Hefei, Anhui, China – Monday, May 2, 2016
Completely new crowd this weekend. It’s the Labor Day celebration in China – one of the biggest holidays of the year. We have three days off. Most of the students tend to go home to be with their families, so a big part of China is on the road, railroad and in the air – all trying to get somewhere else. My nursing students thoughtfully arranged for four medical school sophomores working on M.D. degrees, to keep me company over the holidays. It’s marvelous how they take care of me and make sure that American teacher doesn’t get bored.
Weekend of May 24: excursion to Chao Hu Lake, one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the country. A young psychology professor, Ms. Liu, is the host and the students are Zhang Xinruo and Zhou Zi Xuan. Quite to my surprise, those Chinese names are actually beginning to stick in my memory.
From the lakeside tourist street in Zhang Miazhen to the little island it’s a 20-minute boat ride on the tourist ferry, or eight minutes by fast motorboat. Out of courtesy they ask my preference, and of course, I, a motorcyclist, say “speedboat.” That decision earns us a fast, bumpy and splashy carnival ride at the hands of a very determined woman pilot who looks remarkably like the natives at Cherokee Reservation, North Carolina. We arrive soaking wet and thoroughly chilled, but exhilarated.
After a cold shower of lake water, what’s better for warming up than climbing a mountain, followed by climbing a tall tower? We find the walkway to the top of the mountain, and after an arduous ascent, we’re rewarded with seven flights of stairs to the top of the pagoda. On coming back down, to my surprise, we see a “Bamboo Forest” below the tower that looks just like our own on the Brenau campus in Gainesville. So, that legendary Japanese professor who planted the huge bamboos at Brenau must have been on Chao Lake too.
The following weekdays are filled with routine classroom teaching, mostly medical terminology because that’s the hardest subject. I need to pack as many varieties of “-itis”, “-otomy”, “-oscopy”, “trans-“, “peri-“ and related word combos into it as possible, or we won’t get through the essential parts of the textbook.
On Friday, 16 pairs of eyes are glazing over, so I decide to do the last hour about earth science. Lightning! The pictures get everybody’s attention, and my noisy explanation of lightning and thunder attracts onlookers from the hallway. Even Dean Han pops in to watch, and I feel obligated to explain to her later that yes, we did do medical terminology earlier.
All 16 pairs of eyes leave for May Day weekend, but not without designating a chipper group of female students in the Traditional Chinese Medicine program to take me to three meals of Chinese food every day, and do more exploring of the Hefei area. Before they show up, Ding Qian, my future Chinese physician, takes me to watch band practice “at the Department of Humility”, according to her WeChat message. (It’s actually the Humanities Department, but how about that innovative idea, Drs. Locey, Dobkins, Frank, Outtara, Robles, Brim, and all?)
The band is fantastic. Who would expect so much musical talent in a group that’s entirely composed of medical students? I can’t get to Youtube or Vimeo from here, but maybe I can post a couple of video clips later. The traditional Chinese instruments they are mixing with Western ones lend a subtle, unique flavor to the musical pieces.
What luck! I’ll be leaving AUCM on May 21, but their concert is scheduled for May 20. They will be performing Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Given the blend of instruments, this promises to be a very unusual experience. On to the May Day weekend bunch! Ivy, Amy and Hellen are my escorts, with Change (that’s her name) joining later. Something tells me that these characters will be very entertaining doctors someday.
Portrait of a future
Brenau Nursing Major:
Ding “Arthur” Haidong
Arthur is one of the few students of mine who aren’t locals from Hefei, Anhui. A native of Chu Zhou, he is a freshman in the 2+2 Program, completing the first 2 years of his nursing major at AUCM, and then planning to take the remaining two at Brenau. Money is a concern, a thought that’s expressed by all the students in the group, but he hopes to work it out. After graduation he hopes to get employment in medical-surgical nursing at a large hospital in Shanghai or Hong Kong.
Hefei has a mountain. The students don’t know why. It sticks out from the flat terrain like Stone Mountain does near Atlanta. I suspect that the Hefei specimen is a granitic inselberg, with curved surfaces like the ones in the US, but upon arrival I check the local bedrock and it looks like a quartzite, with sharp edges. The bus ride to the mountain is an adventure for foreigners who haven’t been to Asia, or been steeped in similar squeeze-ins in Europe like I have. Almost 2 hours, on two different bus lines, to get to the western side of Hefei, in breathing distance of roughly 100 instant friends on the bus.
You can only get onto the bus through the front door, paying 1 Yuan (15 cents) if it’s a “regular” bus, or 2 Yuan for one with air conditioning. With that many people packed in, of course, the a/c doesn’t really do much, and windows are opened for some relief. Still, it’s a more relaxing trip than it would be to drive a car. I’ve driven in big cities in France, in the USA (New York City, Boston, Los Angeles), and in other countries, but I’ve never seen such an oozing, honking accumulation of 2-, 3-, 4- and more-wheeled vehicles.
The whole phenomenon moves forward like a slow mudslide, changing lanes and direction constantly, with hundreds of small objects like pedestrians and scooters breaking away from the edges and getting whirled around in the middle.
Our cars have buttons to activate the horn. But it appears that in Anhui Province, the button is wired to merely interrupt the horn for short moments, and keep it blasting otherwise.
After the long ride, it’s a short walk to the foot of the mountain, and a truly challenging climb to the top, because my medical students find a shortcut that takes us through the woods, directly up a super-steep angle and to the top at a height of maybe 600 feet about the road.
It’s not Stone Mountain, Georgia, but there is the equivalent of the rock carving, showing the equivalent of General Lee, though in a more action-oriented fashion.
The military artwork seems to be inspiring a visiting martial arts club (black & yellow t-shirts) to give an energetic, if somewhat scary, demonstration of their skills.
The mock fight attracts a crowd of onlookers, all happy to have made it to the mountaintop at 85° Fahrenheit.
I wish I could get one of their t-shirts with the cool Chinese writing on it. All the stuff in the stores has English-language print, because that’s what sells around here.
My favorite shirt inscriptions, seen in the school cafeteria:
“SICK AND TIRED”
“KEEP IT REAL”
That’s all for today ! R.