Continued from My China Trip part 3: the First Conference and on to Wenzhou
We boarded the train for Wenzhou, put our bags on the overhead racks and settled into the cushioned seats for the journey. I kept my camera and some reading material handy. All the invited scientists were in one compartment. Most of them knew each other and so the conversation soon started to flow. I was looking forward to Wenzhou and the conference.
We were seated two abreast. As is the nature of scientists, they cannot resist the temptation to discuss science with a colleague and chatting up potential collaborators is par for the course at such conferences. I caught snatches of “science talk” and participated where I could. But my attention drifted to the scenery whizzing by outside the train window. I put my camera to good use.
We passed green fields, towns and cities and misty, blue mountains; it was a fascinating panorama. The passengers were well looked after. At periodic intervals a food cart loaded with snacks and drinks would pass by. I saw a smartly dressed young woman appear and measure the ambient temperature in the compartment to ensure we were all comfortable. And at times a very official looking person of somber mien would saunter down the aisle wearing a white coat carrying a bag with a large red cross; advance planning for any medical emergency, I assumed. That was reassuring.
Time passed. The train sped along smoothly. A digital board inside the compartment showed the speed which sometimes reached 240 km/hr equivalent to 149 miles/hr. I made a mental note of that. The rhythmic motion of the train soon put me to sleep and I had a refreshing nap. I woke as the train was pulling into Wenzhou station.
We collected our luggage, stepped off the train and waited outside the station for a bus that would transport us to our hotel. It was evening and the end of “office hour” with crowds everywhere bustling to get home. It was an orderly bustle. We stood bunched together taking in the sights. Soon a large bus arrived. We bundled in and were off to Awailou Resort Hotel where I would stay for the remainder of the trip.
We checked in, freshened up and headed for dinner in a large dining room in the resort. We sat at circular tables and helped ourselves to the many exquisite dishes that were brought in. This time there were bottles of wine and beer which made the proceedings more festive. Towards the end there were speeches of welcome and several toasts. In one notable toast, the toastmaster drank a full glass of wine at one go without pause. At the end he put down the empty glass with a dramatic flourish. I was suitably impressed but did not volunteer to emulate the feat.
After dinner we went to attend a cultural performance by students of WMU at a place called Healthy Town. This is a town under construction, and, as the name suggests, is dedicated to healthy living. When completed there will be research institutes, hospitals, sports facilities and living quarters all dedicated to the concept of a healthy, holistic life. We entered the complex and were treated to a brightly lit, scaled-down model of the proposed town. A person with a microphone gave a brief description of the project after which we were taken to another room with a stage in the center for the festivities.
There were tables with pastries and several kinds of fruit, some quite exotic; logan and dragon fruit, jackfruit, rambutan, melons and oranges. It was a delicious dessert smorgasbord. I had never seen or tasted dragon fruit or rambutan before. The students brought samples to our tables and encouraged us to try them which I did with gusto. But I wished we had been informed about this event at dinner, I certainly would have kept room for these delectables.
The cultural program began. There were classical Chinese dances and music played on traditional instruments; the pipe, pipa, er-hu and guzheng. The graceful dances and the haunting notes left a deep impression.
I have to commend the student’s diligence, it takes great time and effort to master these intricate pieces on top of their routine studies, exams and other activities. The program ended with a dance to the tune of a modern, lively Chinese rap, a nice counterpoint to the classics.
I felt very full after stuffing myself with the proffered delicacies. The music and wine had given me a pleasant high. We headed for the bus that would take us back to the hotel. I crashed knowing that the next day, the real conference would start and I would have to give a talk.
To be continued.