Wuhan, Day 7, June 14 – Ashley Pierce

For our last day in Wuhan we got up and met one of Xiong Li’s students who led us to the campus of Central China Normal University. Along the way, Dan stopped to look at birds and we passed a group of ladies performing their morning tai chi routine and then a group of guys performing their morning routine. Apparently, as Christine put it tai chi is like water aerobics, anyone can do it but it’s aimed towards a certain age group. The campus is very pretty and even has a tree lined grassy area that is the equivalent of our sunken gardens, although I think I prefer our brick buildings to concrete ones.

The main reason for our trip to the University however was not to observe the art of tai chi, rather the reason we were there was to see Dan give another talk on mercury and birds. After some computer trouble and a room change Dan finally was able to give his talk. The talk was well received by the students and faculty and was followed by a rather long session of questions where it was obvious that although the masters students didn’t have perfect English, they had definitely understood and enjoyed Dan’s lecture and had some good questions.

After the talk, we headed over to the campus cafeteria for lunch, bird watching along the way of course. Although most of the places we have eaten so far have had public areas to eat, we have been taken into private rooms the majority of the time. We enjoyed a really good lunch with a couple of students and professors who had been at the talk. It seems that eating a big lunch is normal but it also seems like the majority of what we have been doing here in China is eat. I will say though that every time we sit down to a meal we usually end up eating something new and usually there are several new things to try.

We headed over to some dorms after dinner. Let me just say that we have nothing to complain about when it comes to dorms. The first dorm we saw was of another one of Xiong Li’s students. There are four girls to a room the size of a double on our campus. Two bunk beds on either side of the room with a window at one end and the door at the other. The girls slept on the bottom bunks and used the top bunks as a storage space. A narrow table ran down the center of the room that served as a desk as well as a place to eat. Concrete floors and no AC made for a rather uncomfortable room. We also visited the international student’s dorm which was much nicer but the cost of living there for one month was the same as living in the other dorms for one year.

After visiting the dorms we headed over to the taxidermy zoo. Yes, taxidermy zoo. This was a two-year effort by the University to amass a collection of specimens to display. These included butterflies, monkeys, peacocks, all kinds of birds, a very large sturgeon, tigers, and a panda. All preserved and stuffed and we were warned not to touch any of the specimens because the arsenic used to preserve them would be very harmful to us….always a good sign. Although this was all rather disturbing for some of us in the group, it was a rather interesting and impressive collection and probably the highlight of Adam S’ entire day.

We headed back to the hotel to rest for a bit before we tried to stuff another Chinese dinner into our stomachs. Dinner was with a couple more professors and students and we again tried multiple dishes that we had not yet tried including spicy crayfish. Gifts were exchanged and pens were handed out. When we arrived back at the hotel after dinner Xiong Li’s students offered to show us the night market. Although it was hot and many people crammed into the windy passages of the night market, we still managed to find some neat stuff to buy. Cheng Can (the students whose dorm we saw) continued to show Christine and I around long after the boys had given up on the shopping.

Observing the different social interactions here has been very interesting so far. According to Chinese culture everybody has a certain place in society and the cultural and social rules are so complicated it’s hard to get them all straight. These are only a couple very basic observations that I’ve noticed, women are not supposed to drink alcohol much and the most prestigious person at the table is supposed to order the meal. The most important person at the table sits directly across from the door and is flanked by the next most important people, and yes it matters how important you are. Women are supposed to be rather submissive to the men but this is starting to change with the younger generation where men often hold bags and umbrellas for the women. Servers are called fu wu yuan and they tend to be very attentive. In stores, they will generally stand at your elbow at all times. There are many more complicates interactions that I will probably never understand but its been fun figuring out a few of the differences in our cultures.

It’s much hotter and more humid here in Wuhan than it was in Guiyang. It is actually fairly similar to Williamsburg although there is a lot more smog here. This generally means that while outside you are coated in a lovely layer of sweat at all times. The traffic is no different than in Guiyang, we still fall asleep to a cacophony (or a symphony if one is in to that sort of music) of horns outside our windows.

Silver fish signing out

Comments

Comment from xiong li
Time: June 23, 2009, 7:59 pm

Dan,you did a great job here, the students like you very much and hope you can come back again!
thank you!

Comment from Loretta Wollering
Time: January 7, 2010, 8:08 pm

I wish I could’ve been to Wuhan! Wow – and Wudang Mountain – the birthplace of tai chi (taijiquan). (I just happened to see this blog while searching and surfing on “Wuhan.”). Enjoy.