Last weekend a colleague and I went to Hefei in Anhui province, three hours away by train, to give a placement test to students at a university that will start a new Sino-American program with us. We left early in the morning and arrived in time for lunch.
After lunch we administered a test and then we were taken to a nearby park. This park had areas where each of the 16 important cities in the province had a hall to show off its highlights (see above). It took a few hours to see most everything.
Then we were taken to Emerald Lake. Sunset was approaching though you could barely tell given the murky sky. Our tour guide/host observed that he loved coming to the lake because “the air was so fresh.” I felt sorry for him knowing what fresh air really is like.
On we went to a banquet with the dean of the economics department and some economics professors. The professors all spoke English well and had been to the US for at least a year.
The talent show was good. In China, the emcees are all the same it seems. The men wear loud sports jackets and the women elegant dresses. There’s a certain pitch and speed that all emcees aim for. It’s loud, clear and staccato. To me it seemed these students nailed it.
The usual singing and dancing followed. There was one interesting scene with women dressed in traditional clothes with traditional instruments like the pipa, a string instrument, and guqin (Chinese zither). They were still like statues and seemed to be in a shop after it was closed. A thief snuck in and fooled around. He played some movie theme song on a piano in the corner. Before he took anything, he heard footsteps. He froze amongst the women/dolls. The woman who came in dusted off the dolls and sat down to play the piano. As she was playing, the clock struck midnight and she was frozen. Then the girls came alive and started playing a beautiful traditional song. When they finished, the clock struck again and all went back to normal. My colleague later pointed out that there wasn’t a clear narrative or rationale. True, but they all played well and it was cool.
After the show we were taken to our hotel. Luckily, Mr. “Hill” (his English name) went inside to the reception desk. There are two Holiday Inns in Hefei and he’d brought us to the wrong one. He took us back to his car and he figured out where the right hotel was. It was a long day, and I had a lot of work to do for my other classes, but we were so welcomed that I’m glad we went to the show.