Former Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
Richard W. Clark
Former Visiting Associate Professor, Human & Community Development
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
Phyllis A. Herring
Former Extension Educator, SNAP-Ed Region 3
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development and 4-H Youth Development - Metro
Former Outreach Initiative Specialist
Former Director of Web Development
Former Extension Educator, Youth Development
JoAn C. Todd
Former Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development - Metro
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Monday, April 21, 2008
This time I have to start my narrative of today with the evening. Tonight the group had a very special and unique opportunity to dine at a very famous restaurant that until recently was in-accessible to the public, the Jia Le Yuan Restaurant. It used to serve only the leaders of the communist party and other high ranking officials - since General Mao's time. General Mao himself had been to this restaurant and guesthouse compound over 60 times and all of his successors have been there, too. Somebody in the group commented it was a bit like the Chinese Camp David. Director Wang of the Hydrology Department and his wife had invited us to a banquet there and we were served the most delicious and exquisite food. We were blown away by their kindness and generosity. Chinese hospitality goes way beyond simple friendliness. The way we were honored as guests was very moving. This evening, the place, the food, the atmosphere and the friendship we experienced will always remain one of our fondest memories. We had a hard time finding words that were good enough to express our gratitude to Director Wang!
Earlier in the day the group had split up for the morning and some people went to the Hydrology Department in Hangzhou where Steve A. and Ryan gave presentations about water issues in Illinois and the Road to Success of American Youth. The audience was comprised of mainly young staff of the Hydrology Department and the presentations were well received. The other - smaller - part of the group withstood the rain and went to the Hangzhou Botanical Garden. I am sure Greg - who is our designated photographer - got spectacular pictures although I haven't seen them yet.
After Steve's and Ryan's presentation we had a short meeting with Director Wang and his assistant and they asked us for help with a planned visit to the US in fall. They intend to visit California and Washington D.C. and make a stop on the way in Illinois. We assured them we would be able to set up the right contacts for them and to assist them with organizing their trip. We were glad to find an opportunity to repay some of the hospitality we have experienced since we have arrived.
After a quick lunch the whole group met again and we took a tour to a street in downtown Hangzhou that is lined with - literally - hundreds of silk shops. We first got a silk products 101 introduction and learned about the different qualities of silk and what a buyer needs to look for when purchasing silk. Then we went to find some nice pieces to bring back home.
Our next stop was the Dragon Well Village on top of a mountain close to Hangzhou where they grow the world famous Dragon Well Green Tea. Thanks to Director Wang we were received at the mayor's house and he gave us an introduction into tea growing, the life of the tea farmers and the importance of tea in China. It was a very interesting experience to be invited to a private residence. We sat in the mayors living room of his very nice and modern house and had tea and traditional nut and seeds snacks. He explained to us that tea plants have to grow for two years before they can be harvested and that they can become very old. The best tea is being harvested in spring and it's quality and price depend upon the time of the harvest. He also told us that the tea farmer's life in his village is comparatively good - they earn about 20,000 Yuan per year, which would be between $3,200 and $3,400 (depending upon exchange rate). The home of his family at least was equipped with the latest technology and was very comfortable. After purchasing some tea to take home we visited the actual tea farm and were shown how the tea is being harvested.
This was in short our fabulous second and last day in Hangzhou. Tomorrow morning we will leave for Wenzhou. Our next hosts have already arrived tonight because they will transport us to Wenzhou University by bus. While on the five hour ride I will try to prepare more pictures to put up. I know I am running behind with visuals but it takes a long time to upload them and our days are very long and leave very little time to sit down at the computer. More from us tomorrow!