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The drive to Wenzhou took about five hours but they were pleasantly spent by looking at the landscape flying by the window. It was an educational trip since we were able to see the differences in the landscape from rather flat land to mountains. Dwellings changed from wealthy and suburban to poorer and more rural and we observed different methods of raising fruit and vegetables. The first three water buffalos provoked loud shouts of excitement since most of us had never seen one before. Finally we came to a huge river and drove along its bank for some hours. That gave us the opportunity to observe some of the projects director Wang’s office is dealing with including dam construction and river dredging projects. It became apparent what a huge task water management in Zhejiang Province is.
Our hotel in Wenzhou was great, and we were grateful for a couple of hours rest before we took off for dinner with David.
After dinner, we had our second group meeting reflecting on the events and activities during our stay in Hangzhou. The main points that were commented on:
Our welcome to Wenzhou University was in my words just beyond anything I had ever been a part of. I have never been part of a group that got welcomed with a standing ovation when they entered the auditorium. And to see the work that went into the meeting with the special stage signage, floral decorations, formal program, name placards etc. It’s the kind of stuff that you see on T.V. when heads of state go to meetings or at major symposiums. They were serious about “making this work”.
-- Greg Stack
The next morning a bus picked us up at our hotel and brought us to the campus of Wenzhou University, part of Wenzhou University Town, consisting of three campuses all together.
A digital banner over the entrance door of the main building read “Welcome to our friends from University of Illinois” which made us feel very special. Beginning with a ceremony in the Great Hall, the “Students Development & Education Forum” opened. After the ceremony the group broke up to deliver presentations to students and staff.
After the sessions had finished we went to lunch together with some staff members, mainly from the English Department. After lunch, we were guided to the student area of the campus where each of us was paired up with a student. There were different student activity areas including a large stage for theater and dance; an area where students learn to perform traditional tea ceremonies; a game room and a student café. We were shown around student studios. They are practice companies where students study entrepreneurship in a hands-on manner. There were jewelry shops, a photographer, several designers, a printing store, and an art gallery. We talked about student representation – they have representatives who meet twice a year with the University president to discuss improvements, hobbies, and future plans.
Nobody wanted to part from the student guides. We left and arrived at the Paradise Garden, the Wenzhou version of Disney World and were welcomed by the manager of the amusement park. This was interesting to see and gave us a lot to think about intellectual property rights and trade mark laws.
Back from our pleasure trip, we headed to our official meeting with University faculty and the Deputy Party Secretary of Wenzhou University, Zhou Xiangzhe, the highest representative of the University at this point, since the president had just resigned the day before.
The meeting was very fruitful; we went over the different presentations that had been given that morning and talked about possible co-operations.
The evening hours were spent attending a very merry banquet where we found that while before the emphasis of formal meals had always been on the food, this time our hosts were more interested in communicating their esteem by drinking together.
After the banquet, Virginia had organized a special treat for everybody willing and energetic enough – a foot massage. Since most of us had never tried a foot massage before, about ten of us filed into the massage studio across from our hotel, completely overwhelming the available capacity of technicians. In the end, everybody got their massage and all of us, even the skeptics, enjoyed it a lot! Another new cultural experience!
And then the last full day of our trip came. A small group of early risers started the day by participating in some communal open-air tai-chi activities.
After breakfast David, our faithful guide and colleague, picked us up for a cultural tour of the Wenzhou area. The morning was spent exploring Jiang Xing Island – the island of the poets. Beautiful botanical gardens, a Buddhist temple and the oldest beacon of China were some of the highlights of the island. In the afternoon, we went to see the downtown area of Wenzhou and used the last opportunity to purchase some souvenirs.
After a little bit of down time at the hotel we all gathered back in the hotel lobby to take off to our last banquet of the trip – on invitation by Virginia’s younger brother.
It was a wonderful evening filled with great food, much laughter and a last opportunity to get to know our hosts better.
Very early the next morning – too early for some – the bus picked us up a last time and we were taken to the local airport and made sure we safely received our tickets and got through the security check. A short flight brought us back to Pudong Airport in Shanghai and after a six hour wait there we finally took off – and returned back home to Chicago.