three first and another three the next day? That would be too time consuming.
I decided to ask someone near the supermarket for help. I was afraid I would be considered weird by Kiwis or other English-speaking people. So I turned to a Chinese student. I guessed Chinese would understand Chinese.
The Chinese student was willing to help me and he accompanied me to the supermarket. We saw two very tall young men standing near the shelf where baby formula was placed, talking about which to buy. I said “excuse me” and grabbed six cans of Karicare Formula 1 Infant as quickly as possible as there were not many left.
I left quickly, right behind the Chinese student who bought nothing but three cans of baby formula. I felt like I had done something illegal and did not even dare to smile back at the cashier when she handed me the change.
The Chinese student — I am sorry to say I was in such a hurry that I forgot to ask his name — gave these three cans of baby formula to me and I thought things would be finished soon. But I was wrong. He said, “You’d better mark them.”
“The express delivery company may open your package and change your things with low-quality or fake ones,” he replied. “You must be new here. Chinese people mark their things to be posted to China,” he added.
“Oh my God” – I did not know what else to say. When I was busy engraving my surname onto these cans one by one, I could not help wondering, if domestic Chinese dairy companies could produce trustworthy products, would I need to go to so much trouble?
The first thing I did after posting the baby formula was check online news about Chinese dairy companies.
China Mengniu Dairy Company, a major dairy supplier in the country, appeared in the news on September 10. According to China News Service Agency, a Chinese couple found “dozens of white worms” in the residue on the spoon with which they drank some milk produced by this company.
Coincidentally, Bright Dairy & Food Company, another major milk provider in China, appeared in the news on the same day. According to people.com.cn, Bright received 972 complaints after it sent spoiled milk to households in Shanghai.
When I was searching back on chinadaily.com.cn, I found the most unusual and amusing news I have read this year.
“A businessman in Changsha has been feeding his baby girl milk from the goats he has been raising on the roof of his four-story house, rather than rely on commercially produced milk formula.”
I burst out laughing at first and suddenly I felt so helpless.
For women who choose to have babies later in life, baby formula is almost a necessity. But domestic dairy companies have ruined their reputations and lost trust, and imported milk powder is a heavy burden for an ordinary household.
Even the can of milk powder I bought and posted to my friend directly cost more than her entire monthly salary in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan province.
My friend could still turn to me for help as I am now in New Zealand, but if I have a baby, what should I feed him or her? Do I turn to friends in New Zealand to buy and post milk powder for me or do I raise a goat like the businessman?
By the way, I do not even have a roof in Beijing, as owning a house is almost an unachievable dream there.
Song Jingli is an online journalist with ChinaDaily.com.cn who is studying at AUT.