Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Day Two in Tianjin

Wow, what a great day. It was a long, exhausting, and tightly scheduled day; but lots of fun. We checked out of the hotel and drove to the outskirts of Tianjin to Nankai University Binhai College where we had a fabulous day.

We started with a brief tour of the Dagang District including this photo opportunity by their ancient (2 years?) Roman ruins and then met with local government leaders in their official meeting room (photo). Next they took us to Binhai College for a formal meeting with many college officials including President Wang (pronounced Wong) and Vice President Yang (pronounced Yong). I had the great fortune of meeting Mr. Yang when he visited St. Cloud for the China Symposium in March. President Wang welcomed us all and gave a rousing speech and then introduced the members of his administration who had joined us. John Burgeson, Dean of the Center for Continuing Studies at St. Cloud State University, is the leader of the 2007 SCSU delegation. John gave an equally rousing speech and then each member of the U.S. delegation introduced themselves and told everyone a little bit about what they do and what their interests are in working with China.

It was through the connection made with Mr. Yang that we came next to the signing ceremony between Lake Superior College and Binhai College. This connection was initiated by Ji Ye, a Chinese painter/teacher/citizen who has been teaching at LSC for the past few years. Ji Ye struck up a friendship with Mr. Yang at the Symposium and then introduced me to Mr. Yang as well. From there it was a short jump to the possibility of creating a student exchange where Chinese students could study painting in the U.S. and U.S. students could study in China, either short-term or long-term.

The signing ceremony was great and it was a pleasure to have both my old friends and new friends from SCSU in attendance. LSC presented President Wang with a Ji Ye watercolor of a Minnesota lake scene. It was very well received. Next was lunch in the campus cafeteria (very good) and then a one hour campus tour, mainly of their beautiful library.

We broke into small group for discipline-specific discussions about possible collaborations or exchanges. Then we were whisked off to the auditorium for special performances of a traditional Chinese play (melodrama is what I would call it) and traditional Chinese musicians, all performed by Binhai students. It was quite enjoyable.

Six members of the U.S. delegation, myself included, then changed clothes for an exhibition of dragon boat paddling. I was the only one who had previously done this while competing with the LSC dragon boat team a couple of years ago. They had both a men’s team and a women’s team that were practicing in the pond on the grounds of the college. The six of us mixed in with some members of the women’s team and went twice around the pond. Hilarity ensued.

Then it was time to make the 70 minute drive (bad traffic) back to downtown Tianjin where we had dinner and a show at the 1928 club. They auction off traditional Chinese scrolled paintings; have traditional Chinese opera-like performances (tough to describe this one); and half several servers who buzz around on roller skates throughout the very large establishment. Great food, including Peking Duck and fried chicken feet. The bus ride back to Beijing was pretty quiet as most everyone was exhausted from a very full day.

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