Tags

, , , ,

[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

Friday is supposed to be a work day, with some nighttime sightseeing.

But this is China.

We left the hotel at 7:30 for a ride to the train station to catch the bullet train to Luoyang. The train is 10 minutes from the hotel. With traffic, it’s 45.

Chinese traffic is horrible, a fact that I did not fully appreciate until today. There are too many cars. Lanes are merely a suggestion. Yellow lines are approximate guides for which side of the road you might want to theoretically be on. Stopping in the middle of a major city street and blowing a 5-point u-turn into oncoming traffic appears to be innate instinct.

I have literally no idea what it takes to get pulled over here.

We will discover how fearsome it can be tonight.

But first…

We’re going to sign a second agreement, this time with Henan Institute of Science and Technology.

We take an early bullet train bound for Luoyang. It covers the distance from Scranton to Philadelphia. At almost 200 mph (305 kph), the trip takes 37 minutes.

Bullet train at Luoyang Station

Bullet train at Luoyang Station

183 mph

183 mph

We’re met by a representative from the university – she’s the Chinese equivalent of the actress Julianne Moore. Higher class Chinese women age very well. Julianne could be 30. I think she’s closer to 45, maybe 50.

"Julianne Moore", Xiaoqiao

“Julianne Moore”, Xiaoqiao

As with Zhangzhou U, this is a massive institution. It is swelteringly hot. Again. Julianne Moore does not sweat. At all. Mike and I have rivers running into our socks.

Track and field stadium

Track and field stadium

Library

Library

Library

Library

We meet with a delegation lead by Dr. Zhou and by Dr. Lei Fang. Dr. Fang is a renowned eye surgeon, called upon to treat ambassadors and party officials. She is also dean of the medical school; a heavy hitter.

20130628-1394-Henan

every time Dr. Fang walked by, these guys jumped to their feet

every time Dr. Fang walked by, these guys jumped to their feet

In a wood paneled board room, we go through the rituals. Formal greetings are exchanged, flowery descriptions of the respective universities are given. All of this complicated and extended by the translations.

On to the signing and the presentation of gifts, both to the university and to us, personally. As we’re beginning to understand, gifting is a sign of respect. From a western point of view, it’s out of hand. It’s not only gifts, but treating us to everything. We’ve been here for 3 days and I haven’t spent a yuan.

China13213

Henan Institute signing ceremony

Henan Institute signing ceremony

We’re expecting to go to another ceremonial lunch, but there’s a gifting curveball.

Luoyang is the home to one of China’s treasures, the Longmen Grottoes. Thousands of years old, the grottoes are home to 15,000 carvings of the Buddha, from 4 cm high to 40 feet. Dr. Fang insists that lunch be postponed so we can go see it.

It’s stunningly beautiful.

20130628-1421-Longmen

20130628-1421-a15-Longmen

20130628-1421-a34-Longmen

20130628-1421-a36-Longmen

China13131

It’s also a 2 mile walk in 90 degree heat in clothes not meant for sightseeing. What we thought would be a 15 minute quick stop turns into 2 hours of sweltering tourism climbing steps up the sheer face of a 100 foot wall.

This picture gives NO idea of how unbearably hot it was

This picture gives NO idea of how unbearably hot it was

I’d like to set these clothes on fire and dispose of them, but we still have to go to lunch.

We’re driven to what we are told is the most expensive restaurant in Luoyang, famously visited and named by Zhou Enlai, former Premier of the People’s Republic of China, and a student of Mao Zaedong.

Food is an art

Food is an art

I ate this. It's a rice noodle made to look like a slug. This will be important in a few days.

I ate this. It’s a rice noodle made to look like a slug. This will be important in a few days.

And out comes the bai jou for round after round of enthusiastic toasts by our hosts. This isn’t Moutai, but another rice wine call Du Kang.

Next comes an opera singer in full traditional Chinese garb (though I think I wore it better) with a karaoke machine to sing for us. The first song is from the Peking Opera. The second is from Mulan. The talent is obvious, but getting used to Chinese music will take some time.

China13307

Xiaoqiao has introduced me as a teacher, which gains enthusiastic nods from around the table. Not to be outdone, I raise a glass of bai jou to thank our hosts and celebrate our common bond of education and to (sincerely) hope for more collaboration.

Well, then the gloves came off. After my toast, the eight (EIGHT) vice-presidents let out a roar of approval. They had been drinking bai jou by the small carafe. Think 3 shots at a time. After the toast, they honored both Mike and I by lining up and toasting each of us individually. That meant each veep drank 2 shots, one for Mike and one for me. That also meant that Mike and I each drank 9 shots of bai jou in about 12 minutes.

I can’t say I enjoyed it, but the first 3 or 4 rip the skin off of your tongue, so that the last 6 taste less like impending death. Dr. Zhou has to leave to teach a philosophy class at 2. 14 shots of bai jou in, I’m feeling quite philosophical as well.

Dr. Zhou asks if I like bai jou. He is a wonderful man, warm, generous and gregarious – no mean feat considering we each know 4 words of the other’s language. Not wanting to be an ungrateful guest, I reply “yes”. Dr. Zhou applauds and waves a hand and an assistant at the table gets up and leaves. He returns in 5 minutes with 6 bottles as a gift. Du Kang is $250 a bottle.

The bill for lunch, without the Du Kang – you provide your own (BYODK?) to prevent fakes from being served, a problem in China as fake drinks can kill you – is 8800 RNB. At 6.1 RNB to the dollar, lunch was $1450.

This is China.

Henan has also purchased three hotel rooms for us to use for 75 minutes to shower and change, as they’ve found out we have sightseeing scheduled at the Shaolin Temple. It’s the nicest hotel in Luoyang.

This is China.

[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

Advertisements